Part 53: Clown world, amirite?Clown world, amirite?
: I tried to come up with some sort of coherent theme for every update. This time I was mostly picking up odds and ends, but I guess a lot of time was spent on the circus.
: Haaaaaa. Check out the clichés were using, arent they clichéd as fuck? is pretty bad in even competently written games.
I said in the past that I liked the rumor system and how you get truths, myths and semi-truths mixed together, but we get so many clues tying the expedition to the Mushroom Cult from so many angles, that a random civilian pointing us that way feels like too much. How about some red herrings \ false leads? Maybe the mailman conspiracy recruited the expedition. Maybe they all definitely disappeared in the Roaring Forest? Maybe Sema Fucking Voronok took them out?
: Right after the pointless and date crypto bullshit, we walk into KRZ and get a far more period-appropriate scam.
: Listen, this young man is onto something... Bottles! Hmm, yes. Why didn't I think of this before?
: You see? That old feller is tired of being poor. He doesn't want to be poor anymore!
: Maybe I should sell you some of my bottles? I do have a few.
: A fine bargain indeed. But unlike you, I am not an investor. My job is making my clients rich. That's how I earn my living. Listen, quit letting your money line your filthy pockets. You need to invest, and bottles are the best kind of investment. The glass ones symbolize fragility, grace and nobility. The plastic ones - practicality, longevity, durability. In your opinion, what is the price of a dream? I personally think dreams have no price. This is why I'm willing to give you a 1000% discount on your purchase. Only 100 rubles for this bottle and you become an investor. No, my friend, not a buyer, a true investor.
: [Barter]: 175 I have a better proposal. How about I sell you my bottles for, I don't know, 50 rubles?
: [Success] [The man thinks it over carefully, rubbing his chin, and ﬁnally nods]
Yes, that actually sounds like a bargain. I'll get new inventory at half the market value. Listen, I've got some money stashed and I'm ready to spend it to gain a bottle!
: Great, because I have something you might like. [You give Oleg the bottle, and he passes you the money]
: Ha! Glad to do business with you. I'm sure this beauty will sell like pancakes.
: Bro, I'm putting my MBA to use by finding YOU lucrative investment opportunities. Like empty water bottles!
: But... those are just trash.
: It's not about the actual bottle, it's about how you conceptualize it! Imagination is far more important than reality in 21st century economy, and transplanting that same sort of bullshit into the harsh reality of the post-apocalypse is a decent satirical bit.
: Money isn't real.
: Ok, but what if I sold you bottles instead?
: I got 175 Barter and the dialog doesn't change to reflect that one bit.
: I kinda like this. Its moderately creative, and rewards your (ultra-high) investment in Bargaining by allowing you to make money from literal trash. But, as this game cant help but fucking up, you cant sell bottles in bulk. Separate dialog tree for every single sale.
: Theres probably power armor in Trudograd. But once again, its moderately nice that not every bit of Soviet tech that you hear about is actually acquirable.
: Some Soviet nostalgia (which the game is actually very poor at evoking) at the movie theater. Check out that Star Wars poster on the left.
: Ive got a brilliant idea for utilizing all the extra references we couldn't shove into regular dialog!
: You can at least ask about \ try to solve KRZs problems:
: [Our problems include] the barbaric chaos that is Peregon, the wild gangs of the North, the drug trade, the slave trade, mutants, and so-called ATOM, just to name a few. But we're holding up well in spite of them.
: In the interests of pacifism, we actually warn pig-lecturer about the Mushroom plot.
: Couldn't gank the pig.
: [The woman sighs and shakes her head, clearly disappointed]
But I was so sure about you. You gave me so much hope... Ugh, I see now that I was mistaken. You really disappointed me, and lost out on an ideal opportunity.
[Ariadna looks at you regretfully and waves her hand] What can we do with you now? Nothing. It saddens me to say it, but we can no longer work together. You may come and go as you like, but you will never be one of us.
: You cant pacifist your way through the Death Tunnel anyway, and you dont need the quest to uncover the two bunkers. The warning itself doesnt lead to much of anything, you cant investigate the Mushroom cult and report back to him.
Oh, and while were at it, we could fuck up the very first assignment:
: If you understand it, start living by your own code of conduct!
: Seriously? Well I did hear that only lonesome shooting stars have the opportunity to break the mold. But you actually believe I can go my separate way after living with the society for so long?
: (They didnt even bother to come up with a different joke for the Russian version, which is just odd)
: Basically the same deal, except you can apologize at the last moment and keep going with the quest chain. Cooperating with Mycelium is strictly optional.
: Any good rumors?
: All I hear in this dark abode are the histories of long dead politicians... Lenin, Krupskaya, Stalin, Khrushev, Brezhnev... How many words, that a pig does not need to know..! Even the rumors my master tells me revolve around these names.
Check the city above us. Is it true that some con artist is telling people the dead man in his box are the remains of Lenin? Is it true that another man, dressed like a jester, is ready to die for a statue of Lenin in the market square?
: The Lenins mummy quest broke for me. The Roma fortuneteller is supposed to ask you to send the competition packing.
We could also try to help trader Yashin:
: When that person is reduced to a sobbing heap of tears, they "show him the way". In other words, they recruit him to their ranks, and maybe ask him to contribute some of his wealth to the group. I strongly advised Yashin to go to them when his life started going downhill, but he ignored me. Now... Well, you know where he has to live now. Very sad indeed.
[Sablin looks at you very seriously]
I am myself a member of the noble Mycelium. I love their key principle of Uniﬁcation, as do all good people! What can I say... Do you want to live? Then you do what it takes.
: I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, "cults are full of shit, none of their 'good intentions' ever do anything, they're just organized crime under a different guise" isn't the worst message. On the other hand, if the endgame demonstrates that the mushroom actually has good intentions, having the cult be ever so slightly consistently dickish and engage in SOME good acts would make sense.
: Yashin takes this well, all things considered.
: You can do the same with Katia, except the game manages to frame the transaction as less corrupt. A 100 rubles is nothing even at the start of the game, much less post-election.
: We dont ever meet this dude at the Mountain Pass. I feel like most of the time, the game is assuming the player character rather than the player is getting duped, but this is one of the few times where youre probably expected to wonder whether were going to deliver some actual medicine (given what we know about KRZ anti-mutant attitude).
But once we head to the circus
: Yeah, nah. Its Black Lotus. More Postman Conspiracy stuff. You can give the package to the guards in Foglevka, but theres no reward.
: Gutsy the Clown? How did you come up with a name like that?
: [The clown comes close and ﬂashes a smile that shows off all his rotten yellow teeth]
It was never about choice. Life made this name for me.
[The clown touches his round red nose]
Like my nose? Think it's a prop? Heehee. What did the good doctor from Otradnoye say? "Cancerous growth". Probably something to do with all those times Mother threw boiling water at my face.
: What can you tell me about the circus?
: Well, to your average normie we're nothing but a ragtag bunch of mutants, ﬁends, drug abusers and baby murderers. But for me this place is home. It's a roof above my poor head, it's family, friends and lovers. And by the way, Shats the Clown was the only one who actually stole and murdered babies, and that was just until I convinced him to retire... with my own two hands. [The clown takes on a terrifying expression, and mimes violently choking the air with his huge, calloused hands]
: [The clown lifts his hands, and with his last remaining strength huffs like a dying horse, hawking out a gigantic blood-loogie]
Here we go...
: Santa Maria! Such a trick would rather make one cry than laugh!
: The ten rubles stay with me! If you didn't laugh, there's something seriously wrong with you.
: And I... I always told you he was no clown. He is a terrible human being! Not only does he steal money, but he also displays horrible, unsafe imagery!
: Mutants are really gross.
: I see.
: No you don't. Mutants are like REALLY gross, dude.
: We must secure the existence of our people an-
: Yeah, oooooooook.
: Hey, I suffered though this, and so will you.
: Cool reference, bro. Even less connected to the story than normal.
: Look out guys, the writers of ATOM RPG are going to go for actual pathos here:
: (Other way around actually, dear translator. Butt = interest, eggs = mockery)
: I lay giant eggs. it's my mutation, see? Once every month or so, when I feel like I'm about to lay one, the guys set me up in a big nest inside a cage and drive me around the Wastes like a traveling sideshow.
Everyone wants to see the supreme mockery of nature that I represent, so we make a cool 500-600 rubles each month! Sometimes kids and old folks give me bread and sacks of grain too. So lovely of them! There's just one thing I don't like. The embryos inside those eggs always turn up dead. Except for one time... but I don't want to talk about that.
: [Speechcraft]: 71 Come on! I'm sure this story won't mess me up as much as your previous one. You can trust me.
: [She thinks it over brieﬂy and nods]
Okay. Maybe sharing my pain with you will reduce my suffering. Once I laid an egg that wasn't the same as the others. It had a living baby inside it. One of my colleagues even heard it's tiny heart beat through the shell.
I was so happy! But during the night, someone snatched the egg from my bed, smashed it open, and ate the baby! I didn't know who to blame -who would even think to do such a thing?- until someone told me it was Barbara the Bearded Lady! And to think I trusted her completely. She was my best friend! Now... Now I hate her guts!
: About your feud with Barbara the Bearded Lady...
: [The usually shy Yana the Egglayer rapidly turns scarlet with fury]
Don't you dare even mention that bitch's name! I've laid tons of eggs in my life, but only one had a living embryo inside! I was going to raise him as my son! I was planning to call him Vadim the Egglayer or something like that. But that stupid bearded bitch broke his egg open and not just killed him but ate him!
I'm not going to talk about her anymore. I can never forgive what she did. Ever since my loyal new friend Ivan the Crane reported Barbara's evil deed, she is dead to me. Dead! Ohhh... Why did you even bring this up? What Ivan says is true: in all this cruel world, only he understands me.
: Uh huh. So Ivan the Crane was the one who told you about Barbara's crime? Okay, let's change the subject.
: l was a good looking but otherwise ordinary boy until the age of ﬁfteen. That was when my mouth began fusing together with my nose, eventually hardening into a long bealc Luckily, my family did not panic - they arranged to feed me from tall glasses and vases, and led me to the swamps where I could feast upon my natural diet, frogs.
But those blissful times ended when my dear papa died during a hunt. After half a year of grieving, my dearest mother married Zheka "Mutantslapper" Matveyenko, a true Leninist and hater of all things mutant. His ignorance made my home life impossible. Thus, I found myself enlisting with this troupe of misfits.
Oh, what I really want is to create art on a real theatre stage, not here. In the circus, I mostly sit in a makeshift nest taking care of plastic eggs, or just stand on one leg as the crowd cheers or jeers at me. Ivan the Crane: Although a few times, me and Gutsy the Clown acted out our own theatrical shows. One of I these, "The Emerald Mammoth" received a standing ovation. In that show, I played a burned-out Soviet ofﬁcer whose service awards were stolen by his friend. I stood on one leg and made bird noises, begging my stage partner to give them back, but he just insulted me in return. Twas a real old-fashioned drama!
: "The Emerald Mammoth", huh... Hey, I actually wrote the treatment for that. It was a stage play about the terrible bullying of the Red Army barracks. Never expected to see it performed in our sad world, a world completely devoid of art. Let me quote a few lines from one of my characters: "Yes, comrade, I want to talk about pus! Why, not that long ago I got a zit that looked ever so huge..."
:...I went to the military hospital, but they wouldn't touch the zit. Instead, their surgeons cut off my poor leg! How's that for a story?" Brilliant words. I remember your whole work by heart. Thank you so much for this masterpiece.
: [Intellect] Yana's mutation so hurt your feelings you went the way of Shakespeare's Aaron?
: [Ivan the Crane looks at you with horror, and also some respect]
: What is it?
: Listen, Ivan the Crane confessed. In reality, he was the dastard who ate your baby.
: [Yana the Egglayer staggers as if she had been struck in the face and lets out a muffled scream. Trembling uncontrollably, she slowly turns towards Ivan the Crane, who's sitting with his beak down in the dirt]
I... I even asked him that night... why was his beak so red. He told me he'd been pecking at some beets. But in reality, the stains were the blood of my unborn child! My Vadim the Egglayer!
My god! And I've been cursing Barbara all this while. How many times did I beg God for her death? How many black gypsy candles did I burn for the Devil to claim her soul? While the real filthy baby-killer was right at my side! Forgive me, sweet Barbara the Bearded Lady. Forgive me for being such a fool!
[Yana the Egglayer falls face first into the dirt and covers her head, shaking with sobs. She needs some alone time now]
: The entire game (and most of this location) were spent emphasizing the Mutant as a gross Other you should exterminate, but we're actually totally tolerant, see:
: Here's a touching Shakespearean tragedy about family rejection, a possible trans allegory, infanticide and cannibalism. Very deep, don't you think?
: Visiting the actual circus performance:
: Hey, did you spot something extraordinary? Probably not. This this one optional activity in the entire goddamned game has our
: The red clown nose you get as a reward is very handy for a few Luck checks.
: Yeah, Im doing the rat quest. You kill a bunch of low level rats, then:
: What are you, for God's sake?
: I am the one that is not stupid. The strongest, the most powerful, the luckiest of brethren. Keeengrat! Keeng Ra'at! King Rat!
: Is the grey stuff you're talking about brains? ..
: Yes. It is brains. I need more of them, much more to gobble up. They give me knowledge. I know how to write... How to from paper. How to apple! How to tool and gun and fire burn! Top predator!
: I've heard enough. Time to exterminate this bloated vermin.
: This can actually be fairly challenging at low level. You can kite the rat back to the circus, but make sure that anyone you care about (Agafya) isnt in the area. So I guess this can technically be accomplished as a strict pacifist.
Forgot to claim the reward - there was a humorous This is just a rat killing job, what kind of reward do you expect bit.
: Barbara and Yana the Egglayer made up. Turns out Yana's child was eaten by Ivan the Crane. Now people are calling him Ivan the Eggslayer. I always thought he was the one who did it but hey, it's their business. I didn't want to get involved.
: [Speechcraft] But let me be honest, there's no future for you here. It would be best for everyone if you leave.
: [Success] You're right. That fool is never going to give us any peace! Ehh... We just got here and already we have to leave.
: And hurry it up! His patience is already pretty thin!
: [Madam Voovah grabs her skirts and runs out of the plane. You hear distressed voices coming from outside, followed by panicked screams and the stomping of many feet Looking out the window, you're surprised to see that Silly Peapod's threats have been taken very much to heart by the circus folk. The camp is now completely empty. The carnies even left their decorations behind]
: Right. Lets go back to Peapod.
: But you'll never be able to hide your mutant nature from yourself. There's no other choice; suicide is the only way out.
: [With trembling hands, the Secretary General opens a drawer and pulls a shiny gun from a lacquered wooden box]
I know... I... l... Deep down I've always known.
I know that I'm dealing with an idiot! And if you only knew when to leave, you could've made it out of here alive. Guard, get over here!
: Pfft. Ok, thats a decent gag. The power of speechcraft fails us.
Weirdly, this is one of the dialog breakdown points the conversation completely ignores the circus folk running away, so you can get him to agree to the circus sticking around. But lets pretend that's not an option.
: After a productive and respectful dialogue, I convinced the circus folk to leave these lands for good.
: [The Secretary General frowns and makes a steeple of his hands]
That's bad, very bad in fact. I asked you to eliminate the threat, not merely weaken it. Keep half what was promised you for partly completing the mission.
[The man extracts the money from his breast pocket and hands it to you]
: Now get ready to cough up that same amount of cash again, this time to keep my mouth shut, Pee-Pants.
[ : Gennady Nikolaev looks up at you gloomily] All right, fine. Have another three thousand rubles. That should be enough.
: Lets get the erotica writer his contract.
: I'm sure this has something to say about the publishing industry, but I don't really care to analyze further. Odd that English doesn't really have an expression for soaping the hanging rope.
: I know I harp about this almost as much as TGEK harps on realistic prose, but I do like this mentions of things that may be real and germane to the game or might be just utter nonsense \ actual mirages.
: For example this is an absolute spoiler of the endgame, but youre very likely to disregard it the first time around. Thats pretty neat.
: Moderately interesting pickpocketing people nets you a tiny bit of xp. That includes your own companions, who never get upset when they catch you stealing. The xp gain resets at some point (so many items per companion? Per location? Per rest?) and isnt really meaningful, but still, you could get a much needed levelup when youre almost there.
And as usual, I pair guarded praise of the game with another fuckup when you pickpocket something, transferring the item from your inventory to that of a companion without leaving the inventory screen first counts as a separate pickpocket attempt and might get you caught.
: Got any good rumors to share?
: I monitor map locations and local rumors. How do you like this - from time to time people in the Wasteland stumble upon various anomalies. I'm not talking about witchcraft or stuff like that, I mean just really weird shit. Zakhar: A 1 kopeck coin apparently issued in 1993, after the war. An old newspaper in which Gorbachev is referred to as President of the USSR instead of General Secretary. A toy produced in some country called the Russian Federation... or even the shoulder strap of a Generalissimo, though no one ever held this rank after Stalin.
Ordinary merchants turn their backs on ﬁnds like these. But I've heard that somewhere around here is a man, or a whole gang of men, with bottomless pockets and a desire to buy these bizarre trinkets. At ANY price!
No one knows where to look for this man, however the name "MystPromTorg" often pops up in conversations with stalkers getting drunk after suddenly coming into loads of money.
: MystPromTorg sounds like generic Soviet abbreviation. The Ministry for Promotion of Trade or something of the sort. Man, ATOM has so many ideas that could be cool.
: Thanks for sharing, buddy. One more question...
: [The man interrupts you mid-sentence]
You know, I strongly advise against you looking for that man. I've heard it said that people who owe their fortunes to him have a very short life expectancy. And not always from being robbed by other gold diggers.
It seems these particular fatcats just run out of luck. I heard one got killed by a falling brick, while wandering around the Wasteland with no buildings in sight. The other had a rat crawl into his open mouth while he was asleep. A third was pecked to death by pigeons. You get the idea.
: More mildly interesting rumors.
: Probably the most sympathetic depiction of mutants in the game.
: Damn, game, if only you took your own advice.
: Various ways to mess with Varna.
: Finally, setting up a gym pumping iron at Red Fighter gives you the Trained perk (+1 Strength)
: You first get the perk for a day (and have to rest for a day before you can train again), then for a few days, a week, a month (more quickly the more weight you can pump). At a certain point, you can assume the perk just sticks with you for the rest of the game.
Sorry for that eclectic collection, hope some of it was interesting. Next time, we'll hopefully get to Dead City and the Mountain pass and finish the game.