Conquering the Pile of Shame, Week 5
I knew there was a reason I picked Heretic to go on the list. I’m starting to learn that, like anything in life, it’s always handy to have a backup. Fallout 2 and Ultima II are both pretty heavy RPGs. Fallout 2 is brilliant, but it’s an epic RPG with a plodding pace. Similarly, Ultima II is, in relative terms, a fairly chunky RPG. Sometimes, you don’t want a game like that. Sometimes, you just want to run and gun. Heretic came to the rescue.
Heretic (Raven Software, 1994)
Heretic was the perfect game to fill a few 30 minute sessions, and I made some pretty decent progress too. I’m also reconsidering some of my earlier criticisms of it being derivative — the addition of an inventory system in the game with several useful pickups adds an extra dynamic to the gameplay that I’m starting to like, and it makes Doom seem a little bland in comparison.
The sound and music is still exceptional, and quite creepy. Monster placement is clever and often unpredictable, and even though this is a game released almost three decades ago, there have been a few moments that made me jump. Still level design is frustrating at times, and the way forwards often seems opaque.
Fallout 2 (Black Isle Studios, 1998)
I continued with my adventures in the town of Redding, with the Sheriff asking me to evict a local widow who has been unable to keep up with rent. Now, in true RPG style, you can play this several ways depending on what sort of character you’re playing. Of course, one of those ways involves booting the old hag out on the dusty, radioactive streets. I’m a softie though, and my character, Jack, had saved up a few spare coins from smoking wasteland bandits; coins he gladly paid the poor old lady’s debt with.
Following this little bit of landlordery, I was directed over to the bar to sort out a dispute between the rival miner gangs — the Kokoweef miners and the Morningstar miners. A clever dash of logic with a peppering of some violent threats, and the situation was soon resolved. But this is the post-apocalyptic wasteland, so the problems just kept on coming. Next I hear that a local prostitute had been slashed by one of the Morningstar miners. By this point, its becoming pretty clear that Morningstar are a bunch of ruffians, and I’m likely to back the more diplomatic Kokoweef Mine.
I tracked down the violent miner, who was of course full of excuses as to why he thought it was okay to use physical violence against this poor woman. I delivered my rebuttal to his argument in the form of hot lead. While researching the game, I later discovered that the murderer in this quest, Obidiah Hakeswill, is based on a character from the Sharpe series of novels by Bernard Cornwell. Sharpe’s Hakeswill is similarly known for his penchant for violence against women.
It was shortly after this quest that I hit a bit of a brick wall — Fallout 2 is not particularly forgiving with its difficulty at times, and my next quest was to take out a local bandit, Frog Morton (he’s called Frog because he “croaks people”). Several saves later, it became clear that I need to spend some time levelling up. So back to the wasteland I go…