Thursday, 15 August 2019

Ringworld - Three Stuns and Five Wires

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #1: "What a strange business this is. First, my old friend Louis Wu disappeared, and managed to see it coming soon enough to alert me, and then I found that his contact Chmeee had also disappeared under unusual circumstances. I had very little time to wonder about this, though, because as soon as I made contact with Chmeee's son, we were attacked and had to make a run for it."

Quinn's main companion introduces himself.

As soon as I manage to do the Kzinti equivalent of ringing their doorbell by breaking the laser beam, a Kzinti appears at the door and asks me what my business is. I'm no solicitor, of course, but I have to have a way to prove that I am who I say I am. Fortunately, Louis Wu thought of that when he sent me his signet ring. The Kzinti recognizes the ring and acknowledges my identity. Introducing himself as "Iacch-Captain, second son of Chmeee," he invites me inside the home's courtyard. (By others, he's always called Iacch-Captain, a distinctly Kzinti-style hybrid name, but I'm just going to call him Iacch for short.)

We briefly get an ominous cut-scene showing that the Patriarch's centurion has arrived with his task force to wipe out Chmeee's family. Great timing, guys. Meanwhile, we get to have a conversation with Iacch about how we really don't know what's going on, but along with the ring, Louis Wu sent an infodisk with some information about his trip to Ringworld with Chmeee. Iacch reveals that he's the test pilot for the prototype ship made using the special hyperdrive engine acquired from the Puppeteers. That’s convenient.

No time to grieve; Harrach is probably never mentioned again.

What's "next time" when you're already dead?

Immediately after that, another member of the family, who we shortly find out is Iacch's brother (presumably another son of Chmeee), sounds the alarm and then falls dead out of an upper window overlooking the courtyard, shot by the Patriarch's people. I regain control of Quinn just as a single assassin enters the courtyard. If I do nothing, the assassin kills us too, and I get a failure message reminding me that Quinn is a mercenary and I should have been more forceful.

So I take out my stunner and shoot the assassin, which is only my third action of the game so far. We're temporarily safe, although Iacch says more assassins might show up any minute. I don't stick around to find out: I follow him out into a landing area which seems to be where the assassin team landed their "cycles" (individual flying vehicles). But there are three vehicles and only two of us, so I have to slave the third cycle to mine to make sure that we can't be followed.

There's no comment about whether anyone else is in residence at the home: I would imagine that taking all their cycles would at least temporarily strand the assault team there and make it more likely that they'd find and kill anyone else still there. But maybe the two brothers were the only ones there at that time.

Do you really think it's wise to insult the intelligence of the guy who's going to help protect you while you escape from assassins?

I take a look at the cycles, but other than setting the third cycle to the slave setting, I can't figure out what to do with the one I'm going to ride to make it the master cycle. Then Iacch shouts from off-screen about needing the security disk from the assassin. Oh, I didn't think to check and see if I could get anything from the assassin's body. I was too busy running away!

I quickly dash back into the courtyard, check the body of the assassin, find the security disk to run the cycle, and dash back to the landing area. I didn't want to hang around to see if more assassins showed up if you stay there. With the disk, then I can make my cycle the master, and we can escape with all three cycles.

Interesting alien landscape, with what looks like a very large moon in the background.

The next part is a little unclear, but the end result is that we hijack the prototype ship that Iacch knows how to fly. We travel overland in the cycles some distance through a wooded area and arrive at a facility with a guard that recognizes Iacch. I'm not quite sure whether the guard helped us (given a choice between "taking care" of the guard, which might have meant shooting him, or letting Iacch talk to him, I let Iacch talk to him), but Iacch's plan ended up being to disable a containment field around the ship and then crash through the hangar door with the third cycle.

Hijacking this unique prototype seems entirely too easy, to be honest.

My only responsibility in all of this was to stun one more guard once we got into the ship itself. Once on the bridge, Iacch announces that we must leave orbit immediately to avoid being captured by planetary defense forces. I've lost track of what's going on. Was the hangar in orbit and we somehow used the cycles to get there? Or did we already blast out of the hangar into orbit?

Miranda's entirely reasonable reaction to our unexpected presence on the ship.

Before we can do that, though, we're interrupted by a woman yelling at us about starting up the ship while she was doing some maintenance. She turns out to be Miranda Rees, the chief engineer for the hyperdrive.

I don't think this is much of a threat, actually…

...because our ship is much larger, and we have other things to worry about anyway.

We end up in a bad position because not only do planetary defense forces show up, so does the Patriarch's centurion in the Destroyer, the twin ship to the one we're in. On top of that, Miranda disappears and starts dismantling the ship. She thinks we're the bad guys for trying to steal the ship. (Well, we are stealing the ship, to be fair, but we're trying to escape assassins and figure out what's going on with the Ringworld team, so I guess we have license by plot?) I have no choice but to follow Miranda and stun her so she doesn't do any real damage to the ship.

Five wires is all Miranda managed to disconnect before I caught up to her?

While Iacch takes Miranda to the autodoc to help her recover from the stun (and keep her confined for the time being), I'm tasked with repairing the wire configuration that Miranda pulled apart, which turns out to be copy protection. I just have to connect the wires in the correct sequence, identified by a page number, and then we have a conversation with Miranda in the autodoc.

I think somewhere in all this, the Destroyer defeated or drove off the defense forces, warned Iacch that he was still under the death sentence against the Chmeee family, but then disappeared to follow orders to attack the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds first. They weren't supposed to leave any members of the family alive, so that suggests that the ships can't directly destroy each other. The Destroyer is supposed to be able to destroy whole planets, but I read somewhere that the ship hulls are made of something that's basically impenetrable to any normal force, so even that weapon wouldn't work against one.

The Patriarch's first order given to the centurion.

Quinn explains to Miranda about the Patriarch's bloodthirsty orders, but she doesn't believe him and won't help without proof. Iacch doesn't have any proof, but I still have the security disk I took from the assassin. I put that in the autodoc's slot so that Miranda (and us) can read the contents. It's a copy of the orders from the Patriarch describing the centurion's three tasks. It's got the official seal of the Patriarch, so Miranda is convinced and agrees to help.

Iacch's portrait. Yes, according to lore, the Kzinti really have those odd fan-like ears.

Back on the bridge, we start talking about how to catch up with the Destroyer to prevent it from using its weapon against the Fleet of Worlds. Then Iacch makes what would be a character-defining announcement in a story with more character depth, but we've barely known the guy for more than maybe half an hour or so, so it's not really all that meaningful.

He renounces his name, because it was the Patriarch who gave it to him, and decides to call himself Seeker-of-Vengeance instead. (I'll just call him Seeker for short, I guess.) He also names the ship, calling it Lance of Truth. (It's a fully-functioning prototype ship and it didn't already have a name?)

"That" is a Puppeteer hologram appearing on the bridge.

A clearer image of them from a ship computer I was able to access later on.

Then we're interrupted (again), this time by what looks like a hologram of a Puppeteer. Time to describe these crazy aliens. Intelligent herbivores, their lower half is sort of like a tripedal deer, with two wide-set front legs and just one leg in back, in nearly an equilateral triangle. They can kick very well with that back leg. The body rises into a sort of armored hump, under which is the actual brain. On either side of the hump rises a flexible "neck" or stalk, on the end of which is something that looks kind of like a small head because it has an eye and a mouth-like opening surrounded by short tentacle-like fingers. These act like the creature's hands, although having the eyes up there make the thing look like a two-headed monstrosity. Given how often I hit my hands on things, I can't think why you would want an eye on your hand (maybe the eyelids are armored like the brain hump), but you'd have great perspective, I guess.

This Puppeteer identifies himself as the Hindmost, which means he's the leader. Puppeteers have a very strong self-preservation instinct; the ones that go offworld and deal with other races are officially considered insane by the rest of the species. So the leader is the one that's best at staying safe in the rear of the pack, hence Hindmost. He informs the group that the Puppeteers want certain things from the Ringworld, so he wants them to go to a certain set of coordinates and bring the things to the Fleet of Worlds, and in exchange, he'll help them find Louis Wu and Chmeee on the Ringworld.

If they have to make a detour to the Ringworld to get this stuff for the Puppeteers and maybe to rescue Louis Wu and Chmeee, I don't see how they're going to catch up to the Destroyer in time to prevent it from attacking the Fleet of Worlds. But Iacch, I mean Seeker, agrees, provided that the Puppeteers can guarantee that the death sentence against his family will be lifted and that the Patriarch will be deposed. So off we go to the Ringworld.

I'm going to pause here to say that this is a really, really plot-heavy game. I was trying to decide whether I'd even taken ten discrete actions (aside from selecting a couple of conversational choices) in this first section, which amounted to not quite an hour of gameplay. I decided I didn't think I had. Here's how it breaks down:

Number of people stunned by Quinn: 3 (the assassin, the ship's guard, and Miranda)
Number of actions taken by Quinn other than stunning: 6 (triggering the laser doorbell, showing Iacch the ring, taking the infodisk, slaving the cycle, fixing the wires, putting the infodisk into the autodoc)
Number of conversational choices: 4 (two with Iacch near the beginning, one with the guard, and I think I forgot one but maybe there were actually only three?)
Number of deaths: 1 (failing to stun the assassin right away)

All the rest of it has been automatic cutscenes or clicking through conversations. It took far longer for me to work through the plot and summarize what happened than it did to actually play through it. We'll see next time if the game opens up at all once we get to the Ringworld.

Session Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

2 comments:

  1. I've played just the start of the game, arriving at approximately the same point as you in this post, and I agree that there's relatively few puzzles, at least in the beginning. I didn't even stun Miranda. I just waited a bit, and Iaach took her down for me.

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  2. A nice touch though is the labeling of fibre cables, I assume this is to assist colour-blind people.

    A colleague of mine at my previous work was colour-blind which is a major inconvenience in the electronics industry, it took us a while to figure out why he always had trouble crimping the (colour-coded) network cables correctly.

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