Part 29: The Tunnel of Instant DeathThe Tunnel of Instant Death
Welcome back! Last time on ATOM RPG we got our revenge on the evil cutscene bandits who robbed us through pure chance. Today we're going into the Tunnel of Death as Ariadna told us it was totally safe and people just called it that because it sounds cool.
This is, sadly, not an allowed exit from Krasnoznamenny.
Death Tunnel is all the way across the map, situated such that we have to walk up through Peregon and stare dully at the walking animation. Maybe I should have gotten the car.
The drugs wearing off debuffs our strength so I can do MORE tedious inventory management. It's not even like this is vital to ensuring we have enough ammunition to fight or anything, the ATOM devs once again cargo culted crap without understanding what its purpose is or why I should give a fuck.
After a bunch of walking around we make it to the Tunnel of Death.
The Tunnel of Death is a pretty shitty place even by ATOM standards.
I run right into one of ATOM's wonderful "features", the lockpicking that requires a ton of time wasting rolls for no real reason. Look, if there was a challenge where you had to lockpick to escape a bunch of dudes in combat this would kind of make sense, but I cannot stress enough just how little respect the ATOM team has for their customers.
This guy has a stick of dynamite. Score!
Oh, yes, Stalker of Chernobyl style stalkers are a thing in this game, because ATOM would like to remind you there are better games it is desperately ripping off of and not just Nazis.
Get used to that "You failed to open the lock" message.
So, this lock. You absolutely do not want to open this without the proper equipment, which we do not have. To get it - or at least the best version - we have to leave the overworld map we're on and go to a completely different area we haven't seen yet.
That's because this area is filled with near-instadeath poison gas. You can run back from about here, but grabbing the DIY respirator off this dead guy is an obviously bad idea because - as I realize much later - he fucking died from the poison. Look, I'm not used to ATOM making this much sense, ok?
Nooo. Even if you grab this and run in, you need to chug antidotes like crazy and then the usual pile of dull and uninspired mutant rats hit you through the door. It's ok, we're going to see some legit mutants soon enough.
DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT THE BIOHAZARD SUIT OR SIMILAR! I'll keep an eye out for gas masks as well.
Our quest destination is behind this awkward wooden barricade.
Meet the Morlocks! In H.G. Wells' The Time Machine they were carnivorous underground cannibals who ate the peaceful vegetarian Eloi. Here they're just big evil four eyed mutant monster things. They look pretty hardcore and intimidating. Are they?
Oh wow, a whole NINE damage!
Like almost everything else in the game, they are no match for the dreaded Cossack Steel and die in one hit.
Oh, did I mention this entire fucking tunnel is irradiated?
Yes, the tunnel is filled with literal spilled nuclear waste from crashed trucks. The Morlocks, as far as I can tell, are extremely heavily armored and shrug off gunfire - but because eye strikes ignore all armor, they just instadie because they only have 114 hp. Supposedly their strikes make you more vulnerable to radiation, but I don't know because they never survive long enough to hit Bear more than once.
I can't stress enough how big of a non-threat these guys are. They only appear in this one location too. The English wiki lists them as a super duper huge threat, but these guys are literally getting chopped up by one idiot with a sword. At least they drop lots of meat. They do next to no damage too - supposedly they have a high stun chance, but I've never seen it.
At the very end of the radiated tunnel is the Water Filter - is this a Fallout 3 reference?
We walk out as Bear's radiation is maxed out. Fidel, Hexogen, and the dog are already immune to radiation, and we have killed every Morlock in the game. RIP poor guys.
We must chug vodka to cure the radiation poisoning, which causes Bear to gain alcoholism so he can whine at the player about his hangover.
This does not preclude him from whining about his lust for drugs.
Anyway, once we make it to Peregon the driver has an offer for us - he'll drive us to Krasnoznamenny if we guard the caravan.
Thus instead of the normal tedious walking, we get a massive battle with all these bandits. You might have noticed that despite having the chainsaw I'm still sticking to the sword - it's because we have 10 AP and the aimed sword attack is 5. Our bonus turn gives us 5 AP. The chainsaw requires 7 AP to use. It's...not as great as it could be.
I do break out the chainsword for the hell of it.
Could probably find a use for this.
I'm not kidding, these guys have a lot of loot.
We also get 600 rubles for this. I vaguely remember we had an entire subplot with someone named "Dan" who was gathering his bandit forces to destroy the opposing bandits in the area, but I guess that doesn't apply here. It's not even like this truck is crap no one cares about, it's literally the coal to power the local expansionist city. I'm very surprised Krasnoznamenny forces aren't going out and making examples of these idiots, but at the end of the day everything in ATOM RPG is in its own little sandbox where nothing interacts with anything else.
We can ask Sarah here about the curse of the blackening sky, but we don't have the personality to pull it off and thus she tells us nothing. For what it's worth, I was trying to find a real gas mask.
These guys run a smuggling operation which is a charity for the children of the North. It is also a complete waste of time as they have nothing worth buying and won't pay worth a damn.
This apothecary here feels like a reference but doesn't have one either.
Nor does Dr. Petrovna, but she does give us 7 doses of her purple poison antidote that's better than the red one. This also makes the purple antidote available for general sale, meaning that Dr. Petrovna here is low key doing both ATOM and the Mushroom Cult's stated goal of helping people better than they are.
Alright, let's go talk to Ariadna. Surely she will see the appeal of our mighty Cossack Sword and tell us about General... Morosheev?
: It's done! I have the filter you need.
: Here you are. [Give her the filter]
: [Ariadna takes the filter and examines it carefully. Then with a happy smile she places it in an inconspicuous drawer in the wall]
Meanwhile Dr. Petrovna over there just...does it.
: Glad to be of service.
: [Ariadna strokes her chin and lapses into thought]
: The next task will be much harder, both from the moral point of view and the skills you'll need to complete it. I'll start from the beginning, as it's a very sensitive issue.
: You've had enough time to see that 'Mycelium' is of no danger to anyone, isn't plotting against anyone, isn't in anyone's way. You understand that now, don't you? I can see in your eyes that you do, otherwise you would have left long ago. No one's keeping you here against your will.
Lady, you sent us on a suicide mission into the Poison Gas Tunnel or the Radiation and Heavily Armed Mutant tunnel. We were only saved because we had an overpowered sword build.
: And yet... despite our totally unaggressive attitude, we have enemies.
Oh, I thought you weren't plotting against anyone?
If it isn't obvious the Mushroom Cult is manipulating us. If you'll remember, Ariadna is the contact for men while women deal with Artyom.
: Now we're coming to the sore spot.
: There are enemies of progress - villains and heretics who make it their sacred duty to throw a wrench in our wheels whenever they have a chance, in every project, in every social iniative.
I've said before that Ariadna is basically an Ayn Rand villain, and I will repeat that charge.
Atlas Shrugged posted:
"I am trying to raise money for Friends of Global Progress."
Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months.
It seemed to be devoted to some sort of free lectures on psychology, folk music and co-operative farming. Rearden felt contempt for groups of that kind and saw no reason for a closer inquiry into their nature.
He remained silent. Philip added without being prompted, "We need ten thousand dollars for a vitalprogram, but it's a martyr's task, trying to raise money. There's not a speck of social conscience left in people.
When I think of the kind of bloated money-bags I saw todaywhy, they spend more than that on any whim, but I couldn't squeeze just a hundred bucks a piece out of them, which was all I asked. They have no sense of moral duty, no . . . What are you laughing at?" he asked sharply. Rearden stood before him, grinning.
Rearden is of course a heroic inventor who makes dope steel that gets railroad ladies incredibly horny, and Philip is a loser mooch.
: Since we are scientists rather than gangsters, we choose to ignore these pathetic, narrow-minded people. But some of them refuse to be ignored. Take for example the wealthy merchant, Vadim Nikodimich Pavlyuk. At every governmental meeting he does his best to upset our plans.
Oh no! The evil Captains of Industry are going to destroy our social initiative.
: He urges the other members of the Chamber of Commerce to vote for yet another inspection of our society, to close us down altogether. Or to recognize us as a terrorist group! He has a vivid imagination, albeit a bit warped.
It's a pity Twitter hasn't been invented yet, Ariadna would be the fucking master of narcissist preening about how much she loves to help others as long as she doesn't have to interact with them, expend any effort, or sacrifice anything.
: So what, you want me to kill the guy?
: No, no, no! He should be made... to see reason. To think about his sinning. I'm not talking about killing or mangling him, mind you. That is what terrorists and gangsters do. We simply want to send him a message.
That verbiage about sinning is a hint that they're more fanatical than scientific, and it's a nice subtle word choice that is leagues above most of the dogshit writing in this game.
: In his chambers below the Chamber of Commerce, Vadim Nikodemich keeps a pet pig. Apparently he values the pig's life far more than the lives of Wastelanders - or science.
: Why does he keep a pig as a pet?
: You have connections in the Chamber of Commerce's bunker?
This is more like the kind of questions we maybe should have been asking this entire time.
: [Ariadna's eyes flash mischievously]
What could that mean, I wonder?
: Wait, wait! You mean I have to kill the piglet?
: Okay, if that is what needs to be done... I agree.
: Splendid. Now go to the bunker under the Chamber of Commerce, find the porker and... well, you know the rest. Here's the note.
This is actually kind of funny! I mean, I didn't laugh, but the narrator guilting the main character, who has probably murdered hundreds of people by now, over a pig which is traditionally raised to be slaughtered, is actually a good joke. I'm kind of shocked that this sequence actually works. I mean, it's not super great because of all the pointless narration, and we're still not given any options other than to ride the railroad while we do bad things on behalf of The Conspiracy, but it's better than the Kyle Rittenhouse quest I'm sure these idiots are writing into Trudograd.
: Okay, I better go then.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: How's the search for the water filter going?
: Here's that water filter, so you can...filter your water, I guess.
: Gimme! Ok, I'll yeet it into this drawer because...shit, you survived, I guess. Anyway, this is a very hard task and it might be a liiiittle morally dubious. See, we at Mycelium are totally peaceful and innocent people who would never plot anyone's death by, say, sending them into a radioactive tunnel full of heavily armored mutants where they could take a wrong turn and get poison gassed to death. But despite not plotting against anyone, we have enemies who hate us because, er...well, uh...they are massive pizza fans who prefer green peppers to mushrooms. Yeah. So we are plotting against them in a totally justifiable way. The rich Captain of Industry keeps trying to get the police to investigate our totally harmless secret society because he's a mean poopy head!
: So you want me to kill him.
: No! That would be very wrong! Please ignore all our rhetoric about how it's acceptable to sacrifice the individual for the greater good and you should just fling yourself into the pyre if there's a slight chance it might benefit the faceless masses whose interests coincide with ours. He has a pet pig, and you should kill him!
: Why does he have a pig?
: Hell if I know, but I'm told he loves that pig.
: Wait, do you have spies in the Chamber of Commerce?
: We have spies everywhere.
: No! What has this innocent pig done to deserve such a vile fate?
: It's better than killing the man himself, isn't it?
: Then, I will do this heinous task.
: Excellent. Now be sure to leave this note on the pig's corpse! Chop-chop!
We also get a discount in the Mycelium store, which sucks and is worthless.
Medkits aren't bad, but you usually won't get blinded enough to need that many of them.
Oh, yes, this is the note, in case we needed more proof that Ariadna is full of shit.
Unfortunately, our choices at this point are to either physically attack the Mushroom Cultists or...follow this dumb railroad that is obviously a bad idea.
Now, this guy is an enemy of the Mushroom Cult. Fidel and the player are nominally trying to figure out what the Mushroom Cult has to do with the massacre of the ATOM operatives. We know from the mustached man who had a mustache that only the ATOM operatives went in, and they turned on each other. Some of the dead had the mushroom amulet.
This guy wants to get the Krasnoznamenny police to raid the Mushroom Cult compound, and honestly would be an invaluable ally if we could figure out how to get him to let us know what we found.
Now, you'd think we could warn him about the pig and that would put us on the path where we help the corrupt and genocidal Krasnoznamenny administration crush the Mushroom Cult - who seem to be their own level of fanatical crazy - and that would be a legitimate path to end the game. This just has him give you some money, but unfortunately, you still have to kill the pig. Why are you surprised? The game had a whole double agent bandit questline where you just... became a bandit.
The correct option is to tell him the General Secretary wants to talk to him and he runs off while wondering why the Secretary didn't send someone he knew.
This potion is really easy to miss the first time you're playing through the game, so at this point you can shut the door, sword the pig, and get out.
: [The drooling mouth of the pig opens, and you start to hear a voice from the depths of the animal's body...]
This is almost, almost unnerving enough to make me see a different, better ATOM. There is a running theme that the protagonist is losing his grasp on reality, which is a cornerstone of conspiracy fiction that is actually good such as Pynchon.
This being ATOM they are either unwilling or unable to commit to this bit.
: Why do you want to die, though?
: [The pig shakes it's head as if making a circle around the room]
: That fiend read you Lenin?! Tell me more!
: [The pig exhales loudly, and lays down with it's head between it's front legs]
For a game that is supposedly all about the legacy of the Soviet Union, it doesn't want to really engage with its doctrine. This makes sense when you realize the authors are going toward the Putinesque "everything is shit" view.
: So what's the problem? You can make any two ideas match, if you write vaguely enough.
The presence of the pig is distorting the narrator's grammar abilities.
: It would seem so! You'd think a demagogue worth his salt could use any writings to prove any theory! But not in Master's case! As if to torment himself and me, he picked a set of ideas completely and utterly different from those of Lenin...!
: This is pure idiocy, to read Lenin's works and try to find praise for capitalism in them! And this is what Master wants! To prove that Lenin would've been pro-capitalism in a post atomic war world..! There is no such thing as "Capitalism with a communist" as Master likes to call his imaginary construct..!
The question no one is asking themselves (because this isn't funny) is "How can Hexogen talk to the pig if he didn't take the magic potion"? It's a legitimate question that almost works with the collapse of reality and would force the player to question what is going on... if the rest of the game didn't present everything completely straight laced and we had any kind of investment as to what is going on. The pig is mysterious, but when it comes down to it we still have no investment other than an attractive lady offered us...absolutely nothing to do this except for our own belief that we can complete the mission we have no real reason to care about and no one pressuring us to do it.
: Son... Please, do not kill this noble pig! It is so close to me in it's thoughts and reasoning! It needs to stay alive, to educate the new generation of laborers.
: What's that about capitalism having a face..?
: [The pig continues it's tale with immeasurable hatred in it's voice]
: An absurd idea that we should start using the free market model, destroy all secret societies, from Krasnoznamenny's secret service to some mushroom cult...
So, Deng Xiaoping but with less repression?
: Whoa, piggy. You're mental. Time to go.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Please, kill me! Otherwise I will have to listen to Lenin's letters to his wife used to justify capitalism! This is very wrong and bad!
: Please do not kill this pig, It is like me, and loves communism.
We kill the pig and leave the note, because if you don't you can't progress the main story short of, again, slaughtering your way through the bunker.
We can talk to Hexogen about drinking.
It's the same old Hexogen story.
: That's why I'm here.
: Go on, I'm listening.
: Pig's dead, note's read.
: [The woman claps her hands in sheer delight]
: Happy to serve the Unity! Now, what are we going to do next?
: We had a long think and decided that some traitorous spy would never work so hard for our cause. You risked life and limb to help us!
: Great. Glad you believe me.
: This is why we've decided to task you with missions of a rather serious nature.
: [The woman is lost in thought for a moment, and then gets really serious]
: Our organization is gathering all sorts of artifacts all over the Waste, just like that sad little ATOM society. Unlike them, however, we don't hide ourselves away. Plus, our goal is much more transparent - we are saving humanity!
HOW DOES SHE KNOW ABOUT ATOM?
In a very weird way the game's bad writing works to its advantage here because you're not parsing all this shit.
This is basically confirmation that yea, the Mushroom Cult was behind the hit and took whatever weird psychic bullshit the scientist lady died attempting to destroy. The one that made everyone try to kill each other?
: A second of your time, please. What was this important thing?
: [The woman looks at you suspiciously and waves her hand dismissively]
: I don't know much about it myself. Such information requires a high level of clearance, which you do not have. Neither do I, actually.
Oh, I'm sure it's not suspicious that the woman who's able to clear us from being a spy has no idea what it is ha ha she's obviously lying.
: All right, please continue.
: I'm experiencing a weird feeling of deja vu, as if I've been in this situation before. Go on.
: That's a huge deal. What were they looking for in those bunkers?
What happened to scientific inquiry?
: I understand. I'll need the bunker locations.
: [Ariadna nods and asks for your map]
: These bunkers are far from Krasnoznamenny, farther even than Peregon. Two weeks travel, minimum!
: One is in the Mountain pass of Woes [sic], on the trade caravan route. These caravans initially stop in the Fogelevka village to the west of Krasnoznamenny. You should chase up a ride there. The mountain paths are treacherous and the territory has other dangers as well.
: The other bunker is located in the Dead City, to the southeast of us. Once a giant of industry, it's a mere husk now. It was heavily bombed in the war but people still live there, as far as I know. Life must be very tough for them. In the port of Krasnoznamenny, you will hopefully find a ship captain willing to take you there.
: All clear. I'll do it. [Thrust out your chest bravely]
: Yup. That's how it always is.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Did you kill that pig in a kind of immoral job?
: Girl, want some pork?
: Yaay! You are a true hero for intimidating that man gangster style! Now, we thought about this and concluded that if you're willing to do immoral stuff for us, you are trustworthy and we have an important mission for you!
: Anyway, we're gathering all kinds of stuff from across the Wasteland, like those FUCKING VIRGINS ATOM! We're super transparent about it too, we got a cool thing from Bunker 317.
: What was it?
: We're going to withhold this information from you in a super transparent way. Anything else?
: I guess not. Hmm...does she know anything about Colonel...fuck, what was his name...Borozov?
: I need you to go find our agents from these two hidden bunkers that are 2 weeks away each. They were fucking with things that we've marked as "could destroy humanity" so you need to go check that out right now.
: Wait, what the hell is in those bunkers?
: I'm not telling you shit! Tee hee! Also, I'm not "allowed" to tell you where the locations are because this is blatantly wasting your time to keep you away from our bunker!
: I will do it, because you are a sexy lady and I want to raise my sexual partner count.
: Have a Sparta reference!
So it's kind of shocking to see a section of the game where the writing clearly sets up that you're being set up to be screwed... but then we return to ATOM-land when we realize that there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. You can refuse to kill the pig and return to Ariadna, but then you can't actually progress the main story short of stumbling upon the secret final boss. I briefly mentioned an 11 minute speedrun last update, what I didn't mention is that it's basically the Two Worlds speedrun where you can run to the final boss from the beginning of the game and clown him.
We are clearly being lied to here, and one of the consistent characterizations of the player character is that they are a dumb, loot and xp obsessed idiot who is too stupid to put two and two together and is being manipulated by the bad guys. There is nothing we can do about it, and if you're noticing this mirrors the plot of Prokhanov's Mr. Hexogen where the pro-Soviet restoration conspiracy is actually bad guys manipulating the protagonist, you get a gold star because this is basically where we're going. Are we smart enough to pry out information about Morozov? No, Ariadna has the protagonist outmatched at basically every turn. Are we even going to try? No. Can we actually try to have the Krasnoznamenny government help us, as they would have a vested interest in the Mushroom Cult threatening their leaders? No. What about all the other organizations we've befriended, like Otradnoye, Dan's Bandits, the Red Guard, the mutant circus? No. Its kind of hilarious that Ariadna's like "yeah, this thing threatens all of humanity", we can ask what the hell it is, and we get told that we're not qualified for that information and go on our merry way.
The problem is that ATOM wants to tell a surreal conspiracy story where insane things like ancient gods, dimensional travelers, and talking pigs may or may not be happening to our character and we're supposed to question reality, but the dialog is dull, the visuals are dull, the music and sounds are stock to dull, and the writers really want us to stay on the railroad because if you poke at the theme park too much it collapses.
Next time: A bonus update, and then Dan's bandits!