The Watchmaker: Stolen Organs

This is the kind of game that people are thinking of when they complain about adventure game puzzles. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on its logic and chosen conventions, and can proceed without further need for the walkthrough, it throws me for a loop, read-the-author’s-mind-wise. My latest encounter with this tendency isn’t even related to puzzles!

It turns out that the laboratory I mentioned before had more in it than just the syringe. Indeed, there was a metal box that was specifically described as “an obvious hiding place” when I clicked on it. But there didn’t seem to be any way to open it, so I moved on. Turns out that I needed to zoom into first-person mode, which you’d think that I’d have learned to try by now. Inside, I found a bag of blood (an inventory item, which I haven’t yet found a use for), and a container with a human heart inside. The player character was horrified at the discovery, but I didn’t fully understand why until I went to talk to an NPC to see if I had spawned any new conversation topics. I had: “Stolen organs”. And I’m like, what the heck? What about this situation was supposed to suggest that the heart I found was stolen? Remember, this entire castle is owned by a major pharmaceutical company. They have legitimate reasons to do medical research, and the resources to obtain donated organs legitimately. But I was expected to treat a specimen from a cadaver like a major scandal.

What’s more, when I confronted the supervisor about it, the player character made another big unjustified leap. Now, I had learned some time back that the supervisor had been seen unloading a crate from a van in the middle of the night, and he denied it when I asked. Clearly he was up to something. But when I asked him about “Stolen organs”, the first thing I said was “I found the crate you were seen unloading from the van…” There’s probably a translation issue here: the box I found in the lab was not something I would describe as a “crate”. More like a refrigerator, really, given its contents. But even putting that aside, we seem to have started from “This is a box” and leapt to “It must be that specific box“, even though there are boxes of various kinds all over the castle.

A slightly related point: This game has names for its rooms, which it displays along with the time of day when you enter a new location just after time advances, like “Upstairs Hallway, 1:30 PM” or whatever. I don’t remember if I’ve ever seen a name for the lab, but the walkthrough calls it “Secret Laboratory”, so I’m guessing that this is what the game calls it as well. And it’s inaccurate. There’s nothing secret about it. The door is clearly visible, just locked with a keycode, which seems like a very sensible security precaution for a medical laboratory.

Maybe my mindset is just wrong for this game. Maybe I should be thinking more in terms of where the story wants to go instead of in terms of what’s reasonable. Perhaps I should just be thinking the worst of everyone. But even this presumes I can recognize what kind of story it’s trying to be, and that might not be the case. In my last session, I found evidence that, in the world of this story, the moon landings were faked and fluoridation is a CIA mind control scheme. This is totally not where I was expecting things to go, even with all the ley lines and doomsday cults.

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