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A couple of fairly significant plot spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So went shopping, and didn’t have enough for the sling thingy but did get a sweet new bow that was better than my old bow and has something called harvest arrows that are kinda cool.

Finished up the hunter quest, which unlocked……ANOTHER HUNTER QUEST! But this one I just have to kill a thunderjaw that isn’t redmaw and a stormbird which sounds awful. BUT I did get a sweet new unique weapon! You’d like it. It’s called….THE TEARBLASTER!

And then I went in search of story and decided to go find Ohlin. So I went and found Ohlin.

Now….let’s talk about that fight first, shall we?

Now….here’s where I COULD go nuts and be all “Level 12 quest my ass!” and get really, really mad because that damn fight was awful. I tried everything. I laid traps, I laid wires, I shot from afar, nothing worked. Fucking corrupters in a small space is death. Eventually I turned it to easy, sniped a lot, used what was probably an exploit where the things kept getting stuck, etc. But I eventually won.

Buuuuuut…..

I’m not sure I did try everything. Because after the fight, when I was looting (as one does), I noticed there was this big ol’ rack of logs with a target on it. Actually, there were more than one. And said target would have been rather easily shot from where the fight began.

Remember a LONG time ago, back at that first hunting ground, there was a challenge that involved using the sling to make big racks of longs roll down, bringing death and destruction to large crowds of things? Remember how a) we didn’t have a sling and b) we’ve been blowing off hunting grounds? Remember how we talked once about how things are hard until you find the trick?

I have been watching Junior play Breath of the Wild, the new open world Zelda game. It’s his first real honest to God game, so I’ve been giving him general game advice. One thing I’ve said is “Let the game guide you. If the game is trying to teach you something, don’t skip it, learn it, because you will, without a doubt, need it later.”

You know, like learning to make logs roll when you’re level 7 in a game where area effect things are hard to come by. Which I didn’t do.

Son, don’t do as I do, do as I tell you.

I think we’re missing tricks left right and center. And maybe we should’ve done more hunting grounds.

Cuz filling that large, enclosed basin with impossible to escape, heavy, rolling logs while I watched from above would’ve probably been rather effective…..

Indeed, would’ve been effective to the point where that was a level 12 fight.

Feminina:

Dude. I also noticed the piles of logs after the fact. And thought, “oh yeah, maybe I should have actually figured out how to do that trick that might have been useful.”

I mean, it’s not as if the game expects us to build our own log pile traps. So it’s plainly saying, with that hunting ground challenge, “Hey, genius, there will be piles of logs in the world that you can knock down. Or not, if you feel like ignoring this helpful tip.”

We are totally ignoring your very wise advice to your son, and paying the price for it.

We should probably go pay attention to the hunting ground tricks before trying to kill thunderjaws and stormbirds. But will we? Doubtful.

I think on that fight I just stayed on the top level, trapped the hell out of the path up to where I was, and lured the corrupters up one at a time. Although of course there was a point where all of them were there at once despite my best efforts, and things got nasty.

So you found Olin! Did you kill him, or spare him? (I spared him, so I bet you did too.)

Butch:

HA! Man, we are similar. You know, the target on them is really, really insulting. There I was, in the midst of the carnage, the carnage I spent all this time creating (thus making it so I did far less when Mrs. McP was at her final class than I wanted to), and I look up and, not only is there a helpful log pile, it has a fucking target on it.

I could hear the cultists thinking “Well, dude, we DID make this trap for you, and even told you exactly where to shoot it, but if you just want to do it the ol’ bow and spear way…..”

We should’ve paid attention. I might go back to that challenge when I start up the game again, just to see what I missed and kick myself.

In our defense…well, not really in our defense…more like “well, we’re idiots but not because I’m ignoring my own fatherly advice, but for different reasons:”

The trappy things don’t show up on focus. We’re used to having our hands held in games. Now, we could debate whether this is a good thing, and, were we to debate same we’d likely say “it’s a balance, it depends,” as we do. But what is not up for debate is the fact that games with a “sense” mechanic, be it in TR or UC or even TW, the sense highlights EVERYTHING you can use. You get in the habit of sensing, looking for highlighted stuff, and using that stuff. It does not occur to one that there is useful stuff that isn’t highlighted when you sense.

Now, we’ve been playing this long enough to know better. But there’s no doubt we missed it because we scanned everywhere with focus and…well…it wasn’t there, and if it’s not there, it can’t be useful…right?

Wrong.

Now this IS in my defense: I did try to use a hunting ground to learn to fight glinthawks and it didn’t work for shit. What makes me think it’ll help with stormbirds?

Of COURSE I spared Olin. We’re the same person.

I find it kind of a let down that in this game of turning game expectations upside down we seem to have, once again, a baddie who is masked, gravelly voiced, and attempting to summon/control something powerful and bad that he probably won’t be able to control that’ll end up controlling him blah blah blah. Another in a line of Corypheouses, Lazaravices, other baddies who’s names I can’t be bothered to spell correctly, and Evil Helen Mirren.

I’m hoping that this is another one of those bait and switches, but I’m less hopeful on this one.

But I did meet Lance Reddick, or at least heard him for two lines, so that makes things better.

Feminina:

Meeting Lance Reddick has been a highlight of the game. Although I keep calling him Lt. Daniels, after his character in The Wire.

That is a good point not in our defense, but as explanation of our deficiencies. We DO get used to things glowing if they’re good for something, and therefore we tend to overlook things that don’t light up.

And it’s true that in this game only certain useful things actually do glow when we use the focus. I’ve often noticed that plants don’t, for instance, even though you can interact with them. (Probably because there would be too much glowing stuff.)

It’s true the hunting grounds haven’t done a lot for us so far. Possibly because we ignore them. I did get the ‘steal a ravager cannon’ trick from one, but you figured that out anyway, so it’s not as if it was a very fancy trick.

And yeah, I’m not sure what I think about Hades, our supervillain. He seems very stock-villainish. Dastardly plan to destroy the world, etc.

But perhaps there’s more complexity to the story–I haven’t gotten to the point where I know much more about it. But obey Lt. Daniels and go to Maker’s End: there’s a lot of story there to discuss.

Butch:

I knew he was in it, and have been waiting all this time to finally meet him. He’s gotta voice more stuff.

One could make a very valid argument that this subtlety is better than the other way games do, of making everything light up like a Christmas tree. If you’re going to have a game that encourages planning and tactics, it takes something out of the game to just have things light up that say “Hey! Do this!” As much as I love TR and UC and stuff, sometimes it does get into a “ok, now that, now that, now that” routine that doesn’t exactly make you feel any satisfaction. Hell, the parts of this game that I think are kinda dorky are the “follow the trail” bits, because those are just “Ok, this way, up there, yadda yadda yadda….” Hand holding can be overdone. We just have to get used to it.

The glinthawk tip was useless, I say.

Though, on ravagers, last night, upon reaching the quarry, there were lots of dudes before the quarry. They were a ways off, and broadheads to my left. I was so careful. Didn’t want to alert them, have them alert the broadheads. I sneak and sneak and sneak and out of nowhere come two damn ravagers. I’m all “Shit, really?” until I notice they’re killing the dudes! Like, ALL The dudes! and they didn’t notice me at all! So all the dudes are dead and I’m thinking “ok…now about those ravagers…” and they walk away. Just stroll away. And I shrugged and looted everyone and moved on with the quest.

Thanks, ravagers.

Due to the way this game plays with stuff, I’ll give the Hades story a chance….for now…but it does seem rather stock.

I, of course, will obey Lt. Daniels. Eventually. After some flowers. And mugs. HA! Forgot: I found a mug in the heat of battle! I was low on healing, and was looking for a potion, so I saw I could loot something, and it was a mug. Like “AIEE! GONNA DIE! NEED…ooo, nice! Can still see the label and AIEE! GONNA DIE!”

But even without Lance Reddick, I got theme!

Remember a ways back when we talked on the fact that most folks in this game seem to be ambivalent, at best, towards family connections? Well, here we have one that isn’t. Aloy and Ohlin both seem to really WANT that family connection.

And they’re the only ones with (wait for it….) focus.

Hmmm.

Feminina:

I didn’t know, so I had to alert Mr. O’, all “dude! It’s Lt. Daniels!”

He should be in everything.

It’s true, one can definitely argue that the game is more interesting when it gives you the chance to notice these things for yourself. It respects us enough to think we’ll be paying attention!

Unfortunately, we’re actually not, but it was very nice of them to think so.

Ravagers can be helpful like that! I love when machines do my fighting for me. Even if they didn’t even realize they were working for me. I can’t remember if I had wandering ravagers at that fight or not, but I’ve definitely had them attack bandits and save me the trouble. I don’t think they were at that battle, though, because I remember a lot of skulking in the grass picking off dudes as they patrolled by.

“Someone’s killing us!!!!!” [Looking all over the place super suspicious.]
“Oh well, must have been nothing.” [Going back to patrolling, leaving comrade’s dead body where it fell.]

He was probably like that earlier.

Do you think Aloy wants a family connection? I don’t know if my feeling is that that’s what she’s going for. She wants to know who her mother is/was, but I don’t know that I have the sense she’s anticipating any happy lovey-dovey relationship when she finds out. She just wants to KNOW. Is that a desire for a connection, or just for the satisfaction of solving a mystery? Unclear.

But Olin, yeah, he’s all about his wife and kid, which as we’ve said makes it hard to completely blame him for what he did.

Also, some of the Shadow cultists working for Hades have focuses, right? And they hardly seem interested in family connections, although what their motivation may be, exactly, beyond generic villainy, is hard to tell.

Butch:

He should be in everything. As should Claudia Black, for obvious reasons. And Troy Baker and Nolan North, who are in everything already. Jo Wyatt and Doug Cockle are great, too (That would be Ciri and Geralt. And FemHawke). Though this Ashley Burch is doing a pretty great job. Liked her in LiS, too. Good casting.

Voice acting is so very important.

I love respect I don’t deserve!

T SHIRT!!!!!

I was in full skulk last night, and then BOOM. It was great. And I ALMOST fucked it up. One wandered away from the fight, and I lured it thinking “It can fight for me” and, as it was all yellow, I realized “Shit, it and its friend already ARE fighting for me,” so I hid again and let it be.

When you’re a Kevin, you just get used to shit like that.

True, Aloy doesn’t seem to be after much of a connection with her missing mother, but she certainly had one with Rost, and she’d get him back in a second.

Though…wait…I’m undermining myself. Erand love his sister, didn’t he? And he’s focusless. So maybe it is just Ohlin. Who isn’t sympathetic. Or…well….

Do you think the game wants us to sympathize with him or not? Aloy keeps talking about his crimes, how awful he is, blah blah blah, and it certainly seems like the story is painting him as a bad guy, but I’m having trouble seeing it. Maybe if it becomes terribly clear I made a mistake sparing him I’ll feel differently, but right now it’s one of those disconnects where I feel a game is saying “Hate this guy!” and I just don’t hate the guy. I rather pity the guy.

True, those people do all have focuses. Do you think it’s intentional that theirs are a different color than Aloy’s? If you know why, don’t spoil.

Feminina:

I don’t know–I’ve wondered that too, why theirs are orange and hers is blue. I mean, orange is a scarier color, but other than that (it would be funny if the bad guys’ color was a nice soothing lilac or something).

Theirs are networked and hers is independent, so maybe orange is the ‘successfully connected’ color. I mean, when I plug in a flash drive it lights up a little red light, and red is often a sign of trouble but here just means it’s connected, so maybe the ancients liked orange for the same purpose. Or they’re charging, and will turn green when they’re fully charged! Which of course they never will be, because those focuses are huge energy hogs.

Or maybe it’s just a rival brand: hers is an Android, and theirs are Apple. Heh. Reverse that if you prefer your iPhone, of course.

Voice acting is extremely important. And yeah, I think they’ve mostly done a good job in this game. I definitely didn’t hate Olin. Maybe even Aloy was trying to convince herself he was terrible, reminding herself of the bad stuff he’d been involved in, while secretly feeling kind of bad for him.

Butch:

HA! That’s a trope worth challenging.

“I shall build a lilac army! Our lavender hordes shall scorch the earth! And we shall build an evil city of honeysuckle and chartreuse!”

And what’s with the deep voices? I want a baddie with a nice tenor.

I dunno. Sometimes stories just don’t make baddies bad. And games are prone to that. “You hate this guy cuz Aloy/Drake/Lara whoever hates this guy!” I can see that being key to narrative, but you have to make it work.

Feminina:

Well, yeah, THIS bad guy (Olin) isn’t that bad.

Hades might still be bad, if he’s trying to send lilac hordes of corrupted machines forth to scour the earth (I’m sure he’s working on the color scheme right now…”this irritable red hue is not at ALL what I’m going for, but once I have mastered the future-LED and can make it change color, watch out!”)

Like I said, I still don’t really know anything about Hades, although I wondered immediately if maybe he’s actually an AI, hence the desire to unleash machines to destroy humans. I don’t know, though.

An AI that wants to destroy humanity would be pretty bad, although even there, how much can you personally HATE it if it’s just a machine running its program? How much do we HATE Kevin who’s just patrolling?

How much do we NEED to hate something to feel we must fight against it? Maybe Hades is an AI specifically to give us the twist of “here’s a villain we know you literally cannot meaningfully hate so we don’t even have to try to make you, but you still gotta fight it, because game. Also, save the world and stuff, in game.”

Or maybe it’s not an AI at all, and we’ll eventually meet some random scary-masked, scary-voiced guy who will monologue at us about stuff. Equally plausible!

Butch:

IS Hades trying to unleash machines? I got the sense that Hades was something the cultists just discovered, and are trying to use, and that Hades either has no opinion on the matter or hasn’t expressed it yet. After all, at least where I am (and if you know, don’t spoil), I know that, as far as anyone knows, Hades has only said three words: “System Threat Detected.” So it’s hardly like it’s sitting there going “Rise, my minions! Rise! To arms! To help the masked weirdos!” I got the sense that Hades, whatever it is, is minding its damn business and the cult is mucking around with it. If anything, everyone was surprised and/or scared when it spoke.

Which, even if true, would be another neat twist on the game trope of “powerful thing that cannot fall into bad hands.” We’ve played that game so very many times. And whether said thing is immortality goo or El Dorado plague or weird drug water, said powerful thing has no ability to have an opinion on what is going on. It’s just goo. But here, the powerful thing seems (much to the surprise of all) to, at the very least, speak, if not more.

(Note this is different from, say, TW3 or DAO where the powerful thing had opinions, because there the powerful thing and the gravelly voiced masked dude were one and the same. Doesn’t count. I’m talking about instances where powerful thing and gravelly voiced guy are not the same thing.)

Feminina:

Good point. Hades seemed to want Aloy removed as a ‘system threat’ (which language made me think it’s an AI), and the cultists apparently want to unleash the soothing lilac hordes and think Hades can/will help them, but it’s a jump to assume Hades actually has an opinion about the hordes one way or the other.

Especially if it’s just a defense system of some kind, maybe in control of some last line of defense that the old civilization died before it could use or something. It might not care at all whether or not it gets used, it’s just hanging out waiting for the button to be pushed, or not.

It’s my impression that the cultists seem to THINK they’re doing what Hades wants, but we’ve seen with the matriarch and the door how people can interpret old recordings in ways that are not, from our perspective, strictly accurate. Maybe they just stumbled on this old system, heard it talk about threats, and assumed it was telling them they needed to wipe out…whatever they want to wipe out. I’m not entirely clear on THEIR motivations, either.

Butch:

Yeah, the matriarchs pretty much blew it. There’s no reason to assume the cult is any different.

Sure, they think “weapon” but can you blame them? The things kill at will.

And sure, they think they can control the machines, but even that seems unlikely. No one can really “control” them, even though they think they can. The banuk were wrong. They didn’t have the light or whatever. The Nora haven’t tried. Even Aloy, with the overrides, can’t really “control” them any more than the cult can with its corrupters. Sure, the things cooperate with Aloy/the cult, but Aloy can’t CONTROL them when they’re overridden (except while riding them….hmmm…ROBOT DINOSAURS!) as evidenced by our frustrations when they sit around. It’s likely the same for the cult.

Hell, it’s an echo (I think) of the Old Ones. THEY probably thought they could control technology, too. Look how that turned out.

Feminina:

Indeed. Theme! We all think we can understand and/or harness and/or control the machines, but to what extent is that really true? Surely, only a very limited one.

I’m going to imagine that while Aloy is actually on the machine’s back, her override tool is still close enough that she can direct its movement, but otherwise she’s only succeeded in taking herself out of the category of the category of “things to attack.” Herself and…uh…other people that she rides the machine up to, but not people who are attacking her and whom she can run right over with the machine…because ROBOT DINOSAURS!

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