It probably takes a cyborg with a neural implant to process all the data this game throws at you. While after about seven hours BloodNet is consistently entertaining, engaging and challenging my notes do get a bit out of hand. Bear with me as I’m trying to break it all down for the blog – it is a tough ride.
One thing that really dominated my third session was the realisation that some of the locations consisted of two or more screens linked by a small green triangle I had previously neglected to click on.
I had assumed it must be Largo LaGrande’s spit.
This opened up a whole new world for me as I revisited each and every place methodically and this time completely. I started in the Café Voltaire where I found the first of those green triangles. On the second screen there were lots of NPCs I had never seen before and some of them were quite peculiar. First, there was Benny Puzzle who only talked to me in crossword clues. His opening went like this: “1 down: not low; 2 down: object of sale; 1 across: A E I O _ ; (a) 2 across: thirst quencher?” Err… “Hi, purchase U a drink?” Thus ends the first conversation. A guy with strange goggles called Cyril Thorpe doesn’t make a lot of sense either, telling me to open my mind to let him in and...some other stuff like I should go back to vinyl. It’s a collection of weird platitudes that sound like a garbled self-help book. I don’t get anything out of him.
A cocky fellow called Oscar Nandez tells me about the Kafka Conspiracy which is a gang I haven’t met yet. This adds a new location to my map of New York. Jane Queen Possible – probably a reference to Bob Dylan’s Queen Jane Approximately? – tells me a bit more about them. Like many of the gangs (and Van Helsing, I assume) they are trying to bring down TransTechnical but, complicatedly, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re friends of mine. A woman called Wendy Range assumes that I’m with the company and she tells me the only guy who could bring them down is C.T., whoever that may be.
A kid named Gerry Soo with red’n’blue 3D glasses talks to me in three languages at once: “Du bist aber neugierig. Tu haces demasiadas preguntas. Peut-etre vous pouvez gagner vos reponses.” Soo also mentions C.T. and gives me the address to his well but also in three foreign languages. “If you have difficulty with languages,” he suggests, “you should talk to Benny Puzzle.” Now that I write this I notice that I didn’t examine the note at all. I did talk to Benny Puzzle again, though.
Riddle me this, Batman.
This is my best guess: “I can. Languages are my profession and my life. I work for a company that designs language codes. Place them in your deck and you can learn major languages. I can tell you that the codes are in a cluster at address ‘noun’.” Seems like we’ve found out about another well. Unfortunately, I wrote this down and forgot all about it until now. I’ll have to try the address next time.
At the Kafka Conspiracy I met a guy called Coover Tristan who told me that his gang used language to slowly bring down TransTech. He also gave me a new quest: I should prove my loyalty to him by stealing a multichannel transmitter from a group of media pirates called the Icon Robbers. There’s also a woman named Chrysalis who tells me about four children who disappeared into the net and were never seen again. One of them has been waiting on the outside ever since, and I should go see him: “He is no anarchist. He’s just a boy.” Is he hanging out with the fine members of Electric Anarchy then? I don’t really know the purpose of this story but maybe it will become clearer later on.
How long has this been going on?
When I next went to one of the street dealers, I think it was Auntie Personnel, I noticed that there were two red arrows next to the license plate. Now I had used the license plate as an “ESCAPE” button before (obviously) but it never had occurred to me that clicking on the arrows would show me more merchandise. I felt that rare sense of shame and relief that only video games can truly evoke.
Back at the Bellevue Hospital I noticed that there was another green triangle that led me to the doctor’s room. She offered medical help but I declined and stole all of her medicine instead. Now I think I haven’t mentioned this before but all of the items in the game are black and white. This seemed like another odd design choice at first but by now I have come to realise that it’s actually a brilliant idea because I don’t have to bother with any pixel hunting. Moreover, the green triangle covers all of the possible exits. Compared to Simon the Sorcerer this is pure luxury.
She wrote herself a perscription, and my name was mentioned in it.
I went to the Abyss once more to recruit some different party members this time. Well, not all of them were different. I couldn’t resist taking Max Bax the neoliberal evangelist along, also I went with Slash McLachlin and Rymma Fizz, just like before. But the Abyss, too, had a second screen which is where I happened across my ex-girlfriend Monique St. Clair who has fantastic stats and still seems to like me. I don’t take a jolly madman called Fantas Goulakas who allegedly almost killed me a few years ago (no bygones here) but there’s another old friend of mine called Lash Givens who’ll come along for free so I figure he’ll do alright for now. In the end I almost get into a bar fight but I retreat before it really gets started. I don’t intend to die in my favourite watering hole.
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral Lash Givens comments that he’s heard on the street that TransTech wants to crush organised religion. I talk to Brother Complicitus and hope that his name doesn’t mean anything but he recommends that I talk to Mother Mary instead who’s supposed to be somewhere in the Central Park. I hadn’t seen her there last time but maybe talking to Complicitus will trigger a new event. Also, there seem to be different people hanging around Central Park at different times of day. When I pay another visit to the Flux Riders one of them hands me a data spider which didn’t happen last time. I don’t know what that is or what it does but it seems like a nice handout.
A is for the way you appall me.
My methodical approach leads me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art next which is where the upper crust apparently resides. A geezer called Montgomery Taylor offers me an invitation to an exclusive club he once belonged to called the Hellfire Club since the goings-on there have become too crazy for him to handle. This opens up another location on the map since the Hellfire Club convenes in a hotel. There’s also a woman called Dauphne Dmitri who is looking for something called a Babel code that can be programmed into her daughter’s mind to make her multilingual. Could this be related to Benny Puzzle’s crossword riddle? I will have to find out next time. While Dauphne is possibly misguided but probably well-meaning her husband Damean Tocque is kind of a jerk. I keep it in mind because eventually I’ll have to bite somebody.
Speaking of biting: When I return to the Central Park and explore the second screen I find some vampires who immediately attack me. Mother Mary is nowhere to be seen, though. As I obviously don’t have the means to take on vampires at this point (they slaughter me every which way) I retreat and go to the Icon Robbers’ studio instead.
Robbed any good icons recently?
All four of them tell me to leave and I’m unable to search the place because the Icon Robbers are hostile. I think that I may have to lure them outside or maybe even kill them to acquire the multichannel transmitter I need to win the trust of the Kafka Conspiracy. My first intuition is to throw a flash bomb at them to cause some confusion but that doesn’t work as intended. Maybe I’ll have to wait this one out for now.
I hadn’t even noticed but I somehow got a new address called Sid & Nancy’s. At first I think that it’s the name of a restaurant but it’s actually a gang of people whose names are either Sid or Nancy. One of the Nancys offers me a “doppelganger” for 4.000 dollars but my inventory is kind of clogged as it is so I decline. Another one of the Nancys is a bit mad at me because I didn’t call her after a one-night stand. She’s still friendly to me and gives me some Instapigment because she doesn’t like the “pasty blue stuff” I got on my face right now (presumably). One of the Sids asks me for a Praxis 2300XC decking unit and offers me some money for it.
I should have picked a different character portrait for Ransom.
When I enter the Cloisters at the northern end of Manhattan I am immediately approached by one of the five knights there. Sir Fintin recognises me as a vampire right away and challenges me to a fight. I retreat because these guys seem like they mean business. It seems likely that I’ll have to find a way to look less like a vampire and more like a human if I want to come back here anytime soon.
At Electric Anarchy I can now recruit Rymma’s husband Garrick but if I do the other gang members won’t talk to me anymore. It’s remarkable how many of my actions have actual consequences in this game.
I return to the Central Park at daytime and meet an interesting character called Kimba West there. He tells me that he needs a supply of fiber optic cable and that I could get them from a storeroom adjacent to Dr. Framp’s nanotechnology lab at the Brooklyn headquarters of TransTech. Also, she recommends that I talk to Lenora Major at the Café Voltaire because she may be able to help me enter the headquarters unnoticed. There are some other people I haven’t talked to before. And do you remember Sanders Tomalin, the poor man who is suffering from Hopkins-Brie syndrome, just like me? I bit him last time for no apparent reason (I had to test it on someone) and on this playthrough Ransom somehow offers him Deirdre Tackett’s plans for the same implant he has. Sanders is deeply moved and gives me some valuable chips in return.
First bitten, twice shy
When I talk to Lenora Major she tells me she can upload my essence to the TransTech Security System which will enable me to romp their home turf unchecked. Although her friend Kimba sent me she wants 25.000 dollars for her services which is quite expensive even for this game. She tells me to go see her in her well with the location code “major” but first I have to get rid of that aching bloodlust. Damien Tocque, your time is up!
I take a break from the game to read the CRPG Addict’s latest entry to see how he’s getting along with BloodNet. Although I try to avoid spoilers I can’t help but notice that he entered a well called “hope” which I don’t know. It appears to be Deirdre Tackett’s well but how did he get that information? I read his first entry once more – now that I’m further along in the game there should be no more major spoilers there – and find out that it was only mentioned in the opening montage of the game. I would probably not have watched it again for no apparent reason and I’m glad that I stumbled upon this bit of information at this point.
My next stop would have been the web anyway but now I’ve got more addresses for wells. I equip my samurai soul box before jacking in and shortly after I enter “hope”. There I find Deirdre’s journal with quite a bit of backstory I have been missing out on. It talks about the “lost kids” who sacrificed themselves to hide a device called “Incubus” deep in the matrix. Apparently, my main objective is (apart from becoming human again by killing my vampire master Van Helsing) to find the four children and the Incubus before someone else gets there first. I then visit another well called “antibody” I learned about from Shock Maraud’s gang in Strawberry Fields last time. I find another piece of Charlie Flyer’s mind there meaning not all of them are floating through the open cyberspace. In another part of the web I encounter an avatar called Dreg who offers me a self-replicating virus for crashing Cyborg systems instead of some money he owes me. He tells me to load it into a data spider so that must be what those are for. Finally I travel to Lenora’s well where I find her floating around in a fancy dragon soul box. She then proceeds to upload my essence to the web. File names like STARK.EGO and STARK.EXE appear on the screen briefly and the whole thing looks suspiciously like a DOS terminal. Science-fiction is rarely timeless.
House Stark meets House Targaryen.
I also try to enter the TransTechnical well called “TTheat” but an ICE security unit kicks me out because I don’t have the right hardware. This is where I’ll stop for now lest the post get too wordy. I have put in some more hours, entered TransTechnical and the Hellfire Club, won my first fights and have not run out of things to do at all. This is a huge game and so far it’s much better than expected. I just hope it stays that way.
--- to be continued –-