The Higurashi Notes Chapter 2: Watanagashi – The Club

The Club

Once again, we should really take a look at the leading ladies of this work, what they’re up to when all this crap goes down. Because really, chances are, all the people you’re spending most of your time with in a good mystery. Probably going to end up at least slightly important.

Mion

Between her and Shion, the Sonozaki sister take the prime spots of this chapter. Whereas the previous chapter really delved into who and what Rena was, this one shines the spotlight on the two of them. Revolving focus. Start of a pattern. We covered Shion last entry, so let’s take a look deeper into what we’ve got going on with Mion.

Of course, this gets a little more complicated with what we talked about last time, how Shion and Mion have been switching places, but we’ll do our best. And our best is pretty great.

One thing we learn about Mion here is that she kind of has the hots for our Keiichi. Yes, just like Rena did last time. Yes, he’s a visual novel protagonist. Higurashi never shows you what your viewpoint character looks like, so I’ve been inserting my own appearance in there, so it makes perfect sense to me that all the ladies would be looking for a piece of his doomed self, but I understand if the rest of you find that unrealistic.

So anyways, yeah, Mion here’s way into that animu boy. This turns out to be very relevant. When Shion’s getting her claws into Mion, that’s the route she uses. You see her breaking out of her usual characterization in order to benefit Keiichi plenty of times. Maybe the reason everything goes to hell so hard is because of Keiichi.

Yeah, let’s explain that last one. Rena reveals that Keiichi inadvertently offended her without realizing it sometimes earlier in the story. Keiichi thinks it stems from an incident wherein he gave Mion scorn instead of a doll she may have wanted, which is as good a time as any although Mion never confirms what it was. Moreover, Keiichi’s involved in the incident that seems to have spurred the murders/disappearances this time around, in which he, Shion, Tomitake and Takano break into the village’s sacred torture-disembowelment storehouse. More blood is spelled than in any other year previous, yet Keiichi goes almost entirely untouched in the killing spree that follows, until he goes out and finds trouble himself.

Mion seems to be struggling with her identity a bit this chapter, especially as her twin gets added to the mix. She seems to react a bit hesitantly every time Keiichi insists that she can’t be feminine. She also struggles a bit with the duality of her role as just your average Japanese high school girl and her role as the heir to the Sonozaki family. This chapter goes a lot deeper into the history of the village and the interplay between all the families, as well as Mion’s particular upbringing and background. It’s clear that there’s a lot of expectations on her, a lot of responsibility that she never really asked for. Beyond that, there’s her relationship with her sister, which, at the very least, seems quite colored by the family structure set in place before she was even born. So much of her life was already decided for her by virtue of being the firstborn in her family, and although she fulfills all those expectations, I get the feeling that sometimes they’re at odds with what she’s really feeling.

Then again, I could just be assuming things. It’s really hard to tell when you’re not sure when Mion is really Mion.

One piece of that dichotomy that I am sure of, because the game won’t stay quiet about it, is that Mion is struggling with her femininity. She’s always referred to herself as “this old man”, but Watanagashi tops that by having Keiichi, Shion, and Mion herself suggest she should have been born a boy at several occasions, and Keiichi running through the thoughts of ‘if she were a boy I’d do [etc.]’ and the like at several junctures. Even before Keiichi realizes that Shion and Mion are separate people, he assumes that Mion is pretending to be her own twin sister because she couldn’t bear to add the feminine things she’s doing into her own identity. There may be some truth to that though. If you read between the lines, the most likely times Mion is masquerading as Shion are when she wants to be kind and tender to the boy she crushes on who just can’t seem to see her as a woman in the first place.

And yeah, if you take this story at face value, Mion’s behind the murders. It’s clear, particularly in the character discussion following the end of it, that this is at most only part of the truth, but still, she is wrapped up in some pretty nasty business. In her position as the head of the village, she’d likely know what’s going on, and may be actively involved. She could be leading the murderers, particularly if you take her confession this chapter as truth. How much might actually be her and how much might be Mion, it’s hard to say, but given how clear this chapter is on Mion’s position of power in the village, it’s hard to believe she’s entirely uninvolved.

Then again, maybe she’s a victim of it all too. Rika figures out what’s all going on, and talks to Keiichi about it at one point, referring to the different parties as the dogs, the villagers pissed off at the intrusion into their taboo storehouse, and the cats, those being hunted by the dogs. She refers to Mion as a cat.

There’s a lot of times that Mion acts inconsistently with what we know of her. Sometimes, she doesn’t pursue the games to their conclusion. Sometimes, she sets up games that don’t follow the rules. Sometimes, she just straight up sucks at the games. Keiichi even mentions in the end that she’s being to cruel to really be Mion. Which, yeah, Shion and Mion are switching places, that explains a lot of it, but the inconsistencies are so widespread and blatant it makes me wonder if that’s all there are to it.

And it is really, really hard to track Mion’s character when you’re not always sure she’s really her. The game is clear they’re switching places, but not clear on who is who when. That’s a big source of the puzzle I’ve been trying to unravel this time around, at least. Rena mentioned in the last chapter that Mion used to be really bad at the club games. Mayhaps they’ve been switching places much longer than we realize. Continue reading

From the Outside Looking In

A good critic is not a good creator. We saw this well with Roger Ebert, who became one of the most important voices in the film industry for his critiques and reviews, but the actual movies he was behind saw a troubled reception at best. Critiquing something takes a totally different skillset than creating something, which itself takes a totally different skillset than getting someone interested in something. Talking about what did or would make something good in retrospect is a completely different picture that building something good from the ground up. And frankly, creators have the harder job.

I used to follow Shamus Young’s blog pretty consistently. Dude’s pretty prolific with it, so I’ve read a lot of his words. His former LP series was the first Let’s Plays I got into, so… yeah. He’s put a lot of thoughts on video games out into the world, and I’d absorbed a lot of his ideas over the years I spent with him.

About the time I moved on from his content, he was working on building a game of his own. I ended up being surprised that it actually existed when I caught it by chance on a Steam sale last year, so I picked it up, toyed around with it a few times, and finally gave it a good, earnest playthrough relatively recently.

There’s something very surprising about Good Robot. Namely, after all his commentary on games that I’ve consumed, this would be the last game in the world I would have expected him to make.

Which, to be fair, he didn’t end up being the only person making the game. He took it to a point, but got another team involved once it turned out he couldn’t get it to where he wanted himself. But still. There’s a lot in that game that runs completely along the same lines as things he’s been completely dour for before.

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Let’s give you a picture of what we’re looking at first. Good Robot. It’s a twin-stick shooter roguelike. And… that’s about it, actually. The real notable things about it are the interesting things it does with vision, and the fact that the levels are truly procedurally generated rather than being a collection of pre-built rooms in random formation. Aside from that… meh. The engine seems pretty solid, and it feels good to move and shoot, which is what you do most of the game, but it’s aggressively simple and feels like it’s just wasting a lot of potential. Also has some pretty major, avoidable flaws that just make the game less fun.

And it’s those flaws that are really interesting to me, because I’ve seen Shamus identify them in other works before.

Let’s talk about the most apparent one to me, and probably the biggest one with the game. Good Robot is a rogue-like. Meaning that death is a complete restart of the game. But it’s a slow, long rogue-like. The game encourages hesitant and defensive play by virtue of having the permadeath in the first place, and the levels are just so loooooong. I beat the game. It took about two hours, start to finish. If I had made a stupid mistake (which I never do, but hypothetically) at any point during the latter part of that run, that’d be a solid two hours of my life cut down by a video game punishing me for essentially pressing buttons wrong.

That’s a problem on its own. But then that comes from a guy who once termed the “Dark Souls problem” wherein failure makes you repeat something you’ve already done in order to get to any new content. This comes from a guy who stated that rogue-likes don’t have to do this, followed by examples of some who have circumvented the problem by implementing a level select. This comes from a guy who complains about a game’s difficulty coming from punishment rather than challenge, yet built what’s potentially the most punishment-heavy game I’ve played in a long while.

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There’s plenty of examples like that, but I don’t want this post to be turning too negative on an innocent blogger I haven’t followed in a while. Rather, the big thing I want to focus on is why that happened. And why you’ll see that happen in most critics-turned-creators. It all comes down to what I mentioned, that there’s completely different skillsets involved.

What I would consider to be good critiquing largely comes down to being able to analyze oneself, particularly one’s own thoughts, and being able to communicate them well. Sure, being able to analyze the work itself, break it down into its component parts and talk about how that works, because that gets people to understand how what relates to you would relate to them, but overall, critiquing is really a selfish process. It’s all about your own opinion, how you’ve arrived at it, and what reactions you have to what’s going on with whatever you’re looking at. I’d like to say that good critics are able to analyze themselves the whole way through and track their emotional development throughout, but particularly in video games it seems that the most popular critics never leave their first impressions, just making things work because they’re good at communicating those first impressions. In any case, though, critiquing is very self-focused, very reactionary, and has a strong basis in communication.

Creating has a strong basis in communication as well, but aside from that, it’s where the similarities with critiquing end. It’s not about communicating a reaction, it’s about communicating a vision. Which of course, requires being able to build an interesting and full vision in the first place, having the technical chops and the resources required to achieve that vision, and a whole bunch of other skills I probably can’t speak to very well because I’m not a professional creator. Creating is forward-looking whereas critiquing is reactionary, building the material to deliver that reaction from whole cloth.

Which is not to say that being good at one can’t help you with the other. But there’s a lot of primary skills in both that don’t cross over. There’s a lot of stuff we can bemoan about a bad game, and armchair game design is a lot of fun, but we probably wouldn’t be able to build anything better without a lot of skill-building to overcome some of the realities of game creation. I can rail against the rogue-like nature of a game that seems poorly suited for it here, but perhaps without that the game had some even greater flaw.

It’s easy to be a critic. I’ve done it. So have plenty of other random internet weirdos with some free time and a checklist of slightly edgy jokes. And critics are very valuable. I’d say they’ve become even more valuable as it’s become easier to be a critic. And it is still important to call out bad games for what they are. But I have found Good Robot to be an excellent reminder that just being a good critic doesn’t mean anyone would be a good creator. Bad games are bad usually because game creation is hard and complex way more than anyone not involved in the process can understand, and that can sometimes be hard to see from the outside looking in.

Who run Junktown? Fallout Chapter 6

Last time around, we watched as Athena tried to be the big hero, succeeded in saving two people, but lost her best ever friend in the process. Funny how that keeps happening to her. And me. Best friends dying all over the place, reminds me of the Dark Souls run we did. Maybe she can make a new best friend though! Is it possible? Is Athena as shallow as Exodus was, to be making best friends at the drop of a hat? Find out today!

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So, we’re done with Shady Sands. Done. Never going back. Until Fallout 2, at the very least, but that’s not for what, 90 more years? Never. Going. Back. We’re no closer to getting a water chip than we were when we left the vault, so it’s time to go onward for more information. Our next target is one of the places Ian, rest his poor soul, clued us into, Junktown. It takes us a good couple days walking to reach.

We get there, and first thing is the guard complaining about the gun we’re carrying around. Athena’s pretty nice, so she puts it in her pocket and chats with the guard. Local law is that you don’t draw a weapon except in self defense, in which case, it’s frontier justice. Seems fair to me. After we appease the guard as such, we start to walk in through the town gate made of wrecked cars. It’s a pretty cool gate, really.

The guard stops us. Again. Apparently, they don’t let people in at night, for no real reason. There’s no curfew or anything, they’re totally fine with you walking around at night, they just don’t want you walking around town. Luckily, Athena, the woman who approached them with a high caliber gun in hand wearing bloodstained spiky metal armor and who just recently lost the only friend she made on the wastes and might be a little unhinged due to that manages to convince the guard that she’s totally harmless, so he lets her in.

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This would be really cool if there were anything at all to do in Junktown at night. But there isn’t so we just wander around.

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Doing Retro Right

You may be surprised to hear this, but I’ve been playing some games lately. I know, I know, I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself. Specifically, I’ve been playing entries in long running series that strongly call back to earlier, well-regarded games in the series. Suikoden V, which is absolutely steeped in Suikoden 2, and Yakuza 0, which is completely built on top Yakuza 1. In atmosphere, world, and design, both of those games call back on earlier territory. They’re also both very good! In building themselves off of series favorites, they’ve managed to make something exceptional themselves.

So many games try to mimic other games to ill effect. It’s depressingly common for a series to get stuck after an excellent entry as it always tries to recapture what made that game great without ever quite surpassing it. It’s also common for a game to try and ape the features of a successful game from other creators, without understanding what made it great. So why is it that these two games, which are so focused on building off of earlier games, managed to make things work while others in similar situations do not? I’m thinking that they have a lot of features in common. Now, there are other games that take to their big retro focus really well, without necessarily doing any of those things here, so this isn’t an exhaustive list of what makes fandom callback games good, but I think it is a nice highlight of what worked in at least these scenarios

They Built on Top of the Originals

A common problem with games that try too hard to mimic a former entry is that they either settle for being a copy, or if they do expand on the original, they do so in an unsteady manner. New features either don’t mesh with the original model, or they’re implemented in such a way that shows a developers lack of confidence in going beyond the formula.

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Both these games successfully navigate all these problems, by confidently, and successfully, building on top of the established the formula. Suikoden V is perhaps the better example of this. The previous two games in the series had taken some ill-received liberties with the central mechanics of the Suikoden series, and Suikoden 5 proved to be a return to form for the franchise. Yet even as they dropped the familiar mechanics back in there, they still put plenty of new features onto them, changing the way the system worked. The traditional six person setup had formations added to it, adding a bit of new tactics. There were new options for acquiring and utilizing runes, changing up how that traditional rune hunting worked. Navigating the world map took on a whole separate realm of pathfinding as well, as the new system of rivers both broke up the landscape and provided additional routes through it. Suikoden V was a return to form, yes, but even if you just went straight from Suikodens II to V, they built enough on there to change the way the formula works. It’s new and fresh again.

Yakuza 0 operates similarly. The series has been using the same combat formula for however many games now. It’s a solid one. And they’ve already added a new character here, so there’s already new movesets built into it. They could have left it there. But rather, they took the risk on building a whole-new style-switching system into the new engine. The new combat system keeps the mechanics and the spirit of the old-style Yakuza combat but it twists it into something that feels brand new.

In so doing, they escape making an experience that’s inevitably worse than the original by trying to copy it exactly, while also delivering an experience that’s quality by developing the new features both smartly and in line with what made the classics great.

They Subvert Established Expectations

Part of the reason series sell so well is that we know what to expect. An IP builds up trust in the design philosophy, the mechanics, the storytelling, the team behind it. After we have a good experience with one entry in a series, we expect the next to carry through not just a similar level of quality, but in a similar style. That’s why we keep anticipating the next entry, that’s why we keep going back to a series we love. And especially in series that have such a consistent formula as Suikoden and Yakuza, we know what to expect out of it way more than usual, down to the details.

And the two games that spawned this post are well aware of that. And they use that. They don’t need to do the groundwork in establishing your expectations before they start subverting them, they just play off of what the earlier games set.

Yakuza 0 has the most prime example. Majima Goro has appeared every other game in the series, always showing up as the mad dog, blood knight, fighting rules everything type. He may be on your side at times, but you still need to beat your ideals into him in order to earn his help. He is always a wild man, living for his own cause and amusement.

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So when he’s introduced in his first canon playable appearance, and he is demure, prim, and above-all non-violent, it is positively jarring. An explanation is forthcoming, but even after that he’s not yet the powerful figure he is later on in the timeline, and he allows others to hold his leash. This dissonance with the Majima we know adds a lot of depth to the character, one that’s carried through for as long as I’ve been playing thus far.

Suikoden V plays with a common story element that’s been showing up through the series. Every game in the Suikoden series has a big plot twist on betrayal. You’ll have a character who’s been working closely with you thus completely screw your plans by selling you out to the enemy, usually relatively early on. Suikoden V has a betrayal occur early on, but it doesn’t quite fit the element here, so it’s not a satisfactory call back. Then it gives you a character who fits everything to set that up, being both very close to you and having a background that could easily lead to that betrayal. She never does. Then a reliable character claims that another close character had been in the process of betraying you all along. Turns out that was a misunderstanding. The betrayal does come, but way later than usual, to the point that all these subversions had me thinking the game wasn’t actually going to do it, and as a result, hit way harder than I expected.

Honestly, this is probably my favorite element here, that these game use what came before to twist things into something unexpected. Led to some of the most powerful individual moments in those games.

They Make the Originals Bigger

It’s not easy to retroactively add to a story. It’s easy to retroactively make it worse, by spoiling conclusions or adding plot holes, but retroactively leading to a better understanding takes some conscious doing.

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Suikoden V had an easy time of it, as the whole of the Suikoden series is written as if it’s a small part of a greater narrative none of us are privileged to be in on. So this isn’t unique to Suikoden V, the rest of the series after the first does this too, but V was the best at it. Nearly every returning element from another game had their story added to. The best example is Georg Prime, who was just a random mysterious badass with a questionable background in Suikoden II, but becomes one of the leading characters in Suikoden V and you get to see just what the circumstances were that led him there. It also takes the time to explain just what was up between those relic hunters, which was almost completely unexplained in Suikoden II. It goes beyond that, too, showing what happened with your homelands in Suikoden IV hundreds of years after the end of your journey. Playing this game actually rounds out those characters and setting retroactively, so you’ve got more of an understanding when you’re coming back to the originals.

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The original Yakuza always suffered from the fact that its leading villain, Nishikiyama, was a little underdeveloped. He was supposedly a childhood friend of your leading character, to the point that the protagonist is willing to through his life away for him in the beginning of the story, but you never got a chance to really connect with him. The few times you see Nishikiyama before his start of darkness he’s too mired in his depression and his own business to really demonstrate much of the connection he supposedly has with your protagonist. Then, after the time skip, when it turns out that everything you’ve done for him has left him rotten, it doesn’t have that big ring of betrayal that it should, because his original relationship was never established. Yakuza 0 corrects that, starting before everything went down, and showing him as your most reliable ally through everything you go through, and showing the relationship as it should have been shown in Yakuza 0. Haven’t played through the original Yakuza since I started 0, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have a whole different view of events next time through.

They Stand on their Own

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And, you know, this is a pretty big one. Yes, both these games call back to others pretty heavily. Yes, you’re going to have a different experience with these coming in new than if your an experienced player. But they still stand on their own. They’re good experiences either way. The mechanics are sound, the stories fall into a self-contained arc that doesn’t rely on another game for setup or completion, and anyone could pick it up and get a whole, complete, quality game. The retro features are just icing on the cake, and that makes the cake as a whole all the more worth it.

Raider Time in Fallout Chapter 5!

Last time, on our adventures through the world of Fallout, you guys decided to take our dear, innocent Athena, who has never faced off against anything more fearsome than a giant bug, who has never even fired her weapon at another person, who knows next to nothing about the world outside her Vault, and throw her against a gang of amoral killers and plunderers, each of whom would just as soon slit her throat as talk to her. I hope you all are proud of yourselves.

I know I am! So let’s talk tactics, first. No, not Fallout Tactics. Please, let’s not talk about that one. Battlefield tactics. No, not the EA series. Just… look at this.

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That how the Khan’s base is set up. Most of those tents hold one to two raiders apiece. There’s one raider guarding the front entrance, and two guarding the rear. There’s another seven raiders inside, including Garl, by far the toughest of the lot. Also inside are the two enslaved women we’re coming here to rescue. Most of the raiders are armed with spears, but there’s plenty of gunslingers in their crew. The weapon of choice for the distance combatants is the .44 caliber Desert Eagle, a weapon with more range and punch than the 10mm guns Ian and Athena are wielding. All the raiders are wearing leather armor, the next step up from the leather jackets we’re bearing, save for Garl who’s outfitted in the positively daunting metal armor.

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So in other words, we are desperately outnumbered, completely outgunned, and totally out-armored.

First order of business is preparation. I split the stimpaks we have between Ian and I. Honestly, I’m more worried about Ian’s chances of survival more than I am my own or the two slaves. Dude’s a good shot, but he’s a tactical doofus. I really hope we’re not going to need six stimpaks each, because if it gets to the point that Ian’s spending all his turns healing instead of fighting, we’re pretty doomed, but we have them, just in case. Going in, I’m expecting that we’ll be relying pretty heavily on Athena’s SMG. Using burst fire is a great way to make things dead quick, although it only works well at close range and will eat through ammo like crazy. Getting mobbed is an absolute no go, we need to be able to keep the amount of people within firing range to a reasonable level in order to make it through.

We arrive there at night, by design. Everyone’s going to be missing more in the dark, but as Athena’s perception rises at night, she’s going to fare better than most. Garl had said in no uncertain terms not to come back after last time. I’m not sure if that means the Khans are going to be aggressive on sight, but we don’t risk it, in any case. Athena moves along the edges of the camp, and circles around to the rear entrance of the building. If possible, I want to take out remote groups a few at a time, and the people in the back are the most vulnerable. Athena sneaks around the corner, tucks in between the building and the nearby outhouse, then takes careful aim with her weapon. Knowing that this is the last moment in which she’ll be in control before the shots fired draw the entire horde upon them, devolving the camp into a maelstrom of complete madness, she carefully draws a bead on the nearest guard, slows her breathing, calms her mind, and…

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freaking. Misses. Ian, who I’m sure scoffs at her a little bit, steps up to the plate and nails the guard with two shots in a row like a freakin’ pro. The two raiders approach, and two of the raiders inside hear the sounds of fighting and come out, but Athena and Ian gun down the first two before they come near. One of the new raiders has a gun and fires on our duo, but misses. Athena misses her return fire. Ian aims at the gunwoman and scores a critical hit to the groin, taking her out of the fight for the moment. Athena continues her missing spree, but Ian scores hits on both of the raiders and ends them.

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How about you and I… Play Fallout Chapter 4?

Hey, we’re back. With this thing. You know, where we’re out in that whole post-apocalypse deal. Let’s pick up where we left off. You might recall, we just cleared out Vault 15, and found that the only hope for salvation that we knew about was completely obliterated and everyone we love was probably going to die of thirst. So what do we do now? A whole bunch of unrelated milling about in the middle of nowhere? That sounds like a great idea!

In any case, after plumbing the depths of Vault 15 for largely naught, we stump our depressed little heads back to the village of Shady Sands. I figure, if we can’t help our people, why not make the Wasteland a friendlier place by helping someone else’s?

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First things first, we head to the farm side of town. After gawking a bit at the Brahmin, the big, unwieldy, two headed cows that make up livestock in the wasteland, we find ourselves chatting with a farmer. As with most of the NPCs we deal with, there’s nothing visually to tell he’s anything special, but if you’re meticulous about looking at all the villagers, well, a few of them do stand out in description.

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In any case, we had pointedly avoided this guy before, because we have to do this sidequest the first time we talk to him, and it requires us to have a certain scientific capability that Athena didn’t have until she leveled up. You remember how school always made you dissect rats? I guess Athena’s been doing that. With bullets. And that taught her more about crop rotation, which she tells this guy about. This improves Shady Sands architecture and sets in motion events that will see the community grow and foster and give relative stability to the lives of thousands and build a single beacon of order in a world that truly lacks for it, but more importantly, it gives us a few hundred experience points.

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Second, we head to the town doctor, Razlo, and give him the radscorpion tails Ian’s been carrying around in his pants. The doctor can synthesize an antivenom from the poison sacs therein, and gives us a free dose of antidote for every tail we bring him. We walk into the back of the doctor’s home, where he has Jarvis, Seth’s brother, resting there in treatment for the bad case of radscorpion poisoning he’s got. We administer one of our doses of antidote to him because Razlo apparently couldn’t be arsed, and Jarvis starts feeling better. Not well enough to be like jumping around and dancing or anything, but at least his life is out of danger. Again, we don’t get much of a concrete reward for this, but we do get a bunch of experience points for it. Enough to put us at level 3, in fact! We wait until night to take advantage of Athena’s Night Person nature, then level up. You know what time it is now? Time for some more audience participation! So every three levels, we’re going to get a new perk, and I need you guys to… oh hey. Already taken care of. Glad I remembered to get something done before my life turned all to crap.

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A Fallout Intermission

Hey guys, guess what?  We’re going to be at Level 3 in our Fallout run pretty soon!  That means we’re going to be getting our first perk.  And guess what else?  I’m going to be needing some audience participation for that, too.

So here’s the deal.  Every three levels, we’ll get to add a perk to our character.  Perks are, basically, permanent bonuses.  We have to meet prerequisites for them, so we don’t get to just choose any of the ones the game has to offer, but we should always have a decent selection to pick from.  Our potential list will grow every time we get a new one, as well.

In any case, our little Athena’s growing up.  She’s starting to learn things out in the wasteland.  As this is part of the character creation, I’d like your help in figuring out how Athena is going to better herself.

Our choices this next level up are going to be:

Awareness, which lets us see a targets hit points, equipped weapon, and remaining ammo just by looking at them.  It’s a really handy utility perk, and I like having it to help with decision making in battles.

Earlier Sequence, which is a really hokey way of saying that our turn will come up earlier.  Athena’s really perceptive, so her sequence is really early anyways and this would have limited overall utility, but picking this would ensure that outside of the combat initiator, almost nobody gets to move before Athena does.

Night Vision.  So this is an interesting one.  By description, this just brightens up the screen when we’re in dark areas, and I have never in my life chosen this perk, because I know where the brightness knob is on my monitor.  However, as I’m reading up on it now, the Fallout wiki reports that it also provides an increase to accuracy to counteract the ranged penalty for fighting in a dark area.  Don’t know why the game doesn’t bother to mention that.  Given that Athena’s a Night Person, and as such, I’m going to be fighting at night whenever I get the option, that bonus is pretty attractive, if true.

With Presence, NPCs will be more slightly more inclined to like Athena even before she starts talking to them.  So it will make our Athena even more like the real Athena.

Quick Pockets reduces the cost for accessing our inventory in the middle of combat by 1.  I believe it usually costs 4 AP, so this will drop it from there.  Accessing our inventory lets us change our equipment, reload, heal as much as we want, and use things we don’t have at the ready.  The further we go in the game, the more I’ll be opening up the inventory to pop a couple of stimpaks at a time.  Frankly, I’ve always found this to be the most useful of the perks you have access to at level 3.

Right now, our world map is largely black, because Athena doesn’t know where much of anything is. It’s revealed as we travel. If we picked Scout as our perk, we’d be able to reveal more of the map as we travel, as Athena would be able to say farther in the distance.  Could be useful if you find yourself getting lost on the map, but I’ve played the game enough that I know my way around.  This would have a minimal impact on my play.

Smooth Talker would allow Athena to use dialogue options that require a little more intelligence than she has.  However, Athena already has a genius level intellect.  Her intelligence does go down during the day, so this could keep people from realizing that she only truly wakes up after she has a cup or eight of coffee, but even at her worst, she’s smarter than your average wastelander.

So yeah, there’s our options!  In what ways shall Athena improve?  Her destiny is in your hands!  Vote in the comments!