Part 2: I hate bandits, all my homies hate bandits.I hate bandits, all my homies hate bandits.
Last time on ATOM RPG, the heroic Bear Bearovitch got cutscene defeated by bandits with brass knuckles despite owning an AK-47. Today we're going to pick up the pieces of our shattered dreams and maybe...I dunno, hope that strangers noticed a covert military expedition?
Meet Owie the Brick. Owie is our new best friend, and that's kind of our life in the early game. There's one guaranteed gun that we can get, but...well, you'll see. We can also build our own homebrew gun by scavenging the trash cans. Really.
Having grabbed Owie and our water canteen (which the bandits left us, because, um, why?) and being unable to pick up the tent because it's part of the map layer, we walk across the bridge. That green area is the map exit.
There's a little video cutscene when we approach Otradnoye, which is just a pan around the scenery. It's very nice, but couldn't you have put some effort into making character mechanics that weren't absolutely trash?
Open challenge for the LP: Figure out whose portraits were ripped off for a given character. I don't know them all, but I think BraveLittleToaster accurately called that PC portrait as Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird. We'll see a few more I can ID, mostly from Google.
: Hello to you too!
: The man coughs and spits out the grass, then lets his rifle hang by its handmade leather strap.
: I'm just passing through.
: Well, I wanted to ask a few questions.
Get used to this. The game is going to give you four questions to ask everyone, and boy, is it not going to shut up about it.
: Did a troop of military types pass through your village lately?
: Funny you asked. A whole squad passed through not long ago. Can't say for sure if they were military, but there were some serious looking dudes among them. Nice weapons, bad attitudes. They even had uniforms of a sort. These guys are no joke, I tell you.
: Can you point me in the direction of those ruins?
And just like that we have the location of the next big plot beat. Kind of. But 10 minutes in we already have the location of the bunker Morozov was ordered to command and control.
: Thanks. Can I ask another question?
ATOM is also super incompetent, once again. Don't worry, that's not the last we'll see of this.
: Is there any work available around here?
Don't worry, it's dumber than that.
: Maybe he got that million and ran off?
: Maybe. But where would he get it? There's something shady about the whole situation.
: [Yan shrugs his shoulders, and carefully scans the horizon before turning back to you.]
: Uh huh. Well, I better go.
: Hey, feel free to come back and visit! It gets pretty boring just standing around.
: If I have time, sure. Bye.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hey, comrade! I'm Yan. What brings you to our village?
: I'm just passing through, uh, yea! Have you seen any totally unrelated military units passing through the area?
: Actually, yes. A bunch of hardasses with bad attitudes, except the guy who told me all about their super secret operation to go to some ruins. Here, let me mark it on your map.
: Wow, damn, that's like half the cutscene intro mission done in five seconds. Any work?
: Well, our tech guy disappeared. He said he was going to be a millionaire, but it's actually super suspicious, you know?
: Cool, bye.
Atom NPCs, even the most minor ones, are chatty as hell.
This is.. let's check it out.
This old man refuses to talk to us right now. We'll be seeing him later (and I actually like him). We're actually here for something else.
This book. You want to read this book.
This gives us some hints about the old man, but also turns us from an AK-47 forgetting dumbass into a hardened streetwise criminal.
Unfortunately, poor Owie did not absorb the lesson, but we gained the ability "Streetwise" which lets us talk to criminals. There are not a lot of these in the game, and some of them are very dumb.
I go to pick up some water, and here we see one of the many mechanical failures of ATOM RPG.
See, we need to fix the generator. But skill checks aren't just a check against your skill level to do something, there's RNG involved. The game kindly lets you know - at least when lockpicking - whether your skill is high enough to succeed, so lockpicking becomes a dull affair of repeatedly clicking on the lock until the game deigns to roll high enough to open it.
Water in this game is kind of useless, so we wander over to the pub to see if they have something stronger, hopefully for free.
The tavern is almost the only feature this village has.
: What do you mean?
Look, man, we have a brick. What more do you want from me?
Seriously, that brick and canteen are our only possessions right now.
: Hmm... Can you tell me more?
: Are there any jobs you might need me for?
: You should talk to my sister about that. I'm a simple fellow myself. I can sell you beer or I can sell you spirits.
: That I'd do gladly! Need something done around the house? A lightbulb screwed in or a chair fixed for example? Just give me a call! But save the more serious stuff for Katya's ears. She's the proactive one.
: [He looks at a young lady nearby who seems to be lost in some calculations.]
: It's just that she's pretty busy right now. Tallying expenses, planning the budget, you know. And when Katya is busy, it's pretty hard to get her attention.
: Oh! But I just thought of something. You know what she loves? Making all sorts of potions, tinctures and spirits. Can't really understand why, but she's quite into all that chemistry stuff.
: Thanks. Can I ask some more questions first, though?
The reign of questions is eternal.
: Tell me about yourself.
: What's there to tell? Me and Katya, we're local and we don't go out too much, but that doesn't bother me. I like it here, working as a bartender. That's my job. Katya is using her accounting skills to keep the establishment from falling apart.
: I think you'd cope. Care to answer more questions?
There's a reason we're doing this, and it's not inane chatter.
: How's life out here?
: How's life? The people are reasonably civil. As for the living itself, we don't suffer from hunger or an excess of excitement. To some it sounds boring but I really like it. I actually only changed one thing about this place.
: Quite the innovator you are! Can I ask something else?
: Heard any good gossip?
Occasionally this will point you to something good, like experimental weaponry from the old world. No, we don't get lasers in this game, stop asking.
: I heard this funny rumor about the head of the village. It seems he wants to start growing grapes. Yup, anytime he's drunk he starts saying things along the lines of <<Gotta plant me some grapes around the village. Some good Italian grapes!>>
: That's pretty interesting! Tell me something else.
There we go.
: Okay, let's hear it.
: It's a simple matter, a small job really. What I need is for you to bring me this book I ordered, but it's all the way over in Krasnoznamenny. Abraham the bookseller has it at his tore. I can't go get it myself, because of my responsibilities at the bar.
Also the random encounter rate is stupid high and you'd be eaten by rats.
: It's a deal. If I ever get to Kraznoznamenny, I'll visit this Abraham character.
: [The man looks over your map and marks the city with a cross.]
: Wow, thank you so much! Here's the receipt for this book. Show it to Abraham and he'll give it to you.
I suppose he's not asking us to get Rothfuss books.
: Okay, bye.
Time to chat up the sister.
: Hello. Your brother sent me over. He says you might have a tincture for me to try out?
: [The girl stops her calculations and stares at you blankly. After a moment she blinks, smiles, and tucks her tiny pencil stub behind her right ear.]
: Sounds intriguing. Can't wait to try it out.
: [The girl nods and shows you to a dim and cold corner of the tavern. From behind the bar she produces a clay bottle, labeled 'XXX']
: [Boldly drink it down.]
: [You take a tiny sip. The drink has a strange, sour taste. You shrug and hand the bottle back to the girl. You don't feel intoxicated, or even nauseous. You feel... that you should take another sip. You take the bottle back and have another. What harm can a few more sips do?]
So this might seem like a random encounter, but it's actually part of the main plot.
For those of you who haven't played the game before, feel free to speculate on what's going on.
: [You have arrived at an unreal, primordial mushroom forest! Their huge trunks are thicker than the biggest oaks you've ever seen. Their tops spread like giant umbrellas, obscuring the sky. The general continues to lead you onward, weaving his way between the massive mushroom stems.]
This also magically clears our hunger, proving that the devs are capable of doing that, but will not extend us this privilege in later encounters.
: He's alive, Vasya! He's alive!
: [The girl is holding you up so you don't collapse immediately. Your stability is returning as the tincture leaves your system. The bartender, swearing to himself, wipes the sweat from his brow.]
: That was terrible! What sort of moonshine was that?!
: It's okay.
Bear is surprisingly forgiving of people poisoning him if they're attractive ladies, I guess.
: [The girl exhales and gives you a smile.]
: We took good care of your stuff while you... um... slept.
: [You check your belongings to discover that you have not been robbed. Miracles are real after all!]
: I still don't understand why it turned out so strong. I used my grandfather's recipe as recorded by my grandma...
Will we ever be free from the curse of pointless words added to dialog? I just finished Absalom, Absalom!, and while that had a sentence over 1000 words, it did not have this kind of excess shit.
: That's a good idea. Can I ask you some questions?
: What are you doing?
: Trying to make ends meet. My brother Vasya and I, we own this tavern. He tends the bar, I do all the math and pay our taxes to the village Head. Business isn't great though.
: Yeah, no getting around that stuff. Can I ask you some more questions?
: I'm looking for work. Can you point me towards any opportunities?
: Everyone's looking for work around here, so I'm afraid I myself can't help. But I could put in a word for you with Comrade Kovalev, our village head. He always has some work to be done.
Lady, we nearly died because of your weird moonshine. Recommending us to Kovalev is the least you can do.
: What do you need help with?
And this is where my lack of investment in Speechcraft bites me in the ass. You absolutely want to invest in that skill, it's really good.
: [Speechcraft] Look, I'm trustworthy. Maybe we could skip the mushroom part, and get straight to the cooperation?
: Fine, fine, I'll get you the mushrooms.
: Consider it done.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hey, traveler! Are you with all those military guys who passed through? They were pretty cool. Our village leader tried to get them to help him with something, but they just left. Want some booze?
: Do you have any sidequests or something I could do?
: Nah, but you should talk to my sister. I'm a hard working handyman, but she's the brains around here. I know! You could try her weird moonshine she made herself! Get free booze and chat with her, ey?
: Could we make boring small talk about the town?
: Sure! Also, I do have a quest - go to Krasnoznamenny and pick up a copy of Lord of the Rings from Abraham the bookseller.
: Cool. I'm gonna go hit up your sister now. Hey, lady, I was told that you have some kind of experimental space drink or something?
: Yeah, try it!
: You don't feel drunk, but weirdly compelled to take another sip. Then you black out! In your dream, you see a bunch of spooky foreshadowing! General Morozov shows up, speaking as with hundreds of voices! It's super serious, because there are no doofy references! He leads you by the hand, into a forest of mushrooms! Lots of mushrooms, that blacken the sky because they're so huge! Then, suddenly, you are General Morozov! WoOoOoOoO! You see the Mushroom God, and he demands your submission!
: What the fuck was that?
: Yay! He's alive! I'm really sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen! Here's your stuff, we didn't rob you. Anyway, you should talk to me to make sure you're OK.
: I have...questions. What are you doing?
: Accounting! Apparently I found a pre-war notebook, and nobody's making paper anymore or something, so who knows!
: Got any work for me?
: No, but I can give you a letter of recommendation to Comrade Kovalev.
: That would rule, please do that.
: Actually, I need you to go fetch me more mushrooms so I can turn them into whatever that was.
: Look, I'm trustworthy, can I just get the letter?
: Tee-hee! I can't risk our respected family name trying to repay a man I nearly killed with shitty booze, or keep straight whether I want you to do something for me. Go get the shrooms.
There's a recurring trend in this game of giving the player tedious fetch quests for the humor value of how tedious they are. The fact that this is extremely common humor in the gamer community seems to have flown over the developers' heads and neutralized their ability to create interesting game mechanics. There's also something Katya isn't telling us.
Namely, that the village is infested with whatever random bugs and rats the developers purchased from the Unity Asset Store.
Truly riveting stuff. Now, you might be thinking, "this is just the tutorial area. Surely they won't reuse the tiny rat throughout the game, even into endgame areas?"
Oh, how wrong you are.
These guys do garbage damage, but so does Owie the brick. I'm not gonna go too deep into detail on combat yet, it's the standard Fallout/XCom grind based deal where you spend AP and have various attack forms like Burst Fire or Aimed. I'm slowly realizing I have yet to LP a game on these forums that has combat I actually like, and ATOM is no exception.
Here we can see an 84% chance to hit the rat in the head with a brick. Riveting.
There are five toadstools scattered around the map. They are guarded by various mutated animals and insects.
This guy is chilling around the cookfire. He offers to let us gamble (we do not have the skills to win this) but also tells us we can cook any food we find. We still have no food, and before you ask, you need a special skill to harvest rat meat. Really.
There are also these mutant wasps. They look gnarly but are easily defeated by hitting them in the head with a brick.
There are also giant spiders called Shelobits. Theoretically all these guys can poison you, but poison is such a non-threat in this game that you won't take damage unless you drink five gallons of gasoline or something.
The threat is less that you get poisoned and take damage, and more that your character starts spouting off shit like this. The green crap is poisonous, so every 3 seconds we're going to be bombarded by Bear whining about how sick he feels.
The contents of the poison box are an antidote. It could be worse, this game absolutely adores the idea that empty containers should be scattered over the landscape so you can waste time dumpster diving.
These graves are robbable. We will not be doing that.
Owie the brick claims another victim.
We run into this fisherman. You really want to do his quest, trust me. The game bombards us with the standard RPG descriptive text, because I guess the authors and translators were paid by the word.
: Woah, calm down, man. I'm just passing through.
: I just wanted to ask a few questions.
: [The man has a short inner struggle before he finally puts down the knife, and squints his eyes at you.]
: How's the fishing? Caught something recently?
: Can I fish too?
: Well there's plenty of those around.
: [The fisherman gives you a crooked smile, and spits through his teeth.]
: I see. Better go.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Bitch! I'll cut you!
: I don't mean you any harm, I just want to waste your time with tedious small talk. How's the fishing?
: Can I fish too?
: Bring me some booze and I'll teach you how to make bait from dead mutant bugs.
: Sure, why not?
Hitting this mutant spider with a brick causes us to level up, and now we can discuss this game's absolutely dogshit perk system.
We train Bear in Melee Weapons and Stealth again. Next level I'll have to put some points in lockpicking and probably automatic weapons as backup.
The game has a perk tree. We get 2 ability points every level. So, how much do abilities cost?
Here's the turd in the sundae. Every time you take a perk the cost of new perks increases by one point. You will always get a fixed number of points - but the points per level depends on the difficulty selection. If we were playing on easy we'd get 3 per level, and on any higher difficulty it would only be one. In their infinite wisdom, the developers balanced the game around the player maxing out at least one of these perk trees. We'll cover perks in a bonus update.
Right now we're rushing this perk. Remember when we discussed the Unlucky Optimist distinction and pointed out that there were automatic criticals in the perk tree? This is one of two. The other is for unarmed combat which sucks and we don't want to use. Now, there are some serious limitations - this has to be the first hit when the target is at full health, so if you're traveling with a companion and the companion shoots an enemy before you can hit it, no autocrits for you. That said, this thing lets you one-shot the game's final boss, so we will be teaching it to Bear.
Unfortunately the first two perks leading up to First Blood are absolutely worthless. The perk we've taken gives us +10 to martial arts and +10 to melee weapons, which is kind of OK until you remember you can buy skill points with money. Master of Dodging is thoroughly useless as the things it works on are things you don't care about (animals), while serious opposition is going to be shooting you with AK-47s and other powerful guns.
This jackass just spouts Wacky Madness. We can't actually do anything interesting with him, but just you all wait.
Seriously, it's just fishmalk shit. At least it's not Stygian levels.
We return to the woman who didn't bother to warn us about the monsters and roofied us by accident as we've collected enough mushrooms from the forces of mutant bugs.
: Yes I do. Here you go.
: Good work! I'm proud of you. Let me see.
So, fun fact, Speechcraft is just as good as barter for getting bigger quest rewards out of people.
: [Speechcraft] Oh... Well, it's all right I suppose. But I'm just so tired! It was no small task to get these, you know. I went to hell and back for those fungi, almost died in fact, so what do you say, madam? Mayhap your knight deserves a real reward for his epic deeds.
Those wasps could have really hurt us. If we stood still for hours like a dumbass.
: I see. Anyway, how about talking to the Head?
: Sure thing. I'll write a note to Comrade Kovalev right now with my recommendation. Give it to him personally, since I'm sure he'll want to talk to you. He lives to the left of the bar entrance. Good luck!
: Thanks. I better go.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Got my shrooms?
: Here you go. Now, could I get some money or something? I had to engage in ferocious and unexpected combat against giant mutant insects with only my friend Owie the brick.
: Nice try. Here's your letter, take it to Comrade Kovalev yourself.
We will, but there are two men in the bar.
This guy's just a generic rando who makes boring small talk.
This guy's a party member, but we can't recruit him yet.
: Oh! Hey!
: [The big guy turns to you, squinting a little. Finally he waves at you]
: Yeah... What are you doing here, anyway?
: [Alexander sniffs, looks at the barkeep and the girl at one of the tables. He then whispers to you]
: So, is life in the Wastes treating you okay?
: What are you, my mother? Don't answer. I can see you're not her. Life is okay. Well, it's not like they say in my native Georgia, <<A sweet peach,>> but it's still okay.
He's pretty useless.
: Fine, fine... Let me ask something else.
: What do you think about this place?
There are a LOT of NPCs who want to bang Katya. They're not even limited to Otradnoye, you can talk to random men in the other towns and people are going to ramble on about how hot Katya is.
: That girl Katya could've been more into me... You know... I'm the only person here that's not a fucking mutant! A former marine! Great for breeding with. And yet... She doesn't look at me! Some gratitude for what I did for this country way back in Afghanistan.
You're lucky, dude, you'd just be given hallucinogenic mind control drugs and sent out to fight mutant bugs.
: I see. Can I ask something else?
: How's the investigation going?
: Well... I am calculating things... Yeah.. Looking for clues all around. Almost found our lost guys. When I save them, I'm getting out of this place! Cuz... Well.. Just look at that guy over there, chav!
Dude, the first guy in this town told us the location of Bunker 317. You suck!
: [Alexander cautiously eyes the barkeep and lowers his voice.]
I think this is supposed to be funny?
: I see. Can I ask something else?
: Heard anything interesting?
: I started tending to my muscles as of late. Doing some bodybuilding, ya know? I doubt a shrimp like you would find that interesting, though.
: Yeah... Why would you need to stay handsome? You're too much of a material man, you chav. You think strength is only needed to intimidate people and force locks. But to me...
: So, you didn't learn anything of importance?
: Well, how should I put this, chav..? Once I went into the woods. Maybe I drank some liquor before doing so. Maybe I didn't drink anything. But anyway... Suddenly, I heard a baby cry! <<Waaah! Waaah!>> you know? The real deal!
And with that we take our leave.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Bear Bearovitch! How's it going?
: What are you doing here?
: Looking for Morozov and the gang too. I'm super worried! I'm...uh...totally on the trail, yes!
: What do you think of the town?
: Man, that Katya chick is totally hot and should have sex with me, a big strong dude.
: Did you find out anything useful at all?
: Uh...how about an incoherent story about a baby, some false heroism, and rambling about muscles?
Now that we've helped Katya become the next Pablo Escobar we can actually talk to this guy.
: [It's possible his real age is closer to seventy. His strict face is graced with a brush-like mustache.]
Yes, we can see that on the portrait.
: I got this letter of recommendation at the tavern. I'm looking for work, you see.
: [Hand over the note]
: [Comrade Kovalev quickly scans your note. You notice that he holds it very close to his eyes. Seems like his vision isn't what it used to be.]
: So how about that job?
: Yes, the job...
: [The Head cracks his knuckles then looks you over, finally coming to a conclusion]
: Maybe I do have a job for you after all. You probably already heard about the bandit gang that terrorizes our village?
: Each month they come to collect supplies from us. If we don't surrender the goods, they rob and kill our people! We tried fighting them but to no avail. But now, looking at your honest face, I've come up with a little plan...
Go look at Bear's portrait again. "Honest" is not the first thing that comes to mind.
: [Wait silently]
: The thing is, I believe there is a snitch living in our village. A traitor. A rat. I am sure about this! Someone made a pact with the bandits, and keeps them informed of everything that goes on around here.
: But with that said, I can't imagine who the rat actually is. And the bastard himself knows me and the other villagers too well to get caught!
: When we hired mercenaries to protect us, the bandits somehow knew right away. And each time we make a little money on trade, they show up for their slice. Someone is ratting us out.
: An investigation, huh? Interesting...
: [Comrade Kovalev walks up to you]
: I agree. Where should I start?
: Where do you start? Well, I'll start by telling you who I do *not* suspect.
: For one, I completely trust my fighting men, Yan and Petya, on the south and north gates respectively. They would not work for me otherwise.
: Trader Yashin may be a suspect. He's new in town and has a shady past. But he does so much for the village...
: He built his shop with his own money. He pays his taxes and he suffers from the bandits like everyone else.
: Doctor Mikoyan and old Semyon I trust like I would trust myself. We built this village together, you know. They are good people, time-tested and loyal.
: Comrade Grankin, the village superintendent, on the other hand, is a cowardly, shifty person. But... No, he is too cowardly. He would never work with bandits.
: It's much more profitable for him to keep his post in the village. The bandits would probably shoot him for laughs if he tried to talk to them.
: Katya and Vasya Radchenko, the owners of the tavern, have no reason to be snitches. They would never do something like that!
: In that case, I better go look into it.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Yo, that dude is old.
: I have a letter of recommendation from the lady at the tavern, do you have any work?
: Hmm...you know those bandits? They have a snitch in this town! Somehow they know everything that goes on around here! I want you to find the snitch and tell me who he is! Are you in?
: Well, I don't think it's any of the named characters. Good luck!
So, we're going to need subtlety. I'm sure this bandit is a very skilled impersonator, so we'll need to lay a cunning trap of some kind.
Nah, just kidding! You run around town asking random people if they like bandits.
This man doesn't know anything about bandits, but he does need help with the corn. If we do...
This sounds pretty great! Unfortunately there is no ammo for the thing in the entire village. ATOM!
The superintendent here gives us 50 rubles for fixing the water tower by clicking it twice. Score!
Hmm, this man looks shady. Do you think he likes bandits?
: I'd like to get your opinion on the local bandits. Do they have a representative in the village?
: [The man's face stays the same, and he doesn't expose any emotions your words should have brought out. His manner stays the same, and his gaze is still pretty saucy.
: Thieves are thieves, what's there to say? They survive, that's it.
: [He spits to the side, and looks at you insolently. Right in the eye.]
: Well... What if I want to join them?
: Yeah... Look. What if the one who's working for the bandits just left the village quietly, making no trouble for you or anyone else? Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
This guy is the sneaky dude Kovalev couldn't catch?
: And when you decide you're done with all the bullshit - sleeping under rocks, stealing dog food, and all that stuff, there will be a position available for you in our...
: Let's make this perfectly clear. You're the village snitch, right?
: Stay here. I need to think for a while.
: Sure. Just don't leave yet.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Do you like...bandits?
: FUCK BANDITS!
: How about you, vaguely creepy looking guy?
: Maybe bandits are just...misunderstood. Why are you looking for bandits anyway?
: Maybe I want to join the bandits.
: Oh, yes, I'm actually a bandit spy, and here's the location of our secret bandit base. Maybe you could let me go? I'm getting worried about Kovalev hunting me.
: Uh...wait right here, I'll be back.
Are we letting this guy go, or are we going to turn him into Kovalev?