Part 33: The Triumph of ProkhanovThe Triumph of Prokhanov
Welcome back! Last time we did a bunch of shit so we could find the bunker a sexy mushroom loving lady told us to find as part of her blatantly obvious manipulation and got manipulated by the Evil Postman Conspiracy. Today we're going to explore the bunker.
It's ATOM RPG, which means that we dully sit here re-clicking open lock.
This computer in the central area has a lot of dialog, but the important thing is that we need to fix the Marx generator and get to the red zone, because the computer detected entry via explosions.
There's a lot of rusty guns and other mostly pointless loot as well.
This axe exists for the sole reason of trolling the player. We'll see why in a bit.
There is a lot of time wasting bullshit in this dungeon. Granted, it is pretty hard to come up with creative things for dungeons and I'll admit this dungeon gets a hell of a lot more interesting later on.
The developers realized that they had to cram the entire main plot into basically three bunkers worth of crap, so we get a lot of notes.
At this point we're wandering aimlessly around the bunker with our useless party members.
Make your own jokes about the symbolism of the game's quality.
It's pretty clear something was also messing with people's heads in here as well.
We also find these tarot cards, and I groan inwardly because this puzzle fucking sucks.
If you're not getting it, the denizens of this bunker lasted somewhat beyond the nuclear war before they all went nuts and started killing each other. Why? Keep reading.
Do a dexterity check to avoid damage. Whatever!
I haven't mentioned this much, but this is special ammunition for a gun so unique there's an achievement for getting it. It's not bad, but we have no one with the skills to use it.
More boring empty rooms.
Earlier in the game posted:
Now, the game really can't follow through on these datalogs because it interrupts itself with repetitive lockpicking failures and the music being boring shit, but the developers are so close to doing something right it hurts.
You have to set the Marx generator to power up the emergency exit to the biohazard zone.
Our companions are somewhat overloaded and this will bite us soon. Literally.
It's hard to see, but that skeleton has a gun. Where have we seen this before?
Katya's Spooky Roofies posted:
Back to trekking.
More tarot cards.
I foolishly try to craft timed explosives, the game mocks me for my failure, and I mock the game in this thread. The circle is complete.
The player's incompetence really is a theme, huh?
We find a nifty stun grenade I don't have the ability to use.
Ooh, a "carefully written letter".
The doctor at the Krasnoznamenny hospital? I'm actually curious if she has something to say now.
This is also a hint to the tarot puzzle.
More rusty guns.
The other hint I believe. I don't give a damn about this puzzle, so I will be showing off the Cool Way.
Behind this door is the game's ultimate ranged weapon.
We go full ATOM RPG here as we get an entire console log screen of "You failed to open the lock..."
If there were a hell for game mechanics I would expect to see this there.
We ask Hexogen for help. Of note is that Fidel is completely and utterly gone somewhere. I didn't notice it at the time, because I usually ignore the companions and their dogshit pathing, but we're not going to see Fidel's 3D model again this update. I think he's overencumbered and frozen.
Hexogen can't do it, but we do it after what feels like an eternity.
The last hint is found here. Now, what you're supposed to do is go collect all four tarot cards, match the characters to the little stories, and then read the numbers off the cards.
The code never changes, so just look it up. Look, if the game didn't pad every single game mechanic with tedious dogshit I would be willing to engage this kind of thing in good faith. It doesn't so I'm not. If you still think I should feel guilty go back and look at "you failed to open the lock".
This is the correct combination. I hope everyone learns this so they never have to engage with the game.
So yes, 7 more of that weird ammo. You can get more as quest rewards (I believe Shpak gives you some) and very rarely the traders will have it. It is only usable with the Vitinsky's Experimental Rifle here.
Now, if we were playing the sniper build this would be the shit. +50 critical chance is no joke and we'd be able to do what we do now from range. Ammunition is a problem sadly. You can have a character at Red Fighter craft more ammo in this caliber and it's not as good, but it makes it so you can use the weapon.
Or you can just say fuck it and pick up the sword and never care about ammo again.
We don't have anyone who can use this, but there is ONE vial of respec formula we could use on either Fidel or Hexogen to turn them into a badboy sniper. We could give it to Bear and make him a sniper too, but I'm too dedicated to this gimmick and if we're going to remake a character I want us to go from one competent character to two.
There are a lot of skeletons in this base. It's actually effective at communicating that shit went down.
Anyway, this is where we're supposed to go and this section actually takes the kid gloves off of combat.
Meet the bloodroot. They're green mutant plants. They look like mutant dogs from a distance, but they have a little flower that opens like a remora, it's weird.
I know, it's a creative enemy design. I'm as shocked as you are.
Now, bloodroots aren't that threatening one on one. Well, not usually, we'll get to that later.
Like everything else, they go down in one hit to the Cossack Sword.
Fidel and the dog get levels despite being nowhere near the fight.
So, here's the problem. The Bloodroots are fast and attack often, and they show up with those little claw guys.
These things fucking suck! They have a lot of attacks, a high crit rate, and every time they hit they inflict the Weak status. Weak reduces your AP by 2, which doesn't sound crippling until you realize that a) it stacks, and b) there's no actual resistance roll like with stun. Now, the bloodroots can and will stunlock you to death on your own, so you can expect to do a fuckton of reloads here as you beg Randy Random to put the belt away.
There's also something fucking with my accuracy as I'm getting 0% hit changes on the bloodroots. No, Bear doesn't have any statuses, they'd show up in the lower right. A bug? An undocumented feature? Fuck if I know!
Now our AP are getting sapped faster than my desire to play this game.
If it weren't for that armor upgrade we'd be boned. Look, this kind of thing is OK in something like Underrail because Underrail gives a ton of tools to the player and says "go nuts, I'm pulling off the kid gloves and I expect you to find sicknasty combos". ATOM refuses to give you any options whatsoever.
Of course, we've found one of the three secret ways to make a good build, so I have no idea what the hell someone who went for the extra XP perk is supposed to do here. Die horribly?
Those mushrooms are everywhere now. I have no idea why we're fighting mutant plants when the mushroom is a fungi, but it seems able to mess with animals as well so who knows?
This area is trapped because there's a quest item to make herbicide here. We will not be interacting with that.
There's also this Soviet Army knife, would would have been great early game but is kind of trash now. There'd be a case for it if our AP was a multiple of 4 and not 5. I grab it anyway.
These bloodroots are everywhere.
Ok, this is why the axe is a trap. If you have an axe you get the option to swing it and are told to go fuck yourself.
Those two sentiments don't go together, but yolo!
The game wants you to fuck around with herbicide, but we're going to once again do it the Cool Way and blow it the fuck up.
If you try to sword it you get a "I can't see the target" message, so no dice. You'd think Lenin's Wrath would work being an actual mechanized logging tool, but what do I know?
Unfortunately I get sloppy on my positioning and this starts a fight with the local plant life.
Once again, these things are easy to kill. That's not the problem.
You need to remember that our AI controlled party members are nearly useless and they are coded by absolute incompetents. Granted, considering that the menu lets you put them into "agressive" mode I never had high expectations to begin with.
The battle gives us a level at least.
Hexogen is unfortunately permanently dead and I am forced to reload.
Oooh, more lore!
It's the hint for the herbicide. I have more explosives.
Unfortunately I trigger a battle with these things and get stunlocked to death. Reload.
Blowing up the door leads to a spooky cave.
The bloodroots are perfectly capable of large chunks of spike damage too.
Another stunlock. Reload.
We get a new level, and I dump it all into our melee weapons skill. There is probably a point at which I could stop investing, but maxing it out gives us a decent crit chance for when Fidel inevitably shoots something for 1 HP and fucks up our melee combo.
Hexogen is now encumbered out of the active party. Good riddance.
I try resting so that the party members return but the only guy who shows up is Hexogen. Next session is going to be really unfun, isn't it?
Return of the 0 percent hit chance.
I have to use a medkit on Hexogen to cure his blindness. Let's skip through the rest of this combat, shall we?
This is more like it! There are a bunch of tanks like the supersoldier/mushroom tanks back at Bunker 317.
This is here for some reason.
The skeleton in this area has a rotten mushroom. Hmm.
: Stop. Whoa whoa whoaaa! Bear Bearovitch?! What the hell are you doing here?
: [You start digging through your memories... and... yes! You remember this soldier. Although he dressed much differently back then, it's definitely him - one of general Morozov's men, whose photos were featured in your mission case file. His name is Leopold]
IF YOU SKIMMED THIS UPDATE, START PAYING ATTENTION NOW
: Fidel? You're here too? What the hell is going on?
: That's what we need to figure out.
: And who's that old grandpa traveling with you?
: I was sent here by the Mycelium society. What are you doing here?
: Wow! You're also a member? Am I glad to hear that! I was afraid you'd open fire or something. Heehee. Hmm, how should I put this? We're on a mission from the scientific society. We were sent to find a very important umm... thingy.
: What's going on around here?
I love how Fidel is a personal acquaintance of this guy and completely useless at getting us more information.
: What's the thingy?
: Why do they need it for? Also, what's the "but"?
So that thing in the tank the scientist died trying to destroy is now under the direct control of the Mushroom Cult.
: What became of the expedition in the Bunker 317?
: [Personality] You wanna know the truth? I don't know. They left me to guard the destroyed entrance so no mutant would stumble into the lab while we searched it.
I assume that this being gated behinds a personality check means Leopold here is telling the truth.
: Everything was nice and quiet before I noticed something in the shadows. It had a human outline, but with antennae, just like a giant ant. I was about to radio the others with a warning, but then, from the depths of the bunker I heard gunshots.
We can also assume this expeditionary team has radios. We do not know if Ariadna has a powerful radio at base that could contact these guys and tell them we're coming, but it's not important honestly. I don't think Ariadna ever intended for us to make it past the Dread.
: I had my orders - to guard the entrance - so I did just that. After a while, some of the guys came back. They looked pretty grim. Everyone who returned to the entrance were members of Mycelium. They said there had been a misunderstanding with the other troops, the ones who didn't come back... Then we traveled to the Mycelium building in Krasnosnamenny, along with our cargo.
: What was the cargo?
: Are you also a, uh... defector?
: What? No! Don't you know that most of ATOM's top tier men are already members of Mycelium? Secretly, of course. ATOM is doing great things, sure, but each year it grows weaker. Our xenophobia and fear of revealing ourselves to the people of the Wastes is making us rot from the inside. Mycelium, although also a secretive organization, works openly and transparently, all the while sharing and perfecting our ideas.
Ha ha shit, of course. I've been hinting at this with the reference to the Mister Hexogen story, and I'll go over it after the dialog.
: Uh huh, got it.
This was going so well until that second overstuffed sentence.
: Hey! So, uhh... this is a bit of an awkward situation. Some time ago, we sent one of our men to scout out the room ahead, and he still hasn't come back. We don't really know why. Maybe there's radiation? Or poison gas? Or even machine gun turrets? It's hard for me to ask this, but could you maybe check up on him for us?
Whatever happened to being willing to sacrifice to the greater good?
: Wow. Do you ever give seminars on leadership, my dude? Because you have a very interesting style.
Ah, note the phrasing. We are also members of the Mushroom Cult, but it's damn clear they don't trust us.
: You don't want to risk your men, but you're okay with sending me in? Fine, I'll do it.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Holy shit! Is that you, Bear Bearovitch? Why are you here?
: It's Leopold! A man suspiciously absent from the opening cutscene, but he was with General Morozov's expedition! It's finally time for some answers!
: Fidel? You too? What is going on?
: That's what I'd like to know.
: Who's the old guy?
: I am Trudov, a writer and a genius!
: I'm here with the Mycelium society, what are you doing here?
: Wow! You too! I'm glad, that way we don't have to start shooting, heh heh. We're on a mission from the society, and we need to find a very important ambiguous item!
: What is going on?
: I'd like to know this too.
: What exactly is the item?
: Damn that's a nice personality, so I'll tell you. It's some kind of mushroom.
: What do they need with a mushroom?
: Hell if I know, but we found one in Bunker 317 too and took a container straight to Krasnoznamenny. We'll talk about the "but" later.
: Whatever happened to that expedition anyway? Wasn't there some colonel I cared about?
: I can't deny Mr. Personality here! I don't know. All I know is that a bunch of men went in, and then I heard gunfire after being startled by a shitty ant cosplayer. All the men who came back were Mycelium members, and they said there'd been a misunderstanding with the other troops. Then we went back to Krasnoznamenny and the Mycelium instead of the ATOM base!
: Oh, are you a traitor too?
: What? No! All the top men in ATOM are secretly in the society! ATOM does great things, but its held back by hiding like punks undercover, while we at Mycelium openly live our ideals!
: You pause awkwardly, as the narration fails to convey tension.
: Hey, can I ask you to go into the next room and look for our missing guy? I need to preserve the people who are really in the cu - uh, the men of this expedition.
: You're an awful leader dude.
: Fuck it, I've been a chump this far, why not?
Many updates ago we discussed how ATOM is based on the works of Alexander Prokhanov, specifically, his book Mr. Hexogen. We brought up how the book - and this game - run on the idea that all events are interconnected and a product of conspiracy, but to contextualize this event we need to talk about Mr. Hexogen.
The combination of disgust with power, a feeling of impotence, and a sense of betrayal is especially poignant in the most dramatic scene of the novel, where Beloseltsev [the protagonist working to restore Russia] tries to prevent the explosion of high-rise apartment buildings in a Moscow suburb. Through his investigative work, Beloseltsev discovers that the Chechen boeviks who prepared hexogen for the explosion, and their alleged enemies, the secret patriots and intelligence officers working to restore Russia's glory, are, in fact, members of the same cabal: "They are all connected ... They will detonate the fuse together" (2002: 417). They do push the button (together) and Beloseltsev, unable to prevent the explosion, has to witness an apartment block imploding in the middle of the night, burying unsuspecting people under its rubble.
This is exactly what we see here, with the manipulative Mushroom Cult and nominally heroic ATOM organization being one and the same. Now, we did ask the devs about this and they gave us a PR response about how they would never use real world events in ATOM. I call bullshit on that one. Now, I want to re-emphasize that I have to use third party services here because I cannot read Russian to read Prokhanov himself, but many events as reported via scholastic papers about the author report the similarities.
Prokhanov links together these real-life events from Russia's "roaring 90s" to build a purposeful sequence of actions, "the enfilade of conspiracies" (2002: 305). Using Beloseltsev as an outsider looking in, Prokhanov reveals a power structure that has no place for any moral strictures or ethical principles. The lesson that Beloseltsev learns in his attempts to rescue Russia is that power struggles are struggles for power, not for high principles or the common good. Punctuated by deaths and saturated by universal hatred, the story presents power as the ultimate source of evil and self-annhilation.
Aside from the real bombings that Prokhanov based his story on, this could all be applied to ATOM. The people with power are all venal and evil, from Dan the Bandit man to the genocidal General Secretary of Krasnoznamenny. Ivan admits he has no right to call the election in Otradnoye, but because he has the power the election is called anyway. Seemingly disconnected events such as the slavers, Pizzagate, the missing mailman, and the Mushroom cultists are all connected in a vast conspiracy.
Of course, like Beloseltsev being sold the dream of saving Russia while the reality is just helping Putin with his power grab, the Cadet is sold on saving Russia and restoring her to her prewar glory if they go and find Morozov and whatever Soviet technology he had that could help the people of the wastes.
The reality is that the naive cadet gets manipulated by everyone and everything on their quest to seize power. Stopping Pizzagate has nothing to do with immorality of the Nazi rape dungeon, and everything to do with promoting the interests of the Secret Cartel which is totally not Prokhanov's Secret Union, honest! Our attempt to infiltrate the Mushroom Cult to find a missing comrade turns into the Cadet being kicked around and sent to help the Mushroom Cult retrieve a dangerous bioweapon. Attempting to infiltrate the Factory Gang just gets the Cadet used by Dan to cement his own power beyond anyone's ability to challenge. Xander P-603 uses the Cadet to take over the future. Even minor characters use the cadet to their own ends.
Remember this lady? She doesn't care about Bear, she was horny and needed someone to go get her bra - and per the wiki, her husband is the guard outside the Chamber of Commerce bunker.
The understanding that the chaos was only a perception error, a result of the inability to recognize a new structure beyond an appearance of disorder, shapes the rest of the novel. Reality is construed as a network of overlapping and competing plots. Ostensibly disconnected things, events, and people are actually tightly lined, following the protocols that are known only to a selected few.
Oh, and Prokanov's ultimate enemy of the conspiracy is Jewish businessmen, so it's not like ATOM's breaking new ground there either.
Alright, let's wander into this trap, because if Act 1 of this game is about realizing the existence of the grand conspiracy, Act 2 is about realizing that the Conspiracy just uses you like a pawn.
: Hey dude, you're okay?
Oh, great, psychic fuckery.
: Why do you give a damn? What's going on here, anyway?
: [The voice type and manners of the man speaking to you are very obscure... You cannot concentrate on them]
This SHOULD be a terrifying effect that is ruined by dull narration.
: Who? Weren't you with them from the start?
: Let me guess - you're the thing in the glass tube, huh?
Earlier in the game posted:
Now, Ariadna is a manipulative asshole, but I'm beginning to think she was right here.
: You are correct. Do not be afraid. This is my body, well, fed by the inner workings of the bunker. They provide me with water. And I learned to take everything i need to live from water.
: Uhuh... Got it. So, what were you telling this poor son of a bitch? Care to tell me the same things?
: I do not have that much information. I live, I think, I know myself. I was born and raised in this bunker. I saw it fall... I tried to keep it from descending into anarchy... But I was took weak. The things that drive men - fear, loneliness, anger... Turned out to be stronger than my will. I kept them from killing each other, but one after another, in mere days, they broke the conditioning.
Remember we've established that NPCs in this game are lying assholes. We discussed Age of Decadence briefly in the thread, and that game opens with a disclaimer that NPCs will lie to you, cheat you, and steal from you if you let them.
: Need more intel. Why do you want to go there?
Decisions Lie Before Us!
Are we letting this thing go to Krasnoznamenny, or fighting it?