The Let's Play Archive


by gatz

Part 1: Prologue - The Ultimate Icebreaker

Prologue - The Ultimate Icebreaker

You know you're in for a good video game when this is the title screen.

Oh man, the Abyss. This game is cool as fuck now. Yes, this is a Neitzche reference, and it won't be the last. The writers were really angsty.

When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. So, soon you all reading this will be hanging out at some goth club with dirty tables and makeshift chandeliers. Seriously, that thing looks like somebody strung a bunch of flashlights together.

Lookin' for me?

The name, Van Hensing, is an obligatory Bram Stoker reference that all writers who write stories with vampires are forced to make or else they get shot.

My lucky day. The name's Ransom Stark.

Ransom, why did you paint the right side of your face red?

I know. I've heard of you. Looks like clients aren't exactly beating down your door, Stark. I'm here to make you an offer. Pays fifty grand. Interested?
For fifty grand? There isn't much I wouldn't do for fifty grand.

I'm not interested in your personal life, Stark. What I want is some business taken care of. A man named Clayton McCrae with the TransTech CyberEye Bureau is making my life very difficult. My father and I have indulged in a few business practices that conflict with the Company's policies and aren't going to sit well with the Judgment Comittee. I want the records of them wiped off the disks, or McCrae convinced that I'm not worth investigating--ever. I don't care how you do it. Just do it, and you'll get paid. Agreed?
Are you part of the deal?
Just do what you're hired to do, Stark. You'll get your money. Then we'll talk.
Where do I find you?
Uptown at 666 W. 125th St. The penthouse. I'll be waiting.

This can't be good. Hopefully no sacrifice will be going on tonight.

We are a professional what, exactly?

Either the furnature is fucking giant or we're dealing with toddler-sized people. Maybe growth in stunted in this cyberpunk future.

You work fast.
Not too fast. I get the job done. Now I'm here to collect.
Relax. You'll get what's coming to you.
That's what I'm counting on.
You've got a real attitude, Stark. Too bad we hadn't met under different circumstances. I'm not usually one to go for low-rent mercenary types.

Hey, Stark is a professional low-rent mercenary, thank you very much. Either this means that 50k is chump change, or the Van Helsing family is rich as fuck.

Don't knock it until you've tried it. Besides, you're not exactly standard issue. What's your story anyway? You come out of nowhere, with the most unusual, captivating looks I've ever seen on any woman, then offer me a fortune for a job I could do in my sleep. I couldn't wait to get up here to see you again. You're like no woman I've ever met. I'm not sure I like what you're doing to me.
Don't knock it until you've tried it, Stark. Come here.
You read my mind.

Uh, no... I'm just happy to see you.

Yeah. A woman pulled me out of the gutter and saved my life with that thing.
Another woman, Stark? I'm almost jealous.
She was a friend. A good friend. I haven't even talked to Tackett in years. Heard she was somewhere in the Greenwich Village warrens. I should look her up. I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for her.

Have some backstory during this romance scene.

How true. But let's forget about her. One woman saved you, Stark, and now one's going to damn you. My way's a lot more fun. Talk to me, Stark. I want to know everything about you . . . .

Is that a demon in the background?

That's a pretty casual strut for some sort of hellspawned creature.

I'm not on your payroll anymore, pops, so don't start throwing your weight around.
You do not yet see the seriousness of your position. You shall.
Naaa, I think I'll be seeing the door, Daddy.
No, Stark, you will not leave this room until I have tasted of you.
What are you . . . your eyes . . . so intense.

They're beautiful. Forget Melissa, can you and I get a room?

You have given me what I need, the address of Deirdre Tackett. My vampires and I have tracked dozens of former TransTech employees who might have known where Tackett was hiding herself. At last we found you. Your time as my minion has just begun. Come to me, Stark. Feel my mouth on your neck. For your service to me, I give you life eternal, undeath without end.

Try as they might, the developers can't make this picture sexy even with that naked manequin in the background.

Was that a tampon cord coming out of Stark's eye?

You are one of us now, Stark, a vampire, a hunter of men. And because you are of my creation, you are under my command.
But . . . but . . . . why?

Yeah, the main antagonist of the game cut his vein already. Ever heard of plot progression, Abraham?

And I'm gonna help you?

Incubus is the ultimate way to get college freshman aquainted with one another. Seriously though, I'll tell you about all this lore soon enough.

Sorry, Abe. After-death experiences always turn my stomach. I ain't hungry.

You go, Stark. Punch the air in front of his body!

Maybe there's no celing and they though Stark would arrive by helicopter.

I think I'm dying, implant. The old guy is a vampire. He tried to transform me into one. He expected to control me, but I'm still in charge, I think. I feel both awful and great. My whole body aches, but I feel strong enough to kick through a wall. Oh God, look at my flesh. My mouth aches. My teeth . . . are sharper. I . . . I think I have . . . fangs?

Stark is a great platform for the dialectical process.

Get a grip on yourself, Ransom. Current inputs are confusing enough. I need less babble from you and more analysis.
I'm doing my best, here. It's not every day somebody bites my neck open and sucks on my arteries. Analysis? I've become a vampire, it seems. Except for some reason, I'm able to resist Van Helsing's domination. Maybe you have something to do with that.

There's our time limit.

You're saying I'm not damned yet? There's still hope?

could use some help.

Now it's time we make our Stark. And by we, I mean me. By the way, I'm not setting up the DOS music, no matter how much you want to hear it. It's really bad.

If you're wondering what this menu screen has to do with anything, it was related to some sort of advertisement for the game that you can watch here.

Quick generation doesn't give us any control over our stats, and that's no fun. Manual generation is a lot better, anyway.

The Manual posted:

The first four questions will determine which career type - mercenary, scrounger, or cyberpunk - your character tends to favour. The next eight questions will determine skills based on which career type you favour. For instance, if [you are] a mercenary, a greater number of the second eight questions will assign points to combat skills associated with being a mercenary.

At the end of character creation, we're given some choices of character portraits.

But really, I think we know which one to choose.


Popular vote for the creation of our Stark was something I wanted to do but here's my reasoning why that's not going to happen: Mercenary is the most useful background, given that Stark is required to survive every fight, and you can rely on your companions for other skills. Scrounger skills are almost completely useless, outside of a couple of sidequests. Cyberpunk skills do have their use, but we're quickly outclassed by our companions. The best build is probably straight up mercenary. Let's get down to the questions.

Option 1 posted:

an unsuspecting volunteer is asked painful personal questions, then is stalked through a virtual maze and subjected to small electrical shocks until the audience witnesses a confession.

Option 2 posted:

Tyrell 'chokes on consumerism' as he consumes the bankcards he has slyly pickpocketed from every member of the audience.

Option 3 posted:

Tyrell decks volunteers into the net, doses them with hallucinogens, covers their arms in tatoos and immerses them in lukewarm water, then awaits their reactions when they deck out.

We'll go with 1, since it's the mercenary choice. I do love option 2, though.

Option 1 posted:

send messages via the network suggesting that the neighborhood form a posse to watch for vampires. You hope your initiative will divert suspicion from you.

Option 2 posted:

stock your home with weapons in case your neighbors form a mob and storm your apartment intent on driving a stake into your heart.

Option 3 posted:

rig an alarm system in your apartment so that you will have warning should your neighbors move against you.

Option 4 posted:

undertake a personal investigation of the vampire rumors with the resolve to destroy any vampires you encounter and bring back their bodies as proof of your innocence.

Both options 2 and 4 are mercenary choices. Here we have to ask, what would Stark do?

The Manual posted:

In the year 2094, New York City suffers from a new threat of urban violence, a new wave of paranoia - the vampire plague. The streets are abuzz with talk of these hellspawn creatures, and reports of their attacks fill the news media daily. Rumours fly, and people are unjustly accused. People have seen the damage they have done, but few have seen the vampires themselves. Since the city is a violent one, full of the grotesque and the outrageous, a vampire can roam the streets, taking victims at will, going virtually undetected.

Sounds like he'd probably go with option 2.

The Manual posted:

Soul Box: A chip with resident software designed to maintain the integrity of a character's mind while in cyberspace. There are four types of soul boxes: Tin Soldier, Samurai, Azrael, and Dragon, each allowing a character to remain in cyberspace for longer lengths of time. You must have a soul box in your decking unit in order to access cyberspace.

Option 1 posted:

trade the taser gun since the Dragon-level soul box is more important to your line of work than the gun.

Option 2 posted:

trade the soul box chip since the taser gun is more important to your line of work than the soul box.

Option 3 posted:

gladly surrender either one since without the photon effector unit you would be unable to jury-rig a Ghost Jacket which would allow you to become invisible, a helpful capability in your line of work.

Option 4 posted:

refuse the offer and decide to jury-rig a photon effector rather than sacrifice one important item for another.

There was a ton of content cut from Bloodnet, so as far as I know, there isn't any Ghost Jacket in-game. We'll go with option 2.

The Manual posted:

Manhattan 2094 is a dystopian necropolis in which a high-tech elite thrives amidst a claustrophobic urban nightmare. Imagine a New York where the buildings are twice as tall, the street blocks twice as crowded with people, where the difference between night and day is lost in the perpetual glare of fluorescent lighting on the toxic pollution lingering throughout the city.

New York teems with people who-hungry for exploration, knowledge, and just plain kicks - illicitly surf in edge in the quest for information freedom. This unaffiliated mix of isolated hackers, data angels, anarchists, street angs, and tech gangs are collectively known as the underground.

Option 1 posted:

take on the security robodrones that protect TransTechnicals' Brooklyn headquarters and gain entrance to the information that can be found within.

Option 2 posted:

deck into the network they created and steal every byte of data that seems important.

Option 3 posted:

collect what company information you can through contacts on the inside and sell it to rival foreign corporations for a profit.

You can probably guess that we're going with option 1. If you choose 3, you're an asshole.

Now we're into the skill questions. Some of these people actually appear in the game, but not CacheMan. I guess he was cleared.

Option 1 posted:

use an electrical storm grenade to stun him, even though it will shut down all the VR equipment and earn you another enemy--the bar owner.

Option 2 posted:

fire your .44 machine pistol, though it only slows him down without killing him, then dart away when you empty your cartridge.

Option 3 posted:

leave the bar. There's no glory in losing a limb just to save face.

The Firearms skill is very important, so we'll go with 2.

Option 1 posted:

walk past, ignoring the fracas, and enter the restroom. On your way out, you stop, feigning concern, and pick the pockets of the fat man's victims.

Option 2 posted:

grab the fat man's arm, twist it behind his back, and snap it, kicking him two or three times for having the nerve to hit a woman.

Option 3 posted:

approach the fat man from behind, zap him with a taser gun that leaves him momentarily stunned, and then slice his hamstrings with your bowie knife.

Option 4 posted:

wait until the fat man is finished pummeling his victims and then try to convince him to join you on your next dangerous mission. When he resists, offer him a cash payment for his services.

Blades is probably the second most important combat skill, so we'll go with option 3.

Option 1 posted:

purchase an Undershaft sinusoidal pulse gun.

Option 2 posted:

purchase a Klaw implant, four retractable, razor sharp claws protruding from apertures installed over the knuckles.

Option 3 posted:

purchase the Treadware Deluxe Field Medical Kit complete with computer-generated triage hologram, capillary effectors, and nanotech-driven self-suturing catgut.

Option 4 posted:

purchase a shoulder-carried tool kit designed for effecting equipment repairs in the midst of combat.

I wish something like option 2 actually existed in-game, but choosing the option here will have to suffice.

Option 1 posted:

administer what first aid you know.

Option 2 posted:

carry him to Bellevue and strong arm the attending doctor into helping him immediately.

Option 2 posted:

get out of there fast. Your rivalry was well known. If word got out that you were involved, his OD will get pinned on you, and you would never be trusted again.

Bellevue, huh? We'll have to check it out ourselves. Option 2.

Option 1 posted:

use an infrared targeting implant and a Krupps combat rifle to assassinate a high-ranking member of the Yakuza.

Option 2 posted:

use powerful explosives of your own devising to blow up a Yakuza-owned Morph Code research laboratory in Jersey City.

Option 3 posted:

deck into cyberspace and introduce a virus into a Yakuza data cluster that holds a Morph Code inventory.

Option 4 posted:

infiltrate the Manhattan Yakuza and gather information that will help the Irish crime 'family' to seize part of the Morph Code trade.

Morph codes, ooh, Morph codes. We'll get to those later. Option 1 for more firearms.

Option 1 posted:

decide that survival is the better part of valor and run like heck.

Option 2 posted:

offer the leader of the gang a sizeable number of credits if he and his friends back off.

Option 3 posted:

use blades, short-range energy weapons, and years of combat experience to counter their superior numbers.

Option 4 posted:

despite the risks involved, consume a potentially dangerous combination of Red Lifters, Hero Makers, and Breathers to increase your strength, recklessness, and endurance respectively.

No cyberpunk future is complete without some sort of opiate of the people, the sigh of the oppressed. We'll go with 3. Lash Givens does actually exist in-game, so we'll have to look him up.

Option 1 posted:

pull your .44 caliber machine pistol out and threaten to mow down the attacker unless he surrenders.

Option 2 posted:

fire your dream blaster at the man. When he is momentarily stunned, sweep in, knock the rogue unconscious, and rescue the woman.

Option 3 posted:

shout to the attacker that he is rigged with explosives and that if he makes a sudden move, he will explode. As the attacker stands confused, you hurl a shuriken into his eye and sweep in to rescue the woman.

Option 4 posted:

fire a wrath ray at the pale-faced attacker and render him unconscious.

Option 3 is ridiculous. Turns out we can't actually kill a vampire im Bloodnet with any of these methods, but we'll go with 1 for more firearms.

Option 1 posted:

start talking like there's no tomorrow.

Option 2 posted:

give him the fist fight of his life if he decides to try something stupid.

Option 3 posted:

run. Why should you risk your life for someone you barely know?

Not a big guy! Option 2 is what we'll choose, but I'm not sure if the melee skill actually impacts unarmed combat. You can fight with your fists, but it does pitifully little damage.

Now we've got some more points to distribute.

That's a little better. Turns out that every Stark you make will suck compared to everyone else in the game. There's nothing you can do. I put points in agility because it helps with fighting vampires.

You might be wondering what all these skills do. They seem self-explanatory, but they actually don't make much sense.

The Manual posted:

Strength: The greater a character's strength, the more successful he will be in accomplishing most physical tasks. Strength helps determine a character's performance in combat, particularly in melee combat. It also factors into the character's ability to sustain damage.

Endurance: A character's endurance level measures its ability to sustain physical activity over a period of time. Endurance factors into the frequency with which a character will require rest and is a factor in combat.

Agility: A character's agility level factors into its ability to dodge attacks from a combat opponent.

Stealth: A character's stealth level factors into its ability to remain cloaked from security while in cyberspace.

Pickpocket: The skill is reflected in a character's ability to search for and discover various hidden items.

Lockpick: Governs the character's ability to use lock picks while in Manhattan and use certain "virtual keys" while in cyberspace.

Could you please be a bit more vague, manual writers? Endurance doesn't "factor into the frequency with which a character will require rest" because no character ever requires rest. The only time you would want to rest is to regain lost health.
You're wasting your points if you increase stealth. It seems that upgrading your soul box has a dramatic impact on not getting caught in cyberspace. Even if it didn't there's a decking item called a cloak that's only purpose is to hide you while in cyberspace. There isn't any sort of stealth mode for combat. Pick Pocket is a skill that's never utilized anywhere. Utterly useless.

The Manual posted:

Intelligence: Intelligence factors into a character's performance in several ways, most notably in its ability to navigate cyberspace and to use certain weapons which draw their energy from human brain activity.

Observation: A character's observation skill helps him discover hidden objects. This skill is an important factor in targeting a weapon during combat.

Fast-talk: Measures a character's ability to persuade, con, or in the words of twentieth-century hackers, to "human engineer" an NPC (non-player character).

Bargaining: Governs the character's ability to negotiate prices when buying and selling objects.

Jury-rig: Assembling devices and weapons from scrounged, purchased, and stolen components is an important part of BloodNet. Player's success in assembling and disassembling these devices is governed by jury-rig, observation, and intelligence skills.

Medicinal: This skill determines a character's skill at using medical equipment to administer to the wounds and injuries of the characters in the party. This skill also controls a character's ability to synthesize, with the help of a pharmaceutical kit, designer drugs from their constituent chemicals.

Medicinal is useless. I don't know if Fast-Talk is ever used. We'll talk about the others a bit later.

The Manual posted:

Leadership: In combat, this determines which side must place its combatants first.

Innocence: A measure of a character's moral and ethical fiber. This skill determines the effect on Stark's humanity caused by feeding off a given character: the greater a character's innocence value, the greater the negative impact on Stark's humanity level. Recruitable NPCs can have their innocence lowered if they engage in certain activities such as narcotics use.

Faith: This value measures a character's belief and faith in a supreme being and governs the effectiveness with which a character wield holy objects as a defense against vampires. Faith also governs a character's ability to use a stake or soul blade against a vampire.

Courage: Governs the likelihood that an opposing NPC will retreat from combat. Also governs the likelihood that an NPC will leave the player's party when the player chooses to retreat from combat.

Will: For vampires, this skill governs their ability to assert their will over others and to resist the will power of other vampires. In combat, vampires can bewitch opponents, leaving them temporarily addled. For nonvampires, this skill only determines their ability to resist a vampires will.

Leadership is useless because enemies are always preplaced. Even if that wasn't true, you wouldn't want to have it high in order to have the advantage of knowing where your enemy already is. That way you could strategically place your party. I don't know if innocence actualy does anything. Faith is worthless, but we'll get to that later.

The Manual posted:

Hacking: Determines a character's proficiency in identifying and using the computer software found in cyberspace.

Decking Integrity: Derived from a combination of a character's intelligence and the soul box employed in the decking unit, this skill governs the duration that a character can remain in cyberspace without being damaged.

Cybercloaking: Derived from a character's stealth skill and the cloak employed in the decking unit, this skill governs a character's ability to move about in cyberspace undetected by TransTechnicals' security

I can only think of one instance where Hacking is ever used, and even then it wouldn't really matter what your skill level was.

The Manual posted:

Melee: Governs character's skill at hand-to-hand combat, including fisticuffs, blades, and bludgeon weapons. Also governs use of stakes and soul blades against vampires while in combat.

Firearms: Governs the character's proficiency in the use of firearms.

High-tech: This governs the character's use of high-tech range weapons such as laser rifles and pistols.

Bio-Tech: One factor in a character's use of weapons that draw their power from the human body.

Explosives: This skill governs the character's ability to use any of a variety of grenades in combat.

Notice how the Blades skill is missing from the manual's description of skills. For some reason they decided to make that its own skill rater than lumping it in with Melee. The only combat skills that matter are Firearms, High-tech, and Blades.

Next time we'll get into actual gameplay, and learn further about the Bloodnet universe.