Archive for the 'FPS' Category

TF2: Blowing Up

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been involved in two more office Team Fortress 2 sessions. The first was apparently on the game’s anniversary of release or something: all the characters wore little party hats (on top of any other hats they normally wear), and, when killed, exploded into balloons and confetti.

As a result, I’ve given a serious try to two more character types: the Demoman and the Sniper. The Demoman, master of the grenade launcher, actually seems pretty bad for this small-team stuff. When there’s only three to a side, you spend a lot of time alone, waiting for your teammates to respawn, and the Demoman is essentially helpless when alone: the delay before his grenades go off means that he can’t really kill any but the most oblivious of victims. His value, it seems to me, is more in the threat of damage than in the damage itself — to limit the opponents’ options by placing obvious threats in front of them. I’m told that the use of grenades in real-life combat is similar — that the point of them isn’t so much to kill the enemy as to make them take cover or flee. Anyway, I found the Sniper much more satisfying, even though I’m rubbish at it. Although classified as Support rather than Offense, killing is all the Sniper does.

The first session left me wanting more, so after I got home, I tried running it on my home PC for the first time. Trying out the Developer Commentary tracks, I was alarmed to find that my machine spontaneously switched off, multiple times. This is an unprecedented problem. I’ve seen games exit to the desktop, freeze up Windows, and BSOD, but never just make the machine power off without so much as a beep of warning. Maybe the graphics card is drawing too much power or something?

TF2: King of the Hill

It’s been over a month since my last workplace Team Fortress 2 session, but we finally managed another one. We ran a private server with only six players, three on each team. Over the weeks since the last session, there’s been some consideration among this group of what game mode to use for small-team play. In the last update, Valve gave us the answer: King of the Hill.

TF2 has several modes based on capturing “control points”, which you do by standing near them for a period of time. (As I understand it, each player within range exerts influence on the control point, pushing it towards ownership by one team or the other. Once it’s pushed all the way to being owned by one team, it remains owned until the opposing team pushes it all the way back.) King of the Hill mode is such a mode, but with only one control point in the center — a variant simple enough that it’s surprising that it took them this long to add it. It’s good for small groups because it concentrates everyone’s attention on a small part of the map. Not necessarily their physical presence, mind you — a Sniper can still stand a long distance away and affect the battle, as one player proved.

I started this session playing a Soldier, the class armed with a rocket launcher, on the basis that the blasts, even when nonfatal, could push people off the hill, as it were. This turned out to not work: the control point’s range is large enough for people to dodge rockets without leaving it. The Soldier was still pretty effective, mind you — I’m told that picking it is never a mistake, regardless of the map. Still, I switched to the flamethrower-armed Pyro after a while, deeming its hard-to-avoid spread of flame a good way to clear the hill of interlopers. It seems to me that a team composed entirely of Pyros and Snipers could do pretty well on these maps. But what to I know? I’m still a beginner at this game.

Team Fortress 2

I’ve been busy these last few weeks, and look to remain busy for a few weeks yet, but I should probably write up a little something about my inaugural experience with TF2. It’s been a long time since I played an online FPS, mainly because there came a point when it was impossible to be good enough to compete without spending more hours per day practicing than I cared to, or could afford to. There was a time when I was office Quake champion, but only because I was the first to figure out the benefits of permanently turning on mouselook (wich modern FPS games don’t even let you turn off). But that was a very short time. It did, however, lead to my first taste of the original Team Fortress, back when it was a Quake mod. I understand that there have been a number of other versions of the game between this beginning and TF2, but I know little about them.

I remember thinking at the time that the whole idea of assigning gameplay-mandated roles had some potential, but that this potential was largely wasted due to the players’ general lack of interest in actually playing as a team and acting in concert. It would be surprising if this had changed for the better over the years that Generation 4chan got online, but I was pleasantly surprised that the dev team had come up with ways to compensate for it, with gameplay modes that really encourage specialization.

For example, on a Payload map (a mode that is, as far as I know, unique to TF2), one team has to push a cart full of explosives along a track to the enemy base before time runs out. The attacking team needs people to stay by the cart and push it and also needs people to scout ahead and clear out resistance. Which you can do most effectively depends on your chosen class — for example, the fast but fragile Scout will find that sticking by the slow-moving cart negates their one advantage. The defending team obviously needs to get people away from the cart, and the rocker-launcher-wielding Soldier class seems ideal for this, as the blast from their weapons can clear people out of cart-pushing range even if it doesn’t kill them. Meanwhile, their Engineers will be taking advantage of the cart’s fixed route by placing automated gun turrets well in advance of it, while their Snipers will be pressing as close to the enemy base as they dare in order to keep people from reaching the cart in the first place. Or at least that’s how it went when I played.

The game’s style is one of exaggerated, cartoony slapstick. Humor in games seems to be one of my recurring themes this year, and I’ve mentioned before how TF2 has been credited with creating a resurgence of humor in the industry. And it does it without a lot of explicit jokes — mainly it just gives the players the tools for inflicting absurd harm on each other and standing back. Much has been written about this already, but the really interesting thing about the slapstick here is that it’s even identifiable as such. I mean, the action really isn’t all that far separated from that of any other FPS. The whole genre has always been proudly over-the-top, from Wolfenstein 3D onward. So why does this game come off as more of a comedy than most? The caricatured character art and animations are of course a large part of it, but this is not sufficient in itself to leave a humorous impression. I think the pacing helps. Let’s say an enemy Heavy ambushes you, and you return fire, but you die first. This takes about the same amount of time to happen as it takes to read that sentence aloud. Which is to say, it lasts just long enough for the player to fully register that it’s happening, and doesn’t drag on beyond that moment. Obviously not everything is like this, though — in particular, two of the classes, the Sniper and the Spy, specialize in killing the enemy before the enemy knows they’re there. And apparently there’s a tradition of rivalry between these two classes.

One thing I’ve been uncertain about is how this game fits into the Oath. TF2 isn’t winnable, and it keeps adding more content — even now, nearly two years after its release, it keeps getting special bonus items as updates. This puts it into the same category as MMORPGs. Also like MMORPGs, it requires other players online, and thus won’t necessarily be easily turned back to after a delay of years. In short, it doesn’t fit within the model of the Stack. Nonetheless, I’m willing to call this game Complete once I’ve spent a nontrivial amount of time trying out each of the character classes. So far, I’ve tried the Scout, Heavy, and Soldier. Six more to go.

HL2E2: Final Fight

The scene I abandoned at the end of my last session is in fact the final combat sequence of the game, and quite a scene it is — by far the most satisfying fight in the episode, full of fiero and adrenalin. Let me describe it in detail.

First of all, as I said in my last post, Striders are marching on your base, which is located on a lushly-wooded mountainside dotted with rustic cabins. The cabins hold supplies, including dispensers for a kind of sticky bomb that you can lob at the Striders with your Gravity Gun, then shoot with a pistol while they’re stuck to destroy the Strider instantly. The bomb dispensers are important because you can only carry one bomb at a time. The Striders more or less ignore you, but they’re escorted by their smaller cousins the Hunters, which don’t. So right away there’s a tradeoff in where you devote your attention: you can’t ignore the Hunters, but it’s bad to let the Striders stay alive too long too, especially since they can blast apart the cabins where you get your bombs. In addition, Hunters have weapons that can disintegrate the bombs you’ve tossed (without detonating them), so if you’re going to try to kill a Strider before demolishing its escort, you have to at least make sure the Hunters are distracted or too far away to do anything about it — which is actually pretty easy to accomplish, because the Hunters will break off to chase you while the Strider just keeps on walking.

Except if you wind up in a running battle like that, you’re probably going to wind up too far away from the bomb dispensers to attack the Strider. The battlefield here is large, and what’s more, too heavily forested to see more than a small part of it at a time. You have a car: it lets you get around faster than you could on foot, it’s equipped with Strider-detecting radar, and if you have room to accelerate, it makes a pretty good anti-Hunter weapon. But it’s not as maneuverable as you might like on those rough mountain roads, and you can’t launch bombs from it, so you have to get out sometimes, and it’s all too easy to get separated from it when you’re dodging Hunters.

So there’s a whole mess of conflicting motivations that you have to sort out on the fly as the situation evolves: attacking the Striders vs defending yourself, staying maneuverable vs getting places fast, going where the enemy is at the moment vs staying where you can get more bombs. It’s all a mad scramble. There are friendly soldiers stationed here and there to help you through it, but, since they don’t have any anti-Strider weapons, their main role in combat is distracting the Hunters. Their real purpose in the game, though, isn’t tactical at all, but emotional: they’re there to give a sense that you’re not fighting this battle singlehandedly (even though you pretty much are), but that you’re all in this together. Whenever a Strider is downed, they let out hearty yells of triumph and congratulation. The whole level would feel very different without that detail. Where most of the combat scenes in the series are designed to give a sense of calamity or panic, this is the “Oh my god we’re actually winning” level.

Afterwards, all that’s left is some staged scenes where plot events occur around you as you walk to the final room, where there’s a dramatic reversal and a cliffhanger. And now, for the first time since I began HL2, I have to wait along with everyone else for the next episode.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2

Time to get the numbers down. Time to try a game that I can reasonably expect to finish in a weekend.

After my first multi-hour session of HL2E2, I’m well into the sixth of its seven chapters, facing what amounts to the Half-Life version of the Battle of Hoth, trying to repel a dozen Striders marching on the rebel base. Striders are the immensely tall things that I’ve referred to before as “tripod robots”, but by now I’ve had enough opportunity to see them close up and realize that they’re not robots at all. They’re three-legged alien cyborg crustaceans. Most of the Combine war machines are at least partly organic. One of the new monsters for this episode, the loping tripodal Hunter, doesn’t have any visible organic components, but its behavior is animal-like enough to suggest that it at least has an organic brain.

The other new monsters this time around are the luminescent acid-spitting variants of the Antlion. Much of the midgame is spent in their warren of glass-smooth tunnels, helping the Vortigaunts on an errand that would have been a lot easier if they still knew how to use pheropods. I found the new antlion grubs particularly disquieting. They’re about the size of your forearm and completely non-aggressive. There’s some evidence that they’re fed on human meat, but they basically just sit there glowing and occasionally wiggling, waiting for you to squish them. If you don’t want to squish them, tough. You’re going to squish some whether you want to or not, because they’re often on the floor in places where you want to walk. The worst part is that when they’re squished, they emit a little glowing crumb that, when picked up, restores a little bit of health. Is Gordon eating something that came out of a dead alien bug? Intellectually, I know that I’ve eaten worse things in Nethack, where consuming monster corpses in order to gain their powers is a pretty important part of the game, but it’s all very abstract there, without the visceral revulsion you get from graphics. Still, you get used to it, just like you get used to the violence and gore.

HL2E1: Ending

Spoilers strut about boldly in the daylight ahead.

It turned out that I had only one major set-piece battle to go before the end of the episode, against a tripod in an enclosed area full of boxcars and other obstacles. The tripod is too large to follow you as you wend your way through the maze-like environs, but its weapons are strong enough to physically alter the environment in ways that must have taken a good deal of careful planning on the part of the designers.

After that, Gordon and Alyx set a train in motion, hop into the caboose, and watch the city explode noiselessly in the distance. At least, it’s in the distance at first, as you see the ships flying out of the towering citadel just in time to escape and speeding off in all directions. Then the fireball (plasmaball? otherworldly-dimensional-energyball?) engulfs the places your train has just sped through — it’s sort of a “Yee-haw!” moment, staying just ahead of the wall of white in your wake, until you have the dismaying realization that you’re not going to make it.

I’ve had nightmares like this. Dreams of near-escape, followed the realization that you’re doomed and powerless to do anything about it. The sense of doom can be surprisingly peaceful at these moments, because if there’s nothing you can do, there’s no need to react in any way. Being on a train isn’t completely necessary to the feeling, but it adds a lot to the sense that your course is beyond your control. And that’s Gordon’s life in a nutshell, isn’t it? Trains have been a major part of Half-Life all along, bringing Gordon to places he doesn’t want to be, literally railroading him.

HL2E1: Escort Mission

Speaking of hardware modification, it turns out that I was right: all that I needed to pass the Point of Certain Crash in Half-Life 2 Episode 1 was a second gigabyte of RAM, which seems to cost about two cents per meg these days. So the stated “minimum requirements” of the game, which would have it running on a fraction of the RAM I had beforehand, are a lie. This is probably pretty common. There’s little motivation for game producers to tell people in advance that they shouldn’t bother buying their games.

I’ve mentioned before how the structure of Half-Life 2 makes me end most sessions in the middle of a difficult battle. The latest quit-for-the-night scene for me is one of those scenes where people start following Gordon around and get massacred for their trust in my ability to defend them. This time around, though, it’s not just a regrettable happenstance. Defending them is in fact my explicit goal: Barney has dragooned me into shuttling people from a safehouse to a waiting train, four at a time. (This seems to be a magic number for the game engine. Whenever NPCs are spawned dynamically, there are always four of them. New folks show up only as fast as you let the old ones die. If it were a movie, I’d suspect that they only had enough money to hire four extras.)

So, it’s an escort mission, that traditional bane of shooters. I don’t know yet if getting my charges killed actually makes any difference in the game here, and on the basis of precedent, I suspect it doesn’t. But for various reasons, I’m unwilling to let them die, and this makes the scene harder than it would be otherwise. The fact that it is my explicit goal is of course part of it. There’s also the fact that it’s my fault that they need to get on the train in the first place — the reason they’re fleeing the city is that it’s about to blow up, due to my own actions in the endgame of Half-Life 2.

But also, it just seems like discharging a karmic debt. The whole episode so far has essentially been one long escort mission — one viewed from the opposite side. Gordon frequently has to concentrate on things other than shooting, like operating machinery or pushing cars onto antlion burrows to block them. And whenever the player is occupied in this manner, Alyx covers him. There have been battles where I’ve hardly fired a shot. In one of the scenes shortly before where I am now, Alyx climbed up onto a high vantage point with a sniper rifle to pick off enemies while I ran ahead. I’ve played that exact scenario in several other games, but always as the sniper. So after being the beneficiary of so much uncomplaining protection, it would be ungracious to refuse the same to others.

Strife: Final thoughts

strife-spaceshipObtaining the last piece of the Five-Fingered Fist of God (as I like to think of it) opens up a passage to the alien spacecraft that started the whole mess. Not that I’d have guessed that is was an alien spacecraft without the level’s name in the automap screen. The decor is less technological-looking than a lot of the areas that are supposed to be castles and chapels and the like, consisting mainly of busy green textures that look like jade inlays or something. (I can accept that alien technology looks different from ours, but this alien is supposed to be the source of all the advanced technology we’ve seen in the game.)

This section made me very apprehensive. Not because of the darkness, or the whispery voices that get louder as you progress, but because of its generosity. The very first room in the alien ship is a smorgasbord of ammo and healing items, the sort of thing that says “You’re going to need this.” In a game where rooms like this occur frequently, like Serious Sam, this wouldn’t mean much. But here, the game had been very stingy with me for a long time, so the sudden change of heart seemed to signal something very bad to come.

This was followed by a cavernous room packed with monsters, including an Inquisitor and multiple Crusaders. At any prior point in the game, this would have been very difficult, as I’d be dodging missiles from multiple directions. As it was, I more or less stood at the entrance and let the Five-Fingered Fist of God clear out most of the room. It wasn’t quite as thorough as Doom‘s BFG would have been, so I did in fact have to use a little of my freshly-snagged ammo for mopping up, but I still hoarded most of it. After that came a couple more supply caches, including one so full of Energy Cells and Full Healths that I had to leave most of them behind.

(Energy cells are the ammo for the Mauler, the second most powerful weapon in the game. It’s kind of like the standard FPS shotgun (otherwise absent here) in that it has a slow rate of fire and does damage in a scatter pattern, but it’s a scatter of disintegration beams that are still pretty effective at a long distance. Looking it up just now to find its name, I discovered that it has an alternate fire mode that I didn’t know about and never used, a “torpedo mode” that fires an energy ball that breaks into more energy balls on impact. Maybe that would have helped in that stretch where I had so much trouble. It sounds like a real room-clearer.)

After the Energy Cell cache was a new level called “Entity’s Lair”, which the automap claimed had no monsters at all. Furthermore, just walking around opened another cache containing more Energy Cells. My apprehension increased. What on earth was going on?

Well, it turned out that this was in fact the level with the final boss. (When it made its appearance, the map mode updated the monster count to 1.) And it was kind of anticlimactic — definitely not the hardest fight in the game, not with the Fist of God at my side. Maybe the point behind all that Mauler ammo was to trick you into using it instead. I didn’t even try. After spending so much time hunting for pieces of the Sigil, it seemed like a waste to not use it.

strife-blackbirdThe game doesn’t waste much time on what happens after you’re done fighting. There are multiple possible endings, but in the one I got, there’s a perfunctory illustrated slideshow cutscene in which it’s asserted that everything is hunky-dory now, and then Blackbird emerges from the woodwork with a come-hither glance, intending to (in her words) “reward you… personally” for some reason. And that’s that! Look at any writeup of Doom-style games, and you’ll find Strife praised for its rich, deep plot. And, well, it has a plot. The mere fact that it’s there is enough to make it seem deep and rich in comparison to other Doom-likes.

So, looking back on the experience, I have to ask: apart from some amusement and sating my sense of completism, did I get anything out of this game? Does it have anything to teach us? Obviously it did when it was new: it introduced Doom fans to the concept of NPCs, and experimented with combining FPS and RPG elements. And as fond as I am of saying “Ultima Underworld did it first”, I have to admit that Strife chose a fresh approach to that combination, one that emphasizes the FPS part and makes the RPG aspect subordinate to it. 1I say “chose”, but this may or may not have been the authors’ intention. The emphasis may have been a result of the engine.

There’s also at least one original, and still-underutilized, pure-FPS idea in here too: use of the ceiling. People don’t normally look at ceilings, so things up there can be hard to spot. (Especially in places where the ceilings are high, because the graphics engine used here only lets you raise the view so far.) So Strife gives you ceiling-mounted automated gun turrets — stationary turrets themselves being something of a new wrinkle at the time — and it gives you Stalkers, small spider-bots that crawl on the ceilings and drop down behind you to attack. Stalkers make a distinctive ticking noise as they creep along, and whenever I heard it, I knew I was probably also going to hear the plunk that meant I should sprint forward a few yards and then quickly turn around.

On the side of negative lessons, the one place where I felt that Strife really fell down was that it wasn’t clear enough in the beginning about how things work. Which is a very unusual problem for a FPS, but there it is. The person who gives you your first mission warns you not to “set off every alarm in town”, so when you set off an unavoidable alarm in the course of that mission, it’s easy to feel like you’ve made a mistake and waste some time looking for a way around it. At the same time, there’s another person not far away who offers you a similar mission, but he’s a liar and fraud, and secretly in league with the Order: doing as he says does in fact set off every alarm in town, which can disastrous if you chose to do his mission first. Something like that might have been okay later in the game — arguably the business with Macil is similar — but when you’re still struggling with the basics, like where you are and who the Front is and whether you should be accepting missions from strangers at all, it just adds to the confusion.

For that matter, the game itself never addresses the questions of your immediate situation. The moment you select “New Game”, you’re in a room in a sewage treatment plant, armed with only a knife and being attacked by an Acolyte, with no clue of why. The in-game intro tells you about the history of the Order, but nothing about your personal history — even the detail that you’re a “wandering mercenary” is only mentioned in the manual. This strikes me as exactly backward. The important thing for the intro to do is establish your place in this world, to orient you. The details of the environment can be revealed over the course of the game, or relegated to the docs. I think of Half-Life 2 and Quake 2, where the opening cutscene is all about showing how the player character arrives in the gameworld.

Anyway, I’m glad I played it, but I don’t think I’ll be trying for the other endings. (The cutscenes can all be found on Youtube anyway.) For next time, I’m going to try to wrap up some other stuff that I’ve started but not finished on this blog.

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1. I say “chose”, but this may or may not have been the authors’ intention. The emphasis may have been a result of the engine.

Strife: Cyborgs and Zombies

strife-bodiesBetween Strife and Etherlords and Half-Life 2, I’ve been seeing a lot of cyborgs lately. Like zombies, they seem to be one of the stock videogame bad guys. I suppose this means that a lot of people find them emotionally resonant or something, evoking alienation from one’s body, enhanced by fear of mortality in the case of zombies, and of technology overpowering humanity in the case of cyborgs. Both, in different ways, represent anxieties about the future.

Although I understand these fears well enough to name them, I’ve never really felt them, and often find zombies in games more irritating than frightening. I suspect this is because I haven’t watched the right movies. (Imagine playing Jedi Knight without having seen any of the Star Wars films.) But I get that zombies are convenient low-level enemies, with a built-in rationale for being stupid and slow-moving, and you can shoot them without qualms because they’re incapable of reason and not really human. Cyborgs have the same basic advantages, but with the additional virtue that the basic idea allows for more variation. A ten-foot-tall zombie, or one with a scorpion’s tail, would be an anomaly requiring explanation.

I didn’t intend at first to talk about zombies in this post, because I’m supposed to be posting about Strife, and there aren’t any zombies in Strife. But cyborgs and zombies are really variations on the same theme, and the distinction between the two has blurred somewhat since things like Resident Evil started giving us zombies with technological origins. If the people in that game had been transformed into monsters by nanomachines instead of a virus, which would they be? Doom put it concisely when it refused to hang its low-level grunts on either peg, calling them just “former humans” in the manual.

strife-conversionThere’s one thing about the cyborgs in Strife that really reminded me of zombies, though, and that’s because it reminded me of a phenomenon I’ve mainly seen in survival-horror games. There’s always a moment near the beginning of those games where the characters have their first encounter with a monster and someone says something like “My god… what is that thing?” To which the player naturally responds “IT IS A ZOMBIE, DUH.” 1Notable exception: when I played Silent Hill 2 (the first of the Silent Hill games I played), my reaction was more like “…I honestly have no idea.” Sometimes I think the designers must be doing this on purpose, trying to engage the player in a Rocky Horror-like call-and-response. Well, when you reach the inner sanctum of the Conversion Chapel and see captive humans being fed into a cybernizing machine on a conveyor belt, Blackbird 2Your contact in the Front, who comminucates with you by radio and apparently sees everything you see. She functions as a combination quest dispenser and wisecracking sidekick, and provides the closest thing this game has to a PC voice. At first I wondered if hearing Blackbird’s disembodied voice wherever you go was supposed to parallel the “voices” heard by the founders of the Order, but it doesn’t look intentional. Those voices aren’t really part of the game content, and may well have been thought up only when they needed some backstory to fill out the opening spiel. is shocked — shocked! — at what she sees, as if we hadn’t gone in there specifically looking for it . Maybe it’s just the intonation that makes me interpret it this way, but this is the game’s “duh” moment.

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1. Notable exception: when I played Silent Hill 2 (the first of the Silent Hill games I played), my reaction was more like “…I honestly have no idea.”
2. Your contact in the Front, who comminucates with you by radio and apparently sees everything you see. She functions as a combination quest dispenser and wisecracking sidekick, and provides the closest thing this game has to a PC voice. At first I wondered if hearing Blackbird’s disembodied voice wherever you go was supposed to parallel the “voices” heard by the founders of the Order, but it doesn’t look intentional. Those voices aren’t really part of the game content, and may well have been thought up only when they needed some backstory to fill out the opening spiel.

Strife: Depleted

I’m making good progress in Strife, and confidently expect to polish it off this weekend. I have all but one piece of the Sigil, and my two upgradable stats are both one tick shy of maximum. I’m assuming that these things will change together — that obtaining the last Sigil piece will trigger one final upgrade opportunity before the end boss.

It’s getting difficult at this point, which actually surprises me somewhat. These older Doom-like games generally plateau in difficulty before they’re far advanced, apart from the occasional spike produced by bosses. You get stronger foes at more or less the same rate as you get stronger weapons. Past a certain point, things don’t get more complicated, and as long as you follow standard procedure, taking things room by room and not leaving anything alive behind you, you’ll come out okay. Later games had to come up with ways of keeping standard procedure from working — last year, I blogged about Serious Sam‘s gimmicks toward that end — but Strife didn’t. I talked about rising intensity of action in my last post, but that doesn’t necessarily correspond to rising difficulty: an abundance of loose ammo and healing items can make a pitched battle easy, and a lack of them can turn a sequence of minor skirmishes into death by a thousand cuts.

And that is in fact what’s happening to me. I’m using ammo faster than I’m finding more. This would be a good time to use the Sigil, which depletes health instead of ammo, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m low on healing items too. I had grown used to buying much of my equipment with found cash, but I haven’t seen any at all in the last few levels. Perhaps I should have hoarded it better. The Front’s home base is always willing to supply a certain amount of healing and ammo free of charge, but only if you’re below a certain threshhold, and they won’t bring you to full health, and it’s only machine gun ammo.

I should probably blame the Inquisitors. 1Yes, there’s a religious theme in the naming of the cyborgs. I’ve already mentioned the Acolytes, and there are Cusaders and Templars as well. Even the factory where they’re made is called the Conversion Chapel. Inquisitors are the strongest monster that isn’t a boss: large bipedal armored things, armed with missiles and capable of limited flight. They probably have a human brain somewhere inside them, given what we know of the Order’s modus operandi. I’ve only met a few of them, and only in the latest chapter. In one case, it’s possible that I was actually supposed to flee it rather than engage it: right behind it was a tunnel that it couldn’t fit through, but which I could reach unharmed if I sprinted. I engaged it anyway, from the relative safety of the tunnel — standard procedure, remember? Don’t leave anything alive behind you. This choice definitely helped later, when I had to cross that room again, but that convenience might not have been worth the immediate cost. It left me depleted and scrambling for ammo, and I’ve been scrambling ever since. I’m really hoping there’s a payday at the end of this chapter.

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1. Yes, there’s a religious theme in the naming of the cyborgs. I’ve already mentioned the Acolytes, and there are Cusaders and Templars as well. Even the factory where they’re made is called the Conversion Chapel.

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