Scourge of Humanity

Tread softly in these caves.

Sneaking through the Deathclaw Sanctuary (with a Stealth Boy or two) was arguably Homicidal Harriet’s most dangerous excursion yet. Especially when the second Stealth Boy wore off just as I collected Vengeance, leaving me armed and exposed for the trek back out of the cave. Thankfully, as one would expect, Vengeance reduced everything to giblets, and being seen wasn’t nearly as fatal as it could’ve been. I’d been buying Electron Charge Packs for some time, and while I didn’t have enough for continued usage, I did have enough to get this ludicrous weapon back home.

And now I carry it with me always.

Vengeance is a costly acquisition, though. It tears through Electron Charge Packs as quickly as it tears through the opposition. It’s also difficult (and expensive) to repair, as its condition degrades quickly, and there are few who can fully repair it. But it fundamentally changes the build.

Homicidal Harriet can’t usually deal ranged damage, and Big Guns allow her to, which won’t necessarily be a concern once I’ve recovered the Chinese Stealth Armor, but some enemies are super-absorbent bullet sponges. Even a sneak attack critical with the Deathclaw Gauntlet won’t be enough, but the rapid fire of Vengeance might be. Operation: Anchorage was now, due to my unusual approach, necessary for the continued success of the build, and so to Alaska she went. If you’ve invested in Small Guns (as most do) the simulation isn’t that difficult, but if you haven’t then you’ve got few ways to actually deal damage. Sneaking isn’t an option, either. Stealth Boys are rare and any that you’ve found are lost when reporting to General Chase. Not that it’s impossible if you’ve not invested in Small Guns. It’s just tedious.

Gaze upon the Mother Punga in awe.

Having previously crafted the Deathclaw Gauntlet, the acquisition of the Chinese Stealth Armor, alongside the acquisition of Vengeance, meant that this build was rapidly realising its true potential. Proving to be as diverse as I’d hoped that it would be. Not all situations are created equally, and while the Deathclaw Gauntlet is powerful, it’s not going to be the answer to every problem. Vengeance still has its uses. And that’s why I enjoy these quirky builds, as they encourage you to be creative and that creativity often results in seeing things that you’ve not seen before.

Or it highlights glitches.

As was the case with Haley, of Haley’s Hardware, in Point Lookout, who I had always believed to be one of the few NPCs who could fully repair equipment. When inherently he can’t, and it’s actually a glitch, as his Repair increases with each visit, and so he eventually gains the ability to do so.

Revisiting Point Lookout is one of the highlights of this build. I do love it so. Sailing in through the fog on the Duchess Gambit to greet the eerie shores of Point Lookout, then meandering through a decaying shell of society and hazardous swamps. It’s a great atmosphere. One of being truly alone in a harsh, unforgiving, and unpredictable world. Something that Fallout 3 done incredibly well. Fallout: New Vegas was impressive in its own way, but it never felt as lonely as Fallout 3 did, and that’s why I’ve always enjoyed the Capital Wasteland. It feels like a post-apocalyptic landscape. Devoid of humanity, but rife with dangerous creatures and murderous marauders. Fallout 3 also allowed the more distasteful pursuits, which suit this character, and suit the wasteland, but were absent in later instalments.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Homicidal Harriet

The G.O.A.T. couldn’t predict this.

You could try to blame Butch for her predilection towards violence, but her childhood trauma doesn’t explain why those who haven’t done her wrong are just as likely to be ceremoniously dismembered. Or atomised by a nuclear bomb. As was the fate of the inhabitants of Megaton. Who welcomed her, and whose kindness was repaid with undoubtedly the most heinous atrocity that she will ever commit. Executed under instruction from Mr. Burke, in service to Alistair Tenpenny, owner of the illustrious Tenpenny Tower, which is soon to experience a hostile takeover.

An incredibly hostile takeover.

If the residents of Tenpenny Tower weren’t insufferable elitist bigots a peaceful resolution might be possible, but they are, so a violent resolution becomes necessary, as she proudly advocates equality for all who reside in the Capital Wasteland. They’re all equally as likely to be murdered.

Following the success of Murderous Mabel, the courier who sowed despair across the entire Mojave Wasteland, Homicidal Harriet was born, and after being exiled from Vault 101 began her own misadventures. Homicidal Harriet will attempt to experience the aspects of Fallout 3 that I’ve not seen before, much like Murderous Mabel did in Fallout: New Vegas, and will be unequivocally evil. I’ll be building around Melee Weapons, Unarmed, and Big Guns as I’ve not (solely) built around those before. I’ll also be relying on the Intense Training perk for the first time. Her S.P.E.C.I.A.L. distribution requires adjustment before she can fully realise her potential. Notably her Charisma, as I’d hoped to avoid the Child at Heart perk, but it’s the easiest way to bypass Little Lamplight without making Paradise Falls hostile.

I’m glad that she survived the nuclear detonation.

Despite being an atypical close quarters build, I’ve been deliberating between the Chinese Stealth Armor and the Winterized T51-b Power Armor. With certain perks, such as Ninja and Better Criticals, she could deal ludicrous sneak attack critical damage with the Chinese Stealth Armor, and would be rendered (mostly) invisible while crouching. Whereas, the Winterized T51-b Power Armor favours the traditional approach. Taking damage and dealing it in equal measure. I’d never considered sneaking through Fallout 3 to be viable, but it could be with an appropriate build.

This could be that build.

I’d assumed that Homicidal Harriet would visit Point Lookout first, as my characters usually do, but Operation: Anchorage would be unusually lucrative should she utilise the Chinese Stealth Armor. It’s not particularly difficult, either. So it’s possible to venture to the Outcast Outpost early on.

Her progression has been slightly disjointed, though. I’ve been completing the Wasteland Survival Guide quests, but have been deviating when the opportunity presents itself, such as during The Replicated Man quest, which coincided with learning about the true history of Rivet City. I’ve also been trekking across the Capital Wasteland to put specific locations on the map. These will be of crucial importance when collecting Bobbleheads, or when searching for unique equipment and schematics. Few locations, such as the perilous Deathclaw Sanctuary, have both. Not only does it house the Endurance Bobblehead, but Vengeance can be recovered from deep within its caves, which I’d always believed to be governed by Energy Weapons, but is actually governed by Big Guns. I’ve just got to survive long enough to recover it.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Burdened By Sin

Past misdeeds reveal themselves.

Much like the innumerable secrets of the Well of Khalaza do as you traverse its poisonous miasma and delve deep into its many labyrinthine realms. Seeking great treasures but usually encountering great dangers. Or trolls who like to throw their faeces at you. That was arguably the most unpleasant realm of them all. Being shrouded in suffocating miasma is expected, but being plastered in poop isn’t. Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a delightfully enjoyable dungeon crawler in which you explore a mysterious well with a brigade of puppets and a curious book.

A curious book with a soul.

Where that soul came from and how it ended up in a book is eventually explained. But what’s important is that we’re exploring myriad dungeons. True adventuring spirit needs no form of exposition whatsoever, as we’d only ignore those directions and stumble upon mysteries of our own.

I hadn’t anticipated that there would be so many mysteries to uncover, but that’s how Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk creates such an enrapturing adventure. There’s always something new to discover or a new challenge to overcome. There are few things that I enjoy more than encountering a boss that feels insurmountable only to eventually defeat it, either by utilising different Pacts or employing different Facets. Pacts are interesting as you don’t typically have any that represent traditional archetypes, as most are thematic, and grant a handful of abilities, but rarely feel truly powerful. I’ve mostly made my decisions based on how many puppets they allow me to use and how they fit into my current formation. You could have up to fifteen active puppets were you to use five three puppet Pacts.

It did become tiresome relying on certain Pacts to defeat certain bosses, though. The majority of these bosses were optional, and all required powerful puppets, so you’d need to invest heavily in the Soul Transfer mechanics to be able fight them, but it wasn’t fun having my progress halted due to an arbitrary requirement. I don’t know if it’s even possible to defeat them without those Pacts. I don’t think that you could, as they usually deal ridiculous damage to the entire brigade on the first turn and it’s unlikely that you’d be able to recover on subsequent turns.

It’s a fairly trivial criticism.

And I don’t have any other issues with the combat (or character development) mechanics, but it does considerably diminish your efforts when you simply can’t fight something. Especially when spending hours grinding through Soul Transfer mechanics is a significant part of the experience.

It is, as a whole, a uniquely bizarre dungeon crawler that has engaging exploration mechanics, but does require the aforementioned hours of grinding to experience all of the content. Which doesn’t necessarily bother me. And it might not be required should you ignore the optional bosses, whereby Soul Transfer might never be used, especially if you’ve not altered the difficulty level via Witch Petitions. Not that I regret raising the difficulty level. It’s an actual challenge and (the majority of) bosses are a threat, which resulted in utilising numerous mechanics just to survive encounters. For those reasons, I highly recommend Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk to those who enjoy dungeon crawlers and/or JRPGs. It’s an unconventional but incredibly satisfying dungeon crawling adventure.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Wading Through Miasma

Where no puppet has gone before.

We’ve ventured through a vast underground expanse, a whimsical kingdom of wonder, the ruins of a civilisation with an absurd troll infestation, and a wondrous garden teeming with giant insects while exploring this bizarre dimension and we’ve got more to discover yet. I’m still not sure where we’re supposed to be going, though. Or why we’re supposed to be going there. But that’s a trivial concern. Objectives are for those who don’t have a true adventuring spirit, and would prefer to follow quest markers to their destinations rather than wandering aimlessly for hours.

I don’t need to be told where to go next.

I wouldn’t go there anyway. I’d break through a wall and discover hordes of dangerous slimes who halt my progression, only to find an alternative route (avoiding the slimes) by falling down several floors, and then encounter poisonous miasma that I can’t walk through without taking damage.

Making the entire expedition (mostly) pointless. But then I’d return, able to traverse the poisonous miasma unharmed, and with significantly stronger puppets, only to be slapped senseless by an incredibly aggressive fish. And then I’d do the same elsewhere. But that’s what makes the exploration in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk so exciting. You’re given vague hints about your next objective and where you should go to complete it, but you’re encouraged to thoroughly explore each floor and to discover your own pursuits. Including, but not limited, to: defeating optional bosses, searching for keys, opening countless chests with those keys, solving puzzling events, breaking through walls (or falling down holes) to uncover secrets, stumbling upon new realms, or simply trying to uncover the entire map.

I didn’t listen to their warning…

There are surprisingly comprehensive and meaningful character development mechanics, too. Each puppet is assigned a Facet (its character class), a Nature (which defines its base statistics), and a Growth style (which affects the statistics gained each level) at creation. You can alter its growth at any time, but other aspects of its creation are fixed. However, through Soul Transfer, you can rebuild every aspect of a puppet by reverting it to Lvl 1, with its accumulated experience heightening its Soul Clarity. Resulting in a far stronger puppet with each reincarnation cycle.

It’s a complex but satisfying process.

One that could result in ridiculously powerful puppets if I understand the mechanics correctly. I’m not sure how much they retain of their prior incarnations, besides chosen skills, or how greatly Soul Clarity affects their growth, but my recent attempts have yielded favourable results.

Party-based dungeon crawlers can be fairly bland if the character development mechanics are unexciting, but Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk has surprising depth to its party management and allows you to build a roster of characters to be utilised with specialised Pacts. I’ve only seen something similar with Infinite Adventures. But the party compositions are much more interesting here, and encourage the creation (and use) of numerous characters with different Facets. Conversely, the individual Facets are less interesting (and varied) than the character classes in Infinite Adventures. They’re more reliant on being paired with other puppets and being stronger together. But both have presented interesting concepts for those who enjoy party-based grid-movement dungeon crawling experiences.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Under New Management

Best described as a hostile takeover.

Despite what the corporations might suggest, Halcyon has issues with everything from providing basic necessities to an infestation of aggressive wildlife. Starvation and sickness plague those within settlement walls while lawlessness and indecency plague those outside of them. Due to the incessant mismanagement, it’s time for a change, and I can think of no better candidate than a recently defrosted colonist. They couldn’t do any worse at least. The Outer Worlds is a delightful narrative-driven RPG which tasks you with uncovering the truth behind the colony of Halcyon.

Which is exactly what I did.

I didn’t get immediately distracted by numerous side quests and miscellaneous objectives. Or by aiding companions in their personal quests. Or by revisiting the Groundbreaker to acquire new equipment. Or by repeatedly looking for the UDL Lab Weapons Terminal Keycard. No. Not at all.

I certainly didn’t revisit (and search) the facility multiple times to no avail, only to discover that the UDL Lab Weapons Terminal Keycard was on the table upstairs the entire time. That’d be silly. Definitely not something that the captain of the (aptly named) Unreliable would do. Exploration is where The Outer Worlds is at its best, though. Travelling from planet to planet and discovering new locations, then obsessively searching those locations for their secrets. I wasn’t anticipating the experience to be as content-dense as it was, and I was pleasantly surprised by how Peril of Gorgon seamlessly built upon its impressive foundation. Seldom does the opportunity to become wholly absorbed by an open world present itself, but the developers’ dedication to this nightmarish universe have made it possible.

I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

Companions have a similar prominence. Not only are they surprisingly useful, but they have distinct personalities and motivations which help them feel like they’re a part of this universe. They’ve often got contextual dialogue to share when encountering factions, visiting locations, and making decisions. Supporting them during their personal quests will unlock additional benefits, further improving their effectiveness and developing (or altering) their personality. They’re reasonably capable in combat, too. Despite their proclivity to mindlessly soak up incoming damage.

But you’d expect them to do that.

They’re also customisable and can be developed much in the same way as you develop the protagonist. However, the character development mechanics are underwhelming, and you’ll rarely find anything that fundamentally alters a build in the assortment of skills and perks available.

I had hoped for greater depth to the character development mechanics and for a wider variety of equipment, but the lack of either doesn’t detract from the experience. The Outer Worlds isn’t your typical adventure, though. It leans on its narrative-driven approach throughout the main campaign, and is defined by its action-orientated combat, and it favours build diversity through skill checks in dialogue, but the majority of character builds lack individuality due to uninspiring mechanics. It might not have been exactly what I’d expected it to be, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. It was just, at times, an overly simplified one. And I’d still wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy first-person narrative-driven RPGs but are looking for something refreshing and unusual.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie