Sunday, 2 January 2011

Wasteland Lover 4: Mushroom Samba

Waiting around isn't Felix's game, but Novac isn't a town of delights or distractions, especially at night. Nobody is around and everything is closed, so we break in to people's properties and steal whatever's worthwhile as we wait for day time. Eventually, when breaking in to a motel room, we find a real awake person, the gay ex-Khan ex-NCR Manny Vargas, in cosy roll-neck jumper. With Felix's top-tier homosexuality, he discovers that the guy who shot him in the head went to the next town down the same road. It's barely dawn even after these staggering revelations, and there's no reason to stick around in this dead town anyway, so Kluge hits the road.

Goodbye, Novac. Felix Kluge, October 2281

A couple of hundred metres down the road I get my first reminder that I am some little wuss on level 5 with no armour at all. I run in to three Jackals, only one of whom even has a gun, and they tear the absolute shit out of me. I die twice, pathetically, and eventually am forced to make them all chase me around this rocky area until I can beat the two with knives to death one at a time. The one with the SMG brutalises my unguarded torso at depressingly effective ranges, but by taking one of every drug I have and running from rock to rock, I eventually manage to get close enough to hit him in the arm with a tire iron over and over again until he drops the gun. After that it's all Kluge, baby.

Maybe thirty metres beyond the ambush point, there's a 'gas station' with an armed and friendly caravan of traders and guards. Thanks a lot, dickheads. They all get up to leave when Felix rolls in, and they're heading the way I'm going, so Felix tags along. The road goes along the side of a big dry lake for a little while, then hits a T-junction, with the city I want to go to on one side, and a trading post just a couple of metres the other way. The radical pathfinding of this caravan means that instead of following the road to the junction and then going left genuinely about twenty metres, they cut across the dry lake. This place is completely full of fire ants, radiation-enlarged ants that are bigger than a person and breathe fire for no reason. There are so many of them, I really should have taken a picture. It's a big firey mess. Thanks a lot, dickheads.
Both caravan guards and one of the traders are burnt to death, as is one of the pack brahmin, the other one having run off or something, I never see it again. The sole surviving trader, limping he's so near death, eventually makes it to the 188 Trading Post, glad he took that shortcut to save time, and I arrive with him, glad I managed to get 23 portions of fire ant meat (for making fricassees), not to mention all the equipment of the slain guards, without getting a scratch on me.

South-eastern view from the 188 Trading Post. Felix Kluge and Veronica Santangelo, October 2281.

The 188 Trading Post is one of my favourite locations in the game, despite being tiny and not really containing anything. Basically in Fallout games you get places that were already there before the war, and places that weren't. Of the places that were there before, you have the above-ground stuff, chiefly towns, and then the bunkers and vaults and shit that were all sealed and whatever. For me, and I guess I'm influenced heavily by Fallout 1 and 2, they've got these mostly all wrong. The towns and buildings, they're all too good. They look like they were squatted for 20 years, not like there was an apocalypse 100 years ago and no civilisation since.

I mean, is this couch really ruined? If this was a videogame of Death of a Salesman then yeah maybe this couch is ruined. But this is a place where watching a homeless man die whilst trying to kill a mutated scorpion is good enough entertainment to make you live in the sewer near to the arena where this takes place.
On the other hand, the pre-war stuff, the BoS bunker, the Vaults, they're all too dilapidated and grimy. In the first two, these sorts of places are fucking pristine, because why wouldn't they be? No one's been in to fuck about or whatever. The electricity still works because it's had no reason to break, there is no one popping in to smear shit on the wall and drop Nuka-Cola bottles everywhere. Not really sure why this is the case in New Vegas. Reminds me of the trailer for the abysmal Fallout 3, in which the voice-over declared, more or less: "Vault 101, where no one ever enters, and no one ever leaves. Your father just left, so now you're going out to find him," and then it cut to you approaching the first town, and the guy on the gate waving, "Hi, you must be from that Vault!"
Having everyone know about all the old shit is fine, but then it makes no sense when you go there and find some magical plasma rifle. And that couch is fucking fine.

Anyway, my point was supposed to be that the places that were built after the war tend to be nicer and more interesting, all the way from Junktown in F1 to places like the 188 here. I guess there's less opportunities for them to make no sense. Of course, there are still plenty of opportunities for them to make no sense, see Kansas City in Fallout Tactics, a town built around an unexploded nuclear bomb, or Megaton in the abysmal Fallout 3, a town built around an unexploded nuclear bomb (really Bethesda?). But there's also more scope to play around with them too.

Anyway, Felix fucking Kluge has been sat around the 188 for ages while I talk shit. He got talking to Veronica Santangelo (in the grubby robes in the picture above. She never looks at the camera), a sassy techno-lesbian who wants to follow Kluge around so that she can see more of the world, because it's not safe enough to go alone. Little does she know, all fights from hereon out will involve Felix running off and hiding while Veronica has to kill them all for him. With her in tow, we fuck off to Boulder City. I guess if I was a settlement with maybe 6 buildings in, I'd make sure that City was in my name with a capital letter too. Eagle eyed viewers may have noticed I'm wearing some overalls in that poor picture of the 188 above. I was sick of carrying those 26lbs of NCR rookie costume around, and this 1lb NCR engineer garb is clearly way better. Plus Kluge is a pansy and could never pass for a soldier.

Some little stand-off has been going on in town. The Khans, who were there when I got shot in the head, and I think buried my body, got in to a sticky situation, and have taken a couple of NCR suckers hostage, but then been surrounded by all the other NCR. Probably because he heard about me installing a new sheriff in Primm, the NCR guy in command of the situation instantly lets me get involved in whatever capacity I see fit. Cannot abide that shit, and I repay his trust excellently. Using the stealthboy I stole off Joe Cobb all the way back in chapter 2, Kluge moves like an invisible Agbonlahor (before he put on all that muscle mass), planting dynamite on every NCR sucker in sight, including this wacky commander. With them all exploded, and their possessions duly robbed, Felix can have a nice uninterrupted chat with the Khans. Turns out they were played too, or whatever, and that the guy who shot me in the head is called Benny, and disliked by more or less everyone. He runs a casino in Vegas called The Tops, which is finally a lead of some worth. The Khans can walk off freely, and I can stroll off to Vegas. Veronica didn't seem to care about what Felix just did, which I guess bodes well for their relationship.

For all I said about the pre-war stuff, sometimes it can look pretty great. The huge destroyed flyover looming over you here almost feels like the great Man vs Architecture game that was Shadow of the Colossus.

Felix arrives in Freeside, a fucking shithole surrounding The Strip, which is where I need to be. I need 2000 caps to get in to The Strip, and Felix, despite going up 2 full levels for his beautiful action in Boulder City, is still incredibly feeble and can't really do anything except hide and cook food. Start a bunch of quests I'm too unskilled to finish, eventually finding one about my level: standing still outside a shop.

I almost like this 'quest,' because it is I guess the anti-quest. No questing involved. You just stand still for five minutes. Makes you feel a little bit embarrassed by the lame terms such as 'quests' which sit on top of videogames and shit themselves whenever people suggest videogames aren't just for children.
But the downside to this is that it's fucking boring. The guy guiding me through it is a completely flat tool, and is voiced by the same VA who does nearly all the black people in this game (and even, weirdly, quite a few of the white people). And at the end, in an event I don't remember from the last time I did this quest, I have to help him clean up a corpse from infront of the shop. He walks up to it and doesn't seem to be doing shit, so I grab the corpse and start dragging it down an alley. Then he accuses me of stealing the gun and armour he gave me to help guard the shop, and kills me effortlessly. So I have to reload and sit still again for ages, and this time he just cleans up the corpse by himself instantly. I try and pass the time by taking a photo where Veronica isn't just looking straight at the door, but it never happens.

After this, though, and a little (lots of) well-executed burglary, Felix Kluge has enough caps to be permitted entrance to The Strip, for his big showdown with Chandler! See you next time, everyone.

I didn't write about the sewers. I went into the sewers this time through, having avoided them the first two. I just stumbled across them and thought it might be interesting. It was pretty gross. I was in a sewer, killing giant rats, with a fucking dagger. That is one of the very things I never ever want to do in videogames, and the big reason why I can never bring myself to play Dragon Age or Baldur's Gate or Oblivion or any of those games. Get it the fuck out of Fallout. There were also a bunch of ghouls in there for no reason, and even a bunch of Fiends, who very nearly killed Veronica, and past them, a room filled with even more ghouls. After way too much sewers, I finally break in to a bit of the sewers, right on the far side of the map, that is fine. Just a bunch of guys sat around smoking and hitting on Veronica. As you walk past them, they say things like, "don't go farther in to the sewers, it's full of monsters."
Fuck the sewers.

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