Friday 6 January 2023

BloodNet – Still Rattling My Soul Box

By Will Moczarski

Me after 15 hours of BloodNet

Let me start by saying that if this game was an actual adventure game I’d like it a lot. It is true that it doesn’t contain many puzzles in the traditional sense. Instead you constantly need to keep track of what all of the NPCs are telling you, making it more akin to detective games (such as Maupiti Island) than to traditional puzzle-based adventure games. And since I would argue that Simon the Sorcerer (which I played right before this one) didn’t have that many more puzzles it is actually the combat that makes BloodNet so cumbersome. After a while the random encounter rate with Shock Maraud’s goons is all but insane and even if most of the fights are winnable (so far) they usually aren’t enjoyable at all. Now I like a good RPG as much as the next addict but this is not a good RPG. It could be a decent adventure game but it’s really the combination of both that bogs it down.

However, I’ve made some progress and feel that I’m approaching the endgame. I have Melissa Van Helsing in my party now – yes, the Big Bad’s daughter! – and have got enough soul blades to clean up Central Park (possibly even the Hellfire Club). Van Helsing’s Apartment, looming large on my list of unexplored places (I got killed right away) from the very beginning, now feels likely as the site of the final confrontation. But before I get ahead of myself let us first relate how I got there. 

I started by checking out my list of open quests. My behaviour towards my quest log has slightly changed. When I was still madly in love with the game which is to say before combat became a more regular requirement my ambition was to solve each and every fetch quest lest something good be hidden at the end of it. Now that I have stumbled into various traps and was disappointed by some serious non-reactions of thankless NPCs I have set my sights higher. These days I try to find out what might be relevant to the main plot and prioritise that. If there’s a particularly interesting quest which seems unlikely to be relevant I shall try to solve it nevertheless. I really want to finish this game in the nearer future and get my life back, i.e. play something else for a change. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy the game anymore full stop. It’s still a good game. But the honeymoon is over if you know what I mean. 

What a day for a pipe dream.

I decide to check out the new locations first. A man called Lazlo Greene who was on TransTech’s list of Deirdre Tackett’s associates told me about a well called “blackwood.” Greene, I think, is a former TransTech employee just like me. These days he doesn’t leave his room much and he’s very paranoid. He would only speak to me after I gave him a protective suit of some kind but then he spilled the beans quite happily. It turns out the well called “blackwood” is the online counterpart of the TransTech Notional Labs. Furthermore, another one of those ugly-looking ICEs tells me my hardware is incompatible upon trying to enter. 

On a hunch I visit the actual Notional Labs which have meanwhile become an accessible location inside the TransTech building. The first time I enter I am approached by a group of security officers trying to take me down. I retreat and try again. This time I can enter unimpeded. There’s a guy called Britt hanging around the Labs. When I talk to him he treats me like a colleague but otherwise I don’t learn much from him. Moreover, I find several interesting items there: a dragon soul box, a 32TB memory chip, a level 4 cloak and something called “Conway’s essence.” This makes me remember that I am already carrying Deirdre’s essence in my decking unit and I have never tried to apply it although there’s a slot for essences. I make a mental note of it but I wouldn’t know what to use it for right now. My best guess is that it will be necessary to talk to the lost children or something but I have gotten nowhere with that yet. 

When I apply the humongous memory chip and Conway’s essence to the decking unit I am able to enter the “blackwood” well. I find a “Praxis experimental design” there which is like a beta version of the NextGen decking unit. Am I going to use that one? I don’t know, it’s more likely that I can trade it in somewhere. Also, there’s a morph spawner. That one might be necessary for using the morph codes Timmy Goldfarb had told me about. They are supposed to be dangerous but stat-enhancing. Maybe that would give me a (much-needed?) boost before the endgame.

Go easy on the cops, Ransom. Combat is not this game’s strongest suit.

Next I go back to Bellevue Hospital dead set on lockpicking that mysterious cabinet. The doctor doesn’t mind me fiddling around with the lock, it seems, and I find a flexi-cast, a syringe, a medical kit, and some house call gel. According to the manual, the flexi cast “conforms to the injured area forming a strong support while delivering medication.” It’s possible to jury-rig a flexi-cast, making this a potentially valuable find. The house call gel is one of the ingredients necessary to mix up house calls, “a combination fast-acting antibiotic, anaesthetic, and amphetamine that increases health recovery rate. This is not a narcotic and has no detrimental effects.” Sounds good, too, but I’ll need to find me some Milacemine 27 and some Vitacompound G. Both can be acquired at Madame Mescal’s for a mere 1600 dollars. I can also put down 5000 for the complete House Call, meaning the lockpick merely saved me some 3400 dollars. It’s okay, I guess. The syringe and the medical kit are not mentioned in the manual and according to their in-game descriptions they probably do what you expect them to do. 

The next thing I did was rescue Banks Verbatim. Well, sort of rescue but in such a bleak post-apocalyptic world you can’t have it all. I go online carrying the data cage key in my decking unit.  It’s not a problem to unlock the cage now and Banks is quite thankful. His estimate that I’d need to save him in two days time lest he lose his mind turns out to be wrong, too, as it has been about three days since I first went to check out his cage. Banks slips away from the cage and tells me to meet him in his apartment which is what I do right away. 

In the apartment I am confronted by some security officers who have eliminated Banks already. I am too late but there’s no way I could have handled this differently, or is there? The security guys are quite hostile and try to bully me into cracking an encrypted security code that Banks left behind. It goes like this:

Now take that gag out of your mouth and tell me again.

Now two people gave me hints about this, hints that seemed as cryptic as this code at the time. Banks’ friend Paula said that all the n’s were l’s while Banks himself told me that all the m’s were e’s after I had freed him. This helps me solve the code but I’m not here to spoil all the fun for you, am I? Like last time there will be sweet CAPs for the first one to solve it correctly in the comments. 

Anyway, what good would I be if I collaborated with the cops? Right, no good, so I decide to be hostile, too. They won’t have any of it and challenge me to a fight. It’s quite a tough one and the only rewards are some weapons and some ammo. The code turns out to be the name for yet another well containing a fragment of the cyberspace source code. Ransom Stark doesn’t know what to do with it so I give it to Penn Martinez of the Houston Matrix Rovers who had told me to bring him any kind of code I’d happen to come across. Also, Penn Martinez has one of the few names that doesn’t double as horrible wordplay. He has my sympathies. 

Shock the matrix, indeed.

Penn is quite happy about my find and gives me an innoculator for my troubles. Can I pick up the virus-infested morph codes from the “mozart” well now? I think so because I have both the morph spawner and the virus innoculation software in my inventory now. First I need to talk to Reflex Symptoms who will take the piece of code away from me, telling me I “might go down in history as the techno-clod who accidentally liberated cyberspace.” That’s sweet. I decide to check out the morph codes later (and, to be honest, will forget about it). 

The next item on my list is to investigate McCalaster and gather evidence of his extramarital affair(s). This turns out to be surprisingly straightforward. I only need to use the camera on him while he’s enjoying himself in the Hellfire Club and then I have got an item called “McCalaster film” in my inventory. Then I hand it over to his deputee Dougan who’s only waiting to take the old man down. After this point McCalaster is no longer a problem and Mother Mary is very thankful that I saved her church. Apparently Dougan is a big supporter. Mother Mary will even offer to join my party which may be useful against the vampires. I’ll take her along for the endgame, I guess. 

What’s funny is that Dougan can now be found in McCalaster’s office (it is still called “McCalaster” so at least he hasn’t gotten around to changing the name on the door yet). It seems that I helped him make a good career move. Well, it’s time to enter the Inner Sanctum of the Hellfire Club. This is quite easy, too, but I should have done it earlier. I just equip one of the two lapel pins you can find lying around at TransTechnicals HQ and the guards let me enter, no questions asked. The Inner Sanctum is the ultimate vampire hangout although some of them pretend not to be the real thing. Their leader Bertrand Foucault (at least he acts the part) tells me he’s an enemy of Van Helsing’s, too, and tries to gain my trust. He also asks for one of the nanomachines from the TransTechnical lab so he can produce his own blood. What a humane fellow, right? I feel like he’s my creepy soulmate cousin. Actually I am carrying the nanomachine so I talk to him again and he leaves, telling me to meet him in another part of the Plaza Hotel. He’s now in the left room but when I talk to him again he tells me that vampires are strongest on their own and tries to kill me. I’m not carrying any soulblades yet which is why he catches me naked. I retreat. Do I need to kill Bertrand Foucault? I would think not. I’ll check it out some other time. 

What, no artificial owls?

Ironically, the Inner Sanctum also solves my little bloodlust problem which is why I said I should have come here earlier. There are four bottles of (human?) blood scattered around the room and a woman named Gwendolyn Finch gives me another one when I talk to her. For my next session I’m planning on plotting a short route to the (supposed) endgame before restarting the whole game. Maybe it’s possible to not bite anyone at all. “Where’s the fun in that?”, you say? After 15 hours of BloodNet fun is not among my primary objectives anymore.

Another woman called Linda Blaue gives me her half of an amulet. The whole object is supposed to  be some occult cure for vampirism but I might as well peddle it to the guy in the Met who’s in the market for occult objects as Linda’s boyfriend Gi Sang tells me he made up the whole story to talk Linda into becoming a vampire as well. There are some other creepy vampires in the Inner Sanctum but their stories are not all that interesting.

Now for the final coup de grace: Trick Sir Theodoric into thinking that I’m not a vampire. I was on the right track with this one for a long, long time and the interface really tripped me up for the first time here. I figured I’d need to record a video of myself and then project it into the mirror by using the multichannel transmitter. The solution was to drop the multichannel transmitter and then it would work its magic, showing Theodoric my supposed reflection in the mirror. It’s possible to brute-force the puzzle by simply killing Sir Theodoric but as you might guess this turns you into a dead man walking. Sebastian will not perform the bonding ritual for a lowdown vampire who went around killing one of his brothers and – actually – I kinda see his point.

With the blessed soulblades in hand I feel high and mighty and...don’t know what to do next so I solve some of the more unremarkable fetch quests (give a lapel pin to one of the kids in the Hellfire Club for 1000 dollars so he can enter the Inner Sanctum, that kind of stuff) before I jack in again. And damn, did I not expect to meet Melissa Van Helsing there. I feel that the endgame might be upon me as she wants to meet up in some new place. I’ll tell you how that went…next time.

Session time: 3.5 hours
Total time: 15 hours


  1. Is it me or this game has way too many characters?

    1. I don't mind that so much, actually. It's necessary to keep your own quest log but that's to be expected with a game of this vintage.

  2. Replies
    1. And Vetinari is correct yet again! Well done!

  3. > "I have got an item called “McCalaster film” in my inventory."
    Home Alone?

    > "as you might guess this turns you into a dead man walking."
    I thought you were *already* a vampire

    1. Ha! Good call, Andy!

      Half-vampire but yes, you're generally right. I resorted to that pun for the title of my second post.

  4. I can't get over how stupid most of the character names are in this game...

    1. I know, right? I get used to it after a while and then the game throws a new character at me with yet another blatantly stupid name. Reliably breaks the fourth wall.


  6. I can't help but feel like the game forcing you to take Melissa as a party member doesn't quite work in a game where kicking out any member of the party permanently removes them. Especially since its the most obvious trap in the history of obvious traps.