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.

 

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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.

Weekly: Men Among the Ruins

Stealing from the evil Old World and giving it to the poor. Then going for a slow walk through a burning forest.

After a prolonged break, I got back to New Vegas and found my Courier in the same place where I had left him: slowly, painfully crawling through the killing cloud in the abandoned Sierra Madre casino. The reason it’s going so slow is, as always, my obsession with collecting all achievements, which includes snooping through each pile of trash in search of a special deck of cards. Note to myself: next time I should play NV in a more relaxed way.

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The main antagonist, Father Elijah, hardly counts as a villain in my book. Maybe I don’t know his full story yet, but he got my attention with one speech in which, essentially, he pictured breaking into the casino as a revenge against the corrupt Old World which destroyed itself and condemned its descendants to this existence full of misery. Speaking more generally, his determination to reach the goal, the ruthlesness, the weariness behind each word he speaks make him a very relatable character.

All right, Father, at this point I’m ready to forgive you everything, the exploding collar on my neck, poisonous gas and traps everywhere, finally the not exactly charming companions I’m stuck with. Let’s get into that fortress and claim what is rightfully ours.

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Firewatch seems to be the perfect game for the Autumn season. After all, if I understand it correctly, one of its main themes is the passing of things. The great fire will devour the forest just like the coming winter will take all the light and warmth. The people our protagonist loves so much will leave him too, just like the long Summer evenings have abandoned me. At least, in the so-called real-life I can always hope for a new dawn and coming of spring, but after watching the ending I doubt there will be renewal and rebirth for the game’s anti-hero. Actually, I began to despise him for his weakness and passivity, but maybe I’ll write more about it next time.

What is really great about playing it for the second time, I can finally stop following the conversations and focus on the visual side. This time, the goal is to take some screenshots which capture the essence of the game and make a gallery post. We’ll see how it works out.

Monthly: Burnout

New month, new hope, new struggle. There’s a couple of games I’m very close to finishing but, as always when I reach the final stage, it’s hard to find motivation.

Sometimes I imagine playing a game is similar to sailing ocean. It’s all fun and danger on the way, but eventually you must reach you destination, right? That’s why this month my main goal will be to finish the three games I abandoned.

Space Marine – alright, maybe I finished it two times on highest difficulty, but it’s not enough until I get all single-player achievements. After all, it’s a WH40k game and I treat playing it (almost literally) religiously.

Volgarr the Viking – there’s just one boss between me and Valhalla, and I really want to see that rainbow bridge; besides, Heimdall is an old buddy of mine from the Amiga days.

Sunless Sea – 700 hours of playing seems to be more than enough, and I really want to focus on Sunless Skies.

But wait, just watching the end credits rolling on my screen is not enough. I’m a serious blogger, after all. Let’s mark the secondary target: publish at least two texts about the games I already finished. The said posts are still dwelling in form of sketches in my blog’s little pocket limbo and it’s time to give them salvation.

And then there’s the question of aesthetics. Let’s be honest, my little WordPress corner looks simply ugly. This time I should find a nice skin for it, hopefully matching the blog’s theme.

New Vegas: Via Crucis

Imagine a scene Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western: a man dragging a corpse along a road in the middle of a post-apocalyptic desert. A woman clad in power armour walks at his side, chattering about weather, food and the last Deathclaw they shot together. A sudden cut and you can see a sweating face of the man — who’s clearly in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Next scene: the couple and their mutilated baggage meet a military patrol under the wall of a civilian airport, which clearly had been turned into a military stronghold. The man gives the troopers a begging look while the carcass, wearing the same uniform as they are wearing, drags him down to the ground. The armed men pretend that he isn’t there. After a prolonged silence, he sighs and begins to walk away while his female companion stays back and enjoys a casual chat with the troopers.

The unfortunate couple (or trio, depending on how you look at it) is assaulted by a pack of ragged bandits. The man quickly drops his burden and reaches for his weapon. After a brief shoot out, everything is quiet. The tormented corpse has a few more bullet holes and after-laser burnings.

The funeral party finally reaches the gates of the encampment. He points at th corpse, but the chief guard simply shakes his head. The man freezes, then frowns and finally drops his hands.

A few quick shots showing the protagonists going back exactly the same way. Finally they arrive at the ruined outpost where they had picked up the corpse in the first place. Near to it, there’s a couple of soldiers waiting behind a barricade. They receive the corpse and put it behind the sandbags. Some words are exchanged. The stranger and his steel-wearing companion slowly walk towards the sunset. A final shot at his face, eyes closed, lip corners dropping. Then a big THE END and credits.

To sum it up, it was one of the strangest and most enjoyable quests I’ve ever finished in the Fallout series.

The real story is somewhat bland: a female NCR soldier asks you to find the remains of her husband who had been kidnapped by some raiders. The task is simple: find the cluster of ruined buildings they are hiding in, shoot or stab them, disarm some mines, get the trooper’s remnants. The interesting part begins now, because it’s an unmarked quest so you don’t get a marker on your map and must know your destination. It gets even better when you realise that you can’t just pick up the corpse and add it to your equipment. Instead, you are forced to drag it behind you using the Hold button. No fast travel allowed, of course.

Maybe this will sound ridiculous, but after a moment of frustration I began to have fun with this bugged quest. This was the moment I really realised that New Vegas is a masterpiece.

Why?

It’s been more than three years. Maybe it’s time to answer the simple question: Why am I doing this?

This blog. What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing.

Or maybe it’s a bit more. The origins were humble: I created it to note down every game I managed to complete. And then I went down the slippery slope, because I thought that I may be a good idea to add a few screenshots which I found particularly memorable. Or beautiful, because such things are possible in the video games world.

Then I decided that images may be not enough. Why not turn it into my personal sketchbook where I would write down my thoughts and impressions? Capture the precious moments when video games seem to be more than just a waste of time.

What can you expect?

A very personal take on the games I play. I don’t write reviews, but I rather like to write down what I think about the game I’m currently playing.

Genres? Most likely, you will find platformers, especially the cinematic subgenre, and cRPGs here. The former because as an abandoned child of the Amiga age, I feel very comfortable in 2D surroundings. The latter because as a hopeless fan of fantasy and SF books (although a very picky one) I like to wear somebody else’s skin. Usually, I avoid multiplayer shooters and big strategy games, but if the WW2-era Italian Army appears there, I’ll probably play it and write about how I’m delighted was.

Indie and experimental games are another thing in my book. From time to time I will an intricate and intriguing little thing on that wonderful site or even the good ole Newgrounds, play for a while, and then share my experience.

Generally, there’s no single factor deciding which game I choose. It may be a well-recognised classic or an obscure and perhaps mediocre title which captures my attention. Maybe it’s the soundtrack, or the particular setting, or the visual style, or maybe the game is just so silly that I’m tempted to try it. Be prepared for surprises.

Needless to say, I love interaction, even if this blog is supposed to be written mainly for the purpose of introspection. Comments? Criticism? Jokes? Mockery even? All are welcome. And if you just happen to have your own vidya blog, chances are that you’ll win over a faithful follower.