Maybe Those Randits Loved Their Moms

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers! Many spoilers for story in Horizon Zero Dawn!

Butch:

Well, did some. Found Ersa “You’re alive!…..and you’re dead.” What do you know, ANOTHER evil plot! Nice fighty stuff. Overriding a longleg and sending it into a bandit camp was fun.

Found some sawtooth goop for Brin. He is an oddball, isn’t he? Rising on metal shoulders…hmm…

And then tracked down another criminal for Sunstone Rock. This one was the trap maker with the ravine of death. A nice little change, though I did get lost once and got frustrated so I stopped as soon as I got him.

So stuff.

There we go again with families. Either we have a happy ending no one wants, or we have a sad ending. Poor Erand.

So Olin (who was up to us) is still the standout.

I have to admit, I was expecting her to be more alive. Either to ride back and take revenge, or for there to be a twist and have her be the baddie, in with the Oseram all along. This was a bit trite. Stay alive until the hero shows up, die dramatically. Kinda cheap. But consistent with theme!

What’s funny is the most upsetting story about family, and the complexities of it, is the vantages. I found all but one, and the last one, the one where he basically says he’s a failure, that humanity is a failure, was upsetting. But themey! Basically, he says everything humanity does doesn’t matter for shit, and nothing matters except the fact that here, there was a boy who loved his mother very, very much.

The way they told that story was really effective.

And that story HAS to be overarching theme. That family love is all that matters even when it ends sadly? It WILL end sadly no matter what but still try?

Thoughts?

Feminina:

Yeah, that whole thing felt a bit cheap, though theme-y. She’s alive!–just long enough to die in her brother’s arms.

And poor Erend is going to be in therapy for years over this.

“Your sister is dead. No wait, she might be alive. Yes, she’s alive! No wait, she’s dead. For real this time.”

But as you say, themey. Things just don’t tend to work out for family groups, do they? One could read this negatively as saying that everything sucks, everyone dies, and you’re better off being a misanthropic loner so you don’t mind so much.

More positively, I think we could take it as saying that we’re meant to take comfort in the time that we do have before everything falls apart, and the small gestures we can make, even in the face of the ultimate failure of family (or anything?) to protect us from the impeding machine apocalypse, or the villain’s evil plot, or–to get deep and profound, man–the fact that we all die in the end.

Erend was slightly comforted that at least he got to say goodbye, and be reminded that his sister loved him. The Vantage Point guy was comforted by the fact that his love for his mother had existed and enriched his life. The girl whose brother summoned machines to his family estate, back a while ago, can take comfort in the fact that even if her brother didn’t, her father loved her, and did what he could to protect her. All those mourners we helped found meaning in remembering the people they loved. It’s not about the idea that a good thing will last forever, maybe, because we know it won’t: it’s about recognizing and appreciating the good thing for as long as you can. Realizing that even after it’s gone, the memory remains a good thing for the person who remembers. That’s where the meaning is in human life.

This would tie in logically with the game’s implied view that religion is nonsense (or, more politely, a useful myth-based social system that helps people cope with the material difficulties and troubling existential questions of life).

You can’t count on finding meaning after death by resting forever in Mother’s Memory, or whatever the Nora believe. You’d better find it while you’re alive instead, by valuing the connections you make with other people, even though those connections will almost inevitably bring you pain as well as joy.

That’s the best I’ve got, first thing in the morning.

Butch:

Poor guy already drank too much.

But cheap for sure. A trope that’s over done. “I’ll wait to die for plot!” This game is usually above that sort of thing.

And, Well, that was the point of the vantage story, at some level. The guy ends thinking everything sucks, everyone dies, and he should’ve just stayed on drugs. Which isn’t great advice, but that story, which you spend so much time chasing, ends like that. It’s all for nothing (we could note it’s interesting that a story told in collectibles is one about futility).

“That on earth, once, there was a boy who loved his mother very, very much.” And then he signs it “so and so, son of…step son of…” That’s how he wants to be remembered. And he takes the time to memorialize all those small things: the concerts, the sports games, the first launch (which wasn’t that impressive a launch).

An overarching theme in collectibles!

Hmm. Yes about the meaning of short life message, but, and you know more than me on this, we may well be playing a character who HAS lasted forever, or at least for 1000 years. But then, we’re also playing a character who is so caught up in her personal mission that she ISN’T appreciating all the good things for as long as she can. She rejects love and romance. She rejects friendship. She rolls her eyes at the people in the mourners quest. Maybe that’s what makes her an outcast. Or immortal.

Feminina:

Yup. “I’m in bad shape, but not so bad that I can’t hang on just long enough to say whatever meaningful thing the story calls for, although definitely bad enough that nothing anyone could do would save me, so we don’t have to have any fretting about how if someone had only followed up on this story sooner and not spent all that time collecting mugs, maybe I would still be alive.”

I think it may well be intentional that Aloy herself is failing to absorb the positive lessons about the value of human connection. We’ve already been told that a series of games is planned for her, and I think it’s possible (and, if so, admirable!) that it’s planned to have her learn and grow as a character through the course of several installments, and maybe she’s specifically being presented here as in a stage of being young and thinking she doesn’t need anyone, but with time things will get more complicated, or whatever.

It must also be symbolically significant that she shares a lot of DNA with a person from a thousand years ago and therefore kind of represents the persistence of the past, as you say, but I don’t know…it feels like a stretch to say that she “is” that person in any meaningful way.

I still think it’s likely she’s Dr. Sobeck’s clone (I don’t know anything more than you do about this–I’ve been chasing stormbirds and not following the main story–but that whole 99.999-whatever DNA match is pretty suggestive), but that doesn’t make her “Elizabet Sobeck” as a person, and I think “Elizabet Sobeck” as a person, with the specific experiences and skills of her specific life, has not in any meaningful way survived for 1,000 years unless it turns out there’s some way of doing a memory transfer (and even that would be questionable).

Which seems implausible because that would be odd for Aloy’s character going forward in other games, but who knows? Maybe memories of the past become part of her ‘super powers,’ although it’s not clear what actual use they would be to someone living 1,000 years later in a much different world.

But obviously there’s a reason, narratively speaking, for Aloy to be the clone or whatever of an ancient woman, and so there’s definitely something here about how the past can reach into the present or something. Perhaps, as you say, it’s about how even if ‘you’ symbolically survive a thousand years, you won’t have figured out how to save yourself the pain of human relationships? Or you’ll still have to work through adolescence to do it?

And in Aloy’s own mind, and sort of philosophically even if not technically, Sobeck is her mother, which brings back the themes of family: parents, children, what family can and cannot do for you, and, with the role of Rost in her life, how family is defined more broadly than simply through genetic relationships.

There’s a lot going on here.

Butch:

I would love it if someone finally said “WHY DO YOU HAVE ALL THOSE MUGS? I COULD HAVE LIVED….GAK!”

That long series would be awesome, and I’d play it. Of course, I am very likely to play Horizon: Mid Day when it comes out anyway. This game has sold me on a sequel.

True, her actually being Sobeck seems implausible. And Aloy doesn’t think she IS Sobeck, either. Nor does Sylens, who must’ve thought “Wow…they do look similar.” It is interesting, and slightly odd, that Aloy still seems to be thinking of Sobeck as a mother figure, at least at some level. Not an ancestor, a mother. “Could my mother still be alive?” I guess when you find out you have 99.9% of your DNA matching a thousand year old woman, that’s just so weird that saying “And she’s my mom” isn’t that much of a leap.

Especially cuz ROBOT DINOSAURS!

There is a lot going on here. Far more than we thought there would be in a game about ROBOT DINOSAURS! I am pleasantly surprised.

Feminina:

That would be awesome. Horrible, because then I’d feel guilty forever, but awesome.

The closest I’ve seen games come to that is Bethesda, which has applied pieces of it with the timed missions in FO4, and in–I think it was Oblivion, though maybe Skyrim–where I had one quest where I failed to keep some allies alive and then for weeks afterward would hear people talking on the streets about how “I heard that mission in [wherever] went bad…some good people were killed.”

So in FO4 you failed if you didn’t do it in time, but no one really chastised you, and in Oblivion/Skyrim, you failed for other reasons but people kept bringing up the failure. I’m sure the next Bethesda game will successfully put those two aspects together, and you’ll be haunted by the judgmental comments of NPCs on the street discussing how you spent so much time collecting boxes of BlamCo Mac and Cheese that a village of sick children perished, or something.

I will both love and hate this.

It would be cool to think that the world actually exists around us instead of just waiting for us to act, but it would also create a lot of pressure. What if I don’t WANT to follow up on this right now? What if I do, but don’t realize until later that timing matters? What if I have two urgent quests and can only do one of them? It would undoubtedly become another aspect of things you have to manage, as well as a means of inserting potentially frustrating moral choices, and sometimes we would really hate it.

I did wonder why neither Aloy nor Sylens (tangential eyeroll at this name that is pronounced “silence,” right?) seem to comment on the fact that Sobeck in these recordings looks and sounds exactly like Aloy. Of course, Lt. Daniels keeps his own counsel about a lot of things, so he may well have noticed and be keeping it to himself for his own reasons, and it’s plausible that Aloy doesn’t even know exactly what she looks and sounds like since it’s not as if they have a lot of mirrors and recording devices. So I’ll allow it.

Butch:

Yeah, but, see, in Bethesda games, it’s not that urgent. You’re only out there gathering mugs to give them to your ungrateful settlers and shit. In Bethesda games, you’re actually working towards saving the world, and you get a message like “HEEEELP! They’re going to break our mugs!” and if you don’t drop the very important task of saving the world, you get chastised.

I wouldn’t like the “drop everything you’re doing” bullshit. That would (and did in Bethesda games) break narrative momentum. “We’re 3/4 of the way towards real themes and HOLY SHIT SETTLEMENT UNDER ATTACK! Ok, saved the settlement? Good. Now back to themes and….what do you mean you don’t remember what was happening cuz you did this five days ago?”

But two urgent quests happening and you could only do one WOULD be cool.

Right. Eyeroll at “Sylens.”

He does keep counsel. I’ve only seen him that one time, and he hasn’t said boo since, but for chiding me for getting too close to…something important looking. I went magpieing towards a vantage, and found it, and he was all “What are you doing there? You’re going to get killed. Go to grave hoard.” I was all “Dude, this was a) on my map and b) closer.”

I think that wasn’t so much plot as “Dude, endgame. Too soon.”

If only he had been around when I wasted all that time at that spire.

Feminina:

It’s true, the random settlement attacks WERE often annoying. But they were annoying because, as you said, they would interrupt other things you might be in the middle of.

I think it would be different if it was the thing you were in the middle of that had a time limit. Say, there was that one quest in Vault Whatever where the kid was dying of molerat fever, and you had to find the antidote. It would have been perfectly logical for the game to say that if you left the vault and went wandering off to fight randits and loot old houses for too long, the kid would be dead when you came back, but I highly doubt that he would have been. I don’t know for sure because I went straight through it, but probably you could have just abandoned the whole thing for a month and then gone back and finished it with no harm done.

And there are of course quests that this makes sense for. If I go wandering off to look for some guy’s lost sword that was carried off by goblins, who knows where they took it or how long it takes me to find it? As long as he has a backup, he’ll be fine without it, and he’ll still want it back when I show up with it even if it took me 6 months, because it’s a family heirloom.

Not everything would have to be time sensitive, but if some things were, it would certainly add to the sense that the world was real. We’d still hate it sometimes, though. We just like to hate stuff sometimes.

Ha! He did that to me too! Twice! I was heading over towards that settlement, whatever it’s called, and he came on all somber, urging me not to go in there yet because it was full of Eclipse people who would kill me on sight.

So I veered off, and then later I was wandering by there again and he came back saying it still wasn’t time. So yeah, I think that’s a clear “this is the endgame, don’t go there yet” message. He IS Lt. Daniels, so I obviously heeded his advice once more, but probably next thing he says is going to be “so why haven’t you gone to [wherever] yet?”

Butch:

The settlement attacks were the worst. I just abandoned them.

Go to Sanctuary or you’re fucked, essentially.

But I see what you mean, and yeah, that would be cool.

We do like to hate stuff. But that would be cool. I’d take that.

HA! Sylens also made me a little paranoid. I don’t really remember where it was he told me not to go, so whenever I get close to something that is new I find myself checking the map. “Is this the thing I’m not supposed to see? No? Good. I mean, it IS a thing crawling with dudes trying to kill me, sure. But not THOSE dudes trying to kill me. So it’s cool.”

Feminina:

Yes!

“That place is really dangerous. You shouldn’t go there because your enemies will try to kill you. I mean, they do that everywhere, but here they really mean it.”

Oh, OK, that does sound terrifying! I’m used to people CASUALLY trying to kill me, but if they’re actually dedicated to the cause, that’s much worse.

Butch:

Wandered up to two corrupted rockcrushers. Didn’t say shit.

Feminina:

Rockbreakers are very casual in their largely successful attempts to kill you.

But yes, his helpfulness IS extremely limited.

It basically boils down to “don’t go to the endgame yet.”

Which, sure, that’s helpful. But not THAT helpful.

Just saying, Sylens.

When Game Becomes Dream

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some cauldron-related spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So last night I had a dream that I was playing Horizon and, all of a sudden, 12 new map icons appeared and the game told me I had all these new activities. Seriously. It’s getting out of control.

But I did knock down some stuff last night, and I saw Mr. O playing MEA (unless you started) so I did catch up a little. Ha.

Took out Cauldron Xi, which was a neat change from other cauldrons, even if it did involve a lot of running. And fleeing. And swearing.

Then I was GOING to take out the bandit camp, but magpied first. Did a vantage point (I’m at 11 out of 12, we have to talk about that at some point…more mother stuff), and found the prison place. Killed some behemoths (way to go me) and got the “find three baddies” quest, which was handy cuz one was at the bandit camp I was going to anyway! So I went there. Multitasking!

Cleared it, but MAN took me a long time. Why? Cuz weird quest shit. I was all sneaky. I was doing the “lure dudes out, pick ’em off” thing one does. And I manage to lure out the baddie I was supposed to be tracking down for that prison quest! Nice! Just her and me, OUTSIDE the camp, plenty of cover around. So I killed her, did the cutscene, the conversation, etc., and I come out of the conversation IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING CAMP surrounded by, like, 4317095 dudes.

Best laid plans.

So I ran like holy hell. Some of them chased me. This is relevant.

I got back to the entry to the camp, took out the camp, just fine, and….nothing. Quest won’t end. No one’s around. Everyone’s dead. Bandit camp quest WON’T END. Why? Well, it turns out, two dweeby bandits who chased me when I came out of the cutscene wound up WAY OVER THERE. Took me forever to figure this out, find them, kill them, end the quest.

So I hit save.

So l got two things, but this is a long email so I’ll just do one now:

Cauldron Xi: So that was cool. I’m very happy for the rewards. But I’m confused. Who was doing what to what there? At the end, there was that “Defend the Core” bit, and dudes came, and then machines came, and everything was trying to kill everything else. I couldn’t figure out who I was trying to defend the thing from. The place was full of machines and dudes long before I got there. They were all standing around the damn core. If they wanted to do anything to it, why didn’t they? And did the cultists manage to override the core before I got there? They were right there.

We don’t bash on this game much, but one beef I do have is there are times they try to explain stuff with Aloy talking, and she’s talking when all sorts of other shit is going on. She came out of the core, and she was talking when a) it was raining which makes noise, b) all the quest rewards were popping which makes a noise and is distracting and c) there was a fight going on with a bunch of yelling dudes, heavy weapons and glinthawks.

Needless to say, I got none of what she said.

So maybe you have insight. What WAS all that?

Feminina:

Dude. DUDE. Yes.

I share your confusion. I agree that Xi was a nice change of pace for a cauldron, but damned if I know what they were doing. I assumed the cultists were trying to get control of the core in hopes of making the cauldron churn out more machines, or different kinds of machines, or something? But why they were just hanging out, I don’t know. And WHY oh why they were all fighting machines when I came back out of the core? I really don’t know. I was deeply confused by that. I mean, it was OK with me, because I more or less just lurked and let them kill each other, but it was confusing.

The machines don’t want people messing with the core? The core sensed that it was being messed with and sent out a signal summoning machines to come defend it? (Maybe we haven’t noticed that as much in our own work with cores because we just override it and take its codes, as best I can tell, whereas–maybe–the cultists were trying to reprogram it?)

But man, this is all rank speculation. I have no actual clue what was going on there.

And dude, that bandit camp where you had to find the criminal! All that stuff happened to me! Well, a little differently. I had completely forgotten about the “find three dudes” quest when I went to the camp, so I kept hearing someone yelling “come and get me, then!” or whatever and thinking “who the hell is yelling at me?”

Then I was stealthing all over in the middle of the camp and found her almost dead because I’d shot her several times from a distance but she needed to survive to do her final speech, and I was still like “what the hell?” I only realized later that this was one of the criminals I was supposed to track down. Fortunately, even though we were in the middle of the camp, no one noticed her little speech and I was still able to sneak around and kill everyone else. Thanks for being discreet, lady!

And then, like you, I found that even though I’d killed everyone I could find, the mission just didn’t end. I wandered all over the place looking for someone else to kill, and eventually, rather than finding the dude in the watchtower or whatever that I must have missed, I went across the river and killed a few wandering randits I saw over there, in case it was their fault and then…then I turned back to the camp and it was ALL FULL OF BANDITS AGAIN because I’d left the combat area.

Oh man. I was so mad. I turned it off for the night and killed the hell out of everyone next time I played, but dude. That was rough. So that particular bandit camp is just a pit of confusion and misdirection for everyone, is what I’m thinking.

I will give bandits props for moving into a deserted camp full of dead bodies FAST, though. I mean, I barely turned my back on the place.

Butch:

Ok, good, it wasn’t just me. I really thought I missed something. Cuz she DID say something there, upon leaving and completing the quest, but I heard absolutely none of it.

Lurked. I ran. Really, really ran. I was so into running that, from a staircase, I jumped clear over a dude with a heavy weapon. Just jumped over him. Have a nice day, punisher! You go punish some stuff!

It had a feel of devs saying:
“Ok, we can’t have all the cauldrons be so similar. We have to mix it up some.”
“Well…ok, how about one got all overgrown and caved in and there are dudes instead of machines.”
“Sounds good. But we should put some machines in there so it doesn’t feel like a big ol’ bandit camp.”
“Hmm….like a corruptor?”
“I dunno…been done…maybe just make everyone fight, like all chaotic like. Those other cauldron boss fights are all chaotic. This’ll fit.”
“Yeah, but why?”
*****Long silence*****
“ROBOT DINOSAURS!”

HA! “This is the most vocal bandit ever.”

I heard her talking and lost her. We were outside the camp, it was nighttime, she was wearing make up. I killed her, but then got jumped by someone else. So I heard her all “Don’t waste my blood! Before I grow cold!” and I’m running around all “Hey, I’m trying here, don’t go cold yet. Give me a minute.” I had to switch quests to that one to get the objective marker to find where the hell she was.

WHAT???? They came back????

I guess I didn’t get too far away. That sucks. And now I’m congratulating myself, because after the whole “pop back in in the middle of everything” experience, I almost said “I’ll just pop back to that campfire, save up, the criminal’s dead and I killed, like seven bandits….”

Phew.

Prime real estate, though. You have to jump at the opportunities in the market, man. With all the corrupted zones disappearing, the urban sprawl of Meridian, it’s a growth market.

But moving on to thought two that I had: The criminal. First, eww. “Drink my blood?” Eww. But Aloy’s quasi-empathy was neat. “I have enough stories of my own.” That’s finding some common ground.

But mechanically, I was struck that there wasn’t a single dialog choice in all of that. Not a one. It was one big cutscene. Now, I can see not wanting to give players a choice to drink blood, cuz T for teen, but usually in a situation like that there’s at least one choice as to how to say something. Bioware, Bethesda, CDPR, there would have been at least some say as to whether to be aggressive, or sympathetic or whatever. Even if the outcome was the same.

Weird choice. I wonder why they did it like that. It was striking that they did.

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s true, I remember she did say something when she came out that I totally didn’t hear because of all the people fighting machines everywhere.

Maybe we should have left the subtitles on.

It’s also true that it’s kind of interesting how Aloy’s response to the bandit’s plaintive wails about cold blood was set rather than involving a choice. In some ways, this feels like just another example of the way Aloy’s choices are pretty limited in most of the game. We can’t refuse quests, we rarely have significant dialogue options…maybe the only REAL impact we’ve seen from a choice is in killing/not killing Olin (the brain/heart/fist choices that pop up now and then may have subtler long-term effects we can’t see clearly, but all we know for sure is that they affect the other person’s response in the moment).

This is not actually a role-playing game, it’s a lot more like Uncharted/Tomb Raider, where only with the last Uncharted did we even see a few dialogue options, and for the most part it our only choices were which weapons to use and how to approach a fight. Maybe it just represents the continued slow convergence of roleplaying with action. It remains mostly action, with mostly choice-free cutscenes and occasional choices tossed in for garnish.

And, in this instance, they didn’t feel that garnish was necessary or didn’t have the extra $50 for multiple dialogue recordings or whatever.

Absolutely in a BioWare game it would have been a scene with a dialogue choice, but even though this feels kind of like an RPG, it isn’t nearly as much of one as we may unconsciously expect based on the inclusion of some early conversation options.

Butch:

Maybe. But I HATE subtitles. And I bet if we had, it would have been all:
Aloy: Wow…this cauldron was obviously–
Bandit: ARGH!
Aloy: which is so important to–
Punisher: They’re everywhere
Aloy: I’ll have to make sure I–
Bandit: AIEEARUGAIGAH
Aloy: So glad I know that.

But, so…Then why have the garnish? If you’re going to have weighty choices like “kill important character or not,” then stick with it. Sure, it’ll never be a pure role playing game in that we don’t create the character from scratch, but I still think a game like The Witcher is still a role playing game.

It’s odd. They make such consistent choices in how they approach the way the game is designed, and yet they couldn’t seem to decide whether they wanted a (limited) role playing game like the Witcher, or an open world action game like TR or AC.

I suppose maybe it was because the whole dialog wheel thing was necessary to get all the story out. If every single Q&A session was just one longassed cutscene, we’d fall asleep. So, once you get to the point where you’re using dialog wheels for that, you probably should throw in a choice just to make it seem like you’re not using dialog as a check the box sort of exposition device, even if you are.

Feminina:

I also hate subtitles. Someday, we’ll get a game that is sensitive to background noise and will automatically turn subtitles on for you ONLY when it knows you can’t hear.

Or, you know, the game’s sound designers could watch out for this kind of issue and maybe have Aloy duck back into the quiet cave to make her observations or something. I guess.

The union of action with RPG is not entirely without awkwardness, it’s true. What are we playing? Shouldn’t we be able to decide if we want to do that? Why did we get to decide that one time, but not this other time?

And indeed, it’s a good question. Why have a few scattered roleplay elements, if you’re not going to really work the roleplay aspect? To include some element of choice without the work of scripting a whole bunch of genuinely different pathways, I suppose, and as you say, to keep people awake during long cutscenes…is this enough to make the inclusion of occasional meaningless choices, and EXTREMELY occasional meaningful choices, worthwhile?

Dunno. I mean, I don’t hate it in this game, but you’re right, it’s a little inconsistent.

Butch:

Either one of those things managing the sound would be cool.

Well, the other games you mentioned didn’t rely on a lot of conversation for plot. TR didn’t have as complex a plot, AC did but it didn’t make sense (and probably could used some conversation) and UC doesn’t count because no one does cutscenes as well as Naughty Dog (which are hard to do).

If we want plot, we have to deal with conventions that get us plot.

Feminina:

We do want plot. We definitely want plot. And we are willing to deal with conventions and nonsensical interludes to get it, like how we ARE Lara Croft and stay with her at all times, unless the villains are discussing something that clarifies some point in the minimal plot and she’s not there, in which case we’ll just be a camera on the wall for a couple of minutes.

At least this game isn’t doing those disorienting point-of-view switches. We’re pretty much all Aloy all the time.

Butch:

Games, as great as they are, still haven’t nailed the best way(s) to get narrative across. We still haven’t seen a game that has nailed it.

Feminina:

But it’s so interesting to see (and critique) all the things they try! Whether or not they all work equally well, it’s fascinating to see how the medium is developing.

Butch:

It’s what keeps us going.

Well, that and the t shirt empire.

Feminina:

A vast sprawling T shirt empire isn’t going to run itself!

Butch:

And I have all this burlap lingerie that’s just taking up space.

Feminina:

It’s a travesty that that’s not being used. But then, maybe people need a bit more of our pear brandy to get them in the mood to buy.

Business plan: invite customers in for a free sample of pear brandy; dazzle them with the fine selection of T shirts; throw in some burlap lingerie at a “special discount”; tell them all about our amazing inventory management system.

They will literally not know what they’ve just experienced.

Butch:

Who said it wasn’t being used?

Feminina:

Well, it’s true you DO have ready access to the pear tree…I shouldn’t assume.

Butch:

Never assume, man. Never assume.

Feminina:

I don’t imagine I ever will again.

Go to the Place That Definitely Exists

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No real spoilers except for the existence of a hunting ground and my bad memory for maps

Butch:

OK, not much today but this:

You’re making Brin up. There is no Sun Furrows on my map. I looked. Where the HELL IS BRIN?

And did you get this month’s freebies yet? Do. Because the month is almost over.

Feminina:

Maybe you haven’t visited it yet, so your map doesn’t know what it’s called? It’s the hunting ground kind of in the lower middle of the map, in the desert. I think. Or maybe that was the other one. Anyway, I swear it exists, I was just there recently because I needed a merchant and a campfire next to where I’d been fighting stormbirds.

Butch:

HOW HAVE I NOT BEEN EVERYWHERE?????

Slow day doesn’t mean no T SHIRTS!

Feminina:

By intentionally avoiding hunting grounds because they’re boring? My only guess. I know I had intentionally avoided one of them, until I decided to suck it up and do all the trials to see what the awesome Lodge gear was like.

Spoiler: not awesome enough to make it worth while to go back for the full and blazing suns in every trial.

Happy Endings, Maybe

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some story spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Played! There was a tallneck, and picking flowers, and fighting sneaking running my way to Cauldron Xi, where I am about to kill a buncha dudes and fight my way in. That isn’t the one with the thunderjaw, is it?

But before that I saved Olin’s family and let’s talk about that, shall we?

So when I did it, I thought “That wasn’t much of anything. Pretty basic side quest.” And it was. We’ve done that quest a million times. Save the family, they’re all grateful, they’re gonna go off somewhere and live happily ever after and never forget us and we get 4000 XP and the end.

And then it occurred to me that in THIS game that isn’t a normal side quest. The families don’t go all happy ever after. This is the first “normal” side quest I’ve done.

And it’s the one quest we could have “refused,” in a way. We had the chance to kill Olin. It may well have been more in character if we had. Had we done so, then there is no happily ever after. So the normal, the happy, the typical “family is good and I’m glad we’re together” stuff is because we didn’t kill the “bad guy.” It wasn’t just a “wander into village and someone needs saving” deal. I’m going to go a step further and bet that the majority of people who played this game killed Olin and never got this ending.

There’s something to all of that. But I haven’t digested it, really, because all of this occurred to me an hour ago. I was going to start today’s post with the fact that there was a glitch during the quest that made it impossible to kill the bazillion animals in the eclipse base. But this is more interesting.

Feminina:

Yay, playing! No, Xi isn’t the thunderjaw, that’s Zeta. Xi should be the one that lets you override glinthawks, though! Which seriously helps out in a fight.

I also played. Killed a stormbird. It’s supposedly level 27 and I was level 40, and it was still a huge pain in the neck. So. Many. Hit points. So. Many. Attempts. To kill it.

I overrode some broadheads, hoping it would attack them and they’d fight back, but no, it ignored them and they just stood around.

And there were a couple of them in sort of adjacent territories, so I got one tied down with a ropecaster and figured, hey, rather than pick away at its enormous HP reserve while it blasts me with lightning, I’ll override it and then it will fight with the other one, one of them will die and I’ll loot it, problem solved! Nope. The one I overrode sailed off and completely ignored the still-hostile one, which I went over and antagonized and tried to make follow me back into the other one’s territory, but no, apparently they respect boundaries and it wouldn’t pursue me that far.

Oh, and speaking of boundaries one time I had one down to about a third of its HP and then it took off and I ran around looking for it to continue fighting but apparently I accidentally ran outside the boundaries of the Fight Zone, and it disappeared, and the next time I saw one it was of course completely healthy.

Eventually I had a stroke of luck when some Carja archers happened by and started shooting at one that was attacking me (thanks, guys!), and together we brought it down. I like to imagine I shared the metal shards among them, although that was not a dialogue option, and in fact the survivors just marched off on their merry way.

Anyway, I finally killed one, got the trophy, and Talanah had damn well better be impressed because that was a lot of work. The thunderjaw was a piece of cake by comparison.

It’s true about Olin and his family and their happy ending. I was initially quite distrustful of that happy ending, because as you say we haven’t seen many of them in this game, but…it was nice. I was glad I hadn’t killed him. Not so much for his sake, it wasn’t entirely his fault but he still did me a bad turn and I could kind of take or leave him, but it was nice that his wife and son didn’t lose him along with all their other troubles. Things rarely work out well for families in this game–people are always dying or betraying each other–and as you say, it’s interesting that in this case where it did work out, that was based on our/Aloy’s choice. It could just as easily have been another story about a family where someone died and the survivors are mourning (ideally near a snapmaw-infested pond).

WE made that happy ending! Way to go us! (Or, alternatively, shame on us for giving these people a moment’s false hope that things might not be terrible, because now they’ll probably all be trampled by Redmaw on the way home.)

I’ve been unable to kill animals in all the settled areas where I’ve tried it. You can’t shoot the boars in towns, etc. Maybe the game considers the Eclipse base a settlement for this purpose and that’s why you couldn’t hunt there?

Besides fighting 6 stormbirds and killing one, I spent most of my playing time churning through tutorials, just to get them off my list. And trying unsuccessfully to find a rabbit with a skin, because I need a rabbit skin to get that Shadow Rattler. I must have shot 20 rabbits, and I have a whole pocketful of rabbits bones, but not one of them with a skin. It’s quite troubling, really.

I also need a fox skin, and finally accidentally got one of those when it was killed in the crossfire of one of my stormbird fights. So, yay for that.

Oh, I also cleared the corrupted zone with the rockbreakers in it, and Oh. My. Metal Devil. Those things are NASTY. Honestly the thing that turned it in my favor in the end was me getting them to the very edge of the corrupted zone, where some other machines coincidentally noticed them (and not me), and apparently normal machines don’t like corrupted machines, because they were really going after the rockbreakers. A behemoth got involved, which probably saved the day for me. It was the only thing left standing (besides me–I had wisely taken cover a safe distance away when I realized there was a giant machine battle underway), limping off with sparks flying and a tiny sliver of hit points left. Practically speaking I should have killed it, which I could probably have done with a single hit, but it had done me such a huge favor I couldn’t bring myself to attack it. It wandered off, at least less likely than before to destroy a small village.

Rockbreakers suck.

This concludes the update.

Butch:

Oh fucking COOL. I was hoping for that glinthawk override.

This game just isn’t gonna help us out with the levels ever, is it? I figure I have to get good at killing the weaker birds before even thinking about the strong ones. Fuck the birds, man.

MAN that sucks about the stormbirds. I hate it when they don’t fight. FIGHT FOR ME! Though yesterday I did manage to get a sawtooth to go nuts on a couple longlegs…longlegese? (again with the plurals) And I got a trampler to go nuts on EVERYFUCKINGTHING which was very, very satisfying. That was insane.

And dude, that can happen? You go away and they heal up? I thought you could leave and they’d be dutifully still hurt. That sucks.

I am not looking forward to any of this.

HA! I was skeptical about Olin’s happy ending, too. Like “Someday, I will find he has sold them into slavery and I should’ve just killed him.” Which, were we playing The Witcher, is totally what would have happened. But this game is rated T, so we’re probably cool.

Or not. Still could end that way.

(I’m kinda surprised you don’t know. I figured you’d be done this weekend for sure.)

Again, rated T. We’re cool. Probably.

So it wasn’t a glitch in the settlement! But I DID kill a boar in that first carja settlement…sun’s…something or other. Ah, well. I got in there and it was a damn all you can eat buffet of all of God’s creatures, which, frankly, I wanted/needed to loot far more than the dudes I killed. But no. Nothing. Immortal animals.

Collateral damage animals are the best. I still haven’t matched the whole fishing with exploding snapmaws incident, but I keep hoping.

Especially as I took your advice and got me that sling with the proximity bombs and stuff. I tried it out once, and I think I still need to get the hang of it. I’m hoping that getting into this cauldron gives me a chance to blow up some dudes with it. You know, practice.

Dude….what? Devils…I mean, I’m now level…29? I’m now officially past 50% complete, which, as you know, means I’m WAY more than halfway finished with what I’m going to do. And there’s all sorts of really hard shit I haven’t even SEEN? Metal Devils? WHAT? I’ve only seen one behemoth, from a distance, and I didn’t want any part of that.

This game man.

While I don’t want you too far ahead of me, I was kind of hoping you’d be finished, because then, at least, I would know this game does have an end, and that end is something a normal human can reach in a lifetime.

Now I’m not so sure.

Feminina:

No, no, sorry, Metal Devil is not the name of a new, hard machine! You’ve met a rockbreaker before, at that quarry side mission. I was just saying Oh. My. Metal Devil. as a play on Oh. My. God. Because…the cultists talk about the metal devil, the big old machine frozen up by the grave horde? You know, the thing with the tentacles reaching over mountaintops, that you screencapped a million years ago.

Um…if you haven’t heard them refer to a metal devil yet, nevermind. Anyway, it’s not a new horrible thing you have to fight.

At least, I haven’t had to fight it…yet…it could be the endgame boss fight, I suppose, if the cultists bring it back to life. But I don’t know anything about that, since I am not done yet. It’ll be kind of a cheat if it does come to life, though, since according to the info screens, I have found all the machines in the Machine Catalog. But that could be the twist!

I think I’m CLOSE to done? Like, maybe I could be done if I’d skipped the tutorials (though that was really only…an hour, maybe) and the Lodge hunting trips and gone right for the main story? But one has to finish the Lodge thing, which probably means fighting either Redmaw the giant thunderjaw or Redmaw the strange twist monster.

Also I have to finish up this one sidequest that I was multitasking for with the stormbird. (And incidentally, if you want to minimize your stormbird exposure…there’s one you’ll run into in the course of the Erend/Meridian story. I killed it a long time ago and it wasn’t so bad. Not as bad as this last time I tried to kill one, anyway. So get all your stormbird-related needs in order before you go…into the mountains…to follow what’s-his-name…and then you’ll only have to face one of the damn things.)

I think after that I’ll pretty much have nothing left to do but main story.

So it’s in sight, somewhere. Out there.

Butch:

No, I heard about metal devils. Remember WAY back when when I sat down and listened to an old lady tell of the olden times? The one you ran right by cuz you wanted to get to the proving or whatever? And I told you about the metal devil?

That’s how long this game is. We’ve forgotten what we forgot cuz we forgot it so long ago.

Oh, shit, really? Multiple stormbird needs? Cuz that was the next thing I was going to do (Well, I after I take out this bandit camp near where I am and go back to the ruins to use the power cell to get the fancy armor….but THEN the next thing….), and I’m not sure I want to now….

But this week. Mrs. McP has two nights out this week, and a couple more next week. I’m ON this! I so am! I’ll be done…like…August….

Feminina:

Oh man, you’re right…you WERE the one who told me about the Metal Devil first. Well. So it’s up there. And as far as I know it doesn’t do anything interesting. (Yet.) No spoilers here.

Well, to be honest, the other thing you could need a stormbird for is…quite a few steps of a side quest away. It’s one of those “here’s that thing you wanted” “oh, thanks, and by the way could you get this other thing?” quests.

You might not want to wait that long if you’re trying to actually make progress. So never mind, follow what’s his name into the mountains ASAP so we can talk about story. You might never get around to finishing up the Brin quests anyway.

Butch:

My own metal devil spoiler came back. Boomerang spoiler. Whoa.

Dude, I still haven’t met this Brin.

Again, 50%+ done, STILL haven’t even started some shit. The fuck, game.

So do Erand’s bit? I want to do Erand’s bit. That’s the best bit now?

Feminina:

Yeah, totally pursue the Erend story. There’s some interesting stuff there. Flirty Sun King, possibly dead sister, evil dude, intertribal hostilities…politics, family, plotting, all kinds of themes. Do it!

Butch:

I will! Right after the cauldron! And the bandit camp (which, in my defense, you told me to do yourself)! And the armor thing!

Maybe the armor thing can wait. I think Erand and the King dig my outfit.

Feminina:

I’m not sure I’m ever going to get that armor. And maybe it would have been easier to handle the stormbirds if I had it, but…whatever. I’ve been doing OK with what I’ve got. I’m probably not going to get around to scouring everywhere I’ve already been to find those fuel cells, honestly.

Or maybe I will–it’s not like me to leave something like this undone (“I’ll climb 30 mountains to gather every metal flower and Banuk figure, but don’t ask me to revisit a location I’ve already been to look for a battery!”). Maybe it’s just that I don’t really SEE Aloy in high tech armor, so it’s always been a low priority for me.

And the armor is pretty much the only quest I have left other than the aforementioned Brin, Hunting Lodge and main story. That and the tutorials for the rattler, which I don’t have yet.

Butch:

I have to try, man! I have to try! I have another one, so…she even said “This will help me get that armor!” Should I let her down?

Anyway, if it’s super strong, it’s probably skimpier than what I’ve got.

HA! Yeah. So in character. “Yeah, sure, I didn’t get that really useful stuff that the game told me about in the first hour, but at least I have these mugs.”

WHO THE HELL IS BRIN?????

Feminina:

Brin. He’s the mysterious weirdo. He has…visions. He wants you to kill a stormbird. Eventually.

There’s some discussable material there, but it’s not exactly critical story. If you don’t get to it, it’s not the end of the world.

And I do, man. I have the mugs. That’s the important thing. Possibly useful, major-quest-related items? Whatever. Mugs? KEY.

I’m comfortable with my choice.

Butch:

I HAVE NOT MET THE MYSTERIOUS WEIRDO!

I don’t judge. I have 11 out of 12 mugs. Even I may get them all.

I find it funny the merchants are still selling maps to where they are. Though maybe they’ve been altered. Maybe the maps are all to us. Or to the dweeb in Meridian. We shall never know.

Feminina:

Ha! Yes–I’m going to imagine the mug maps now just point to that dude I gave them all to. “Looking for mugs? Ask this guy!” That’s actually extremely helpful information for anyone who wants to know.

Ah, you have not met the mysterious weirdo. He’s kind of south? In the desert somewhere. I don’t know, I just stumbled across him, as one does. He’s an extreme weirdo. But has some interesting stuff to say.

Butch:

DAMMIT WHERE IS THE WEIRDO??????? Is there a quest that points to the weirdo? I WANT TO MEET THE WEIRDO!!!!!

Pretty much three T SHIRTS!!!!!

Feminina:

Pretty much all the T shirts, man.

Vive le weirdo!

I think if you wander by where he is, there’s an exclamation point to let you know there’s a quest there–that’s how I found him. If you want to find him…he’s east of one of the hunting grounds. Sun Furrows. You probably haven’t been there because hunting grounds are annoying, but if you find Sun Furrows, wander east and look for exclamation points.

There’s a mysterious weirdo in them thar hills.

Butch:

Sun Furrows? Where do they come UP with this shit?

I’ll find the weirdo. After the cauldron. And the bandit camp. And the snazzy armor. And Erand’s thing. Or before. Or something.

I’m just gonna write Vive la Weirdo on a T SHIRT I already have cuz I need that.

Feminina:

We ALL need that shirt.

Is it ‘la weirdo’? I guessed ‘le’ because I thought weirdo might be masculine, but your French is better (i.e., more existent) than mine.

BUTTONS! COME SETTLE OUR FRENCH QUESTIONS!

Yeah, just put finding the weirdo on your to-do list, after the Meridian story, and the bandit camps, and the ancient armor, and the cauldrons, and the mugs. You’ll get there.

I really wish there were more to do in this game…ha.

Butch:

I think it speaks well for the game, though, that there’s all this shit to do and we WANT to do it. We’ve ignored a whole lot of stuff in a whole lot of games before. We don’t seem to be ignoring this.

Except the damn blazing suns. Fuck that.

Feminina:

Yeah. Blazing suns can go to hell. THOSE quest lines are going to be on my list forever. Not going to do them.

Once again, I wish for a “refuse quest” option where you could just accept a ‘failed’ mark or whatever and delete something from your active list.

Maybe in the sequel.

Butch:

Or maybe get some therapy for the OCD that makes you care about a jumbly quest list.

I mean, shit. You’ve played Bethesda games. This is nothing compared to that. Now that’s some jumbly quest list.

Feminina:

I don’t have time for therapy. I have quests to obsessively complete.

Butch:

BEST T SHIRT OF THE DAY!!!!!

Between these shirts and the promising pear harvest, who needs a pension?

 

The Plot Thickens. Seriously, It’s Very Thick Right About Here.

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some major main-story plot spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

I SHOULD have all sorts of awesome, but just when I was getting to the part where SHIT HAPPENS Mrs. McP came home and was chatty and wanted food so I’m RIGHT before what I KNOW is a good bit.

Basically, I climbed the tower and gathered data points and tried like hell not to fall through holes so I wouldn’t have to do it again. I read a lot. I liked the audio ones better, not just because it’s hard to read the screen, but because going into the reading screen broke the mood.

(Side note: Another beef I have with the inventory/stuff screen is the music. You’re in the heat of battle, or you’re climbing a tower or whatever, and each time you get that airy music each time you open the screen up. That airy music often, usually, doesn’t fit. Just keep the damn background music from whatever’s happening. Every time I read something…airy mood breaking. Grumble.)

And Mrs. McP got home JUST as I got to the top and Faro’s offices. Right then. Had to stop.

So I have about 72% of what I need for a good discussion on this.

But I did like the mood here. Starting with “You are three hundred thousand days late” was a really cool touch. And being inside and outside and going up and up and up was great. (Why is going up always such good tension building? Happened in RotTR all the time, too.)

But….the whole “weapons to keep peace never works” and “Selling weapons bad, selling green robots good” and “trying to control weapons and how people use them never works” themes have been done.

Now, I’m willing to go get the 28% of this particular chapter I don’t have before I roll my eyes because this game does do a good job in taking overdone tropes and turning them over, but when Aloy was all “They weren’t meant to keep peace…they were meant for war…” that got a tad eye rolly, that did.

But then, so did much of her kibitzing. Every time I read something, she chimed in with either a) something I just read or b) a very direct affirmation of the metaphor, which wasn’t all that hard to pick up on in the first place.

Yes, yes, Aloy, I heard it. Yes, yes, Aloy, if you say that in class the English lit professor will give you at least an A-.

I’ll get that 28% soon, I promise.

Feminina:

Aw, man! I mean, it’s important to feed and talk to your spouse, but damn. Timing, lady.

Yeah, lots of solid plot stuff here. As you point out, not necessarily the most original or subtle of plot stuff, but filling in some gaps, giving us some backstory. And hey, Aloy hasn’t heard this story 30 times before, so obviously she’s going to comment on each new revelation! She doesn’t have our vast backlog of cultural touchstones to reference. See the whole thing through her eyes, not your own jaded perspective, and it will seem new and exciting!

I didn’t do anything, it wasn’t my turn on the console, so I can’t even drop vague hints. Ooh, except I found a side quest that involves a thunderjaw, AND one that involves a stormbird, so I can multitask on Talanah’s Lodge assignment. Good plan, putting that off!

Butch:

Timing was BAD, man. I was even rushing. Like, “Maybe she’ll be home early….better find the climbing place…WHERE IS THE CLIMBING PLACE???” and she walked in JUST as I got to the office bit. Right then! And said “Do you want to see a picture of the dress I bought?” Seriously! The one day she buys a dress in, like, three years.

I suppose better that than right in the middle of a cutscene. But dude.

Was it seen through Aloy’s eyes? Or the eyes of a writer who was bludgeoning home a metaphor?

I wonder, sometimes, if the metaphor bludgeoning we see in games sometimes is a translation issue. We should try to remember (HA!) to see if we get that in games that are made by English speaking studios. This game is so good, and has such good voice acting, and takes place in the Western US, so it’s easy to forget it’s made by Dutch people. While I am sure these Dutch people speak absolutely fluent English, who knows? Maybe there’s some “We have to make sure this came through” emphasis that happens when you’re writing something to be translated. Cuz I can’t remember such obvious metaphor bludgeoning in Bioware games or Bethesda games or something. And the game that comes to mind that DID have a great deal of it was Valiant Hearts, which was made in France.

Hmm.

Feminina:

True. Could have been a cutscene. Or right in the middle of a boss fight where you finally have the upper hand after dying several times, but still have a good way to go. Other than that, there’s not much that could have been worse.

So what is she going to do once she graduates? Will she be home, wanting to have conversations or something, eating into your game time? You may need to encourage her to get a late night job or write a novel or really, seriously pursue Pokemon. SOMETHING.

(Speaking of which, um…I may have gotten a new phone with more memory, and I MAY have gone back to Pokemon Go as a result. But it’s a minor dalliance, nothing that will interfere with my life or my attention to other games. I could quit anytime. Just as soon as I hatch this egg.)

Hm. It’s an interesting point, about writing in a second language, and bludgeoning with explanation. I could see that, I guess, if I imagine I were trying to write in another language. I mean, one isn’t always certain even writing in a first language, and I would certainly be more doubtful in a second.

“Does this irony/metaphor/inference come across as clearly as I want? Better throw in an explanatory comment.” But I don’t know. There are probably English-native games that bludgeon, and I don’t recall the Remember Me really did…and Life is Strange only did occasionally, I think. There were parts that were fairly subtle, weren’t there?

You’re right, this calls for further research. The very minute we have time!

Butch:

Ooo, the boss fight might have been worse. Cuz when you’re at that point of the boss fight, you’re usually just a wee bit pissed off anyway. This close to snapping.

Well, she’ll still have that pesky job thing after graduation. 

Pokemon Go? Oh dude. No. No no no. Don’t do it. You’ve come so far. There’s so much you could do with that phone. Like….uh….transfer screenshots! Yes! Just get into photo mode. Remember the hard times, Femmy. Remember the struggle.

I’ve been trying to remember if the witcher had any eye rolling instances of this. That’s by far the longest game we’ve ever played that was written by a non English studio. I don’t remember noticing it, but maybe I just am forgetting, which I tend to do.

(Note: here we are revealing ourselves as people that don’t really play Japanese games. Junior, on the other hand, is ass deep in Zelda, and I have noticed that that game DOES tend to drive home the obvious. Not just metaphor, either. Stuff like quests and minutia. “You must fetch me 14 chickens. Do you understand? 14 chickens. Not 13, not 15, 14. Chickens. As in…chickens.” This game also has the added translational problem of not having voice actors (except for some very specific cutscenes.) Most of the dialog is written, so there wasn’t a voice actor saying “um…hmm…I maybe wouldn’t say that quite that way….”)

Feminina:

The Witcher…bludgeoning…I honestly don’t know. My instinct is to say no? I feel like we did a lot more reading deep themes into things in that game and wondering if we were overthinking it, than we did eyerolling about overly explained themes. Which suggests more subtlety and less head-bludgeoning. But also the Witcher series has a longer history and more practice: maybe the first one and/or the second were more overt in spelling out their literary points.

If true, this would be a good sign that future installments of Horizon Zero Someday might learn to back off the obviousness a bit. Though also consider the audience: we were recently discussing the T for Teen rating and what effect it had on the game’s potential for grittiness and nudity, but maybe it also influenced the writing by making them feel they needed to spell things out for a potentially younger and less sophisticated audience.

And yeah, very good point about the vast, teeming ocean of Japanese games of which we remain ignorant. (“14 being the number of chickens which you shall retrieve, stopping not at 13, nor yet continuing on to 15…”)

We should probably play some, to broaden our horizons, but…time. And platform. I can’t see getting a whole other game system, even though Zelda is amazing and foundational to the existence of games as we know them and the latest one is supposed to be awesome.

Butch:

Hmm, true. The first two Witchers were more overt. Or two was, anyway. I suppose we have to give this a pass. Though…more below.

And yeah, forgot the rating bit. Man…I hope they aren’t too beholden to that. I wonder if a series ever has shifted gears, like, ok, our audience is older, we’re going to M, so there. The series we play…I can’t think of one that changed ratings. Here’s hoping. And not just for nudity.

I mean, some for nudity. It IS us, after all.

I’m not making that up about the chicken quest. It is very blunt, that game.

I dunno. I’m watching it, and, granted, one cannot judge a game one watches ten minutes of here or there, and doesn’t play. But nothing is making me say “DAMN we have been missing out.” It looks like an open world game. With monsters. And quests. And chickens. And no voice acting. Though every time you start a conversation you hear some shrieky AAA! or OOO! They recorded 2194732 AAAs.

I’m sure it’s great. Junior can tell me all about it.

But, as Meatball is on a late field trip, had time to play!

Oh, Lt. Daniels, you so silly.

So yeah, Zero Dawn. The thing that can, potentially, end the machines, which is unlikely to actually do so because sequels. And maybe Sobeck is alive. Hmm. So I watched all that. Then had to run like holy fucking hell away from the corrupter that I didn’t kill the last time, because I ran the fuck away from it.

Now, I do believe, one must magpie.

Though speaking on that….did you miss the power cell up there? Cuz I found a power cell up there. For the armor. Remember the armor? I’m going back for the armor.

Feminina:

“AAAAAAAAA!” “OOOOOOOOOO!”

Man, we’re missing out. Ha.

So, yeah. Nice. Finished the Maker’s End bit! Yeah. Operation Zero Dawn, which is going to do…something to save…something.

Actually, if I’m following correctly, it’s meant to save the very existence of life on earth, right? Because the machines are basically consuming everything in order to fuel themselves (effectively vivid mental picture there with the ‘pod of dolphins in a blender’ image, and seriously, how do you not notice a potential problem with “can fuel itself on biomatter!” at some point during the planning stage?), and their off switches are all disabled so they’re just going to keep going until they eat everything, right?

I thought it was interesting that the traditional “we have to save the entire world from this terrible awful horrendous fate!” story in this game–the Wild Hunt/Skyhole equivalent–happened a long time ago, and our current goal is as much to find out about it, as it is to actually prevent bad things happening now.

I think that there’s going to turn out to be a threat to the current world that we do have to prevent, in more traditional fashion (we do have the cultists trying to wake up all the ancient death machines: those soothing lilac hordes probably aren’t going to thwart themselves), but the fact that this threat is still so indeterminate this far into the game is interesting storytelling, and really puts the focus on generally going about your business, investigating your personal history, helping people, etc. This is 90% of what we do in any big game, but here it feels foregrounded in a way that’s kind of nice…I don’t have that sense of constantly having to ignore the fact that I’m wandering around collecting shards and mugs when there’s a freaking demon-filled hole in the sky, or whatever. Yeah, I’m wandering around collecting mugs, but why not? I have other stuff to do, but it’s not as if the world is about to end if I don’t get right on it.

Butch:

Yeah life on earth. We hear her and Sylens say “well, must’ve worked cuz here we are.”

You don’t think the biomass thing is metaphor? Granted, she didn’t bludgeon this one so maybe not, but in reality, we ARE refueling with biomass all the time, if you drive. We could use it all up, and that DOES pose a very real threat to earth. We did say that maybe that cauldron pumping blaze was oil. The game started with an opening movie that glorified nature, and sobeck win a nobel prize for green robots.

Are self driving, oil fueled cars so removed here?

You don’t think that cultist thing is sorta pressing?

And did you find that cell?

Feminina:

Well, given the dolphins-in-a-blender thing, I think it was at least metaphor as well a vivid real threat, but true, ‘biomatter’ is a lot of things. (Including how some of the machines we see today seem to ‘graze,’ perhaps on grass. It’s all well and good if it’s grass and not dolphins, I guess is where the line is.)

And yeah, the ‘green robots’ info was useful background–considering how we’ve repeatedly remarked on the cleanliness of the machines we see everywhere, we can infer that Dr. Sobeck’s designs were involved.

I don’t remember if I found that fuel cell or not! I’ve only got one, and I know I got it somewhere along the main storyline, but I don’t remember if it was there, or later. Maybe later? Maybe I should go back and look around some more. I’m never going to get that armor at this rate.

I think the cultists are pressing, yes, but in a “we need to investigate and figure out what they’re doing” kind of way, rather than an “OMG they’re about to destroy the world and we must act now to stop it!” way.

Small difference, perhaps.

Butch:

They were actually digging things out of the damn ground…while we watched.

You have an interesting view of pressing.

I have to thank Mrs. McP for the power cell. Because I started right when I got to the office, wasn’t rushing to objectives, so I looked around. I looked around and saw a climby place that wasn’t all that obvious. So I climbed, as one does. And there it was. WAY up high. So high I fell coming back down and died and had to do it again. Had I charged towards the objective, I would’ve missed it, as once you go down the elevator the moment is lost.

(Let’s not ponder how a power cell was exposed to the elements for 1000 years and still works, ok?)

Feminina:

The elements that included an invading robot horde consuming everything useful it could find! Yeah, let’s not worry about that. Power cells aren’t technically biomass.

OK, OK, fine, it’s pressing NOW. (It actually gets even more pressing shortly, but never mind that.) But can we agree that for the first half of the game or so, it wasn’t as pressing as the main Big Threat to the World usually is?

And that this explains why I’m still stuck in “it’s totally fine to spend a week gathering metal flowers” mode?

I definitely didn’t climb way up anywhere to find a power cell. I must have missed it. I’ll go back…maybe…someday. The good news for you is, there’s another one coming up in…the next big place you get to! (The Grave Hoard. You already know it’s the Grave Hoard because you finished the Maker’s End bit. All right, self, you can relax with the secrecy.)

Butch:

You want me to agree to assuage your guilt that you picked flowers while the world ended.

Yeah. Grave Hoard. But I’m by a lot of vantages and flowers, so, you know, fuck the world for a while here.

Plus Erand’s thing is around here, and I did sorta tell him I’d help him out.

And Olin’s family. Them, too.

Priorities.

I also kinda loved Aloy, once again, articulating what we all think in games: “Kind of a depressing name….” Like, who comes up with this shit? Preach, Aloy.

Speaking of that conversation, do you think that Sylens really is Lance Reddick mo-capped? Looked a lot like him. But that could just be “Wise, bald black dude” which Lance Reddick does do well.

Reference here:
[https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTQwNjI2NDE1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzc3NTUyOA@@._V1_.jpg]

and:

[http://www.gamepur.com/files/images/2014/horizon-zero-dawn-sylen.jpg]

(Note: we are not actually including these images because they may be copyrighted and we respect the law and stuff, but go look, you will be stunned and amazed at the resemblance)

What do you think? Awful close.

Feminina:

Oh, that’s totally Lance Reddick. No way it’s not. They wouldn’t dare try to fake it.

Yes! Yes, assuage my guilt at caring so little for the world in comparison to collecting mugs! Is that so much to ask? Among friends?

In depressing metathemes, every video game ever could be a sort of commentary on how humans do, in fact, prioritize collecting junk and making money on pointless missions over saving the planet from, you know, climate change and what not. But hey, we like mugs! Also cars and meat and air conditioning! That skyhole will probably be fine for a while.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Butch:

I assuage your guilt. It’s how I do. Mostly.

But dude, do not go all deep on a gray Monday!

Aloy Speaks for Us All, Again

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some plot spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Well, if last night didn’t move me markedly closer to the end, this game has no end.

Went to Meridian to shop, then decided to truck it up to Maker’s End.

Met ol’ friend Nil (who would totally be bangable in a bioware game, and CERTAINLY in a CDPR game), cleared out a really, REALLY big bandit camp at an old power plant or something, heard Daniels tell me about Elizabeth Sobeck (but had to redo it cuz the kids wouldn’t shut up), got to the campfire by Maker’s End, magpied to a vantage point (Day 1…this is where it all started…they don’t even know yet…etc…interesting), found a level 27 corrupted zone with fire bellowbacks and ravagers and noped it out of there, and then went into Maker’s End!

Did the first bit, killed ’em all. Did the second bit, decided if I just ran past the corrupter it would work (it did), fought the deathbringer (whoa…), did the bit where HADES was all “Unacceptable…” which was kind of a hoity toity thing for an evil thing to say, went through the crack and went through the door and hit save.

Phew.

Oh, and by the way, did it all on hard, all of it, and didn’t die once.

Who’s badass? This guy. And, gotta say, the fire armor helped.

Well then. That’s a lot.

Probably my single favorite moment was when, once again, Aloy spoke for us all. Yelling into her focus after the deathbringer fight “Hey! Hey! Mysterious voice! Did you see that? You gonna say anything about that?” How many times have we asked game voices that? All too many.

I also kind of loved that Aloy was all frustrated “Another one of these doors…” and was turning to go and give up when it opened. When do you see video game heroes be all “Oh man, this. I’ll just come back later…”

I mean, on their own. Not when they’re nopeing it out of there.

So…..

The thing genetically thinks she’s Elizabeth Sobeck, who is a doctor and stuff. She’s not. Which means the only two things I can think at this point (and, granted, my current quest is “find out about Elizabeth Sobeck,” so these thoughts might not last the day) are a) Aloy’s a clone or b) there’s some weird time travel shit involved here.

Which, considering we’ve been talking on this game having themes about humans and technology, is pretty interesting. Before we got this game, we were all “Future CAVEMEN and robot dinosaurs!” We saw Aloy as primitive. Shit, we did when we started playing. She was a CAVEWOMAN with a gizmo. She was the antithesis of technology. But now…is she the direct product of very impressive technology? Probably.

I should have done more, but it was late. Then I’d know more. But it was late.

But that’s something! Gotta be something! Right?

Feminina:

Yes! Good! That’s something! Closer to the end! Of the main story, anyway.

There’s a lot of plot at Maker’s End. Lots of information about machines and that whole fall of civilization thing. Not ALL the information, I’m still looking for some of it, but lots.

And yeah, I think we have to conclude that Aloy is some sort of clone of Dr. Sobeck, though how and why she was created behind that mysterious door in the mountain, I still have no idea. Was it an intentional part of the plan? Maybe whatever is going on with the machines, making them more hostile and causing them to develop new forms, resulted from a signal (things are breaking down, as you theorized) that prompted her ‘birth’ so Dr. Sobeck’s brain could work on the problem? Or are the machines outside just kind of evolving along their own path, building more machines from the components they find in the world, and similarly whatever machines are inside the mountain also evolved and built what they could build from the components they had, which maybe was Dr. Sobeck’s body if she died there?

Questions, questions.

Also, yeah, I totally loved her yelling at the voice. “Hey, you, maybe want to chime in with something USEFUL here?” Speaking for us all, in so many games.

Butch:

And I did a bandit camp! And a vantage! STUFF!

HOORAY! (Still not the endgame though, is it?)

I get the sense I have more to learn before really contributing much on the many questions. So, once again, I played like holy hell, and did a ton, and yet did not a whole lot.

At least I got some pictures. I couldn’t believe she did that lean her head back thing at the campfire that I sent you. It’s like she knew I liked photo mode. Thanks, Aloy! Work it, sister!

Why do I have a feeling that many of these questions will be addressed in sequels? Plural?

She’s speaking for us all especially since Daniels knew about the forces there. “Expect a lot of eclipse troops.” Thanks. If you knew that, couldn’t you have added “And they have this thing called a deathbringer?” Maybe Daniels knew that if he had said that there was a pretty good possibility of her saying “Well…fuck that. Back to hunting bony turkeys for me.”

Though the deathbringer wasn’t all that bad, gotta say. I just kept peeking out from the alley there, and either triple shotting tearblasts at the guns or tripleshotting fire at the weak points until it died. The pesky fire lobbing dudes were a bigger problem.

Now, if (when) I have to fight multiple ones of those and/or fight without a convenient alley, that might suck.

Could you figure out what exactly they were doing there other than sitting around waiting to be a boss fight? They were right by the damn door thing. What were they blowing up?

Feminina:

Endgame? Oh lord no.

And this is only the main storyline, too–you’ve still got that major secondary storyline with Erend and his sister and the king in Meridian. Plus 10 or 20 minor side quests here and there.

But stuff! Good stuff! And you sent a very dramatic screencap, gazing at the heavens like that. She’s thinking “what the hell, Lt. Daniels, are you seriously not going to give me any more to go on than “lots of Eclipse?'”

We should really put some of those on here to liven up the joint. That’s on you, you’re our photographer.

I agree, the deathbringer was considerably less challenging than it looked at first. I saw it and thought “noooooooo!!!!!” but then, like you, I just lurked out of the way and sniped at it for a while and it was no big.

But hey, it’s just barely possible the next one you meet will be a lot tougher. Yay?

My impression was that the bad guys were kind of in the middle of reviving/unearthing/something the deathbringer, and that’s why they were all there? Like, it just happened to be there for whatever reason (who knows why machines are anywhere?) and Hades or something told them about it, so they went there to wake it up or whatever. Because their–or Hades’–ultimate plan is to unleash the soothing lilac hordes, etc.

And, obviously, to provide a boss fight for poor Aloy who was just looking for information.

Butch:

THIS GAME NEVER ENDS!!!!!!

At least I’m liking it.

They were there for boss fight reasons. It’s what all the Kevins aspire to. “Sure, I’m a target in the tutorial now, but, if I work hard, someday I’ll make mid game boss fight target!”

Every game from here out needs photo mode. Needs. It.

I mean, you can change the time of day.

If MEA has it, I’m gonna go nuts.

I do have some backed up on Amazon Prime I could share….Not the Morrigan ones.  Well, not ALL the Morrigan ones.  Not that there ARE Morrigan ones….
Uh…ROBOT DINOSAURS!

Feminina:

Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Robot dinosaurs. Upload some of THOSE pictures.

Butch:

I want the record to show the dinosaurs are also scantily clad.

Feminina:

They certainly are. Just those tiny bits of coverage from parts you can shoot off…all sauntering around daring you to get them completely naked…
Um. That got odd.
Butch:

Hey, it’s my foggy time of day.  I can’t be held responsible.

Feminina:

Well I’m certainly not responsible! I can’t even organize a HUD! I’m hopeless in every way, unless you need something looted and/or set on fire.
Butch:
This HUD thing is going to excuse so very much, isn’t it?
Hey guess what else the patch does: Gives you more options for CLEANING UP YOUR HUD!
Get on that shit.
Feminina:
But then what would I use for excuses? You have medication, I have a cluttered HUD. Anyway, you haven’t seen my office. My desk is being swallowed by piles of paper. I thrive in chaos.
Butch:
My meds excuse nothing! I never get weird foggy!  Cuz I go to sleep.   
Feminina:
“It couldn’t have been me. I was sleeping. Because of medication.”
“Well, it couldn’t have been me. I couldn’t concentrate. Because of all the crap on my HUD.”
In conclusion, it could only have been internet gremlins whenever anything weird happens on the blog.
So basically, everything on the blog is gremlins.
Butch:
I approve this message. 
Were we talking about something? 
Maybe how THIS GAME NEVER ENDS!!!!!!

Feminina:

HZD: Oh, were you expecting a game that ended? Hahahahaha.

At least I’m liking it too. I did a bit last night. In case you were thinking of NOT clearing all the bandit camps…do clear all the bandit camps. There’s a bit of odd character/story bit. I’ll say no more.

I mean, unless you decide not to clear all the bandit camps, in which case I’ll just spoil. See, what happens is

[Convenient gremlin attack]

Butch:

I think I may well know what you might be hinting at.

After clearing the very bigassed camp I cleared last night, got a lot of details (well, not a lot, per se) about ol’ Nil. His two years in prison for confessing to war crimes, that sort of thing. Interesting that you get little tid bits from an NPC after each side thing. Usually it’s “meet NPC, do NPC’s thing, NPC will say the same one line to you forever.”

Nice touch.

Though the two camps I cleared before last night Nil was nowhere to be found. I hope I didn’t do things all wrong. I haven’t seen Nil since that first one long, long ago. Hmm.

I do like those convenient gremlins.

T SHIRT!!!!

Feminina:

Yes, that. A bit more of that Nil story.

And yeah, I was also a little confused…I think that if you approach the camps from a certain way, Nil is always waiting to help you, but you can miss him by going from another direction?

Which doesn’t make all that much sense as a mechanic, really, unless some aspect of the plot hinges on whether or not you missed him, which doesn’t seem to be the case. I only had him with me I think twice out of all the camps, but then after I did the last one he showed up saying something like “it’s been great clearing out all these camps with you” as if he’d been there for every one of them.

And I don’t know, maybe he’s meant to be a brazen liar pretending he was helping when he wasn’t, but it seemed sincere, so I THINK the game assumes he actually was there helping, and that you’re sort of ‘supposed’ to approach each camp along the most obvious road or something, where you would meet him and you’d go in together. Whereas I tended to come upon them during random cross-country exploration, and I’d sneak in the back by clambering through the fence or something and then only realize later that “oh, there’s a whole big front entrance here where the grass has been permitted to grow recklessly long and I could have stealthed in and backstabbed 30 of these dudes.”

I was kind of annoyed because he might actually have been useful in some of those endless 500-bandit battles. So, I dunno, maybe next time you get to a camp, wander around and see if you can find him, to test my theory?

But if you don’t ever see Nil before or during the bandit camp fights, don’t worry, the story will unfold just as if he’d been there all along. We’ll talk. Later.

Butch:

Figured. I had all but forgotten about him. And then, after our mighty victory, he was all chatty and stuff. An NPC is usually “Glad we worked together again. Please, take this thing that is so underleveled as a reward.” I was taken aback.

HA! Yes, they are stupid about mowing, aren’t they? But can you blame them?

“Kevin, go mow.”
“Oh HELL no.”
“Why? It’s not such a bad chore. I’ll get you a beer after.”
“It’s not that, dude.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“The last seven guys who went to mow there got killed.”
“Aren’t you being a tad overly dramatic, Kevin? I mean, it IS a bit of a chore but…”
“No, dude, there’s their bodies, all on top of each other, all with rather obvious stab marks.”
“Kevin, look, that does look a tad suspicious, it’s true, but I’m sure there’s an explanation. I’ll just go over and check it” R1 CRITICAL HIT!
*****long pause*****
“Maybe I should go tell the guy with the firespitter…..”
*****yellow circle goes away****
“Nah.”

I don’t think Nil was there, though. When I approached the camp last night, LONG before I got there a green exclamation point appeared. “I wonder what that is?” I said, and, what do you know? Nil. And it was there from a LONG ways off. So, had he been there, I think he’d have a green exclamation point.

Of course we’ll talk later. It’s how we do.

Feminina:

Hm. Well, maybe he is just meant to be making it all up.

“No, I was there all along helping you, didn’t you notice? You didn’t? Well, it’s because I’m so stealthy and stuff. But hey, we share a special bond now, right?”

Or maybe he means, you took care of some camps, and he was also out taking care of some other camps that you never even saw because he killed everyone and by the time you got there it was a peaceable tiny settlement? That would be kind of an interesting twist, a side character who actually DOES stuff you’d otherwise have to do, but it really was’t presented that way. He was definitely talking as if he’d been by your side all along.

Not that I would put it past him to in fact be a bald-faced liar. That guy’s weird and creepy. Like a spooky-eyed Jared Leto. Who even KNOWS what he’s done or thinks he’s done?

And yeah, good point about the mowing. No way in hell I’D sign up for that. Just leave the grass alone, guys. Just leave it.

Butch:

Yeah, he certainly has been up to all sorts of stuff before. He doesn’t strike me as the kind who would wait around. He’s probably out killin’ dudes. If I finish the game short a couple metal flowers, I’ll assume he got them for me.

You gotta be careful about NOT mowing, too.

“Oh man…I really hope that no one asks me to mow when I’m over there. I don’t even want to go over there, but, you know, I’m on this track. Oh…phew. No one else around. Just eight dead colleagues. Great. Now I can turn around, go back in and grab a beer without anyone telling me to do any chores. Hmm. I seem to be on fire. How’d that happen?”

Feminina:

Life is fraught with unseen peril when you’re Kevin.

Just trying to do your job, maybe someday work your way up to the mid-game boss fight, and people are always stabbing you from the grass or setting you on fire before you even get to your beer.

Butch:

Life is cruel to Kevin. But someone’s gotta Kevin.

All the News That’s…OK, None of the News

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LadyBrain_64

We don’t spoil when we don’t play first. Or talk later. 

Feminina:

Important update: Buttons is not dead! He’s just busy doing things.

Sadly, the other two of us are also super busy with non-game-related life and work things today, so let me just highlight Jenna Busch in today’s Metro, with a well-argued case for MALE NUDITY NOW.

I mean, she says “equal opportunity nudity,” but we know what that means.

The movement will not be stopped!

Today Only, 2 Quests for the Fight of 1!

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some specific quest-fight spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So played. Decided to test out my very fetching fire armor by going back to that corrupted zone with the fire bellowback from way back in the Nora lands. Took me a while, but cleared it, didn’t die. Huzzah! Then spent altogether too long looking for a vantage point (the one with the concert stage) as I was convinced it was up on these tall assed rocks, so I climbed the tall assed rocks, and it wasn’t there. It was right next to the campfire. Sigh.

So a neat mechanic: when you’re hurt badly enough the screen is red, you can’t sprint. And she holds her side and limps. I noticed this as I was hurt, was out of healing, and was trying to catch a turkey. Neat mechanic.

But I’m worried. I’ve been playing the hell out of this game. Really, I have. How many blog posts have started with “I’ve got nothing?” Hardly any! I even play on weekends! And I’m DOING stuff, man! Every time, something gets crossed off the list, even if it’s just a corrupted zone. And yet….I feel like I’m nowhere even remotely near being done. Like, I’ll NEVER be done. I don’t just mean 100%. That will never happen. But DAMN there sure seems to be a lot of clouds on that map. I know I’ve only done two of five cauldrons. It says I’m at 49%, and “done” is likely, what, 80? So I SHOULD be making progress, but even when I make progress I still feel like there’s 234978325982 hours of game left.

Now…don’t get me wrong…I am enjoying this game. It’s not that I’m bored and want to just finish this up. But a) I eventually want to play MEA and b) I want to play MEA before you finish both this AND MEA.

I dunno, man. This game feels fucking huge.

Feminina:

That was extremely fetching armor. And OBVIOUSLY fireproof. I mean, no question that’s what I would wear if I had to run into a burning building or face a flamethrowing monster.

You are definitely doing things! And yeah, it’s a big game. I feel like I’m at the “chipping away at side quests rather than follow the main story because I don’t want to finish quite yet” stage, so that time does come, but there’s a lot to do.

Last night I finished the ‘half suns in every trial’ thing and got…a Lodge Blast Sling for my troubles. I’m sure it’s a very nice blast sling, and whatever the next level is will also be very nice, but worth going back for full suns on all those tests? Blazing suns? Nah. I’m done with the hunting grounds.

I’d say I’m done with the Lodge, but I still have to kill a thunderjaw and a stormbird for Talanah. And then probably face Redmaw. So there’s stuff to do there.

I do like the ‘badly hurt’ mechanic. I was noticing that the other night after a particularly nasty fight where I had used all my healing and was THIS CLOSE to killing the thing, and then at the last minute as we both hovered on the brink of death…I did kill it. Whew. Close one, though. So many times that story goes the other way.

It’s nice that it sort of auto-heals you to about a quarter, so at least you’re not dragging around at 3 HP. But the limping and holding her side and the red fog around the edge of the screen is a really nice “hey, you’re injured” note. Makes it seem like there’s actually a difference between being totally fine, and having just been beaten to within an inch of your life by a giant robot.

Nothing some meat potions and/or medicinal herbs won’t cure, of course.

Butch:

Just because you’re fighting terrible things that can kill you, you still gotta rock the look.

They must’ve been being cheeky making THAT armor the fireproof one. Though it might have been even funnier had it been the one that resists cold.

So what percentage do you think “Done” is? I’m thinking/hoping about 80. And I’m JUST at 50. In real time, I sort of want to be done with this no later than four, five weeks (remember, I get things all messed up because Mrs. McP is graduating, there’s that sort of thing). I think I can. There might be some flowers left unfound. One must make choices.

Dude, I, too, am done with the hunting grounds. I don’t need a new blast sling. There’s hunting grounds I haven’t even visited. It’ll have to stay that way. So there. I’m closer to done! Through sheer laziness.

Unless…did you learn a trick that we don’t already know for your troubles? Like the log thing? Is there something really cool I’m not doing? Cuz if there is, I may go learn that. But if not, fuck it.

I have a feeling I’ll just do the thunderjaw and stormbird stuff in the course of play. When I had to get the other trophies, they didn’t come from the parts of the map the quest told me to go to. Any ravager would do. I have a feeling that I’m not going to get through this entire game without killing even one thunderjaw or stormbird, so I figure I’ll just grab those trophies when I happen to do that. Only need one of each.

And considering our pondering about the nature of redmaw, I kinda want to get to that point just to see if we’re right, or what is up with that. Without looking on the internet. Don’t go looking on the internet.

That “THIS close” thing is what happened to me last night with this corrupted zone! And…seriously…had my fetching armor not given me the fire resistance it did I’d’ve died.

Well, I still had some life left. I was hurt. I got to “almost dead” when (don’t laugh) I was climbing the rocks of futility looking for the vantage point that wasn’t up there and I fell a ways. Got down to, maybe, 20 health falling. Falling, I should point out, AFTER I did the fight and BEFORE I thought to save the damn game.

Had I died in that fashion, and had to redo the fight, I may well have gone insane.

The limping is a nice touch. This game gets many of the little things right.

Dude, I am SO low on meat. Fatty meat specifically. Every time I kill an animal I always get the wrong meat. “Damn! A bony turkey!” “Damn, a rich boar!” And then I’ll need bony meat at some point and, watch, every damn animal will have gotten fat.

Feminina:

Man, the WORST is surviving a brutal combat and then dying falling down a cliff before you save. I think that’s a recognized cause of PTSD.

You don’t have to get all the flowers. The dude just gives you some reward boxes for them, and they’re full of high-powered modifications or whatever, but you can only use so many modifications anyway. It’s nothing you can’t live without.

The vantage points, and to a lesser extent the Banuk figurines, are worth tracking down because they have story, but the mugs and flowers, meh.I got them all because of course I got them all, but it’s not as if I got anything awesome out of it. Aside from the trophy, I mean.

I learned about the ravager cannon at a hunting ground. That’s a good trick, but you already know it. Everything else I learned was basically “override machines so they’ll fight for you” (ON IT) and “ropes can tie machines down, if you ever manage to actually hit them.”

So yeah, I think you’re fine ignoring them.

And yeah, good plan waiting to kill a thunderjaw and a stormbird in the course of the action. I happen to have killed a stormbird myself in the course of the action, obviously before this so it doesn’t help me (sigh), but it will totally help you! That’s the only time I’ve fought one so far, so I’m not really looking forward to intentionally antagonizing one for the Lodge, but maybe I’ll just follow up on the main story a bit and see if I meet one as I go.

Butch:

Dude, I saw her falling and it was one of those cheesy slow motion “Nooooooooo” moments in my head. Awful. I went right to the campfire, didn’t care I was hurt. The turkeys and their useless bony meat can wait.

But the flower poem….the beautiful poem….someone took a great deal of time writing that poem….

But fuck it. Can’t be bothered.

The ravager cannon is key. I wish there was a “Find the fucking cannon once you shoot it off” tip, but whatever. It does kinda rock anyway.

And now that I have triple shot, three tearblast arrows at once makes shit go AWAY.

Though…can you use that trick on dudes holding, I dunno, firespitters maybe? That would be handy.

Yeah, I made sure I chatted up Talanah after that whole “Find me a ravager” thing, seeing as I had just killed a couple and had to go kill more. I figured, if she was gonna give me a “go kill things” quest, better to have it before I, inevitably, killed things.

Multitasking, me.

Feminina:

Oh man, tearblast on a dude with a big gun would be sweet. But no, I think it only works on machines.

Multitasking is the way to go. I had a quest to kill a thunderjaw for someone, and conveniently hit up the thunderjaw hunting grounds. Efficient!

If only I’d talked to Talanah first, too…

Look Good Killing Robots: Hot New Styles

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor plot and clothing spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn 

Butch:

Ok, finished up the sword thing, then, as I had to go back to Meridian to finish it up, decided to go meet Erand, what being there and all, which made me meet the king, and the blameless guy and all that.

Also bought a very fetching outfit.

I think I missed some things in the sword thing. I mean, rescued dude, original dude was all cool, that was that. But, AGAIN, no WAY that was level 12. That last fight sucked. SUCKED. Basically, as soon as I got seen by the dude with the firespitter, I died. And that was pretty much once I did anything. Had to turn it down. Silly, silly levels.

The king seems like a cool guy. Complicated, though. On one hand, we have praised this game for not having monolithic tribes/factions/whatever. Rightly so. That’s good. HOWEVER, it does make it slightly confusing, that it does. I’m not sure I’m 100% on which one is who here.

Part of this is that I’m on two hours of sleep. Sigh. I’ll hang in.

As for the fetching outfit….

This game has gotten much praise for its portrayals of strong women (and women of color) and rightly so. Aloy is pretty awesome, as are many other female characters. We’ve even talked on how her clothing is rather practical. But they couldn’t resist having one outfit, could they? And the bottom…she has long boots, this little skirty thing, and fishnet tights (actual fishnets this time) from knee to waist. This is the FIREPROOF outfit.

Also, with this outfit, something else that I THOUGHT I was noticing became abundantly clear: When Aloy walks, she sways her ass like she’s all that. Whoever animated her certainly feminized her walk. Her run is very gender neutral, but that stroll is something else. We don’t do it much, what with all the running, but last night, in this new outfit, strolling after the Blameless guy up to the king, it was really, REALLY obvious.

So…..even in games that are very, very good at the gender thing….we’re still not perfect, are we?

Feminina:

I finished the sword thing, but I no longer remember it. I think I did it at about level thirty, so I don’t recall it being terrible.

I’m home today–the other kid was sick, although now that it’s too late to take him to daycare he of course feels fine, so I have 50 things to do at work (in between emails, of course) but instead I have to intentionally not have any fun here because I don’t want to encourage him to err on the side of not feeling well in the future. Bah.

Anyway… I’ll have to notice her stroll in future. Also her very practical and obviously fireproof outfit. I suppose you can’t win ’em all. We can at least say they hid the impractical stuff, instead of the practical stuff, I guess? Instead of the other way around, where you have to look all over the world to find something that covers your belly.

Butch:

You can’t win ’em all, it’s true.

It’s quite a stroll. Quite accentuated by her current outfit.

But then, she WAS meeting a king. And flirty Erand. And the king was flirty! She’s gotta work it, man. Work. It.

But then, I think she’s more into her hawk. Or I want to think that, given my tendency to have lesbians save the world.

Remember, I’m still playing on hard.

The fight sucked. It. Sucked. Not only did the firespitter guy kill me with spit fire, did you know that getting physically whacked with a firespitter ALSO kills you dead? I did the whole charge, get close so he can’t shoot and whack thing, and he very casually bopped me with the firespitter and I died.

What?

Feminina:

Erend and the king ARE both flirty, aren’t they? In a BioWare game, they would totally be romance options. Here, well, we know how Aloy feels about romance.

I did not know that about the firespitter! Nasty.

Butch:

Terrible surprise about the firespitter.

I dunno, even bioware might not let you romance royalty.

Erand for sure. The hawk for sure. Varl for sure.

Feminina:

You could romance Alistair in DAI, and he was a prince. I think if you played it right, you could actually become queen, but I did not do that. Next time I play it! (Laughing forever.)

Oh, I went back and did the log trial last night. Logs. Handy. Although the guy said “you can use your blast sling to drive machines where you want them to go,” and guess who was out of blast sling ammo AND the components to make more? Yeah, the trial was a lot more annoying than it probably would have been.

Ever since I got all those bombs, I keep running out of blaze! Gotta go hunt some striders, I guess.

Butch:

Dude, the bomb trick was completely useless. I’m convinced that guy only told us to do that cuz he got bored out there with nothing to do but roast marshmallows and chat with the merchant and wanted to laugh at something. I tried the bomb trick, and the silly things either ignored it completely or scattered every damn where.

Indeed, two of the three things I killed were watchers, and I did that by hiding and whistling them into the kill zone.

Feminina:

Yes! That’s what I did! Hid and whistled at watchers. I’m glad it wasn’t just me.

Butch:

As long as there is me, it’ll never be just you.

T SHIRT!!!!!

Feminina:

T shirt, and/or the chorus for a hit song called “Ode to a Gaming Buddy.” Why not branch out into pop music?

We can’t be constrained!

Butch:

Yet another facet of our burgeoning financial empire.

I Mostly Use My Focus for Cat Videos

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some clothing and mechanics spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Ok, played! Yes! On a weekend!

So Friday, decided I was gonna check out that whole log pile thing, so I trucked back to the first hunting ground and tried it out. Dude. We. Missed. Out.

So when future humankind invented evil metal death dinos that probably ended the world, they failed to notice that, while said dinos were impervious to most chemical, mechanical or nuclear attack, if their toes were touched by a slowly rolling log of any diameter, they died. This could have been HUGE! Granted, this was not obvious, as it took me forever to figure it out, but dude. Logs. Logs just make shit go away.

So I did that, and then I was in that part of the map, and vantages, mugs, zones, as one does. Did the one with the Flight Academy building. That was cool all around. The datapoint of the deployment to Mozambique? I like how they just sprinkle little details like that. “It’s global. It happened in Mozambique.” Good hinting. Nicely done.

Then last night got back on track and decided to go do the guy with the sword, the missing sword, that guy. (One problem with the long distances between side quest objectives is it’s easy to lose the train of the side quest story. It’s been a while. Swords, poor folks….something or other. Theme.) But on the way I bumped into Erand and got vortexed into all that stuff. Followed him up to the ruins of that…what…amusement park? (Another cool thing this game does: Ruins aren’t always obvious. It’s not all “Hey! It’s Copley Square!” It’s more “That was…what was that?” which is more how it would probably be.) Oseram were killed, Ravagers were killed (more on that in a bit), sister’s possibly faked death was revealed, etc. I like Erand. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a bad guy.

So during that fight I, once again, knocked a ravager cannon off and was unable to find and use it during the fight. That said, I was gonna be goddammed if I wasn’t gonna kill some shit with that cannon. So I switched back to the “sword guy” quest, picked up the cannon, and trucked down the road toward the quest marker. I put it down and quick saved at campsites twice. I shot a racoon with it. I was almost to the quest and…..one of those convoy things! A CONVOY! When I was holding a ravager cannon…..

Oh…..my……stars……

Carnage occurred.

And then, just as I was done, a bunch of bandits started coming up! And I was out of ammo, and they had a dude with a firespitter! But damned if they were gonna get my loot. So I hid, took out the firespitter dude, took his firespitter, and….

Oh….my…..stars……..

MORE CARNAGE!

Took a screencap of the massive amount of loot carnage, made it to the quest marker for “investigate the camp,” stopped.

Not bad. Moved the story, learned about logs, got some mugs…didn’t do what I planned, but when do I ever?

Feminina:

I need to get back to the Nora hunting ground and do the log thing. I’ve been dutifully making the rounds, trying to get a half sun at everything so I can get the lowest level of the Lodge gear. I don’t care enough to go for full sun, and DEFINITELY not blazing sun, but I figure I can at least get on the board in all of them. I’ve done three so far, but I have to get back to that first one (logs!) and then there’s another one way out south west-ish that I haven’t even visited yet.

Cannons are pretty great. I had a firespitter yesterday that I hadn’t even noticed until the end of the fight, and then I was like “damn it, I’m using this for something,” so I lugged it along the road until I found some snapmaws.

Carnage. As you say, carnage.

Sparks and machine pieces and loot pop-ups everywhere.

Having a cannon and a convoy must have been sweet.

Butch:

Dude. Logs.

Though whoever designed the mechanic obviously watched Return of the Jedi way too many times, because they sorta teeter and stumble down like the walker thingies in the Ewok scene. Watch, you’ll do that one last, thus doing what we always do in terms of mastering a key mechanic right before you finish the game.

Convoy/cannon was great. It really was. If you get the jump on it, you take those walkers out before they have time to put up their shields.

Though there’s something bugging me: despite the utter carnage I sent you in the screenshot, and my dutiful looting of same, the little “convoy” icon is still there on my map. This troubles me. Did I forget to loot something? I fear I forgot to loot something! AIEE! I HATE THAT! Or does it just stay there?

As for Erand, I suppose you know a whole lot more about all that and we’ll talk. Later.

Feminina:

I think the convoy icon is always there, because it denotes a region, not a specific individual convoy. Like, if you wait around long enough another convoy will come by, because that’s a route they take. I think.

I gotta get back to the logs! Also, speaking of returning to that side of the map, you know the armor in the ruins? I still, after all this time, only have 1 out of 3 of the fuel cells I need. I’m not sure I’m ever going to get that armor out of those ruins. Just as well I’m comfy in my stealth netting.

I finally put on some different armor for one particularly nasty fight where I decided I needed a boost against ranged attacks, but it wasn’t the same. I swapped back right after the battle.

I know much about Erend. Much that I shall not say. There is a lengthy storyline involving him and his possibly-dead sister and the Sun King. We’ll talk about all these things. Later.

Butch:

Figured. That certainly had the feel of the end of an early chapter in that story, not a late one. But a good one! I look forward to more.

Ah, convoy is a region! Like a machine site? I can’t figure that out, either. I finally completely cleared one, just cuz, the other day, and she was all “That’s that…” all happily. Does that mean those machines are gone? Or will they come back?

Dude, I remember the ruins. I WANT THAT ARMOR. Indeed, last night, upon finding the tripod with the sound cannon (which she seemed to understand the physics of quite well, considering she’s, like, a cavewoman….that focus thing must get Science Channel) she said “Someone hooked a power cell here…” and I spent FOREVER looking for it. POWER CELL! ARMOR! But to no avail.

She really put quite a bit together based on a rusty tripod and some busted rocks. And exhibited a rather sophisticated knowledge of the physics of sound.

You get to the point where you are your armor, really.

Though I really, really want the fireproof one. Then I’m gonna kill me some bellowbacks.

Feminina:

Yeah, the focus must have really provided her with a solid 21st century education. Sound, machine weaknesses, basic explosives…

Either it gave her that education in childhood, or, and here’s something I’ve been thinking about on and off, it just kind of filled her in as the topic came up. Because I’ve been thinking that she really represents us tech-enabled modern folk in an interesting way, which is that she seems to have super powers (to follow tracks, predict the movement of machines, etc.), but it’s actually just a tool she’s using, not something inherent to herself.

We, likewise, can walk around like supergeniuses of trivia with every fact we could want to know right there the moment we want to know it, but it’s not that we KNOW all this stuff, it’s just that we can look it up on our phones.

So even though it’s really convenient, it’s a bit like cheating from a strict skill perspective. Take away the tool, and we’re nothing special in terms of knowing stuff. Take away Aloy’s focus, and she’s…well, still damn good and running and climbing and killing machines, but based on the weird places we find people and settlements, a lot of people are good at those things, so she’s nothing special.

She’s a user of fancy tools, just like us, and her identity is even kind of defined by her fancy tool, just as one could argue some people are kind of helpless without their phones. (Although in our world, having a fancy phone as such is no longer that special, even if specific brands and models still mean things to some peoples’ identities.)

I wonder if there’s some kind of point here about the balance between technology and the very non-technological physical world Aloy lives in, and the balance of our own technology and physical world. Obviously, technology is useful to her, and she doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of it, which gives her an edge over others who fear or disdain this kind of tool.

At the same time, it slows her down…she can’t effectively fight with the focus actively scanning, so she has to come out of it all the time to move and survive. Is this a thoughtful lesson about how to approach our own technology (don’t try to live inside your phone all the time, but certainly use it to track things and identify the weak spots on killer machines), or just a mechanic to keep us from being overpowered?

Butch:

Well, we did see her, in the coming of age montage way back when, lying in bed and studying/reading/whatever stuff in the focus. Now, it wasn’t clear if the focus was giving her some sort of education, or she was seeking one, or she was watching 1000 year old cat videos. We did see “bow” pop up when Rost handed her one, and it was unclear if that was unbidden or if she actively did a “what’s that?” bzzzzp focus google search. That said, it is from her tool.

She isn’t anything special. She wasn’t even supposed to win the proving. And that one, brief bit we had to do WITHOUT the focus there was a tad unsettling. She wanted it back! We wanted it back! The first objective was “find your focus!” Indeed, YOUR. Not “the,” not “Aloy’s,” YOUR.

I think there’s very much a metaphor there. The game is most certainly about tech and our relationship to it. I don’t think it was about being overpowered at all. The stuff stays highlighted, after all. Once it’s in your head, as it were. The same thing is true about heavy weapons. Once you pick up the ravager cannon, you can’t use concentration (now THERE’S a metaphor), you can’t run, you drop the thing whenever you try to dive or dodge or climb (learned that the hard way last night). Heavy weapons make you loud, slow and clumsy. Do you feel powerful? Sure, in short bursts. But you can’t rely on them all the time.

And the focus is imperfect. It doesn’t give you all you need to know. We were just talking about how it doesn’t highlight things like log traps or handholds like other games do. And we suffered for it. We thought that focus, that tool, would tell us everything that could possibly be useful. It didn’t. Another useful lesson I learned too late.

Feminina:

Ooh, good (and timely!) point about the logs and the things the focus DOESN’T help us with. As well as the big guns, representing another useful but limited technology.

For all its coolness, the focus has significant limitations, which is obviously an intentional design choice. It’s extremely useful, even critical for some things (you can’t do those tracking missions without it), but when we depend on it too much, we make things harder for ourselves by not noticing the things it doesn’t point out.

Maybe the point is, technology is super cool and super useful (and also super dangerous given it did, you know, destroy civilization a while ago), and it will teach you things you can’t learn any other way (all these data points and story quests that depend on the focus interacting with old recordings) and let you do things you could never otherwise do, but you HAVE to know when to disengage from it.

We could really say that about pretty much all our tech, couldn’t we?

Butch:

And, at time, super useless. Some of the datapoints, things it DOES point out, are old ads for shit like “Use your focus as your drinking buddy!” which was silly 1000 years ago and totally useless now. It gives us the spam of the future, but doesn’t tell us about the damn log piles.

And we sucker for it! We read the silly spam, and we take for granted that if something isn’t highlighted it isn’t useful, even when it really, really is.

Say it again: Games are at their best when they make us, the players, part of the metaphor.

Bravo, game.

And credit here: 35 or so hours in, and we keep praising pretty much everything but the inventory screen. High praise from us.

Feminina:

So true!

It provides incredibly valuable information AND incredibly useless trash information! (From a practical perspective, that is. For research purposes at the sociology departments of future universities, those drinking buddy messages will be pure gold!)

That’s technology, all right.

A focus is basically a smart phone you wear on your ear all the time, that can project augmented reality features into your field of vision. OBVIOUSLY it’s going to be full of spammy advertising and stupid TV-equivalent shows!

The only reason it isn’t full of porn and “get newest bot-powered breast/penis enlargement now!!!!” is the T for Teen rating.

Butch:

You raise an interesting question: Why do you think they decided to go for the T rating? This game had the opportunity for grit. We certainly know the Shadow Carja are bad dudes. We’ve seen kidnapped families, murdered teenagers, stories of gruesome sacrifice. They didn’t HAVE to sanitize it.

It’s not a Sony thing, either. Sure, Uncharted was T for Teen, but that was, I think, because it was in the Raider’s style of PG13 swashbuckling fun. The Last of Us certainly earned every ounce of that M rating, as did (I’m told) the Order, which had actual Johnsons!

This game certainly dances around M for Mature stuff, but then pulls back. I wonder why. I’m not hating on it, but…I don’t know. Sometimes grit is just there for grit’s sake and it detracts (Looking at you, Game of Thrones), but sometimes it adds to the believability. If your world’s gonna have grit, show grit (Looking at you, Witcher).

Feminina:

Hm. I of course know absolutely nothing about the developers’ thought processes, but to speculate wildly (because that’s what we do), I guess I could think of a couple of reasons…

They might have just wanted the larger potential audience they could get with a T.

I mean, the ROBOT DINOSAUR hook is intriguing enough to grab pretty much anyone who’s interested in that sort of thing, whether there’s nudity or not, so they might have figured they don’t have to have grit to get people, and if they can tell their story without it why not appeal to the parental buyers who might make it hard for younger players to get their hands on a darker or more ‘adult’ version?

So this could be both sound marketing, but I think it could also be an artistic choice…there are plenty of times when ‘grit’ and violence and nudity are non-essential and can feel like “oh, great, they threw in some graphic violence/nudity so we know it’s cool even though the story is stupid.” That wouldn’t be the case here, of course, because we don’t find the story to be stupid, but it might still be a matter of “nudity lets us get lazy about writing” or something that made them figure it was an equally interesting exercise for them to make it PG.

I will certainly nod to the Witcher for (mostly) pulling off sex and nudity that doesn’t feel totally extraneous…it’s part of the character and the world, and it’s a detailed and complicated character and world, and that works for the game and it’s great. (Aside from the lack of male nudity. Never forget.)

But that’s certainly not going to be every game or every character, and I imagine sometimes that’s just not what someone is going for as a storyteller, so they steer away.

You can still include plenty of dark elements–as you said, in Horizon we’ve got torture, slavery, murdered parents, the violent end of civilization, etc.–even if you don’t show them onscreen, and I think if you attempt to address it thoughtfully, that’s just as legitimate as depicting it in graphic detail. You can reach people who either wouldn’t want to, or wouldn’t be allowed to, play a more graphic game, and present issues in a way that players will still take seriously on a story level, even if they’re all offscreen.

In closing…money? Art? Artsy money?

Butch:

We’re on fire today.

Even if you assumed that making it M would be through nudity.

I was thinking more general grit….but hey, you wanna go down the nudity road, you do you.

But if you’re going there…

I noticed a couple midriffs in this game! Skimpy armor! It was in the hunter’s lodge. Our hawk has a two piece but…..so does the asshole DUDE! We have dude midriff!

Now THAT’S equal opportunity.

Feminina:

Hey, I mentioned graphic violence! I mean, yeah, nudity is my primary concern and I refuse to apologize for that, but I did mention violence.

Also, as I think we’ve discussed in the past, nudity/sexuality is going to get you rated M a lot quicker than violence will.

Violence needs to be pretty graphic and dramatic to even get noticed, and you can kill 8,000 dudes non-graphically (as we regularly do in the course of a day’s work) without causing a single eyeblink from the ratings agency, whereas you let one naked breast appear, and you’re out.

Therefore, I think it’s fair to think more about sex when discussing ratings.

I also noticed the bare midriff in the Carja Blazons outfit! Most of her apparel choices are quite practical and non-revealing, but yeah, there was a bit of stomach there. I’m totally fine with that, since it’s only one of many options.

And as you say, especially if it’s equal opportunity midriff that can also be seen on some dudes. It’s much easier to argue “but this is just how people in this time/land/club dress!” if, in fact, lots of people including dudes are dressing that way.

It’s not MALE NUDITY NOW, but given this is as nude as anyone gets in this game, I’ll take it.

Butch:

Wait…ALOY has a midriff outfit?

So…um…what does that cost?

Feminina:

You haven’t seen that one? Carja Blazons, man! I think. Maybe it was Carja silks or something else, but ‘blazons’ is sticking in my mind. It’s a ceremonial outfit or something? I think? I don’t know, I just saw the midriff and that it wasn’t outlined in purple.

I don’t remember how much it costs…it’s not purple, so I have no use for it. If I find a Shadow Carja version, I’ll be all over it, although I’ll probably never actually wear it because it won’t help me be stealthy. I have so many empty slots in armor, though, and so many shards, I’ve just been buying stuff lately because why not. If I have the random machine parts required, that is.

Still haven’t found the Rattler at the same time that I had the machine parts. The caveman shotgun eludes me.

Butch:

I’ll have to look for that outfit…..for the blog. And the screenshot….it’s probably photogenic. I have to keep true to my art.