Long Ago in the Mists of 65% Complete

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn locations and data points

Butch:

Ok, magpied a bit. Tried to get to the last tallneck, and I couldn’t cuz there were mighty cliffs. Now, ethics question:

I tried running/jumping the cliffs, as one does. You know: going where the game obviously doesn’t want you to go. I got close enough to a campfire on the OTHER side of the cliffs and I can now fast travel there.

Is this cheating? Should I do it? I feel so dirty.

Feminina:

I think you should do it. I mean, you know HOW to get around the cliffs: just keep going around and eventually you’ll find the way in. It’s not as if you’re cheating on the solution to a complicated puzzle. You’re just saving a little time. Plus, you have no idea what’s next to the campfire on the other side. It could be smack dab in the middle of a flock of glinthawks. You’re paying for the possibly unearned convenience of fast travel with the risk of traveling to an unknown location. I think it balances out.

I played some. It was a little awkward because I forgot my glasses at work, so it was a matter of “shall I play, even though I can’t see well? or miss out on playing time, even though said time is precious?”

So I played, and fought some large machines and had some conversations with colorful blobs that I mainly recognized by their voices. Ha, just kidding. My eyes aren’t that bad. I can see, just not appreciate fine details. So I don’t want to hear anything about how the game sure does get incredibly beautiful during that dramatic behemoth fight with the lighting and the swirling dust and the perfectly rendered micro-expressions on the faces and stuff. You keep that to yourself.

Climbing was also a bit more challenging given that it was harder to make out the handholds. “Does that look like a grippy place to you?”

I am not done, but I am 90% done according to the game’s progression counter (having done absolutely everything except the higher-level hunting ground quests and the end of the main story), so I think it’s probably going to wrap up soon. Or not for another 20 hours of main story, it’s hard to tell.

Butch:

I dunno, man. It’s in a little village. We shall see.

And, well, I do have a pro, so you might as well give up on glasses. Ha.

My biggest problem with no glasses is reading. Shit, I have trouble reading WITH my glasses, and I have a pro. Without glasses? Screw that. I’d wind up selling all my deathbringer hearts for nothing.

Speaking of which, I did, legitimately, find a datapoint about the “western lands” or something, and the Pacific ocean and dudes that live there (not the Pacific ocean, but a “lake with sour water that rises against you and you can’t see the other side to the west…” I’m making an educated guess). You find that? Sequel city.

Again, I have trouble with that WITH my glasses and a pro. And those little yellow studs that are tiny and similar in color to everything else? Screw those.

Dude, I don’t think either one of us has ever gotten to 90% complete on anything. This saddens me. Usually, when I’m at 62% there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m doomed.

Feminina:

I missed that data point! I was looking at the data point lists the other night, and I missed a lot of them. Especially in “the world.” I wandered a lot, but not enough.

Oh, and speaking of the data points, etc., I checked and I also have that “unknown” on my list under “tallnecks.” So I don’t know what the hell that is.

Some weird thing that we need to trek to the farthest points on the map to find? We may never know.

And yeah, I’m surprised I’m this close to 100%. We NEVER do 100%! I mean, not that I expect to do it now, I’m sure I’ll end up at 97% or something because I can’t be bothered to go back to the hunting grounds, but usually there’s a lot more unfinished stuff than that. Usually we finish the story and call it a day at 86% or something.

Butch:

Ah, see, this was really close to where you found the doomed boyfriend in the young lovers quest. I went there because the campfire was right close to the tallneck (or so I thought). There’s a little village there with…not much. A merchant. And a big ol’ body of water with arches. This data point was on a boat.

It even said that there were machines in the western lands that are “unlike anything ever seen…different kinds of machines…” etc. Way to set up new shit in the sequel, random datapoint! And even a “tribe that only rides on their dark boats in the waves.”

Sequel.

Man, what the fuck is that line? That’s so weird. Completed play throughs? I mean, when you’re 90% done, what else is left but the end?

You get up that high. I’m never above maybe 75%.

But I agree: Fuck the hunting grounds.

Feminina:

Man, that IS super suggestive of a sequel or two. Which is good, really. At 90% complete, I think I can safely say I’ll play a sequel.

Yeah, maybe that undiscovered thing is just the very last location where you do something or find something or pre-order a sequel to find out what happens next or…something. It’s weird, though.

Butch:

I, too, will happily play the inevitable sequel(s). I do like that they’ve gotten around the problem of how to put new monsters in sequels. That never really sits right. Where were all these monsters in the other game? Why did Kevin get more guns for this? Now we know there’s more monsters because…..uh….the datapoint said so! So why didn’t the other datapoints that mentioned the worldwide war against all the machines not mention anything we haven’t seen? Umm….uh….

ROBOT DINOSAURS!

(We take what we can take.)

So weird, that ‘unknown’ line. Especially because it’s on the list between things we’ve done the hell out of.

I’ll wait until I’m finished to google it.

Feminina:

Well, you know…it’s far away…there are different cauldrons…specific ecological niches have arisen…ROBOT DINOSAURS! THAT’S WHY!

I will also wait until I’m finished. Which could be later tonight or possibly six weeks from now. There’s really no way to tell.

Butch:

You’ll finish tonight. Because I’m a good two months away, and that’s how the universe works.

Though I am going straight to the next story thing. Unless I decide not to. Which could happen.

Feminina:

What’s the next story thing? Sunfall? (The place where you were definitely not supposed to go! Until you had to go there.)

Butch:

I have to go disrupt a network. It’s down in the corner.

See, this is what concerns me. You’ve already forgotten stuff from a ways back in this game. You’ll finish tonight, be halfway through MEA and be all “Oh yeah….that…is that the thing with…I forget.”

We’re not getting any younger here, after all.

Feminina:

Oh yeah, the network! I remember that. Some plot advancement. Good times. THEN Sunfall.

You’ll just have to remind me. Of a lot of things.

In Concert Anytime Now…

Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Main-quest-related combat spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So in spite of things (Mrs. McP graduating, in-laws in town, revelry), I did fire it up and finish up the Grave Hoard.

That Deathbringer fight…sucked. Very, very, very much. I eventually turned it to easy. I HAD to get through that quest yesterday, it was hot (I forgot how it being really hot in the house makes one tired and less good at games), and when you don’t have time or your best skills and you keep dying when it still has, like, 92% of its health, it’s turn it down time.

It being able to remove cover was just plain mean.

But kill it I did. Took forever, but kill it I did. On easy…there should just be a mercy rule. Like, when I was a kid, in gym class they had a rule that if one team was winning 12-0 or something, game was over. On easy, that fight was “Shoot shoot, run run run, repeat.” It became very clear that I was GOING to win. I wasn’t even using healing! Running out of arrows was going to be a problem, but really it was just run around chipping away until it finally, FINALLY ran out of HP.

Maybe normal would have been more interesting. But I figured I got my interesting dying on hard.

So this quest….I don’t know. It was good. Good mood, etc. But by the end I was like “Yeah yeah, I get it. Robots got all smart. Took over. We had to live in bubbles, air was bad, no food, yes, very bad, etc., Zero Dawn, yes, very mysterious, everyone felt bad, etc.” There wasn’t a lot here I didn’t already know. Nice flourishes, sure. Added some details. The stuff with the soldiers writing home, their wives realizing it was all just edited, that was cool. Humanized it. But in terms of really trucking the story forward, I didn’t feel that happened. I started this quest knowing the robots all got smart and started eating all life and something called zero dawn, which had consequences, stopped them, and I end this quest knowing…well…that.

Oddly, I felt the most interesting bit, the thing that really got my attention, was an aside. When Aloy finds the globe, she doesn’t know it’s earth, but Sylens is telling her all this deep stuff and she knows the earth must be round because of the curvature of shadows during eclipses, and Sylens gets all “Uh…yes. Yes. We’ll discuss that later.” Like he knows she’d know…what? Stuff? I kinda bought that she’d be figuring stuff out. She’s all smart. But his reaction was pretty fascinating.

But then I got back to killing dudes and learning stuff I knew.

As for that reaction…remember a ways back we talked on how, during the Erand/Ersa quest, she really seemed to know the physics of sound really, really well for a cavewoman?

Hmm.

One thing I did NOT learn: Why is this place called the “grave hoard?” I mean, without context, that sounds like two cool sounding words a bunch of ninth graders mashed together to name their garage band.

(Cue deep announcer voice):

Appearing this Saturday….one night only….the two most ROCKING bands in the Nora lands…..METAL DEVIL and GRAVE HOARD!!!!!!

Seriously, why was it called that?

Feminina:

Sounds cool, I guess? And, I mean…a hoard of information? On the grave of the metal devil? Yeah, I got nothin.’

That fight SUCKED, didn’t it? Man. It was just…endless running and chipping away. Using all my healing, all my bombs, all my arrows…that was the fight where we both got SOOOOOOO close to death, and then, mercifully, I won.

The first deathbringer was a piece of cake. It couldn’t MOVE, or shoot off your cover. This one was a monster.

And it’s true, this quest filled in some details, but didn’t really give us a lot of new information, except possibly about Aloy’s excellent 21st century education and/or keen ability to make independent discoveries in sound physics and the curvature of shadows. I mean, she’s (probably) a clone of Dr. Sobeck, who is clearly brilliant, and she did have the focus telling her things, so maybe she just picked stuff up.

Butch:

Yeah, when she was all “This one MOVES?” I swore, then I thought “I can hide up here,” and it wrecked the balcony and I died, and I said “The fuck just happened?” And I reloaded, and I swore…

I mean, you couldn’t even really take time to set shit up. Usually, you have time to suss things out, take cover, find paths, think, etc. This was just “AIEE THING I’M DEAD.”

Bad fight.

As for information, yeah, that was pretty much it. I was expecting more, frankly. Why did Sylens even send us there? I don’t even know. “Go there…” “Uh…now go there….” He kept being all “Find something useful” and I kept saying “Dude…what more do you WANT? This was your fucking idea….”

Oh, and “I don’t how I feel about that” week continues on (old news, but…):

Kotaku: DONTNOD announced today that they are working on a new Life Is Strange game.

I mean….weren’t there two VERY VERY VERY different possible endings?

I don’t know how I feel about that.

Feminina:

Yes! “Oh, it’s OK, I’ll just snipe at it from–aiiiieeee!!!”

I tried sneaking a couple of times, thinking maybe I could skulk down and kill off all the guys and get some blast wires set up, but no, it spots you almost immediately. (I was able to surprise-kill one guy, but everyone else spotted me as soon as I did.)

And yeah, really no time to set traps, just running and dodging and trying desperately to pick up healing mushrooms as you race past. I did find that I could pretty much ignore the dudes, because getting them between me and the machine meant that it killed most of them for me just because it didn’t care enough to avoid hitting them, but…just mountains of hit points on that thing. And so much running.

I thought maybe even Sylens was kind of disappointed. I mean, he didn’t really know what was there either, so maybe that’s why he kept being all “find something interesting! There’s got to be more here!”

No, man, this is all there is. It’s not that interesting. Sorry.

I’m also not sure how I feel about another Life is Strange. Maybe it’s not about Max? Maybe it will have a different time-bending character, so the ending to the first one will be irrelevant.

Butch:

This has been a good week for not knowing how we feel about things.

Though, in totally not game related news, Mrs. McP went to an awards ceremony last night, at which she was officially named valedictorian and got two academic honor awards (Leadership and finance) which are very prestigious and came with checks taped to the back.

Brag brag brag.

Successful wife, good. Deathbringer, bad.

Back to game rant:

Especially as the whole “destroy cover” thing was new! I don’t remember anything else that can destroy cover! I mean, game, seriously….

Feminina:

Woohoo! Congrats to her! She rocks, and I hope she got some nice booze with the checks.

That’ll look good on the ol’ resume.

I mean, not the booze, specifically, but the awards. Booze on the resume is probably not actually the best idea, but then, she’ll know all about that as a savvy MBA-holder.

Butch:

I dunno, man. Them business folks can drink.

I did get booze yesterday…but that might be more inlaws.

She does rock, that she does.

Brag brag brag.

Feminina:

You gotta brag. Celebrate the brag-worthy, for it keeps us sane in trying times.

Sane-ish.

TV We Won’t Have Time to Watch

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

I got nothing. Last night I was tired, the weather screamed “have bourbon on the deck” and I had a friend who had some bad shit come up. I’m a good friend. I sometimes even see them in person.

But no games got played.

I figure that’s not so bad this week.

I do want to play some today. If only to decompress from the busy of getting ready for in laws and revelry. Revelry is hard work.

T SHIRT!!!!

At least I got a T SHIRT! in.

Feminina:

You’re a good friend. And yesterday was a good bourbon on the deck day. One of few this year so far.

Butch:

It was.

I bought more gin today. Never know which way you’re gonna want to go.

Man, stay healthy. Friend not that much older than us going through a cancer scare. This is why I get disturbed when you go all silent.

Feminina:

I’ll do my best. I’ll do my best.

Butch:

But in not-playing:

The Witcher Is Getting A Netflix Series

Discuss. Cuz I don’t know how I feel about that.

Feminina:

Hm. I’m also not sure how I feel about that. OK, I guess. I mean, we don’t have to watch it, and it’s already a series of books and games, so why not expand into other media? Better a show than a movie, too, because there’s more room for extended stories and character development. Who knows, it might even be good.

It’ll be weird to see a live action Geralt, but we like when people cosplay him. It could be like that. Not that I’ll watch it, because I don’t watch TV because I play games instead.

But I hope he changes his hairstyle at random times, and sometimes leaves the barber with more beard than he went in with.

Butch:

I dunno. I don’t like it. Geralt is Geralt. Geralt SOUNDS like Geralt. Geralt does what I tell him to do.

But then, if they nail the whole clothes disappearing in sparkles thing, I may change my mind.

The Mystery of the Unknown Thing

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the story with Nil in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So did the last bandit camp and finished up with Nil. Hmm. Yeah. That was…something.

Which did you do? Cuz I turned him down, then NEEDED to know what would have happened, so I reloaded, did it the other way, then went back and fixed the universe and declined again. So at least I know it both ways.

That was….something. I’m still not sure what to make of all of that. Certainly not what I expected when I met Nil in a “This is a bandit camp” tutorial.

Then I trucked it up to Grave Hoard. Got in, read a bunch of data points, died because it was unclear that guy had a firespitter, took way too long figuring out how to get down a couple times, and now I’m by a door I have to power up.

Discovering Grave Hoard did not move that “Undiscovered” thing at all. I took a screenshot. You explain it.

I don’t think I have much to say about Grave Hoard, yet. Ok, big machine war. Kinda knew that. Maybe there’ll be stuff on the other side of this door.

But Nil….that was….something. You start with that.

Feminina:

Right? Something.

I turned him down, because it just seemed too weird, but he looked so downcast I felt kind of bad about it. I still didn’t fight him, but it was like, “sorry, man, I just don’t feel that way about you. I’m not going to kill you.”

Weird. I’m still half expecting to run into him at some point, helping the final boss or something and saying “you should have killed me when you had the chance!” but I haven’t yet.

Butch:

Ok, so here’s the thing, and we can talk about this as metaphor because…well…it’s SOMETHING. Not sure what, though.

So if you DO fight him, you fight him. Fight happens. He basically spends it saying “Isn’t this wonderful” (!). When you win, his last words are, quoting here, “I thought I could take you.” Now…yeah. You go there.

ALSO, if you turn him down, that’s that. If you fight him, you get…wait for it… experience points. 5000, to be exact. Now, I could say “Well, games usually give you XP when you kill things, and don’t when you don’t,” and that would be fairly accurate, and we could leave it there and move on. We could. And, perhaps, we want to.

But….But….

Experience? After “Isn’t this wonderful?” “I thought I could take you?” And nothing if you don’t?

I reloaded. 5000 XP I can live without.

And that’s not even going near the idea of sex and violence. We hear about how games sexualize violence all the time. This game likes to play with tropes. And while, yes, true, this isn’t exactly female fighters in Mortal Kombat licking guns and stuff, there’s no doubt that this is “sexualized violence.” Literally. VERY literally. And I don’t think it was parody, per se. Not “Ha ha, isn’t it silly that sex and violence are this way in games.” I really don’t think they were going for that.

I’m not at all sure what they WERE going for, but they sure were going for something.

You go there.

Feminina:

I wondered about that. I assumed there would be XP, but figured I could live without it.

Maybe they’re saying… Nil conflates sex and violence, but to Aloy it’s just XP for a kill? I assume she just kills him and doesn’t look back, so it’s not that it means something to her, necessarily, but obviously it’s important to him. And he is a serious weirdo, so maybe they’re saying his outlook is unhealthy? In a subtle way?

I dunno. It was odd. Can’t really go there, though: don’t have time for lengthy ruminations today.

Butch:

I don’t know, though. She does say, if you decline, “I’m glad there are people like you in the world,” (which also made me go, “huh?”) so it doesn’t seem they’re painting him as a bad guy.

I just hope that the “experience” isn’t for “experience, nudge nudge” if you know what I mean. Like this was part of her coming of age. We talked just yesterday about how her experiences with Erand moved things…along. Could they be showing some other side of that here? And does that make us go “Neat” or “Hmm” or “eww?”

It was certainly odd. That it was.

Did you get my screenshot with the ‘unknown’ line under ‘Tallnecks’? Cuz I’m still upset about that.

Feminina:

Oh, yeah, I did see that screenshot! I don’t know what the hell that’s about. I need to go check now that I know where it’s listed and see if I still have it. It may be a story thing NEITHER of us has seen yet.

And yeah, I dunno. The Nil thing was weird. I felt weird about feeling bad for NOT killing someone. He looked so gloomy.

But, I mean, she could just be glad there’s someone out there who’s really dedicated to killing bandits, because as we all know, bandits suck. Enemy of my enemy kind of thing.

Butch:

You must have seen whatever it is. You’re almost done!

Unless I’m right and this game never ends.

No One Expected My Total Awesomeness

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Meridian quest in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So let’s see, did the last Brightmarket quest (the dude who ambushed me). He was all “What a perfect place for an ambush” to which I said “What, you give someone with a blast sling the high ground?” Turns out that’s not such a good place for an ambush.

Got some corrupter blood for Brin. Important tip: When firing a bunch of tearblast arrows into a bunch of glinthawks, count the glinthawks correctly before you fire.

And then decided it was high time to move it along so I did the plot on Meridian bit all the way through. Then fast traveled back east, where I am going to hit a bandit camp on my way to the Grave Hoard.

But let’s talk about that Meridian bit. And let’s start at the end.

So, once again, I have lucked out and done two quests in a very interesting order. Coming off the young lovers bit, this one really resonated. We were just yapping about how Aloy really wanted to help there, and wanted a bit of romance? Love? Something? herself, and was fumbling around not too sure how to get it. This quest ended with the first, well, flirting we’ve seen in this game. I had her say to Avad “this…isn’t the right time…” but she still left it open. “We’ll see each other again…” “Yeah, I’d like that.”

But the best dialog was the stuff with Erand. “So you’ll always have a minute for me?” and she says “Yeah..maybe two! heh.” And he says “Ooo! She likes me!”

Now, with bad voice acting or inconsistent writing, that’s just bad, cheesy game dialog, but here, it isn’t. This was SUPPOSED to be awkward, middle school level flirting. She doesn’t know how. And it was acted perfectly.

So I’ve seen Aloy awkwardly confront lovers and, maybe, say “Hey, maybe that’s not so bad,” and then, in the next session, I’ve seen Aloy very, very awkwardly take her first tentative crack at flirting herself. And she sucked at it. Certainly compared to the young lover planting her garden with her man, Aloy just looked like a socially inept middle schooler.

Now…I’m sure you’ve finished the game so don’t spoil: This game could end with her landing in the arms of one of these dudes. It could end, after a great victory, with a big ol’ victory smooch. It wouldn’t be the first game/movie/whatever that ended with the big ol’ smooch, sunset, fade to black deal. But I really, really, REALLY hope it doesn’t end that way. I certainly get the feel that Avad, Erand, etc. are being set up to be in sequels, too, and I hope, really hope, that this is all the start of a big, MULTI GAME coming of age story. Because this groundwork, if it is groundwork for that, is really good.

(An aside here: I don’t think the game wanted us to be able to override glinthawks before doing this quest. I think they had a really great after boss fight planned with the glinthawks. As it was, after I killed Dervhal with one triple shot from my bad assed bow, he lay there screaming “Why do your killing yourself when machines can do it for you?” in a menacing way as I overrode glinthawks and hid until one was left and I killed THAT with one shot from badass bow. It wasn’t exactly a tense, exciting boss fight. But at least I got to completely agree with the bad guy.)

Feminina:

I also thought that we probably weren’t supposed to be able to override glinthawks yet for that final fight. Which would have been a serious bastard of a fight earlier on! But as it was, it was more like “hey you, c’mere. Now go kill your friends for me. And if you can come as close to death as possible yourself while doing it, that would be great.”

But, like you, I did completely agree with Dervahl. “Indeed, why do your own killing when a machine can do it for you? Right with you, man.”

And yeah, I liked the awkward semi-flirting, although in my case it didn’t immediately follow the other quest. Your timing worked nicely. In my case it was still a sort of fumbling, “so, maybe we can…banter?” that was acceptable because it wasn’t meant to be smooth and it worked for a non-smooth character who’s really still figuring out how to talk to people in general, let alone in a potentially LIKE-like kind of way.

I did play, and I have advanced a fair way in the story, but I haven’t finished it, so I don’t know if she winds up in someone’s arms or not, but like you I hope she doesn’t. I would be happy to see a longer, slowly developed relationship as the characters grow and get to know each other–that would be cool. It would feel a little forced at the end of this one…but we’ll see.

As for the ambush, did you do the optional “escape” or the optional “kill everyone”? I killed everyone, because I’m annoyed on principle with people trying to kill me. (You let it slide one time and before you know it half the people in the game are attacking you on sight! And that would be…exactly the way the game is. But, you know, with more attitude. Can’t have that.)

But this was a point where the game did allow you the option of just running off, if you didn’t feel like killing everyone (or if you happened on this quest early and it was difficult to kill everyone). It’s nice that there are different ways to approach things.

I was glad we didn’t have to actually kill the corrupter to get Brin’s blood. I mean, we’ve done it before, but they’re still not much fun. It was nice to be able to just go loot a body instead.

Butch:

I decided maybe he was lying face down, and didn’t recognize how stupid he sounded. “You MURDEROUS glinthawks!” Like, dude, who are you cheering for, here? “There’s more coming!” Oh, ok dude. I’ll just sit here in this cocoon of shock traps I’ve made (So nice to know you can just pick them up if you don’t need them, so trap away!) in my ice hunter outfit, occasionally popping out to override one. But hey, you keep being all evil and stuff. You do you.

Did you talk to him after? Cuz after they dragged him off, it said “Talk to Avad” (check) “Talk to Erand” (check) and then “Talk to Dervhal (optional)” and I was going to, but I did Avad and Erand first, as they were right there, and boom. Quest over.

The semi-flirting was pretty great. And I liked that, at least with Erand, it followed a bit where they worked together. The scene where they both push the bomb out the window, he’s all “Are we going to survive?” and she jokes “probably not.” You don’t often see a) hero working with NPC, it’s usually one or the other and b) having that teamwork immediately translate to something that slightly changes a relationship. It read as “Well, I kinda liked you before, but now that we did this thing together, maybe we can…you know…chat more? Maybe?” Which is such a humanizing thing, and something you so rarely see in games. All too often there’s a passing reference of “We sure showed them, together,” and then the same dialog options. This, it felt that this major thing they just did together mattered to their relationship, and that was cool.

There’s so much more advancing, isn’t there? I’m so not close to anything, am I? Shit, I checked game progression (61% and change) and, by “bandit camps” and “tallnecks” and “cauldrons” I STILL have “undiscovered” by one. I have a whole CATEGORY of shit I haven’t even discovered yet! The fuck is THAT?

I, too, would like to see things slowly develop into what is certain to be a sequel (can we safely assume sequel here? I think we can, given this game’s success). But games are often scared to do that, because they don’t want people who didn’t play the first one to feel left out. Shit, even ME didn’t really let you further anything with Miranda or Jack from 2 to three. Sure, you could have a conversation where you declare your loyalty or not, but nothing developed at all. TW3 went there, as the Triss/Yen history affected what went on in three, but that was gutsy. I hope that Horizon has the guts to avoid the temptation of ending all the storylines here so they can start afresh in two.

I, too, like options, but I, too, killed everyone. It was just easier. I wasn’t kidding about the high ground and the sling. I found myself, almost immediately, on this pillar thing, where I could crouch and be totally out of their line of sight. This didn’t stop them from congregating in nice little clusters and the base of the pillar, and once focus showed me where those clusters were, I could toss blast bombs just over the edge of my pillar and voila. They never even got a shot off. And the second wave did the same thing. “Hey, look, it seems all our friends stood right here and got blown up. Maybe if we stand here it’ll be different. Hey, what’s that falling from that pillar?”

I did let the ring leader live, though. Did the whole badass “Tell them about me” thing.

Yes…looting the corrupter body WOULD have been easy. Yes, it would have.

Had I not chucked a mess of tearblast arrows into a crowd of what was very much NOT only three glinthawks.

Always. Count. The. Glinthawks.

Feminina:

I like the explanation that Dervahl was lying face down and just imagining scenes of carnage. “Yeah! I bet they’re totally destroying her now! MURDEROUS glinthawks!”

There is a lot more advancing. I’m at 80-something percent complete according to the info screen, and there are still about 10 hidden (presumably story-related) trophies. A bunch of stuff must happen in the last few hours. Or else I missed some story somewhere, which would be distressing.

I did go talk to Dervahl in prison. It was uneventful. He was pretty much “my only regret is that I didn’t kill you” kind of unrepentant, no surprising revelations. I wound up kind of wondering why it was even an option, since I didn’t get anything significant from it.

Butch:

It’s the only explanation, really.

And dude, what? Really? REALLY? Ten hidden trophies? Do you at least know what my undiscovered category is? I have no idea. It has Machines scanned, purple thingies (well, it doesn’t say that, per se), figures, relics, flowers, camps, EVERYTHING! WHAT IS IT?

I did find all the relics. So proud. That was the other news of the weekend.

As for trophies, I bet that at least a couple of those have to do with the hunting grounds, which we so aren’t gonna get. I did get one for “Get at least half a sun in all trials at one ground,” which leads me to think there’s something obnoxious like “get all the blazing suns” or some shit that I am so not getting. There’s always a basic, easy trophy (such as “find first relic”) and a later one (“find all relics,”) so I’m gonna bet that the same thing’s true with the grounds.

Well, that’s good you talked to Dervahl. You know me, always worrying I’ll miss out.

Feminina:

Oh yeah, the undiscovered things…I don’t remember what those are. I was just looking at my information screens the other night, checking to see what I still had to do, and I don’t remember seeing those, but I do remember them from earlier in the game, so I guess I discovered them at some point.

Maybe they’re the story-critical locations, like the Grave Hoard and Maker’s End, that they don’t necessarily want you to be able to locate in advance but that will eventually have their own markers on the map? Because they have that little ‘cave door’ icon or whatever it is, and if you haven’t been to Grave Hoard, there are at least two of those in the story that you haven’t found yet. (Although I trekked all the way out to Grave Hoard before I ever even went to Meridian, so I did have it on my map earlier–I couldn’t get into it the first time, though.)

Spoiler: one of them is in that city Sylens totally doesn’t want you to go into! Until he wants you to go into it. I went there over the weekend.

Oh yeah, I went there.

I also am always worrying I’ll miss out. I was looking at my ‘data points’ catalog and noticing some gaps and thinking “should I go back to all the places I’ve been and try to find more data points? There was one there that I didn’t find!”

Butch:

None of that about the undiscovered line makes any sense! Seriously. Read that sentence.

Hmm. I shall see. I will be at grave hoard very soon. Very soon.

And not much of a spoiler. I figured that place might just be important.

It’s just damn cruel when games make it so that you have gaps. The first couple you find are points one and two, and then you find point thirty three and you have heartburn for the rest of the game.

Now that I think on it, another one of those hidden trophies is probably “Find all data points,” which is another “No, just, no” trophy.

But speaking of things you CAN get, I’ve pretty much decided that my (our, cuz I’m bossy) next few games are MEA (of course), then Tales from the Borderlands, which looks, frankly, awesome. And funny. We need funny. So you better have scooped it up last month cuz free.

And then, of course, PLAYING AS CHLOE.

But then, E3 is this month, and that tends to upend plans.

But get that freebie anyway.

Feminina:

Got it!

Dude, that makes perfect sense and is a model of elegant and coherent language.

Points:

  • I don’t remember seeing them when I checked last night
  • I DO remember seeing them earlier on in the game
  • Therefore, I must have discovered the ‘undiscovered’ things during the course of play

That is TOTALLY sensical.

“Find all data points” is not going to happen.

Butch:

As a general rule, if you need bullet points to explain a sentence, it was, most likely, not your best sentence.

I thought I might have to delay going to grave hoard, but I won’t. Mrs. McP’s out tomorrow and what am I supposed to do? Sit around not playing? I think not.

Feminina:

Dude, this is ART. Ha.

Delay going to Grave Hoard? I think not. Definitely go there at the earliest opportunity.

We’ll talk about it eventually. And you can see whether or not it makes one of the ‘undiscovered’ lines disappear! Make a bullet point out of it.

Butch:

I don’t know how to make bullet points. What am I, a librarian?

I’m on my way to Grave Hoard! But I have to do this camp first. It’s the level 25 one I discovered all those months ago. Maybe Nil will be there! Haven’t touched base with Nil in forever. And now that I have some flirtin’ skills….

Feminina:

Yeah, check if you see Nil. He’s got to be somewhere. And once you’re done with all the bandit camps…yeah…flirtin’ skills…or something.

Butch:

Damn. Aloy sees one over the moon lovebird and now she wants to get her freak on with everyone from kings to, well, freaks.

Save something for the sequel, Aloy.

But seriously: One thing about that ambush/I’ve been lied to quest: it started with the bad guy drooling over Aloy. She even said “My eyes are up here.” (Good to see snarky t shirts survive 1000 years. More optimism for our empire). He turned out to be a liar and a cheat. The hairy, lecherous shithead who, if you were doing the quests in level order (HAHAHA) would have been the first dude she met who was flirty.

Interesting.

Feminina:

Well…something. Really more the “or something” on this one. Just…we’ll talk after the bandit camps.

Good point about doing quests in order of level (ha! ahahaha!) and running into this sleazy guy first. Hm. Maybe he’s meant to kind of put her off the whole idea of flirty banter (because yeah, ew), and then later she kind of sees that it’s not ALL gross…but hey, whatever, we get the main ideas eventually, in whatever order.

Butch:

Uh oh. Is this something I should do without anyone around? She doesn’t….does she?

Feminina:

No. Oh god no. This is T for Teen! And also, just no.

It’s perfectly over-the-shoulder-viewer-friendly, it’s just…weird. We’ll talk later.

Butch:

Oh phew. PHEW.

Cuz I’m rooting for Erand.

Please hold obvious observation that he is brooding and armored.

Please hold obvious observation that I have been making fun of you for that for years now.

Uh…..ROBOT DINOSAURS!

Feminina:

I knew you’d come around. And all it took was ROBOT DINOSAURS.

Ah, Young Love and Snapmaws

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for a side quest in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

So I chased down the last fugitive and finished that quest, got my extraordinary reward box, and decided to pick up those side quests in Bright Market. Ran down the guy finding fruit, killed glinthawks, got XP, that sort of thing. And then I did the other, meatier side quest. You know.

THAT one. The one with the young lovers.

THAT one was really, really good.

So let’s talk about THAT one, shall we?

First, I’m going to forgive the use of the “Thank God you’re here! Here’s some plot! I’m dead” convention…again….because this quest was good, so let’s put that to the side.

Yes, the whole “Lovers who cannot be together and dad just doesn’t get it” is a tale as old as time. Been there, done that. That’s not what made this so great. What made it so great was watching/experiencing Aloy’s REACTION to all of it. Meeting a young girl who is in love, and being asked “Do you know what that’s like?” Meeting a young man who’s willing to die for love and knowing she hasn’t got that. Being a tad confused about what the key was for, thinking it was for a cellar or something, only to find it was romantic. And the best, the dialog choice when she’s trying to convince her not to kill herself, picking the heart one (as one does) and to see Aloy completely flustered, out of her element, struggling for words.

Now.

This is a late (ish) game quest. We have been with Aloy for a long time now. We’ve done some pretty badassed things. Aloy has killed robot dinosaurs. Killed cultists. Made satchels out of rabbit bones for fuck sakes. And here, we see here completely, utterly confused. Yet…we see her WANTING to understand. Intrigued by all of this love stuff. Wanting to help, wanting…what? Some for herself?

Usually, in games, when we see the hero confused and awkward, it’s there for laughs. “Look at the strong hero being all doofy! He can’t dance! He can’t share his feelings!” This wasn’t. This was watching a young hero fumble her way through the toughest thing she’s had to confront: the complexities of romance/love/hope/grief. This was the most subtle coming of age as a HERO story I’ve ever seen in a game.

And the ending…man… Hearing the dad say “Thank you for giving us another chance…we’ll…I’ll…be better.” Who’s he saying to/for metaphorically?

And you could MISS that! That dialog happens off to the side, AFTER the quest ends. You have to choose to FOLLOW HIM to hear him give…who?…another chance.

Game, I needed a good hour of being reminded this is a really, really well written, themey game and not just about ROBOT DINOSAURS. And this was it.

Feminina:

Yes! That story! I’ve been waiting to talk about that story.

Yet again, things don’t work out for a ‘family’ in one way (the young lovers), but in this case, there’s some hope for comfort from the more traditional definition of ‘family’ (father and daughter). The game is both reinforcing and subverting its own theme here.

And I LOVED that this hint of resolution at the end was something you weren’t even guaranteed to know about–like you, I followed him (and lurked in the bushes like a creepy stalker) to overhear what he said to her, but we could just as easily have gone about our merry way as soon as we’d talked to the father. The quest was over! Nothing more to see here!

Except there was, which was fascinating, and kind of another aspect of that “the world doing things without you” question we talked about yesterday in the context of time limited quests. This wasn’t that at all, but it was still something that happens whether or not we’re paying attention–and, I think (I lurked in the bushes for a while to see if they’d say more, and they didn’t), it wasn’t just something that they’re going to sit there saying on repeat for the rest of the game. (Although I haven’t been back to check, partly because I don’t really want to be proven wrong, and prefer to believe that they’ve gone into the house and moved on with their lives by now, carefully rebuilding their relationship.)

And I agree, Aloy’s responses here were great. The confusion, the fumbling, the “I don’t quite know how to talk to this person about this, it’s not part of my experience.” And, picking the heart option, the suggestion that, well, even if this person you loved is gone, there are still other people who love you and you can find meaning in that.

Which sort of ties into our recent discussion about whether the game’s overall message is along the lines of “human relationships will bring you suffering, but are still what makes life worthwhile.” Because we basically told her “live, because you still have relationships that matter.” (I do wonder if we would have said things that tied in less smoothly with the other dialogue options. “Grow up and get over it!” or something.)

So OUR Aloy, anyway, even though she’s a tough loner, is coming to the realization that relationships matter…at least to other people. Maybe to her too?

I played a bit. Dealt with Redmaw, whatever that turned out to be. Bought the caveman shotgun! Then saved for the night, so haven’t used it yet, but I will report back.

Butch:

Yes! Is it a happy ending? Who knows? I think that’s why they made it absolutely impossible for the father to just accept the dude. This wasn’t a Capulet/Montague fight that cost them their kids. Had he come back, the governments would have killed them, so it’s not on dad here. The best thing that could possibly have happened, happened. She lived, dad cared, she knew her man loved her until the end. She’s heartbroken, but there was no better way. Maybe.

This MIGHT be the best outcome! Or not.

ANYTHING that manages to reinforce and subvert its own theme in a side story is pretty damn awesome.

I loved that you could miss the end, too. And I’m sure there were plenty of people that just rushed off.

I don’t think they repeated it. I stayed and stared at them for a while to make sure they were done, and they just went quiet.

I’m not sure about different versions of Aloy, as we are always the same.

But…and I waited until this paragraph to say this, this part also drags you, the player into the above theme by making the ending “optional.” See, the quest finishes, and you get your next thing on the screen. Go to Meridian, in my case. The game says “Ok, go do the next IMPORTANT thing,” and, maybe, just maybe, you, as Aloy, don’t. Maybe you think, just for a moment, that the important thing to be doing right that that moment is looking over your shoulder (indeed, you did have to turn around and GO BACK), to see what happened to the people, to the relationships that, however fleetingly, touched you as you touched them. You, and Aloy, ignored the important, marked thing in big letters just to see if they were ok. Because admit it: You wanted them to be ok.

Great, great stuff all around. By far the best side quest I’ve come across thus far in this game.

Feminina:

Yeah, I liked that it wasn’t strictly a “my stodgy old father refuses to accept our deathless love!” thing. He COULDN’T accept it, it was as dangerous for him as it was for them. He wasn’t the bad guy here, it was a political issue based on a civil war (the ultimate metaphor for a broken family?) he had nothing to do with. And he tried, sincerely and immediately, to be there for his daughter once he learned what had happened. The failure wasn’t his, for once in a tragic romance story.

I mean, he arguably failed to be as understanding and involved as he could have been in the run up to this, being busy with his own affairs and not realizing what was going on with his kid, but kids are secretive and often don’t WANT parents to know what’s going on with them. I thought the portrayal of the father was very sympathetic, much more so than you would have expected based on the way he first presented himself, when he seemed more impatient with an inconvenience than anything. It was a nice twist on that traditional story.

And of course, I turned back because I wanted them to be OK. And I admit I was kind of afraid they wouldn’t be–that he was going to march out there and say “pull yourself together, stupid!” or something, and then she’d run off and leap into the river. It was nice that it ended…better than that, even though we’re not really sure if it was a happy ending, exactly.

I wonder if some of the other dialogue choices failed to persuade her not to kill herself, making this ending, like Olin’s, dependent on our choice? How many of what passes for happy endings are totally up to the player?

Butch:

No, it wasn’t the father’s fault. That was good. A nice twist on the young tragic lovers story.

You think he was annoyed at first? I dunno. I think he came across as genuinely worried. If anything, it was starting to dawn on him that he was too caught up in his own shit.

Another thing I wondered about is if things would’ve gone badly if I had been less thorough investigating stuff. Like, the quest moved on when you found the shovel, and you could have skipped finding the bottle and spyglass. When she finds the bottle, she says that it smells of ash and sulfur and nastiness, and pours it out. Was that poison? Would she have taken that had Aloy not poured it out? She even said “Better pour that out….”

Feminina:

We shall never know. I mean, we could look it up, but we won’t.

Questionable Advice, No Charge!

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Minor spoilers for fetch quests and mechanics in Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

Well…I played…and I still kinda have nothing.

That happens in this game. I played a long time. Really. But a lot of it was walking down roads, sneaking past monsters, fighting monsters who saw me, trying to find how to get to that next campfire around that corrupted zone with the rockbreakers (fuck that shit), etc. There was A LOT of all that. So, despite over an hour, all I have to show for it, really, is a) finding Brin (what a weirdo), b) overriding my first glinthawk (you’re right, that does rock) and c) getting to pitchcliff and finding the dead agent. (“A map like that is a map you should follow.” Ha. Erand plays games, too.)

And the only reason I found Brin was that I cheated and looked on the internet to find where the hell he was.

This is not the first time this has happened in this game. I feel like I played a ton and gotten close to nothing done.

I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, as I have limited game time, it’s bad. I need to get going here! But, on the other hand, I didn’t dislike yesterday’s session. The whole tense nature of things is fun, and leads to a very good degree of immersion. Isn’t more of a good thing good? To an extent?

I’m torn. And that tornness will have to do for bloggage cuz I really have nothing much else. Except Brin. And overriding glinthawks. And nice self aware clips. That’s it.

Feminina:

Brin! Mysterious weirdo. He’s…a real weirdo. And as you may have suspected, he’ll send you on a bunch of quests to get machine blood of different types, so enjoy that. Eventually you’ll get to ones you can multitask with the Lodge on, if you care.

That’s my fault you had to look him up, I was totally misremembering where the Sun Furrows hunting ground was. I think I confused it with Great Run or whatever, and was thinking it was the one near the bottom of the map. My bad, man, sorry. They all do run together a bit.

Overriding glinthawks, though, right? So great. FIGHT FOR ME! You bunch of jerks.

I know what you mean about playing and doing plenty of stuff but feeling as if you haven’t DONE anything. And it should logically be fine, because you’re doing stuff, and having fun with the stuff you’re doing, sneaking and fighting and looting and what not, so does it matter if you didn’t advance any stories very far?

Not really, except that our limited playing time makes us feel we have to GET STUFF DONE at every opportunity or we’re wasting our chances. But we do this with all games, really. I bet if we look back through the blog we’ll find variations on “I played but I didn’t accomplish anything” at some point in every game we’ve played. Played first and then talked about later, I mean. All those games we played before we talked about them, I don’t know, those were in the days when we had more time and maybe didn’t notice that much if we didn’t advance a story in any given session.

Speaking of advancing story, I went back to the Lodge with my trophies, and now, as we anticipated, I have to go look for Redmaw. So that’s next on MY list. Can’t wait to see if it’s really just a big horrendously powerful thunderjaw, or a clever twist.

Butch:

Ironically, as this game does, the last thing I killed before visiting Brin was a sawtooth and the first thing he asked for was…a sawtooth. Sigh.

You were right about his location. But it was in this canyon thing, and finding a way into that (and around all the nasties around it) was the pain. It wasn’t just “wander east.” But it was, in fact, east of Sun furrows.

Yes! Glinthawn overrides! Though, again, the first time I tried, I was all “Oh yeah….gonna override me a glinthawk,” I tied the thing and it landed WAY up on this gate and I couldn’t get to it. Jumped, tried climbing, nope, and it broke free and almost killed me.

Got it on the second go, but still. Ruined the moment.

This game seems to do it more. I think it must be because other games, the randits are not something that chews up much time. You truck from Crookback bog to Novigrad, sure, it’s a long walk, and maybe you kill some randits on the way, but they don’t slow you down much. When randits are a herd of chargers, that takes a bit more time and planning and stuff. You see “Machine site discovered,” (which happens a TON), it brings your trucking towards objective to a grinding halt. And it’s either long time consuming fight or making the route around things longer and slower. THAT is rare in other games.

But yes, time is precious. Now imagine if you’re always WAY behind your blogmate, and add pressure there, too.

DON’T SPOIL! Unless I ask you to cuz I’m not doing it.

Feminina:

Of course it was a sawtooth. Fortunately, unlike with the tutorials, you don’t have to have his quests active in order to collect the blood if you happen to kill whatever machine he needs. I was worried about that for a while.

I won’t spoil! I’ll just drop hints like “OMG I didn’t expect some of that! Even though we had predicted some of it with astounding accuracy!” It’s how I do.

It’s true, the random interruptions in this game do tend to take a lot of time and energy. And because of the environment, especially in the desert, it can be hard to just go around machines sites, and even if you do go around them you often just run into another one. So yeah, just traveling around tends to get one bogged down in unexpected fierce combats. I admit I have taken to fast traveling more lately, which avoids some of these hazards…I walked it all the first time, so now I feel more entitled to skip it, or something.

Butch:

Oh thank heaven it multitasks. Cuz I ain’t killing stuff twice.

It is how you do. I have become used to that.

Oh I have taken to fast travel like crazy. I’m with you. Aloy figured out the best route. She remembers. Of course she does. No need to prove it.

Feminina:

Yeah! That’s right! We went that road once, figured out exactly how to sneak by the machines, and we can do it again without having to get all worked up about it. I knew there was a logical justification.

I know, I was extremely worried for a bit that multitasking wouldn’t work and I’d actually have to kill TWO thunderjaws and stormbirds, one for the Lodge trophy and one for Brin, but no: you can collect everything at once. Major sigh of relief.

The tutorials had me all freaked out about that, because for those, you DO have to have the quest active, which means I probably completed all of them several times just running around, but never got credit for it until I bothered to select the quest line.

Oh–and how could I forget the highlight of the evening? I FINALLY found a rabbit with a skin last night! (Or, alternatively, finally managed to kill a rabbit with enough finesse that I didn’t completely destroy the skin in the process.)

Now I just have to find a merchant who sells that caveman shotgun, because obviously the first couple I stopped at didn’t have it. This is gonna be sweet.

Butch:

I always come up with justifications…I mean logic. Yes. Logic.

BRAVO rabbit skin! Now THERE’S an accomplishment.

You know, if you’re a merchant, and you have every possible means of killing everything, why not just kill your own damn rabbit?

Logic.

Feminina:

It would be completely irrational and frustrating if you COULDN’T fulfill two quests with one machine kill, as long as they didn’t both want exactly the same thing (“fetch me its heart!” “no, fetch ME its heart!”), but it’s the kind of thing you worry about anyway. But worry no more!

And hey, we already talked about how tough the merchant’s guild is here. Probably if they leave their posts to kill their own rabbits, they lose their position or something. Merchants take their jobs very seriously 1000 years from now.

“Please! Just bring me some food! Even some bony meat would be fine! I don’t dare stir from this spot.”

Butch:

I think they did that on purpose. Blood. Heart. Trophy. Pretty soon she’s gonna have to lug whole snapmaws home.

Poor merchants. “I don’t even dare risk this pile of wood.”

On that note, when I got to pitchcliff, there was a campfire with five or six dudes sitting around it, chatting away.

It was unlit.

I half expected them to go “Ooooooohhhhh. NOW I get it! Thanks!”

They have to stand by UNLIT campfires, just waiting. Now that’s dedication.

Feminina:

Ha! I have had that half-expectation too. Either “oh, THAT’S what you do with that pile of sticks!” or “hey, we were saving those until Boris comes back with the fatty meat!”…SOME reaction, anyway, when you find people standing next to the unlit sticks.

Of course, that would be a tough thing to get right in a game, because it would be awesome the first time, and then get really old after about the 3rd time you lit a fire and someone commented, so I suppose they didn’t think it was worth it (if it even occurred to them).

Butch:

Guys….hate to tell you…Boris isn’t coming back.

Feminina:

Oh god…he didn’t go over by the tall grass, did he? I warned him!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Boooooooorrris!!!!!!!!

Butch:

Sorry, cold, chilly merchant. I blame myself.

Feminina:

“We never should have let him leave his assigned spot! The guild warned us only tragedy could come of trying to hunt our own meat! This is why the only way we can feed ourselves is to make food part of the price of an item some hunter needs.”

Butch:

Next time, wait for the rabbit to come to you.

T SHIRT!!!!!!

Feminina:

And advice worth heeding for all of us.

Butch:

I like to think our T SHIRT empire will make the world better, once piece of questionable advice at a time.

(I could have said “Wait for the fox to come to you,” but that might be read all sorts of wrong. We do have standards. At least on Tuesdays.)

Feminina:

Agreed. Standards are for early in the week. All bets are off by Friday.

Maybe Those Randits Loved Their Moms

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers! Many spoilers for story in Horizon Zero Dawn!

Butch:

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

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

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

So stuff.

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

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

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

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

The way they told that story was really effective.

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

Thoughts?

Feminina:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butch:

Poor guy already drank too much.

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

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

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

An overarching theme in collectibles!

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

Feminina:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a lot going on here.

Butch:

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

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

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

Especially cuz ROBOT DINOSAURS!

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

Feminina:

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

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

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

I will both love and hate this.

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

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

Butch:

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

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

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

Right. Eyeroll at “Sylens.”

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

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

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

Feminina:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butch:

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

Go to Sanctuary or you’re fucked, essentially.

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

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

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

Feminina:

Yes!

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

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

Butch:

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

Feminina:

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

But yes, his helpfulness IS extremely limited.

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

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

Just saying, Sylens.

When Game Becomes Dream

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some cauldron-related spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn

Butch:

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

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

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

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

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

Best laid plans.

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

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

So I hit save.

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

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

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

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

So maybe you have insight. What WAS all that?

Feminina:

Dude. DUDE. Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew.

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

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

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

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

Feminina:

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

Maybe we should have left the subtitles on.

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

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

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

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

Butch:

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

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

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

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

Feminina:

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

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

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

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

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

Butch:

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

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

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

Feminina:

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

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

Butch:

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

Feminina:

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

Butch:

It’s what keeps us going.

Well, that and the t shirt empire.

Feminina:

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

Butch:

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

Feminina:

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

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

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

Butch:

Who said it wasn’t being used?

Feminina:

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

Butch:

Never assume, man. Never assume.

Feminina:

I don’t imagine I ever will again.

Go to the Place That Definitely Exists

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

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

Butch:

OK, not much today but this:

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

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

Feminina:

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

Butch:

HOW HAVE I NOT BEEN EVERYWHERE?????

Slow day doesn’t mean no T SHIRTS!

Feminina:

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

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