Part 27: I Never Knew Time Travel Could Be This BoringI Never Knew Time Travel Could Be This Boring
Last time on ATOM RPG, we got asked to perform a mutant genocide by the Secretary General of Krasnoznamenny, and then we confronted him about secretly being a mutant and used magical Speechcraft therapy to fix his life. He then decided never to talk to us again, because this game is shit.
Unfortunately this was all recorded before the thread's requests to fix the images came through, so I will have them more polished by next update.
: Xang-Xang, bioform! My designation is Xander P-603! Or, how people in your time like to say "Howdy comrade communist, my name is Xander".
: [Surprisingly enough, the usually xenophobic old man Hexogen repeats the stranger's gesture]
: Xang-Xang, dear guest from the future!
: Oh my... But how did you know I come from the future...?
: Oh young man... Or should I say "not even born man"? You are talking to the Father of Soviet science fiction. A co-author of the erotic epic "Aelita" and the fascist pamphlet known now as "Buratino the wooden child"! Look at you! That cheap looking silver unitard, that moronic wattle upon your head, those tiny pig eyes... You are obviously a time traveler.
Huh, so Hexogen just straight up admits he writes fascist literature. Okay.
Wait, Buratino is just Russian Pinocchio by Tolstoy. I don't even fucking know. Aelita is a Soviet sci-fi movie. It's a Hexogen is so far up his own ass joke, which...sure.
: Nice to meet you, Xander-P-603. They call me Bear Bearovitch.
It's really kind of amazing how you can predict all of these jokes.
: [The man smiles and jumps in the air out of joy]
This was too hard to animate but completely in line with the dull realism favored by nerd literature.
: That means my calculations were correct! Unimportant historical figure Bear Bearovich! This temporal projection asks you for help in a moment of need. The recent future where I am from is in danger, and only you can help history go on a more noble path!
I will admit the second option of "what stupid fuckery is this" is entirely in line with the ATOM protagonist being characterized as greedy, lazy, and selfish.
: Hold up. Are you seriously telling me you're from the future? That makes me want to ask some follow-up questions...
: [The man slumps his shoulders and bends over. His wattle smacks him on the nose]
...didn't you already make this joke?
These developers sure are original and hard working posted:
This is the same joke I made back in the Ash of Gods LP that I put on the internet for free, and these jackasses wanted money for it. I'm not saying that they ripped me off or anything, just that it's a really obvious and easy joke that is not as clever as these guys think it is.
: If you only had one chance of using this machine of yours, why didn't you travel further into the past to stop the Last War?
Guess the reaction. Go on, guess.
: [After listening to your question, Xander goes pale, and covers his face with his hands. He keeps silence for over a minute. After that, he speaks, voice trembling]
: I see the future is filled with idiots, just like the present. Next question...
I love how both the answers are to insult his intelligence, because the ATOM protagonist is - once again - a massive asshole.
: If you're for real, tell me how your time machine works!
: It's very simple. The real me is standing in my secret lab. Why else would I be dressed so casually, as if I'm planning to spend my day riding a myrmisaurus or playing 3D chess?
: I wanted to catch you lying, but got techno babble instead... Next question!
: Why did you call me an unimportant historical figure?
: Every bit of information known about you is warped by the so-called Dugger-Faults phenomena. Let me explain it this way: some historical documents describe you as a great hero - a picker of corn, a helper of writers, a killer of bandits, a revolutionary of Peregon, and a beacon of democracy for Otradnoye.
These are all quests in the game.
There is, in fact, a route to win the game if you slaughter everyone and an official way to get on it with an exclusive party member. I am saving the vote for that until after we've finished as many sidequests as I can tolerate.
: If there's a whole paradox linked with my name, how come I'm an unimportant historical figure?!
: I don't get it. Okay, next question.
: Why are you making this stuff up? Time travel isn't even a thing. You're a grown man. Just stop.
We...we just made this joke. Hexogen just referenced all of these things as evidence that Xander P-603 was from the future. Could you not have changed the dialog...fuck it.
I am reminded of Encased where when you ask NPCs to repeat what they told you they ask you if you were listening, mostly because of the contrast between that game and this one. I need to go finish it sometime.
: Good point. Another question...
: My head hurts... Let's change the subject...
: What sort of help were you looking for?
: [Xander P-603 opens his hand, and draws an invisible circle with his fingers. This gesture probably expresses joy, since he looks pretty happy after completing it]
: In the name of holy Bolt-Boy, the first robotic Saint, I am so glad you decided to hear me out! Now, person from the past, know this..! In less than half a century from now, a small part of humanity will rise from the atomic ashes. It will then create a technically advanced, futuristic utopia far away from here, in the mountains.
: That won't mean a happy ending for everyone, though. Some people still struggle in the wild Eastern Wastes. We also share a border with a country who's [sic] people became a single hive-mind organism... And there's this terrible menace I'd rather not talk about today.. And also...
Huh, that country they share a border with is more foreshadowing than I remember being in this game.
: [Xander sobs]
: ...Also, a terrible, bloody dictator and tyrant conquered my amazing country right after it became a violence-free utopia. The name of this disgusting, sadistic, all-powerful God-King is Ilya Kuznetsov, the ruler of Heaven, Earth and the Nine Hells. He and his gang of ruffians and brutes quickly overtook our glorious country. They made us use serial numbers instead of last names, as if we're cattle...
: He also changed our first names into silly, made up abominations such as Xander or Beetrootron. He made the population walk on their knees begging for food. Also, to fight our urge to resist, he created a law of Obligatory Medicinal Crime-Preventative Beatings!
: Every day and every night, a special social worker has to slap every citizen of our country in the face at least once, for no reason! And... And sometimes, the social worker hits you with the backside of the hand. And some of them are married, so they have metal rings on their fingers, to slap you even harder! And some even have rings on all of their fingers, since we're a polyamorous society...
Holy shit, are you still fucking talking?
: God-King Ilya Kuznetsov? Saint robots? Polyamory? Do I look like a cretin?
Fucking yes. Remember General Morozov? How we're ostensibly supposed to find him? If this guy is from the future and has studied our life we could do his dumb shit and end our quest in about five minutes.
: [The man slaps his forehead]
: Do you not see me?! Do you not see I am wearing a silver foil unitard?! Where am I from then, if I'm not from the future? You know what? Fine! Let's pretend I'm not who I say I am. Still, do what I'm asking, and you will be rewarded. There's this couple...
: [Xander shows you a picture of a young couple sitting near a circus tent]
: These are the parents of our future dictator. I need you to break them up, so our terrible tyrant never gets born. Or if it's easier for you to pretend I'm not from the future - these are, um, the people I don't like... And I want you to break them up for some reason. Do it and get paid. Now, let me show you where the circus is located.
: Maybe I should just kill them both? Will that help?
: Hold on. What will I get for this job?
: [Xander smiles and winks at you]
Astute ATOM LP readers will realize that this game won't even let you roll a damn joint without wasting a ton of skill points, there is no fucking way you're getting a million rubles. I guess you could argue that it lets you just buy all the ammo you want, but let's be honest, there's nothing we can buy with rubles that we actually want.
: Oh boy! Now that sounds really good... I'll try to help you out. See ya.
TheGreatEvilKing summarizes this crap so you don't have to read it! posted:
: There's some kind of fucking LARPer in a silver unitard with some kind of dork condom hat with a wattle. He shows you the "Live Long and Prosper" sign, because it's time for references!
: Xang-Xang, bioform!* How do you do, fellow communists?
: Xang-Xang, future man!
: How did you know I'm from the future?
: Isn't it obvious? As the father of Soviet science fiction, who wrote Nazi Russian Pinocchio and porn classic sci-fi Aelita... I recognize your stupid LARP outfit!
: Uh... my mommy thinks I'm cool, because this is the level of funny writing the developers are capable of.
: Nice to meet you, I'm Bear Bearovitch.
: Bear Bearovitch! I'm from the future, and I need your help, even though you are an unimportant historical figure!
: Woah, hold up, if you're from the future, can I ask you some questions?
: Of course, but only if I can make an unoriginal joke about four questions that we already used in this game! Hee-hee!
: Shit... there was something about General...Moro...Moroziv? Moridin? Fuck...uh... Why didn't you travel back into time to stop the nuclear war?
: I sure am glad I don't have any missions to find anyone that a man from the future could help me with
: My god...
: Hah! People in the future ARE idiots! How does your time machine work?
: It uses transdimensional trolleys.
: Why am I an unimportant historical figure if you need me to do this?
: There is no actual way to code for everything you could do in this game, so I'll make some shit up about a paradox.
: If I'm so unimportant why am I in a paradox?
: Oh, like, everyone's in a paradox! DUH!
: Seriously, why are you making this stupid shit up?
: Oh yeah? Well, let me just repeat the joke Hexogen made about my stupid LARP outfit proving I'm from the future!
: I... sure, what do you want?
: Here's some unfunny shit about a robot saint! Now, we used to have a sick ass future utopia that arose from the war, and we had a country next to us where everyone joined a hive mind - that's foreshadowing, by the way - but than an evil dictator, Ilya Kuznetsov from the Moscow Ballet**, took over, and now you have to get smacked in the face once a day by people who may or may not wear rings! It's VERY BAD! I am traumatized despite not having ring marks on my face!
: What the fuck is this shit?
: You don't believe me? What if I made a THIRD joke about my LARPer outfit? Isn't this hilarious? Fine, I need you to break up two people who are going to have the evil dictator as a baby.
: What if I just killed them?
: You could, but violence is bad! Anyway, I will totally give you a million dollars, and it's not just another joke on the player, I pinky-swear!
: Wow, I totally believe you, bye!
*oh no you don't skip that annoying trash this easily!
**this is who Google turned up, I'm probably missing something
This... I hate to admit it, but the ATOM writers finally achieved something that works on something other than a surface level. The ultimate joke is that the player character, while disdaining Xander P-603 as a moron in a LARP suit, is too dumb to realize there is no fucking way they're getting a million rubles from breaking up two idiots at a circus. It would actually be kind of funny in a different game.
Of course, because this is ATOM, we need to sit through unfunny dialogue about slappings and "Xang-Xang, bioform".
Whatever, let's go break up some random people for a reward that will almost certainly not be worth it.
Anyway, the chainsaw. It's held exactly like a regular chainsaw, presumably because they couldn't find a chainsword in the Unity asset store. It does pretty much the same thing as the sword but with bigger numbers, but it has 20 ammunition you can only replenish out of combat. We may as well use the sword until we run into future dumb bullshit. Maybe they'll have a Christmas event where recycled assets attack in waves with text over their head taken from stupid Christmas memes. The possibilities are limitless!
Anyway as Xander P-603 mentioned, these two are at the circus.
: How long have you been sitting here already?
Holy shit this is a new low, we don't even get "the man", we get "the person you're talking to". My guess is that the girl greets you if you're a woman? Maybe? I do not understand why it's written this way.
But... you just called her "my girlfriend Shura". Not "my wife Shura".
: What a sweet pair you guys are. Care to change the subject, though?
: A couple of words about your marriage...
: [The couple smiles still widen][sic]
: Sure thing! Heehee... We thought people here would be grumpy, but it seems like love inspires everyone it touches! It's so nice to get stopped by people simply to wish us luck with our new family union! So... What were you going to say?
: These two look so good together. Please, do not ruin their love.
Really, Fidel? This is the best the developers could do for a moral character. We have ignored literally every single "do not do this because it is wrong" injunction from Fidel, from dragging Nastasya to the sewer to murdering Tawfiq for money. Now he will insert an ineffectual whinge about how cute this couple is - note that Shura has said nothing this entire conversation - and proceed to do nothing at all when we ruin his shit. Baldur's Gate 2 came out in 2000, and people will seriously leave your party if they hate how you are doing things.
Fidel doesn't do shit.
: Hey, friends? Do you happen to know an odd fellow in a silver unitard? With a wattle on top of his head?
: [Personality][Lie] Hey, I wanna ask your girlfriend something. How could she marry you after everything we did together?
Our personality, for the record, is "a nice guy". It doesn't take much.
: Shura? How could you?!
: How could I what? Don't tell me you believe his lies! I've never even seen this guy before!
uh excuse me Bear is in the very popular film series "Horny Hussars", geez!
: Why would he lie? Did that sound like a joke to you? Go on! Let's hear your stupid explanation!
We did this poor girl a favor, proving once again that Fidel is useless and stupid.
: After all I've done for you, you're going to turn on me because of some lies told by a complete stranger?
This isn't even the only "break up young love" quest in the game. I'll talk about this theme when we get there.
: You've done nothing for me, you liar! You cheating bitch! I never loved you!
: What a bloody bastard you are... You fucking simpleton! You're like a village idiot!
: Fuck you, cow! I never want to see you again!
: Heehee! Time to claim my reward.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Hi, I'm Kesha and this is my girlfriend Shura. What's up?
: How long have you guys been sitting there doing that insecure public display of affection thing?
: Gee, I dunno, I just married this woman despite describing her as my girlfriend, and we decided to go to the circus of horny mutants on our honeymoon! Yay!
: So, about your marriage, I have some stuff to say.
: Yeah, it's great, we have a great relationship despite me doing all the talking, and everyone is inspired by our love which drives us to do nothing but sit in this chair.
: I would like to lodge a mild and ineffectual protest about ruining their love, that I will do nothing to act upon if you ruin their lives.
: I'm sure this wandering swordsman with a crazy grin and silly hat is not planning to do anything, right?
: Do you know a weird dude in a stupid silver LARP uniform?
: Gee, golly, I think you're making fun of us, mister! Good thing you didn't provide a name or anything I could actually use!
: Hey, I wanna ask that woman something - the one whose name I can't remember - don't you remember all the times you came over to my house, and we got out the hula hoop, and I took off my pants, and she sang -
: HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME SHURA?
: How could I what? I've never seen this guy in my life!
: Why would he lie? Is this a joke to you?
: After everything I've done for you, you're going to abandon me because of this random sword dude?
: You haven't done shit except marry me and put up with my annoying bullshit! Go to hell you two dollar ho!
: I HOPE YOUR PENIS SHRIVELS AND YOU DIE OF THE RESULTING INFECTION, YOU GOD DAMN MORON!
: Fuck to you!
: Ha ha yes ka-ching!
A trade caravan popped up on the way back, so I grabbed some fuel for the chainsaw.
Oh look. They couldn't be fucked to make a different portrait to mirror this "change".
: Ahaha! Oh... I see you did good, my little, naive plebe! That old sadist Ilya Kuznetsov held to his throne harder than any dictator before him. But when you erased him from existence, I only needed one day to dispose of the opposition and take my place as the new dictator of the future..!
I'm sorry, why the fuck do we care? We have no attachment to the future country or whatever the fuck he's going on about, and there's a very real possibility the player character later just signs on with the General Secretary to just massacre the circus.
: Accept my thanks, primate... And the thanks of my people... I will be a good leader for them. Why, I even stopped the obligatory beatings. Why would I beat the people, who will soon form my army of crazed fanatics, aimed at taking over the world?!
Who the fuck cares. We will never see any of this shit. Can you hook us up with a rail cannon please?
: Stop. Whoa now. Whoa. If what you say is true, what are you even doing here? If the reason you came to us in the first place was erased from time and space, you should have no memory of meeting us.
: Umm... You see... Hey! Look over there!
: It's over.
Oh look, we didn't get our million rubles, are you shocked?
There's also a reference in the game files to him returning after being beaten, but I'm not sure what causes that - maybe failing to break them up? If you tell them that they should stay together they decide to shower their kid with love and affection and Xander wears pink and talks about the great democratically elected leader Kutzenov while giving you the location of a million bottle caps on the other side of the globe. See, it's a Fallout reference!
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: You fools! Now that the Moscow ballet guy is dead, I, Xander P-603, am Supreme Overlord of the future! I have stopped the evil beatings, so I may forge my people into a legion of terror to conquer the future!
: But if we made it so the ballet guy never existed, how did you know to come back here? He was the reason you came back here, so you should have no method of meeting us, right?
: Somehow I am owned by this paradox argument despite having enough future physics knowledge to build a functioning time machine! Look over there!
: You see two hobos fighting over a horse hoof, something the developers were far too lazy or incompetent to animate, and when you look back, Xander is gone! Maybe like he just ran away when you weren't looking...you will never know! Maybe the developers will be able to pull off this schtick competently again!
: It's over... our laborious quest of walking to the circus, awkwardly preying on a young man's insecurities... freeing a woman from a borderline abusive marriage...talking to a LARPer...it's done! We're free!
God damn, what a mess. Look, I see the developers are really trying to go in with their conspiracy shtick about having the player question what is really happening, but this only really worked with the three guys in a stalemate on the road who were all secretly infested by mind worms. Once again this is ruined by the fact that we actually don't give a crap about miraculous future states, and while you could tell an interesting story about a man who came from the future and promised to fix the world if you just did this evil thing, or a guy who started a cult of scammers or - look, you could write almost anything with a guy who came from the future looking for help and it would be better than this. This is of course entirely discarded for cheap "laughs" that really aren't funny (ha ha it's a look out behind you joke! Look, it's that joke from the Emperor's New Groove of "how did we get here?") and the end result is a game that seemingly has no idea what it's about. Xander P-603 ties thematically into the conspiracy that wants to use the disinterested player to achieve its ends, but suffers from the same problems - there is no reason for the announcement that he's now Future Dictator to actually mean anything, and while I get the language is supposed to be humorous and over the top I just...don't care! They do this with the shoggoth too, where there's a huge buildup and a difficult fight and then you get absolutely nothing because, per the developers, the intent is to make the player question if it's real. This is exactly the kind of thing one can encounter reading conspiracy literature, but here it doesn't matter because once again there is no actual reason for the player to care. The conspiracy is all siloed into neat little bundles that don't effect each other in any discernable way, this doesn't have any real connection with the main quest and our protagonists completely forget that they're supposed to be looking for General Morozov or actively try to get any kind of benefit out of this guy. It's funny that he foreshadows the hive mind bullshit, and the idea that the player thinks that Xander P-603 is a scammer but immediately falls for the million rubles is actually a decent joke, but what is the point of this? What is this quest actually about, and how does it contribute to the story? In Tyranny something like the find the missing iron quest shows how inept and riven with infighting the Kyrosian Empire is. Even Numenera used its sidequests to explore its endless fascination with the trolley problem. I mock Cyberpunk a lot, but the Sinnerman quest drove home just how abhorrent and soulless the Cyberpunk setting is. Here? Nothing. Time travel may or may not be real. A man from the future tricked you by promising you a million dollars, except he might just be a LARPer. There is a pretense of moral choice, which generously interpreted might be a parody of other RPGs, but comes off with Fidel lamely asking you not to break the kids up because they have such a healthy relationship.
I really don't know what more I can say about this game, because it's boring and ineffectual, but in the same way over and over again. The writers squander any potential at anything interesting for unfunny jokes. Fuck it. Let's have another vote.
What The Hell Are We Doing Next?
We can fuck around in Peregon, finish Dan's quests, go to the Tunnel of Death for the Mushroom Cult, get our revenge on those cutscene bandits from the beginning of the game, or fuck off into areas we haven't seen yet.
Pick one! There are more Krasnoz sidequests, but let's be honest, they're all of about this quality and you don't want to see them.