The Let's Play Archive

City of Heroes

by Cleretic

Part 26: The Strange Case of Benjamin A. Decker - Cleretic

The Strange Case of Benjamin A. Decker (Rikti War Zone arc #2)

Last time, we joined Vanguard and beat the everloving shit out of a bunch of Rikti. While we were doing that, we were shocked to find out that information leaks were coming from a soldier supposedly killed in the Rikti War, Benjamin A. Decker.

I turned the difficulty down a bit, because we're now not just fighting Rikti, with zombies now clearly entering the business as well. It's also going to mean for the most part, screenshots will make slightly more sense.

Levantera posted:

Character, do you remember Arnold Decker? He was one of the hostages who escaped from the Cap au Diable power station a while back. Well, it turns out that he's the younger brother of Benjamin A. Decker, the missing soldier from the Rikti War who tried to warn us about the Rikti raid you fought off. We were bringing Arnold here to talk to him, but Arachnos kidnapped him en route. We think we have his location, but we need someone particularly talented to make sure we get him out in one piece.

The one thing we don't understand is why would Arachnos be interested in all of this. Recluse has been known to work with Rikti Traditionalists, but only as a way to strike against Paragon City. He'd have no reason to interfere like this.

Enter Arachnos.

These are the big guys. Led by Lord Recluse and ruling over the Rogue Isles as a dictatorship, Arachnos are the main force in City of Villains, and one of the main antagonists for both sides. They're also, in my opinion, by far the most competent group in the entire game's lore.

As far as fighting them goes, I also think they're, on average, one of the hardest groups. It's all in their variety: They have every damage type but Cold in abundance, stealth, controls, and they hit like a bitch. If you have a weakness, Arachnos can exploit it.

Rikti Traditionalists will be explained next time, but suffice to say, they're the 'bad' Rikti, with the 'good' Rikti being Restructurists.

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This is an abandoned warehouse. Abandoned office buildings and warehouses make up the majority of real estate in Paragon City, presumably because all the office and warehouse workers left long ago, preferring instead to eiter join with or punch the vibrant choice of street gangs Paragon City has to offer.

[NPC] Bane Spider Commando: I tell you, something's wrong!
[NPC] Fortunata: Isn't it good to be evil?

It sure is, buddy!

[NPC] Mu Striker: Does something about this seem wrong to you?
[NPC] Tarantula: The orders come from above us. Are you going to question them?
[NPC] Mu Striker: Guess it doesn't matter if we still get to hurt people!

I don't have a lot of pictures of these fights, because whenever I try to take an in-combat screenshot while fighting Arachnos, I die or the shot turns out unsalvageable. It's normally the fault of these ladies.

Widows are Arachnos' assassins. When they start getting up in ranks, they get psychic-based control attacks, and Smoke Grenade. Smoke Grenade blinds you to the point where you can't see or target any enemy, so you probably can't fight any of them either. All of Arachnos' troop types have the general rule of 'harmless minions, but anything higher can fuck you up'.

[NPC] Arnold Decker: Nemesis Army? What?
[NPC] Mu Striker: Uh... Commander?
[NPC] Capture Team Leader: Never mind that! To the attack, men!
[NPC] Capture Team Leader: For Lord... Recluse!
[NPC] Mu Striker: Yeah... What he said!
[NPC] Arnold Decker: Character! I'm over here!

This is the kind of group Clerisy likes seeing when fighting Arachnos. The floating, caped Mu mystics have the same focus on Energy damage and endurance drain as him, with none of the defense against it.

Meet Arnold Decker, a pretty cool kid. He's also nice enough to display a problem I always had with City of Heroes; Everyone's built like Superman, so if you want to make someone physically unassuming, the best you can get is Clark Kent.

Clue posted:

When you defeated Arnold Decker's captor, the Arachnos leader fell to the floor with a clatter. Your foe wasn't a normal Arachnos soldier (or at least wasn't what passes for 'normal' among Arachnos troops), but a cleverly constructed clockwork counterfeit: a Nemesis Impostor Automaton!

It must have falsified its orders and appropriated troops to capture Arnold Decker, and then pinned the blame on Arachnos. But why?

He was gonna turn up eventually, so let's cover Nemesis.

Imagine Doctor Doom with more steampunk and even less subtlety, and you're in the ballpark of what Nemesis is. Nearly two hundred years old, Nemesis has irons in every fire you can think of, and even some you can't. He controls when it rains, who wins wars, and even whether or not heroes are pursuing him (I didn't make any of these up, these are all things Nemesis is stated to control at various points in the game). His ridiculous planning led to 'it's all a Nemesis plot' becoming a meme in the CoX community (especially after the events of the RWZ arcs). Not only is the breadth of his plans quite remarkable, but his army of steam-powered robots and loyal soldiers is a force to be reckoned with.

...At least, the game wants you to believe most of that. The Nemesis Army, when fought, is a total pushover. Armed pretty much only with Lethal damage and the occasional flamethrower, they're outgunned by almost every equal-levelled group in the game. They have two threatening tricks up their sleeve: Their lieutenants buff nearby allies on death, and the Fake Nemesis bosses putting up impenetrable temporary force fields at 20% health.

On the way out, the first thing we're hit with is a spawn of Arachnos.

Most of these are minions, so again they aren't all that dangerous. The red and black Bane Spider behind us, in higher ranks, gets some painful stealth abilities. The questionably robotic Tarantulas (the game lore flip-flops on whether they're robots or particularly heavy cyborgs) get Toxic and Psionic damage. Finally, the Crab Spider with the extra legs gets just plain extra damage, having already carved a nice of decent Lethal and Energy damage.

The second thing we run into is this mob of totally normal office workers and, presumably, their supervisor. These are Nemesis Automatons, who are effectively identical to Nemesis' soldiers proper. he guy in the tank is a Warhulk, the boss type in the Nemesis Army that isn't a Fake Nemesis. Warhulks trade in the Fake Nem's aforementioned force fields for the ability to explode violently on death. Unfortuantely for him, this explosion is pitiful and ultimatley harmless.

Clue posted:

Despite all that's happened to him, Arnold Decker was so excited with his news that he could barely keep from talking once he saw you again:

'He's alive! Ben's alive! He snuck away from their base and visited me! He looks different, okay, but it's my brother Ben! I know it! He said that he was captured by the Rikti during the war and that they did something to him, but he snapped out of the brainwashing when he saw me. I know it's him, and he's back to himself now. But the rest of the Rikti know and he's got to get out. He wants to come home. You'll help him, right? Vanguard will help him, won't they?'

Sure they will, kid, sure they will.

Levantera posted:

The implications of Mr. Decker's tale are astonishing, to say the least. But the real nature of his captors was perhaps even more so. There will be time to consider that later. For the moment, we must decide whether we should act on Mr. Decker's information. I will make the case before Lady Grey. If she agrees, I'll need your help if we are to have any chance of success.

I'm not an expert but I'm pretty sure a real military force wouldn't act on this sort of intel. I assume Vanguard just have nothing better to act on.

The Strange Case of Benjamin A. Decker
Part Two

Leantera posted:

Lady Grey has agreed to the proposed operation to help Mr. Decker. What surprised me is that Dark Watcher was also in favor. This may still be a trap, but if the story is true, recovering Benjamin A. Decker could be a breakthrough for us.

According to the information he provided Arnold Decker, our defector will be part of a raiding contingent that will attack one of our bases. His Rikti name is B'Nadek. Our forces can fend off the raid; your job is just to recover Arnold's putative brother.

Oh, there's one more thing. The Dark Watcher wants to talk to you once this is done. I don't know why. It seems Lady Grey is the only one he ever explains himself to.

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This is a short, but hectic mission. B'Nadek is the Rikti in light blue, cowering in the approximate center of this picture. The entrance of the mission is the bunker at the bottom of this screen, and we have to take him there. You'll notice he's alone; that's because his captors got distracted by the Vanguard soldiers between him and the door. I don't think this is intentional, but I'm not going to argue.

[NPC] Chief Soldier: ThoughtMode: Errant. ThoughtMode: Human.
[NPC] B'Nadek: Yes. ThoughtMode: Human! I was: AM Human!
[NPC] B'Nadek: Clerisy! You came!
[NPC] Rikti minion: Resolve Situation: Later.
[NPC] Chief Soldier: Resolve Situation: Later.

A lot of non-combat Rikti have uniquely colored armor like this. I like it, it's a nice touch and B'Nadek has good color coordination. We take him six steps to the mission exit.

Clue posted:

After you helped him escape, B'Nadek told you some of his story:

'So Immersed: Rikti-Thought. Recognition Near-Failure: Own Brother. Human-Thought: Presently Difficult. Please: Patience.

My name is: was Ben Decker. I was: Soldier: Earth during the Rikti War. I was a prisoner, they took me and: Changed me. They thought Change: Improvement. They all undergo: Change during Gestation/Exo-womb. They think it's a way to lift a man: up, just like some aliens did to them thousands of years ago. And if I never saw: Arnold again, I would have continued: Harmonious Rikti-Thought.

The Rikti think what they do is raise people up to their level of evolution. To them Riktification: Gift. But really, what it does: cage a man.'

Really, after B'Nadek tells us this, what Dark Watcher has to tell us is redundant. But we've gotta see him anyway.

Dark Watcher posted:

Clerisy. About the B'Nadek situation. You've stumbled onto something interesting, but not unexpected. We're bound to see more incidents like this, and I don't like my people to be blind. Take this file. Read it if you want, then give it to Levantera when this thing is wrapped up. Normally, this kind of information is restricted by the FBSA 'Omega Clearance'. Heh.

If you learn it from another source, pretend you never knew it before. Not that it matters to me.


Though this file is in a plain manila envelope, its contents are shocking to any who don't already possess Omega Clearance. Here, it lays out the truth about the Rikti, namely that while obviously morphologically different, they are biologically heavily-altered human beings. The alterations are clearly artificial, and appear to be the result of biomorphic processes that are most likely initiated during gestation, and continued throughout the Rikti's childhood and adolescence. Later documents abound with conjecture about how this could have come to pass on the Rikti homeworld, ranging from an advanced civilization's defense against massive pollution to contact with a much more advanced alien race. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: the Rikti homeworld isn't an alien planet, but an alternate Earth!

I always considered this one of those non-secrets, but the game goes along with it enough that I can accept it. And personally, I do think it's a pretty cool twist, obvious or not.

Levantera posted:

You bring in a Rikti defector and get a private audience with the most mysterious man in the Vanguard. I'd be jealous, but I'm just too busy with what we're learning from our new friend. Speaking of which, there's an opportunity that I think you may be interested in...

The Strange Case of Benjamin A. Decker
Part Three

Levantera posted:

Our defector has provided us with some interesting information. According to him, the Rikti have been excavating beneath their crashed saucer, and are working on something major down there. This is either a trap or proof that B'Nadek really is the missing Benjamin Decker, and really has defected. Either way, you'll have 1 hour to check it out. Oh, and by the way, this mission is in the most dangerous part of the zone, near the ship. So you'll have to be quick and careful.

Oh, I should mention that along with the time limit, there are other complications. We can't let the Rikti know how much we know, so you'll have to avoid alerting them too much. Stick to looking for information and avoid fighting Rikti. In particular, I'd suggest avoiding the Security Chief and the Foreman. The Foreman is probably on-site, but the Security Chief will only show up if you alert the patrols, and defeat a squad or two of reinforcements. Well, any fighting at all is really unnecessary. So just be careful if you do.

Hmm, Clerisy's not very good at not killing things, this could be a problem. Fortunately, we have a secret weapon!

Super Speed Description posted:

You can run at super-human speeds! While running at such speeds, you are a blur, and many foes will not even notice you as you speed past them. If you attack a target while this power is on, you will temporarily be slowed to normal speed.

Super Speed provides a tiny stealth bonus; just enough to not be noticed for most of a mission.

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Make whatever joke you want, it's undoubtedly going to be just as original as the fact we have sewer level. Anyway, our job is specifically to trudge through until we find four pieces of evidence, while specifically avoiding fighting any of the four patrols, or the Foreman. It's for the best not to take part in any fight here, because patrols wander around the entire map and have no distinguishing features other than the fact they're walking.

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Fortunately, we aren't in the sewers for long, because partway through we come to a hole blown in the wall, which leads into some caves...

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...And eventually, we come to the underside of the mothership. The Foreman we're supposed to avoid is in front of that suspiciously portal-like structure, so we're going to avoid him and jump off the side.

There are four of these items, normally referred to as glowies (not pictured: they do actually glow, and make a distinct sound). You simply click on them and wait until you finish interacting with them.

Clues posted:

The parts here are scrounged from every source of technology in the city. Crey circuit boards, Arachnos robotics, Council energy collectors and more, all heavily modified with the Rikti's advanced alien technology. Whatever they're working on, they are trying desperately to get it operational.

All of the equipment here is brand new. Not scavenged or repaired, but recently manufactured and unused. Either the Rikti on Earth have found a new supply cache of unused equipment, or something strange is going on. You take a sample or two that won't be missed, and move on.

This container is full of organic residue and numerous apparently surgical implements. It's too big to move quietly so you document it and move on.

The strange chemicals in these containers seem to defy the laws of physics. Liquids that flow up, impact-resistant gasses, monopolar liquid magnets, and other strange things abound. You play with them for a few moments, take some samples, and move on.

The most realistic MMO there ever was; deep in enemy territory surrounded by aliens, and you still can't resist playing with silly physics toys.

Levantera posted:

Well handled, Clerisy. We have lots of new information, a confirmation of Ben A. Decker's story, and the Rikti are none the wiser. It's really a shame I'm about to lose your services. Serpent Drummer has requested your assistance, you see. Well, no matter. I have a lot to do, anyway. It has been very pleasant working with you.

Oh? What's this? A file from the Dark Watcher? Certainly I'll take a look at...

Oh... my...

Please excuse me. I think I need to read this.

Levantera now has no more work for us, and introduces us to our next contact, Serpent Drummer. This was a short arc, but the next one makes up for it, I think.

Next: Dreams of Peace and Acts of War