Part 4: A good approach to puzzle-solving
Suggested Listening: Sufjan Stevens - Too much
Last time on the wacky adventures of Bureau 13, our highly-trained operatives were being extremely sneaky.
And by that I mean they were closing doors.
The evidence is all gone, we HAVE to be on security camera, but by gum those doors are CLOSED.
Surely no-one will notice we were here.
So here we are outside the one lead we haven't checked up on yet - the place the package came from. It's one screen left of where we started.
And yes, I'm aware that we haven't checked up on the very much still-alive sheriff. We'll get there! What, you think we're incompetent or something?
Anyway! In we go!
Hi, can I help you? Sorry, I'm a little busy right now, what with my new delivery boy quitting on me. The guy only took the job two weeks ago. He worked four days and then disappeared without so much as a fare-the-well. Amazing, huh?
Man thank goodness for random people giving us plot relevant information!
If you look at the desk we continue the tradition of being impressed with pretty normal things, saying they must be rich to afford such a LUXURIOUS counter.
There's this clerk here. Guess how useful he's going to be!
Pretend to be customer and ask for his job title are both stupid choices, and are one-liners each. The thing to do is to get his attention.
(all): Hey, can I ask you a few questions?
That's this guy's personality in a nutshell. He LOVES horseracing.
My advice is don't steal a lot of money from your rich uncle and bet it all on a horse!
There are a number of responses to this. You can give him advice, which is about which horses to bet on (?), leave the conversation, or threaten him. I think we know which way the Bureau leans.
This is the first place it's evident that the game has cut content. I pulled all the possible text from the game, and the clerk here has actual reactions to being attacked by the agents.
But in-game, you can't attack him at all. If you threaten him, he says "Hey buddy. My advice is take two lithium pills and talk to me in the morning."
It just won't let you attack him, the game treats an attempt like a standard invalid action, like if you try to open the floor or something. You just say "OOPS MY FAULT".
Still, it should be funny to see how the mech threatens him, yeah?
No, actually. The mech is so hardcore you don't even get a choice of responses. She just comes right out with the
I WILL END YOU TELL ME WHAT I WANT TO KNOW.
Not that he has anything useful to tell us.
One notable thing about this guy is that he's the first human who is paying sufficient attention that Alex feels uncomfortable about changing into mist two feet in front of his eyes!
Once we notice the locker room in the back, it's obvious what has to happen. Withers needed a package from this company. He decided that the only way to obtain one was to actually WORK here as a delivery boy. He worked for four days, just long enough to formulate a plan as to how to steal a single box, then quit.
We need to get up to the locker room to see if he left anything in his locker. Which would be unfathomably careless and stupid, so we know he did.
room. Employees only.
Just so we're keeping track, ALL of our problems so far have centered around not being allowed into places, and finding ways in. And these aren't like secret places guarded by monsters. This top-notch government bureau has spent all its time picking vending machines and chasing off beat cops by starting little fires.
Yes ha ha Alex. Very droll. I also note that Alex is canonically 300 years old, so any time up to age 100 he wouldn't have been embarrassed taking an entry-level job for a parcel delivery service, even though he came from an aristocratic family. Set those sights high, buddy!
Alright, well this is the part we're all familiar with. Every agent has their secret power, none of them work.
Let's just sneak with Suttle here, and wait for the desk jockey to catch us trying to get upstairs.
HE DOESN'T. Jimmy makes it safely upstairs!
This is one of the earliest puzzles in the game (the designers expected you to go here right after the police station I think), so they were still trying to give all the agents a way to use their special sauce.
Let's see how everybody else does theirs!
Poor, poor father Blank. I mentioned getting the text dump from the game earlier. There is a dialogue line for this clerk "Alright, father. Go on up, but I have to stay here and watch the desk."
And there is a unique dialogue option for the father, to "give advice".
Now can I see upstairs fer just a wee minute?"
So you say that and... the conversation ends. The clerk is just
So it's obvious that that dialogue leads to the "go on up" response, but the clerk's line never triggers, and he still won't let Blank up...
Anyway. We'll assume that this game is halfway decent at SOMETHING, and that's how Father Blank got upstairs. Those two have the easiest path. The rest of the crew are going to have to go back outside.
The first obvious method is to have Alex go all misty outside and float past the clerk that way. Just a huge sphere of mist out of nowhere, floating upstairs against wind currents.
You know, if a desk fan deflected him earlier, then basically any wind at all would... oh never mind. This doesn't bear much thinking about.
What to do if you can't turn into mist? Well..
So we just have to find a way out the gym window into the messenger service window!
All I can think is that poor window cleaner. That is a TINY, TINY alleyway.
Well, let's get our mech selves into that gym! (Score note: The delivery service door started open, so you don't have to close it, but if you forget to close the gym door THAT IS NOT STEALTHY and you lose points!)
Uh oh, I see where this puzzle is going.
The window is through a WOMEN'S LOCKER ROOM, so if we, being a male character, just BARGE ON IN...
Well, let's see what this songbird has to say.
Pardon me, is this the women's locker room?
For... for the locker room?
Don't bother getting the women out. Seriously.
Yeah she sees through THAT basically instantly.
Wait, we HAVE a woman in our group? What if she went in?
Witchy opens the window and crawls through to the next room. That's more than half of our agents through - priest, thief, vampire and witch!
You know come to think of it, couldn't Alex turn into mist form and go through this locker room too?
Very nice, and strictly in the line of duty, of course
Alex that does not MAKE SENSE. Putting aside for the moment the fact that you're an undead aberration and probably aren't even on the same hedonism scale as humans, even GIVEN that they are somehow the same, I'm PRETTY sure having a female, even unclothed, pass through your semi-corporeal gaseous form isn't like... chart-topping? Well Alex liked it, and that's what's important. So he passes through the window and into the room.
Now for the mech and the hacker. Obviously, the mech can't stomp right into the woman's locker room, because while she IS a woman, she's also in an 8-foot battleme...
Oh who are we kidding. That has never stopped her from doing anything.
So SOMEHOW she gets that thing through the tiny window and across the scaffolding.
That leaves our friend the hacker!
There's nothing for it but to KEEP EXPLORING I'm afraid. Let's go on screen to the left, to the last area of this first section.
Hospital, eh? I bet the sheriff is in here!
Well, we see a room guarded by a police officer (wonder what's in THERE! )
Here, as before, there's some inexplicably cut content for Father Blank.
"Introduce yourself" is a unique dialogue option for the father, it goes like this:
Sheriff tucker, and say a prayer over him.
Guard: Alright father, go on in, but be quick about it
(presumably in-room) Sheriff Tucker? I'll come back when ye're more... responsive.
But here, you just say that line, the dialogue ends, and the guard is all
Well, the rest of us don't have that option.
As you might suspect by now, none of these options are good ones. What if we pretend to be a doctor?
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
Look I know the Police Report is all "oh we don't have many leads" but come ON. A package was delivered by a man who was driving an RV with license plate "W-I-T-H-E-R-S", who was working at a package delivery place (we'll soon learn) under the name "J.P. Withers", and who was buying bomb parts from a local store using a credit card, name "J.P. Withers", and who was careful enough to give a false address but NOT so careful that he didn't give the address where he parked his NAMED RV.
And THIS is the last name we pick for our fake, easily checkable doctor. ARGH.
concussive. He's not severely burned.
Meanwhile, of course that doesn't work. Words never solve ANYTHING.
Hilariously enough, as the hacker you get a further dialogue option here, "Snow him with medical jargon", which makes him say
It's just a precaution. We don't want any post-operation infections setting in.
WOAH, SLOW DOWN POINDEXTER! I CAN'T KEEP UP WITH ALL THIS MEDICAL JARGON!
Of course that doesn't work either.
If you have two characters of course, they can BOTH try the exact same ruse on the guard in the same hallway right after each other. The guard won't notice. America's finest!
Well, I guess that about wraps it up he-
No. No please. That doesn't make SENSE.
And so of course that's what we have to do. Welcome to potentially the only time "throw" gets used in the game! We grabbed that bucket of dry ice, depriving a transplant surgery of the refrigeration it so desperately needed, and now we are just going to huck it into a locker room. Because STEALTH!
THRILL at the incredibly awesome effects! And a fade to black? For... some reason?
Carbon Dioxide isn't healthy to breathe
So... we've poisoned the women in here. I mean we need to RUSH through to keep the effects down, but we don't warn anybody. Heroics!
Well, that's everybody through. Now let's EXPLORE THE BOUNTIES of the locker room!
Ok seriously it is too dark in here.
Obviously, the first step is picking up this trash can.
And underneath it? BOUNTY!
Now, for most of our characters, we picked up a spare fuse back at the police station. But our hacker forgot to!
Fortunately, tinkering with it reveals our solution.
Conductive material, eh?
conductive properties to the...
You know, this would be a lot more smugworthy if it wasn't possible to bypass this whole thing by just picking up a fuse from the box o' fuses from earlier.
Well anyway, there's nothing much in most of these lockers.
Well, maybe we can find some clues as to what Withers might have been up to.
He has his characteristic sense of secrecy and restraint, I see.
Apparently Withers WAS prescient enough to gird his jacket against demonic influence! Note that this is only a problem with Alex.
+1 HOLY JACKET!
So this is a bizarre puzzle with a bizarre answer. Over on the other side of the locker room, with no indication or reason to be over there...
If anybody else tries to put them on...
What a surprise. They don't fit on the HUGE BATTLEMECH (but they don't fit on anybody else either)
No problem picking it up and rifling through the pockets.
Ok so time to talk about how weird this is. Throughout the game there are a number of "holy" and even "specifically anti-vampire" items that Alex normally can't handle. They are ALL rendered totally harmless through the use of normal dusty leather gloves. It's like they wanted to have that be a barrier to Alex, but decided last-minute to just include this hard-to-find, easily-missable way to bypass all of them. In case you wanted to do an Alex-only run? It makes no sense and makes my head hurt but if you think this game is going to make sense, you need to pay more attention, is what I'm saying.
So uh, apparently Withers actually LEFT HIS RV KEYS in his jacket. Which he left in his locker, which he abandoned. It's not like he can just waltz back in, because he quit his job and his employer would be super mad and maybe report him? Ugh none of this makes any sense at ALL.
Yes thanks littlepants. Got it.
But if we examine the keys, we see there is ANOTHER key, that says "ATS32" on it.
Hey, buddy. Look at this key.
Oh man this isn't going to work at ALL. I don't have ANY identification, I am clearly a vampire, and...
Of course. Apathy to the rescue!
On reflection, that really is an ABSURDLY well-protected temporary storage place, isn't it? I mean that door is like 8 inches thick STEEL, and...
Hold that thought, here comes our guy with Withers' cardboard box. I know this guy never saw Withers (maybe) so it's possible that he doesn't know we aren't him, but I like to think he wouldn't care anyway.
Alright what do we got. That scan card looks interesting, and... it looks like Withers has the makings of another bomb(!!) Who knows what else he's plotting!
The card will open some kind of door, that's for sure. Now, what would make the LEAST sense? Well how about if Withers put the scan card that opens his RV in a TOTALLY different place than his actual RV keys, which, for the record, will not in fact open the RV? I guess they're for starting it once you're in?
Now, think about this for a minute. He gets the materials to make a bomb. Well, two bombs. He assembles one bomb, stores the rest with the card to open his RV. He then leaves the KEYS to said RV with his jacket in the locker of the job where he worked for four days while plotting to steal an empty cardboard box from them.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking he is doing this to leave us clues, to lure us into his world. Otherwise, this isn't even stupid, this is out-and-out insane type nonsensical. Well, just keep watching.
Hey you know, I wonder what the hacker would make of those bomb parts? He's technically minded?
Ugh, whatever GRANDMA.
I... don't know about that! There's the makings of the bomb which might give clues, as well as the keycard to his battle RV, so I think that there is sort of... sort of a lot!
Now, examine those bomb parts! I bet you can discover all kinds of neat clues from th-
or you could.... make a bomb out of them. Sure. We might need that.
Anyway... TO THE RV!
Courtesy Note: if you every for any reason (why, oh why) play this game, ALWAYS save before getting into the RV. The game will freeze and crash I'd say about 50% of the time, and not for any reason I can tell.
Well this looks kind of awesome, actually. The night sky glimmering above, a totally computerized and heavily armored RV at our beck and call. Of course we can't DRIVE it. We weren't issued an RV because they were too obvious. And I can't think of anything I want to check on the computer right now. So I take it back. This sucks. Let's leave!
Literally stumbled. We tripped and fell headlong on the way out. Or at least I imagined we did.
J.P. believes that these are somehow tied in to the military contractor, Advanced Instrumentation. He's not yet sure how. The journal also mentions that J.P. noticed a few worshipers in the area from the cult of Stellerex. He's not sure if they're involved in all this or not. The last entry, dated today, indicates that J.P. intends to finish off at the hospital tonight.
Alright. Did we get all that? So everything that we had a suspicion about is true. AI is SUSPICIOUS, Stellerex is SUSPICIOUS. Withers is MAYBE NOT THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE TROUBLE HERE. But he is still GOING TO EXPLORE PEOPLE.
And after all, we have a mission to complete!
The hacker, witch, priest, and thief look at each other in horror and dash to the hospital as soon as possible!
Do... do you give even half a crap?
Oh LORD no.
What say we sit this one out?
I hear that. BOOZE TIME.
(You might think this is sort of a jerk move on my part, making the only Native American character booze obsessed. All I can say is that this game beat me to it - just wait)
So everybody else RUSHES OFF
You're from the bureau, aren't you? As always, you're right on time. i figured if I caused enough problems, then they'd eventually get around to sending somebody. Ha! Looks like this is Sheriff Tucker's lucky day... I won't actually have to kill him. Now, I'm going to tell you something. You people better figure out what's going on with Tucker, and fix it! Because if you don't, I'll be back to finish him off!"
Ohhh, what hit me? The last thing I remember, I got that strange phone call from that computer programmer at AI. She said something about an artificial intelligence virus running wild or something. I went to check it out... but there was that... that... thing! It came out of the shadows, laughing and screaming. I never even got a chance to pull my gun. And who was that guy in the suit, standing behind the creature? And what about that psychopath dressed up like a delivery boy? He tried to kill me! God, what's going on here?
(us): Rest easy sheriff. You've had a rough week.
Hmmm... what's this? A security badge for the Advanced Instrumentation weapons manufacturing plant? Here, take it. Maybe you poke around in there and figure out what's going on.
My... my poor heart. Of all the clumsily introduced, wildly unbelievably expository...
Alright, folks. Let's think for a second here.
SO... Withers, right? He goes AWOL on the Bureau, and tries to kill a sheriff. We get sent in to hunt him down. He is SO obvious and stupid with leaving his stuff all everywhere that it's really incredible that we didn't catch him before his attempted second murder of the sheriff, which he apparently has to do with a time bomb (this one surely wasn't thermite, it looked more like TNT) instead of a gun or something. Or... strangling him with a pillow? Anything.
He is then just astounded to see us there, but guesses that we are the response the Bureau sent to his actions. Good thing he didn't have another way to contact the organization he works for!
He knows something funny is going on, and wants it solved, but apparently had no agency to solve it himself beyond bombs? And doesn't want to work with us? So he charges us with solving it with the promise that he will kill again, and then we just let the target of our mission slip away.
Spoiler alert: he will never enter the story again at all ever. Ever.
No, now it's AI and Stellerex. These are introduced ABOUT as ham-handedly as is imaginable, in an unbelievable narrative memory talking-blues... thing by the Sheriff, who was able to secret a card to AI's weapons manufacturing plant (which why did he HAVE that) in his hand... did... nobody check? His hand? In the hospital for days?
Why did not nobody know that he went to their plant? Did he go alone without telling anybody? I'm pretty sure they didn't need to let him in without a warrant, and surely the police would know if he had one of those?
WHY WOULD HE GIVE THIS CARD TO THE FIRST TWO STRANGERS HE SEES, WHILE A BOMB IS CLEARLY STILL ATTACHED TO HIS BED?
I... I think I need to sit down.
Post-incident, the guard is re-posted, but won't respond to any conversation attempts.
You know what, fine. Let's stop beating around the bush. We're going to drive the RV. The one that we were not issued because it'd be too obvious? The one that belongs to the target of our mission, who we let go and will never pursue? The one with a license plate that is about to become the most wanted vehicle in the county if the police are good at putting two and two together?
Yeah. That one.
We are given three destination options.
They are pictures, and you can kiss this game's ass if you think it's going to tell you what any of them are or why we would go there.
Here is place #1. This is clearly the RV lot where we were parked to start with.
here is #2. It's a totally nondescript section of forest.
Here is #3. It's another totally nondescript forest.
We'll unlock more locations later, but this is it for now.
SO! Putting a positive spin on things, instead of some chumpy rogue agent, we are now going after a SENTIENT AI VIRUS MAYBE? and also MAYBE THE CULT OF STELLEREX BUT WHO KNOWS!
The game likes to put all the cards out on the table and then go OR IS THIS MY HAND???
So, droogs. Where do we go? FOREST, OR OTHER FOREST?
Forest is understood to be the first one, other forest is the second one.
CAST YER VOTES!
KEEP TURNING IN STORIES, PRIZE SUGGESTIONS, OR STORY IDEAS! OR DRAWINGS OR STUFF LIKE THAT!