Back to the Game!

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Uncharted: Lost Legacy

Butch:

Where was I? Ah, yes.

So did a fight by the facade there. Died a bunch, because they kept being all “reinforcements!” which would appear behind me and I’d be all “What? Where? How? I’m dead.” Figured out that sneaking was the way, specifically sneaking to the truck, opening the box and getting the silenced pistol. I love the silenced pistol. Then, no reinforcements, done!

Left off with the line “Back to shotgun,” “I can drive too, you know,” “I know, honey, I just like to be in charge.” I mean, they comment on how the PC always drives in games, and they throw in a “honey.” I love Chloe so much.

Which got me thinking: Yes, I love Chloe cuz BEBHBB and Claudia Black, but she’s different than any other cool female character in games (at least thus far, which is why I’m nervy about the whole backstory. More on that in a second.)

We’ve played a lot of games and met a lot of cool, badass female characters. But they usually fall into one of two categories:

1) The “I’m innocent but learning.” This involves a lot of “Ok..[deep breath] you can do this” to themselves. It usually involves overcoming self doubt. See: Aloy, Lara Croft.

2) The slightly crazy/maybe evil/certainly an outcast. These women are just plain not like other women. They’re outsiders, or bonkers. Maybe they’re part of a persecuted sorceresses guild (Triss, Yen), maybe they’re slightly evil AND persecuted sorceresses (Morrigan), maybe they’re bonkers (Leliana), maybe they’re straight up criminals (Sera). Look at the way MEA described PB and Vetra: “ROGUE academic.” “DRIFTER mercenary.” Different.

Chloe isn’t. She’s just badass. Sure, you can say “She’s a thief,” but not in the overt way that, say, Sera is. She doesn’t live alone in a tavern (we think). She doesn’t cut her hair weird. She’s just an unapologetic thief, like, say Nathan Drake. She’s just a bad ass who sometimes kills for a living, like, say Geralt. The “rogue,” “outsider” angle isn’t forced down our throats like it is in other games with cool women. You never hear her giving herself pep talks, wondering if she can (and Aloy falls into that trope, no matter how much we like Horizon). Shit, when Nadine is all “Do you have a plan?” and she says “Sure!” when you know she doesn’t, the next thing we see ISN’T her being all “Shit, I have no plan…you can do this Chloe.” Nope. The next thing we see is the fall of Kevins.

And that’s awesome.

And it’s why the backstory is even more disturbing. I will be very pissed if there’s a “I don’t know, dad, I don’t know if I can live up to your legacy” scene, thus plopping Chloe into category 1. I hope not.

Feminina:

I do like that about Chloe and this game. As you say, no apologizing, no little self-pep talks, no wondering quietly if she’s good enough, she just goes and does stuff.

I don’t have a problem with pep talks and self-doubt, necessarily, if they make sense for the character (Aloy: young and inexperienced, not unreasonable to occasionally have some nerves), but you’re right that that particular sort of character is much more commonly seen as a woman than a man, so it’s nice that Chloe diverges from it purely as a change of pace.

I mean, we hear her occasionally say “whoa” or shout if she falls, or whatever, but no more than a male character would (Drake yelled a fair amount on tricky climbs).

And I would personally be fine with a young, inexperienced male adventurer who had to give himself little pep talks occasionally and had moments of doubt about his ability to handle things, but you just don’t really see that (because it’s not manly, damn it!).

Even kid-Nathan Drake, back in the orphanage, was way more full of daring and (perhaps unrealistic) confidence than he was prone to nervousness and doubt. I think he expressed some trepidation about a couple of Sam’s big leaps and stuff, but if I recall correctly, even that was more stating a complaint about external circumstances: “come on, that’s a big jump!” than a doubt about himself: “come on Nathan, you can do this!”

Obviously, in real life unfaltering, unwarranted confidence is often not a great strategy, so we’re not holding up either Nathan or Chloe as role models. “Never doubt yourself! Be an international art thief and kill everyone who gets in your way!” is not advice I’ll be giving my children.

But given that it’s a character that works well for a fun action/adventure game, it’s nice that they recognize that there’s no particular reason a woman couldn’t feel just as confident about her legally and ethically dubious goals, and be just as bold and straightforward in their pursuit, as a man.

I’m into it.

I also liked that they’re not completely just “pretending she’s a man.” The fact that she’s a woman isn’t a complete nonissue, which would risk seeming dismissive of the existence of gender discrimination. There’s a small bit in there where she and Nadine talk about some of the times they’ve been underestimated or slighted by men who assumed they couldn’t do something because they were women.

So it’s not a non-issue, it’s just not the main issue. Yes, they deal with some things as women that men wouldn’t have to. However, the important thing is that they can climb ridiculously dangerous buildings and mountains, solve ancient puzzles, and murder the hell out of Kevin.

Butch:

That self-doubting role is ALWAYS seen as a woman. I can’t think of a single male character that fits that mold.

Still the funniest moment in all of those games was one time I drove off a cliff and Drake and Sam and Sully all were all “Shit AAA shit AAA shit AAA” all the way down.

Young man giving self peptalks you don’t see… Ever. Not ever.

I was thinking, a good experiment (that neither of us will do) is to see if the throwaway banter is different in a game where you can play as either a man or a woman. Take MEA. There, sure, it was in character for the pathfinder to have doubts. I figure that the cutscene dialog was the same for a man or a woman Ryder, but there were LOTS of times in the in game self talk was along the lines of “[breath] you can do this [breath]” for the female Ryder I played. I wonder if they included that, as we heard it, for the male Ryders out there. If they didn’t, or changed it to “Whoa, that’s a big drop” (like you mention, in UC4), that would be rather interesting.

Agreed about in-game exclamations… Here it’s far more similar to what we see even seasoned male characters do. Even Geralt, when doing a particularly difficult contract would, sometimes, be all “Shit that thing looks tough,” which, again, is more “Damn, man,” than “Damn it Geralt, you can do this!”

Really? You don’t give your kids that advice? I’ve been teaching mine that since birth.

I’m also into it. I hope they don’t fuck it up with this very unnecessary back story.

Gender discussion–Oh, cool! I look forward to that. Though I’ve already seen some underestimation. Right there, when we first meet Asav, he’s all “Come work for me,” and “You’re no expert,” sort of “putting these ladies in their place.” Granted, he’s a bad guy, but the vibe is the same.

Feminina:

Yeah, I can’t think of any male characters that fit that mold either, but I was hedging just in case someone came along to point out that “oh, well, in this one game this one male character was totally that way.” Because I haven’t played every game (by a long shot), so it could theoretically be out there!

But also, good point about that with Geralt, the difference between “damn that thing looks tough” and “come on self, you can do it.” It’s not that male characters are incapable of recognizing danger! Even, sometimes, when something is just TOO dangerous: sometimes you’ll get something like “I can’t get past these 500 armed guards, better try to find a sneaky alternate route.”

But, again, they tend to evaluate threats as a matter of the situation being too dangerous (“500 is just too many armed guards”) rather than as a matter of themselves not being skilled enough to handle it (“I’m not tough enough to defeat 500 armed guards”). They blame the situation, so to speak, rather than themselves.

Which in this imagined case is perfectly sensible, because it’s no-one’s ‘fault’ they aren’t tough enough to defeat 500 armed guards, it’s just one of those things that comes with being a single human being.

But it would be much less surprising to have a female character somehow blaming herself for not being that tough, than a male one. Or apologizing for it.

“Sorry, dad, I’m letting you down but I can’t defeat 500 armed guards!” Ha.

Butch:

That game could be out there, but I doubt it.

Blaming the situation, not themselves: Right. And even then, it’s not really linked to narrative. It’s linked to gameplay. That’s more the game saying “Hey player, don’t do this” than it is any sort of doubt manifesting from the character. And yet, still, they do things differently, as you point out, based on gender.

I really hope they don’t mess it up.

Feminina:

Oh yeah, 500 armed guards is almost invariably the game saying “now it’s time to sneak,” (which is great! I like sneaking!) rather than any kind of comment on how “there are some things even you can’t tackle singlehandedly so be humble” or similar character-related points.

And back to an earlier point, I’m definitely not going to play MEA again to compare, but you’re right, it would be interesting to know if the ‘throwaway’ comments are any different with a male Ryder than they were with a female one.

Somebody probably wrote that article, but I can’t find it.

Hm…this guy did a video on a few minor differences early on…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUzk40kX3-0

Butch:

Interesting. Not all that different in the strong/not front, or confident/doubtful front. But certainly….something.

Another thing for us to keep an eye on.

We’re doing well for a Friday.

Feminina:

Yeah, interesting. As the guy said, it’s an incomplete look since he hadn’t gone past the prologue, so who knows how things looked futher into the game. I did see a couple of other comparison videos, but it seemed like more of the same…relatively small differences, kind of a focus on Sara having more of a gung-ho attitude and Scott being a bit more cautious. Which is perhaps an interesting inversion of the traditional gender roles, where you’d expect the guy to be all full-speed-ahead and the woman more careful. But since the writers had to work with the fact that the player could be putting the character’s focus more in one direction than another, it obviously has to be very subtle.

Butch:

This is gonna be one of those things we can’t talk on because we don’t do multiple playthroughs.

Still not gonna do multiple playthroughs.

Nope.

Even if they had nudity.

PHEW! Friday gonna Friday.

Feminina:

Nope. Not gonna do it. If the game were shorter I might possibly idly consider it (I played ME2 twice), but as it was, I just don’t have that kind of time.

There are other games. There are even things to do that aren’t games, I suppose, if we want to get all technical about it.

Butch:

Many other games.

But on nudity (in general), Chloe, as good lookin’ as she is, is rather unsexualized, even more so (less so? whatever) than Lara Croft in the reboot, I think. In that game, we had the sexualized death scenes, kills, etc. Chloe just wears work boots, we don’t focus on her ass, etc. Even in the (rather creepy) load screens with Nadine and Chloe STARING at you (the first time I saw that it was a AAA! moment), they’re sweaty and not wearing make up and it’s just their faces, not their bodies. Even when you open the phone, her hands look like hands that have just punched dudes and climbed rocks. No nail polish, all calloused and bruised. We don’t often see that. Even Aloy looked pretty put together. It’s a nice touch.

Feminina:

True! I noticed the hands when you’re holding the phone. Chipped nails, scratches, dirty, etc. Which, as you say, matches the activities we see her engaged in. It would have been really weird and distracting if she’d had a beautiful manicure or whatever.

Also yeah, I did not notice a lot of gratuitous “hey, check out her butt while she climbs here, ooh, hey, cleavage!” camera angles or anything. Nadine either. They’re just people moving around, doing stuff, wearing clothes.

And, again I agree, the death scenes are pretty much just “crumpled body on the ground” with no weirdly suggestive poses such as the ones we found vaguely disturbing in the first TR.

Good points all.

I must say, it was all rather refreshing.

Butch:

You say a manicure would be weird, but not having it isn’t all that common, really. We’ve commented several times about how Morrigan always managed to find that eye shadow, even in the deep roads. You could even put make up on Ryder! Ok, Aloy wasn’t all made up, but that hair, man. She never had a bad hair day.

But this–Yup. Good stuff. Not the deepest game in the world, but that’s ok. Still good.

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That Truth to Which We Cling

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers about the challenges of life and the things that support us when times get tough

Butch:

I got nothing. Kids had colds, everyone was crazy, Junior had his thing until five, I knew I’d let Chloe down.

Which is fine, because I have my six month brain check today, which means my neurologist will, once again, try to convince me that something called “laser ablation” with a “proton knife” is something I should do to my brain. I keep telling him that one should only use proton knives against people named Kevin.

Strangely, spending the day talking about brain surgery and sitting around for an hour waiting to get my blood drawn will likely be more fun than the five year old’s birthday party I did yesterday.

At least it’s likely you’ll take my advice on that one. You blew it on multiple kids, you blew it on buying a house. At least it’s likely you’ll take my advice on not letting anyone get close to your brain with a proton knife.

Feminina:

Are you kidding!? I get proton knife laser ablation every couple of months, just to keep on top of the latest! It’s the best. How do you think I finish games so fast?

It logically follows that Mr. O’ has it once a week.

Butch:

I AM NOT KEVIN!!!!!

T shirt!!!!

Actually, you two having regular brain surgery explains so much.

Feminina:

I didn’t want to give away our secret, but sooner or later, the truth comes out.

Butch:

Doctors are always so gung ho. He asked “Why don’t you want the surgery?” I said “Because it’s BRAIN SURGERY.” Like…..one would think that question answers itself.

Anyway, you picked up Divinity yet?

Feminina:

Ordered. It will probably arrive soon.

Also, “why don’t you want the surgery?” is such a great question. As is, “why don’t you skydive regularly?” or “why don’t you wrestle alligators?”

Um…it just…seems like the kind of thing one avoids where possible, is all?

Butch:

His response to my rather obvious answer of (paraphrasing) “Dude….” was “But you say you get tired in the afternoon.”

Look, doc, I respect you, I do, but really, I do not need to risk, like, terrible brain injury and all that just so I can not nap during Dinosaur Train. We are little askew on the risk/reward calculations here, doc.

Dinosaur Train sucks, anyway.

Feminina:

Dude! You’re missing PRECIOUS CHILDHOOD MOMENTS here!

“We’re gonna riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide the dinosaur train!!!!”

O’Jr. was really into that for a while but then it went off Netflix. Or it was never on Netflix but he went off watching things on the computer instead of the TV? Or we never bothered setting up PBS Kids on the TV?

Anyway, somehow, mysteriously, he doesn’t watch it anymore.

Butch:

Stop that. You get that in my head, I’ll mention a certain holiday primate who’s beloved by children at all times of the year. We don’t want that, do we?

See, there’s this thing called channel 2. It’s one of these old things they used to have called a “television station” that just shows things whenever it wants and you can’t tell it when or what you want to see. It just happens. You don’t have to set it up or get a computer or anything! It’s practically magic!

Feminina:

I’m pretty sure you’re making all this up. Why would people just sit and watch whatever came on? As if they didn’t have many other options for video entertainment?

Ha. I remember VCRs, and it was this big thing that now you could watch a movie ANYTIME YOU WANTED! You don’t even have to wait until it shows up on TV sometime!

I don’t really remember before movies on TV, but imagine that…basically, once something left the theater it ceased to exist. If you didn’t see it while it was in town, you never would.

Strange times.

Butch:

Strange, I know. But then, how else would we have been acquainted with Steve Songs?

Dude, I remember renting VCRs. Not the tapes, the actual VCR. It was like, big, involved movie night!

Movies on TV used to be a big thing, and what was on, too. Your movie was THE THING people watched on Sunday, or whatever.

Feminina:

With who now?

We rented a VCR and movie once! It was a big holiday production. We had to rent the TV too, I think, that’s how out of the tech loop we were in…1992 this was. Yup. A bygone era. I’m just retrospectively impressed we even knew how to hook up and operate TVs and VCRs.

That’s probably more difficult these days, actually, hooking things up, I mean, what with all the cables for consoles and sound systems and internet connections.

Butch:

Dude, things now, you just plug in the HDMI cable. Back then, there were, like, different things and colors and sound cables and you had to twist things and shit.

You still don’t get tech, do you?

Feminina:

Good point. We plug everything into everything these days. But there are SO MANY blinking green lights on that Verizon unit that provides telephone and internet and (if we ever decide to pay for it) cable television! No way that’s not complicated.

Verizon Guy, you hook it up. (He did. It works. Now let us never speak of it again.)

Butch:

You should see my new network. It has two booster points, all mesh, switches from the 5ghz to 2.4 automatically, keeps things that need static IPs static without being told, and I can control it from my phone.

Trust me, it’s cool.

And at least no brain surgery!

Feminina:

At least no brain surgery!

Although dude, maybe you should get the brain surgery now, because in a couple of years if you actually need it, it probably won’t be covered by insurance. Or deductable on your taxes.

I may call and make an appointment for brain surgery myself, just in case.

Sigh. So, did I tell you about my new Pokemon achievements? Only 33 to go before I get a medal for hatching 1000 eggs!

Butch:

Proton knives for everyone! (Extreme weird callback.)

That thing you said about pokemon go is the most depressing thing I’ve heard all week.

I think “At least no brain surgery!” is the T SHIRT we retire on.

Feminina:

It’s hard to beat that shirt.

Or that callback! Which is awesome! Although sadly I think the thing it calls back to predates the blog, so no one could possibly get it. [Sorry, everyone.]

Not that anyone probably gets half the weird things we say, so come to think of it, no worries there. [Sorry, everyone!]

Butch:

See? I pay attention. Even to pre-blog wit!

Feminina:

Well, who could forget the immortal beauty of “Knives! Knives for everyone!”

Which goes all the way back to AC: Brotherhood, in the mists of time. When that game was so, so good.

You don’t share my fond memories of the game, but you remember the catchphrases. That’s true friendship.

We must cling to the thought of what is good and true and beautiful in the world, i.e. video games, to see us through these dark times.

Hm.

Butch:

And booze. Let’s not forget booze.

Feminina:

Yes, definitely booze.

And, you know, the merry laughter of our children and the loving smiles of our spouses and the ties of fond memories that unite us with family and friends etc. etc.

But definitely booze.

Butch:

I wouldn’t know. I made the mistake of encouraging my kids to do activities, and now I have nights like this where I have to pick them up, drive them to hell and gone, and sit in the car while they act in Beauty and the Beast until 5. And my spouse keeps working late.

At least I have games. And booze.

Feminina:

Games and booze will see us through!

Put your faith in games and booze, for they shall not fail you.

Sadly, you can’t enjoy them while sitting in the car waiting for your kids (unless you load Pokemon Go!), but at least their sweet promise is always present, giving you the strength to make it home.

Oh Hush, Inspirational Dead Father

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Uncharted: Lost Legacy

Butch:

So played through chapter two. I’m into it. Chloe is so cool. More proof that Claudia Black should voice everyone not voiced by Katy Townsend, Ashley Burch and Alix Wilton Regan (who sounds just like Claudia Black). So cool.

And her stuff with Nadine is priceless.

Indeed….a little too priceless. I find myself, when climbing and stuff, waiting for them to talk again. It’s so good it almost undermines the rest of everything else. Like, “Ok, yes, Kevins. Fine. Can we get back to the banter?”

Though one beef:

How come every supercool, pretty, British* treasure hunter has to have an archeologist father? C’mon, Uncharted, that’s been done. And really, it’s a little sexist. The supercool stuff she learned, and that Lara learned, she learned from a dude. Nathan Drake didn’t learn anything from anyone. He just read books. Indiana Jones was DOCTOR fucking Jones himself. So why do Lara and Chloe have to be supercool because of their fathers? Why can’t they just be self taught or whatever like other cool characters?

(* Yes, internet, I know Claudia Black isn’t British. Yes, internet, she’s Australian. I get that. But we’re going with British here, ok? Ok.)

Feminina:

It’s a good point: why did Chloe have to have learned everything from her dad? Why not a self-taught genius treasure hunter?

Although to argue against your examples, Dr. Jones was also following in the footsteps of his father, and Nathan Drake initially seemed to be following in the footsteps of his famous ancestor/idealized father figure, and then later, when we learned that the Drake name was assumed, it turned out he was actually kind of following in the footsteps of his mother.

So perhaps we might ask instead, why it is that archaeology/treasure hunting is apparently a profession that no one ever comes to except by birth.

Butch:

Right!

And she even, really, ropes Nadine into that trope. Nadine started out in the UC series as a pretty trope breaking woman. She was leading her own damn army, mostly of men. Now, she’s second fiddle. It would be one thing if she was second fiddle to another strong woman (and she is, sorta), but that second strong woman knows her shit because of a man.

Hmm.

Though, hmm. Good point about Drake and his mom.

It is an odd trope, that treasure hunting is an inherited gig. And one I found disappointing here. We talked some about how Drake and Jones are very different characters, in that Jones is a damn professor, Raiders starts with him at some fancy dinner party, etc, whereas Drake is a scrappy street kid who was basically a thief until his happy ending there. Here, Chloe, all of a sudden, became A LOT like Lara Croft, at least as far as I’ve played it so far.

This is made all the harder by the fact that Drake didn’t have to fight Jones in the same genre. Jones was a movie character, Drake a game character. As it stands, Chloe shares a lot more traits with Lara from the get go, not just in terms of hairdo and accent, but GAMEPLAY. We never said “Uncharted plays a lot like Raiders of the Lost Ark” because that’s nonsense, but it is not nonsense to say “Uncharted plays like Tomb Raider” because it does.

What was differentiating Chloe from Lara (Or Frazier from Croft, I used last names of dudes, I’ll be equal here) is that Frazier had a, we assumed, different backstory. While Lara grew up at Croft Manor and started all innocent, we got the sense (at least I did) that Frazier was the Drake to Lara’s Jones, a scrappy, bad assed, anything but innocent thief from…well…not a mansion, or at least not from a professor father.

And the game, for some reason, chucked that out the window, and that disappoints me.

Feminina:

Uncharted does play like Tomb Raider, except actually Tomb Raider (as we know it) plays like Uncharted, right?–so I’m not sure we can really knock it on gameplay. I mean, TR was basically ‘Uncharted, but with Lara Croft!’ (Which is great, don’t get me wrong. I was into it.)

So we can’t really complain that coming back to Uncharted we find it plays a lot like…Uncharted. But I get what you’re saying in terms of story. The introduction of Chloe as a female main character with an absent archaeologist father makes it feels a lot like TR’s story, so the fact that BOTH story and gameplay now parallel each other so neatly is kind of distracting.

Obviously parent issues are common in fiction because they’re relatively relatable (almost everyone had parents, with whom some degree of conflict is in turn almost inevitable). Carrying on your father’s (occasionally mother’s) legacy is a HUGE trope. But yeah, I agree that given the other major instances of it in this specific genre, and even this specific medium, and even in the last few years…it feels a bit lazy here. I mean, even more so than usual when relying on a huge trope.

Sure, there’s nothing WRONG with wanting to fulfill your father’s dream, lady. But, you know…maybe you could have just been chasing the money? Or the fame? Or been a failed professor yourself who was drummed out of academia for your wild theories, only unlike Lara Croft’s father, you didn’t kill yourself, but instead set out to prove all those losers wrong?

Is it that the pursuit of money and fame aren’t really fit occupations for a woman, and so you think we’ll sympathize more with your quest if it’s about what some dude wanted? Because speaking for myself, just the urge to collect loot is actually EXTREMELY sympathetic.

Or really, it could have been about the need to channel your murder-sprees in a direction that (apparently) no one would notice or object to.

Kevin: a friendless orphan whom no one will ever miss.

But no, you gotta be trying to succeed where your dead father failed, while your mother remains nameless and unremembered.

It’s classic, but uninspired.

Butch:

Exactly. And yes, UC did come first and all that (I see you moping over there Prince of Persia! That’s enough out of you!) but they’re so similar. It’s unfair to the both of them, but what can you do?

But yeah, why fall back on this? It’s so very tropey. And unnecessary. Sure, in Horizon, Aloy had an influential father figure. Fine. He started her on this path. Fine. But then she went her own way. Rost didn’t stay all that central in the story.

Here, it seems to be the motivating factor both in her actions and her ABILITY. Ok, she’s the one doing the jumping and stuff, but she figures out the little discy thing because she knows stuff HER FATHER TAUGHT HER. She’s a vehicle for HIS skill at that moment, and…that’s not cool.

And lazy.

And none of this backstory was necessary. Chloe was an awesome character already. I was pumped to play as Chloe, and for more than “Chloe is hot and has Morrigan’s voice.” She is cool. Playing someone cool is cool. “You get to spend 15 hours as a bad ass” is perfectly fine for me. I didn’t need some sympathetic backstory. We like our anti-heroes. Fuck, Drake was an anti-hero for most of the series, and that was fun. Was anyone looking at this game saying “I dunno, looks fun, but unless I have a motivation other than being supercool, I don’t think I’ll play it”? No. No one.

Uninspired, unnecessary, and annoying.

At least we have banter. And she’s hot. And has Morrigan’s voice.

Feminina:

Yeah, I kind of zipped over the touching backstory and focused on the banter and the climbing. And the sneaking and murdering, obviously.

Those elements are all top notch.

I think it’s also partly meant to be a point that Chloe and Nadine have in common, because we already know Nadine inherited…um…that mercenary company whose name I can’t remember…Shorewater? Shoreline! Anyway, she got that from her dad, and so she’s been trying to live up to his legacy or whatever, and I feel like maybe the fact that it turns out Chloe is pursuing this dad-related quest is meant to be something they can bond over or whatever.

But really, they could also just bond over the fact that they’re badasses and hate Kevin. It would all be cool.

Butch:

We all bond over our hate for Kevin.

At kids birthday party. I kinda want to shoot Kevin.

Feminina:

Who doesn’t!?

Hopefully the birthday kid is not named Kevin.

My sister once dated a guy named Kevin. He was a nice guy! Probably still is, assuming he could control his urge to get in unwinnable fights with the PC. That’s the challenge for Kevins.

Don’t take a job with a mercenary company, don’t get into fights with PCs, don’t join any kind of cult where you have to patrol things. And above all, always mow the grass.

Butch:

Note you said “once”. Long ago.

I bet she didn’t break up with him. She just bought him a lawnmower.

Feminina:

Now that you mention it, I think he just strolled by a patch of tall grass one day and was never seen again.

Butch:

See? Kevin never finishes mowing the grass.

She also probably said “oh hey, you hear any whistling, it’s a kickikuri bird. They’re good luck if you catch one, so walk slowly towards it. Trust me, I’m from the plains.”

 

Also, the Last Big Thing

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Final spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn Frozen Wilds DLC; very minor set-up spoilers for Uncharted: Lost Legacy

Butch:

Ok, first, the future. After much research, by which I mean reading, like, two reviews, I’m putting in my plug for Divinity: Original Sin. Sounds right up our alley. The co-op thing actually sounds cooler single player. The thing is you have two PCs, and, if you co-op, each player plays one, but if you play single player….

See, no, you were gonna say “You pick, yeah sure,” weren’t you?

Why, no. You play them both. As PCs. All their dialog choices, everything. Both of them. Even when they talk to each other.

I am deeply intrigued by this.

Especially as the female of the pair is voiced by Alix Wilton Regan, who I know as Morrigan’s twin, Evelyn, and you know as your Blackwall bangin’ qunari.

So I vote that.

Anyway, back to now.

Played through the first chapter AS CHLOE and yeah, I like it. It’s uncharted, for real. MAN is it pretty in 4K, and HDR and all that. Very pretty. And no, not just Chloe.

So I just met Nadine, and, based on all that, I’m taking it that this happens after UC4? Cuz that ended with Nadine’s army in a bit of a shambles, right? She goes off into the sunset all “I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I’ll figure it out.” And here we have her being bossed around by Chloe. Hardly someone with her own army.

Time will tell, won’t it?

Feminina:

You play them both? Interesting. Very, very weird and interesting. I mean, we did a tiny bit of that in Brothers, but with no dialogue or plot choices, it was more a puzzle-solving mechanic than anything.

Huh. OK, we’ll give it a shot.

Yeah, this one is Uncharted, all right. So pretty. So much banter.

Definitely post UC4.

But before we get into that, a couple of final notes on Frozen Wilds.

Having the daemon be HEPHAESTUS, originally part of the Zero Dawn project but splintered off on its own like HADES, shows what a stroke of franchising genius that whole concept is. We were already suspecting that one of these days we’d run into APOLLO, but this suggests that essentially the entire pantheon of Greek gods is out there in AI form, making their own kinds of trouble (and perhaps occasionally being helpful) based on their own interpretations of what’s going on in the world.

Which is pretty much what the gods did, in legend, so the story becomes an interesting way that science has recreated myth, AND an interesting example of how something we think is myth (the scientists obviously chose those names for the programs on purpose because of their mythical resonance) can become a new kind of reality, given enough distance from the source material.

But seriously, franchising genius. They could work their way through another 10 games just dealing with another AI/god-fragment in every one. All with different motivations and ways of doing weird stuff with the machines. (I mean, one assumes and hopes it wouldn’t be quite as rote as that, but the possibilities…so many possibilities!)

I love this game so much.

That’s going to be my closing statement on the matter. Again.

Butch:

Sounds good! Hey, look at us, hitting the backlog!

Figured it would have to be after 4. Otherwise when Drake met Nadine he’d be all “ah, yeah, the one who worked with Chloe.”

On HZD: It really is. And it gets around the whole “Well, now what?” thing that so many sequels face. You beat the baddie, boom. Game ends. Sure, maybe you have a Solas like cliffhanger, but usually there’s no follow up. World saved. Now what? Shit, ANOTHER thing?

This game did such a great job in terms of ending but still leaving doors open to, as you say, many sequels that would make sense. It wasn’t all cliffhanger, it wasn’t 99% resolved with one cliffhanger. Perfectly.

And, as you say, we managed to beat HADES and, to a lesser extent, HEPHAESTUS without actually destroying them. Usually, you kill the baddie, which makes it much harder for him to come back in a sequel. Here, the threat is ended, but everything is still out there.

The one thing I worry about, and there is always one thing, is how they’re going to deal with the “hero was very powerful at the end of the last game” thing. This game, Aloy started as a child (literally) and ended a mighty warrior, impressing chiefs and kings. Now, usually, in games, that is not a starting point. DA got around this issue by giving us new PCs, but no WAY Horizon does that. The Witcher got around this by making Gerlat lose his memory in TW2, which reeked of cheese. But how’s that gonna work? If Aloy STARTS as the mighty ass kicker she is now, where does one go from there?

Baldur’s Gate 2, back in the day, dealt with this by starting you off as a level 10 D&D (version 2) character and making everything hard right off the bat. But if, as you say, there’s a lot of sequels in the pipe (and let’s hope there are), what’s she gonna be, God of Dinos by Horizon: Late Afternoon?

A fitting closing statement. I agree completely.

Feminina:

God of Dinos is a pretty great title, but you’re right, this is always the problem that sequels face. Sure, once or twice you can get away with “oh, you lost your memory,” or “oh, you were dead and had to be rebuilt from scratch by a mysterious terrorist organization with a lot of money,” but that doesn’t work in the long term. And you get tired of being back at level one every game for no apparent reason.

“I know how to kill watchers, damn it, these things aren’t hard!”

And another option, just saying “well, the latest threat we face made everything else super tough so it’s AS IF you’re back at level one again even though you’re actually still badass!” fails to account for why anyone else in the world is even still alive, given how deadly all the threats have to have suddenly become.

Indeed, a serious problem, and one that I have no brilliant ideas about. I guess we’ll have to see how they handle it.

Butch:

Right. It’s a toughie in a long series where learning skills matters. UC didn’t have this issue, as Drake was pretty much Drake at the end. But anything with skill trees is a serious pain in this regard.

Maybe they’ll just keep Roger busy building new and better things. He’ll be thrilled.

Feminina:

Yeah, the skill trees do make it tough. Do we keep those from game to game? If not, how do you explain why we have to gain those tricks all over again after we put all that time and energy into them the first time?

Maybe they’ll just eliminate skill trees in future games and let you do all the tricks for free, or something…

But I do like to try to keep Roger happy. He’s always so thrilled when anyone appreciates his stuff.

In our heads, anyway.

Butch:

But watch, he’ll come up with “Super Daemonic Fire Thunderjawclaw” and we’ll kind of hate him. Pity him, but hate him.

Feminina:

CORRUPTED Super Daemonic Fire Thunderjawclaw!

There’s such a fine line between pity and hatred…

Butch:

T SHIRT!!!!

Note: I started a brand new game last night, and we’re still talking about a DLC of a game we finished.

Don’t worry. I’ll charge through CHLOE (that came out wrong) and we’ll get back on a similar page. Start Divinity.

But admit it, you’re playing Assassin’s Creed and trying to hide it, aren’t you?

Feminina:

I’m not, actually. I considered it, but Mr. O’ is meh about it, so I haven’t felt moved to start it. Maybe I should! I’d at least have something to talk about while I wait for Divinity!

Butch:

Don’t. I’ll lose you to months of fragment chasing. I’ll be finished with Chloe quickly! I promise!

Feminina:

That came out wrong. But all right, I’ll wait. For a while.

 

The Next Big Thing

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the end of Horizon Zero Dawn Frozen Wilds DLC

Butch:

Ok, quick note: I finished up and that was a lot so I’m just writing general stuff to talk about when I have time so I don’t forget.

1) We didn’t get an explanation of what Firebreak actually did other than “Stuff that made volcano not boom,” right? I mean, what WAS all that shit? Do we care?

2) So Sylens was listening all along. Hmm. That was some mutually threatening shit.

3) We never really dished on the relationship between Chau, Anita and CYAN, and there was a lot there. We should dish on it.

4) Fireclaws suck.

5) No, really, fireclaws suck.

[later]

OK, it’s good I wrote that, because without going back, I only remembered I wanted to talk about Anita, Chau and CYAN and all that relationship and how it fit into themes. But there were two other things, and fuck if I remember what they were.

But Anita, Chau, CYAN. It was a compelling story, for sure. A little odd, in that what we saw were two people who loved each other? Did Anita love him back? Hard to say, but I digress. You had two people who didn’t turn out ok, or never even started a relationship, who had, let’s face it, a child. There’s no doubt CYAN thinks of them as her parents, so we have this superthing that has parent issues (much like Aloy herself).

I’ve been turning it over in my head, and there’s a lot going on there. Where do you stand on it?

(Also, before I forget, as I have been forgetting stuff of late because busy, it is not lost on me that CYAN is a shade of blue, and that Ourea’s blue stuff glowed and sparked when she overrode CYAN. Just sayin’.)

Feminina:

Well, I mean, plus there’s the Blue Light. Banuk are all about the Blue Light. So yeah, I did note the appropriateness of CYAN being blue, and the possibility that CYAN has been their divinity all along in some form. She only recently (in her terms) started talking to Ourea, but maybe she made contact with someone else early in Banuk history. We did hear their origin myth about the woman who went into the blue light and learned to control machines, after all.

I do think there’s a lot of empathy and a sense of connection between Aloy and CYAN. Parent issues, the sense of having been mysteriously created for some big purpose. What did you have her tell CYAN to do about talking to the Banuk? I told her to use her judgement. So it seemed like she was going to be telling them some of the truth, but in a slow way, not all at once.

As for the love story, yeah, it was interestingly melancholy. His realizing that all along, she just didn’t care as much as he did, but he was still willing to drop everything and go help their child, essentially. This game doesn’t do a lot of happy love stories.

The other issues you mentioned included Firebreak and how we don’t know exactly what it did other than make caldera not go boom. Which, yeah, we don’t know exactly how it was supposed to work. I think something about redirecting kinetic energy so it didn’t build up? Presumably using said energy to fuel the system. But yeah, details were scanty.

Also, how Sylens apparently WAS listening in, and the very tense conversation they had about his history. That was pretty grim, that “THEY didn’t get the courtesy of a warning. Leave it.” Dude REALLY doesn’t like to talk about his past.

Aloy being Aloy, we’re obviously going to keep investigating anyway. One of these days, if the series goes long enough, we’ll probably have to fight him.

Your 4th and 5th points were “fireclaws suck.” Which, yes, they do. You know, if you want to do more in this game, you can hunt down and kill five of them! There’s a trophy involved.

Butch:

Well…CYAN does say that the last contact she had with any human was with Chau when he put her to “sleep.” I suppose someone could have come in and learned stuff without waking her, but I’m not sure. All the same, we still don’t know what the light IS. Until that moment, it could have been some chemical that was cosmetic and ritualistic. This is the first time we’ve seen it do anything or react to something.

Though it is interesting that we learn that Anita goes to work for/with Sobeck when she left Firebreak, so Sobeck is, at least, sorta connected to all this.

Of course I said that to CYAN, as we are the same. I wonder if it will matter.

I do have some degree of hope that our choices will matter in a sequel. Unlike, say, DA, there weren’t that many of them that were weighty, so maybe. We can hope.

You read that love story as happy? Damn, Femmy. I sort of read him as a Romeo without a Juliet, doomed to die wondering if she cared or even noticed him. Well, noticed him that way.

Which I’m ok with. One mistake that a lot of Sci Fi things make is feeling the need to provide explanations, which often come out as a lot of cheesy, confusing mumbo jumbo. Sure, it’s good they explained Zero Dawn, as that is very important to the story, but this? No need.

Oh, no doubt we’ll have to fight Sylens someday. That last “See you down the trail” or something from Aloy was certainly accepting that point. She doesn’t trust him. Him, too. There was certainly some mutual threat there.

Which, again, makes me wonder if the original plan was to make this after the end of the main game. When Aloy last sees Sylens, there’s no reason for her to think that Sylens is a “bad guy” per se. She might not trust him, but there’s no real reason for her to think “This is a guy I’m gonna have to kill/stop to save the world.” Hell, the DLC started with him telling her to go save the world from HADES. She has no idea, at this point, that he’ll end up with HADES in a lamp or whatever.

Feminina:

Oh lord no, I didn’t read that love story as happy. It resolved to a sort of “I’ve made my peace with the fact that you don’t love me” so it wasn’t completely miserable, but certainly not happy. When I said this game doesn’t do a lot of happy love stories, I was including this as an example of the not-happy many.

And if you’re not going to hunt down the five fireclaws, I’ll tell you the limited story involved. You go back to the village and talk to what’s-his-name, Ourea’s apprentice, and he tells you about the five fireclaws that escaped from the forge. You hunt them and fight them and die a lot. At one point you find two of them together, and Aratak is there too and helps you fight them. You share a comradely farewell with Aratak–keep looking after the werak or something. Then after you kill them all, you go back and talk to the apprentice again and he gives you some bluegleam and stuff.

That’s about it. A chance to talk to a couple of people again, a chance to fight some terribly monsters and get a trophy. Good times. But since Chloe is waiting, not good enough that you have to have them.

Butch:

Ah. Yeah, it did fit with that. This game is not big on love, that’s for sure. Sadly.

That’s it? Fuck that. I already had my nice goodbye with Aratak. All “They had a great chief once (and then they had a better one for a while, you know, me) and they will again (talking about you here).” (I added some stuff). I’m ok with that. And really, they can keep the bluegleam.

And the trophy.

Feminina:

Yeah, its record on love does not bode well for our own chances of ending up in a vine-covered cottage eating warm cake. But you never know!

The whole village is going to be sitting around, polishing this trophy they made for you for saving them from the depredations of fireclaws, thinking “surely she’ll come for this soon…surely no more of us must die…”

Ha. They’ll be fine. Just, you know, walk AROUND the fireclaw area, people.

Butch:

Watch, at the end, the only one who’ll cook warm cakes will be Brin.

Not only are they polishing the trophy I will never come back to get, they’re likely doing it in the dark, shivering, next to the one campfire I couldn’t be bothered to light. They’ll see me changing the disc tonight all “Oh COME on! You know we can’t light these ourselves!”

But it’s cool. They’ll be fine. Unless they mow the grass.

Feminina:

Never, ever, ever mow the grass. This is a principle I live by.

Unless I’m Kevin, in which case I really should mow. I mean, we’re all the PC in our own lives, but can I rely on that?

I really would like to never mow the grass, is the thing.

Butch:

See? You’ll be fine. After all, the fireclaw thing was a total afterthought. It was probably done to appease the dude who invented it. It probably went all:

Dev: “WHAT? I spent a year of my life designing that, and it makes ONE appearance? ONE? And half the people who fought it turned down the difficulty??? THIS is the thanks I get?!?!?!”

Boss Dev: “Hmm…you do have a point Roger.”

Dev: “I just want to feel appreciated, you know?”

Boss: “I hear you I-“

Dev: “All those hours….”

Boss: “Roger, don’t make this awkward-“

Dev: “And it gets ONE appearance??”

Boss: “Hey, Roger, look, it was a boss fight, and, we talked about this, boss fights are very important and you should be proud that you designed a boss and….Roger, are you crying again? Roger? Ah, man, you know I hate it when you….oh, look, ok, how about we tack on an extra quest where you have to track one down?”

Dev: “Just one?”

Boss: “Uh….ok, two? No, stop crying…three? C’mon, Roger, don’t do this…ok, five. You ok with five? Thatta boy…buck up…Hey, I’ll let you work on the romance bits in the sequel. Would that help?”

Dev: ***sniffle*** “Petra?”

Boss: “Uh…well…I already promised Jerry Petra’s stuff…I was thinking the guy from that murder mystery case oh please don’t cry again.”

Feminina:

I DID YOUR QUEST, Roger! All five of them! It’s cool, man! Fireclaws are so badass and really, really terrifying!

Also, that guy from the murder mystery has potential.

Butch:

You’ve made Roger’s New Year just a little bit happier. Your good deed for the day.

We started out so well…..

Feminina:

“Look, another person got the trophy that means they finished my quest!”

It’s late in the week. We’re getting punchy.

Plus I didn’t play anything recently, except Pokemon Go. Um…there are new Pokemon with the latest update! A month ago or something! I caught some! I need to catch some more!

This has been your Pokemon Go News Moment.

Butch:

Sweet surfing California Jesus you’re still doing that? That’s so 2016, man.

Feminina:

Dude, Pokemon was the big fad news story of 2016 that DIDN’T end in crippling despair and the imminent death of the republic. I’m sticking with it for the nostalgia value. It reminds me of a happier time, back when we had hope.

Butch:

Fair point on the Pokemon.

Also, looking back over the game, I forgot how cute that one hunter was. She was cute. Almost Petra cute. She might be a love interest, too.

Feminina:

There are many good options for love interests, should Aloy ever be moved to pursue affairs of the heart.

I love this game so much! I’ll just reiterate that, as a closing statement.

Butch:

The option of bad assed cutie who bares her midriff or bad assed cutie with the cleavage baring work apron.

Tough choice.

Feminina:

Someday, I’d like to play a game where you don’t have to make these difficult choices. Where polyamorous and open relationships are recognized and valued.

Where I can gaze into the eyes of my beloved and say “I also love this other person over here. Cool?” and have him or her say “cool, as it happens I also love that other person over there.”

I want ALL THE ROMANCE, games. Is that so much to ask?

Butch:

You did play that game. Fallout 4. Remember?

Speaking of other games……

So UC is kinda short, so maybe we have to start thinking about the future.

We could do Tales from Borderlands, or the new Life is Strange (which looks good cuz Life is Strange). But those are short. So, in pondering backlogged stuff we missed, may I put out for consideration:

Pillars of Eternity

or:

Divinity: Original Sin

The sequel to Divinity is winning a whole bunch of Game of the Year honors.

Ponder. We need something soon.

Feminina:

Oh, good point. EVERYONE MUST LOVE MEEEEEEE!!!!!

And they did! It was great. Very validating.

Except for…what’s his name…the knight…the loss of his love haunts me still, even though I can’t remember his name.

Danse. I remembered his name!–and now it haunts me even more.

ANYWAY. Another good point, we will need something to play while we wait for Horizon Zero Lost Weekend. Your suggestions are intriguing. I will ponder.

Butch:

Meh. He couldn’t get out of that armor.

I had my fling with Piper, wound up with Cait.

Basically, I have a terrible weakness for Claudia Black and Katie Townsend. I mean, Cait, then Suvi. 2 for 2.

Those have been on my list of “we should play that when we have time” list, and when Divinity 2 got such great reviews I was reminded.

Cuz we might actually have time here. We are not being mocked by discs in cellophane. We must take advantage of this.

And I must save you from Pokemon.

Feminina:

I appreciate the thought, but you cannot save me from Pokemon. No one can save me from Pokemon, except Pokemon making an update that’s too big for my phone.

I do it while I’m out walking around, and because it only takes up time I wasn’t using to play anything else anyway, it is very difficult to dislodge.

As to other things…hm. Those both look worth trying. I’m a little torn. Divinity reviews make much of its split screen co-op mode, which we would probably ignore, so maybe that’s a point against it, if it has some fancy option we won’t use?

Or maybe we would…but that would just be weird, wouldn’t it? I can just see us actually trying to play TOGETHER and it destroying the blog because OH MY GOD will you stop trying to get every last moldy flag fragment NO I WILL NEVER STOP etc.

Butch:

There’s no romance in pokemon, though. Right? RIGHT? Please say right.

I did notice that. But the reviews are good, and the sequel was praised for being so spectacular in the writing department, which we like.

We wouldn’t fight if we played co-op. It would mostly be weird because it would be like synchronized swimming, two gamers doing exactly the same thing all the time. More creepy than anything else.

Feminina:

Ha! That is likely true.

Silently, in unison, we pick the most helpful option or the heart dialogue or the path that seems most likely to lead to a fancy dress ball.

We do like writing, it’s true.

And no, no romance in Pokemon. That is a major downside. Or upside, I suppose.

Extremely limited plot, too.

There’s a Whole World Out There! (And it’s horrible, so definitely keep playing this game instead.)

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn DLC, Frozen Wilds

Butch:

So I played until I said “Security measures engaged? That’s gotta be the daemonic thunderjaw Femmy hinted at yup there it is fuck that not tonight.”

Which is a lot!

So some thoughts:

So do you think Sylens IS a shaman or was just fooling them, too? If he’s not, who the hell is he? If he’s not Banuk, why did he have those blue lines? What ARE those blue lines anyway? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!!!

Thank God Ourea and Aratuk kick ass.

But here’s something: The Yellowstone Caldera. This is a real thing, yes? Yes. A very real threat to the world, in real life, right here, today. We’ve talked on how this game doesn’t (generally) use real things from real life the way, say, Fallout does. We didn’t go through the game being all “Hey! That’s that thing! And that thing!” the way we tromped through Boston seeing everything from Fenway Park to fucking CONCORD (which I do believe is real).

Not only that, unlike Fallout, the thing that ended the world in Horizon isn’t real. There are nuclear weapons. There are not ROBOT DINOSAURS. Or deathbringers or whatever that eat dolphins. Horizon did a very thorough job at keeping real life, 2017 things OUT of the game.

Except now. Yellowstone is a real place. And, like nuclear weapons, the Caldera is a very real, very scary threat to us all, here in 2017.

And I’m not sure I like the switch. Not because I find it too upsetting or whatever, but it’s a big tonal shift. Either have a post modern world that has all sorts of reminders or don’t.

But I haven’t finished. One thing I DO like is that THIS threat to humanity (that is, the Yellowstone Caldera) is a NATURAL threat. We’ve played games that end the world with real human based threats (nuclear weapons) and things that don’t exist (TLOU), but this is the first time I’ve played anything that’s evokes a real life, natural threat. Which, contrasted to the very much man made thing that ended Horizon’s world, is neat. I do want to finish and talk on that, cuz I hope they’re making a point here that isn’t so jarring.

Feminina:

That is a lot!

The daemonic thunderjaw is gonna be great. As you say, at least Aratak and Ourea can hold their own in a fight. Even as a badass, lean, mean machine-fighting machine, I appreciated some help in that cauldron.

Which…hm. I see your point about the real-world threat seeming a bit out of place in a game heavily focused on unreal (or at least highly theoretical) threats, but I don’t know if I completely agree that this is the first time it’s come up, and as a result, I didn’t personally find it distracting.

I mean, a LOT of the data fragments you find out in the world reference pretty catastophic climate change, which is a real-world threat (in the sense that it’s a very convincing Chinese hoax, I mean–damn it, even trying to joke about our insanely stupid politics makes me want to punch something). Anyway, since present-day Wyoming is not a land of perpetual arctic chill, at least not last time I was there, I assume we actually see some of the aftermath of that change in the game world. (Presumably the destruction and reseeding of life on the planet would not by itself have altered climate patterns so dramatically, although undoubtedly it would have an atmospheric effect: the oxygen cycle and all.)

My point being, even if Aloy has not personally had to confront a lot of real-world threats in her story, the world of the game has incorporated them as a fundamental part of the backdrop from the beginning. Pollution, climate change, the Claw-back (from the brink of annihilation, presumably), the development of the ‘green’ machines that eventually led to the machines that destroyed everything: a very serious real-world environmental issue, and how humans dealt with it and wound up creating the fictional technological issue that is more immediate to our ‘day-to-day’ experience of the game, is at the heart of the story.

So it didn’t really bother me that the Yellowstone Caldera and how humans had dealt with it turned up in this side-story now. It felt more like “here’s another example of human ingenuity back in the day, that has been adapted in unexpected ways in the present.” It was also interesting to me that in this case the adapting was done by another AI, rather than by humans: it was a nice parallel to the way that the dam is now basically seen as a big mysterious musical instrument. Humans find old stuff and make use of it in ways that they value, and similarly an AI found this old facility and is making use of it in a way it values.

I guess it kind of stresses that we can’t know or control who’s going to find the things we leave behind, or what they’re going to do with them.

This is exactly why I believe in keeping boxes of spider-infested rags around the house for future generations to discover.

Oh, and re: Sylens, that’s such a good question! I don’t know–it certainly seems plausible that he was never Banuk, and just learned enough about them to fake being a shaman in order to get at their hidden knowledge. He’s dedicated enough to thread glowing blue wires through his skin to make the lie convincing, no doubt.

It seems also possible that he was originally Banuk, the way Aloy was Nora, but abandoned them when he realized he needed to go farther to find out what he wanted to know.

Sylens remains a mystery. Perhaps we will find out more in the sequel.

Butch:

I see…in my future….turning down the difficulty….

Which shouldn’t be all that bad. I did manage to chip away about a third of its health on regular difficulty, and I only died because I fell into lava, not because IT killed me. I’ll be fine. I think. I hope. Now I jinxed it.

I am VERY glad that I upgraded the storm stick thingy. That thing is awesome. That made that scorcher before in the battle previous just go away.

Though I knew I was getting tired and didn’t have a thunderjaw fight in me when I died three times on the watchers/scorcher. I learned, three times, that it’s never, ever a good idea to miss that first watcher. Take out the first watcher with one shot. Always. Three misses? Bad.

Though, on that, my companions here are good in fights. I’ll give them that. But in that watcher/scorcher fight, I FINALLY took out the first watcher all stealthy and stuff, and they must’ve thought that me firing meant “Oh it’s ON!” cuz then they just fucking charged. I was all “No! No! oh, you’re drawing fire and nothing sees me. Carry on.”

At least those two didn’t fuck up the part where we had to sneak by, like, everything.

There was a lot about climate change, that there was. But there was also a lot about how catastrophic climate change got FIXED. They made a point of mentioning real world threats (well, 2017 real world threats) only to say “Don’t worry, by the time this game gets around to destroying the world, it’ll be a whole different set of threats.” It would be like Fallout being “Well, everyone destroyed all their nuclear weapons, and there was peace and love and joy, until the twinkies mutated and wiped out civilization.” It was almost like the game was intentionally telling us to ignore current threats entirely. And now this.

But hey, yeah, why IS Yellowstone so damn cold? Hmm.

Boy, they better do more on Sylens.

Though…this also bugged me: He’s supposed to see all with her focus, right? So how come he’s not chiming in here? Like all “Knock it off, Aloy, don’t question me. I’m Lance Reddick.”

Feminina:

Well, yeah, “we totally solved that climate change thing!”, but also “we totally solved that Yellowstone thing!” So in both cases things were great(-ish) until other things happened.

I dunno, I kind of liked the reminder that the entire planet is still there doing its thing on a geologic timescale, regardless of the presence or absence of life scurrying around on the surface. Plate tectonics don’t cease to exist. Magma is still roiling around under the Earth’s mantle. That’s bigger than the machines.

And yeah, why ISN’T Sylens chiming in? I guess he was so peeved at her for heading off on this sidequest right before HADES tries to destroy the world that he’s giving her the cold shoulder. “I won’t dignify these questions about me with a comment.”

Plus, I mean, he knows perfectly well she’d ignore him if he tried to stop her from asking. “Do what you want, like you always do.” He probably doesn’t want to start an argument he can’t possibly win.

Butch:

There is that. And maybe it’ll transition into a bigger theme in a sequel that was sorta touched on in this one, which is the planet is bigger and more important than humanity. The GAIA/HADES dynamic is to save humanity, sure, but only if they get it right in a larger context, not at all costs. There are things that won’t/can’t be sacrificed for humanity. Humanity isn’t the be all end all.

The Sylens bit is another thing that makes me think that this was supposed to be after the main story concluded. Like, the battle’s over, Sylens has gone his own way (we can only assume that he isn’t getting into Aloy’s head now that he has what he wants), Aloy is off trying to get more answers, tromping off into the wilds. It just feels “after main game” to me, but maybe the powers that be figured they wouldn’t sell as many copies if it was a “you had to have finished” type of deal.

Feminina:

Yeah, you don’t want to lose the “I liked it but haven’t finished it, but this could be fun, might get me back into it” crowd.

But seriously, as we’ve discussed, this would be BRUTAL without the high tech armor, and you really don’t have the armor until quite near the end because you can’t collect all the power cells. So, in practice, people, if you want to play this, finish the main game or AT LEAST get the armor first.

I mean, they do keep throwing in load screen tips like “wear fire-resistant armor when fighting scorchers!” or whatever, so I’m sure one COULD do it with normal gear. The Carja Blazons armor is a thing.

Just not a thing I want to wear instead of this awesome high tech armor which saves my butt on a very regular basis. I am never taking it off. I’m pretty sure Aloy actually bathes in it, because you can’t be too careful.

Butch:

Blazon armor is a thing, as are resistance potions, which I always forget about until I’ve died three times. Like, I CANNOT beat a scorcher without a fire potion. THAT’S why I saved 32759578 fire kiln roots over the course of the game. Last night I was out of the potions, so I said “Oh, man, can I make one?” to find I could make, by my math, 120 of them. Seriously.

I’m good.

Feminina:

I DO remember the fire resistance potions! I have actually used so many of them that I ran out of fire kiln roots, despite collecting them for pretty much the entire main game. And of course they aren’t quite so common in the Frozen Wilds, now that I’m desperate for them.

Potions are good. Very good.

Butch:

Ah, see, there ya go. I NEVER remember them. I don’t think I’ve taken an “antidote” the whole game. I have some, but whatever.

And I remember, too! After I die three times.

But on the topic of combat and dying….

I don’t like it when this game does a “sudden onslaught of machines in a small space” fight. Not only are they tricky, they ignore the best parts of combat in this game, which are the thinking and the planning and the scanning for weakness and tracking tracks and HUNTING and stuff. The whole “AIEE! THUNDERJAW!” whack whack shoot shoot thing doesn’t have any of that, and this is two times in two sessions (cuz the rockbreaker was like that, too).

C’mon, game.

Feminina:

It’s true, they did throw a few of those at you in a short time. I mean, they were always part of the game (see: the first time we met a rockbreaker, all the cauldron end fights, etc.), and they’re fine once in a while, but it is nice to mix it up.

Maybe if we didn’t insist on doing every single thing before proceding to the end, it wouldn’t have been in such quick succession.

Butch:

Oh, indeed. It was the way I played it that brought it to mind. It was the worst thing about cauldrons, for sure. Very lame.

Feminina:

I remember being particularly annoyed because in one cauldron I spent about 10 minutes setting up traps and tripwires in advance, and then when I did the overload that let out the big machine, it ERASED THEM ALL.

Just run and shoot and whack. That’s all you can do.

Butch:

Sigh. But I want to do more!

Like change it to easy. Not proud.

But I’m getting Mrs. McP’s awful flu. Getting a fever. So it’s ok.

Feminina:

Oh, dude, yeah. Change it to easy. We have lives.

Butch:

If this fever/tired thing gets worse, might even stoop to “story.”

Feminina:

Hey, the game even says, “switch to story if you just want to focus on exploration and narrative” or whatever.

Exploration and narrative is our thing. There’s no shame in it. Especially not if playing while sick.

What’s worse: not playing because it’s too hard while sick and thus wasting precious game time, or setting it on story and continuing to play?

I know how I vote.

Butch:

Thanks, man. I knew you’d have my back.

Feminina:

I’m here for you, man. Just like you supported me when I turned down the final battle in that Witcher 3 expansion.

Friends don’t let friends miss out on enjoying precious game time.

Butch:

T SHIRT!!!!

I’ll try to get through it. Chloe awaits.

Old and Feeble but Still Whittlin’

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for side quests late in the Horizon Zero Dawn Frozen Wilds DLC

Butch:

Ok, so I played. I played for a long time! I did! But I don’t have that much to talk about. Well, I will put one sentence out there:

Daemonic rockbreakers really, really, really suck.

So you can guess what I did last night.

Feminina:

Yes. Yes I can, and yes they do.

We didn’t get around to talking about the old man’s quest yesterday because we got so into the Banuk assassins, but yeah. That was a thing. And I liked that guy, he had a good story and you could really empathize with him having lost his friend to this monster and being disappointed about being too old to go after himself. I mean, it’s a standard “bad thing over there go kill it” quest, but a good version of that quest, you know?

And then it turns out to be a rockbreaker, so yay. Wouldn’t have wanted to go through a whole game area without meeting one of those, would we? The armor was so key. I just ran around and shot at it or hurled bombs at it when it surfaced and depended on the armor to keep it from killing me with one blow. It was a long, wearing-the-thing-down combat.

Speaking of which, after you’re done with the final battle, you’ll get a quest that “five of this big nasty machine type are wandering around, you should hunt them down!”

Initially I thought “nah, I’ll pass” because it’s clearly just something to do after the main game is over, but now that I went back anyway to do the murder mystery, I figured I might as well hunt them all down.

So that’s a lot more long, wearing-things-down combat. Just FYI in case you want something to look forward to after you’re done with the actual story.

Butch:

Is it story? Is it interesting? Or is it just killin’ for killin’s sake? Cuz fuck that. I have a date with Chloe.

The old man’s quest was a good version of a standard. “Looking back you see so far, but looking forward at just a wall.” Poor guy. But yes, it was a pretty standard “go kill” quest.

But, to digress a bit, one thing that sold the guy was something I’ve meant to talk about and now seems the time: They do such a good job with faces. So many games (ME, say) seem to design their characters by letting devs just kinda play with the character creation tool. Or taking standard templates and changing maybe one thing (think Drack. Krogan are all very similar. Or the fact that all Asari are the same save face paint). This game, every face is SO unique. I’m sure that’s because they use real motion capture/face recognition when they shoot it (remember when we found the real pictures of the actors and they’re all close?), but adding the details, like making this guy have one eye, are just so effective.

And it did feel like that: “Hey guys, we forgot a rockbreaker! Better write one.” It was even up in a corner, like someone sketched “add rockbreaker here” in the corner.

Which makes me nervous, because I haven’t met a daemonic thunderjaw yet, and I don’t want to. I’m hoping the obligatory thunderjaw bit was the “upgrade the thingy” hunt that I decided not to do.

But man I hate those fuckers. Get close, they come up. Stay far, they shoot stuff, place traps, they avoid them, hit ’em with ropes, they dive. Fuckers.

I finally got it with the storm stick thingy. I guess if a shaman says “That will be useful against the new monsters you will meet,” listen.

Feminina:

It seems to be killin’ for killin’s sake, although I’ll let you know if maybe some story happens after I finish it. It really does seem like something they tossed in just in case people wanted a bit more to do. Which is fine. At the moment, I’m kind of enjoying having a bit more to do, because ROBOT DINOSAURS and wandering around this game world and so forth.

No comment on the daemonic thunderjaw.

OK, one comment: it’s gonna be great.

I agree–they do amazing work with the faces here, and that, along with the motions and voice acting, certainly helps sell the characters as people you’re interested in.

We could probably get a bit of interesting discussion out of the game’s treatment of age, as well…there was this guy, and then also the Keeper at the hunting grounds, who had some comparable reflections on life and doing stuff while you’re young and then winding up old, still here but not as respected/physically capable as before, and what that means. It’s interesting to see characters talk about this.

Butch:

Oh joy. I see…in my future…a change in the difficulty settings….

Always keep a click or two below where you are, cuz fuck it.

I do, after all, have a date with Chloe.

It is interesting to see this, especially as age usually, in games such as these, makes characters quite wise, in a merlinesque way, or, in some cases, MORE powerful (Flemeth, say).

Though we’re seeing more and more of that. Drack talked a lot about age and being close to the end (which is why I thought for sure he’d die, more on that in a minute), and even Geralt knew he was losing a step (remember when he fought “himself” and his comments was a long sigh and a “Damn, I look old?”).

But what IS different here is that, usually, the old dudes who know they’ve lose a step die before they REALLY lose a step. They go out in a blaze of glory. Shit, the dudes in Skellege were EXPECTED to do that! It’s why I was convinced Drack would die, a go out against the really bad things as a finale, dying a warrior. THAT happens a lot, so when it didn’t, and we assume that Drack ends his days sipping booze and doting on Kesh instead of blowing up after killing two hundred kett, it was a cool twist.

In a usual game, this warrior would have accompanied you, gotten hurt, then patiently waited to die while you looted so he could say “Thank you…he is….GASP…avenged….GURGLE….***die***.” He wouldn’t have just waited at the camp. And I think I like this better. He’s more believable. Especially as they put some degree of regret that he DIDN’T go out in the game way in his voice and lines.

Maybe we’re seeing that because the average age of gamers keeps going up. We’ve seen them aim games at parents more and more (TLOU, TW3, etc.), so why not put more interesting old dudes in?

Feminina:

Yes! I totally agree, in the sort of expected narrative you’d have the old guy who clearly wasn’t tough enough for the fight anymore but was determined to go anyway, and he’d tag along with you and get in a few sturdy blows before being fatally wounded.

I kind of like that instead he recognizes that this is no longer something he should be doing, but still values his own life enough to prefer NOT dying nobly but, ultimately, pointlessly.

“Hey, I want this thing dead, but also, I’d rather go ahead and keep living myself if that’s all the same to you. I may be old, but that doesn’t mean life is completely without joy.”

Which as you say, and as with Drack, is kind of a nice message to toss those of us who are ourselves getting on in years. Playing this game as hearty young folk like Aloy, it’s all very well to have the old dude die giving us a little help we didn’t REALLY need (I mean, that fight was long and hard, but we handled it…plus there’s always the option to turn down the difficulty). He’s old! His fighting days are over! Might as well go out in a blaze of glory fighting his old nemesis, because it’s not like he has anything else to look forward to!

Whereas now, I’m more like “wait a minute, I may not be as young and spry as I used to be, but I can still play games. Plus, you know, watch my children grow up, share moments of camaraderie and booze with friends, eat pie, etc. Life is definitely still worth living over here!”

It’s also kind of a nice recognition of what a badass Aloy is at this point: the dude (and the game) doesn’t even pretend she actually needs his help. “Look, you’re clearly superhuman. You got this. I’m going to stay by the fire and whittle, or whatever we do around here without video games.”

Butch:

All true. And an interesting point about that whole “Yeah, you’re superhuman,” especially as Aloy has started accepting that herself.

We talked (long ago) about this game having some real coming of age aspects. We used it to explain the naivety, the awkward flirting etc. And here, at the end (or “near” the end), we see Aloy come all the way from “I can’t do this without Rost! How will I cope?” to “Yeah, probably a daemonic rockbreaker. Whatever. Point the way, cuz yeah, I am the best huntress you’ve ever seen.” There is no trace of “I don’t know…I’m just one Nora…”

Feminina:

Yeah! As when she coolly accepted the chieftanship that Aratak ceded to her, without any “oh, I don’t really deserve this victory, you totally helped a lot and I couldn’t have done it without you” false modesty (though it WAS nice to have him distracting those machines), she’s comfortable with the fact that yeah, she’s really freaking good at fighting machines.

And it’s not as if Aloy has ever been a character who’s exactly mired in self-doubt. She does whatever the heck she wants most of the time and isn’t especially concerned with what other people think about it (with the exception, as you say, of Rost, but he’s long gone). Back to her childhood poking around in forbidden ruins and casually adopting the magical technology she found there: she’s confident in her skills when it comes to the things she’s good at.

She’s a little more uncertain socially, which is realistic.

Butch:

Very awkward socially.

Speaking of which, I, once again, reiterate that the dude in the murder mystery might end up a love interest in the next game (providing, of course, that our WILD INTERNET SPECULATION that they’re setting up love interests in future games, like Petra, and Erand, and Petra, and Avad, and Petra). Whatchu think?

Feminina:

Hm. I could see it as a sort of opposites-attract thing, since he’s barely started thinking and challenging things, and Aloy is ALL ABOUT thinking and challenging. Or maybe she starts out just encouraging that, and then romance develops as he becomes more formed as his own person.

We’re going to be very sad if there never are any romance options.

Butch:

Hey, our two knocks on this game were 1) bad UI, 2) no sex. Or romance. We’ll go with romance.

Feminina:

Yeah, better say romance. It is T for Teen.

Butch:

Well, we can hope the sequel will be M, right?

Kidding aside, I kinda do hope it’ll be M. This game touched on a lot of deep stuff (slavery, war, torture, etc.) that it sort of had to back off of in order to stay T. If they’re really going to go for it in a narrative sense, M would work better.

Heh. I was just going to type “But I fear they won’t, because Sony exclusives are always T for teen, look at Uncharted,” and then I realized TLOU is a Sony exclusive, so….

Feminina:

Heh. Yeah, Sony, really sticking with the safe treatment of tough subjects. Staying away from the soul-crushing depression and bone-crushing violence.

Nice to know we can always depend on Sony.

Butch:

Yeah, they have our backs, all right.

But, in all seriousness, being afraid of M does restrict your narrative license somewhat. Now, I’m not hoping Horizon goes TLOU route in terms of seriousness. That’s the last thing I want. Nor do I ask for gratuitous violence or sex (well….maybe….no, stay focused). But the ability to really tackle things without beating around the bush would be kinda cool. If Aloy continues to come of age, then the story should get to Mature and out of Teen, just like her.

Feminina:

It would be interesting to see them try to do that. You don’t see a lot of franchises changing target audience that way, but it would be interesting.

Butch:

Thing is, do you really think that teens are the target audience for this game? Rating and audience aren’t necessarily the same thing. Look at all the stuff in UC4 (which was T) that focused on maturing relationships, the difficulties of marriage (remember the long jeep ride with nothing but music after the tough conversation with Elena?), issues with adult siblings, etc. That’s not stuff teenagers are gonna get. Sure, there weren’t graphic kills and boobs and stuff, but still. The subject matter was mature, despite its rating. Horizon is tiptoeing that line.

Feminina:

Are you saying teens don’t enjoy ROBOT DINOSAURS? Because I refuse to believe that.

But I get what you’re saying, and sure, actual chronological teenagers may not necessarily be the entirety of the target market. I was more thinking that presumably some broader group of ‘people who play T for Teen games’ is the target market, and whatever it is they have in mind that initially led to the decision to design it so it would be rated T, may still be relevant in the future.

Or not. I dunno. There are certainly examples of movie series where later installments get darker/more serious/more ‘adult’ and go from PG to PG13 or whatever, so it could definitely happen.

And I’ll play it regardless, obviously.

GIVE ME MORE ROBOTS.

Butch:

Oh, I’d play it if it was rated E for everyone. But I’d prefer M. Cuz romance. Nudge nudge.

Feminina:

Totally!

Wink wink.

I can’t actually wink. It’s a terrible personal flaw. I just squint unconvincingly with one side of my face.

But on the internet, anyone can wink!

Butch:

T SHIRT!!!!!

And one that can be either T or M, so right up this discussion’s alley!

Feminina:

Should we include the “;)” emoticon, or no?

Probably no…too obvious.

Butch:

We are nothing if not subtle.

And prone to absolutely deadpan sarcasm.

Feminina:

So much.

Important Moral Distinctions

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for a late-game side quest in Horizon Zero Dawn: Frozen Wilds

Butch:

Hey so I did play some! Hooray! But not much. I trucked up to the next camp there, met Varga, decided hunting sounded fun, killed a bellowback and a stormbird but didn’t feel like the thunderjaw, and it was far away from any discovered campfire, so fuck that. Then I decided the old guy’s quest sounded neat so I traveled up there to start that one, which is where I am.

It was nice to get back to the sundom for a while. Though I did like the kick in the ass to keep going: “Ah…the sun feels nice…maybe we could stay a bit? Nah, best to get back.” “HEY PLAYER! BACK TO WORK!” Nice.

I’m now pretty convinced you missed the murder mystery one, because I have now found all the ones that you mentioned. So boot up that sweet new TV and go do the murder mystery! 

There is a lot of game here for 15 bucks.

Feminina:

I had definitely missed the murder mystery. I went back and did it on Saturday. Good stuff.

Speaking of cool new technology, though, I had a terrifying moment near the end of the final battle with the two frostclaws, when one was dead and one was down to its last few hit points (finally–they killed me several times before that), and suddenly the screen went blank and the PS logo came up…I was certain the game was going to reload back at the beginning of the fight, but somehow, miraculously, it came back at the same point so I was able to finish the fight. I think it’s the TV’s fault, not the PlayStation, since if the PS had shut down it would definitely not have remembered where I was in that battle. Plus, almost the same thing happened to O’Jr. this morning while he was watching Voltron–sudden blank screen, shockingly loud static noise, and then the PS logo came up and he could eventually get back to Netflix.

BAD new TV! Very naughty! If you’re not careful, we’ll hook up the old one again. Or, I guess, return you and demand a replacement.

The good news is, after removing a bit of moulding from the basement stairs (honestly, the look of an unfinished wood edge is underrated anyway) the washer and dryer we were afraid were too big DID get into the house after all. And then it turned out the existing dryer hookup is for gas, and our dryer is electric, so we have to get an electrician in. But at least the dryer is in the basement! And the washing machine is hooked up, and we even have a tiny clothesline, so we’re in business.

BUT–talking about the game. Good mystery, some nice tracking and climbing, and the whole bit was very relevant to our previous discussions of ancient tradition and how much reverence we owe it. Also some interesting questions we haven’t covered in this DLC, about and when people ‘move on’ after a war. Those three Banuk couldn’t let it go, and so they took out their anger on Carja who, as the main guy, Inatut, says, were not even the people who hurt them.

Meanwhile that Carja guy is kind of “mistakes were made, but it was the distant past!” but the woman says no, she still has her own scars, so the past wasn’t that distant and it’s not surprising that the Banuk haven’t yet forgiven and forgotten–she seemed to scorn them as barbarians, but also to understand their mistrust a lot more than the guy did. Also, this reminded us that even though the Carja were the aggressors in that war, and therefore the Bad Guys to everyone else, the Carja themselves also suffered under the Mad King’s rule.

Lots of complicated motivations.

Butch:

Very cool stuff. That dude hated the customs even more than Aloy! We had her saying “Uh…maybe give them a little chance?” Which is unusual.

As for the TV, whoa, hang on. I had something similar happen to me last night. I was changing discs so we could watch a movie on DVD (Mrs. McP lives here, too), and I put the disc in and immediately got a white screen with, like, static snow. I didn’t get a shockingly loud static noise, but total blank screen with snow, controller wouldn’t do anything. The light on the PS4 stayed white, indicating “on,” but nothing. I don’t know if it resolved itself, because I turned off the television to see if it was that, and when I turned it back on all was well. But that’s never happened before. Was there some recent software update that borked something, you think? I’ll have to check those notifications that I never check.

Nice news about the washer/dryer! See, already fixing the home! Nicely done!

I’d give you my extra weirdassed dryer outlet if I could. We have one in the dining room. Seriously. There it is, right there. In the dining room. We’ve never used it, because, well, why would you use a dryer outlet in the dining room?

Home ownership, man. Always interesting.

In game, I also had the chat with Aratuk where he told me that his sister was made to trap machines for the sun ring, and she’s still kinda messed up about that, which is on a similar theme.

Not only, though, was this about moving on after fighting, but it was about what fighting is in the first place. No doubt the three killers there were of the opinion that fighting is war, and war can’t be forgiven or forgotten. But Inatut doesn’t seem to think that way about fighting at all. He was a “fighter,” sure, but more in a hockey goon sense: “I’m doing this to rev up my team, maybe protect a weaker teammate, but it’s not really in anger, and I know the other guy is doing the same.” Fighting, to him, was punches, sure, but it was…not symbolic, but something you did for reasons other than “I hate that person, I will kill him.” Inatut, sure, has a sense of “Why can’t they let bygones be bygones,” but he also has a “Dudes, that’s not what fighting IS. What you’re doing is savage!”

Which is a strange undercurrent of Banuk stuff across the board. Here we have a bunch of warrior dudes, who revere the “best warrior,” but the “best warrior” isn’t necessarily determined to be the best KILLER, per se. Indeed, every time Aloy says something like “You fight,” or “You stand your ground” or anything, a Banuk corrects her to say “The Banuk ENDURE.” Not “conquer,” or “destroy” or “feast on the blood of our enemies,” just “endure.” Even the trail to join the werak we saw wasn’t “Bring me the heads of three carja” or even “Bring me a thunderjaw heart,” it was “Go up there and don’t die.” Which is an interesting take on what a “warrior” is, and, when the three Banuk warriors decided surviving the war, enduring, as it were, wasn’t enough, Inatut didn’t get it.

(Here’s where I point out, again, all this in a side quest in a DLC.)

Feminina:

That’s hilarious that you have a dryer outlet in the dining room. What was someone thinking?

“What if we want to put just a little, economy dryer in, in case someone spills water at the table and we want to throw the tablecloth in right there? WHAT IF, man?! We can’t go all the way downstairs at a time like that!”

Or maybe it was more “we’ll definitely put the laundry room up here, because who wants to hang out upstairs where all the windows are, next to the kitchen? People will totally want to spend all their time in the basement instead. That’s primary living space, and can’t be cluttered up with a dryer.”

Maybe they were vampires, and planned to only come up and do laundry at night. You don’t know, dude. You don’t know the issues they were facing. Let’s not be too quick to judge.

Anyway…good point about the different attitudes toward fighting. You’re right, Inatuk did seem to think of it more almost as a sport, than something you do with any vengeful or murderous intent (unlike us: we’re all murder, all the time). And it’s also true that this meshes a bit better with that Banuk ‘endure’ thing than does the other group’s vengeance. Indeed, the Carja understand this too–they said they didn’t suspect the Banuk in the previous disappearances, because this wasn’t their way, basically.

So the three Banuk assassins were going against their own traditions, in a way we don’t approve of…just showing that there are ways and ways to rebel against ancient customs, and not all of them are actually good.

I think the game does a good job of handling different tribes’ traditions in a fairly neutral way. Aloy doesn’t believe any of their stuff, but she doesn’t actively mock them or try to persuade them out of it. She supports people who want to do different things (she helped the one hunter try to rescue the other hunter), but she doesn’t try to force anything (she let the one hunter return and supported her claim to have passed the trial).

And then we see people questioning different aspects of their own traditions, and some questions lead in a direction Aloy generally approves of, and some don’t, and that’s what you get with different people thinking different things.

Butch:

That’s not a bad idea about the dryer right there by the table…wish I had thought of that when the kids were learning to use big boy cups.

Our only real theory is that they thought that maybe they’d put in a BIGASSED air conditioner in the window, so we looked into that (cuz hey, AC) and all the ones that big a) won’t fit in the window, b) would, in my small dining room, generate enough wind to knock our pictures down and c) make so much noise as to make dinner conversation impossible.

So there it sits. Like a little sleeping face, waiting in vain to wake from its slumber to deliver 240 volts (or amps or whatever) to a bigassed appliance we will never need nor have. Poor little outlet.

No doubt they were going against tradition. They would have been banished for breaking the law.

But when you say “Not all of them are actually good,” why was it so bad? We’ve killed a whole mess of Carja. Ok, Shadow Carja, but still. Sure, we SAY that that particular Carja had nothing to do with anything, but, for all we know, he was just like the Carja Kevins we so gleefully killed ourselves. Here we are, stumbling into Banuk lands, our midriff baring armor (I still have mine) with Carja blood on it, and we hear them all “Do not murder, so,” and, instantly we pipe up “Yeah, man! What are you THINKING?”

And wait wait wait….that ‘supported her claim’ thing wasn’t her, it was the player. That’s what WE did, but we had a dialog option that would have fucked up either or both of their plans.

We had a dialog option at the end of the murder mystery, too. I told him to go find his own way, but the others were along the lines of “Screw them” and “You are Banuk.” So, while the game doesn’t (I don’t think) let you mock people, per se, the support/don’t support decision is left to the player, which is an interesting bit of game design.

Feminina:

Good point, good point, that was us choosing to support that hunter, not necessarily Aloy. Maybe one of the other options was “she totally cheated, you should throw her out of the werak.”

Very true.

And I think “not all of them are actually good” because I think Aloy doesn’t approve of killing random people who aren’t trying to kill her, which is why I think she didn’t approve of the three assassins. Who I got the sense she didn’t agree with, although maybe it was just because they did, in fact, try to kill her. Maybe if they’d wanted to sit down and chat and explain their reasoning, she would have gotten behind it–but again, I think her general approach is “mercilessly kill anyone who would kill me if given the chance, but don’t kill anyone else.”

Or is that, again, just the way I play?

As you say, Aloy herself has killed plenty of Carja, so why would she necessarily object to these people killing some Carja?

My reading it that way goes back to the fact that the Carja we’ve killed were all hostile Bad Guy Carja who would have killed us if they could (we know because red dot!).

Random Carja walking down the road, we don’t kill, but I actually don’t know if we can even attack those guys? I never tried. Having never tried, I sort of assumed we couldn’t, and I therefore assumed that this mechanic reflected Aloy’s distaste for unprovoked murder and that this kind of universalizes her own morals to everyone else (screw your cultural relativism again!) and indicates that she disapproves of killing random non-red-dot people.

But as you say, this could be me as a player, not ever attacking people who didn’t show up as red dots first. It might not be the game’s morals (and hence Aloy’s)–maybe it’s always been an option to attack random people on the road. Certainly in games like Fallout there’s the option to attack non-hostile people and make them hostile (even accidentally, which is always exciting). I feel like sometimes during fights with machines where some random soldiers showed up and helped, I’ve accidentally hit them, and they didn’t all turn red on me, but again…I never actively attempted to attack them.

Butch:

I do think one option was “I helped them,” or something that was more bluntly honest, which would have been the same as “she cheated.” The other was a MORE favorable lie, something like “I didn’t help at all and the other one is dead” or something. Or, given the choice we took wasn’t a blatant lie, so much as a spin, there was a blatant lie choice.

And I do think they “they’re gonna kill you so don’t think on it too much” was part of the quest design. I was pretty surprised that they did just attack without any dialog there. I was expecting a Weighty Moral Choice there, but no, they just turned into elite Kevins, which was a little cheap, I thought. I guess it would’ve complicated the quest too much.

Yeah, I think that was the case, that Aloy disapproves of killing non-red dots. I do know you couldn’t even draw your bow in Meridian, so you couldn’t play as a “kill all Carja” player. Hell, she got all damn flirty with the Carja king! So I guess it is a red dot thing.

But Aloy (or the player) never stops to consider the relativity of the red dot. To these guys, Carja were all red dot. And before you get all “But they weren’t trying to kill the assassins,” we have killed many a Kevin who were just chilling. Dropped on them from above, broke necks, pulled into haystacks and did God knows what. And don’t say “Well, yeah, but they WOULD have tried to kill us,” that’s an “all red dots gonna red dot” argument that would appeal to people who saw people in Carja uniforms kill Banuk for a decade. “He’s going to attack me at some point.” It works for us, right? So yet more relativism.

Feminina:

Hmm…it does work for us, it’s true. We’ve done many a stealth kill of people we didn’t give the opportunity to try to kill us first. But there’s always been a certain immediacy to the potential threat for us, and I think maybe there’s where we can draw the line.

We don’t say “he’s going to attack me at some point,” we say “he’s going to attack me the second he sees me.” Because it’s true. When we have red dots, it means that person will attack us as soon as he or she sees us. That’s how red dots do. If there was some level of orange dot where maybe the person would attack you if you did something suspicious, but otherwise ignores you (like in AC games), that’s a whole other moral calculation. Killing guards on rooftops in AC before they even know you’re there IS questionable, and if this were that kind of game, I’d be with you.

But in this game, if people are hostile, they’re going to be hostile, all the time and instantly. Which is a convenience for us, sure, since one could argue ALOY as a character doesn’t actually know that this one Kevin here might not be the one who would smile and wave her on if he saw her, instead of attacking, so MAYBE we’ve killed some people who wouldn’t actually have killed us.

But that’s not how it works in the actual mechanics of the game. In the actual game, there are plenty of times we’re kind of suspicious of people (heck, in this very DLC we both kind of expected the guy in the dam looking for the mirror to attack us at some point), but we DON’T kill them just on the expectation that they’re going to attack us at some point. We wait around until they’re a red dot, and then we know the fight is on, and they’ll attack us if they see us.

So I think Aloy might argue that these particular Carja have not been actively hostile, the Banuk had no reason to expect that they were going to attack as soon as they saw the Banuk (quite the contrary, since they’d evidently been there peaceably for some time), and that’s why it was wrong to kill them.

Well, that and it was wrong to frame Inatuk for the crime–I actually think she objected more to that than she would have to simple murder. You want to kill a guy over a past (legitimate!) complaint, fine. You want to let another guy take the fall, not fine. If if they’d killed the Carja and then said “yup, we did it, and we’ll do it again, just try and stop us!” that would have been an entirely different story.

And related to that, I agree that it simplified the story to NOT have them do that, and to attack Aloy as soon as she showed up, but I also agree it felt a bit like taking the easy way out of the plot.

It’s one thing to have them still angry over the outrages of the past: it’s another to have them framing their own people for their actions, and yet another to have them attacking on sight a random wanderer who’s neither Carja nor Banuk and therefore should have nothing to do with it.

“She’s not Banuk so it doesn’t matter–kill her!” pretty effectively eliminates the chance that we might have felt some sympathy for them. I mean, OK, mad at the Carja, fine, but I was just passing through (as far as they knew).

It was still a pretty good story, but it could have been even more complex and interesting if they’d let the assassins have a bit more time to argue their case. But it was still pretty good!

Butch:

Hmm. I’m with you, save for the point about Gildun there. Sure, we were pretty sure he’d attack us, but that was in the vague sense of when you find a guy trapped in an odd place, and he obviously wants something, and is a fast talker, don’t trust him (words to live by, actually). It wasn’t because our people had a long and awful history of being kidnapped, enslaved and murdered by Oseram dudes with mommy issues. If we did have that history, we might have been a little quicker on the draw.

True about the frame-up. That was sleazy, that it was. And not very brave. That was hardly a move that dudes who were all “For the honor of our people!” would take. Not very honorable.

And “she’s not Banuk, kill her” removing sympathy–that, too. I mean, we could be forgiving and say it was a matter of “who cares who she is, she’s seen too much!” or something, but it still felt like a bit of a cop out.

But still pretty good, and, for a side quest in a DLC, very good, indeed.

Feminina:

Fair enough, fair enough: we had no real reason to suspect Gildun beyond being generally suspicious. A better comparison would have been if he’d been dressed in Shadow Carja gear and accompanied by a corrupted watcher, in which case we might have felt justified in stabbing first and asking questions later.

But yeah, I think in the end it was the sneakiness and the disdain for Inatuk that made those guys villains. That whole “That’s what this is about, you feel sorry for that lout Inatuk?” or whatever was just a jerk thing to say.

OWN your feuding, dude. Don’t push it off on some other (fairly decent) guy and let him be exiled for something he didn’t do while you sit around smirking about it because you’re so much cooler and smarter than him or whatever.

Joy of Missing Out

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for a quest late in Horizon Zero Dawn, Frozen Wilds DLC

Butch:

See, you were all “Off to Thunder’s Drum!” But you knew I was in town about to shop, so you knew I was right by a new quest, which was a damn murder mystery, and how was I not gonna do that?

So I did that.

That was a good quest, and yet another time we see these Banuk, who are supposed to be all “these are our ways” basically saying “Well, fuck those ways.” It was neat that it was for all sorts of different reasons, though. Instead of the “I will reject the ways I love because I care more for my friend,” it was “Wait…..what am I getting out of this? Why am I DOING this?”

Which was cool. He was more down on tradition than Aloy. That’s a first.

And I’ll bet he comes back as a potential love interest. Whenever a dude, in a game, is all “I don’t know where I’ll end up…maybe we’ll meet…” he’s in the sequel. That’s game talk for “Well, we like this character, but we haven’t written his bit in the sequel yet.”

So I did that, and, in so doing, blew threw all the stuff I bought at the beginning of the playing session fighting the two damn frostclaws (why does everything have to end with two damn frostclaws?), and now I’m back in town, where I started, needing to go shopping, again.

It was all very circular.

Feminina:

I’ve been unpacking and cleaning things all day. I don’t even remember what game we’re talking about. Who was doing what with the what now?

Who murdered whom? I must have done that quest, I did everything I could find, but my mind is a blank. Still, with the classic two frostclaw ending, it must have been amazing!

Butch:

This was the dude who was tied up and claimed he was innocent and you had to prove otherwise and save him. Cuz you’re the chief.

If you missed it, you have something to play!!!

Feminina:

AWESOME NEWS! I totally missed that. But I’m on it!

After this box here.

Conflict Resolution WITHOUT Murder?!

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for plot points late in Horizon Zero Dawn, Frozen Wilds DLC

Butch:

Ok! Played a game that didn’t have parsnips!

Challenged the chief, did all the timed fighty bits. I do not like timed bits. They are tense and annoying. Indeed, the only failure I had in these bits was early in them, when I kept falling off of ledges and getting lost.

I can’t decide if this was good game design, as I felt complete empathy with Aloy in that she was doing stressful things she didn’t even want to do, or bad game design in that I was doing stressful things I didn’t really want to do.

But fight on through I did, and did the bigassed fight with the three frostclaws without dying once, though I am currently out of any kind of good ammo, so the next thing I’m gonna do is go shopping. This kinda sucks, as the worst thing about this game is the inventory screen, and I’ve managed to avoid that thus far as I haven’t had to sell/buy much.

I’m hoping this whole sibling thing matters, because when they revealed that the two of them are brother and sister, I just sorta shrugged. “Uh, ok. You’re siblings.” Aloy seemed far more cheesed off than I was. “You must be honest…tell me everything from here on…” I just wanted to say “Aloy, seriously, this doesn’t matter all that much.” Or does it? I dunno. I wasn’t floored by that reveal.

What does continue to floor me is how well the scenes/dialog bits are staged and acted. You just feel like you’re watching actors. Sure, the “stage” is obviously limited. If you pay close enough attention, you can tell they didn’t have much room to work with when they were doing the motion capture, but still. It adds SO much to see more than just a face, and have the other animation be more than, well, animation.

What were you doing on the network last night? Go. Unpack.

Feminina:

That was O’Jr. watching some new teen superhero fighting show. And then Mr. O’ playing AC Origins. We were both kind of wiped after moving stuff around all day, so I went to bed early and he played a bit.

I also didn’t find the sibling thing that stunning a revelation, but it does kind of build those characters in scenes ahead, so I’m basically into it.

I was a little concerned about the timed fights, but didn’t actually have any problem with them. Even though once I stopped to loot, and the guy watching the balloon was totally yelling at me “come up here and let the balloon go, you greedy fool!”

I mean, he didn’t actually say ‘greedy fool,’ but I know he was thinking it.

Anyway, you’re making good progress! Now you go to Thunder’s Drum! And…uh… Ignore a few optional side quests if you’re in a hurry, because there are totally some up there in that village by the mountain.

But other than those, it’s endgame ahead!

Butch:

Sure, sure, sure. It was O’Jr.

Oh, once I was fighting it was all good. It was that damn climb. The handholds are much harder to see in snow than they were in the not snow, and, by chance, I found myself doing this at night, which REALLY didn’t help.

But as for fights, we’ve talked on this before, but DAMN am I glad I’m playing this when I’ve finished the game, got the wonderful armor, and am on level whatever but lots. If I bought this DLC when I was halfway through the game and was saving resources and didn’t have the armor and stuff, this would be fucking impossible. It’s damn hard as it is. They probably could have gotten away with making this a thing that took place after the main game ended, and had one of those “Don’t do this until you’re done!” disclaimers DLC often does. Cuz DAMN this is not easy.

As for lingering side quests…there are always hexagons. Even when they aren’t hexagons.

(They should be. I still find myself trying to click on things in the map to select quests. I do miss that about MEA.)

Hooray! End game!

In other news, let’s add these dark chocolate covered shortbread stars to the list of really fucking evil things Trader Joe’s puts out at the holidays. They somehow lasted until now, and then were gone within minutes. Almost as evil as those sea salt caramel thingies. But these come in a box like crackers so you can just munch them until you throw up or die. Damn they’re good.

(PFTL is not sponsored by Trader Joe’s. But we can be bought. For a box or three of these cookies.)

Feminina:

Clicking on the hexagon to select a quest was a true stroke of brilliance. One hates to say it was the most awesome thing about MEA, which I did enjoy, but it certainly sticks in the mind.

Steal that, other games! I mean, pay respectful homage to that. Imitation, flattery, etc.

And I so agree–easily half the battles in this DLC would have been incredibly difficult without the armor. With the armor they were basically fine, combat was tough in hard fights and I would still burn through a ton of healing, but I was rarely frustrated by those endlessly repeated deaths when you just can’t get the right edge in a fight. But without that armor taking damage for you? With those fancy new machines and their fancy strikes? Murder.

And not the good kind of murder, where it’s what I do to hundreds of dudes.

Butch:

Please steal that, other games!

Horizon’s map is not the best. And I STILL don’t like that it gets that airy music every time you open it. That can break tension so badly.

These fights would be just plain awful. As it was, I barely survived those three frostclaws. They’re annoying as hell. And that was with the guy freezing them from time to time!

Jeez.

Feminina:

Yeah, Aratak was a useful distraction in that fight. And an honorable dude at the end, when he refuses to re-do the challenge and just says “no, she won. I’m with her” (so to speak).

Ouch.

On that, we could talk about how kind of interesting and different it is that they have Aloy just calmly accepting that, too, like “yeah, I won, I deserve this, I am your leader now.”

No false modesty or hesitation, as you’d often see from a young woman character. And, indeed, why should there be any? She’s a freaking super hero, she won their challenge, she’s the rightful leader by their traditions, and even if, as we’ve discussed, she doesn’t think that much of their traditions, she’ll take advantage of them to get what she needs.

But I did like Aratak. He’s a decent guy.

Butch:

That was pretty cool. There’s lots of strong women in this game. Lots. But did you get the sense that she was “Yes! I am your leader! Now you MUST HELP ME GET MY ANSWERS!” or more “Yeah, yeah, yeah, ok, I won your stupid challenge and if you’re dumb enough to pick leaders that way, whatever, as long as I get my answers?” Or both?

And he is a decent guy, which was also a nice twist, because I thought, so very much, that I would have to fight him. I mean, you know you’re going to win, even if it takes you 27 tries (right?), and I very much figured he’d be all “Yes! Re do it!” and words would be had, and spears would be drawn, etc., because that’s how it happens in games. Or he’d turn on Aloy in the middle of the fight all “they’ll think the frostclaws killed you!” Big dudes with deep voices are either wise, helpful types, or dudes you have to kill eventually. They generally do not say “Hey, man, she won, it’s cool.”

Feminina:

I really got more of the second vibe from the whole “now I am your leader!!!!” bit. Like, “great, that’s settled, now can we deal with this thing I need to deal with?” more than “at last I have minions and you shall aid me!”

I think it’s pretty clear she gives zero damns about actually being chieftain, and intends to bail immediately after this quest (though it would be interesting to see how she handled the task of actually leading the group), which probably contributes to her ability to calmly accept her rightful victory.

But yeah, pleasant surprise that Aratak turned out to be so honorable. I did think we’d have to fight him–usually we expect that correctly–and it was a nice twist to resolve things another way.

Disagreement DOESN’T always have to end in murder! Who knew?

Butch:

First T SHIRT!!!! in way too long.

And thank heaven she’s not really that into being chieftan. That would’ve led to some awful “manage your tribes” mechanic and we’d have gotten all Fallout 4. Can’t have that.

Feminina:

Oh man, werak management! I didn’t even think of that. Upgrading their shamans’ blue wires…collecting machine parts for their dwellings..making sure they had enough beds…putting robot kitten pictures on their walls…bringing in merchants and disco balls…

Maybe in the sequel.

Butch:

Bite your tongue.

Feminina:

Come on. You’d love the blue light disco ball!