Part 12: Krasnoznamenny NightsKrasnoznamenny Nights
Welcome back! Last time on ATOM RPG we aimlessly wandered around Krasnoznamenny until we were given a Pizzagate quest. Really! Today we're going to wander around and deal with random dumb shit.
This lady has a long dialog tree, which I'll subject you to because it has to do with the stuff in the game.
: I'm on a business trip here. Where are you from?
: So how did you get to Krasnoznamenny? Were you walking alone? Hard to believe...
: [Continue listening in silence]
There are a LOT of verbose NPCs in this town.
: [Fear becomes visible in the girl's eyes]
I've said a lot I don't have a lot of respect for this game's writing, because it's verbose and dull.
: War was a tragedy for normal people. But some people thrived when it happened. Those people were hooligans and drunks even before the bombs fell, and now there was nothing to stop them from continuing what they did. Me and my uncle, we lived near a closed-off city, that was built for strategic reasons before the war. After the government used the land like it wanted, the city was abandoned by the scientists and miners who lived there.
: Without law, work, or pay, the remaining residents of the city became true degenerates. And the children of those freaks were born wild and savage, more so than their parents. All the[sic] knew was smoke, drink, rob and kill.
: These kids grew up into savages who worshiped the Atom Bomb, and hated outsiders more than anything.
This is how we spend three entire text scenes describing a literal nightmare scenario with hordes of Terry Goodkind characters who worship nuclear bombs and make it no more interesting than me describing the sandwich I had for lunch.
"Turkey was on the bread, delicious and flavorful. He put mustard on it too!"
: [Continue listening in silence]
: Thanks for sharing. Care to change the subject?
: I have a few questions still...
: If you live here as long as the old timers, you'll know the truth about this place. Bye.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Oh, are you a settler? I'm Lera!
: I'm here on business. Where are you from?
: A secret city in the north. The government pulled out and everyone started acting like they'd read too much Thomas Hobbes, so we left. There's some kind of weird death gang I'm sure won't be mentioned later, but I escaped after robbers killed my uncle, and now I work here.
: How do you like it so far?
: It's pretty great, people keep whining about corruption but it's better than being killed and eaten by cannibals!
: Eh, fuck this place, bye.
Yea, I know, I subjected you to that less than stellar prose. I'm bringing it up because it ties into how I at first interpreted the game - specifically, the game's argument that unjust authority is better than anarchy. I'm not so sure I completely agree with that reading, but we'll get more into it as the game goes on.
This lady is a random cowboy who I'm not sure has anything useful you can do with her? She's wandering around with a six-shooter out and no one seems to care.
This man is guarding the Crime Shack. We'll be back later.
This, incidentally, is what happens if you use streetwise.
She exists, I guess?
This girl is Fidel's adoptive daughter/assistant barkeep and will be important for a future quest. Stay tuned!
Anyway, now that we have the mighty Cossack Sword, we can go to the totally not an ambush Beard sent us to.
Fidel warns us that it's an ambush. Do not go here too early, as the ambush is perfectly capable of shoving your shit in.
Now, this game doesn't have a cover system so you have either out of line of sight or shootable as your two statuses. This ambush funnels you right into the open road with these fucking railings that herd you into getting shot by these guys. They have decent guns and actual armor, so if you're running a melee build or a pistol build you get fucking torn apart here.
ATOM combat is incredibly binary. Either you get pasted into oblivion in one round, or you huff all the drugs to not die. Of course, the AI controlled companions () don't have the ability to inject themselves with 5 syringes a round, so it's entirely possible for them to be attrited down and force a reload.
Fidel kind of fucks us over here by actually trying to fight this dude. Remember, our auto crits only happen if we hit a target at full health, so if Fidel damages this guy we're much less likely to bring him down in a round. It's amazing how little synergy there is in this game, but you have to remember that mechanically almost every decision the developers made was bad.
That said, every point in melee ups our crit chance, so we're able to explode this fucker with triple digit damage from one swing of our mighty Cossack Sword.
Goddamn it Fidel. Party members in this game are kind of a useless liability, as they also divide the amount of XP you receive while requiring constantly micromanaging their shitty AI and hoping they don't do something stupid.
The best service they offer is ablative HP, until they inevitably die when they rush 5 dudes and you have to reload.
Loot and XP is good, at least! You can also see the insane variance of 115 to 191. Fortunately you can save scum from any turn in combat, so...
These guys have some seriously good loot.
They also commit the amateurish sin of carrying written instructions signed by the guy we're trying to implicate, and that's really how all investigation goes in ATOM. Remember how we were supposed to find Grishka, and instead of laying an elaborate trap or something we just asked random people if they liked bandits?
There's also random radiation on the map!
We cure the radiation poisoning by chugging alcohol, which leads to us contracting alcoholism.
This encounter happens. It's a bunch of idiots with shitty melee weapons.
They get fucking slaughtered! Next!
We return to Krasnoznamenny to turn in the quest for Abraham, and I show this off to confirm that alcoholism is just as annoying as addiction when it comes to your PC constantly whining. At least they didn't voice act this.
Lots of chatty NPCs with very little to say.
Lots of descriptive text with very little to say. I don't know why we waste words on explaining that the counter is flimsy or that the man with a bearded portrait has a beard.
: About that mission you had...
: If Satan has a library in Hell, he'd better hide the books!
: [The old man looks alarmed and leans toward you. Even his voice is trembling]
Odd word choice.
: That means that I've sent a whole bunch of book haters straight to hell.
: My darling! By destroying this hotbed of stupidity and thus protecting the book trading business in the region, you became a true champion of science!
: Gogol, Chekhov... Oh what the hell! Even that vulgar Frenchmen, Druon, applauds you from his grave! I am very grateful to you...! Here is the modest payment... Three hundred an fifty rubles, from all my heart...
I'm not gonna address the idea that the real Jewish mazel is murdering a bunch of idiots, so I'm gonna show off a reference instead.
: Keep the money. But I wouldn't say no to an interesting book...
: [The man smiles as you hand him back the collected works of V.I. Lenin]
: Doesn't look like much, does it? No one would ever read it out of their own free will! But it's indeed a very valuable book! Priceless even, especially for the few collectors left in this world. The vast knowledge contained in this book puts any electronic computing machine to shame! Even a University electronic computing machine.
: And on this pleasant note, I shall tell you goodbye. See ya.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Wow that man depicted as an old man with a beard is old and has a beard.
: What's up, friend?
: I killed all those motherfuckers!
: Hooray, person I feel slightly inappropriately close to! By murdering all those people you have done right by Jews* and smart people everywhere! Here, have some cash! Did I mention I'm Jewish?
: Do you have any cool books instead?
: Hooray! I was hoping to keep the money* but it didn't seem appropriate! Here, have this ancient book that has more knowledge, and maybe even magic!
: Time for me to go.
*Don't look at me like that! That's what he says! I didn't write this game!
Ok, after that borderline anti-Semitic conversation, what book did we get?
It's a Lovecraft reference. While not as well known as the Necronomicon which is contractually obligated to be referenced in every piece of nerd media ever, it's another one of Lovecraft's fictitious works which characters refer to as having unspeakable knowledge because to write otherwise would have required Lovecraft to overcome his neurosis and get out of the house.
Of course, it's all Lovecraft all the way down, with Randolph Carter (one of his self-inserts, the other notable one being Abdul Alhazred), Leng, Shub whose name is censored to not sound racist (extremely fair considering Lovecraft), and so on and so forth.
Hesperus Star? Like the wacky dream we had? Whatever, probably not important. It's Lovecraft all the way down!
Well that's not ominous at all. But it's a magic ritual, maybe we'll find something interesting. Onward!
Vasya asked us to get the bizarro translation of Lord of the Rings, and we did.
: Yup, here's your book.
: [The barkeep looks over his book, flips through the pages briefly, and finally places it behind the bar]
: Thank you, friend! Take this for your trouble. It's not much, but I believe it's enough. I'll finally have something to read when there are no customers around! Now wait just a moment...
: [Speechcraft] Come on, friend! I went to a lot of trouble to get you this book.
: Thanks a lot! See you!
Ask him about the book, and:
Clifford Simak is an American sci-fi author. I've read some of his stuff (City) but honestly don't remember much about it.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hey, here's your book.
: Sweet, now I'll have something to read when there are no customers in this 10 person town!
: More money please!
: How's the book?
: It's the weird Russian meme translation lol!
Anyway, this stone spiral is the lair of the HP Lovecraft reference.
Please ignore that I've stitched together footage of two different attempts on this thing. Meet Shogg! Shogg is a shoggoth, a creature from H.P. Lovecraft most famous from "At the Mountains of Madness", a story which is about how space aliens who resemble white people were cruelly wiped out by their shoggoth slaves who spouted Edgar Allen Poe references. Of course, a lot of Lovecraft's subtexts about things like concentration camps being cool and good (the Shadow over Innsmouth) or how the real victims are the slave masters (Mountains of Madness) get ignored by nerds for good reason, so Shogg here is just a mostly contextless miniboss.
Also, to do this, you have to be high on mushrooms.
He doesn't do a lot, honestly. He melee attacks people with his tongue, which fortunately for my sanity does not 100% lifedrain heal him.
He also heals 20 HP a round.
That's it, really! He teleports instead of moving, and while this seems like it could lead to an interesting fight the developers lacked the imagination to really do anything with it. He just awkwardly teleports into melee range and you have a padded sumo death fight.
Unfortunately, he kills Fidel in my first attempt because Fidel fucking sucks.
Attempt two. This is the same strategy as the Blind Death fight - reload until the variance on the crit is high enough, then spam shitty low damage attacks until Shog is finally dead.
Once we've done the initial burst of damage we don't really have much left in the tank.
Oh, there's also a small percentile chance that enemies can disarm you because this game's mechanical systems weren't janky and shitty enough. Whee!
It takes a LOT of reloads. I should mention that there's not a whole lot of strategic options available to the player. There are grenades, which can AoE stun but require investment in throwing to use. The timed explosives can be used as a primitive trap, but they count down in real time while the game is in turn based. Compared to something like Underrail, there's not a lot going on.
Of course, Underrail is the hell land of the stunlockers, so I can't really blame any readers for not agreeing with that as an example of good combat. I think it's mechanically deep but also a massive pain, personally.
Shogg gives a lot of XP.
Unfortunately, while you might be expecting some sweet loot like a raygun or a psychic power or something Lovecraft themed, we don't get shit.
I should point out there's a much easier way to do this fight. You can find a stone knife in the Roaring Forest cave that does a bajillion damage to poor Shogg and makes the fight less miserable. I did it the dumb way.
I try to get the good doctor to take a look at our fucked up protagonist but as we're hallucinating, we just get a lot of weird shit.
Even Fidel thinks we're nuts.
The developers are on record as saying the intent of the Shogg fight was to leave it unclear as to whether Shogg was real or a hallucination. It kind of works with the weird conspiracy paranoia angle everything in this game is going for.
I'll give the game credit - the hallucination stuff kind of works. It's kind of a letdown that they don't show actual hallucinations like demons and shit - something even Stygian, quite literally the worst game I've ever played, was able to do - but the dialog is unsettling enough that it conveys a sense of unease where all of the descriptive text doesn't.
They immediately shit the bed soon after. It's kind of amazing how willing they are to undercut the story they want to tell by urinating banal references all over it.
You can do unsettling, or you can go for the uncreative fourth wall breaking that's been done a million times before. I suppose a charitable interpretation would be that the mushrooms give the player character the clarity to see the world as it really is, but this is never referenced again. Hell, this isn't even a new or interesting idea, The Illuminatus! Trilogy did it in 1975.
The Illuminatus Trilogy posted:
Don't you see?" Joe cried. "Look at that thing out there. A gigantic sea monster. Worse yet, a gigantic sea monster that talks. It's an intentional high-camp ending. Or maybe intentional low camp, I don't know. But that's the whole answer. We're in a book!"
"It's the truth," Hagbard said calmly. "I can fool the rest of you, but I can't fool the reader. FUCKUP has been working all morning, correlating all the data on this caper and its historical roots, and I programmed him to put it in the form of a novel for easy reading. Considering what a lousy job he does at poetry, I suppose it will be a high-camp novel, intentionally or unintentionally."
(So, at last, I learn my identity, in parentheses, as George lost his in parentheses. It all balances.)
"That's one more deception," Joe said. "FUCKUP may be writing" all this, in one sense, but in a higher sense there's a being, or beings, outside our entire universe, writing this. Our universe is their book, whoever they are. They're the Secret Chiefs, and I can see why this is low camp, now. All their messages are symbolic and allegorical, because the truth can't be coded into simple declarative sentences, but their previous communications have been taken literally. This time they're using a symbolism so absurd that nobody can take it at face value. I, for one, certainly won't. That thing can't eat us because it doesn't existand because we don't exist either. They're nothing to worry about." He sat down calmly.
"He's flipped," Dillinger said, awed.
"Maybe he's the only sane one here," Hagbard said dubiously.
"If we all sit down and argue what's sane and insane and what's real and unreal," Dillinger replied testily, "that thing will eat us."
"Leviathan," Joe said loftily. "It's just an allegory on the State. Strictly from Hobbes."
(You with your egos can't imagine how much more pleasant it is to be without one. This may be camp, but it is also tragedy. Now that I've got the damned thing, consciousness, I'll never lose ituntil they take me apart or I invent some electronic equivalent of yoga.)
"It all fits," Joe said dreamily. "When I came up to the bridge, I couldn't remember how I got here or what I was talking to Hagbard about. That's because the authors just moved me here. Damn! None of us has any free will at all."
Like I said, this game can be counted on to, without fail, spy an interesting premise, dip one toe in, panic, and run screaming away to the comfort of uncreative, hackneyed references and shit that's been done before. I get it, nothing under the sun is new, but the presentation is just lacking!
We go back to this guy to give him Beard's secret message that doubles as a signed confession.
: Take a look at this, commander! [Show him the note]
: [You hand over the note you found on the corpse of one of Beard's thugs. The commander reads it carefully and grunts]
: Beard communicated with the slavers over the radio. He instructed them to ambush me because I know too much about their dealings.
: [Speechcraft] Stop and think, commander. I can see you're not so sure about Beard yourself. I bet you've had your doubts about him for quite a while actually.
: You're right. I've noticed that Beard often volunteers to check certain trucks, and when he does he won't allow anyone else near. He also seems quite well off for a guard. I need to talk to him.
: Good luck.
: I heard a rumor you're working for slavers.
: That's a libelous lie! It's that freak wandering around here all the time, he's trying to frame me!
: Hell knows. To be honest, I find myself distrusting you too.
: Green, come on. Don't joke like that.
: If it's a joke, why am I not laughing?
: So, Beard's been arrested.
: Don't get angry at me. I was trying to do what's right.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hey, check out this clumsy confession of Beard! It's a note that says, "I, Beard, gave away classified information and used it to deal in slaves!"
: Those are just words! They don't mean anything!
: Really, guy? Really?
: Ah, dammit! Beard, you're under arrest!
: Come on, maaaaan!
: Man, I can't believe Beard didn't even offer to cut me in! What an asshole! Now we're short staffed around here! Fuck!
Pizzagate all the way down!
We pass through Otradnoye to have this classy conversation with Katya and head on over to the Drunken Lair to finish off Varna Banana's quest.
: Varna Banana is a sad fruit... Nobody's her follower or friend... She wanted to save the world... To bring some joy to the kids... But all people want is to drink and drink.
: [Feeling your stare, the woman flinches, straightens her shoulders, and quickly regains her usual energy]
: Yes, I'm as squeaky clean as a polished pane of glass. Thank you, Ms. Varna!
: [Varna Banana smiles tiredly. Evidently, praise at the end of a long and thorny path through the Wasteland is pleasant. Not for Varna Banana Devi Christu, but for the weird woman hiding behind this fake mask]
: Am I wrong, or are you in a melancholy mood?
: Was there ever a place where you were taken more seriously?
: [The cult leader sighs disappointedly. She immediately seems less enthusiastic]
: Well, I did feel more welcome in some towns. In many places actually! Just not this time. Although the stars prophesied the opposite. I was hoping to deliver my good tidings to Wasteland dwellers drowning in sin, to teach them the dread of cleanliness, the nightmares of alcoholism... Ah, I had so many different sermons in store for them.
: [Devi Christu dusts her relatively white clothes with dignity]
: Never mind. It's just a temporary setback. They will believe! They all will! If not this time, then the next!
: That's it, we're done in this deplorable place. In fact, I've decided the Wasteland dwellers are not ready for my cosmic wisdom! Our tour is over. We're going back to Krasnoznamenny.
: The tour's over? Then I can report to the "mushroomer"...
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: No one likes me. Oh, hi! Did you like my words about drunkeness?
: Yes, I am totally sober!
: You seem down though.
: No one ever listens to me! This tour is over!
Anyway, we can go report to our weird Mushroom Cult contact about Varna Banana and her weirdness.
Let's talk to this woman first.
: Why are you watching that militiaman?
: [The woman sobs and hides her sad gaze from you]
: Start from the beginning.
: I was still very young at that time... Haven't even[sic] turned twenty. But already got involved with a cult who worshiped Vnuuk, the so called God of Death.
: [Continue listening in silence]
: Well, our life wasn't too bad even after our son was born. He was a great boy. We named him Belfegor, after a demonic baron. And then one of those lunatics came up with the idea that our baby was an incarnation of Vnuuk! And that our baby needs to be killed, so that the spirit of Vnuuk would grace all of us!
: At first, of course, I was against it, but Alisher really got into this idea and also got me on board. I was so into that idea, that I myself put my baby boy, my own son, on a stone shrine.... It was a miracle that saved us from committing a sin! Some crazy hobos started shooting! And we ran away...
: And when the shooting was over, Belfegor has vanished into thin air. Probably one of the hobos got him, thinking that the kid will be better of with him than with us. My God, what a fool I've been! And even after that day I kept believing in the powers of Vnuuk for a couple more years. But then I've lost my faith. Both in the sect teaching and in my sadistic husband. I ran away. And started looking for any information I could find about my missing son.
: I've found out that the old man who kidnapped my son is called Rodion. After a couple more years living like a hermit I found out that they are living at the old candle factory. I also found out that Rodion is dead and my son has gotten a job here in the city. He became a militiaman.
I'm gonna cut this short. We offer to talk to the militiaman, he confirms the wacky cult sacrifice story and says he never wants to see his mom again, we encourage the mom to go talk to him, and it ends like this:
At least we got XP for sitting through that.
Let's go talk to the Mushroom Cult guy. Impressing him should let us into the cult, if for some reason we wanted to do that.
: I followed Devi Christu and her disciples.
: [The man comes a bit closer to you]
: Not really. They are just common idiots like many others.
: [Igor rubs his chin in doubt, but the line that appeared on his forehead slowly smooths out and he smiles again]
: Do you think so? Well, perhaps I worried too much about them. I just thought it was better to be safe than sorry.
: [He jokingly wipes sweat off his forehead]
First aid kits are hard to come by and as far as I know blindness is permanent.
: [Speechcraft] I had to spend quite some time wandering around these places. And talking to people. Maybe you can spare some more?
: First aid kits are hard to come by. I'd better take them and the can.
: [Igor nods and quickly procures two first aid kids and a polished can of stewed meat from somewhere. You decide not to ask questions about where he's been hiding them and accept your reward]
I think at this point I owe you guys one of those paranoid string diagrams about which conspiracy is which.
: Ok, I have to go. Bye.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hey, I followed Devi Christu all over like you said.
: And? Does she have any useful super - er, does she know about ou - er, is she dangerous?
: Nah, they're morons.
: Uh...uh...whew! Ok! Close one! Do you want a piddly sum of money that's less than you'd make from selling loot from one random encounter, or a rare first aid kit?
: How about... two first aid kits?
Now, there is one last dumb coda to the Devi Christu misadventures I'm going to show off. This is the sex and violence run, after all.
You can find Devi Christu and the gang at the casino bar. Talking to the others just gets you told to go talk to Varna Banana herself, so...
: Hope I'm not interrupting. You look kind of sad.
: [The woman puts down her glass and slowly turns to you]
: Just wanted to pay the lovely lady a visit! [Smile]
: [The woman smiles uncertainly. Her look is one of incomprehension]
I would be shocked if the Streetwise option actually worked, but...
: [Intellect] I'm an intelligent person and it would be nice to talk to another intelligent person.
: Great idea. I'll see if I can talk the brothel bouncers into letting us in.
So, yes, banging the crazy cult leader is a quest now. Why not.
We have to pay a hundred rubles as I don't have the speechcraft to talk us down. I'm omitting a lot of here.
: I did convince him. Let's go.
That is the yep of a man who maybe made a bad decision.
: [Have a meaningful conversation about lofty matters]
Then we sit for another minute of zoomed out fucking.
69 experience points!
We go back to the bar to talk with her...
: I want to ask a couple of questions.
: What are your plans now?
: [Devi Christu's answer is simultaneously full of irritation and pride]
: What are the plans of a voice, if not the quest for an ear ready to receive its message. We will move forward, deeper into the Wastes. As far away from these animals as possible, my child! Away from these heathens!
: As an exotic, feminized Moses, I will find and free my people from the shackles of atheism! And I will guide them straight towards the Sun!
: All of this is quite fascinating, but now it is time for me to go.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: You seem sad. You know what makes me less sad? Sex! We should bang because I am s-m-r-t!
: Yes! Go get a room from that brothel across the street!
: AND THEN THEY FUCKED!
: Well, now what will you do?
: I'm going to leave the Wasteland and find new followers. Uh, some other time!
We'll stop the update here. Xander77 pointed out that Devi Christu is based on Marina Tsvigun, a real life cult leader who got arrested after her followers stormed a cathedral. In fact, if you google her, the picture looks exactly like Devi Christu over here. She's still alive, and is a real person whom these developers included in this game as a sex partner for the player, which gives off some real skeevy vibes! It's not even like the Terry Goodkind thing where the evil politicians based on Bill and Hillary Clinton have different names, they literally included a portrait of the real Tsvigun under the name "Varna Banana".
Then again, I made this LP and showed it off to you guys, so maybe I'm complicit, idk. It's kind of the peril of their approach of using all these celebrities for character portraits, you end up with all these facsimiles of real life people being put into defamatory situations. We already mentioned how the dumb bandit spy was based on a real actor and you get a quest to murder him, and I would not be surprised if Zhanna the horny nurse wasn't based on a real person either.
Well, moving on!
Decisions Lie Before Us:
Do we want to help a sewer mutant or continue the Pizzagate quest?