Weekly: It’s Snowing In Mojave

This was supposed to be the post when I officially announce the beginning of the Winter Gaming Season. Then I would ramble how much I like spending long dark evenings with video games, make a promise to finally write a list of games which are most suitable for this part of the year. After all, it finally arrived last week and now its glorious snow everywhere and northern darkness is embracing us. So, it’s the right time to play Skyrim again and post a picture of my new character, right?

I’m sorry, it’s not going to happen yet. I’m still stuck in the desert.

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That’s right, New Vegas is just too good to abandon it now just because my favourite season has started. Last week, most of my gaming time was wandering from one settlement to another and looking for Wanted posters. The funny thing is that the third and final part of New Vegas Bounties takes the player to a new location which just happens to be a snowy mountain valley. What’s wrong with playing New Vegas in December when it looks like lo-fi Skyrim?

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Of course, the season will eventually begin and what would be better than celebrating it by the best winter game ever. I return to Transarctica almost every winter, but this time it has to be done right. No cheats, no walk-throughs, and I will play a properly installed HD0 version — which will require some tinkering with the WinUAE, something I’ve always hated.

Goals, goals, goals: Install Transarctica. Spend at least one hour writing that My Best Winter Games post.

 

 

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Weekly: Flying with Fasces

Strange things are happening. For the first time since years, my trusted Logitech Attack 3 stick is sitting on my desktop. All because I wanted to fly for the losing side of World War 2.

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Usually, I avoid playing online like the plague, but I’m always ready to make an exception if the multiplayer game is unique enough. This is why I spent a considerable amount of time crawling under fire in Verdun. For the same reason, more than a year ago I installed War Thunder on my PC, just because there were a few Italian planes to develop in the German tech tree. Now the Italians are back as a separate faction with a recent patch and I just can’t resist to play it again. At the first glance it’s more than promising and I’m planning to play it for a while to discover more advanced planes and bonuses like historical camouflage. Let’s just hope they add more tanks soon, because now the game focuses on Regia Aeronautica.

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Meanwhile in Nevada, I’m hiding inside a ruined camper while a band of raiders is trying to shoot me into pieces. Somehow, their guns are powerful enough to finish my Courier in three shots despite him wearing a Power Armor. What’s even worse, I’m at the dead end of a deep canyon and there’s no retreat. Oh well, nobody said that being a bounty hunter in New Vegas was easy.

It’s hardly surprising that all three parts of New Vegas Bounties are so popular on Nexus. They have everything you’d want from fan-made content: professional voice acting, interesting characters, new unique weapons and sudden plot twists. The mod makes an extensive use of scripted events — which has led me to the current situation when I’m a sitting duck under heavy fire and no means of escape. It tells something that, even though I’m an impatient person, I’m continuously trying to survive the ambush after dying more than ten times. I will definitely have to write more about this mod when I finish it.

Goals for this week: Finish another draft and publish it here with screens.

Weekly: Family Matters

The greatest advantage of owning an Early Access version of a game is watching it slowly grow like a plant in your garden, and being pleasantly surprised every time you log into your Steam account and see that new content is ready for downloading.

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To new patch for Sunless Skies adds a few important things like item storage or character creator, but the Legacy system seems to be most important. I’ve always liked the roguelite idea of inheriting talents and worldly possessions from previous Captains in Sunless Sea, not only because it made plaing in permadeath mode a tad easier, but also because it gave the game an additional depth. There was something appealing in thinking not just about reaching one of the game’s ending, but also leaving something for the future generations. However, this time inheriting works in a different way since you’re not required to have a child in-game and you don’t just get stat bonuses, but instead create a new character with the experience level the previous one had before they met their end. This sounds more like reincarnation than inheritance and I’m really curious whether it will have some implications when the game is further expanded.

 

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For God, Emperor and Country (official promo image from Steam)

 

Not all is quiet on the Eastern Front! Another Early Access game I’d really like to play is Tannenberg, recently released by the makers of my favourite multiplayer FPS Verdun. Basically, it’s just an add-on to the main game which takes the players to a new theatre, Central and Eastern Europe, and adds the not-so-mighty Russian Army as a playable faction. Beside new weapons, uniforms and maps, there’s a new game mode too which supposedly reflects the less static type of warfare which was common in the East. Sure, I’m more than eager to give it a try and write about it in a First Hour post, but…

…let’s face the truth, I’m a bad, casual player, mainly because Verdun was my first online shooter since the times of the original Counterstrike. To put it simply, I’ve played it only sporadically for the last few months because I was just too embarraseed by my poor performance. Still, the perspective of visiting war-torn Eastern Europe and fighting for the Tsar is so tempting… Oh, the hard choices we vidya fans have to make 😉

Goals: Finish one draft and publish it before Monday.

Weekly: Playing In The Name Of

Who would think that you can spend a lazy Sunday afternoon playing in a pious way? Monks and Mystics, a Crusader Kings II add-on, makes it possible. So here I am, listening to Gregorian chant and accompanying my ruler in his spiritual journey.

The 13th century Iceland isn’t the most exciting place in the world of Christendom. All right, some time ago a friendly host of Norwegian crusaders paid us a visit after one of our rulers gave up to his self-destructive urges and declared this (petty) kingdom to be a stronghold of the heretic Fratelli sect. Fortunately, after a few crushing defeats suffered by his army he came to his mind and decided to renounce his exotic beliefs. The Norse tourists left us without saying a word.

Another time, the half of the Iceland decided that a vulgar and watered-down version of Gnosticism is just what they needed. Tells something about crazy things people do when they’re bored. The French Templar knights summoned by the king put an end to this folly in no time.

So, what can you do when you’re a ruler of a literally insular kingdom consisting of two provinces, what can you do to kill the time? Foreign invasions don’t happen unless provoked, the people usually love their ruler more than he deserves, and ‘court intrigue’ sounds outlandish because the Royal House and its retainers are all a happy family.

Fortunately, we have the Downloadable Content. Monks and Mystics lets the player join four societies which, in case of Christian rulers, are the Dominican and Benedictine, the Hermetics, and finally a literal cult od devil worshippers. Dabbling into alchemy and astrology would be interesting, but it requires high Learning skill and Iceland has never been known for having scholars as rulers (at least not in this timeline). Since I’ve always preferred to play the good guys, Satanic worship has no appeal to me at all — besides, all those cannibalistic feasts are a terrible mess — so donning the sackcloth habit remains the only option.

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Playing with my ruler as a pious lay brother is a surprisingly uplifting experience. It involves missions given to you by the head of the order, usually meaning that you have to go into seclusion to fast, pray and meditate on the Word of God, but you also participate in events like a pilgrimage to a holy site containing a precious relic. The reward systems is interesting, because gaining a higher rank gives you the power to cure a courtier or family member from a certain vice or even teach them virtue, which, as I suppose, reflects some of the quiet power such religious societies had in the medieval period. Of course, someone could point out that this vision is too idealistic and ignores the historical fact that monastic orders had direct political power too, and that some convents were literal nests of debauchery, but I’m not going to complain about that. Monks&Mystics may not be complex enough, but at least it avoids presentism, anti-medieval bias and the tired Dung Ages cliché, which is enough for me.

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After all, nobody in the game pretends that monks are infallible

Since I tried to play the DLC with a Catholic ruler, I’m really curious how it works out for other religions. Can I become a Sufi mystic as a Shia leader? What option do Buddhists or Hindus have? Maybe I’ll try those options out and write about it next week.

 

Weekly: Dead Money, Deadly Gold

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Last week I promised to post a picture of defeated Elijah, the charismatic antagonist who imprisoned my Courier in Sierra Madre, but I changed my mind after discovering a non-standard game-over sequence. Without spoiling too much, the final confrontation takes place in a vault which was built deep beyond the casino and contains a large gold stash. Initially, Elijah hides safely behind a terminal screen but, after an obligatory conversation about his sinister motivations and even more sinister plans, it’s possible to goad him into showing up. However, the story of Sierra Madre has another villain, the man who built the entire complex, and you can feel his wrath even if he’s turned into radioactive ashes long time ago. Accessing a certain file in the final terminal locks the Courier underground forever and the game over screen pops out. This gave me an idea…

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After reloading, I repeated the conversation and again boasted about my stealth skills until Elijah lost his nerve and came down to deal with me. This time instead of shooting him into pieces with my trusty Holorifle, I showed him that sneaking comes to me even easier than talking. Now he’s stuck down there behind sealed lift doors and I really hope he finds those gold bars tasty.

The whole Sierra Madre adventure was a cathartic experience because after finishing it I realised that I lost a few achievements due to my bad choices. This means that it’s impossible to finish the current playthrough with every possible achievement unlocked, which was my original intention. Instead, I can finally focus on enjoying the game without worrying about them. Feels refreshing.

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Who would win? A genius scientist who became a deadly warrior and fearless explorer after travelling into another dimension? Or a cast-iron chandelier? I got stuck in one of the latter levels of Another World because I forgot to clear a passage for my alien buddy and there was nobody to literally lend me a hand in that long and deadly corridor. Fortunately, my memory still works fine and after a dozen of frustrating attempts I finally managed to get him through and beat the level. Now it gets really exciting because I’m about to play a part of the game which was cut out from the Amiga floppy version. And some people say that remastered versions have nothing to offer but better graphics and audio.

No goals here because the All Saint’s Day is approaching. This means another Monthly post where I will torment myself with blog plans for November.

 

Weekly: Grande Finale

The Courier’s little vacation in the luxurious Sierra Madre spa seems to be nearly over.

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After leading my three companions to the crucial locations and triggering the gala opening event, I’m finally inside. What a wonderful place! They have a bar, a stage for singers and soft cozy beds! Too bad that the casino complex is simply infested with homicidal holograms and traps, not to mention that the locals decided to pay a visit too, which means more zombie-like Ghosts for me to kill. And then there’s that old bitter man who tells me to do ugly things, or else the collar on my neck explodes.

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The aforementioned trio is inside too and Elijah, the crazy renegade from Brotherhood of Steel, wants me to get rid of them. I don’t like villains telling me what to do (unless it’s Kay-saar), so I try to help my companions instead. First I find God/Dog in the kitchen: he is a supermutant suffering from a split personality, with his ego and id imprisoned within one body. Apparently, his animal side has had enough and wants to finish their lives by opening gas valves and sending us all to hell, but thanks to my Courier’s intellectual superiority he (it?) changes the plans. Eventually, the conversation gives me a chance to help God and Dog become one person again. Believe me, hearing the tone of their voice as they thanked me was one of the few moments in Fallout series when I felt genuinely touched.

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And then there’s Christine, another BoS member, who was sent to hunt Elijah down. She was captured by him in the Sierra Madre town and horribly mutilated, losing her voice and gaining many scars. She’s one of my favourite New Vegas characters so far, even if I spent most of our ‘conversation’ trying to guess her answers. Then I was genuinely happy when she finally recovered here ability to speech. Another moment of warmth in an otherwise cold game.

Eventually, thanks to Christine I’m able to reach the vault below the casino where our common nemesis is hiding. Unfortunately, to reach him I’ll have to beat a literal obstacle course with even more aggressive holograms and speakers making my head a-splode. As usual, I’m playing without manual saving and have to return to the checkpoint after each death, so this will take some time. Expect to see the steaming corpse of Elijah in the next Weekly post.

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Goals for this week: Publish the final post about The Final Station. With screens.

Weekly: Absolutely Barbaric!

Tasting three different flavours of post-apocalypse.

Maybe it’s 2017, but from time to time fond memories still bring me back to the Newgrounds. This time I’m revisiting Barbarium, a humorous take on heroic fantasy themes and post-apocalyptic setting. This 2D platformer begins with our hero, a half-naked muscular savage wielding a sword and a laser blaster, pushing through a scorched wasteland to reach remnants of a modern city. Then he wanders among ruins slaying mutants, releasing bikini-clad babes from shackles and gulping beer, guided by cryptic advice from archetypal crazy old Chinese savants. The visuals won’t earn it any prize, but the game sure is fun.

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Recently, I have begun my final approach to The Final Train. I’m doing it to refresh my memory because the game certainly deserves a longer Just Finished post on this blog. If you haven’t played it, the story may seem trivial and full of clichés (zombies, alien invasion, giant robot, etc.), but playing just for a few hours reveals a certain depth. This is my favourite approach to horror games: subtlety and quiet dread instead of gore and shock value.

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Even if I’m still stuck in Sierra Madre, it’s not so bad because I learned how to enjoy the game again. All thanks to the wonderful piece of technology called the Holorifle. Typically for me, I barely used and used the Police Pistol to decapitate the Ghosts, saving the energetic weapon for That One Special Moment (which usually never comes and you’re left with a shiny new weapon and lots of ammo), but I changed my approach. Dodging spears and gas bombs thrown by the revenants while blasting their heads with two shots each feels great. Another reminder to play in a more relaxed and, well, crazy way.

Goals: Nothing specific. Just drag through the mud.