The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing, Xander77

Part 18: Deep Lore... by Ayn Rand

Deep Lore... by Ayn Rand

Last time on ATOM RPG, we discovered the terrible secret of Bunker 317 - it's boring and the game ensures that you can get no good loot and nothing of interest happens. Come to think of it, this is a running theme of the game, from the fuckawful crafting system to everyone ripping you off in Krasnoznamenny to... well, we'll get to Peregon proper, its an awful place. Anyway, we unlocked a secret room with a dead scientist and some kind of shattered test tank. Today we're going to investigate the base a bit more to figure out what's going on.

I don't really have a good shot of this.

There's also these supersoldiers(???) in tanks that, in true ATOM fashion, we cannot interact with because that would be moderately interesting. Remember, last update, the game rewarded the player for having 100 technology by faking them out they could repair a battle robot and then having the robot break down.

There are two diaries from two separate scientists, so I'm going to just link what I think are the important parts. If you REALLY want to read about two scientists playing chess I guess I can link all the images at the end, but this is 54 pages of imaginary diary entries and I don't really care about these guys' home lives.

Lazarenko is assigned here possibly as punishment duty, the lab is really expensive and new, yadda yadda yadda. Everything is top secret but it appears to be a bioweapons lab. He reads the papers, maybe has a crush on the project leader Nina Semyonovna, staff changes, and a sense that this is all part of some secret conspiracy bullshit:

We get a reference to the author of our as-of-yet unread journal, as well.

I have no idea why it's included, honestly. If I were giving the game credit I'd say its a riff on communism destroying wealth and being unable to recreate it, but we're gonna get to some more blatant stuff like that in a bit. There's another folk take and an ominous seeming note:

An inexplicable headache suffered by members of the facility...

--and a fight with Vavilov against both of their wills. We also get a little bit about the ATOM project, namely confirmation that it was set up by the Soviet government before the war.

The facility suffers a ton of headaches and nightmares as a result of...we don't know yet.

I'm mildly impressed by the ATOM team's ability to not shit this diary up with unnecessary descriptors.

The nightmares spread throughout the facility and then the war breaks out.

The scientists and soldiers proceed to wander off to go find survivors and help them. Keep this in mind, because its about to be relevant in a few minutes.

There's a note about codelocks, but in a rare display of mercy you can pick every codelock in the game.

We get XP for turning on the record players for some reason, but more importantly I can make our dog carry booze.

The game then remembers it is, in fact, a game, and foists its sad attempts at gameplay on us like an adulterous husband explaining that the other woman was performing a medical examination.

The other diary is Vavilov's, aka the other guy in the fight caused by mysterious forces.

He's got a wife and kids and writes admiringly of Lazarenko as a fellow chess fan.

There's also secret deliveries and KGB involvement, as well as Mikhail Gorbachev as secretary of state.

Mysterious deaths!

Clearly, whatever weird bioweapon is here is fucking with the scientists' minds. Haven't we seen this before?

Spooky dreams!

Ha ha! It's the thing Charleton Heston said in the Ape Movie! Ha ha! References!

The dead scientist in the lab is Nina, who apparently didn't destroy whatever was in the tank. Presumably, it killed her, although how and why we don't know yet.


We've got one more piece of the puzzle and then we can put some things together.

We have a prybar so we can get in.

There's a technology check you can get past if you read the unfunny computer magazine.

For some reason the developers wanted to convey a terminal interface through dialogue boxes. I'm going to speed this up, there are four messages from Nina Semyenovna, and they're going to shed a little more light on what's going on here. I'll post the notes.

Nina posted:

If you are reading this note, know one thing: I've despised informants since the year 1937. That's why I deleted all of my previous notes. The only reminder worth saving: the first door key : 4334. The second door key: 6571.

Nina posted:

I think we've made a terrible mistake. Not at all what we were striving to achieve. Many of my coworkers have begun to complain about headaches and nightmares. I have some serious suspicions, but... no, that's nonsense. It's too crazy to be true!

Nina posted:

Last night, he(she?.. it?) connected with me in a dream. I didn't understand a thing of what he said, but it was scary. It seems nobody except me and Malyshev surmise what is happening. About what we created without intending to... I have to conduct a few more experiments. I feel like I've been trapped in Mary Shelley's novel... The Modern Prometheus

This is of course Frankenstein. Thank you Nina, for setting up a mystery box by not describing what this thing is or how to fight it.

Nina posted:

The surface world has been devastated! And now I must destroy the thing that we have brought to life!

As Bear, his heroic dog, his weird alt-right meatshield, and Fidel the Homewrecker engage in another tedious struggle with a rat, let's recap what we've learned from all that nonsense.

-ATOM was set up before the war as a failsafe. We were told this in the briefing, but it's nice to have that confirmed by a source that isn't ATOM.
-Bunker 317 was working on a highly classified bioweapons project, which consisted of those men in the tank and whatever the hell was in the broken tank that was in the secret room
-Whatever was in the tank caused headaches and bad dreams throughout the facility, and even drove the two scientist friends to physically fight each other for reasons they did not understand. It was so bad that Nina Semyonovna gave her life to attempt to destroy it.
-A group of scientists and soldiers left the bunker together to try to find supplies and help the survivors recover from the nuclear war.

Anyway, we've seen these bad dreams before! The first was at the beginning of the game, where there were a bunch of demons and spooky stars the bad art made look like a Christmas display.

Earlier in the game posted:

Not to mention the hallucinatory shoggoth! We'll come back here in just a bit.

We're going back to Krasnoz. A bunch of caravans show up along the way, but also a group of junk scavengers!

For this rendezvous the developers load this massive trainyard map. Seriously, this thing is at least as large as Otradnoye the starter town, but most random encounters don't really load enough guys for it to be viable and it makes hunting down the three man caravan infuriating. Par for the course for this abortion I guess.

Ha ha.

Dog armor! With it, he stands a chance at surviving the massed gunfire we will run into at endgame. Without it, he just gets shot and dies without us being able to revive him or anything.

I won't lie, it's never not funny to see Packaday Extortionist's dead body every time we enter the city.

Anyway, we're here at the Mushroom Cu - er, Scientific Society's building.

: Tell me more about this society of yours.

: Tell me about the four principles.

: The Unity Principle.

: Tell me about the Modesty Principle.

The what now?

: Tell me about the Love Principle.

: Tell me about the Life Principle.


Wait, uh, but if only one other person dies, are we still good?

: Let me ask you something else instead.

: Tell me about the history of your organization.

: A long time ago, right after the war, a scientific group from far away established the 'Mycelium' in this very building...

Why do you have absolutely no respect for the player, ATOM Team?

Anyway, a group of scientists who went out to help survivors sounds... familiar...

Earlier in the update posted:

: What does your organization do here? In brief.

: How can I join your ranks?

: We welcome everyone, but the "Mycelium" is not only a research but also a charity organization. This means, above all we're interested in people who are eager to employ their skills to help others.

: I myself, for example, before joining the society... I'm ashamed to say it... But I was a gangster. But now that I've seen the light, I use my mastery of arms only to protect ordinary citizens!

I'd ask why he didn't join the militia, but then you have to remember that the Krasnoz militia is a bunch of corrupt thugs.

This is the part where I realize we had to actually ask Igor for the reference before we could get in. Dammit.

: Curious. Let me ask another question.

: That's too much information for today... I'd better go.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Hey, do you want to join the Mycelium society?

: Can you give a roaming Cossack swordmaster the lowdown?

: Do you want to hear about the four principles, or our history?

: Hit me with the principles.

: Well, we have the principle of Unity, which means that all people are part of a great organism and should never fight each other, the principle of Modesty - use your privilege to bring people up, the Love principle of helping everyone like Jesus would, oh and by the way we expect you to die for others at the drop of a hat.

: Huh. So can you tell me about the history of your organization?

: A bunch of pre-war scientists founded the society in this convenient Illuminati building! Now they're dead, and a new, younger generation fights for progress, science, and something called Development.

: Can I join?

: Nah, you need a reference.

Now we go back to Igor.

As always, the portrait and model show the - wait, that's not true, there are several mismatched portraits and models in Krasnoz. The older lady yelling about sexual predators a few updates back has a blond-haired model despite having black hair. This fucking game.

: Could you, please, tell me a bit about your cul... scientific society.

Igor gives the exact same responses as the guard to the history and the four principles.

: How can I join your ranks?

: [The man throws his hands up and leans forward]

: I'm so pleased to hear these words! Nothing could be simpler! You need to go to our headquarters in the center of Krasnoznamenny (it's next to the Chamber of Commerce). Tell the guard at the door that you were sent by the friend of the society, Igor.

For a kooky cult they sure seem to have enough proficiency with automatic weapons to massacre ATOM operatives.

: That's an interesting information. Perhaps, I'll pay you a visit.

: Hmm... Let's change the subject.

For some reason we get the ability to ask about Morozov here, and only here.

: Listen, does the name, General Morozov, ring a bell to you?

It occurs to me we don't even have Morozov's first name.

: [The man really thinks about it and finally shrugs in a guilty manner]

How many generals do you know?

: It's... personal. Never mind that.

I love the obviously idiotic answers of three and four.

: I'm not going to pry! Don't worry. But you know what...

: [His eyes lighten up a bit as if he's just arrived to some ingenious solution]

: They could help you in the "Mycelium", our organization! We've got the best minds of the Wasteland gathered there! A worthy company for anyone! You should visit our building in the center of Krasnoznamenny! Or maybe even join our ranks...

: [Fidel leans closer to you and whispers in your ear]

: To try and investigate the situation from the inside? I think it's a great plan.

Gee, thanks for not speaking up after we asked two different cultists about joining.

I'm pretty sure the devs/playtesters didn't consider the idea we'd ask about joining before this branch, so...

: Yes, it sounds good. Where can I find your building?

We get hit with the exact same spiel! Word for word! I'm cutting it.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Can I join your cult?

: Yes, you can join my cult! Go to the Illuminati Building!

: I feel like you are the only person I can ask... have you seen a general Morozov?

: I know lots of generals in this post-apocalyptic wasteland with a small population, but no Morovoz! However...

: I am going to use virtual reality prose because this game despises you, the player! Thanks for the money, fucko!

: Yes, you can join my cult! Go the the Illuminati Building!

: That's a great plan! We can get information from the inside! I've only realized it now that we've had it said to us three whole times!

: :sigh:

This unlocks the top dialog option, which has the guard unlock the door while telling us to find a lady named Ariadna.

They also actually play an animation of the guy opening the door, showing that they can animate NPCs, they just don't want to.

Huh, a security monitor in front of an elevator, I'm sure that's not important.

Ariadna is in this weird shrine thing with the Illuminati Mushroom Pyramid.

: Well, I don't even know if you can, Ariadna...

: [The woman cocks her head, unsure, and the smile on her face becomes a little puzzled]

: I know I can help you solve your problems, but first there's one question I'd like to ask you.

This is a quiz on the four principles. Get it wrong, and you have to come back a day later if I recall correctly.

: [The woman's face grows serious]

A serious portrait would be too hard, huh.

: Actually, yeah, now that I think about it.

Here we go.

: [The woman smiles broadly and nods]

We're also going through drug withdrawal right now, so Bear is in game whining that he feels bad because he hasn't gotten high. It's OK, as soon as we get into a serious fight we'll send him to the moon.

: Yes, everyone has a right to enjoy these privileges.

It's at this point that I realize the Mycelium Society is literally just Wesley Mouch and the gang of looters from Atlas Shrugged.

: Exactly! We are not all equal, but we should all strive for equality. May the strong help the poor!

This is Marx's maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" reprised, but presented in the way Ayn Rand characterizes the moochers. For those unfamiliar with Atlas Shrugged, the protagonists are a bunch of hard working business people who want to build a train but keep running into collectivist badmens who want to steal all their labor and redistribute it to lazy people. Remember, the qualities Ariadna here is talking about are not inherent! You can work out to get stronger, you can force yourself to confront things you are afraid of. This is not something where we're talking about redistributing inherited wealth you didn't earn, this is the Wesley Mouch band trying to make Bear do all the work for them, and boy will they ever.

This is rather odd for a game nominally about the decline of the Soviet Union, as the Soviet Union's brand of communism was the very thing Ayn Rand was criticizing, as she lived through the revolution. It's especially incoherent when we see how the developers treated the Soviet dissident parody intellectual, showing him as a lazy, incoherent loser who wanted government money to print anti-government propaganda.

Now, Ayn Rand literally has scenes where people beat up children because the moochers took their money to give them free shit, and is a special brand of crazy that's not as relevant to this game. I just find the similarity between our possible antagonists here and Wesley Mouch hilarious.

: I'm ready to embrace Mankind! All people are family to me.

: Yes, the principle of Unity is strong in you! I'm so happy to hear that!

I am amazed at the developers' restraint in not having us immediately ask her if she wants to be united with our mushroom.

: Frankly, I don't want to die, but for a good cause I would be willing.

: [The woman smiles sincerely]

: Exactly! Your own death should not scare you, for the death of one is no threat to the Whole. You'd better be afraid of others' deaths, for that is what destroys the Whole!

: I'm flattered. What now?

: I'm satisfied you understand the theory, but are you ready to prove yourself with deeds instead of words? Are you ready to make a donation of 30 rubles and three tins?

Atlas Shrugged posted:

"I can't answer the kinds of questions you're asking, my girl. The research laboratory? The engineers? Why should I remember anything about them? It was my father who was concerned for such matters, not I. My father was an evil man who cared for nothing but business. He had no time for love, only for money. My brothers and I lived on a different plane. Our aim was not to produce gadgets, but to do good. We brought a great, new plan into the factory. It was eleven years ago. We were defeated by the greed, the selfishness, and the base, animal nature of men. It was the eternal conflict between spirit and matter, between soul and body. They would not renounce their bodies, which was all we asked of them. I do not remember any of those men. I do not care to remember.... The engineers? I believe it was they who started the hemophilia... Yes, that is what I said: the hemophilia-the slow leak-the loss of blood that cannot be stopped. They ran first. They deserted us, one after another... Our plan? We put into practice that noble historical precept: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Everybody in the factory, from charwoman to president, received the same salary-the barest minimum necessary. Twice a year, we all gathered in a mass meeting, where every person presented his claim for what he believed to be his needs. We voted on every claim, and the will of the majority established every person's needs and every person's ability. Rewards were based on need, and the penalties on ability. Those whose needs were voted to be the greatest, received the most. Those who had not produced as much as the vote said they could, were fined and had to pay the fines by working overtime without pay. That was our plan. It was based on the principle of selflessness. It required men to be motivated, not by personal gain, but by love for their brothers."

Dagny heard a cold, implacable voice saying somewhere within her: Remember it-remember it well-it is not often that one can see pure evil-look at it-remember-and some day you'll find the words to name its essence...

: 30 rubles and three tins? No problem! There you are.

: [You hand the money and tins to the woman. She accepts them gratefully.]

: Thank you! It may be nothing to you, but many people have never seen anything of this kind.

: [Tears swell in her eyes]

This is a joke, right?

: Yeah, the Wasteland can be a living hell.

: True. And this is what we want to change. This is what we will change!

: [The woman smiles again and folds her arms]

: Now I have a real task for you. It's tricky, but it will enable you to prove your loyalty to our ideals and to humanity. Listen...

: You mean I should convince him to come back?

: Yes, that is exactly what I mean. Of course, if he's abandoned any idea of Unity and Development, you'll fail to convince him, but please try. I think you might succeed.

: He must be in the bar on the ship, at the counter probably. Call him Yegor.

: Hmmm... Well, I'll do my best.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Hi! I'm Ariadna Mouch! Do you need help with a problem?

: Who is John Galt?

: I can help you with that, but first... do you feel privileged as a strong and brave man?

: Uh, yeah, I better check my privilege.

: That's right! Do you think everyone should have these privileges?

: Uh...Karl Marx?

: Hooray! Now, do you think people should stop fighting and be a big, happily family like on Barney and Friends?

: That would be great.

: And one final question...are you willing to die for us?

: Eh, I could be convinced.

: Great! Are you willing to give charity to us moochers?

: Here you go.

: I have one more task for you. Can you convince Yegor at the bar to believe in our ideals again? He keeps saying "more competent people should be paid more" and "individuality is important" and we all know that's shit.

: Why not.

So, our new quest is to convince Yegor at the bar to rejoin the Mushroom Cult.

Devi Christu is still there to remind us that we are horny for cult ladies and the shame will never, ever wash away.

I'm gonna elide the thing with Yegor - there's an intellect and a personality check we take to literally spew nonsense at him until he gives in.

He's a little uneasy because a Captain of Science pointed out the Mushroom Cult was kinda bullshit, but we literally spew nonsense at him.

I'm not even kidding.

You know, given what we've seen of Krasnoz, this guy might have a point.

: I talked to Yegor...

: I don't know if you've spoken with him yet, but Yegor agreed to give the organisation[sic] a second chance. He took a lot of persuading, but what can you do?

: [The woman smiles happily and nods]

All of these answers make the player character look like an idiot, but the player character has been characterized as a complete idiot ever since that cutscene beating to open the game - which the developers explicitly patched because people used to be able to win.

: Glad to hear. What else do we have on the agenda? I'm dying to learn more of your secrets.

: [Ariadna runs a hand through her long hair and lapses into thought. Coming to a decision, she gives you a brilliant smile]

: The next task may be more difficult, but after your triumph with Yegor I have no doubt about your abilities.

: We have a problem. After the bombing, the government became preoccupied with public health. They decided to distribute water filters among the population. Did it get results? Look around and decide for yourself.

: We learned that one of the trucks that transported these filters was lost in our part of the Wasteland. On the way to the mainland, it was trapped in a mountain tunnel when the roof caved in.

Ariadna is undeterred by this crazy swordsman screaming about drug withdrawal! He has sworn to live his life for others, becoming a looter!

: Okay, I agree. Just tell me where to find this tunnel.

: [You hand your map to Ariadna and she puts a cross at the location. She smiles and returns your map.]

: Wow. How did it get such a name?

Hmm, could this be a trap? Nah, I'm sure the pretty lady isn't lying to us. Fun fact, you deal with Artyom instead of Ariadna if you're a lady per my reading of the Russian wiki via Google Translate.

: I hope you're right. Okay, bye.

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

:qq:: Man! We never achieve anything at the Mushroom Cult! I met my friend Helen at the caravan, and apparently she provided clean water to like, 40 people! All we do is whine about individuality and suck!

: For twelve years you've been asking "Who is John Galt?" This is John Galt speaking. I'm the man who's taken away your victims and thus destroyed your world. You've heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis and that Man's sins are destroying the world. But your chief virtue has been sacrifice, and you've demanded more sacrifices at every disaster. You've sacrificed justice to mercy and happiness to duty. So why should you be afraid of the world around you?

:qq:: What the fuck is that? I'm going back to the Cult.

: Hey, Ariadna, I got Yegor back. Got anything else for me?

: Hmm... I know! Go to the Tunnel of Death and get me a water filter!

: The Tunnel of WHAT?

: I'm sure it's not dangerous and they just named it to sound cool.

: Sure, why not.

On that note we can peace together some of what is supposed to be the plot of this game, aside from all the conspiracy nonsense. Well, the Mushroom Cult is a part of that as well, but we're not there yet. Something was developed before the war in Bunker 317 that messed with people's heads somehow, causing bad dreams and apparently controlling the scientists into fighting each other. Nina Semyenovna, the lead scientist on the project, was so concerned about her creation - calling it a Frankenstein's monster - that she went into the lab with a gun and a gas mask to try to kill it and lost her life in the process.

ATOM, which the pre-war diaries confirmed as a remnant of the Soviet government, sent an expeditionary force to Bunker 317, where the Mushroom Cult either ambushed or infiltrated the expedition. Judging from the bandits at the gate, the Cult probably infiltrated ATOM as neither the bandits or Ant Gavrilov mentioned a second team entering the compound.

The Mushroom Cult itself is also a remnant of the old Soviet government by way of the original soldiers and scientists stationed at Bunker 317, who made it out to Krasnoznamenny's Illuminati building to found a humanitarian and scientific society to help other members. However, the founders seem to be long gone and the organization is being run by the locals, per the door guard.

Earlier in the update posted:

The cultists have an unhealthy obsession with Unity and subsuming mankind's individuality, and sent an assault force to the Bunker to retrieve the mind bending device that Semyenovna and company were working on in secret. It's entirely possible that the original founders of Mycelium didn't know it was there, as the journal stresses that project information was extremely compartmentalized and Nina herself writes only two people connected the headaches and nightmares to whatever they were working with.

Unfortunately for Bear, we have seen the headaches and nightmares before. At the beginning of the game we get a Christmas tree demon nightmare with no significance - and the devs responded to our inquiry by telling us what the demons represented was a mystery! The second nightmare is a lot clearer - it comes after we drink Katya's terrible mushroom beer, which leads to a nightmare of bowing before the mushroom god, and... oh.

To sum up, the weird cult that's been corrupted from its original founding by prewar scientists is now looking for a magical mushroom with possible mind-altering abilities to do... who knows what, but I suspect one can speculate from Ariadna's constant babbling about "Unity" and "The Whole".

Decisions Lie Before Us!
What are we doing next? Are we going to the Tunnel of Death like chumps, rigging an election for Dan the Bandit Man, aimlessly wandering the unexplored space north of Red Fighter to see what we find, dealing with Pizzagate Peregon bosses, or doing crimes for a sewer mafia boss?

Choose wisely!