The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing, Xander77

Part 10: Midnight Therapy

Midnight Therapy

Welcome back! Last time on ATOM, we started a bunch of sidequests to grind for a secret item that would let us enter Kraznosnamenny the cool way instead of paying bribes. Today we're going to check out Sasha's stash at night.

This is what happens at night round the stash. Fortunately, no one hears Bear screaming about drugs.

: Lookie here... A witness!

: Umm... What are you doing, guys?

: What are you talking about? I'm one of you!

Remember when I said it was a good idea to study the crime slang book?

: [Streetwise] Honest gangster? More like honest longjohn! I can wipe you out here and now, and any big boss will acquit me!

It's better than "homie" I guess. It's completely different than the vaguely Ebonics stuff we were spewing in the factory. Consistency? What's that?

: [The huge man in a gas mask hesitates for a moment and then nods and waves his hand]

: Yup. Strange as it may sound, it was he who sent me here.

: Dickhead! Who does he think he is? A big boss? Pfft..!

: [The man adjusts his gasmask, annoyed, and puts his hands on his hips]

: He wants to make sure everything's alright. And you're not causing any unnecessary mayhem.

: What has he done to deserve the punishment?

: Okay, guy, it was fun and all, but the captive is mine now.

: What's the problem? I need to question him.

: [The huge guy turns to look at his accomplices, who shrug in reply. Eventually he turns back to you and waves his hand, angrily. When he speaks, you can clearly hear he's offended.]

: Ah, to hell with him. Take this piece of crap... let's go, men. I don't want to spend too much time in his company, don't want to look lame.

: Just go already.

Oh, goddamn, more text?

: No problem. [Untie the captive]

: [You fight with tight knots, setting the captive free at last. He raises to his feet, growling, and rubs his numb extremities. He casts a look of hatred to the concrete block, then turns to you and smiles, a bit guiltily]

Remember how we talked about Prokhanov and how everything in this game was a conspiracy?

: Yeah... well, how did you end up in this shit?

: I'll be completely honest with you, man. So I was driving my truck, not bothering anyone, - I'm a driver with a commercial company - at 100kph, or maybe even more! Opened the window to breathe some fresh air when I saw a fallen tree on the road. I thought to myself, "That's not good! I should take it away!" So I stopped and got out of the car...

: Then these bastards surrounded me! Pointed their guns at my face! And... what could I do? I didn't want to die! I said, "Guys, please don't hurt me. Take everything!" So they did. But instead of letting me go, they started beating me! This took a lot of time, them poking their boots in my kidneys and all... And then their chief, the one you saw, said, in his nasal voice, "Now let's drown him!" And burst into this crazy laughter!

: They tied me up, tied this block to my neck... I was certain I was done for! All hope was lost! And then you turned up, man... And well, you know the rest.

We immediately call him on his dumb shit.

: [Intellect] Who are you trying to trick here? I'm sorry, but your story sounds, to put it mildly, kinda over the top.

: [The man hesitates and looks around nervously. Then he lowers his arms, as if giving up, and heaves a deep sigh.]

: Right. Start from the beginning.

: Well... The thing is... These bastards... They are slave owners. And I was telling the truth. I'm a truck driver, I work for merchants. Deliver goods. So I have a big truck, I drive at a high speed... And they made me... Crap... I was trafficking slaves.

: And how did you find out? And why didn't you find out earlier?

: Why? You spend half a day driving. Lack of sleep, all that... Then you stop at some house in the designated place. They don't allow you do go out[sic], there's noise outside. Then they slap the door, which means you can go, to a certain destination. Don't worry about the police, they say, they're part of it...

This is true, as we will see.

: [Keep on listening in silence]

: [The man coughs muffedly[sic] and spits a clot of blood on the creaking boards of the pier]

: In short, I started regretting this whole shebang. You know, man, I couldn't sleep at night! When I came home, I couldn't look into my wife and kids' eyes...

: What do they need slaves for?

: I got it. Go on.

Fortunately for everyone involved there are no encounters with child soldiers.

: So... I was sick of it. And they have a man in the north, not far from here, in the Border Guard Fortress. He's a soldier, his surname is Beardov, and he has a beard, so... Beard is his nickhame. He always lets the trucks with the slaves pass.

: He seemed like a nice enough guy. I thought he was maybe forced into it too, and felt bad about it, just like me. So I stopped there once, not long ago, and said, "Listen, Beard, I can't do this anymore... Could you put in a word for me? Tell them I'm sick, or gone crazy, or something. So that they don't give me this job anymore!"

: He was like, "No problem, bro! Go on your way, this will be your last mission! I'll see to it myself." And he did, apparently. The rest, about the tree on the road and beating, is true. And you know what happened afterwards.

: You're expecting some kind of a feedback from me?

I go for the comedy option.

: This was a bad thing to do. But what's important is that you understand this and feel bad about it.

: If only you knew how much... if only... You knew...

: Tears won't help you, you bastard.

: [The man pays no attention to you. He continues shaking for a while, then slowly takes his hands off his face and looks at you, his face red, swollen, shiny with tears. This is the face of a man who lost a dozen years of his life in a single moment]

: Wait, where's this "Border Guard Fortress"?

: [You hand your map over to the man, who points at a sport a bit to the north from your current location]

: I'll do my best. You go now.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Oh man! A witness to our lynching!

: I'm a card-carrying criminal, punk! Who the fuck are you?

: Oh shit! He has a crime card? Did Beard send you?

: Hell yea he did. Give me that prisoner guy, I want to interrogate him.

: Awww, mannnnn! Fiiiine! Dickweed.

: Thank you for saving me! Those bandits tried to kill me and rob me for no reason!

: Bullshit.

: Ok, I'll tell you the truth! I drove a truck, yes, but it was a slave truck! I didn't figure it out till later, then I tried to quit so they tried to kill me! All cuz I told that Beard dude! I've been... a poopy morally bankrupt man!

: Well, yes. Where's this Beard fucker?

: There, up north. But be careful! He's a treacherous fucker!

I haven't talked about party members much. The first option is to check their health points and feed them drugs if they're low. The second sets the AI tactics for things like how much friendly fire to tolerate and whether to engage at all. I mentioned it briefly, but all party members are AI controlled by the same shitty AI we've been abusing to sword people and avoid damage. You can give them commands in combat, but it's frustrating, and it's one of the reasons the survival difficulty playthroughs are usually solo. The third option is your standard plot reminder (in this case, Fidel tells us to go to bunker 317), and we'll interrogate Fidel about his life story another day.

The stash isn't impressive, but we'll need the booze later until I sell it all this update

More bandits!

Party members will also spout off these terrible lines.

On the plus side, Fidel is semi-decent with pistols now.

: Stop right there.

: [He lowers his sunglasses and scans your person suspiciously]

: Of course! Will this do? [Hand him some wastepaper]

: [The soldier examines the heap of scrap paper with unexpected interest and then tucks it away in the bosom of his jacket. Then he puffs a cloud of smoke in your direction and shakes his head so the sunglasses drop back over his eyes]

: Oh, so you're the boss here?

: [The soldier adjusts his helmet - the word "Peace" is emblazoned across the front - and takes a drag on his cigarette]

We're going to get straight to the point, this LP is wordy enough as is and so many of the words are uninteresting.

: Did you know that the guy everyone calls Beard is covering up for slavers moving people through the fortress?

What I want to know is why? The terrain of this area is completely flat and the fortress has like five people. Why not go around?

Ok, I like that simile.

: A driver who used to work for the slavers told me about it.

: Then what kind of evidence do you need?

Yea, I wonder why that truck driver didn't go to the police?

: Hmm... Rest assured that I will find the evidence!

: [Leave]

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Do you have any papers?

: Uh... I have this old newspaper, um, "Elvis caught making out with aliens in pu-"

: Sweet! I can use it to roll weeeeed! As supreme commander of this fortress, come on in!

: If you're the commander, you should know that Beard guy is cooperating with slavers.

: I'm gonna need evidence. But not too much evidence, because I can have him hanged whenever. Why is everyone slandering each other?

So right now we only want to talk to Beard.

: Yep. Listen, are you called Beard by any chance?

: How did you guess?

: [The soldier smirks and strokes his thick beard as if milking an unnaturally large and hairy teat]

Subtlety? What's that?

: Are you by any chance the same Beard who works with human traffickers?

: [You've got this soldier's attention now. He takes a nervous step back]

: Cut the bull-loney. I know all about your shady dealings.

: [Very slowly clap your hands] Very convincing. My condolences about your brother and all that, but you know I'll get the truth out of you, don't you? One way or another.

: You mean you don't believe me? Fine, what if I prove I have nothing to do with it? Will that satisfy you? Will you stop spreading your filthy lies?

: Surprise me.

This is total horseshit.

: [Frown doubtfully] Your proposition almost sounds like someone trying to lure me into a completely obvious trap...

: Hey, hey! You're the one making the accusation. I have a right to make my case and this is the best way I know how. If you really care about the truth, follow through and get all the evidence before making a decision. Let me mark the place on your map for you.

: [Though you're not entirely convinced, you hand the map to Beard, who draws a tiny circle with a piece of slate pencil. He double-checks the landmarks relative to the location and returns the map]

: We'll see. Okay, I have to go now.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Beard, right? Are you a slaving fuck?

: Y- I mean, no! Slavery is VERY BAD! You should go to this obvious trap location to meet my abolitionist friends, who I am totally working with!

We're not going to Rest Stop 10. That is an extremely difficult fight where the enemy ambushes us with guns and a terrain advantage, and if we do it now Fidel is probably going to get killed. Incidentally, claiming to want to join the slavers gets you ambushed at Rest Stop 10 anyway.

We swing by Otradnoye to give this guy a beer. He gives us three rubles. The tavern sells beer for 14. I only do this because we got the beer off some bandits.

No, it's time to grind random ass encounters like this one! The "joke" is that the guy says he cut off his index finger, but taped it with scotch tape instead.

Scotch tape isn't even an item you can find normally! There's blue electrical tape, but that's about it!

Whatever. This isn't funny. Highlight reel!

Assholes in Kraznoz!

Sidequests we can't do for a while yet!

Weapon upgrade!

Buying this book for free pistol ranks from Sasha!

Decapitating bandits!

Traders getting some good shit (we can't buy). Always hit these guys up, they're cheaper than Kraznoz and might randomly generate good stuff you want.

More fucking bandits!

Thugs in a cave spawned on a random encounter map!

Unfounded allegations! It's a reference to another character with, uh, a unique questline

Unfunny jokes about an evil doctor who promises to respec people's stats!

Stupid meta RPG "humor!"

A fortune teller...

...who sells condoms????

More murder!

Blowing all of our money to get this Cossack Sword! Seriously, this thing is awesome and on my last playthrough I took it to endgame. There is one more melee weapon that nominally does more damage, but it requires fuel and more AP to use and this is sufficient to one-shot the final boss and pretty much everything in the game from this moment on.

Look at this shit! Anyway, we're going to end our montage here and demonstrate how to enter Kraznoznamenny...the COOL way.

You see, we're kind of bribing the guard. See how we have 90 cigarettes? We didn't suddenly get transported into Stygian to pay Marino the cornuto fan, we are going to bribe the guard with all 90 of these cigarettes.

The thing with cigarettes is that:
1) They deal 1 point of damage when used, and have a 30% chance to lower Endurance by 1, which lowers HP further.
2) Using them on NPCs is considered a helpful medicinal action, so we will never draw aggro. Fidel is just going to stand here and watch as we hand this guy cigarette after cigarette and he stuffs them all in his mouth faster than Homer Simpson shoveling donuts. Characters even have a special smoking animation, so I can only assume this was intended.

As you can see, it took us 60 cigarettes to get him down to the "almost dead" state. Yes, it is more expensive to do this than pay the 1000 ruble bribe, and all that grinding was to find either tobacco or cigarettes so we could stuff them in this guy's fat face.

The dumbass is still thanking us as the turbo lung cancer claims his life and he explodes into blood everywhere.

The cool thing about this is that not only did we eliminate this corrupt bribe-seeking fucker with absolutely no consequences whatsoever, but we get to grab his gear which is several tiers above what we're allowed to buy or encounter right now. Bear grabs the gun, that's an AK74U which we won't be seeing for a long time, and I put the armor on Fidel because his shitty dex means he won't lose action points. It's actually profitable!

Unfortunately the gate is too hard for us to open, but I saved all my skill points from leveling in a futile attempt to prevent this jerk from level scaling with us, so after a quick point allocation...

We're in! Praise Philip Morris, we're in! Let's check out some of the shops...

Really, ATOM? Really?

I guess we're going there.

: I was instructed to get a book from you. Here's a check.

: [The old man scans the book receipt that the barman in Otradnoye gave you and leans under his wobbly desk]

: Comrade Tolkien, this fine young man is here to get you!

: [The old man hands you the dusty book in a hardcover and exclaims.]

WHY IS THIS HERE! He's a bookseller, presumably he's giving us the book. We know he's talking, because the game shows us green text for dialog and his portrait to indicate the speaker. Stop it!

: Thank you, the bartender will be pleased.

It was discussed in the thread, but this is apparently a crazy translation that adds a sci-fi framing story?

: Well, ain't that interesting! Alright, I gotta go.

: [Having noticed that you are turning toward the exit, the old man clearly starts to panic]

: Why the hell not? I am all ears...

: You are a Godsend! It's as if YHWH himself[sic] made you from heaven's manna! Listen!

: A new sect of utter Luddites have emerged in the North... They call themselves The Illiterate. They only attack those who deliver my books to the other booksellers.

: Alright. I'll try to help you.

: Thank you! Don't say anything else! Or this old man might start crying as a kinder! Here, take this as bait...

See, this is...actually funny! We have to lure these crazy book hating bastards out with the complete works of Lenin. I think it actually works!

: Alright, I'll be on my way then.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Oy vey! It is a thing I say because I am Jewish! Also I'm super lonely and need someone to talk to!

: I've got a check for a copy of Lord of the Rings?

: Oh, the batshit translation! Sure! Happy to spread culture across the land!

: Alright, I'm off.

: Wait just a minute! I have a quest for you! These crazy book burners are running around attacking people who have books, and they're ruining my business. Here, take all these Lenin books, and then kill them all when they attack you!

: Sure, why not.

There is one last piece of business we have to take care of before I wrap up this update.

The game keeps track of a lot of oddball statistics. We have made 102 critical strikes, apparently.

Unfortunately, Bear is still a virgin. Let's fix that.

This hospital lady looks kind of hot, and also Bear is riding high on the confidence from smoking that guard jackass and getting away with it.

: Reading something interesting?

: [The woman sighs and puts her tattered book aside]

: No, I've just popped in.

Well, this is not going well for our horny hero!

: How is it possible? Such a beautiful lady, sitting alone, all bored...

: [The woman smiles, looks away, then lowers her eyes before raising them at you again]

: I just wanted to discuss your book. You see, I'm a big fan of pre-war literature...! [Wink]

: [The woman snorts and looks you in the eye]

: [Intellect] Maybe you could... tell me about your favorite authors...? And I'll tell you about mine...

This is a lot farther than I usually get, tbh.

To the Bioware Zone!

Fidel has just been standing here awkwardly this whole time while we've hit on this chick with the time tested method of "damn, I like books too, wanna... fuck?" and now offers some words of advice. He's no slouch with the ladies either!

: Yes, it could be interesting.

: There's a cool and quiet bathroom here. We could have a cigarette and literary chat there! Unless Zinaida Petrovna interferes, of course...

: Lead the way.

Fidel is content to awkwardly stand outside while we follow this lady into the bathroom, presumably to hear her thoughts on Moby Dick and the harpooning scene.

Yea, no, we're doin it.

: And I'm...

: Bear Bearovitch!

I see that Brothers Karamazov reference, game! I believe 2 is a reference to Isaac Babel, and not sure about the others.

If we had purchased a condom, we'd have the option [Condom] [Discuss nuances of literature]. As it stands, the developers apparently planned to implement STDs you'd have to cure but never got around to it. Really.

Then the camera zooms out because they sure as fuck didn't go to Bioware levels of horny and animate every model, and we sit here for a minute while alternating exclamations of vaguely sexual content occur under the roof. It's kind of funny for the first 10 seconds, and then it becomes tedious. But hey, our sexual partner count is raised to 1!

And...that's all we can do with Zhanna here. She'll answer some questions about her life, and she's happier to see us after we harpooned her white whale, but she doesn't become like a recurring love interest or anything. Still counts for the achievement, though!

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Hey lady. Shit, think of a good line, think of a good line... Reading anything interesting?

: Nope, just, uh, Telemachus Sneezed. Do you have an appointment?

: Uh, no, is a shame to leave a beautiful woman so bored at work. I'd love to discuss Telemachus Sneezed, you know, because I like books. Maybe we could...discuss literature some time?

: There's a bathroom over there. I'm Zhanna. Wanna be the Hank Rearden to my Dagny Taggart?

: AND THEN THEY FUCKED! Trust me, I know all about impressing women with books!

: God damn this is awkward. Do I just stand here? Really? Come on, man!

: Holy shit, that worked!

: I guess that counts as a romance arc! Back to work!

She's never mentioned again.

Anyway, moving on from Zhanna and our exciting adventures in uncreative innuendo, we've got a fair bit going on from the last update. Remember when I was discussing Prokhanov and how he was kind of doing the Russian conspiracy thing before Pizzagate and QAnon exploded in the states? Well, we have a massive explosion in ongoing conspiracies just from picking up sidequests! In no particular order, we have:

1) ATOM itself, the very first conspiracy of the game. So far it's just our player character, Alexander, and Fidel, and they're not very good at covering their tracks - but they operate undercover with agents like Fidel and small military strike forces like Morozov's expedition.
2) Dan's bandits and their plan to become official forces of Kraznoznamenny, which is really just part of Dan's plan to make himself king of Dantopia. There is a LOT of bullshit going on in Kraznoznamenny, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's not really clear how much this is actually a conspiracy, seeing as Kosoy shoots off his mouth about their plans to become a state, but we'll come back to this one.
3) The slavers who are working with elements in the Peregon military, namely Beard, to kidnap and sell people and who are running a fairly extensive operation. There's a lot more to this we haven't seen.
4) The incredibly suspicious "Mycelium" scientific organization, whose representative was interested in Bear and Fidel immediately and felt the need to tell us the appellation of "Mushroom Cult" is incorrect. Given how much mushroom related bullshit we've run into lately, there's probably more to those guys than that one weirdo Igor.
5) The criminals in Kraznoznamenny literally making crook cards to identify thieves, openly and without consequences.

Those are just the big ones. There are a lot of smaller ones that are implied, like whoever is watching Abraham's store and alerting the book burners, the tinfoil hat organization that's sending out legions of cultists to attack people, and a fair few we haven't met yet. It's all compounded by every law enforcement official and leader being corrupt (Beard, the Kraznoznamenny militia, Dan's bandits), incompetent (the Border Guard commander, Kovalev), all of the leaders being isolated from their people (Kovalev's isolated hut, Dan's isolated shack, the bunker the quest giver mentioned that all the Kraznoznamenny leaders hide out in), and the end result is something that looks a lot like the QAnon worldview...which is kind of correct for 90s Russia! I need to find my copy of Winter is Coming, but Kasparov notes that people in Russia stopped believing in democracy post USSR because they never truly got it. The elites looted everything. It's hard to dismiss this all as simply a conspiratorial mindset when so many of Putin's opponents get obviously assassinated, or when Putin panicks and throws Navalny in jail for revealing how much money Putin stole. (The developers will scrupulously remind interlocutors that ATOM RPG bears no resemblance to real events). It's not even like corruption in the Russian government is something new, the Tsars looted the country for decades.

Now, the game does have occasional moments that push against the idea that everything is driven by conspiracies, such as the Roaring Forest just being mutant bugs instead of ancient Soviet machinery or a legion of aliens or whatever, but by and large it's conspiracies all the way down.

Keep this in mind as we progress through the game.