Part 7: Random Child AbuseLast time on Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones we murdered a bunch of mafia guys because the mafia's drug dealer couldn't be bothered to give us a letter of introduction and got a free bullshit discount from Eduardo because the Black Day apparently also killed Cultic Games' editors.
There is surprisingly little to loot outside this building. Rest assured, I will show off the loot because like much of this game, it's both stupid AND offensive!
Meet Wheat and son.
I assume he turned to drinking after failing to cast a basic spell and crashing the game.
: Stay silent.
: Are you deaf or somethin'? You were enjoying MY quality stuff long before the damned calamity! *hic*
: I am not with the Mob.
: I'm in need of some methyl alcohol. Can you help me with it, sir?
: In that case, may I have some?
: Of course not! *hic* You think this is the Arkham Charity Ball or somethin'? In Kentucky we earn things with our sweat and blood. *hic* Look, ma'am, I'm really tired of...(Gestures at the distillation tanks) Of all this.
: What should I do?
There's a whole sequence where you can use science to poison the mobsters lethally or nonlethally. As they had a lethal encounter with Bertha's crowbar, we don't need to worry about this.
: I've already done that.
We get a little cutscene where Wheat and Bertha drink the whiskey and smoke the cigars. We also get them put into our inventory, so we can sell them for smokes.
We get levels for the gang!
We're about to ruin everything in a few minutes, so we will let the unfortunate Mr Wheat have this small moment of pleasure.
Remember the crying widow we met who was going to bravely and futilely confront a band of mafia men and yell at them about Jesus? Her husband was killed by the poor quality of the product and we have a quest to deal with it.
: I also have to ask you to stop producing this poison.
: (He responds to your request with a grimace) Did you really have to ruin this *hic* moment of pure beauty? Did you? Look, ma'am, I'm not proud of the product that we make here either...
So, remember how the game has emphasized that the mafia are a band of brutal killers who tyrannize the town? I'm not sure if Wheat is just supposed to be alcoholic enough that he doesn't realize the mafia men we killed are going to pull a hideous reprisal. My guess is that the syphilis guy took a lot of shit from Wheat that he didn't have to, and the next band is going to be out for blood. Remember, the Mob was also yanked here from Arkham, they shouldn't have more manpower to draw upon other than whatever able-bodied men they can recruit from this small New England town. A band of dedicated partisans could wear the Mob down pretty trivially, and these guys are street thugs with baseball bats who have no real defenses against sorcerers.
What I'm saying is Wheat having supposedly murdered these six guys is a threat to the Mob's power and they will probably kill him and his son when they get here.
Anyway, time to level up Bertha.
I discover something horrifying. Look carefully at the screenshot below.
That's right. Between assigning the skills and hitting the confirm button, I can't actually back out of any of my choices. I can't even X out of the screen either, it's level or die. I mean, I guess it's good that we wanted Melee and Occult, but I am kinda iffy on Concussive Blow (inflict hit penalty on enemy for more AP with a melee attack). Whatever, let's level the Outsider offscreen and go look for stuff.
So the guide I'm using claims there's a filter outside we can install with science, I don't find it. What's that Ravished Sleazy Magazine, you ask?
WHY IS THIS EVEN IN THE GAME???? Is this supposed to be funny? Ha ha, you got a jizz covered porno rag, ha ha!
Rathsack will still buy it though, so may as well.
So to stop the distillery we're taking the easy way and smashing it with our trusty crowbar. Sorry Wheat, but this is poisoning people and also you need to leave or they'll kill you and your kid.
He tells us to get out. I'd be sorry, but people are apparently dying from this shit. Back to the widow to report our success!
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Fuck you, Mob! Get out you stupid Mob...woman! I've given you free booze!
: I'm not with the Mob. I just need some methyl alcohol.
: Oh yea? Well, I want a vacation! Go deal with the mobsters!
: I killed them all.
: Really? That rules! Let's get drunk and smoke cigars!
: Also you need to stop producing this poison.
: Eh, it might be poisonous, but YOLO!
: Crowbar, I choose you! *Smashes brewing tank*
We killed at least 20 people so far, but this random woman is the one we see as horrific? We just killed 6 mafia guys! Well, at least we can get the plot diary.
We ruined Wheat's life for this? What a waste!
We can also try to bury her, but we don't have the tools and the game isn't gonna let us dig with a trench knife or something. Don't be silly! Back to Arkham!
This is actually a really good encounter for us.
That guy is actually our last party member. He fucking rules!
: Requesting reinforcements! They've got us pinned down in Zeebrugge! Ammunition low! (He fires another round at his invisible enemies) Reinforcements, sir!
The game actually is going to thoughtfully engage with PTSD caused by World W- ahahaha, I can't say that with a straight face. If you're expecting anything like a realistic or intelligent take on mental illness you're in the wrong game.
: (Run up and seize the rifle from his hands [Agility]
We get shot, but we manage to run up and grab the rifle away.
: (Observe the lost soldier)(Occult)
: The tormented dead walking through a world of fading memories...
You might think that the soldier being dead is a way to reference his trauma from World War I. Nah. It's just here so we can shoehorn Herbert West into the backstory because God forbid we work with the horror themes of Lovecraft instead of just plagiarizing, right?
: I need you to answer some questions.
: You've mistaken me for someone else.
: How did you come to Arkham?
: The war is already over!
: Tell me who you are.
: Follow me. I guess I can keep you in check.
: (The lost soldier salutes briskly) Yes, sir! (You sense he has found some peace in having someone to follow).
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Get rekt Germans! Bang bang!
: Ok, give me the gun! Oh, shit, you're undead. Time to say bad Goth poetry for a bit.
: Lt Johnson, sir! Low on ammo and requesting reinforcements!
: What's going on here?
: I have PTSD flashbacks and am shooting at the Germans in my head!
: The war's over, you're in Arkham. Who are you?
: Uh, shit...I can't remember.
: Join my party!
: You are actually a good person doing a good thing instead of a total shitlord abusing this soldier's trauma for your own ends.
I'm gonna break to rant a little bit here, because an dead World War I soldier who is cursed to wander eternally through PTSD is a fantastic character idea which could be used to talk about the war, examine the 1920s society, and whatnot. There is a lot to be said about World War I, as that war ruined an entire generation and lead to the rise of Hitler. The soldier's undead state could very easily symbolize how the war ruined his life and we could talk about how he tries to reintegrate into civilian society and how his undead state symbolizes him as someone without a future, or someone visibly set apart by his mental scars.
Instead it's here because Lovecraft wrote a story about a mad scientist who experimented on dead soldiers in World War I and got killed by the zombies he created. Lovecraft was not a man with a lot of life experience, as his hobbies consisted of hiding in his house, reading books, writing letters to other nerds, and being racist. The running theme in Lovecraft's stories is that going outside is very bad because you will run into ghouls and/or black people and go insane. Whenever Lovecraft tries to tie things to the real world, you get blatantly out of touch racist shit (like the ACLU approving the Innsmouth concentration camps because the Innsmouth people are so ugly) and no real interaction with the 1920s whatsoever except as the modern setting where you encounter tentacle monsters.
Nerds reading Lovecraft get the bright idea that they need to set all their Lovecraft games in the 1920s because that's when he set it, when in reality the idea is that all of our science in the modern era is insufficient to comprehend the merciless universe. The merciless universe is not a new idea! People have been crying out about the merciless heavens ever since men learned to write, and most fiction is about overcoming some form of adversity. Lovecraft just added tentacle monsters. The derivative nerds run off and replicate their "canon" without bothering to critically engage with it and we get shit like this.
Rant over, moving on.
The Nameless Soldier is an extremely good fighter who is immune to sanity effects. He has a chance of going berserk in combat, which is fine as long as you keep him away from your guys. He also comes with an Enfield rifle and a bayonet, which both own. Remember, your companions can't make skill checks because the developers said that was too hard to implement (really!) so fight away!
There is something deeply symbolic about this game's development that we are greeted by Coalie Willy upon our return.
Motherfucker! We've been unable to talk to this asshole all game, but now that we've run around the map sufficiently he accosts us with his sidequest. It's real dumb, and I'll try to show it off next update.
: Please continue.
: Who is your mistress?
: Her ladyship is one of the most elegant, most erudite women who has ever graced the Earth. The hospitality of my mistress confers esteem and privilege to her guests.
Considering that she shows us her tits in the next part of the quest, uh...
: Very well, I accept her offer.
Spooky music plays as the butler sets out a tea party.
: Where is your mistress?
Yes, I could ask the smart questions, but this quest is awful enough I have to show it off.
: (Drink the cup of tea)
: She has lived out most of her mortal existence and has already set sail to the deathless cities hidden in the depths of the Dreamlands. In short, unless you are also dreaming, your chances of meeting my lady is[sic] slim.
: (Spit) What? What did you give to me?
Sigh. The Dreamlands stuff doesn't really fit with the monsters and desperate struggles that make up the Mythos stories, as generally the protagonists aren't gibbering or whining about monsters and dark knowledge but going on actual adventures and sailing around and having adventures. Of course, because Lovecraft wrote it, it will be awkwardly shoehorned into this game.
Bonus challenge: Name something Bertha found from exploration on her own initiative rather than being explicitly told to do it.
: It enables one to see dreams of inimitable quality, not to mention that it considerably helps with the digestion. Those dreams aren't the shallow experiences of common sleep. They're profound, enchanting visions of other realities...
: What does your mistress want from me?
Note that we don't have the option to attack, despite being poisoned.
: My mistress felt your presence in the dreams. She has an inkling that you may be able to help here. (Drops his head down ruefully). My mistress is... How can I put it... A prisoner...
Oh, look, a reference to The White Ship, which I literally had to look up. It's one of the stories where Lovecraft is ripping off Lord Dunsany. Does it fit the mythos we're going for? No, but it's "canon!"
Also, WE HAVEN'T BEEN TO THE DREAMLANDS YET!
: What am I supposed to do?
: (The butler with the porcelain mask extends to you a snow globe which he's holding with great care) This is a keepsake which has been in my mistress' possession almost for the entirety of her long life.
: It may not look like much, but please remember Madam, objects may assume different properties in dreams. Especially if they hold sentimental value for their owners. (The butler is silent once again).
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Hey random stranger, I work for a real hot woman who wants to have tea with you in the yard! Wanna have tea?
: Wow, this tea setting sure is spooooooky! WoOooOoooOO!
: Hey, isn't your mistress coming?
: She's, uh, pooping! Yea! Drink your tea! Oh, now that you've drunk it, I spiked it!
: What the fuck?
: Yea, she's trapped in the Dreamlands and you have to get her out. Have you read The White Ship? Have you read the White Ship? Have you rea-
: Dammit, fine, I can always use XP.
: Take this snow globe. You will need it to solve a terrible, terrible puzzle. Bye!
Ugh, fine. Let's go back to Richter and turn in our alcohol. We got rid of his competition, so this should be a straightforward exchange of formaldehyde for cigarettes, right?
: I have the methyl alcohol.
: You do? That's surprising. But I'm not going to question your methods, my friend. We all have our own ways of getting what we need, isn't that right?
: if I recall correctly, what you really need is formaldehyde, yes? Hmm, I think I can arrange that.
: Can you make it in your laboratory?
: What do you want in return?
: All I ask of you is a small favor.
This is gonna be really stupid, isn't it?
: Why don't you set your brutes to punish him?
I was originally going to have a vote on this, but curiosity got the better of me.
: All right.
I am posting all the screenshots to show that this is real dialogue.
So if you have enough Subterfuge there's an option to pretend to slap the kid. We have Subterfuge, no idea why it didn't appear here.
: (Slap the boy)
: What did he do?
: Then why?
: A weak justification, Richter. You take pleasure from all this, don't you?
Uh...yikes! Incidentally, if you fake slap the kid with Subterfuge Richter sees right through it and gets pissed.
: Can I have the formaldehyde now?
: (Richter takes the methyl alcohol bottle from your hands) My science serves the needs of men once more.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Hey, I got the methyl alcohol. Can you make me some formaldehyde?
: Ah ha ha...I can tell you acquired this by dubious means, but we're all friends here. I need you to do me a favor.
: What is it?
: I need you to smack a kid, because I am old and weak.
: Ha ha ha! Thomas, get out here!
: The boy is very adorable and weak looking! Only a complete monster wo-
: Taste my pimp hand!
: He is very sad and confused! You gain ANGST!
: That ruled!
: So, uh, what did that kid do? Did he beat up an orphan or something?
: He did nothing. Do you think there is good in this world? No, it is all evil, and good people need to be taught that. I am evil! Ha ha ha!
: Dude, that's bullshit, are you getting pleasure out of this?
: As you stare at Richter, the drug dealer allied with the murderous thugs of the mob, you realize he is actually a bad person!
: Just give me the formaldehyde.
There is so much that is just dumb about this scene. I get it, people are evil, but this is just cartoonish. This is not to mention that Bertha, as an old lady in the 1920s, was probably raised on corporal punishment. It wasn't until the 1920s that people actually started researching its effect on kids. Us gaining angst from this is...kind of stupid!
Anyway, we've dealt with enough bullshit for the day, time to take a rest.
How do you "guggle", Marino? Then again, I shouldn't be surprised, because this game literally misspells its redundant subtitles on the first prologue reel.
Again, we must sit through the Outsider breaking through the window, but the actual walking corpse with us is just kind of ignored. This game is dumb.
Now that we're resting we can have Bertha research Damnation to Stone so we can use it in combat. No, you can't use it during the day. We also have her gamble downstairs to earn some cigs. Whatever works!
So, this is the first Dreamlands sequence.
: Who are you?
: I? (Looks at you attentively with unblinking eyes) Well, I'm a dreamer, a wanderer perhaps, just as you are...
: What is it that brought us together?
: It seems our paths have crossed in this vast realm lying beneath the prosiness[sic] of the conscious world. As for your question, I am just another lost passenger so don't expect all the answers from me.
: And what do you seek?
: (A brief pause and his definitive answer cuts right through this tension of stygian abstractness) Inspiration.
What the fuck do those stage directions even mean?
: That sounds poetic... Are you an artist, perhaps?
: I won't grant an answer that easily. Knowledge of someone is a powerful thing and this premise applies even in dreams. But I'll offer you a chance since you've intruded my phantasy[sic]. I'll tell you of my dreams and you will tell me who I am.
Oh fuck please no.
So Randolph Carter here is Lovecraft's actual self insert, because the guy had real trouble writing about characters who weren't like himself. He pops up in the Dreamlands to hang out with aliens and shit. I'm having real trouble remembering these stories, honestly.
Lovecraft did write poetry, but this questionable rap here seems to be entirely the developers.
"No dad you don't get it, this is real deep man! I'm gonna be the next Edgar Allan Poe!"
This is a reference to another Lovecraft story.
Can anyone tell me what this has to do with the Dismal Man and escaping Arkham, or any of the themes of this game?
: (Guess a name)
Lewis Theobald is the default name of the male PC.
: Randolph Carter.
That's ultimately the core problem with the writing in this game. They desperately stuff as many Lovecraft references as they possibly can in here, and the end result is an incoherent mess because we have so many boxes to tick.
: You seem to be endowed with the proper traits to guide you in the Dreamlands.
: Randolph Carter? I guess I met your wife, she's looking all over for you.
Randolph Carter was unmarried in the stories, and IRL his marriage to Sonia lasted only two years. But, we need Lovecraft Trivia(tm) to fill out the blanks, so...
Randolph doesn't say anything to that, instead triggering this crawling darkness cutscene. He's not worth it, Sonia!
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Hi I am mysterious and enigmatic in this dream.
: Wow are these the dreamlands? Are you an artist, to use such turgid prose?
: Have some shitty poetry! Did you read The Silver Key? Did you read the Silver Key? Did you -
: You're Randolph Carter, aren't you?
: Yes, I am. You are really smart.
: Hey, your wife has been looking all over and she's really worried!
: I must go. Men's Rights Reddit needs me.
Ugh. Well, at least we learned that Damnation to Stone spel -