Weekly: Sunday Beast

Sometimes, Sunday playing means embracing childhood nostalgia. This time the wonderful WinUAE emulator took me back to one of my favourite platformers.

Shadow of the Beast III was the first part of the series I played in my childhood and the only one I keep returning to. This is one of the rare cases when going back to my early Amiga years doesn’t end as a disappointment. I think everyone who has ever had the pleasure to play a Psygnosis game will admit that they were experts in turning visuals and sfx into magic. Personally, I think that they reached the peak of Amiga’s possibilities, but maybe I’m just blinded with nostalgia. After all, the Weird Owl Team was far from mastery in terms of pure gameplay — there are two different puzzles in the game which have always stopped me from finishing it, simply because they’re ridiculously unfair. It doesn’t matter, because I’m still hopelessly in love with the third Beast and I’ll give it another chance. Maybe a miracle will happen and I’ll be able to add it to my Just Finished collection.

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Leaving the Sierra Madre casino after a prolonged stay made me realise that the strongest point of this game is it’s open world. There is nothing better than just travelling on foot between locations and admiring the cruel beauty of the Mojave desert. Especially when you can play hide-and-seek with a mutated lizard and dispose of it with one precise shot. Yeah, New Vegas would be a lot worse without old rugged bolt-action guns.

Weekly Quest: nothing big this time, just remember to write down something interesting for the next episode every day.

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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.

Fallout 3: Sun and Steel

Pitt Outskirts

Self-defence and Slavery

The Pitt may be the best Fallout 3 add-on released by Bethesda, and certainly it’s my favourite one. The Lone Wanderer meets a stranger posing as a leader of slave resistance in the ruined Pittsburgh, which has been turned into a colossal industrial combine by a certain raider leader.  On the moment he crosses the main gate, our character is immediately knocked down by the guards and eventually wakes up at the literal bottom of the social ladder — as a slave wearing tattered rags who is forced to labour in a steelyard, facing savage mutants, radiation and, let’s not underestimate it, horrible food, the Slop. Thanks to the player’s skill (and sometimes the liberal use of quickloading), he may slowly rise from an indentured worker to an arena fighter, and eventually has the chance to become one of the Evil Overlord’s henchmen. Of course, the resistance among the enslaved population is still active and requires his help in preparing a rebellion, but the line between good and bad, the downtrodden and the oppressors, is becoming blurry…

There are two main reasons to like this mod: the first one will be obvious to everone who looks at a few screenshots or finds a gameplay video on YouTube. To put it in a nutshell, the entire location looks and feels like a part of the Mad Max universe combined with a futuristic version of the Soviet Gulag. Personally, I think that the overall tone matches the postapocalyptic tone of the Fallout series better than any other location or quest in its third installment.

The other reason is that The Pitt forces even the advanced players to start from scratch again. When he was about to enter the compound, my Hagen was a proud owner of an Enclave Power Armour, armed with a blaster literally from the outer space, and boasting 30 levels of experience. At this point, it was very refreshing to have to survive with minimum equipment, searching the gloomy steelyard for metal ingots and repelling mutant attacks again and again. The first major quest may be the most interesting and satysfying in the entire DLC, but I will write more about it another day.

Fallout 3: Sun and Steel

Pitt Outskirts

The Pitt may be the best Fallout 3 add-on released by Bethesda, and certainly it’s my favourite one. The Lone Wanderer meets a stranger posing as a leader of slave resistance in the ruined Pittsburgh, which has been turned into a colossal industrial combine by a certain raider leader.  On the moment he crosses the main gate, our character is immediately knocked down by the guards and eventually wakes up at the literal bottom of the social ladder — as a slave wearing tattered rags who is forced to labour in a steelyard, facing savage mutants, radiation and, let’s not underestimate it, horrible food, the Slop. Thanks to the player’s skill (and sometimes the liberal use of quickloading), he may slowly rise from an indentured worker to an arena fighter, and eventually has the chance to become one of the Evil Overlord’s henchmen. Of course, the resistance among the enslaved population is still active and requires his help in preparing a rebellion, but the line between good and bad, the downtrodden and the oppressors, is becoming blurry…

There are two main reasons to like this mod: the first one will be obvious to everone who looks at a few screenshots or finds a gameplay video on YouTube. To put it in a nutshell, the entire location looks and feels like a part of the Mad Max universe combined with a futuristic version of the Soviet Gulag. Personally, I think that the overall tone matches the postapocalyptic tone of the Fallout series better than any other location or quest in its third installment.

The other reason is that The Pitt forces even the advanced players to start from scratch again. When he was about to enter the compound, my Hagen was a proud owner of an Enclave Power Armour, armed with a blaster literally from the outer space, and boasting 30 levels of experience. At this point, it was very refreshing to have to survive with minimum equipment, searching the gloomy steelyard for metal ingots and repelling mutant attacks again and again. The first major quest may be the most interesting and satysfying in the entire DLC, but I will write more about it another day.