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Spoilers for early in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Note: Voice acting!

I THOUGHT Aloy sounded familiar: Same actress as Chloe Price, Life is Strange.

Ok, let’s see, did Gerta, did the spear thing with the guy, did a quest where I had to track a crazy guy all over the place for his sister, went to explore a ruin thinking it would be cool and all it was was the place where the game started, which only meant I got the data point I missed the first time and a quest that wants me to be level 25 (I’m 5 right now), got a tripcaster but haven’t used it, and now I think it’s time to leave the hinterlands and get the game going for real. (This DID feel like the hinterlands, didn’t it? Lots of hinterlands.)

Ok, here’s what I like about these little side quests:

Gerta and Thok: These were, really, little tutorials. Gerta was about how to hunt, and a little refresher on how to shimmy (MAN can she shimmy. Eat your damn heart out Nathan and Lara. She’d have discovered Shambala in ten minutes), Thok was about following tracks. Now, those are neat mechanics, but not necessary mechanics. Some people (us) will probably NOT hunt. We probably would have resented a hunting tutorial that we HAD to do. If the game had made us go kill some rabbits before we could charge ahead, that would have annoyed, but this was ok because it was optional. A game with the sense to know that some mechanics aren’t as important as others is refreshing. It’s utterly perfect to let people learn what they WANT in side quests and what they NEED in main quests.

The crazy guy: Did you DO the crazy guy? Cuz that had a bit of plot, it did. We’ll dish on that if you did it.

And then I really must leave the hinterlands.

How do we feel about “hinterlands” opens in general? I did not care for the hinterlands in DAI. At least these hinterlands don’t have as much to do. I spend weeks of real world time in the damn hinterlands. Not so much here (my play clock is right at four hours). But I DID notice a problem with hinterlands in general: they over level you. The main quest is level three. I’m at level 5, just doing the stuff in the hinterlands. Same thing happened in DAI. It’s a tough call: if you make it so you have to be level 5 to do the main quest, then the hinterlands stuff isn’t really optional. If you make it optional, you over level. The over leveling thing has me nervy, too, because I did turn it up to hard, and, while it is certainly harder, and more fun, I still haven’t died once. Not once! The only time I “died” was in that one part in the kid section where you had to sneak to the hurt guy without being seen. I got seen twice. That’s it. Other than that, I’m immortal, even on hard. And now I’m over leveled. Hmm.

Feminina:

Aloy is Chloe? Huh. I guess I can hear that. Because, yeah, she did sound vaguely familiar.

I agree, this part did feel Hinterlands-y, or White Orchards-y if we’re going back to TW3. But, like you, I didn’t find that it was as big as either one. There were a few little quests to teach you some stuff and let you know how quests work, and then it was basically “OK, you’re done here, move along.” We don’t have the option to kill 100 hours in the first part of the game, which is likely intentional given the complaints of people who felt that DAI and TW3 were slow getting started because of huge intro areas. This FEELS like a fairly big intro area, but after you run around, light all the campfires, do a couple of quests and errands, and run out of stuff to do, you realize that it’s actually fairly compact from a things-to-do standpoint.

It’s all about the extent to which a place is bristling with quests.

As for overleveling…I did get plenty leveled up doing this stuff before moving on along the main quest, but I’m now at a point where the next main quest step is level 12 or something, and I’m at 8. So you do come to a point where you’ll need those levels before proceeding.

Also, I forgot to turn up the difficulty, but I’ve died several times anyway, so it does get tougher past the hinterlands stage (or else I was just playing poorly, which is also possible).

I did Odd Grata’s errand…took her prayer beads to her and all. Nice view from up there. She didn’t actually teach me anything about hunting, because I had already killed a boar when I got there, so I just gave her boar meat. (But still, for some reason, dismissively called it “rabbits” when I told her I’d brought it. I guess I’m just modest.)

And I did the quest tracking down the woman’s brother. We learn a bit more about being “outcast,” here…apparently it can be like a prison sentence, only you’re shunned instead of jailed. Or, it can be something imposed on you for life if you don’t have a mother. So kind of an all-purpose punishment, I guess.

Feel free to reveal your thoughts on Odd Grata and the brother!

Butch:

She is. Ashley Burch is the actress’ name. I like her. She’s doing a good job.

And on voice acting, Lance Reddick, he of the Wire and Fringe pops up at some point or other. He’s good in anything.

Yup on Hinterlands. I feel done. And, to make matters better, there don’t seem to be any collectibles in it. I’m sure there WILL be collectibles in this game, because it is a game and games have collectibles, but at least HERE you aren’t encouraged to spend forever running about trying to get that one eagle feather or some shit that’s in that one tree you can’t figure out how to climb.

Ah. Good to know about levels. That’s cool. Game telling you “Dude, slow down,” which is something you should be told periodically, MEA coming up or no.

And I saw you were on level 8 from your completely cluttered nonsensical unimmersive HUD. Dude. Turn some of that shit off.

‘Hard’ is, most certainly, harder. I’ll give it that. But you can still kill a watcher with a well placed shot, and the heavy spear attack is still pretty nasty. The baddies seem to do more damage, though, so the penalty of being seen or not approaching things correctly is worse. Before it was “Oh, I’m seen? No big. WHACK WHACK!” Now it’s “Crap, I was seen there, now I’m out of healing….”

On the errand, see, if you did not have enough boar meat, you had to go to this place where there were abundant rabbits. They were absolutely impossible to kill, as they kept hiding, until you figured out the “tag target” trick. It pretty much made you do that, and get in the habit of doing that. Which, again, is a nice trick, but not a vital one. You could probably play this game just fine without ever tagging anything, so it makes sense to put that particular trick in a side quest that you COULD skip (or do differently, as you did) because it’s kind of nice to know, but not vital.

Rappelling down is so much fun.

Yeah, that was surprising information about the status of ‘outcast’. It also made me reconsider the bit from the intro movie where they tell Rost that he is outcast “by choice.” That makes it less “Hey, man, you chose to run off an live in a yurt and stuff” and more, possibly, “You made the life choices that got you convicted/punished.”

But my real thoughts were that here, too, is an interesting use of a side quest. He gets you thinking on stuff that isn’t really directly involved in plot, but it still is. Sure, this COULD be the ravings of a weirdo, but then, “The Forgotten” certainly suggest the people of modernity, the dead folks. (Speaking of which, did you return to the ruins? Cuz there was something else I found in there. A text data point?) So if the spirits of the forgotten are speaking to him, telling him stuff, what’s that about?

It also makes me wonder what was up with the boar’s head, the desecration of the shrine, etc. At first, I thought he was trying to fake his death and run away, but desecrating a shrine and then trying to kill yourself are weird ways to fake your death. Makes me think the voices in his head were telling him to desecrate shrines and all, and if those voices WERE the ghosts of times past…why?

Which makes this a neat use of side quest. Again, there’s nothing (I think) here that is necessary for the main story. It’s foreshadowing/mood setting/filling in. It CAN be missed, but if you do it, it adds something. Rarely do side quests in any games relate to the main story in any sort of way. Makes me think more that there is a difference between errands (here, learn a little something, catch a rabbit) and side quests, which seem more plotty.

Again…you go back to the ruins?

Feminina:

You can turn things off on the HUD? But then I’d miss out on critical information from the various displays I never look at!

Anyway, I have not been back to the ruins. I meant to, but I forgot. I’ll put it on my list of things to do once I’m done with this sidequest outside the Embrace (that’s right! I’ve gone to new and exciting places), assuming I come back.

The ‘weird brother’ was an interesting quest. I mean, ‘crazy’ is always interesting in games because you have to wonder, well, does the poor guy just have a psychotic disorder, or does he hear actual spirits of people who actually lived?

Basically, once again, we’re at the fundamental question of whether there’s supernatural stuff here, or just prospectors in sheets. The game LOOKS, at this point, like fantasy, and fantasy means magic, and magic means it could be actual spirits. It would all fit!

But as we know, it’s actually science fiction, and science fiction means no magic (though plenty of sufficiently advanced technology), so maybe he’s just mentally ill and doesn’t have access to medication.

Or maybe there’s a scientific explanation for the spirits of the dead speaking to him, like he’s somehow picking up on the recordings from the ruins and those voices are playing in his head (through his fillings? ha), and he interprets them as telling him to do things. We haven’t run across a recording that said “smash him with a rock,” but maybe there is one.

Also, did you choose the “I’ll speak softly” option to calm him, like I did? I thought it was funny how she murmured “I’ll speak softly,” and then the next line was back to normal volume (which is not yelling in his face, but, I mean…). Obviously they didn’t want to record two versions of the conversation tree, one entirely softly and one not, but it was kind of an amusing break.

Speaking of ‘crazy’ and other insensitive terminology (that one mine, not the game’s), I heard they got some criticism for saying humans live in “primitive tribes” and using terms like “brave” for warrior, which implies a pseudo-Native American quality to the tribes. I did notice that, and would have picked different words myself, but I didn’t notice it at the level that I thought to mention it, which I expect is because I’m not Native and don’t have the same attention to something like this.

I also of course noticed that they have decent diversity so far, with darker and lighter skin tones and different features all apparently co-existing as equal members of the tribe (even if our protagonist is as white as the lily), so they’re not unconscious of these issues. Just can’t think of everything, I suppose.

Butch:

Yup. In that “options” menu thing I keep telling you games have. And fret not. The messed up cluttered assed HUD you have still comes up for a few seconds whenever you come out of Photo mode so you can still ignore it.

Ah, you’ll come back. There’s a level 25 quest in those ruins, which suggests you’ll come back. They weren’t going to plop that there knowing only level 5 players would see it.

I only went back because I thought they were NEW ruins. I was kinda bummed when they weren’t.

The brother….still ambiguous. Though I did find a mention of something in the ruins that makes no sense yet. Or it could be a prospector.

We SHOULDN’T have answers this early, dammit!

HA! I think I picked “I’m not shouting,” which made more sense. That is kinda funny. “I’ll speak softly PSYCH!”

You can’t think of everything. And you’re always gonna offend someone.

Feminina:

Ah, that’s right–I have that level 25 quest. I’m going to head right out and tackle it!

Or possibly later when I’m closer to level 25.

It is pretty much true that you’re always going to offend someone. Even if you think of every group, people who hate being reminded of the existence of other people will complain. Picking WHO you’re going to offend, that’s the interesting part. (I picked “people who will point out that that should be “whom.”)

We shouldn’t have answers this early, and I’m not worried about not having answers–but if we don’t ask the questions right away as soon as they occur to us, we can’t engage in wordy speculation. And that would be like cutting out a part of our own souls and crushing it to death. No one can expect us to tolerate that.

Butch:

So true. So very true. Yet another reason to do every side quest.

That and leveling up so I can ride the dinos. You sent that screenshot just to gloat, didn’t you?

Feminina:

I did enjoy the gloating. And controlling the machines is kind of fun. Riding is enh…I think it’s a little faster than running (and you don’t have to keep holding down L3, which is nice: my thumb gets kind of tired), plus you can fight while riding, but there’s the usual awkwardness of it not being able to go everywhere you want to go, being a little unwieldy to steer, etc. So I probably won’t constantly be on strider-back, but it was kind of cool.

I still need to figure out if you can control, say, 10 machines at once, because it would be super cool to have my own little robot army. That might be an upgrade of the…thing that lets me do the thing.

Butch:

Yeah, the holding of L3 is a bit much. And yes, mounts are always a bit unwieldy, but dude….RIDING ROBOT DINOSAURS!

Named Roach.

I WANT THE THING THAT LETS YOU DO THE THING!

I’m enjoying this game, I am.

Feminina:

The fact that you’re riding a robot dinosaur IS pretty sweet. I bet there are even bigger and more exciting ones later that you can also ride! I haven’t see any yet, but I have played games before, so I think it’s likely.

I’m enjoying it too. I quite enjoyed some plot stuff that’s going to happen shortly. We’ll get some good discussion out of it. Later.

Butch:

It must be sweet. There’s a trick, though, right? I can’t just jump on the things, can I?

And I’m expecting the proving bit to be a thing. Indeed, I’m expecting it to be the real beginning of things.

Feminina:

No, you can’t just jump on, there’s definitely a trick. It will be abundantly clear when you see it, don’t worry.

And yes, the Proving pretty much marks the beginning of the Plot. Big things happen and interesting information is revealed.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but…robot dinosaurs MAY be involved.

Butch:

No. Way.

Would’ve been kinda awesome if they weren’t, though. Like, it was a drinking contest or something. Or a fancy dress ball! Who can dance the best?

By the way, can you figure out what the scrappers are doing? Are they eating?

I saw in the creature codex “Not yet rideable” which did indicate coolness to follow.

Feminina:

Yeah, there’s good material here, in what we’ve agreed is probably the introductory section. Some good set-up, hints of character, useful training, a working knowledge of how the world works. And in not-too-many sidequests! I thought it was pretty well handled.

That would be SO AWESOME if the proving were a fancy dress ball! When we make a game, we are totally doing that. Lots of ominous build up about how dangerous and frightening this Big Event is, and then it turns out to be a party.

Which, to be honest, can be pretty terrifying if you’re an awkward and/or shy person, so this could work, as well as being a good chance to put people in fancy, fancy clothes.

I believe the scrappers are eating, or at least dismantling for reuse or something. I don’t know if they’re actually consuming the parts (just as I don’t know if the striders are actually consuming the grass they’re always sticking their heads down to), but they get those mouth saws on machine carcasses and sparks fly and I think there’s disassembly happening.

Butch:

Very, very well handled.

To prove your worth you must……work it! Strut that runway! Work that camera! Now do the hustle! Now tequila shots!

There better be a fucking dress ball. If we ain’t getting romance, dress ball.

Oh the scrappers are most certainly scrapping. They are not going through the motions.

Reuse would also go a long way to “how do they reproduce.” They get recycled or something. But how?

Feminina:

Seriously. Throw us a frickin’ bone here, people.

Yes, yes, we’re enjoying your beautifully detailed graphics and interesting world design and Chloe-voiced, plausibly-attired protagonist and especially your ROBOT DINOSAURS, but those things only go so far.

And once we’ve gone as far as they go, they’d better have gotten us to some romance or a fancy dress ball, or there WILL be Whining on the Internet.

That’s a promise.

Butch:

Well, Sony has said that they want this to be an enduring franchise, and for Aloy to be as iconic a hero as Nathan Drake, so we will be seeing more of her (which I guess is a spoiler; be hard to kill her at the end and have be enduring). Maybe when she grows up a little she’ll find love. After all, I get the sense she isn’t all that old at this point. I sort of have her pegged at 16, 17 or so. It’s ok to be rated T for teen when you ARE a teen. But if she’s M 17+ in game 2, I expect romance.

Feminina:

Well, having spent about 1% of the time with Aloy that I spent with Nathan Drake, and having no idea where this game is going to end up or if I’m going to love it, I will say I’m on board with that so far.

If the question were presented to me “do you want another Nathan Drake game or another Aloy game,” I would say Aloy, because…change of pace. And ROBOT DINOSAURS.

Now, if it were Aloy or CASSIE Drake…I’d have to finish playing this one first before I answer.

Butch:

Well, remember the next standalone UC game, which isn’t supposed to be as big as the main UC games, but still, features Chloe. CHLOE!

So that’s outside the bounds of rational discussion.

But, so far, I do like Aloy and this game.

She ain’t no BEBHBB, though. No disrespect to practically dressed redheads.

Feminina:

Understood.

I will definitely be very interested in a Chloe-led Uncharted. Because Chloe, man.

Butch:

I knew you’d come around eventually.

Thank god for photo mode.

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