Part 25: How the Emperor Ruined HalloweenHow the Emperor Ruined Halloween
Welcome back! Last time, Dan gave us the mission to arbitrarily walk around Peregon and Kraznosnamenny until we figured out who inspired the mutiny. Today we -
...what the hell is that? As I write this, it's Halloween 2021. Well, what's going down?
The game, of course, provides no hint as to what this Halloween event is or how to trigger it. I ask this guy but he just has a bunch of unfunny dialog about drugs.
So, guess what? I forgot to loot the bodies before I talked to Dan, and they disappeared! This means that Shishak's ring of keys - the one he was taunting us with when we were told to beat up the technician guy - disappeared forever, and they're the best lockpicks in the game with a +30 to the skill. I also saved over it foolishly, and I am absolutely not replaying more of this game than I have to.
Welcome to the Halloween encounter! As far as I can tell it's triggered once ever when you start running around the map.
Now, these guys didn't bother implementing pop ups or anything, so you have to look at the small console in the lower left hand corner to figure out that yes, something is going on, and that something is... a big fuckoff wave battle. Now, you might be thinking that there are like some skeletons or vampires or something spooky that's not normally in the game
This is ATOM RPG! It's Attack of the Lazy Unity Prefab Reuse! These are the same boring ass giant ants you can find in Otradnoye!
We, of course, have one useful character and three useless trashpiles I'm carting around for dialog purposes. I should really ditch the dog, as he takes a share of active XP and is completely fucking worthless.
This is the game's one and only good feature.
We might actually get through this incredibly long battle, who knows?
You do get a lot of experience, though.
These giant rats are fought later in the game and they're boring as shit.
If you actually try to fight this shit you're going to just run out of drugs and ammunition extremely quickly. People on the steam forums report that if you have rifle builds, you just lose because all the monsters spawn extremely quickly, but that a melee solo character can do it.
Fidel and Hexogen die. Fuck em. I'm gonna see how long we can last.
Time to show off my secret weapon! This is, so far, the only option I've found in this combat system that's not just running and autoattacking, where you drop the timed explosives and run away.
It used to explode in real time, but now I'm not actually sure if the seconds relate to rounds or not. Maybe I'll check the manual. Regardless, these HP sacs all explode, and it's time to avenge Fidel and Hexogen.
We also get a lot more XP now that the parasites are dead.
...you're fucking shitting me. Blind death was that miniboss we encountered back in the Roaring Forest, which had the nearly undocumented feature that its attack had 100% lifesteal - every time it damages us, it heals itself for that amount. It is here with a wave of dogs, bears, and gorillas (a random encounter we haven't seen yet).
There are three blind deaths, huh.
They stunlock you. You know what? Supposedly - per the Steam page - there are loot crates for doing this, but fuck me if I'm going to actually grind this garbage. I haven't shown off what happens if we try to get the dead weight out of the party, but you have to actually take them to specific places to get rid of them - Fidel goes back to his bar, the dog goes back to Red Fighter, etc. If I know the ATOM devs the loot is just ammunition and drugs or something where, once again, the joke is on the player because they have your money!
FUCK this shit, and FUCK this game!
Look, I like hard games and combat challenges when they're interesting. This is not interesting! You get one shot at this ever (and it goes away November 3rd), you are saddled with AI controlled idiot party members, it's still a gear check while all the gear is subject to leveled availability, and your character has absolutely no abilities that can actually help you deal with crowds or any of that crap. I suppose if we'd taken defensive perks and ground a bunch of levels to grab better armor...and then what? We're melee. There is precisely one weapon upgrade we can get - that's more of a sidegrade, really - and it's gated behind a quest. I have no fucking idea how you're supposed to deal with a horde of guys who stun on hit. You probably have to hit and run against the guys who don't lifesteal, or you're going to be going through tons of grenades and other items in a game that's pretty stingy with em. The problem is that this isn't exciting combat, an execution of this challenge is going to be hours and hours of tedium.
I suppose I could cheat and show it off, but why? Fuck this lazy trash.
: Communism! Lenin! Pp... Pppeeee... Perestroyka!
: [The man shuts his eyes. His cheeks go red out of embarrassment. He coughs a few times, and continues.]
: What the hell was that outburst anyway?!
: Ahh... Seems like you noticed my nervous ticks, comrades... PERESTOYKA. GULAG. KGB. Some time ago, I was harassed by a bunch of Leninists. They scared me so much, now every time I speak, I uncontrollably yell out words and phrases connected with the Soviet Union... Proletariat! Lenin! Stalin!
: A capitalist would see this as a simple case of Tourette's... But a true patriot knows that this is a blessing in disguise! Lenin! Red Army! Crippling toilet paper shortage!
You know, for a Russian game, this dialogue could easily have been written by an American Cold Warrior, and I say this as someone who is more sympathetic to the latter.
: [First Aid] Hey, let me try and fix your brains.
: Ah! What was that? I almost had a heart attack!
: [The man shakes his head and suddenly freezes. He looks around opening and closing his mouth... And finally his gaze becomes completely sane! He glares at you, surprised and glad]
I really do enjoy how this is written like stage directions. Now, stage directions are fine for what they are because if you give them to Michael B Jordan or somebody, you will get a memorable performance that conveys it visually. These cretins have the entire unity engine, but when it comes to actually conveying something they try to describe it in dull passive voice that usually assures us that we feel a certain way instead of actually trying to evoke said feeling. They can't do it, which should not be a surprise to anyone who has looked at ATOM's perk tree.
: It stopped! My compulsive screaming stopped! I... I don't want to yell Sovietisms anymore! My god... You're a true magician!
: Well, I used fear to fight fear.
: I can't say no to free stuff. Gimme.
: Yeah... Well, time for me to go.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Ha ha! Soviet! Gulag! Communism! Lenin! Gee, I'm sorry, I can only yell these wacky catchphrases after some Stalinists beat me up!
: I'm cured! Have 20 cigs!
We get 20 cigarettes, which will probably be used to kill some annoying NPC in the near future. Now, for the main event!
This is what we're doing, huh.
: ...You! Yeah, you! Get over here!
: [The man's voice, deep and scary but at the same time somewhat melodical, makes you freeze in your tracks. The man looks you over]
: Hold on. What's this all about?
So if the "guard", "heresy", and wacky chainsword didn't tip you off, this guy is a walking Warhammer 40k reference - specifically to the Imperial Guard and their commissars. I'll talk about it after we get through the conversation.
: [Listen quietly]
See, it's funny because he could be talking about his own stupid thing or the equivalent enemies he's going to bring up.
This is a reference to the God-Emperor of Mankind, who guides the 40k Imperium from his golden throne as a half-dead skeleton man with psychic powers.
: This is so interesting! Never heard that story!
: [All emotions extinguish on the man's face. You only see his inspiring faith and loyalty, that shine in his eyes]
Why does our character find this man inspiring or intimidating? By now we have killed tens of men personally when they had guns and we had a sword.
: Are you talking about the Russian revolutionary, scholar of Marxism and Soviet political leader?
: Smoke and mirrors! Illusions and pseudo-science!
This is the origin story for the 40k Emperor, who was an immortal telepath created when a bunch of shamans all did a magic suicide ritual to reincarnate as the most powerful guy ever.
: Fathers of Communism Marx and Engels, writer Chimishevsky, battle maidens Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg have always known, that capitalism will one day destroy humanity, making every man a slave to his unfair workspace. They knew, that money would push people, make them mutate into disgusting abominations, deaf to the desperate hungry cries of the starving masses. But they also knew they cannot stop this terrible future on their own...
It's a parallel between mutants and the chaos cultists of Warhammer 40k, where the Imperium justifies its existence by repressing Chaos and then dissatisfied Imperials join Chaos on the grounds that the big demon over there is much better than your shitty authoritarian boss.
: Oh Dios mio! Where do people like that one even come from?!
: Yeah... Well, continue, I suppose.
: Marx, Engels, Zetkin, and the rest saw only one way to stop capitalism. A truly noble way. So, they gathered in a snowy Russian town of Simbirsk and killed themselves in a huge pentagram. Only to be reborn six months later as one being, known as Vladimir Lenin!
: Thus, the mighty Lenin started leading the people to Heaven on Earth. He threw heretical religions of the past into trash, he started telling people to study more, he turned a terrible, war-filled century into the golden age of Communism.
This is the nominal backstory of the Emperor, except it's pretty heavily implied he rebuilt an authoritarian society out of the "Dark Age of Technology", which is implied to be kind of like the Star Trek Federation but with an AI war.
: Sounds quite logical.
You know, I am still astounded at just how little these two idiots contribute to dialog, while eating our XP.
: What are you telling me? I don't get it.
: [The man points to the statue of Lenin nearby]
: Lenin's statues are actually powerful conduits for Lenin's astral powers. He talks to his worshipers through them. Until these statues stand, the capitalist can nuke us all he likes. We'll survive.
: But now, one of the statues is in trouble. A horde of moral and possibly physical mutants, degenerates known as the scrap dealers wishes to melt it down and sell it to heartless moral merchants.
This goes on far too long.
: I don't know about that noble death part... But okay, I guess.
: Hand me your map.
: [The man opens the palm of his hand and await until you place your map in it. After that he draws a crude mark on the map and returns it]
: You will now go to this location. There, you will aid other Guards, who stand against the mutated horde, heretical enough to steal the statue of great Lenin!
See the joke is that it's just like 40k, suffer not the alien, etc. Do you get it? Do you get it?????
: All glory to the USSR my brother! Time for talking is now over. Only heroism and a glorious death await you now.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hey! I'm a 40k commissar! But I'm for Lenin instead! So, Lenin, he's like... the 40k Emperor....DUUUUUDE! Look, I have an endless stream of 40k references, but I need you to go command the Imp - er, the Red Guard! Suffer not the mutant! Heresy!
: You are very impressed by this lame 40k joke!
: Sure, why not.
Look, I get the Red Guard were a real thing in 1917, but the thing is that 40k's Imperial Guard and Commissars are partially a satire of Soviet political officers. Hell, the Imperium death cult is inspired by cults of personality around Lenin and Stalin, the commissars are an exaggerated take on Soviet political officers, and Valhallan and Vostroyan regiments are vaguely Russian influenced (an ice planet that resembles Siberia for the former and Russian hats for the latter). We're doing a parody of a parody of Soviet Communism. The only way this could be any worse is if actual Wesley Mouch showed up.
I say this as a man procrastinating building Eldar Aspect Warriors to write this update instead.
Oh well, let's get on with it.
: Yup. I'm here because of the statue of Lenin.
: Right, right, it must be you. So, let's not get things too complicated. The mutants have their camp over yonder. The statue is also kept there.
: What do you need from me? Tell me in a few words.
: Here I have three detachments. One is getting ready to storm the northern gates. The second one will blow up the wall and get inside. The third one will lock pick the back door to the scrapyard and attack the rear.
I don't even fucking know. The fourth one is "ha ha both the Soviet Army and Imperial Guard are reputed to use human wave tactics, which is funny because they're similar, see?" when the fictional Imperial Guard use those tactics as a parody of the Red Army! If they had backed this up with evidence that no, the parody is just as nutty as the real thing, that would be funny, but the entire joke is that it's just the Imperial Guard replaced with Red Guard, when the Imperial Guard is loosely based on the real Soviets!
: First, we'll send out the ones who will blow up the wall.
This is absolutely the wrong way to do it if you're playing along for some demented reason.
: The second detachment to move should be the one, who'll storm the front gate.
: The third detachment to move should be the one who will try getting in from the back.
: [The commander turns on his radio, and gives his men the command he then checks his gun and sighs, turning to the old scrapyard]
The translated punctuation is really bad throughout this quest so I'm leaving out the sic.
: Yeah, I'll go look how the battle is going.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Ha ha! See, it could be the Red Army or the Imperial Guard! Anyway, you're kind of like playing Imperial Guard, so you get to do a lame commander thing! Where are the men going? Attack!
Now, these men march off to the wall to set charges and blow it up to retake the Lenin statue. I didn't notice it at the time, but one of them is wearing a pumpkin head which I believe is part of the Halloween update.
I'm also convinced the Halloween update thoroughly bugged this quest, as we're about to see.
The men blow the wall off camera, which leads to this incredibly long and boring turn based battle with 3 groups of 40k knockoffs on one side and...
These mutants on the other. You might be asking whether or not the mutants have any weird powers like telekinesis or acid spit or something that could make this fight any more interesting, but when the devs try for interesting fights we get shit like attacked by the army of stunlock dogs that teleport in.
So we now have to run into the scrapyard as these idiots all take their turns. Thank Marx we turned the battle speed up.
We still have the dreaded Cossack steel that one shots people... if we stab them in the eyes AND we're not burdened by NPC idiots who "helpfully" weaken them for us.
We are saddled with three groups of idiots.
So, imagine just running around ganking mutants while these turns take forever.
ATOM damage values for NPC on NPC combat tend to be anemically low while using one of the maybe 3 viable PC builds kills people rather quickly.
Somehow, these two mutants manage to glitch into the same space, which makes them completely immune to our attacks as we have a 0 percent hit chance. I don't know if it's the Halloween update fucking everything up by turning people into pumpkinheads or if the quest is this shitty and buggy normally, and quite frankly either reflects the competence of the ATOM developers to my satisfaction.
Seriously, what the hell? We have a 0 percent chance of hitting them now. Yes, that is 2 Mutants, One Grid Square. They're awkwardly stuck there. Forever.
We wander off to another part of the battle which, despite being a massive battle to the death between mutants and the fanatical Red Guard is still just as boring and uninspired as the rest of this game.
0 HP of critical damage shouldn't happen! What the hell is happening in this game???? If you hit someone in the eyes that should bypass their armor, but who knows anymore.
After a LOT of whiffling - and the idiot squad never making it to combat because this HAS to be one of the least competent combat parties in any RPG I've ever played - I lose patience and set up a time bomb.
Unfortunately this turns the Astra Sovietarum hostile and I just say fuck it and reload. I didn't show off the 5 99% hit rate misses in a row, and normally I'd just chalk it up to a quirk of the RNG if the mutants hadn't bugged out to giving everyone a 0% chance to hit. I have no idea what the spaghetti code for this game is doing, but I have a greater appreciation for why everything in this game is done in the laziest way possible.
: What if I settle things peacefully?
Look, knowing this game, it's like a rusty dish sponge, 50 empty containers, and an empty beer bottle in a locker that requires you to lockpick it 50 times for it to open.
: Why don't you like mutants?
: Maybe if it wasn't for continual harassment, they'd turn out to be decent people.
: I should go and check the surroundings.
: Hold your horses. I'll be back.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Look, I had a terrible vision where the battle went south and the game glitched out. Can I just solve this with my 144 speechcraft or something?
: Yea, but...don't you want this game's exciting loot? We could all get out of here with empty bottles! Ammunition for weapons we can't use! Wires!
: Nah. Why do you hate mutants so bad anyway?
: Suffer not the mutant. Also, I will allude to a tragic backstory where mutants killed my family.
: I'm going now.
Oh, boy. This is some Lord of the Swastika level shit.
Actually, what this really reminds me of is H.P. Lovecraft.
The Call of Cthulhu posted:
Johansens voyage had begun just as he told it to the vice-admiralty. The Emma, in ballast, had cleared Auckland on February 20th, and had felt the full force of that earthquake-born tempest which must have heaved up from the sea-bottom the horrors that filled mens dreams. Once more under control, the ship was making good progress when held up by the Alert on March 22nd, and I could feel the mates regret as he wrote of her bombardment and sinking. Of the swarthy cult-fiends on the Alert he speaks with significant horror. There was some peculiarly abominable quality about them which made their destruction seem almost a duty, and Johansen shews ingenuous wonder at the charge of ruthlessness brought against his party during the proceedings of the court of inquiry.
You have to remember, this is the same story where Lovecraft points out that the cultist murderer is a "Negro sailor", so this "Everything is wrong about him" is tapping in to that same well of racist tropes. Which, if we're being historically accurate, is completely wrong to the point where you had W.E.B. Du Bois writing paeans to Stalin for being against racism and a lot of African Americans headed over to the Soviet Union to stop dealing with this kind of racist crap.
Of course, we have to recall that this game has never used stereotypes be -
: I heard that you have a pretty well kept statue of Lenin around here.
: [Lie][Speechcraft] It's a birthday gift for my brother... Can you help me out, please?
: I also had a brother, you know...
: [The man lifts up his shirt. You can now see a tiny, shriveled hand sticking out of his stomach]
So this is probably Doctor Mikoyan.
: Thanks. It's too heavy for me, but I'll send my pals to take it away. Don't hurt them, okay?
: It's a deal!
: I hope...
We get a fade here.
: It's all over... We did it... And the statue of the great General Secretary is saved. You did good.
: [The man smacks you on the shoulder]
: Thank you! Now, get back to the commissar, I am sure he will thank you for your work.
: [After saying that, the man leaves you alone with your thoughts]
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: This mutant is awful! I'm not racist, but like, everything is wrong with him!
: Hey, what do you want? This is mutant town!
: Hey, could I have the statue of Lenin?
: Uh...look, I have 144 speechcraft, so why don't I tell you a bullshit lie about my brother?
: Suddenly, this mutant is humanized!
: I also...had a brother! But, I killed him in the womb according to Doctor McCoy, but I will give you the statue, because I suddenly am characterized as human despite the third person narrator being really fucking racist!
: Great! The warhammer cosplayers will grab it, be cool, ok!
: Good job, now go to the commissar to get your quest reward!
Along the way I flee the "rats and wasps" encounter because it's boring as shit and I don't want to actually engage this game's "gameplay".
Don't know. I couldn't get more out of them.
: About that mission...
: I don't remember whether I told you or not, dear brother in arms, but...
: [Vladilenus nods at the statue of Lenin]
: We have eyes and ears everywhere, I knew, that you did your sworn duty way before you got here, and I have already sent people to claim the monument and bring it into a safe place. What you did is grander, than the achievements of even the best Red Guards... Why, I'd say your akin to the Angels of Hammer of Sickle, our Warrior Elite.
It's a Space Marine reference.
This is why we tolerated all that dumb shit.
Yeah I am convinced now that the writer was paid by the word.
: Now that's a gift!
TheGreatEvilKing Prays For Death posted:
: Man, do you get it's a 40k reference yet? What if I make a reference to Space Marines? No? Want my chainsword?
: No, but I will take the chainsword.
It's like a 40k purity seal! Do you get it?
Notably, remember how the narration explicitly described a sword handle while it's just a generic chainsaw icon? I remember...
Earlier, in this very update posted:
It's really just a testament to how fundamentally weak the writing is that this unfunny joke is drawn out for this long tired quest with a tedious fight. It's not funny, it's not the kind of reference that's strange enough to really trigger anything, and regurgitating the "suffer not the mutant" crap in the context of this game that has had a Pizzagate quest, Jewish stereotypes, and a party member who's based on a crazy anti-Semitic conspiracy author makes me wonder how seriously they're taking 40k's fascist parody.
This is not helped by the writing being unable to make up its mind whether the mutant at the gate is a totally vile specimen that needs to be exterminated and a vile fratricidal freak of nature, or just an innocent dude who happens to be really ugly and who misses his brother. It's a running theme in this game that the mutants are also all sexual deviants - everyone at the circus is down to make Horny Hussars if you can meet their nondemanding conditions, Toilet Kruul is a pervert who peaks up women's skirts from the sewers and kidnaps women, this guy is literally described as "[e]verything is wrong about him", and so on. As Xander77 pointed out to me, the Fallout games use mutants as a stand in for minorities, and it's telling that the mixed towns of humans, mutants, and ghouls tend to prosper as they can all use their abilities in concert to achieve greater things, much like people from different cultures can combine their outlooks and training to be more effective. ATOM presents the mutants as something to be despised and destroyed, where the narration is constantly describing them as repulsive and wrong.
Repulsive insinuations aside, the real problem comes when you compare this game to actually competent conspiracy fiction. I finished Gravity's Rainbow recently, and while it's a strange and hard to follow book it is essentially presenting the narrative ATOM seemingly wants to be - disjointed events are all part of a great conspiracy to gain Nazi Germany's rocket technology, and everything is insane yet humorous as the ruthless yet incompetent commanders of both the Soviets, Western Allies, and Nazi remnants all try to find rocket 0000, which is the answer to...something. I'll confess I didn't fully understand everything in the book, but it has a tone of being forced to laugh because everything is terrible. At one point the protagonist Slothrop has a aerial battle with a crazed American major by throwing pies at him, or the characters are trying to predict V-2 strikes with tarot cards, but the book is deadly serious that this is no game because ultimately the characters are all living under the threat of either rocket strikes or nuclear annihilation.
A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.
The characters all live in the shadow of death, that at any moment a rocket might swoop down and end it all, and various characters are convinced that there's something mystical about the rocket - paralleling the real conspiracies hatched after World War II to gain control of Berlin's rocketry. Everyone is out to get Slothrop because they think he knows about the mythical rocket zero, and all the seemingly unconnected characters he encounters are actually interlinked in this vast conspiracy. The book breaks down near the end with Slothrop's succumbing to the pressure and having weird fantasies of indestructible light bulbs being shoved up people's asses, but the general feeling of seemingly disconnected events being connected into a vast conspiracy while the main character becomes increasingly paranoid that everyone is out to get him is exactly what ATOM wants to do but fails horribly.
I keep harping on this game's writing, but the functional and overdone prose just does not work for the panicked conspiracy that ATOM would have us believe in. While many of the bizarre events we run into are connected, things like the robbers who attack us at the beginning are awkward one-offs who aren't linked to Kraznosnamenny or the Pizzagate films. The game wants to imply there's weird stuff going on with dimensional portals, magic mushrooms, and other mystical nonsense, but then completely backgrounds this in favor of weird celebrity cameos and hacky references which read less as an attempt to make things uncanny and more as unsuccessful attempts at humor. The best humor in conspiracy fiction is like North Korea. It's funny that everyone has to believe that Kim Jong Un invented the hamburger, but if you are there and don't believe that Kim Jong Un invented the hamburger you get tortured to death. It's funny that every home has to have a picture of Kim Jong Un and there are actual government employees who go around checking how clean Mr. Kim's picture is, but I recall a book by a defector whose name escapes me about how her father ran into a burning building to save the Kim picture, saved it, and was still considered insufficiently loyal and was sent to a prison camp. I cannot tell if the writers actually set out to do this, but because none of the fundamentals are there to actually convey a sense of paranoia - save the mind worm encounter on the road - we just end up with lame ineffectual parodies like this Warhammer thing or the sewer bartender asking us to please laugh at the lame references.
There's a vast conspiracy based out of Kraznosnamenny that seems to be behind a bunch of things in the game, but we have nothing they want and they can't offer us more than loot we can earn slaughtering random bandits. It is fucking astounding to me that the writers couldn't even take the route that the conspiracy thinks you know something and is targeting you. It would be so easy! Add something to the random bandit encounter at the beginning where they recognize you as a target, add some encounters where people are trying to hunt you down for whatever's in Bunker 317, make infiltrating the Mushroom Cult actually dangerous, have ruthless people like Dan curious about the map where Bunker 317 is located... these are not hard things to do! Instead, it's all just a theme park where the conspiracy is happening, but it's happening offscreen and we can just avoid interacting with them. You could do things like tie the Warhammer LARPers in with the conspiracy somehow, such that while they look silly at first glance - much like Kafka or Pynchon - it turns out that, no, they're deadly serious and either a real threat or your only ally against the Pizzagate faction and while they seem funny your character is at very real risk of death, much like Tyrone Slothrop.
Then again, these idiots included a perk - that requires two prerequisite perks - to skip the endless fucking "you have failed to open the lock" dialogue everytime you crowbar a locker full of worthless crap, so make of that what you will.