Normal is a Perfectly Cromulent Difficulty Level

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for progress markers in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

You lie. This game never ends. Ever. EVER.

I played. I did. Just to make progress. Just to get closer. Just to have some hope.

I found the last figurines. That’s something. Three flowers. And then….ANOTHER SIDE QUEST! A new one! Which I did. Took forever. It was finding a woman’s husband, he wanted me to get booze from a herd of tramplers….that one. And while doing THAT one, I got another one! (Glinthawks hitting pitchcliff). Didn’t do that one.

So, in my efforts to make progress, I did nothing I intended to do, and my quest list got longer.

Seriously.

Got the figures, though.

So there’s theme!

So the way I read the figure guy, our mighty hero was really just a dude who had an affair with someone he shouldn’t have, got himself banished, and saddled his love with shame and guilt. Which, again, is not the kind of story we usually get in such epics. Interesting. I have thoughts, but I’m in a hurry.

And as for the “find my husband” quest, that was pretty fucking awesome. Usually, it’s “spouse has left, bring spouse back.” This was “I left, spouse is following, please help.” The quest giver has run away, and WANTS the spouse to follow. That’s a new one. So here, we have a happy ending, for once, in a quest that we didn’t have a choice in (like Olin), but it was one that’s a twist on convention. Again. Neat.

This is a very good game. Which is good cuz I’ll be playing it for the rest of my life.

Feminina:

Dude. I’m sorry about the extra side quests. I did explicitly tell you there weren’t any more, and that was a filthy lie. But an inadvertent one!

I had already done those quests by the time I got to this point, so it didn’t occur to me that they’d pop up here. I wasn’t thinking. My bad. I apologize.

But yeah, I kind of loved the spouse with the booze. “I can’t go back to her without booze! I’d be a failure!”

And the sneaking around the herds of machines trying to find the booze was pretty sweet. I wound up instigating a lot of fights to get them to move so I could grab casks.

And I do like to make machines fight each other for my benefit.

Butch:

I know. You tried. You forgot that I miss so very much stuff, and I totally ran by a level 15 quest (15, for fucks sake) in the early game. This is me, here. I’m still in shock I got the relics AND the figures! WOW!

At least there was themey shit. That does make it worth it. I really, really, REALLY want to see how this franchise (but not this game, per se) deals with tropes of romance and sex in games. They’ve do SO well playing with pretty much every other trope.

Though I have to say, trucking back up to a corner of the map that’s completely the other way just to fight glinthawks does not fill me with a great deal of excitement. No thanks. Well, maybe later. Mrs. McP is out of town all next weekend……

Feminina:

Relics and figures! And you’ll get the vantage points too, I bet. The last one is up along a place where you’re going anyway, eventually. You’ll get there.

I agree about the figurine story dude. I mean, it was very sad he was banished and all, but it felt that the original story (he was a horrible murderer) was no more or less true than the current story (he was a banished hero): it was just different people telling it. Which was kind of an interesting reflection on history, as well as tragic love.

Also interesting, given the game’s strong focus on parent/child relationships, is that all of the exiled guy’s messages were for his kid. He’s not really pining for his lost love, although he seems to remember her fondly: he’s regretting that he doesn’t get to know his child, and that his child can never know him. A much different take on tragic love, which doesn’t usually spare a thought for children.

So both the vantage point story and the figurine story are about parents and children, one ending somewhat positively, in a dark way (the world is ending, but at least it once held a son who loved his mother), and one ending bleakly in what might be seen as a lighter way (the world continues, but I will never see my child).

Interesting stuff.

I did like this game a lot. So much so, that although I’m enjoying Andromeda, I keep thinking of HZD when I think “time to play,” and then being just slightly disappointed when I remember that actually it’s over. I mean no slight to Andromeda here, it seems fun and I’m looking forward to playing more–but it hasn’t yet caught me the same way.

Butch:

The last vantage point is nowhere near where I’m going! I’m going back to Mother’s whatever and the last one is….

Wait….

WAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIITTTTTT………………..

Shit.

There’s a whole bunch of shit up there, isn’t there?

Ah, see, I, in the end, saw the figurines’ tragic love as the parent/child one and only that. I thought a neat twist was that, as I read it, she didn’t really love him. She saw him as a fling that screwed up her life pretty damn well. He might have loved her, but ending talking about the “coal of guilt you’ll always carry” and the scowl in her eyes when she last saw him….this was NOT a love story. At least not a story of mutual love. It SEEMED that way, like here was a woman who fell for another man, and they had this child, and circumstances doomed it, etc., but it wasn’t, was it? She never loved him.

And I got the sense, too, that the child had no idea who his father was. That these messages were there for…maybe being found? But I think the child thinks that his real dad is the dead chief. Which was another neat twist.

Very interesting stuff. And from COLLECTIBLES! It makes me want to read flower poetry, but that would mean getting them all, and I’m still WAY behind on that. And games march on. And I’ve been playing this forever.

MEA will catch you when you meet your big brooding bug.

It’s good though, right? I can see an adjustment. HZD is very, very good. MEA can still be very good and not be as good as HZD.

 

Feminina:

Hm…that’s true. Yeah, “fondly” isn’t the right word. I actually considered “cordially,” which also doesn’t seem right.

Really, “without hostility” is what I was kind of thinking, but took the lazily inaccurate way out with “fondly.”: he doesn’t love her now (maybe never really did), but he doesn’t seem to blame her any more than he blames himself. They’re equally responsible for what happened, and he doesn’t harbor some terrible grudge against her for not leaving the tribe with him or whatever.

Which is quite mature of the exiled dude, assuming we can actually read his messages that way.

And I agree, he doesn’t actually expect the kid to ever get the messages, or to know anything about him, and as you say, that’s kind of the real tragic love here, not the fling between the two adults.

Losing the chance to know and be known by his child is the tragedy. The relationship with the mother would have been just one of those flings that happens and don’t work out, except that unfortunately it ended in murder (d’oh!)–but the relationship with the child, that would have been important.

Oh, and there’s not “a whole bunch” of stuff up there past that vantage point, there’s just ONE thing up there.

One thing that has a power cell in it. And a bunch of machines before you get to it.

You’re gonna do great.

Butch:

WAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!

Feminina:

There’s a stormbird up there! You can kill it for Brin!

Or just override it, which is what I did. But I was jaded by then.

Butch:

I can’t override them, because I still haven’t done a cauldron or two, and, as I know what they are, they lack theme, and I still haven’t killed a thunderjaw without finding a place to hide and snipe, I think finishing them will be unlikely.

Now you’ll say ‘Yeah, but if you don’t, you won’t get this thing you’ll SO want….”

Feminina:

Ah, right. Cauldrons. Well, no worries. Brin and Talanah will be psyched. You’ve GOT this stormbird! It’ll be fine.

Man, there’s a lot of stuff in this game.

Butch:

It’s massive. I still haven’t gotten to redmaw.

How the hell did you finish so fast? I’m PLAYING this game, man! This isn’t my usual “take a couple days off” pattern! I’m PLAYING!!!!!

Feminina:

I don’t know! Playing on Normal, maybe?

I made my choice, and I’m at peace with it. I put Andromeda on Normal too. I can always put it higher if I get bored, but I have limited time to play games, you know? Maybe I just want to play at a level where I can enjoy a modest challenge but not have to sweep up the pieces of my shattered character every single evening.

Romantic Opportunities Lost

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

It strikes me…..you never got to romance a ROBOT DINOSAUR.

This pains you, doesn’t it?

Feminina:

Enh. On closer acquaintance, the ROBOT DINOSAURS lacked personality, making them insufficiently broody for my needs.

If a deathbringer had ever expressed a hint of angst? I would be lamenting the lack of romance for months. Fingers crossed for the sequel!

Butch:

How would you know? Those watchers…..

“My lot is walking to nowhere….waiting to be killed….why can’t I have love? WHY?”

You’d have melted.

Feminina:

True. I would. Aww…let me love you, little watchers! But I didn’t know! So OK, clarification: they weren’t all CHATTY about their angst.

You gotta brood OUT LOUD, man. SHARE your tormented musings, so I can be melted with sympathy.

“She loved me for the dangers I had undergone, and I loved her that she did pity me,” or whatever.* You must TALK ABOUT THE DANGERS or they will give you no edge in winning my affections.

Monologues or it didn’t happen!

*OK, the actual quote is “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them,” but considering I haven’t read Othello in 10 years, that’s pretty close.

Butch:

Monologues or it didn’t happen is a pretty damn awesome T SHIRT!

“Family Fun Night:” Less Fun Than Previously Indicated

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers unless you don’t want to know anything about character creation in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Butch:

Ok, I’m here. But you know how proud I’ve been to avoid the “I got nothing” thing?

Well, I got nothing.

Last night was family fun night at school, which was really “Watch my children be really fucking tired, then have meltdowns night.” This led directly to “Drink scotch on the deck cuz fuck all of that shit night.”

There’s nights where you’re too tired to play, and you ponder whether you should/could/want to play anyway. Then there’s nights where your children do such damage to your very soul that all you can ponder is scotch.

So I start derailing my rather respectable streak of having something instead of nothing. I barely have my sanity after last night.

How’s MEA?

Feminina:

Aw, man. Kids. Tired kids. They drain the life from one. I didn’t play either, if that helps, because non-sleeping kids, and packing lunch for kids, but at least it was nothing meltdowny.

Sometimes you have to take a scotch break.

MEA is good so far. I’m looking forward to playing it some more, which is always an important quality. And Mr. O’ just finished, so it’s all mine!

It gets off to a pretty good, energetic start, action and story underway in a timely fashion. Now I’m doing the ‘wander around talking to people and picking up side quests’ stage.

Many people to talk to! Many people to assess in terms of their romantic potential! Yes, it’s going to be fine.

Butch:

Well, good that MEA seems strong. Can you figure why the hate? Just Bioware hate?

This was meltdowny. Nugget certainly puts his heart into it. And now here we are with a nice day and Meatball is half asleep. Sigh.

One cannot win.

At least there is scotch.

I do want to play, though. Hopefully I stay awake.

Feminina:

One thing scotch does not help with, is the staying awake.

I’m only about two hours in, so it’s hard to say, I might hate it later. At the moment, my only frustrations are about getting used to the controls…the usual ‘new game’ stuff. “Oh, wait, that’s not how to duck…” etc.

Mr. O’ expressed some annoyance that you couldn’t customize your appearance quite as much as you could in earlier games: they have about 10 “template heads” and you can adjust features on them, but you can’t just manipulate your entire face from scratch.

I didn’t actually mind that so much…not being able to tinker with everything meant I didn’t spend 5 hours trying to perfect a face. I just grabbed a template with a cute haircut and went. So what if I look exactly like a million other Ryders out there? I’m never going to see them.

I look a bit like Mindy Kaling with a pixie cut. I’m into it.

Butch:

This is so. It does not help one stay awake. But it dulls the pain in your soul.

I hope you don’t hate it later. Let’s hope.

Yeah, limited customization is a bit of a blessing. For me it’s 10 hours, cuz I do the first five, start the game, hate it cuz it looks like shit in the game lighting, start over.

Does one template look like Morrigan?

Mindy Kaling? Then I see that there wasn’t a hideous, horned brooding krogan head. How will you deal?

Feminina:

You are so right: there was not a hideous brooding krogan template. You can only be human.

Siiiiiigh. Scotch. Scotch is how I will deal. That and romancing the hideous brooding krogan the first chance I get.

“Hey, baby…I’m betting you don’t come here often, since none of the regulars seem to have gone blind with horror yet. Wanna make out?”

None of them looked much like Morrigan to me, but with your sensitive BHBEBB-detecting skills, I’m sure you’ll find one you can work with.

Certain Things We Will Never Discover

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers and some wild speculation about Horizon Zero Dawn plots

Butch:

There are many, many reasons I don’t like it when you finish a game way before I do. Your memory fades (you should eat more fish, good for that), my pride gets hurt, as I have two and a half decades more gaming experience on you (all for naught)….

But really, it’s cuz I have these AMAZING theories that occur to me and I can’t run them by you because you’ll just go “huh” cuz you know the end.

And I had one last night! But…well… here:

“Huh.”

This pains me. I want to theorize!

Played some more. Got a flower. Did the quest for the flirty person. When you said “Kinda long,” I believe you meant “Fucking endless.” WHAT WAS THAT? I mean, I like me some Kevin waves, but that was absurd. I was OUT of healing before the final wave started. And hurt! I only managed to survive it by finding an exploit where I jumped back down a cliff and chucked bombs willy nilly at yellow exclamation points until everyone died.

Kinda long. Sheesh.

And my reward? Why…..ANOTHER QUEST!!!!!!!!

And I went from 70 to 71% complete.

This took an hour.

I’m gonna go cry.

Feminina:

My memory is sharp as a tack, thank you, young whippersnapper. I just…uh…pretend to forget things to make you feel better. Right.

Gaming experience is indeed for naught in the absence of gaming time! Nothing you can do about that.

And yeah, that quest. I know. It went on a bit. I think I wound up hurling a lot of bombs in the general direction of people I couldn’t actually see, too. And then you finally fight them off on the cliff, and have to go forward and fight them some more in the little flat space! Good to finally be done with that obnoxious priest, though.

On the bright side, now that you’ve saved the dude, there’s only one quest left. You know, on this side quest. So there’s that.

Dude, you can totally theorize for the benefit of our readers! They want to enjoy your brilliance!

I’ll say “huh” in a really appreciative way, too. Like, “huh!”

Butch:

Ok, I shall.

Aloy isn’t sobeck. She’s Gaia. Ergo, entity, ergo Hades wanting her dead.

And I was trying so hard to think if I saw any of the other project leaders from the holograms out in the world already, but I don’t remember. Maybe later? Other games?

Feminina:

Huh!

Well, Sobeck was the driving force behind Gaia, so in a way she was at least the beginning of Gaia. And if Aloy is sort of Sobeck (as, physically, she certainly appears to be), then she’s also sort of Gaia. Based on no more than what we have so far discussed.

I mean, she’s not Gaia as we saw Gaia depicted in the hologram (you saw that already, right?), where even though she was just green outlines she still had a different face, but that’s a trifling detail. Gaia, being a computer program, could pick any face she wanted to show the world. Maybe she liked Sobeck’s because Sobeck is…kind of her mother?

If not Gaia herself, Aloy is at least Gaia’s sister?

Family relationships! The endless theme of the game.

My question about Hades, which I never really got an answer for so this isn’t a spoiler, but you can see what you think: Hades is supposed to wipe out life on the newly enlivened earth if it’s not working out in some way, right? Which makes sense. If you try to make a nice world with a breathable atmosphere and you get a sulphur haze with a few extremophiles and no place to put your plants and rabbits and foxes, you clear it off and start over. (Sorry, microorganism civilizations!)

Hades has a perfectly valid purpose: watch to see if the earth is supporting life the way the team planned, and if it’s not, wipe the slate so Gaia can try again.

So…what is happening in the world we see that makes Hades conclude that it’s not working and the slate needs to be wiped?

Apparently it’s reading the thriving profusion of plant and animal life harmoniously coexisting with machines–which one would think would be a fairly successful outcome for Zero Dawn–as a horrible flaw.

Is that just a glitch in the software? Or did Travis Tate build it into the code for some antisocial reason (“you know what would be funny? let life take over the world again, and then wipe it out! Millennia after I’m too dead to enjoy it! Still hilarious”)?

Or did someone else, in the ‘current’ day, discover and get into the program and decide that he or she could make use of Hades to destroy enemies or fulfill a religious destiny (the Eclipse suggest something along these lines), and intentionally adjust the settings?

Which could tie in with your question about seeing other project leaders out in the world. I don’t remember seeing any, but that would be pretty interesting, and logically quite possible. If Aloy is a clone of Sobeck, there could very well be clones of the others out there. Possibly raised with more awareness of their heritage, and possibly now attempting to hack the system in some way and either intentionally or unintentionally unleashing Hades on the world as a result. (“Ooops.” “What’s up, Bob?” “Oh, I just accidentally told Hades to wipe out all life on earth.” “Damn it, I TOLD YOU not to drink coffee next to the keyboard!”)

Or is there, in fact, something seriously wrong with the world that we just don’t see yet…some sort of creeping disease that’s going to ruin everything, and Hades is actually doing its job correctly? Just because we’re here and we don’t want to die, doesn’t mean that everything’s going great with the overall program.

What is Hades’ deal? I still don’t know! Perhaps a sequel will one day reveal the truth, or perhaps there was a perfectly plain explanation that I missed because my HUD is too cluttered. Keep an eye out!

See, we need your brilliance. Even though I know what happened in the end of the game, there are many questions left unanswered (as one would expect, with sequels to plan), and I will happily join you in theorizing about them.

Butch:

I saw the “face” of Gaia in the first hologram, but in the ones where she’s talking to Sobeck, she (it?) was just a green ball thing.

I’m totally expecting to meet Apollo, Hephastus, Minerva, etc. in the real world. And the others. I forgot what the others were.

Shit, Apollo was the SUN god, for crissakes, and we see sun imagery all over the damn place.

But as for “She was the start of Gaia” this all began with Aloy being “99%” of…something. Sobeck? This is odd because when the door things read her voice, they said “Ah HA! That is Sobeck.” Face, too. But Genes? Damn close…but no. (By the way, humans all share 99% of the same genome, so, scientifically speaking, to a machine that just sees “life,” 99% doesn’t mean much.)

And, if I’m right, then Aloy is EVERYONE’S mother.

That is the purpose of Hades as I understand it, yes. Gaia is an AI, AIs have to learn, so they assume she (it?) won’t get it right the first time, or second, and would need do overs. But since Gaia CARES, she’s not going to WANT to scrap it all, so Hades has to take the controls and be the cold hearted SOB that says “This ain’t working.”

My theory is that Aloy is a physical manifestation of Gaia itself. Like, Gaia got so into life she wanted to try it out. And who better to pick as your “avatar” than Sobeck? After all, the last hologram there, Gaia is starting to tell Sobeck something like “You are all things…” like Gaia is praying to Sobeck before the thing cuts out.

As for someone hacking things, we certainly know that machines can be hacked, their code can be changed. Perhaps.

I TOLD you to fix your HUD! Dammit!

Well, I still don’t know what happened 15 years ago to make things go bad machinewise. We know that the machines, about 15 years ago, started making nasty, nasty machines. We know that Aloy, after Brin’s thunderjaw aside, said “Wait, they made thunderjaws because of…us?” So who? Gaia? Seems it would be Gaia, or, at least, some machine descendant of Gaia.

I think there’s a point the game is trying to make, and I hope it isn’t ham handed: Who wiped things out in the first place? Humans. War. Climate. Building combat robots cuz they weren’t very nice to each other or the planet. Now Hades is out there looking at the Carja civil war, and Gaia (or something) feeling the need to make combat robots (which kinda fucked things up in the first place), and bad humans getting into the very robots that fucked things up in the first place, maybe Hades is saying “Dudes, here we go again. Do over.”

Cuz we get the sense that everything was pretty much cool and the gang before the Carja went all nuts. So in the days when there were just rabbits and grazers, and tribes being all in harmony, and Oseram just drinking, and banuk chanting and shit, Hades was cool with that. But now? Wars? Guns? Firespitters? Combat Robots? That ain’t good.

Feminina:

Well, spoiler, I didn’t meet Apollo or Minerva or anyone as far as I know, but I could totally see them being all over a sequel.

ONGOING THEMES!

Hmm…definitely something major happened about 15-20 years ago. That thing fell from the sky, Aloy appeared, machines started getting meaner in general, nastier kinds of machines started appearing, drought (right?) made the Mad Sun King start sacrificing people, provoking the Red Raids and eventually the Carja civil war…something happened.

Something big. Something I don’t really know about even now. So, speculation is entirely appropriate.

Remember also your theory that the world is falling apart because the heavens (the satellite network) is falling apart. Maybe it’s just age and glitches. Or maybe it’s…ominous music…something more sinister.

Butch:

Well, you didn’t meet them that you know of. Or THEY know of. If I’m right, Aloy/Gaia/Sobeck doesn’t know she’s Gaia/Sobeck/both. Avad, or Erand, or Roth, or whoever could be Apollo for all they know, and not know it.

You don’t think it’s just a little teeny tiny bit interesting/convenient/ham handed that Apollo is such a big deal and so is the Sundom? The SUNdom for crissakes? The SUN king? The SUN priests? That can’t be an accident.

Something did happen. And I sorta doubt it was Hades. I think it was something that got Hades’ attention.

Something more sinister… Or something came back. Cuz right by Sobeck’s terminal was the news that the spaceship that was going off to save humanity failed. It never got out of the solar system. Which meant it, or chunks of it and what was aboard it, were still out there whirling around. That would be the only pre-Zero dawn organic stuff on earth, if it was that.

You know all the answers to all this, don’t you?

Feminina:

That’s the thing–I don’t know the answers! I mean, I know SOME answers, but not to these big questions.

I also wanted to mention the news about the spaceship failure, but wasn’t sure if you’d seen it yet. Interesting that they included that…there was a spaceship, another hope for humanity, and then they took that away.

They specifically tell us that there are no other humans out there in the universe.

I mean, maybe there are! Maybe a few people miraculously survived the ship’s destruction and built a tiny cryo-pod and froze themselves for a thousand years and only just woke up, or something, but as far as we’re specifically informed, other people did not survive, and are not responsible for anything that’s happening. They really want to stress that everything definitely died, and whatever’s here now is from Zero Dawn.

A clean slate. Is that just a nice break from a narrative standpoint, or do we feel there’s more going on there?

Because something about that all seemed rather pointed to me. There didn’t even have to BE a spaceship–a couple of the datapoints were people scoffing at the idea–but they put one in…and then made sure it didn’t go anywhere.

I may be reading more into it than is there, but then, that’s what we do.

Butch:

They did tell us no one made it….but then, they all stayed in the solar system, or parts of them did. They didn’t lose contact on Alpha Centauri or some shit. They stayed here. Sorta.

Maybe folks didn’t survive, per se, but we do know that the ship was laden with other pre-Zero stuff, too. I get the sense that not a lot of actual biological material was saved, if any, for Zero Dawn. I think it was data files, like “This is DNA, here’s what it does, here’s how you make it” more than actual DNA. The ACTUAL DNA was on the spaceship, which broke up. And something fell 15 years ago from space. Just sayin’.

Reading into things is what we do. But then, maybe we do it too much. After all, maybe it’s all just references to Kojima’s weirdassed unreleased game:

Ya never know.

Feminina:

I found some of those ‘stranded’ items! I thought “whaaa?” It all makes (sort of) sense now!

I never did find the merchant who wanted them, though.

Hm. True. The spaceship was “up there” in some sense, 1,000 years ago, and then something fell down. I had the sense the ship was too far away for things to actually fall to earth from it, but I guess…drifting in space…solar wind…could happen.

And sure, maybe actual DNA from pre-apocalypse life triggers Hades when it collides with…Gaia’s synthesized post-apocalypse DNA…because…minor irregularities not accounted for in the system…? Could be?

Oh, and I meant to say that I too kept sort of half expecting some connection between Apollo and the Sun King/Sundom. One was not explicitly drawn, but maybe in the next game it’ll turn out that Avad is the human avatar of the Apollo program or something.

I could see it!

Butch:

We missed out on warm socks.

I found one item in Sunfall. I saw this special item and was all POWER CELL wait the fuck is this?

Disappointed.

And yeah, let’s not get too bogged down in the details in a game about ROBOT DINOSAURS and the ability, in 40 years, to program and AI that is, basically, God. While I applaud the game for giving us some answers that make sense IN THE CONTEXT OF THE GAME, I think we still must suspend twelve metric tons of disbelief, here.

I still think Hades is mad about humans. And Aloy/Gaia.

“The entity.”

Or the kid could be the Apollo avatar. My next task is to save the kid.

It would be a wonderfully ironic twist is the bad, crazy assed priests were right. He IS the true king! Or, at the very least, the true…very interesting thing! How many games have we played where the savage, nutty cultists are so very delusional? I’d love to see the bad guys be all “Told ya so.”

Which, given how this game has played on overdone tropes, is something this game would totally do. Or the franchise.

Feminina:

So true! “Look, you bunch of do-gooders, the world DOES need to end, and this kid is why, and we’re RIGHT, jerks.”

The game ends with you having to write a letter of apology to the bad guys.

“Dear cultist thugs, I’m so sorry we got off on the wrong foot and I killed 800 of you. I see now that you were right, and regret the misunderstanding. I hope we can work things out and destroy life on earth together. Hail Hades!”

Butch:

HA! Like the threesome of shame, but the apologetic letter of shame.

But then, the good guys, or Sobeck, anyway, who we are led to believe is a good guy, kinda DID end the world once, or let it end. So ya never know.

Anyway, I don’t get that the shadow carja want to end the world. They just want to take over. They think their guy should be in charge. Who’s to say they’re wrong?

Feminina:

Yeah, I don’t think they really want to end the world. Or at least, if they do, they believe it will be reborn with them in charge or whatever. All that “sun in shadow” talk: they think it’s all part of their mythology, and believe that Hades is going to get rid of their enemies, which is true, but don’t realize it will also get rid of them at the same time.

Although even if they did realize it…if they believe Hades is their god, and their god wants to wipe out all life on earth, then that’s what they want too, right?

Butch:

But are they praying to Hades or do they just think it’s a really cool weapon? I read weapon.

Feminina:

They are definitely very into the weapons.

As who wouldn’t be? Corrupted machines and deathbringers, man, those things are awesome.

Crush your enemies, see them driven before you! Hear the lamentations of the…noncombatants. (Updating for a world full of woman fighters.)

Who wouldn’t want those weapons? Obviously, people wanted them back in the day, and that worked out well! Maybe it is like you said, Hades detects that humans are violent and repeating the same mistakes, and that’s why it’s trying to wipe them out.

Kind of a clever trick to use its own machines as both test and eventual planet-sweeper: “here, want some weapons? They’re pretty great! Oh, you do? All right, back to the drawing board.”

Butch:

There is much going on, that there is.

Only you could give us wild internet speculation on a game you finished.

I’m only bearing with you because I know that no game gives all the answers. Ergo, you do not have all the answers.

Of course, you could be lying that you finished. After all the game has no end.

In other news, I just bought another controller for the boys cuz one of my originals finally conked out.

Can we agree that the worlds best disclaimer in the history of legalese disclaimers is, in reference to the DS4 video game controller:

“To be used with the hands only?”

One just wonders what happened to necessitate that…..

A close second is “When using the motion sensor function be cautious….if the controller hits a person or object, this may cause accidental injury or damage.”

In other words, “Don’t bonk dudes with the controller.” Especially if you aren’t using it with your hands.

Feminina:

Oh man, ESPECIALLY if you aren’t using it with the hands. Because…dude. I don’t even want to get into the foot-operated controller injuries in the medical literature.

Ha.

Butch:

Were this Friday, you would not have said foot operated.

Thank God it’s Tuesday.

Feminina:

Yeah, I thought it, but I didn’t say it. The somber restraint of Tuesday prevailed.

Butch:

OK, I was going mad regarding the ‘undiscovered’ line, I so cheated.

Hunting grounds. Which is odd, cuz we found them. I guess you had to blaze them up. Cuz I got half suns at least at one, so maybe that’s the all blaze thing.

And, I think I speak for both of us when I say: Fuck that.

Feminina:

Seriously? Blazing suns in hunting grounds?

No thanks.

But thanks for cheating! Otherwise it would have haunted me too.

Butch:

It just, according to the screencap, just said “Hunting grounds.” That’s it.

Go figure.

At least we didn’t miss something cool.

Feminina:

Indeed. I think someone who worked on the hunting grounds was just mad because they knew people were going to ignore them, so they put that in to mess with us.

Whatever. Still not doing it.

Butch:

Nope. They shall remain undiscovered.

Feminina:

I discovered all I want to know about them. We’re good.

The Value of Mysterious Weirdos

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers ahoy for late-game plot developments in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

This GAME, man.

This fucking GAME, man.

Ok, I played. A lot. By my standards anyway. Over two hours. And I STILL didn’t get all the way to Sobeck’s office (well, I did, but just to the door).

Now game….listen.

I have limited time here. I wanted to get through a quest. This is even more pressing as my blogmate forgets more and more details by the hour. I TRIED to finish a quest! I didn’t get distracted by side quests or flowers or anything! Sure, I did look in every corner for that power cell (and didn’t find it, which has me vaguely panicked), but I stayed on track! Really I did! I didn’t even get bogged down in fights (though that one with three dudes with firestrikers in a hallway was kinda hard)! I didn’t have much trouble with that door puzzle! I MOVED man!

And I STILL didn’t get to Sobeck’s office!

Game…for real. I do not have time for this.

But I certainly got a lot of data points, that I did. I did do that.

Man, Zero Dawn is a whole lot more complex than I thought. They let everything die?

That trick of giving us the first interview, then the decision was rather harrowing. Nicely done, game.

But MAN have some mother imagery! I mean, we found a womb. An actual womb, for crissakes.

And bravo to the game for answering some questions. I was wondering: why would a combat machine company make grazers? They don’t do much. Now I know, and the reason made some sense (in game).

I like it when games answer questions with answers that make some semblance of sense.

But game….c’mon. Let a guy catch up to his blogmate.

Feminina:

Dude, don’t knock yourself out looking for power cells in Sunfall. As far as I know, there isn’t one there. I didn’t find one, anyway. I found one later on…at the place you haven’t been yet.

I found mine at the Grave Hoard, Maker’s End, the place you haven’t been yet, and then way earlier on, in the ruins where you found the focus, and in the Mother Temple back in Nora lands. Maybe go back to one of those places if you missed one? I went back to Maker’s End for that one.

And yeah, Zero Dawn was hardcore. “Everything’s going to die, that’s a given. Then what?” It’s kind of interesting that this typical video game “aaaaah, the world is going to end!!!” moment was a long time ago, and that the usual heroic efforts we’d expect to be taken to fend that off in a game, all failed–gave up, in fact. The world did end. Whoa.

Of course, now we have a new “aaaaah, the world is going to end!!!” moment, when hopefully we will succeed in averting the crisis this time, but the fact that the machines won once before makes it a little more plausible to imagine that we might fail. (I mean, it would be really hard to get the planned sequels off the ground if Aloy died, but I guess the next game could be a thousand years later still, and she comes back to try AGAIN…)

Butch:

NOW you tell me. Heh.

(I kinda looked on the internet.)

Though now I’m back on my way to the Mother Temple cuz I played more. More in a bit.

I know! The skyhole won! The Wild Hunt won! And Sylens was wrong! All of his “It must’ve worked, we’re still here” was an “Ah HA!” thing.

Oh don’t even talk about coming back in a thousand years to try again.

Or a different protagonist, but that would be unlikely.

So finished up the office, met the weirdo, took FORFUCKINGEVER killing the behemoth, could kiss sylens cuz if I had had to kill those corruptors I just would have asked you to tell me the end so I could skip the whole rest of the game.

Bravo, game, in also giving us a reason why there are some animals, not others. Didn’t we talk on that? We said “Where’s the rest of the animals? Why’d rabbits survive?” Now we know.

But…I’m gonna bitch about a little thing (as we do): So after the explosion there, you wake up and Helis is over you…in first person. You come to looking down at your legs….in first person. Then it goes back to normal.

If I remember correctly, there was this 30 seconds of first person at the end of the dream sequence in UC3, and I didn’t like it then either.

What gives? Is it something content like, like they didn’t want to show a big dude stomping a woman in third person? Or…what? It was jarring.

I just don’t dig that. It’s like the RotTR stuff where we saw stuff Lara didn’t see.

I sure hope I can get into the part of the Mother’s Temple I need to get to. Need that thing.

Feminina:

I told you before! I told you it wasn’t Sunfall! Although I had to think to remember where all I did find them.

But the internet always comes through in a pinch. Well…often, anyway. Usually, if it’s about a game.

That behemoth fight was nasty. I was very glad to see Sylens at that point. Riding to the rescue on some overridden striders, with ravagers at his heels! Man, I wish I could control overridden machines that well. My ravagers always just go about their business. Which is great if their business is attacking my enemies who wander by, but if my enemies are somewhere else, like in a sunring somewhere, I’ve got nothin.’ Sylens modified my override code for the better–and then didn’t share!

But you notice he did give you some armor so you can go back to Sunfall if you want.

As for the shift in perspective, yeah, it was weird, but I took it as kind of representative of the disorientation of being knocked out? Like, she’s disoriented and so are we by being forced into her perspective for a minute? We suddenly don’t know any more than she does, so she’s limited by being all groggy and we’re limited by being stuck in her head? It’s not entirely logical, and maybe doesn’t entirely work, but that’s how I read it.

Butch:

Dude, when you start a sentence with “I’m not sure I remember correctly, but I don’t think it was…” I’m gonna check. You did not tell me with any degree of conviction that it wasn’t sunfall. You were right, though. Have conviction the next time! Unless you’re wrong. Then don’t.

LONG T SHIRT! THAT LAST BIT ANYWAY!

But no, man, Sylens had a lure! He rode in and put that stake in the ground in a dramatic fashion, and that told his ravager buddies where to go!

We gotta get those lures. And tie them to the rocks we inevitably fling at dumb times. (I did fling a rock during the behemoth fight. “Uhhh…I’m over there! Not buying it, huh?”)

Yes, he gave me armor with a fetching mask! Which won’t appear on me cuz I’ve turned off headgear, which’ll be kinda funny. “Who’s that? Can’t be the person we put in the ring….”

I’ll explain it by saying they must’ve been staring at my gorgeous, fireproof midriff and didn’t notice the face.

By the way, didn’t you think it was pretty great that Aloy went into the dust cloud in the ring there and managed to change clothes? Into the midriff/boot/tights thing no less!

Regarding the first-person shift…I guess, but I still don’t like it. I mean, first person is a THING in games. If you were reading a book, and it went into first person for a chapter for no real reason, you’d find it jarring, and all the more jarring because first person books exist. It wouldn’t be experimental and edgy, it would be a book that forgot what it was for a chapter.

Weird.

Feminina:

Yeah, he did have a lure, but they were still right behind him when he came charging in. Mine never follow right behind me. And he was riding one strider and another one was following along. Another one never follows along for me.

I guess he’s just that cool. Which…OK, you know what, I will accept that explanation. He IS Lt. Daniels.

It was really, truly, fabulously great when she went into the dustcloud and then came out fully dressed. In my case in a set of heavy armor because that’s what I was wearing earlier, but hey, same idea. She has a future on Broadway with those quick-change skills.

Butch:

He also has all that shit woven into his skin (ouch). That seems to work for the Banuk.

All this made me wonder what was up with THAT. The thing in the ground? Friendly machines? Not all questions have yet been answered.

And they’ll have to take a break cuz I’m putting on my maskless disguise and going after flirty quest giver.

I’m STILL only at 70%.

Dude, in real life, it would take at least 10 minutes just to get into the tights.

At least my Aloy didn’t have to get the headgear just so.

I dislike these big, long fights. Though, to the game’s credit, it probably shouldn’t have been so long. I always forget that, when one on one, a ropecaster is key.

Waaaaaaaaiiiiiiittttt…… can you tie down deathbringers? CAN YOU?

Shit.

In other news, in case you noticed I haven’t been bugging you about FREE GAMES in June… Our choices are a zombie survival game, which is supposed to be good but not our thing, and Life is Strange, which we kinda have.

I’m usually annoyed when something I have goes free, but for 20 bucks I’m glad I played it when I did.

Feminina:

Whew! I totally don’t need more things to have to play someday. And yeah, I’m just as glad to have paid $20 and already played Life is Strange. Worth it!

Speaking of percents, I forgot to tell you: I checked, and I finished it at 94% complete (having done everything there was to do except four trophies and the full sun/blazing sun hunting ground assignments). That took me, apparently, 95 hours. So if you’re going for a similar number of finished quests, plan on playing for a while yet. Sorry.

I mean…you’ve got the Sunfall lady’s side quest, then back to the Nora, do some things there, hopefully find a power cell, then off to a new place, do some stuff, learn some things, then back to the other place that we already know is the Spire, endgame…you’re close. Really you are. But there’s also some time-consuming business in there.

Ropecaster was key on the behemoth! I didn’t actually try it on the deathbringer, weirdly. Something about not wanting to get too close to those guns. I’m not sure if it works or not. Can’t hurt to try! I mean, other than that it will hurt a lot to get shot by those guns.

Butch:

It was worth it. That game has already sold upwards of 3.5 million copies, a massive amount for a game like that. Bravo, dontnod! If it’s free this month, that’s a lot of copies.

I have no idea how the economics of that work, though. I mean, dontnod has to get some money, right? I’ll ask Mrs. McP. She has an MBA.

Ninety. Four. And I have 70% and about 70 hours. I’m screwed.

When did you play all that? Weekends. Has to be weekends.

I’m trying, man! I play and I play and I play. How many “I got nothings” have there been? Even on Mondays! Not that many!

Well…try not to forget the first half of MEA. I’ll get there. I promise.

I’ve already decided that I’m not going near the hunting grounds. And I’m not doing Brin or the lodge unless it’s done in the course of playing other stuff. Which it probably will be.

Just… there’s gonna be a couple side quests there, too, aren’t there?

Speaking of completion and all that, did the “undiscovered” thing ever reveal itself? Or is it e’er a mystery?

I always forget I have the ropecaster until I’m out of ammo for everything, and I’m desperately looking at my weapons screen and I, rather sheepishly, say “Oh…heh…I guess I have ammo for that…heh….”

Feminina:

Oh, man, I forgot to check if that ‘undiscovered’ line had filled in! I never came across anything that was an obvious “Oh, THIS is that thing” moment, though, so…I don’t know. It may be that it will e’er be a mystery, as you say.

There are actually not really side quests once you get back to the Nora lands. Sunfall is the last place they seemed to show up. It’s pretty much straight ahead until morning from here on.

I mean, obviously you could pause to do any side quests you have lingering from earlier, but you don’t get a bunch of new ones. So that’s a bit of cheery news!

Butch:

Dude you gotta load it one last time to check that.

Feminina:

I guess I probably do. That one will haunt us forever.

Butch:

We could ask the internet……..

Nah.

Oh, and thinking randomly of past posts reminded me of something. So we talked about how, well, I’ll just quote you:

picking the heart option, the suggestion that, well, even if this person you loved is gone, there are still other people who love you and you can find meaning in that. Which sort of ties into our recent discussion about whether the game’s overall message is along the lines of “human relationships will bring you suffering, but are still what makes life worthwhile.” Because we basically told her “live, because you still have relationships that matter.”

See, I just played the part where dudes had to pick whether to be part of Zero Dawn or commit suicide. Is it good enough to live underground, waiting to die? Or is that just not living? Even if you’re with loved ones? And how does that play with “Relationships bring you suffering, but are still what makes life worthwhile?”

Because: One who picked death was the one who said “What could I do, start a family?” and was told no. One who lived was one who met someone AT ZERO DAWN (the artist).

But then, one who happily lived, the happiest, if you will, was the fast talker who said that “18 months hard labor in exchange for 30 years watching porn? Sign me up!” He was thrilled, and that’s hardly close human contact.

Lots of complexities on that theme, which I totally forgot about until I re-read that post.

Lot going on in this game.

Feminina:

So true! We can’t overlook the theminess of the ancient materials.

And how DOES the valuing of human relationships play when compared with the fate of living for 30 years underground?

I think it does…I mean, the woman who chose suicide because she can’t start a family is saying without the possibility of meaningful human relationships, what’s the point?

But then, as you say, there’s Travis Tate, who’s totally psyched to hang out for 30 years alone with his porn. He’s pretty clearly presented as an aberration, though: a creepy weirdo in all sorts of ways. One could argue it’s not exactly fair (especially to an audience likely to contain a lot of teenage boys?) to imply that being into porn makes you a sick weirdo, but he’s presented in pretty much every way as being antisocial and not a well-integrated part of society, so he’s the exception rather than the rule.

NORMAL people value human relationships, maybe it’s saying, but the fact that not everyone does can come in handy if it means someone will be around to wait out the apocalypse and work on the code.

We could perhaps usefully compare Travis Tate to Nil. Both of them are, let’s say ‘not quite right,’ and neither of them appears to value other humans in the way that most of the game’s stories seem to say is normal and appropriate. But both of them, perhaps, have an important role to play under the right circumstances (all those bandits weren’t going to kill themselves!), even if they’re creepy and downright dangerous in normal situations.

Have you gotten to where it tells you about what, specifically, Travis was working on in Zero Dawn? Because we could tie that back into this very tidily.

Butch:

He’s working on Hades, yes? He’s the mohawked metal head druggie?

Feminina:

Yup. Hades. The “sometimes destruction is necessary” part of the system. So, very neatly, sometimes antisocial creepy dangerous weirdos are also a necessary part of the system, right?

We all have a role to play! It’s the ciiiiiiiiiiircle of LIIIIIIIIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This Part is About Children

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn main story, late-ish in the game (Sunfall)

Butch:

I couldn’t be all “I got nothing” only to have you be all “I finished,” so I grabbed a banuk figure and got to Sunfall. Got slightly distracted by a side quest (dammit no more sidequests! I’m behind!) and ran to meet an asshole healer, then DIDN’T go kill the thunderjaw he wanted me to kill (fuck that), went back into sunfall, saw the king (didn’t see that coming, we’ll talk on kids and games later on), had the flirty woman compliment my hair and give me a side quest, which I ALMOST went to check out (as one does), but I stayed focused and got to the magic door thingy.

So I’m just inside.

That venting was a bad idea, wasn’t it? Besides attracting dudes, that stuff that got vented probably mattered, didn’t it?

Something I caught: She said, when trying to get it open, “This is Elizabet Sobeck.” Now, was she just saying that to get it to open? Or is she starting to think she IS Sobeck?

Kids. All of a sudden there are kids.

Feminina:

I did finish. I did. I will attempt to refrain from taunting.

I think you had to vent to move forward–it did alert the dudes, but I don’t think there was a way to do it without that.

I should have warned you about the sidequests. The healer one is enh, but the flirty lady one is actually pretty interesting (though long-ish), if you ever feel like taking the time. I did it before the Sunfall info-bit, but you can go back into Sunfall afterwards if you disguise yourself and feel so inclined. Disguising yourself actually sounds kind of fun, although I didn’t get around to it.

I THINK she’s just recognizing that this ancient technology needs to think she’s Elizabet Sobeck in order to let her proceed–I didn’t get the sense that she’s losing a sense of her own identity, although since she’s probably a clone, one could debate the extent to which it would be legitimate for her to claim that older identity. Who ARE we? What makes a person who they are? Etc.

And yeah, I too did not expect the Shadow King to be a little kid. Interesting. And his mom, that’s the lady who lay on the stone floor with the actual bad dude, right? So we need to keep an eye on her…what’s her deal? She doesn’t seem to be in control here, that appears to be all the priest, but who really knows?

Butch:

Oh man. See, whatchu gotta go do that for? You say “interesting,” which makes me want to do it, and then “long-ish” which is just upsetting. Seriously. I like this game. But game….please game….let me free.

I think she’s using the technology, too. But it was kinda interesting to see her saying it. And her ease of saying it.

As for “who knows?” well, likely you know, to answer your question.

Plus, interestingly, he seemed to be a polite kid. There’s a bit in Game of Thrones (spoilers!) where a king of a certain region is a kid, and he’s batshit psycho (it being Game of Thrones) and enjoys seeing people thrown to their death like other kids like cartoons. I didn’t get the sense that was true of this kid.

But as for kids…I don’t remember seeing any kids anywhere in this game, and now there’s crowds of them. A TON in the refugee camp outside, the king, etc. I’m curious to see if that imagery matters when we know a bit more about zero dawn.

By we I mean me, cuz you know it all. Stick with the pronouns. I reserve the right to use “we.”

Feminina:

I saw a few kids here and there earlier, but yeah, they seem to really kick in there in Sunfall. Interesting…the rebels, the Shadow, have stolen the younger generation? They’re using that generation for their own purposes, if so, since the older generation is clearly still in charge.

I did sort of immediately like the little king, though. Seemed like a nice kid, as you said. Polite, really just trying to please the grownups, wishing he could get away from the noise and go play, or hang out with his mother. Who, whether or not she’s secretly a monster controlling everything from behind the throne, seemed in that moment to just be trying to comfort her kid, so I had some sympathy for her too.

I’ll continue to say “we” because I’ve started MEA and I’ve already forgotten what happened at the end of HZD. You’ll have to remind me.

Just kidding! Almost entirely kidding.

Butch:

Not kidding.

And the shadow maybe stole the youth, except Avad didn’t seem that old.

Though now that I’m thinking on it, there is a lot of “kid” stuff in this. Aloy is a “kid” looking for her mother, Avad is always in the shadow of his father, the hunter’s lodge person is a hunter to “avenge” her father, the whole thing started in Mother’s whatever with the matriarchs… it’s like everyone in the game is a “kid.”

Now, yes, true, we’re all someone’s kid. And parent issues are a literary convention as old as literature. But there sure seems to be more of it than average here.

I have a feeling that I’ll have more to say about this when I learn more about zero dawn. After all, all of humankind is pretty much a child in this. They talk of the “Old ones,” and this project seems to be about “rebirth” and stuff.

Hmm.

The kid king was rather sympathetic. And, as all he said was “I give so and so (so bad with names) permission to speak on my behalf,” I got the sense he was a figurehead. He’s not calling any shots here. Game of Thrones kid was calling shots.

Feminina:

Yeah, no way this kid king was calling any shots. He seemed kind of scared of the priest, if anything. And true, Avad doesn’t seem that old, maybe around Aloy’s age, but he’s at least legally and functionally an adult, like she is, rather than a literal child.

Also, I completely concur with your sense of the game’s themes as heavily kid/parent focused. Having/not having a mother, looking for your mother, having your father killed/become a murderous tyrant, parents losing track of their kids’ love lives…lots of very parent-child-related storylines.

Wait, who are Avad’s parents? Is he the little king’s brother? I lost track of the relationships among the Carja. Civil war is complicated.

Butch:

I was wondering that, too. I think the kid is either half brother or nephew. We know that the Shadow Carja thinks he’s legit, which means he must be a descendant of the mad king, but no way that woman holding him is Avad’s mother.

But you never know. Women who aren’t matriarchs seem to age well. War chief Soma didn’t look old enough to be Varl’s mother. Apparently, in addition to chest wax and brow tweezers, wrinkle cream is also readily available.

I must admit, I was surprised by Avad, too. Usually big powerful king types in games look like, say, the Emperor of Nilfgaard: grey, old, deep voiced, stern and wise and/or stern and evil. I can’t recall another young, flirty shaven chested king. (Again, grooming after the end of days. Aloy’s brows, Avad’s manscaping…how do they do it? I certainly thought that that veiled side quest giver leading with “Nice hair” was another wonderfully self aware treat.)

Which again…parent/child stuff is all over everything from Beowulf to Star Wars. It’s nothing new. But this game really is ABOUT that stuff. I think, more specifically, it’s about how your parentage defines you as a person. Is Aloy Sobeck? Is Avad his father? Etc. Was Rost’s apology in that first dream bit after he blew up an apology that he couldn’t define her more? Are we our own people, or do apples fall right next to trees?

Because that sort of thing applies to the ROBOT DINOSAURS. Are they defined by their creator/parents (us)? Or are they their own masters, guided by cauldrons? We know they made the thunderjaw, if Brin can be believed.

Who makes who? That, I think, is the most overarching theme, and bravo for making ROBOT DINOSAURS a metaphor.

Feminina:

It’s true, there are lots of semi-subtle parent/child themes in a lot of games, but as you say, these are very explicit. Like, we are ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT ACTUAL PARENTS. And then, there are the subtler ones as well, like the machines, which as you say are kind of the children of humanity, and in some ways specifically of Dr. Sobeck with her green robot technology (so the machines are sort of Aloy’s siblings…), but they’re also kind of ’emancipated’ children who turned on their parents, destroyed the world, and now have taken over creating themselves.

As children do, in the end…gotta impale the parent figure on a spike and strike out on your own sometime, after all! It’s an extended coming of age metaphor! And then a civil war tale, with two sibling tribes descended from the Old Ones fighting for control of the new world.

Butch:

I must admit, I did not expect the ROBOT DINOSAURS to be metaphor. I expected them to be, well, ROBOT DINOSAURS. But I think we can safely say they are metaphors.

It’s a very extended coming of age metaphor. One likely to span multiple games.

Bravo on the extreme callback.

Feminina:

I look forward to multiple games on these themes. Or, alternatively, multiple games focusing on different themes! Like maybe as she grows up we get a bunch of romance/friendship/colleague themes, basically all about different relationships! And maybe a career/life’s work themes game! And a function/dysfunction of society game! Maybe even a now-YOU’RE-the-parent game!

I’m so playing whatever the next one is. And they so plan to make a next one. It wasn’t even a subtle tease at the end, it was a “tune in next time for more on x!” tease. We’ll play it.

Butch:

We will.

Dude, a romance game then a ‘you have a kid’ game would be awesome. Think of the bloggage!

Apparently We Are Terrible People

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers, except of how terrible we are

Butch:

I got nothing. My mother showed up unannounced, Mrs. McP came home early.

I WANT TO PLAY! Really I do!

But, here’s something tangentially related to a game we (I) am currently playing and a game we will play and it pretty much sucks:

Ashly Burch ‘Heartbroken’ She Won’t Play Chloe In Life Is Strange Prequel kotaku.com
As the longest strike in Screen Actors Guild history chugs on, video game voice actors are making painful career sacrifices to show solidarity with their union. 234 days into the strike, after Microsoft announced Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, fans immediately sussed out that award-winning voice actress and SAG-AFTRA member Ashly Burch will not reprise her original role as the rebellious teen Chloe.

This strike ain’t gonna end. They give the actors residuals, they’ll have to give Buttons residuals.

Feminina:

Oh man! That sucks. But yeah, complicated I guess. If you ask me I’m all for Buttons AND actors getting more money, but I suppose that’s a hard sell if you have to talk to your investors about them making less money, or whatever.

But people want to be paid for their work, and it’s hard to argue with the contention that if someone ELSE is still getting paid for my work 10 years from now or whatever, I also should be.

I mean, not me personally, since if anything my labor is likely to leach value OUT of the institution in 10 years (just kidding, my workplace!) but as a general concept.

I salute you, Ashly Burch. I hate the idea of Life is Strange or (horror!) Horizon Zero Naptime without her, but I respect the decision.

Butch:

Well, in other art forms, like, say, opera, in which my uncle has worked for 40 years, EVERYONE is union. He’s in the designers guild, the electrician’s guild (which is the same one as, like, power line dudes*), the carpenter’s guild, the scene painters’ guild, etc. And they all have rules, and their cut, etc. (This is to say nothing of the cut that Equity, SAG, the director’s guild and the writer’s guild get).

Now…games are an art form, and people are starting to get that.

SAG has reached out to everyone else that makes games and offered to help them unionize.

The publishers do not like this.

I mean, now, the Buttonses of the world are just employees at will, with no real rights or bargaining power or residuals. Imaging if the writers’ guild, the directors’ guild etc. got into EA and Bethesda and Square Enix. Imagine if, all of a sudden, there was an Engine Coder’s guild, a Level Designer’s guild, a motion capture guild, I could go on. All those rules…all those pieces of the tasty, tasty pie.

So is SAG gets residuals based on sales, the Buttonses of the world may well say “Hey, if them, why not us? Hey….come to think of it, WHY NOT US?”

The industry will do anything to keep that first domino from falling and having their art form resemble…well…every other damn one that’s made by groups of people.

Cuz it adds up! My uncle has designed enough sets in his day that the VAST majority of his income isn’t actually designing new ones, it’s getting paid when sets he made five, ten, even twenty years ago get rented out. Note: designed. He doesn’t OWN them, the opera companies do. They warehouse them, store them, keep them nice, and then write a check to some dude in New York they haven’t seen in ten years when they rent them out. The companies are a tad irked at that, but unions be unions.

My uncle makes good money. A vast percentage of it is no small thing.

So imagine that the game publishers really, really don’t want to go down that road.

Feminina:

I’m sure from the company’s point of view it’s a huge hassle, as well as an expense. You have to hire someone just to manage the paperwork, keeping track of who did what and needs to get paid when! Cutting all those checks to dudes in New York ain’t free!

But if that’s what you gotta do, that’s what you gotta do, and as a pinko commie liberal in Massachusetts, I gotta side with the unions (even though I’m technically management, and the natural antagonist of the union). Just do it, people. Respect labor!

Butch:

Either way, I gotta get my gamez made!

The publishers will have to give eventually. Each passing day, AAA games get more theatrical. It’s only a matter of time before they need actual lighting guys doing the lighting for cutscenes, so something of that nature. It’s only a matter of time before writers join the writers guild, or directors join the directors guild. They’re delaying the inevitable.

What’s stunning to me is that they can get ANYONE to do Chloe. I certainly hope that new Chloe knows that she will never, EVER get SAG-AFTRA work ever again ever. If you’re an actor, crossing those picket lines is career suicide. I was afraid when this strike happened that game development (or, at least games with voices) would come to a screeching halt as no one would take the work.

But there’s SO much money at stake. Part of the reason, say, opera companies don’t mind renting out their sets, even if they have to write a check to the designers, is that they need that revenue to ensure they’ll survive. Opera isn’t exactly lucrative, and any revenue stream the companies can get is something they vitally need, even if they have to share it. The same cannot be said of the average AAA game. There’s no reason for EA to grudgingly share a piece of the pie.

Feminina:

Maybe a specialized group of games-only voice actors will develop, of people who intentionally decide to give up the chances of other work in order to take game jobs. Obviously that’s a sucky choice to have to make, but enough people need work that someone would probably do it. Then you’d have this whole community of non-union folks who only do game voices, and hey, if you can’t get any other voice work maybe you’ll also take a sucky paycheck! A nice exploitable labor force.

Now I kind of feel like we shouldn’t even PLAY this new Chloe, but of course by that logic we couldn’t play anything at all until the strike is settled, and…and…that could be years…and we gots to play games!!!!!

Don’t make me stop playing games! I’m moral but not that moral! Damn it.

Butch:

I, too, will cross picket lines.

Cuz it’s gonna start showing up more. It’s lasted, I just checked, 234 days. That’s a lot. It’s the longest strike in SAG history.

Thankfully, it seems Uncharted’s Chloe is voiced correctly. I’ll take one Chloe out of two.

Feminina:

We lack the courage of our convictions when it comes to facing the long, bleak days without video games.

I mean, I guess we could just replay old games. Games we never got around to. Games we have to dig out the PS3 for. (Good luck with that.)

But then we’ll MISS OUT whine whine whine.

Basically, we’re weak and morally compromised. What’cha gonna do.

Butch:

Accept our weak and immoral state. It’s been working this long.

Feminina:

It also explains our obsession with booze and nudity.

Butch:

Did we really need to explain that?

Oh, and since we’re talking about other posts today:

Women Play Video Games
kotaku.com

I’m stunned. STUNNED I tell you.

Feminina:

They do?! No way, man. I refuse to believe it.

Resolved: Rockbreakers Suck

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some minor combat/side quest spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

I’ll just assume you’re done since you haven’t reported in a while.

Anyway, I redeemed my stormbird failure by killing the rockcrusher and finishing up blood on stone. Honestly, that thing was ten times harder than a thunderjaw. The reward box I got was truly remarkable.

Though…and I don’t know if this was game, or me, or what: I was totally expecting to be betrayed. I heard some of them being all “This should be better than the last time” or something, all standing there at the edge of the quarry, and I thought “Oh, shit. This is so a trick. They’re tricking me into doing some gladiator pit thing and they know full well there’s a nasty thing here, and they’re going to be all mad that I lived and I’ll have to kill them.” But that didn’t happen. Just “Thanks! Who’d’ve thunk? Have a remarkable reward box.”

Now, maybe it WAS a trick. Maybe I DID put on a hell of a show. But they didn’t say so. There was no cackling evil confession “HA! TRICKED YOU!” that one gets in games. I’m left to wonder if I was duped or not.

Which is a pretty cool wrinkle in a very standard “kill the nasty thing” quest. Again, game, way to throw curve balls.

Then I started trucking towards sunfall, magpied over and overrode the last tallneck (being able to override ravagers is SO handy), found the campfire of shame legitimately to absolve my shame, took a good screen shot, hit save.

Not bad.

Feminina:

I don’t get done when I don’t play!

My visiting mom left at the crack of horrible this morning, so NOW I can get back into the swing of things. But I am not done. I have nothing to report.

Nice work with the rockbreaker, though! Those things are really nasty. Definitely worse than thunderjaws, because at least thunderjaws STAY ABOVE THE GROUND so you can a) keep better track of where they’re attacking you from and b) keep shooting at them.

Rockbreakers are the worst. Maybe rockbreakers tied with stormbirds, since stormbirds also have that tendency to zoom away and kind of get lost somewhere while you desperately scan around for them in hopes of dodging/hitting.

The final battle is probably going to be a mutant stormbreaker rockbird that both flies AND dives into the ground. It’s going to suck. Hopefully I just made that up.

Also, wholehearted agreement: overriding ravagers is so incredibly useful. I love it forever. That whole area around that particular tallneck was swarming with so many machines (I mean, they all are, but that one, with all that wide open space around it, seemed especially so). Being able to get a ravager on my side would have been helpful.

Butch:

But you can still talk!

Especially now that you’re back at work. Ha.

Dude, that was pretty much the pain in the ass part. I spent most of the fight (fights, plural, as I died a lot) going “Where is it? Where is it?”

I think I ended up using an exploit I wasn’t supposed to use. I managed to hide behind this shack, which meant it really couldn’t get me with its rock spray bit. I could lay traps, wait for it to come to the little part where it could see me, it blew up some, I shot it, etc. But no WAY was I coming out from behind that shack.

I still think the end was supposed to be amiguous. Did you think?

Dude, don’t give anyone ideas about the final battle.

I got a ravager, THEN I got a longleg. The rest was easy. The best was watching the watcher who’s ONE JOB was staying up there by the jumping off point. He SAW the ravager (as he is a watcher) and went all “Huh? What? CHARGE!” and ran right by me. It was great.

Oh, and old news but in the spirit of E3, look, Ubisoft’s letting you shoot the fuck out of Montana next year!

Far Cry 5 Is A Game About Resisting An American Militia, Will Be Out In February
kotaku.com

It’s just like Montana, I’m sure.

Feminina:

Exactly like my memories of growing up under the Big Sky, man.

I also spent a lot of time hiding where the rockbreaker couldn’t get me with the spray. Run out, drop some traps, run back…not exactly heroic, but gets the job done. Eventually.

I honestly didn’t even hear people talking about this being a better show than last time, so I’ve got no opinion on that. I was probably too busy cursing. But as a general rule, yeah, let’s go with “intended to be ambiguous.” In this game, seems fair. They’ve thrown in these little touches before.

Butch:

Ok, I don’t feel so bad.

The other really, really pissy thing about those things is that ropecasters don’t seem to do shit. They just dive. This one time, I thought I shot off all four (!) of its diggers, which was supposed to keep it above ground, but I missed one. Just one. And that threw off the whole damn plan and I died.

It was only later I noticed, and noticed that the crowd, and the quest giver, were standing in this hut thing that overlooked the quarry. Which could have been read as “grandstand” or something.

It was a nice touch. The feeling of “Wait….did I just get tricked?” was something a young person getting used to the world might have thought.

I like that, even with the simple quests, they twist. (By simple I don’t mean simple to kill, but, you know, “Kill the nasty” is about as simple as it gets.)

Feminina:

Yeah, I could never manage to get all the digging claws either. You miss one, and it disappears. Hate those things.

Especially when they’re corrupted. And there are two of them.

Butch:

Oh I came across that one a ways back. And carefully, carefully avoided it.

Though I did, yesterday, after killing the rockbreaker, did a stupid and found this mound of loot, and searched it and WHAM and only then did I say “Ah, yes, that’s where I saw a pile like that before…the quarry….yes…”

Then I ran.

Mean of them to taunt us so with loot.

Far Cry 5 does look rather intriguing, but then, so do pretty much all Ubisoft games in trailers.

Feminina:

They do! They all look good in trailers.

And yeah, those giant mounds of loot…and then that terrifying noise…although I did find that if you kill one, and then search the loot pile, it will still make the noise, but nothing happens. So…like…there was another one, but it decided not to surface? Your stepping on the loot pile caused a tunnel collapse (that didn’t break the ground above?). I dunno.

Butch:

They look good. And then they don’t.

Oh man, I didn’t even wait around to see if the noise was a red herring. I took my loot and booked it out of there. Didn’t look around, didn’t get hit, just took my 36 shards and hauled ass.

And then came across another one that was above ground, happily crushing stuff and spitting out at nothing in particular, like it was chilling, eating sunflower seeds the size of boulders.

I ran, again.

Your E3 Wrap-Up So Far

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers for anything unless you’re waiting to watch your E3 recordings

Butch:

Oh, and I’m watching E3 so you don’t have to. We don’t post on weekends, but here’s a catch-up: 

Next AC game is in Egypt. It comes out in October.

And OMG FEMMY YOU MISSED SO MUCH AT THE EA SHOW THERE WAS…

Wait, no you didn’t. It was painfully lame. Like, REALLY lame.

We got the first glimpse of Bioware’s new thing. It’s called Anthem. It has stuff. Well, here: Anthem

And there was a co-op game from the dudes who did Brothers (that indie game where you controlled two dudes) called “A Way Out” where you HAVE to do split screen co-op. It looked cool, but it made me dizzy.

Here: The Most Interesting New Game Announced Today Is A Co-Op Prison Break

I watched that so you didn’t have to.

You’re welcome.

Feminina:

Hey, Egypt! That’s mildly interesting! Also, Brothers was interesting.

Thank you for watching so I don’t have to. I rely on your updates.

Butch:

Also, after a lackluster mess from EA, we finally got something interesting:


The next thing from Dontnod, they of Remember Me and Life is Strange.

That looks like something worth paying some degree of attention to.

Also Sunday, good news, and terrible, terrible news.

Good news: Life is Strange: before the storm launches in August. Looks good.

Bad news: Bioware’s new thing looks multiplayer only. Like Destiny, only prettier. Very much like Destiny. VERY MUCH.

Might be the first bioware game I don’t play.

Then Bethesda happened in the middle of the night. No Elder Scrolls, but there’ll be more Dishonored and a new Wolfenstein. Oh, and Fallout 4 will be entirely playable in VR. That sounds….fun? Pros: Virtual power armor, virtual exploring my town, virtual Cait in the barbarian armor. Cons: extreme nausea.

Still very upset re: Bioware’s game.

Ubisoft showed a whole mess of Assassin’s Creed Origins, which will take place in ancient Egypt, have dudes to assassinate and KNIVES FOR EVERYONE!

Nothing really jaw dropping, but then, the two games I really WANTED To see were Red Dead 2 (which Rockstar said wasn’t going to be there anyway) and Cyberpunk, and CDPR is always a bigger presence at Gamescom. Maybe they’ll show up. Maybe not.

But Ubisoft and Sony happened. The biggest splash was Ubi’s Beyond Good and Evil 2 which seems to exist in a futuristic grungy world with talking pigs and monkeys and swear words and things that blow up. Seriously. Pigs. And monkeys. Looks bizarre. But a good bizarre!

As for Sony, no OH MY GOD moments. Nothing from TLOU2, which means we have a while before we have to decide if we want to either miss a masterpiece or be really depressed for a while. The PLAY AS CHLOE game continues to look cool, we got the expected story DLC for Horizon, it’s called “The Frozen Wilds,” it looks like it has some snowy wilds, banuk dudes, and ROBOT DINOSAURS, they announced that cult classics Undertale (an RPG) and Shadow of the Colossus (which I always wanted to play) are being remade for the PS4.

Their big end of show game was the new God of War, which I haven’t played, but I know Mr. O is down with. It’s third person and seems to have far more character/feels than the prior ones. People seemed excited. Not a series I know all that well.

So nothing particularly huge, but enough that I do not look at the future and say “Hmm…we’ll have nothing to play.” Plenty to do. I’ll hit MEA, then Tales from Borderlands maybe, then we should be right around the release days for LiS 2 and PLAY AS CHLOE, that should take us to Horizon’s DLC….

All is well.

Now watch: CDPR will show up today, show 22 jaw dropping minutes of Cyberpunk, say it’s coming out in September and blow up my plan.

Feminina:

God of War, hm. Yeah, Mr. O’ played all of those. Liked them OK, I think. It was back in the days when we had more time and therefore played more things, so I honestly don’t know if he liked them enough that he’ll be super excited about a new one, but we’ll see.

I was never interested in them myself, looking over his shoulder. Some angst, sure, but limited story and character development.

Butch:

And please watch this, because I’ve now seen it twice and I’m starting to think I did something to my brain and I’m seeing things:

Beyond Good and Evil 2

And it’s from the same dudes who did Valiant Hearts. That nice little cartoon WWI game.

What?

Feminina:

Interesting. I wouldn’t have predicted that from the Valiant Hearts team, but…way to go, I guess?

Butch:

I gotta admit: I’m strangely intrigued by that game. A cyberpunk mature game with talking animals and space pirates and story and, potentially, theme?

If I can’t have ROBOT DINOSAURS, SASSY MONKEYS might be a good substitute.

T SHIRT!!!!!

Plus, it was noted on the internet that there wasn’t a single solitary white man in that whole trailer. Not one.

I dunno. Weird as fuck, but is that necessarily a bad thing? At least it isn’t zombies and soldiers.

Feminina:

People liked Beyond Good and Evil, right? I mean, I never played it or saw anyone play it, it was before my time, but we can keep an eye on it. I don’t like monkeys nearly as much as I like dinosaurs, so I’m not sure sassy monkeys are a fitting replacement, but…we’ll see.

Butch:

People LOVED beyond good and evil. I never played it cuz console, but it has a passionate, devoted, nutsy following.

I hope we don’t have to wait too long for Horizon lunchtime.

Feminina:

I want Horizon Lunchtime so much.

And well then, with a devoted following for the original BG&E, and a decent (if not exactly the first thing you’d think of) previous game from the team, who knows? Maybe this will be amazing!

I’m into it. Positive thinking. It’s going to be awesome.

Sooner or Much, Much Later

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some plot spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Decided that there was no way I could face another week with my pride intact having not killed a thunderjaw. So off I went. And I killed it on the first try! On hard! Whoo hoo! So I went back to Brin and gave it to him, and got what IS an interesting vision (The machines invented the thunderjaw? Hmm. That IS worth hearing), and he sent me to get stormbird blood. Well, I was feeling good about myself, what with killing a thunderjaw on the first try without dying, so I said “Hell yeah! This ain’t no thang!” and went off to find a stormbird.

Turns out it is, in fact, a thang.

Let’s just say I did not kill a storm bird on my first try. Or my second. Or my fifth. Or at all.

Those things suck.

I thought I had it once. I tied it down, and, at Junior’s advice, went nuts on it with a tearblaster. I now rather like the tearblaster. Stuff was flying off of it in every damn direction! I thought “AH HA! Not so tough without your cannon thing now, are you?” Only to learn it has another way to attack. And another.

Those things suck.

So I got out of there, went to the quarry, restocked, figure I’ll try the tearblast trick on the rockbreaker and finish that quest. We shall see.

But now…they made the thunderjaw, and we already have the flowers “spreading life.” Is this all an excuse to have new machines in the sequel or is something going on?

Don’t spoil.

Feminina:

Nice work with the thunderjaw! And yeah, Brin is getting interesting. I feel like… maybe laying groundwork for sequels? Or else it’ll be critical in the endgame I still haven’t gotten to! There’s no way to know!

I did play a little last night. Got some more story. Got from 90 to 91 percent complete.

Found out what I think is probably the REAL end fight…which honestly I should have predicted just based on what I know about narrative structure. I mean…Remember there was this place we talked about? Can’t make anything of it right now but it sure seems like something that would be important, maybe we’ll go back later?

Oh yeah… I said to myself. I should have known I’d go back there eventually.

Also I found another fuel cell, and so now I have to go back to Maker’s End to find the one I missed, because I’m close! I have two! And maybe I’ll want that armor in the final battle.

So back there, and then either final battle or whatever ten things come before the final battle. There’s no way to know!

Butch:

That was a pretty interesting little tidbit. And I liked that Aloy was as taken aback that he said something cool as I was.

There is no question that this game is tremendously sequel conscious. And I like, so far, how they’re going about it. They’re setting stuff up, but being very vague about it. Questionable accounts from questionable sources that might mean this, might not. I like that. If you’re too specific, you run into a problem bioware has been known to run into: you go “oops…that’s not quite how we wanted it” and you go against your foreshadowing, or, worse, you just ignore the foreshadowing. Of course, the other extreme, not setting anything up at all, makes things in sequels seem random. This game has enough to be plausible in game two, but isn’t (YET) running the risk of having to trash canon if they have/need to.

90 to 91%? Good lord. I’m never gonna finish.

And you don’t say? The place right in the middle of shit? Where, like, all sorts of important shit happens? That was just in a mural I saw in Helis’ place? Just guessing here?

We shall discuss why they plopped that there later. Didn’t even have Daniels saying “not yet” as I climbed way the fuck up there.

I’m stunned. Stunned, I say.

OH SHIT! Cells! I was trying to remember that they tend to pop up in story missions (top of Faro tower, in the grave hoard), and I meant to look every damn where for one in the crash the network mission and forgot! Shit. I hope there’s one in Sunfall and one…wherever you just found one. Or all is for naught.

It won’t be ten things, though. It’ll be twelve.

Even the damn trophies mock me. I got the “scanned every machine” trophy last night, which usually means you’re getting close. The “every” trophies ALWAYS mean you’re getting close! Except for this game.

Feminina:

Yes! I had the same thought once I stated getting the “all whatever complete” trophies. Got all the machines, got all the mugs, got all the vantage points, I must be close to the end!

Or… not. Even close.

But yeah, that thing. That’s the thing I have to go to, once I find this fuel cell and get this armor. Just as we suspected.

There is a fuel cell in the place where I am now! Just poke around all over the place, because it’s hidden (of course). You’ll get it! We will have that armor!

Butch:

I know! Cuz…the end! Every! Every means all, and all means complete. Unless it doesn’t.

Stunned, I say. But seriously, game. If the big interesting thing is for the endgame, have Daniels say “Not yet,” or have a lock on the gate, or SOMETHING. Is that too much to ask? Because, what? You’re afraid that if there’s a gate people might, just might, guess it’s for later?

You fool no one, game.

Ok, good. Power cell ahead. But I didn’t miss one, did I? One at Sunfall, one…where you are? There wasn’t one in crash the network, was there? Cuz that ship has sailed. And blown up.

Feminina:

No, nothing there. Or at least if there is I also missed it.

The one I just found was not at Sunfall, though, so if you can’t find one there, don’t worry. I just got one at… a place. Not a place we’ve been before. A new place. Once you’re done with Sunfall.

Of course there may be one at Sunfall too, that I missed. One never knows with this game.

Butch:

This place with the stuff. And the thing. That’s nowhere near the end of the game.

Also, went to check the blog and my advertisements right now are underwear and UNICEF.

Not sure what that says about the universe.

Feminina:

If UNICEF sold underwear, their funding issues would be solved! Or hideously compounded. One or the other.