Part 80: Intro/TempusIntro/Tempest
As was mentioned by somebody a few times in the thread, that's a lot of padlocks. Rather obviously at the top center is the Arc Eternal section, the Story mode of the game. We will of course be starting there and not diving into any bonus material until afterwards, per usual and for the same reason that bonus missions often have unlocked everything, including stuff we haven't made it to in the Story. The text is small, so here's what it says about all the categories via tooltip:
** Arc Eternal - Story Mode. Play and complete missions to unlock other sectors.
** Tormented Space - A vast and tormented region. Free as many systems as possible in these 'challenging' worlds. Unlock via Arc Eternal missions.
** Prospector Zone - Many worlds ... many artifacts of Odin. Play missions and collect as many artifacts of Odin as you can. Unlock via Arc Eternal missions.
** Projects - You are the supreme being. Make your own custom worlds and upload them to KnuckleCracker.com. Complete first 5 Arc Eternal missions.
** Colonial Space - Online metaverse. Browse and download the creations of other players. Unlock via Arc Eternal missions.
** Alpha Sector - Precursor worlds. Before space as we know it was formed these worlds were the pillars of reality. Complete All Arc Eternal Missions.
** Load File*
** Credits - What could be so special about credits that they are locked? Complete first 10 Arc Eternal Missions.
** DMD - (D)ial (M)ap (D)evice. Dial up the map of your nightmares. Complete and get online naming rights! Complete first 5 Arc Eternal Missions.
* This has absolutely no explanation of any kind whatsoever. I think it refers to loading mid-mission saves ... but even when it's locked I can already do that, I just have to go the world first and load it from the local menu. So ... I dunno.
Still waiting on his reaction to the bonus content to CW3.
Well mainly, my reaction is I'm not even sure what's what. Literally. Seem to be at least three 'official bonus' sectors. And multiple options for what would have been termed 'custom maps' in prevous versions of the series. So if you asked me where to go for user-created maps, I'm not even totally sure. Colonial Space probably? But maybe DMD instead?? So yeah. There'll be plenty of time to get into all that.
In CW1/CW2, these worked in a simple, but logical & straightforward way. Beat a level, get an achievement. Beat all levels in a mode(Story/Bonus/etc.) get a bonus achievement. Beat all official content, get the Supreme Victory achievement. As a result, Steam informs me I have unlocked every single achievement for the first two games. It is highly unlikely that I will repeat that here; the first two have 72 combined. CW3 has 139. But it works differently. Most levels don't actually have a specialized achievement associated with them. Also, some of them are one step above 'Congratulations! You successfully installed and booted up this product!! HERE, HAVE A COOKIE!!!'.
Our first example occurs when I click on Arc Eternal to get started with the story. I then get the Arc Eternal Pioneer achievement. I think every single mode has one. You are a 'Pioneer' for committing the hazardous, intrepid, risky act of literally clicking on that option and entering it's domain. You could knock me over with a feather. So that's one down. 138 to go.
**READ THIS: I strongly recommend, for the full experience, watching the intro cinematic which plays immediately after entering Arc Eternal. It's similar in style to the one I linked at the start of the LP for CW1. It even has music, even with music volume muted in the settings. Timestamp for those who prefer screenshot format: 4:10 through 6:03. And it features both an actual historical figure, and a fake, CW-canon one. I've never thought it made sense personally to screencap cinematics, so the synopsis there won't be presented here.
I'm then prompted to click the 'Awaken' green button, and we're off:
I know these are a little hard to read. They are about half the size even at max. resolution in this game as they were in the last one. The 'speaker' here is Lia.
If you look closely, he's quite recognizable. If it wasn't obvious to you yet(and the first time I saw it, it somehow managed not to be to me), this is the Commander from CW1, Admiral Abraxis from CW2. He's back again. And he gets more fully-featured with each game. He had just a title in the original, then got a last name even as all the supporting characters also had a first one in the sequel. But now we can call him by his full identification; Skarsgard 'Skars' Abraxis. The billions of years referenced in the intro cinematic do not appear to have been kind to his appearance.
That's a good long nap.
Platius, the ultimate 'man behind the curtain', has done it again. Only moreso this time. He did save our species(though very temporarily, it seems) with the Thor schematic. But he'd better have an awfully darned good and compelling reason for throwing Skars into suspension without so much as an explanation or request for his actions. If not, well, I'm gonna ... uh ...
Not sure what I'll do to such a being. If we even ever see him/it/they again. Tepidly glare at him and not-too-aggressively raise my eyebrows, so I don't arouse his ire too severely?? Nothing beyond that seems safe with an entity of such obvious near-omnipotence.
This is the System map/display/screen thingy. For obvious reasons, I won't show the whole thing again. You can't see a darn thing here with it shrunk down like this. The background is static. This system is known as 'Inceptus'. We'll take a look at the star and the area around it soon. That white thing on the right is a bar representing zoom. We can, and will, zoom in a lot closer. Stuff we can do from here:
** Archived Transmissions(Upper-left). Re-read briefings, basically.
** Return to Origin(Upper-right). Back to main menu.
** Replay Intro(Lower-left).
** Orbiting Planets(Lower-left, checkbox). One of those 'why' options for people who don't actually want the planets to orbit their stars.
** Reset Missions(Lower-Right). Marks all Story missions as having not been played. Essentially a re-start button, though I've read it doesn't work as well as it should.
That's much better. Almost at maximum zoom, there's one more level to it. Lia and Skars, our current cast of characters, are in that ship. 'She' told us to go to Tempus. And Carcere has some red symbol over it and a bluish aura.
Despite the 'Start' option here we can't actually start Carcere, as we are told. Skars sucks at following instructions ... or maybe I just wanted to show what would happen. Planetary Shields are, so far as I know, a plot device for making you do the missions in a specific order. And of course the ship actually whirs around and zips over to the planet in question quite rapidly. Very handy. So ok. How droll that billions of years in the future we still need keys, particularly for something like a shield for a planet. But it is what it is.
Clicking on the star says it will 'Show Sector Map'. But not yet. Obvious training wheels are obvious.
This is worth showing exactly once. Going where we are told, to Tempus, and clicking start brings up the 'Calibrating Planetary Scanners' screen, which is transparently a loading screen. But ok, credit for actually putting the effort of making a graphic and progress bar for it. We know this is a more advanced title, in that it actually requires a brief loading screen, a feature of modern software absent in the first two games.
This is more or less what it will look like when starting a new mission. Briefing at the top, pause button in the upper right, extremely small 'visibility' button in the upper-left(this basically adjusts what stuff you want to see/not see if the map gets cluttered), zoom and pan-capable map in the middle, and the control panel for all of our strategic indecisions at the bottom. We'll get to the rest of that after ...
Yes, by all means, let's have some more exposition!
I'm not sure that just being flat-out wiped out, end of species isn't a more merciful fate than this kind of endless war cycle. Of course, the franchise would then be over, and we can't have that ...
So Skars is likely the last human in existence, saved for the purpose of ?? This just keeps getting better and better!
There's something perverse about being handed over by an AI to a more rudimentary computerized subroutine for menial tasks beneath her/its notice.
And now the most-tutorial mission Inceptus begins. Gameplay is actually here. I get to do stuff. I prefer the mouse controls by the way. The control panel at the bottom has the usual speed/sound stuff, zoom on the right, and also notice the elevation thing has returned from CW1. Lots of things, as we'll soon see, have returned from the original including obviously the top-down view. The left-side has the 'Archived Transmissions' thing again to re-read the briefing or I can actually make like a Commander and get the mission accomplished. There are four tabs on the left: Structure, Weapons, Titans, and Orbital. We're currently on Orbital, though the interface does not highlight it, change it's color, or otherwhise indicate so in any way. CW2 even got that right .
Ok so here's the map zoomed in, which I'll be using for the great majority of things to improve visual quality. The Command Node is basically the latest version of the minifacturing HQ; we had Odin City, then the Liberation Ship, and now we have this. Sensibly we've been instructed to place it on this grey plateau in the northwest. Notice how organic the terrain is, compared to the blocky squared-off look in the first two games. That's both good and bad, IMO(it does lose some simplicity), but clearly it looks more natural.
I only shrunk this a hair. That's an insanely small energy display at the top of the screen. And we have a new directive. Collectors are back! Down with Reactors!!!(jk)
This should look familiar. We have the connecting lines of the network here, and collectors work in a specified area(and as before, only on the same terrain level they are placed on). Let's get that fractal energy!
Me: "It's like the first game on crack basically because it's more fast-paced." Stuff just gets built faster(even on standard, not-accelerated, 1x time). Packets travel and are produced faster. So playing anything resembling optimally would definitely require liberal pausing, both because of that and the more complicated terrain that doesn't lend itself as much to OCD-inspired grid layouts.
But we'll not be having any of that around here. I will admit defeat if I have to resort to pausing to beat a level at some point. In the previous titles, that has not yet befallen me.
Ok. We have two available weapons, the Pulse Cannon(bearing a striking resemblance to the Blaster), and the Nullifier(there's a carryover from CW2 for ya).
Three delivered, as requested. Note the silver/white packets for construction, reddish/maroon ones for ammo/supply. All that is very familiar. And these as well give a visual range indicator when you place them. As we might expect, they are a low-range, fast-firing system again for clearing low-density creeper. There's no readily obvious help files for me to give any official synopsis though.
Yes, I'm practically a genius. You haven't really lived until you've seen me follow basic instructions.
I move over with the collector network coming(and only once pull the brilliant maneuver of moving a blaster and realizing it was all that was holding the network together, an old CW1 fave of mine).
Yep, heard you the first time. Get a grip.
Here we are in the east, collectors and Pulse Cannons, some still being built, surrounding the creeper valley on higher ground. That greenish thing is the pod referred to earlier. Like a Totem in CW1, just got to get close enough for a network connection. The satisfying blue clouds of creeper being incinerated, the light-flashes of weapon impacts, all of that is cool and recognizable.
Once acquired, the pod ascends into orbit. I'm notified a bit later that I've got the Carcere Shield Key. But as we're reminded here, we aren't yet done.
The outline of a Nullifier turns green if it's in a valid area, by which we mean within range of a target. It says 'Targets: 1' here, demonstrating it's lack of understanding of the singular/plural distinction.
These are a two-stage building process now as well. They need supply after being built, and they start charging up as soon as it begins arriving, spinning and whirring as they go. Also see here the control panel. Tough to see the ammo but it reads 22/50.
A red laser-like beam directs itself to the target emitter, and then it blows here. An explosion, and this is the aftermath. We've won! Also note the achievement in the lower right. This is one of three for beating missions. Doesn't matter if you've beat them before. You could beat this tutorial mission 50 times and complete the Varro Hale Award one. There's ones of increasing number for Aliana Abraxis and Dax Joven as well. I really could care less about those, but they are there. We also get achievements for our first nullifier, pulse cannon, and collector. Like I said, some of these are not particularly hard to accomplish. Oh, and 'System Communique'? How very European.
I stick around for a bit, because I know certain individuals would go a little crazy if I didn't look at all the control panels. Here's the one that is different:
We haven't yet gotten to Digitalis and Runners, but we'll certainly hate our collective existences when we do. And hey, we can prioritize them if we want. So that's something.
After each level, I'm greeted with the inadequacy of my efforts compared to the top times, whether I wish to be or not. 6.2 seconds. By my calculations it took me less than 86 times as long. Obviously a reflection of my brilliance. I won't be showing these on future levels either. Also ...
NO GRAPH!! In all fairness it wasn't nearly as useful in CW2 as in the original. But I don't know what to do with myself without that data looking me in the face and explaining how I wasted most of my energy and didn't start attacking the creeper nearly soon enough.
And so we will, but that's a story for next time ...