Mouse Versus the Wasteland: Part Two

by Dan H

Dan is still pissing around in Fallout 2
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When we left Mouse she was leaving the now-happy village of Modoc on her way to Vault City. She had a wheezing old man for a companion, and a cool leather jacket with one arm cut out. What more could a wanderer of the wastelands possibly need?

Vault City and Gecko

Rocking up to the Vault City courtyard, Mouse wasted no time and got her nose stuck right into other people's business. She agreed to help rescue a man named Joshua for a woman in a tent, and to buy a plow for a couple named Smith. I skipped Cassidy because I was trying my darnedest to avoid picking up combat-capable NPCs. My darnedest I say.

Vault City is another town where it's remarkably hard to find anybody who wants you to do anything even remotely dangerous. Perhaps my perceptions have been skewed by too much WoW, but I honestly can't remember the last time a game was happy to let me earn XP simply by going from one entirely non-threatening situation to another. There are no quests in Vault City in which a violent solution is even suggested (except for the Gecko Reactor quest, and even then blowing up the reactor isn't exactly a run-and-gun option although I believe you have to fight your way out – as in all of the best RPG plans).

So yes, the Mouse went to Gecko, where she agreed to acquire a Hydroelectric Magnetosphere Regulator. She got the regulator, she installed it. She also agreed to look for a missing ghoul in the Den, and to get optimization data from the Vault City computer (of course, doing this would utterly doom Gecko, but she doesn't know that).

I went back to McClure (the First Citizen, being arbitrarily evil, will withhold citizenship if you take the peaceful option, because apparently she'd rather live near a smoking nuclear crater than a functioning nuclear power plant?) and got my citizenship. The Vault City vault is in some ways disappointingly small, although the Citizens do point out that it's used mostly for storage. I looted the whole place on general principles, and downloaded the location of Vault 15 into my PipBoy. I forgot to get the optimization data because I'm really quite bad at video games.

This left me with a bit of a conundrum. In some ways the most sensible thing to do would be to head straight for Vault 15, which seemed like the most likely place to find a GECK. On the other hand, that would miss out on most of the big wide wasteland and, well, that would be a damned shame.

Besides, some guy named Moore asked me to deliver a package to some guy called Bishop in some place called Reno.

Redding and Reno

My first port of call was actually Redding, where I volunteered to help the local sheriff with his duties (since a gecko nearly bit his leg off). Unfortunately he was convinced that I wasn't “experienced” enough (interestingly, this seems to be the only quest in the game with a level restriction, which I don't really understand), so I set off for Reno.

Sadly, I cocked up Reno.

My strategy in New Reno is usually fairly straightfoward: join a gang, whack the boss and kill the rest of the gang. Join a new gang, whack the boss and join the next gang. Rinse. Repeat. Of course I wasn't going to be wiping out whole mobs of armed badassi this time around, but I was confident that I'd be able to whack all of the bosses without too much trouble, since I knew for a fact that each of them had a silent kill option.

I started out working for the Mordinos – I made a simple delivery to the Stables, where I also “rescued” Myron (aiming to boost my Useless NPC counter by as much as possible). Swiping an ID card from a scientist was all it took to convince the guards to release the inventor of Jet into my hands – how the Mordinos managed to keep their foothold on Reno was beyond me. Then I shook down some pornographers, and finally accepted the job to whack Boss Salvatore.

Of course before I could take out Salvatore, I figured I should do his quests. So I tracked down Pretty-Boy Lloyd, who I blew up with a mine, and I shook down Renesco for Salvatore's tribute, and guarded the transaction in the desert, and of course I accepted Mr Salvatore's offer of membership in his family. I figured what the hell, he'd be dead soon anyway. So I wandered around Reno being all made-manly for a bit, and then went back to take our Mr S. I swiped his Oxygen tank and poisoned him (coward: not pacifist), and went back to the Desperado to claim my reward.

At which point the Mordinos opened fire, because as far as the Salvatores were concerned, their boss had died of natural causes, and there was no reason to kick me out of the gang. This left me with a dilemma, I'd fully planned on taking out all of the Reno crime families (except perhaps Bishop, whose silent kill is less reliable and requires a high Traps skill) but I couldn't get near Mordino without actually fighting his dudes (I tried to sneak several times, but even a skill of 115% didn't seem to be good enough). I tried letting myself get caught pickpocketing, but that was no good. That made the Salvatores want to kill me, but didn't make me any more popular with the other mobs.

Sulkily, I mooched around Reno trying to do other quests as best I could. I tried to sneak onto the Sierra Army Depot (I'd unlocked all the Wright quests before finishing the Salvatores), but couldn't get past the gun turrets on the door (high Sneak seems seriously unhelpful). Finally I decided to just head straight for Vault 15 and endgame.

The Squat, the Deathclaws, and Unfinished Business

I made a beeline for Vault 15, which saw me facing my first random encounter (I think modern computers speed up travel times so random encounters get far less common). I ran away from some mantises. At the Squat I rescued a woman's daughter from raiders, and then infiltrated their base with one of the least convincing bluffs in gaming history (“My name's … umm … Pat, I'm new.” Seriously, that's Dragon-Age-level persuasion dialogue). Still I got down to level three fairly easily and found the location of Vault 13. Result!

I tried to see if I could sneak up to Darion and blow him up with dynamite, but I couldn't, he auto-initiates combat. This made me a sad panda.

I left Vault 15, and made straight for Vault 13, where I met friendly Deathclaws and got the GECK (along with a quest to pick up a computer voice recognition module).

Since I was, y'know, The Chosen One, the first thing I did after getting the GECK was to hightail it back to Arroyo (where I had to flee from a pack of Centaurs, and where I also found that Vic had suddenly come over all macho man, shooting at anything that so much as looked at me funny). Arriving back home I found my village destroyed and my people gone!

Time to finish some sidequests!

So I went to the Toxic Caves, where I found the lack of boots meant my NPCs kept dying in the toxic goo (although sneaking away from combat was proving extremely viable). I reloaded and made a mental note to come back on my own (I'm sure Smiley can get by eating Gecko for a bit longer). I rescued Woody the Ghoul from the Den, then made for Vault City and the Voice Recognition Module that the Deathclaws wanted. On the way there, though, I had a brainwave. I knew how I could get away from the Family Salvatore without violating my principles (or at least, without violating them too much). Flares!

Reno Again

I admit this was a bit of a cheat, but I consoled myself with the observation that since a flare wasn't really a weapon per se (although apparently with Better Criticals aimed-flare-throws become the best thrown weapon in the game) and since my to-hit chance was -15% it didn't really count as combat. So I ditched my NPCs in Virgin Street, rocked up to the doorway of Salvatore's Bar, lobbed a flare at a dude and ran like hell.

It didn't work. Apparently flares don't count as a combat action, or maybe you have to deal actual damage, or something, either way

Right. Screw this. Yes, I know I wasn't going to engage in in-engine combat, but I'm tried, and I'm angry. And I don't want to kill anybody, I just want to quit a damned criminal syndicate, is that too much to ask?

So I strolled up to one of Salvatore's guards and kicked him in the nads.

It worked! Four points of damage later I was out of Family Salvatore and under heavy laser fire. So I hit Sneak, walked outside, and vanished into the night like a motherfucking ninja. Oh yes, do not fuck with me or I will kick you in the balls before you even know I am there.

Right, off to deal with the other mob families.

I went back to Sr. Mordino, and was rewarded with a thousand experience points for taking out Boss Salvatore. To my great relief, Mordino did not offer me the honour of joining his family. Although I was pretty sure I could repeat operation-kick-in-the-balls as much as I liked, I didn't want to go too far down the road of actual combat. I thanked him politely, took his money, and then shot the old fucker up with enough Jet to kill a camel. I looted him of his cash and stimpacks, and walked calmly out of the Desperado.

I took another crack at the SAD, still not enough sneak, so I figured I'd write off the Wrights (har) and go for the Bishops. That meant heading to NCR to take out a man named Westin.

NCR

A couple of quests – Bishop's assassinations and Vault City scouting – led me south into the NCR. I ran into a dodgy guy called Merk, who asked me to whack a Hubologist (ah those innocent days when you could make Scientology jokes without getting sued into the middle of next week). I agreed because hey, not a pacifist.

I talked my way into NCR because apparently I “looked trustworthy” to the guard captain whose lockers I had just broken into. Once in town, I learned that President Tandi needed somebody “resourceful” and that Westin needed somebody to look into Brahmin rustlers.

I got the gig with Westin, and found that his Brahmin were being rustled by Deathclaws (who, interestingly, addressed me by name because I had already done Vault 13 at this point). I told him how to fix his problems, then poisoned him. That business taken care of, I strolled over to the Hubologist's church, where having picked up a quick delivery quest, I blew her apart with planted dynamite (without triggering combat).

After that it was book-keeping time. I had to go back to Vault City to tell them the route to NCR, and to get that damned Power Plant optimization data. Then back to Reno to pick up the next quest from Bishop (assassinate another NCR bigwig). Around this point I realised that I hadn't even looked at Broken Hills yet, and decided to give it a try.

Broken Hills

Since Mouse had been a bit of a goody-two-shoes thus far, I thought I'd try siding with the anti-mutant activists in Broken Hills, mostly to see if evil options were equally easy to take as a noncombatant. Springing the two militants from jail was surprisingly easy (possibly because I'd got into the habit of walking around with no weapons out) – just Sneak up to the door and pick the lock and bam! Instant jailbreak (who's too low-level now, Mr Redding Sheriff guy?).

The next mission was to blow up the uranium mine's air purifier, which I thought I would delay for a bit so that I could make sure to finish the other quests. I agreed to find a group of missing people for Marcus (the mutant Sheriff), and found them shot and dumped in tunnels under the town, with a note saying “Dear Zaius, I killed all these to make Jacob the racist look bad, love Francis” (this is a slight paraphrase, but only a slight one). I have played Fallout Two many times over the years (I think about six since the late nineties?) and I have never, never, never understood this plotline. Zaius and Francis are super-mutants who want Marcus to do something about the racist humans who want to kill them all (not in itself unreasonable). Where I lose the plot is in two places.

Firstly, I really don't see how shooting a bunch of humans and ditching them in the tunnels under the town helps at all. I think the tunnels are supposed to be some kind of Secret Meeting Place for Racists but there's no evidence that the dead people who (as far as I could tell) had been shot in half with super-mutant-laser-guns were in any way involved in a conspiracy against the mutants.

Even more confusingly, when I told Marcus about the dead bodies he followed whatever crazy mutant logic Francis had been working on and decided that a bunch of dead humans killed by mutants with laser guns was all the evidence he needed to arrest Jacob and his cronies. Since this would have blown my original plan to destroy the mine, I reloaded.

This time instead of telling Marcus about the missing people, I confronted Francis about the note (why did he even write a note?). Incidentally when you read the note you get a little float text over your head telling you quite specifically that you don't want to turn Francis in to Marcus because that would cause trouble for Broken Hills. Umm … what? This whole arc reminds me very strongly of the Tenpenny Towers plotline in Fallout 3, where even after Roy the Ghoul murders a bunch of people, you're still assumed to be a racist if you shoot the guy. The whole mutants-as-ethnic-minorities vibe in Fallout is difficult at the best of times, but I really don't understand what the developers are trying to say in situations like this. It might make more sense if it was part of a moral choice (do you conceal a crime to prevent a war?) but as it is it's just completely weird.

Anyway I confronted Francis, and let him go free because again, the game would have assumed I was a racist if I did anything else (also I'd have had to fight the guy). Then I got some extra power diverted to the home of a particularly sweaty ghoul (I have no idea) and then blew up the mine. I felt kind of bad about it but hey, it serves Marcus right for all the hundreds of times he's blown me up with a minigun.

Current status, level 11, still zero kills (at least kills that have been recorded by the game), only a little bit of NCR and Reno to do before I head out for 'Frisco and the Enclave.
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 18:08 on 2012-03-05
The Mouse is the hero the Wasteland deserves.
Dan H at 21:20 on 2012-03-05
Skittish and easily distracted?
Arthur B at 22:00 on 2012-03-05
CRPGs characters need to be easily distracted. Otherwise they won't do half the side quests because the main quest is clearly more important. My Kingdoms of Amalur character is tearing around in a dozen different directions because they never met a faction they didn't want to join.
Janne Kirjasniemi at 10:10 on 2012-03-06
Whatever happens with your lofty philosophy of secure backstabbing, you still seem to have a good time playing! I guess your original point about CRPG design is proven already by this point. Although I am interested to hear how you deal with the tanker and whether there are any non-violent alternatives with the king fu thingie. So, if your luck is zero, what happens if you go for the hubology treatment? Doesn't that drain luck? I never tested what happens with that.
Dan H at 20:24 on 2012-03-06
The tanker went pretty well, but I skipped the Kung Fu (although thinking about it I could have just signed on with Evil Martial Arts guy and blown Good Martial Arts Guy up with dynamite).
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