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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 VegasBounties 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
One of the best things about F:NV is the variety of guns to buy and use on the skull of an unlucky Raider — especially with the Gun Runners’ Arsenal DLC. Now it seems that I’ve found a perfect weapon: the BATTLE RIFLE.
There are so many reasons to love it that it’s too hard to name them all, but let’s try to sum it up one sentence: it has a soul. The fact that The Courier holds a weapon designed about 300 years before he was born, a weapon which saw the beaches of Normandy and mountains of Korea, makes me think about a young warrior who suddenly finds a sword which once belonged to a mythical hero of distant past – Roland, Siegfried and Achilles. The historical background somehow reflects in its appearance, because even on my extremely low-end laptop the M1 looks much more real than other weapons found in the game, especially those fancy plasma and laser toys.
Beside all that, the Garand is an old friend. I’ve encountered it in some other games and always enjoyed firing it, mainly because it’s a semi-automatic rifle. Maybe it’s just me, but a weapon which doesn’t have an automatic mode turns a firefight into hunting. Everytime I manage to put an enemy to the ground with a well-placed shot, there’s a moment of elation – something I don’t feel with energy weapons or assault rifles. ‘Happiness is a warm gun’, indeed.
A truism: Fallout is a Computer Role-Playing Game. My favourite part of playing cRPGs is the possibility to invent a personality of my player character which goes beyond the stats, the so-called alignment or karma. Now, let’s try to answer the question…
Who exactly is the Courier?
Unlike most other protagonists in the Fallout series (with the notable exception of Fallout: Tactics), the Courier is not a newcomer entering the Postapocalyptia from a sheltered location like a vault or a remote tribal village. Of course, typically for a Bethesda game, he is mostly a blank-slate character, but this time we at least know his profession.
Since travelling alone through the war-torn Mojave Desert implies a certain approach towards life, I decided to give the Courier an amoral, survivalist or even Social Darwinist mindset. Maybe the word ‘amoral’ isn’t correct here and I should call it ‘an alternative morality’ instead, summed up by the motto The Strong Survive. The Courier should be equally able to perform acts of necessary cruelty or to take a more benevolent approach to other people, all the time avoiding the extremes: being a bloodthirsty psychopath on the one hand and a selfless altruist on the other.
Still, the Courier shouldn’t be entirely selfish and close-minded, but rather think about the bigger picture. After all, if the Mojave Desert becomes a well-governed and stable place, his chances of surviving and making a profit will increase. This should bring him close to the philosophy of the Caesar’s Legion, possibly even to join its ranks and help the tyrant overcome his foes — unless another faction convinces our antihero otherwise.
Making Life Harder
Just like when I was playing Skyrim and F3, I’ll set myself a few restrictions for the immersion’s sake:
Three Meals a Day – maybe it’s not necessary to eat so often even when playing in the Survival mode, but having regular meals creates a somewhat realistic rhythm of the day;
No Heavy Weapons – the Courier is allowed to lift a big gun dropped by the enemy and to use it within a very limited range only;
No Save-scumming – with the exception of companion’s death;
Autosaves Only – and suddenly those boring abandoned shacks in the middle of the desert become very important (I’ll make manual saves occasionally just in case of game-killing bugs).