Finally I did it. I survived the fixed encounter in Grant’s Tomb and am free to explore the colourful world of BloodNet once more. Because it took me about 6.5 hours of pure game time (not counting thinking up new tactics, buying new weapons, recruiting new party members and generally bumbling about to find out if it's possible to skip the encounter altogether) just to win this one encounter you might rightfully say I’m pretty bad at RPGs. Still the spike in difficulty was unprecedented and quite surprising. None of the combat in the game up to this point had even been challenging. It just didn’t seem to matter where I placed my guys and which weapons I used as long as I used the expensive ones. Also, I had very good armour going into Grant’s Tomb, a rested party of six, freshly bonded and blessed soul blades, and some of the best recruits you can add to your party altogether.
Disclaimer: My screen capturing program stopped working sometime between updates which is why I don’t have any original footage either of my failed attempts or of my first successful run. What you see are low-quality (don’t ask me why, that’s a whole other story…) screenshots of my reconstruction of the fight. Fortunately my tactic was solid and I managed to survive Grant’s Tomb yet again after the first time.
If you keep Melissa Van Helsing in your party she will (predictably) switch sides as soon as you enter the fight with her father and his thugs. Because of that I kicked her out of the party before entering Grant’s Tomb. I wonder if I can re-hire her after killing Abraham?
I also experimented with aiming at different body parts.
Going after both legs (or arms) first seems to be a viable strategy.
After hours of trying and failing I used a more controlled approach. I played sessions of five deaths each, restoring my ‘perfect savegame’ four times. I fiddled around with the positioning of the party members but I almost made it so many times that I thought I must have been on the right track and RNG was my worst enemy.
I finally used Max Bax as the human tank he was.
In Grant’s Tomb you go up against one vampire and three thugs. It sounds harmless but the thugs are really tough. One thing that happened over and over again was that Ransom (the main character) died quite early in the fight, ending the game right away. After a while I found out that it was a good idea to have a ‘bodyguard’ nearby to protect Ransom from the thug on the right side of the screen. I usually picked Monique St. Clair because of her agility rating. After some more attempts I managed both to kill Abraham Van Helsing (with a blessed soul blade) and to protect Ransom long enough to do away with both of the thugs on the left side of the screen. But the other guy’s armour just absorbed everything, and when I tried to move my guys over to him in order to shoot him point blank he always managed to kill either Ransom or everybody else.
I even tried to keep Ransom in the background but some strange automatic movement “feature” always overruled my decision, and Ransom would attack anyway as if he suddenly didn’t care about my orders anymore. Max Bax had the highest level of faith which is why I used him to go after Abraham for a while but Ransom is much more effective for this.
I also experimented with different combat styles: free combat, acquire target etc.
Finally I found out that the weapons I had preferred up to this point (shotguns and flame throwers mostly) didn’t work as well as they could against the thugs. Shotguns had to be reloaded quite frequently (every two shots, obviously), and the flame throwers broke down way too often. Also, they didn’t hurt the thugs on the left side as much as I would have wanted them to.
The damage report is essential because your party may keep on attacking an already "dead" body part if you don't tell them otherwise. Also, it can clue you in on whether your tactic is working.
The solution for me was to have Ransom attack Van Helsing at close range (with the blessed soul blade and the stake), place four party members on the left side to go after the two thugs with laser rifles (the odds were all right because my guys had kevlar helmets and coveralls, absorbing most of the thugs’ own laser shots), and – this was the final piece of the puzzle – place Max Bax very close to the thug on the right side in order to put him down at short range with his sawed-off shotgun. I still lost one party member (Monique, I think) but it was only one and it was not Ransom. [As you can see on the screenshots, I lost three party members on the second attempt.]
You can't imagine my relief.
Now if the game had taught me how to fight properly by slowly increasing the challenge and introducing some of the mechanics necessary to survive the encounter at Grant’s Tomb I might have had a better idea about what I should or could have been doing. As it was, the game just threw three or four necessary but laughably easy fights at me before going all in at Grant’s Tomb. I had never bothered to learn how combat works in this game and would not have thought that it was even possible to be this nuanced.
After the fact I kind of like the idea that combat works sort of like a puzzle, too. Maybe it’s even the most puzzle-like element of the game so far. The difficulty curve is still ridiculous, preventing the player from learning how to fight before swamping him with a tough challenge.
Oh, and I freed this guy. I almost forgot.
That said, I think I may be up to the task of finishing the game after all. I had almost finished writing a request for assistance. Also, some people suggested I should just cheat. I’m happy that I didn’t even if it stalled my playthrough somewhat. Sorry for the long wait!
Grant’s Tomb was too intense an experience to bury it in the next (possibly the final?) post about BloodNet which is why I decided to turn it into a short post. I don’t know if most players just gave up altogether when they got here, or if I was just too stupid to recognize the information necessary to win that fight a lot earlier. Whatever the case: I’m back.
Session time: 9 hours
Total time: 24 hours