Part 10: Next - SawbuckHey everybody! Big 'ol long delay, longer than I'd ever hoped for but I:
- Turned 27
- Got Engaged
- Defended my masters thesis (successfully!)
- Started a PhD program
So things have been good! That isn't the reason for the long delay though. No, the REAL reason is that my old laptop finally up and quit on me after many years of service, so this is now coming to you straight from LAPPY 3.0!
But whatever, you say (and I would too), where's the UPDATE? Here it is.
So JUST before we start : a few posts above I tried a new thing - a historical info post. Let me know if you liked it, didn't like it, or don't care enough to read it - all that feedback is good!
Furthermore, the writing/drawing contest is still totally on!
Also, a quick bonus segment, because you guys had to wait so long. I'll give you some insight into how the character sound, and how the game grates on your nerves. Unless you click in a fairly small pixel hitbox, with the correct command, the game assumes you messed up. That means you get the "oops" message about twice per every successful command. Here they are.
Suggested Listening: DJ Blast - Gangsta's Paradise Remix
Now I've been doing a lot of reading lately, about the basic structure of "The Hero's Journey", and the importance of narrative structure. SO: this episode, let's pay attention to the way the story is put together - what is the game telling us about our heroes? About our villains? What is the SUBTEXT?
If nothing else, it'll distract us from the mind-bending insanity of the actual game!
Now: where were we? Ah, yes.
We'd just taken out Eddie Houston, P.I., who was hiding in the luggage compartment of a vampire (not actual vampire) band's tour bus, waiting for them to come out. He presumably had a stake, but no real defense. We plucked the chip right offa him. That left us with "Sawbuck", criminal mastermind(?) and Dennis Sterling, head of security for AI, a company that's definitely involved in this somehow.
And to DOUBLE refresh our memories, these are the people who have been "droned", or turned into remotely controlled bots for an evil sentient AI. There might also be a demon-worshiping cult (the demon is Stellerex) involved. We're not SUPER sure.
Now: the thread voted we go after Sawbuck next, so let's go!
....go where? Well, there are... not many in-game clues. In fact, none. But hey, we haven't gone west of the concert hall yet, so let's head that way!
Man, this place is kind of a dump!
But can we really say that a gang is operating here?
I think there was probably ONE writer on staff who got that this game didn't make any sense if it was serious, and tried to add what humor he or she could. And bless you, one writer who got it. Bless you.
- The street was also figuratively covered in garbage, and I don't even think that means anything.
Nothing special there...
For a made-up band, Mike and the Night Stalkers gets COMPREHENSIVE coverage in this game.
Look back in the back of the alley. Is that.... surely that isn't...
It is. It's a poster for a ballet company.
Siiiiiiigh. Let's check it out.
A tunnel. Behind the poster.
So this is like a baffling, stupid Shawshank?
Apparently that is EXACTLY what it is. What is that poster made of? It's NOT any kind of paper!
My theory is that it's made of that stuff that's in the wristbands you can slap on your wrist and they curl around.
Well, as much as I hate to, let's see what's in this secret building. That... I guess you can't just walk in the front door of.
You know, I distinctly remember that we WEREN'T supposed to blow our cover as agents? And that we don't have any badges or authority to arrest people?
Whatever. That dialogue triggers as soon as you enter, and you're thrust into conversation with this guy. Surely it will be of great use to us, and won't be at all a waste of time.
Well! I guess he knows Sawbuck! That might... be something useful to ask about?
...Yeah that's about what I expected.
Mercy! TWO dialogue options here? Well, don't get too excited. We haven't gotten anything useful out of the dialogue yet.
So... was he here today?
- to catching him.
So one weird thing about this bit is that I have no idea how sarcastic this guy is supposed to be. I mean... it's not so crazy that he might have just been here? But maybe he's just saying that sarcastically because oh of course he wouldn't give us any straight answers?
(This is the "intimidate him" option. Not SUPER intimidating, but...)
The fact that you're talking to a psychopathic lady in a mechsuit?
Again: battlemech. Psychopathic. Right in front of him.
Well, this conversation is (predictably) useless. Let's see what's in this super-secret gang hideout!
A lot of junk. A lot of junk and....
It's a sad commentary on the state of this city that even it's gangs are reduced to this: huddling in an abandoned building, trash everywhere, and all they have is a single bottle of pills. Well, what ARE they?
dangerously high levels.
WARNING This somehow managed to be, even reaching beyond the scope of the game and into real life, an actively awful description, in that it casually assumes that mixing stimulants and depressants basically events out. Don't take a stimulant to "counteract the use of a depressant". The complex signal chains that stimulants and depressants act on isn't analogous to the pH scale.
Taken from drug rehab experts:
Mixing stimulants and depressants puts the body under immense pressure. The cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous systems are put into a frenzy with the simultaneous mixed messages to speed up and slow down. The consequences of this are severe and can result in one or more of the following situations:
Slowed, depressed or stopped breathing
Cardiac arrest, heart attack or heart failure
So yeah, way to be idiots, Bureau description committee.
Anyway, yeah we got the stimulants and depressants. I'd say that's enough to book this guy!
Except, of course, we can't confront him about it.
Well, surely we can get SOMETHING out of him?
It's rat. Ya happy now?
Aw, that seems to be sore spot!
Says the vampire.
Let's try laying down the law a bit more!
Uh... sure! IRONS, BOY! IRONS!
I didn't do nothin', what are you gonna run me in for? There's no law against standin' around!
I'm fairly sure that hanging out in an abandoned building with stimulants and depressants will at LEAST get you booked for vagrancy? Squatting, something?
Time to bring in the negotiator, if anybody can wring something out of this conversation, it's him!
You tell 'em Suttle, Team Holy High Rollers, go!
Yeah, hows about?
No, of course Suttle doesn't get anywhere. What does it look like when BLANK talks to him? The guy specifically mentioned as a negotiator?
Hot dog! A new dialogue option! Let's calm him down!
Aaaaand that's it. The dialogue option disappears, the conversation is over.
But wait... remember when the guy said "where is Sawbuck" and he was all "not here"? If he said that, then...
Good thinking, father! NOW we're getting somewhere!
Once again, I have no idea how sarcastic this is supposed to be. He COULD be earnest about this? For some reason I just picture him sneering at us, but he really IS close to Sawbuck, so...?
- I got into trouble once and he helped me get out of it. Now get out of
Awesome. Nice tab in the dialogue there.
Also, is it possible that he helped him out of trouble... IN LOVE? I sense a barely restrained surge of emotion here. This loser, standing in his hovel, knows that Sawbuck is the only one for him, and even in the face of meddling government agents, their love can never be betrayed!
Or Sawbuck is just a criminal drug-peddling enabler.
- Incidentally, there's a clue to his drug-dealing ways in his name: A sawbuck was originally slang for a sawhorse, or a support for holding wood that was being cut. It was made by lashing two pieces of wood together in an X shape.
With the advent of the U.S. 10 dollar bill, which bears the Roman numeral X, "sawbuck" became slang for the bill, as people associated the shape with the sawhorse.
In the mid-1900s "sawbuck" became street slang, apparently originating in Chicago, for a 10-dollar bag of marijuana. Since 1985 or so, the term has referred to a 10-dollar "bag" (actual bag or any kind of package) of any street drug (heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, etc.).
Father Blank is hip of course, and wants to root out any inappropriate affairs.
totally legal. I wouldn't do anything that's illegal!
Please let that be sarcasm?
Well. That was utterly useless. I've navigated ALL the dialogue trees, and nothing will entice this man to say anything remotely useful. He IS an event flag, though. What happens next will absolutely not happen unless you enter the gang's hideout, although you'll get no clues about it.
And that things happens...
...in Carver's Bar(ver).
Yipes! I think we just met Sawbuck!
And nobody else at the bar even turns their HEAD.
So he was hanging out here, presumably chatting up that young lady. He recognizes us as federal agents, qualifying him as the most perceptive man in the entire game, and threatens to blow her head off.
And what happens if we try to move closer?
...that. Uh. That happens.
That isn't a gun. That's a laser. That HAS to be a laser. So yeah, you move too close and he fires a round into the ceiling.
You can talk to him, but he doesn't respond to any of your questions or offers. It literally just goes back to the main screen, and you can talk to him again, but he's silent for all of this.
So... let's see what else is going on in here?
So what do we do? We can't talk, and if we get closer, he just fires into the ceiling.
Hmmmm. Maybe... if we approach him six times, and assume that instead of a 9mm or a derringer or something he's got a revolver, he'll fire ALL HIS BULLETS into the air, as warning shots!
Keep in mind the animation just 100% repeats every time you approach him, which is usually adventure game shorthand for "do something else". Well no, not here. The game keeps track of his shots, and after six approaches and six shots fired in the air in otherwise total silence (this is SUCH an awkward standoff)
Yes. Surely that small detail was the only flaw in his otherwise flawless plan. What was he even doing here? Who was that woman? Was he selling drugs? Going on a date? How would any of this possibly benefit a rogue sentient AI? Well the questions about the woman will have to go unanswered - she isn't a person you can talk to or look at in-game, and she'll vanish the second we leave the room.
Which we do now, in pursuit of our drone!
- Isaac! That is a terrible attitude!
- I'm just kidding around Selma, trying to lighten the situation with humor!
- YOU are? Humor?
- Hey, a man just emptied a gun into the ceiling next to me, I need SOMETHING to cut the tension.
Now it's a simple matter of yanking off the computer chip patched directly into his spinal column, because why not
Shhh. Calm down now, Sawbuck.
Oh wait no, only Father Blank would think to say that.
Yes I think we'd probably BETTER count that! The man is a drug-dealer! A criminal! We're.... we're just going to let him go. Aren't we.
Who are the REAL monsters? The careless government agents is who. Our tax dollars are being wasted!
Of course, Delilah is significantly more hard core about things.
And that's Sawbuck, ladies and gentlemen!
You know though: we've only got ONE more drone left. And I'm feeling generous, since it's been such a long break.
What do you say we do a TWO FOR ONE? CAN WE BE THAT CRAZY?
We totally can. Buckle up, goons.
We approach Dennis Sterling's house, full of pride and vigor.
Access is gained through the usual methods - smashing, lock picking, misting, or crowbaring all work.
It's supposed to be super-chic. I think it looks like a hotel room.
It's a little weird that it's one screen left of Eddie's dilapidated slopheap of a house, and we know from the file earlier that they live on the same street, so it's not like the screen transition hides miles of distance.... oh well.
Let's look around.
They really go all-out with these descriptions. They are DEDICATED to letting you know that this is a Nice House.
THIRTY FIVE INCHES? ARE YOU INSANE?
We head right, into the bedroom.
I know this is the most minor possible point, but that is not hanging HIGH and it bugs me.
I guess the guy is a bachelor, which we can confirm by how no woman would consent to that weird high-noon wild west picture and that tex-mex carpet pattern. This guy could use queer eye. Is that even still a thing? I'm so old.
What. Is that a rich person thing? Because that is stupid.
So there's nothing at all in here. This is an utterly useless room - I have no idea why it's here except for flavor(?) I guess.
So back in the main area we listen to the message on his answering machine.
Dennis? It's Ted. Listen, I found out there's one or more feds in town, snooping into the assassination attempt on Tucker. Don't let them find anything out. "CONVINCE" them to leave town. You get the picture?
This.... this is the worst plan. I'm sorry, but they don't know about Bureau 13, and they think this is the FBI. Their company is mixed up with rogue AIs and demon worship, and yet they had NOTHING (directly) to do with the assassination attempt! They KNOW it's some wacky rogue agent from the government. They know that Tucker isn't under their control any more, and I bet most FBI agents wouldn't believe that he was mind controlled.
The proper solution to this problem is to stonewall the FBI, and wait until they go away. Not uh, threaten them with kneecapping? I guess? Even if you killed them all, that's just going to bring down the full force of the Bureau. You NEVER dislodge FBI agents with threats of violence.
I'd say this is showing that (AI Vice-President) Ted Simpson is panicking and suggesting stupid courses of action, but it's probably more just they wanted him to sound creepy, and didn't realize that he is suggesting essentially suicide, because he's a moron.
Delilah handles this about how you'd imagine.
Whatever. Let's get to the garage.
Looks more or less normal. Oil stains, big weird pipe to the right...
You find extreme details in the weirdest places in this game. This, for instance, will never come up again.
I guess this is supposed to be establishing that he's rich? I'm glad the insane rogue AI isn't class-conscious at least! It's an equal-opportunity enslaver!
So you can open ALL those cabinets, but there's only one useful thing:
This weirdly-placed book. I mean is it balancing on its corner?
Well it's... "Jane's book of bombs". By Jane, I guess. Probably Delilah's older sister.
deactivated with simple household tools.
ahahahahahha let me explain. There is a puzzle coming up that has a really stupid solution, and it's REALLY easy to die during it. It was, in fact, probably so hard that complaints got raised during play-testing, and, being the high-budget wonderpiece that this is, they just slapped in this arbitrary book that gives a huge hint.
You know, this COULD be Delilah wondering if a woman would straighten out a wacko? I bet it's not. I bet her ideal mate is the unibomber, and that's what we're learning here.
Well, with listening to the answering machine and reading that book, we tripped the event flag for...
This guy to be creepily standing around our RV!
Hey buddy! Well, nice to run into you. We'll just be on our way, catch you ar...
And any agent who tries to open it up is gone in a lens flare. No scorch mark, no damage to the RV, no ashes, nothin'!
Also note that Delilah, despite surviving the bomb placed in the basement of AI, gets just disintegrated by this one.
So how were we supposed to know? Well, besides the creepy guy standing around, if we read the book with the hacker...
dog-eared... booby traps
And uh... yeah that's all the clues you get. Hope you saved often!
So what to do? Well, remember those wire cutters?
Yep! Easy as pie!
One interesting thing to mention: if you didn't pick up the wire cutters from the store earlier, you are POOCHED now, since you can't get there without getting in the RV. The game is totally winnable with one agent, so you can just sacrifice one. Better make sure you gave all his items to the other agent, though!
No, we'll just leave it in the RV and never speak of it again, Isaac.
So now it's a simple enough affair:
Yoink the chip...
And the drone clears up!
Mr. SImpson called me to the research lab. Wait. I rigged your RV to explode. I remember that.
Way to give out timely info, buddy.
Ha ha what
Alright! That clears up ALL THE DRONES! So what now? Well, again, the game gives NO clues.
Remember that graveyard? Let's go there and see if anything is dif-
The master condemns trespassers to a hideous death before dining on their entrails. His sacred temple is protected... impregnable... deceptive.... it is DEATH! Haaaa hahahahahahahaahahaaaaaaaaa
Alright so dealing with the drones has somehow caused a green spookyman to appear!
Obviously, this totally fits in with the story and needs dealing with because of the past actions we have taken!
In a plausible, sensiblok I have no idea what is going on and why.
So: where do we go? As a refresher, the places we haven't yet explored are:
house I'd never seen before (ed. note: doesn't mean that there isn't something relevant in there! It seriously doesn't.)
Cast yer votes!
1) Tell me what you think of the historical segment
2) Keep those fiction pieces coming for a free prize!
3) Let me know how this game conveys the heroic journey through plot and action!