Thursday, December 30, 2010

Super Heroic Maintenance

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. Oh, the holidays.

As I guessed from the overabundance of still-alive mutants inside his base and the neon-greenish weather we're still having, Kaufman's not done with me yet. He interrupts his busy schedule of barking orders at various superheroes to bark orders at me.

Apparently the good folks at Project Greenskin have set up an advanced technological defense against just such an eventuality as we're currently experiencing: a line of state-of-the-art automated turrets around the front of the base. Nifty-keen. There's only one small problem with this potentially invulnerable defense: the things overheat and short out if left out in the desert sun.

I'm going to let that sink in for a few seconds. We're sitting here in a base in the middle of the desert, which is, like most places I've been, under the sun. This is not a new state of affairs; the sun has been there since a good while before the base was established, and when they built it in the first place they built it in the middle of an already-existing desert.

It was at some point after all of this that they decided, hey, we should probably put out some turrets that will repel the waves of irradiated mutants we're here to keep under control, just as long as these turrets are at no point under the desert sun.

I involuntarily make a strange noise like bare brake pads in my throat somewhere, but I manage to keep a pretty straight face, if I do say so myself. Yes. Yes, sir. I'll go re-start the turrets that short out whenever the sun's out. This sounds like a marvelously constructive use of my time.

Back down the hallway, through the shower tent, down the elevator, and back out to the landing pad. Fortunately, since those personal trainers at the Powerhouse showed me how to use my super-strength to jump fairly ridiculous distances, I don't have to wade through all the irradiates between here and the wall's front door this time, I can just jump right over it.

Hey, neat. I'm actually up on top of the glassed-in hallway on top of the wall where everybody's huddling for safety. I run right over Kaufman just to see the look on his face (completely unchanged) and then pop down to the desert on the other side of the wall. This seems like it should be a fairly momentous event as I'm no longer even remotely protected, but something about being able to vault the wall in a single leap makes it seem a little less so. Besides, there are a couple hundred freakish mutants running around inside the base anyway, so it's not like I'll be seeing anything I'm not used to out here. I make my way over a little hill and a crashed airplane to the first of the turrets and OH HOLY CRAP

The mutants out here are way more... mutated. I'm set upon by one of the ugly ones from inside and then three brightly colored four-armed ones covered in glowing veins with horns growing out of their heads. A least none of them have faces groaning at me from their chests. These guys seem to be made of denser stuff than the other ones, as my fists spatter into their faces more like a hammer into a rotten apple than a hammer into a rotten tomato, but I still don't appear to be in significant danger. A short bout of die-cast pugilism later and the turret is unattended. I flip the power switch and it turns back on, telescoping a big gun out of the ground and pointing it right at me.

I freeze up for one terrifying moment as two gun barrels the size of my fists take aim directly at my throat. Automated turrets, he said. As in, unmanned. As in run by an artificial intelligence.

Socrates! I've played right into it's hands!

A few tense seconds go by while I weigh the pros and cons of trying to bend the barrels out of shape vs. running and diving behind the nearest rock, but then the turret apparently deems that I am not the right type of radioactive mutant and turns to gun down some poor four-armed sod who's walking by minding his own business.

Granted, I was probably about to run over and pound his face in anyway, but it's kinda weird to just stand by while a robotic gun does it. Oh well. I move on to the next cannon and the next one, and pretty soon all of them have been restarted, shot a few mutants, and then overheated and shut down again. Whatever. I head back inside.

Surprisingly, that appears to be the last task that Kaufman had for me. He basically tells me to go bother somebody else, some guys named Vanderbilt and Gertz who are out there in the desert somewhere. I guess he figures he has all the help he needs here with a giant wolfman and some kinda pale radioactive guy who he's giving out assignments to. Works for me. The mere fact that Vanderbilt and Gertz have survived out in the desert for a few days tells me that they're probably more competent than the guy who relies on scientists to research ways out of his problems and thought that overheating cannons were a great defense in the middle of the desert.

Speaking of things that aren't very good ideas, I have to get to work on my anti-radiation device before heading out. Mr. Tiller gives me the last component and basically just points me to a big table covered with deadly weapons and tells me to go nuts. Fortunately, the diagram he gave me is actually pretty well done, and I manage to put the thing together in less time than it took me to assemble my IKEA computer desk. ... But then, my computer desk is currently a pair of filing cabinets with a door on top of them specifically because I never could get the desk proper to stand up straight, but I'm pretty sure this weird machine of mysterious function that I'll be depending on to save me from deadly radiation is going to work just fine.

So, that taken care of (possibly) I guess there's nothing to do but pack up my little machine and strike out alone into the vast desert. I need me some John Williams' Binary Sunset, but the few remaining shattered pieces of my mp3 player are at this point melted to the inside of my pocket, and Mr. Tiller doesn't have any machines that can't kill someone, so I have to hum it.

A final trudge down the hallway, through the anti-radiation shower, and down the elevator, but from there I can stretch my legs and probably jump most of the trip. I spot something on the way over the wall that stops me dead in my tracks, though.

What the heck is THAT thing?

It's without a doubt the biggest irradiate I've seen, standing probably seven feet tall and with four fully formed and exceptionally beefy arms on him. Whatever it is, nine soldiers apparently couldn't take it down, and are scattered all over the platform around it. I should probably just keep on going... but you know what? That thing's a menace. Plus, Vanderbilt and Gertz went out into the desert looking for the irradiates' leaders, and I'm betting their leaders aren't going to be the smallest or weakest ones. Gotta start somewhere, and it might as well be with this big red guy. I get a better angle, line up the jump, and make my opinion of his conduct known.

That doesn't seem to kill him at all. I suppose I should have expected that, but a good one-two has been enough to put down every irradiate I've met so far, so I'm a little disturbed by this discovery. He starts pounding at me with all four of his fists while I punch him in the side of the head as quickly as possible. We go back and forth a bit, and he fights me over to the edge, but I'm holding my own and despite the unexpected time investment, he hasn't actually managed to hurt me yet, so I'm feeling pretty good about this whole thing.

And then he smacks me right off the damn ledge.

Ow. That hurt. That really, really hurt.

I'm pretty surprised. Nothing's actually managed to make me feel like I might be genuinely injured since I pulled myself out of the rubble back in Millennium City. The fall and the sudden stop of the landing, though, seems to have majorly jarred some of my internal kibbles and bits. Must avoid long falls in the future. Good to know.

Falling in Champions Online messes you up pretty bad. It doesn't really matter what kind of defenses your character has or how tough they are against combat damage, falling more than ten meters or so will always knock off a significant fraction of their total HP. It will never quite kill them, though; you can fly up to the very top of the sky and let your guy fall to the bottom of the deepest pit on the map, and he'll have exactly 1hp left. This helps prevent you from dying instantaneously from simple pilot error, but if you land anyplace with enemies around it's basically the same thing as falling to your death, as at that point a stiff breeze could kill your character.

Fortunately for Will, here, this ledge isn't actually all that high, so he's still sitting pretty at about half his total HP. Still, it was full a second ago. Pretty significant.

I haven't even pushed myself to my knees yet when the big red creep leaps off the platform and tries to crush me with his landing. Holy cow. This just got real. I'm feeling bruised and bloodied just like a fight in the old days, and the soundtrack in my head has switched over to Duel Of The Fates. Let's do this.

We pulverize each other for another few seconds, but he doesn't last much longer. The fall wasn't really gentle on him either, and his fists just aren't nearly as hard as my face, whereas mine are significantly harder than his. After all that scrapping up on the roof, he finally goes down without much of a fuss on the ground.

This is way more awesome if you're listening to the song.

The nine soldiers on the platform above finally avenged, I climb back up onto the top of the wall to survey the landscape. A vast irradiated desert stretches out before me, cut down the middle by a thin ribbon of dirt road that disappears into the rocks in the distance. I can only imagine what lies waiting for me out there, but somewhere out in all that sand and nuclear fire two brave men are waiting for me to come and save them. If I have to wade through a hundred miles of insane mutants, then that's what I'll do. Because I'm Iron Will, and I'm ready.

Back to binary sunset.

Up Next: Actually, it's like a quarter mile.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mugging The Mutants

In which our Platinum Protector, Iron Will, strikes back against the vile mutants who have overrun the southwest desert.

With my new orders and a strange diagram of an anti-radiation device of questionable functionality, I set out from the Project Greenskin headquarters on my long journey to, you know, fifty yards away. Half of the trip is by elevator. It's every bit as epic as it sounds.

The instant I step out of the elevator on the ground floor I get mobbed by half a dozen Irradiates who attack me with baseball bats, lead pipes, and glowing green balls of radioactive fire that they can apparently pull out of thin air and throw.

This would be a pretty hairy situation if I was still made out of meat, but as things are, I'm mostly just annoyed that I'm surrounded by so many unattractive people.

It takes somewhere between fifteen and twenty seconds to clock them all in their heads hard enough that they stop moving. Wiping the toxic blood off my knuckles with the jacket of a dead soldier, I'm struck for a moment by the thought that all of this may be desensitizing me somewhat.

... Nah.

I've got no real idea what order I ought to be completing mission objectives in or what the precise layout of the base is, so I pick a direction and start wandering through the base, figuring that between their inability to recognize me as a threat from more than ten feet away and their over-reliance on bludgeoning weapons that are softer than me, I ought to be able to handle any irradiates I may run into. After poking through some piles of dead soldiers, rubble, and the occasional burning jeep, I find my first Project Greenskin scientist, who has apparently angered a mob of five irradiates who are clustered around him hitting him with boards.

I'm unpleasantly reminded of those times I'd happen upon a troop of bigger guys roughing up one of the little nerdy guys in the hallways in high school. It riled me then, and it riles me now. And I react the same way I always have.

The operative difference being that in high school, I didn't have an implicit license to kill and fists in the double digits on Moh's Scale Of Hardness. Which, coincidentally, I only know about because a guy I saved from bullies helped me with my homework. It's a way of life.

Well there's an idea. So, Scientist Guy, I'm supposed to build this anti-radiation device and I have no idea how it even works. You think you could...?

Oh, he's already run away. Well, fair enough, I suppose. I'll catch up with him when I'm done out here.

I also seem to be in the exact area that Mr. Tiller marked on my map as having a high concentration of the parts we'll need to build the thingamapoop. All it takes is a few sudden flurries of excessive violence to clear the mutants, and the crates are literally just sitting on the ground for the taking. Not all of them have the parts I need, but enough of them do that I manage to gather up everything I'll need within a minute or two, even with the added time to knock around the mutants. Alright, so that's one objective down. Since there's no single area where the missing scientists are presumed to be, I suppose I'll head down to the Grond statue and see about stealing some of those uranium rockets Kaufman seems to think it's a good idea to be collecting.

The only problem is that there's a good ten or so irradiates milling around directly between here and there. I could probably go aroooound... nah, actually, you know what?

I wade on in, ignoring the sizzling green fire that they keep sticking to my chest and swinging my arms around pretty much randomly until I make it to the cluster of them near the cliff's edge, at which point it's time for a good ol' fashioned Roomsweeper.

Be sure to write. Jerks.

I lost count at twenty, but I think I've cleared just about every mutant on the upper level this side of the wall. Don't mean to toot my own horn, but I am really earning these new pants.

Okay, right, down to the Grond statue. Being invincible opens up a whole plethora of routes that I wouldn't have thought to take just a week before. I destroy a fair chunk of the sidewalk at the bottom of the cliff, but walk away completely unscathed and trot down the hill to where various mutants with bombs tied to their backs are scattering them about haphazardly around the statue. Not sure what their plan is, here, but I'm guessing those are the bombs Kaufman wants.

Aside from the fact that they insist on leaving time bombs wherever they go, these bomber mutants are about the most well-mannered irradiates I've met so far. I can walk right up to them and stare them in the eye, and they just sort of shrug and keep wandering around setting bombs up. They don't even try to stop me when I sit down right next to one and disassemble his bomb WHILE HE'S SETTING IT. How polite.

Yep, don't mind me, fellas, I'll just be undoing all your hard work right in front of your faces. I'll be out of your hair in a minute.

I must say, this is going very smoothly. I wonder if I might have a career in a bomb squad after this. Seems a practical application for invulnerability, and I seem to have a knack for successfully disarming bombs without any
Oh, damn. So apparently these bombs are on a timer, too. Well, that has an effect on things. Guess I'll have to follow these guys around and jump on the bomb the second they put it down.

So much for my new pants.

So I do that for a while and get blown up a few more times before I have enough bombs to satisfy Kaufman. This seems like the kind of mission I'd expect from Socrates, not a military professional. Oh well, that's taken care of, now all that's left is rounding up the remaining endangered scientists. I jog back up the stairs with half a dozen uranium cores jangling around in my pockets and look for some citizens in distress.

Do me a favor and start humming Trey Parker's "Montage".

Okay, you can stop now, I only had the two.

I find and subsequently rescue two more scientists without incident before I run into something genuinely intimidating.

"Jesus Christ! What the hell is that thing?" you may find yourself asking. That, my friends, is some sort of weird headless purple goon with a face in it's left pectoral and two extra baby arms writhing out of it's stomach, of course. I find it beating up another scientist and, when it realizes it's been discovered, it jumps up onto a crate at about head height, leans way over the edge while balancing on one foot with shocking gripping strength, and screams agony and horror at me from it's malformed nipple-mouth.

Needless to say, I punch it in the chest-face for about five minutes longer than necessary while the scientist covers his face and cries behind me. You and me both, pal.

So apparently the mutants come in more flavors than just hillbilly and soldier. Good to know. I'm beginning to see why they requested some superpowered assistance with this whole situation.

Anyway, I find one more scientist before my PDA tells me that I've saved all the missing scientists that Kaufman knew about. And I finally get the thank-you I've been waiting for this whole time.

Yes. Yes I did. Will you help me build this radiation thing?

So that's everything on my checklist. I head back to the elevator, this time opting not to fight my way back through an angry mutant army and simply jumping up to the helicopter pad. My legs must be pretty strong at this point.

Run across the landing pad to the big metal door, ride the elevator up, stand under the shower heads for a few minutes, jog down the hallway and boom. Alright, I took care of that stuff for you, Kaufman. What should we do now?

R... Research a way out of this mess?

I think Kaufman might overestimate the expediency of research or the practical applications of academic study. But um, yeah, okay, right on. Here's hoping they research us out of this as soon as possible.

By the way, what the heck did you need all these bombs for?

Oh. Um. Thank you. I'm very proud of me.

Somehow praise out of this guy just doesn't seem as heartwarming as it would be from, like, a police chief who went above and beyond the call of duty to defend his city from an alien invasion, for example, but I guess I'll take it in lieu of any sort of an explanation for what I was doing out there whatsoever.

From the way everyone's still standing around all poised and tense and the glowing green weather we still seem to be having, though, I don't think I'm quite done here yet.

Up next: This assumption was perfectly valid!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kaufman's strange demands.

Having finally finished picking out a suite of powers that best compliment our shiny hero's winning personality, I pilot him back out the Powerhouse door and into...

Project Greenskin. The place has looked better, I hope.

The whole place is a weird half-donut of walls surrounding a lawn with a big broken statue of a mutant in the middle. O...kay. According to the little map they gave me when I showed up, the guy I'm supposed to talk to is way back next to the helicopter pad we landed on, which appears to be up a fifty foot cliff, the only viable route to it being along the wall swarming with irradiates. Well, looks like I'm going for a bit of a hike.

The second I step on the bare dirt I catch fire with a weird glowing green miasm of radioactive something-or-other that sizzles on my skin and seems to harden, slowing my movement. This is going to be a long walk. I completely ignore a superhero in red fighting a big purple guy next to me and head for the stairs, hoping I don't attract too much attention.

For some reason, it seems to work. Despite the fact that I'm a shiny silver man covered in glowing green fire, none of the mutants milling around seem to notice me. I walk within thirty feet of one who looks right at me and it doesn't even care. Golden. I make my way up the stairs without incident and am halfway across the courtyard to the wall when I see this.

Half a dozen dead soldiers lying around in a pile with two irradiates milling about in the middle of all of them. Jeeze. These guys apparently mean business.

I can probably walk right past these guys too and make my meeting with the new boss in the next minute or two, but something about these two just standing over a pile of dead victims just bugs me. I mean, these are the Project Greenskin soldiers I'm supposed to be helping out, right? And these guys have just killed half a dozen of them and are just standing triumphantly in the middle of them and ignoring me completely? That's just... I dunno, arrogant. I'm officially miffed. And so, I decide to introduce myself.

Eesh, these guys are ugly. I guess I should feel sorry for them or something, as they're apparently just regular guys who've been out in this weird mutagenic radiation for too long, but then the first one hits me with a pipe and I decide that I can be sympathetic to their situation and beat them to death simultaneously. He takes a few more hits than I expected he would, but eventually he falls and I turn my attention to his buddy.

And one of his friends up and shoots me with a laser gun. How rude. So apparently, judging my this new guy's outfit, it's not just people who've been living out in the radiation for a while who are affected, but some of the soldiers from the base too. That's mildly unsettling. I prioritize the guy with the laser gun and save the guy flailing at me with webby hands for later.

Alright, now that he's taken care of, I turn my attention back to the first guy and finish him off, but as I'm doing so I get hit in the back of the head by another mutant wielding a baseball bat and accompanied by a fifth with another length of pipe.

No sooner do I beat these new guys to death than I get shot by another laser beam by another mutated soldier coming up the stairs behind me with three more improvised weapon guys in tow. Alright, so maybe I should have waited until I'd had a basic rundown of the situation before running right up to them and punching one in the stomach. I turn around and take off for the helicopter pad, hoping they'll stop to check on their dead buddies before following me. They don't. Hrm.

Fortunately, I make it up onto the ledge by the wall before running into another group of them, and from up here I can knock them off the edge with that new punch the trainers at the Powerhouse taught me, so I won't have to bludgeon them all to death one by one.

As you acquire more advanced powers, you'll be able to utilize the terrain and implement actual strategy in combat rather than simply running up to things and beating/shooting them to death. With Roomsweeper, for example, Iron Will can hit opponents in an approximately ninety degree arc in front of him and knock them back and up, buying himself a second or two of time on flat ground, or sending them falling to their deaths if they're between him and a significant ledge. Observe.

A few seconds later I reach the sandbag wall that the soldiers have set up and they run out to help. An full-on rumble breaks out for a few seconds while me and three of the guys square off with the last four of the irradiates who've been following me. Cooler heads prevail. Nice work, team!

Okay, so, that wasn't the smoothest operation ever, but a dozen of them are dead and I'm not, plus I'm at my destination, so I'm calling this a win. Apparently, Director Kaufman is INSIDE the wall surrounding the base, which I must confess I did not expect. A panel on the wall next to a guy in a radiation suit that I ignored completely on my way past the first time is apparently actually a door to an elevator inside the wall. If not for my map, I probably wouldn't have ever found it.

I pop in, take the elevator up, and sit through an airlock shower thing to wash off whatever radioactive particles I may still have on my person before going through and talking with the higher-ups. That's actually a pretty good idea, so I don't resent it. Maybe these guys are actually good at their jobs and will be able to use me effectively? A chill runs down my spine.

Right past the shower-tent is a long hallway with peaked glass walls that I realize after a few seconds is the glassed-in parapets of the wall itself. That's actually pretty cool, if you ask me. From up here, I can see the mutants running around in the courtyard below, while simultaneously watching the mutants running around all over the desert outside. If there was an actual battle going on or a front we were defending or something, this would be a great vantage point for strategizing and whatnot.

I can see Director Kaufman standing a ways down the hallway, but a small crowd has gathered around a soldier closer to the entrance, so I decide to check that out first. I shoulder past a big toad thing and a demon of some sort to discover that he's the Supply Officer. And he's apparently got some spare clothes lying around. Could this mean...?

Yes! New pants!

Looking at least somewhat more presentable in a comfy new pair of jeans, I strut on down to where Kaufman is standing with his fists clenched and staring out the window. He seems overly happy to see me, considering how many other superpowered types seem to be milling around with him up here.

Alright, well, I have no idea what Grond is, but I'll do my best to have you back bringing it down as soon as possible. What can I do for you, sir?

Wait, what? You guys left scientists out there in the courtyard when you ran up here and fortified the entrances? I'm not exactly a military career type or anything, but that doesn't seem like great soldierin'. But, yeah, okay, you're under-manned and stuff, I'll lend a hand.

For that matter, why aren't you equipped to deal with them? You run a military base in the middle of a random patch of desert, the only distinguishing feature of which is that it's overrun with Irradiates. If not "dealing with Irradiates" what precisely are you equipped for?

Oh, right, taking down Grond, whatever that is. Guess the more obvious military tasks fall to me.

Somehow I figure that my stainless skin is probably less likely to develop cancer out there in the radiation, so while I'm out, anything else I should pick up?

So wait. That statue IS Grond? This entire base is built to take down a statue? I guess you're doing a pretty good job seeing as there's only half of it left, but that seems like an excessive use of resources when a few sticks of dynamite and a drill probably would have been faster and cheaper. Unless it's a statue OF Grond, in which case... holy cow. If you guys can't beat a few hundred cancerous rioters, how do you plan to take down a hulking bodybuilder the size of Godzilla? That seems like it would require more equipment and training, not less.

Secondly, while I do appreciate the explanation for why all these Irradiates are hanging out in the area, I don't see what that has to do with their uranium rockets. I mean, it seems kind of completely unrelated. And why am I collecting these in the first place? If it turned all these normal and decent desert folks into bloodthirsty mutants at a distance, do I really want to be carrying around a bunch of radioactive material in my pockets? As much trouble as these guys are causing, I can guarantee you that a bulletproof metallic Irradiate would be significantly more of a problem.

Thirdly, why do I have to build my own anti-radiation item? You're in a highly radioactive area, you sure you don't have some lying around? Or at the very least, are you sure that some of these nuclear scientists and technicians standing around doing nothing might not be better suited to build an anti-radiation device than a guy whose only relevant experience has been punching Irradiates in the head?

I'm losing a little bit of faith in Director Kaufman here. Mustache aside, he seems to have very little in common with Chief Surhoff. But none of that is the fault of the soldiers under his command or the scientists working in the base, though, so I suppose I ought to help anyway. Alright, first thing's first, I go to talk to some of these "trainers" he mentioned.

The Crafting system in Champions Online is not unlike the crafting systems in most MMOs: time consuming and largely pointless. Equipment and item drops throughout the game come in three flavors: Science, Arms, and Mysticism. They're really not equipment in the strictest sense, they're referred to as Upgrades, and they're more like attributes that you can incorporate a maximum of nine of into your character at a time. Sometimes they're things like armbands or necklaces or helmets or the like, which won't actually show up on your character and which you can wear several overlapping items of at a time, but most of the times they're things like a certain mutation or device for science, a weapon or training regimen or a style of kung-fu maneuver for arms, or a scroll or spell or blessing for mysticism. Mechanically, they all do the same thing: raise one or several attributes and increase your defense, though sometimes they'll also provide a random bonus like increasing your attack or adding a certain energy type to an existing attack.

Unlike most games where your Equipment goes on a specific body part, Upgrades fall into one of three categories: Offense, Defense, and Utility. You can only use one Primary of each type and two secondary; so, nine equippable Upgrade slots in all. If you have two Primary Offense upgrades you'd like to use, you have to pick one or the other; however, if one is a Primary Offense and one is a Secondary Offense, or if both are Secondary Offense, you can use both. Simple, right? No? True, it's weird.

Like in most games where enemies frequently drop items you can loot, the vast majority of them will be weaker than what you already have, and since you can only use nine at a time (and only one at a time of different types) there's no real point in collecting them. That's where Crafting comes in, though. At an appropriate crafting table (different type for each different specialization!) you can break down upgrades of your chosen specialization. So if, for example, you chose the Mysticism specialization, you'd be able to break down all the Mysticism upgrades you picked up from dead enemies for parts, rather than just selling it all. Your Arms and Science vendor trash you would still sell as normal. Different kinds of enemies in different areas are more likely to drop one type of upgrade or another, but over the whole length of the game they seem more or less even.

Taking items apart grants some ranks in your chosen Crafting skill, more complicated (higher level) items granting both more ranks and more parts. You can take apart multiple items at a time, though, so if you only have a bunch of low-level stuff to cannibalize for parts, you can break down twenty items at a time to get build ranks as if you were taking apart one closer to your level. Then, at the same workbench, you can use the parts to craft new items if you already know the recipe. You learn recipes by going to your crafting specialization's Trainer and spending money or components that you get FROM breaking items down (depending on which recipe you're trying to learn) in exchange for newer recipes, which you can't learn until you attain both a certain rank in your crafting discipline and a certain character level. If you do this a bunch, you can sometimes make items that are more powerful than what you'll find as random drops, provided you're raising your crafting skill ranks faster than you're progressing through enemies' power levels.

Or you can avoid it entirely. It's a bit more intuitive than it sounds once you've done it a couple times in the game, but it definitely doesn't make much sense either way. Also, each of the three crafting schools come with three specializations within them. For example, if you want to pick Science, you also have to pick if you want to specialize in Inventions, Mutations, or Exposures. Mechanically, I don't think there's any difference between these except for what the things you'll be crafting are called. If you pick Inventions, for example, you'll be learning new Schematics, while if you pick Exposures, you'll be learning new Catalysts.

They don't at any point in the game that I can remember tell you which school or which specialization will best compliment your chosen powers or super stats, so you'll probably just pick one based on your character concept and which flavor goes best with them. This works more often than not. In general and from my observations alone, the Arms items seem to boost mostly Strength and Dexterity, Mysticism tends to boost Ego and Presence, and Science tends to boost Intelligence and Endurance, but all three disciplines are capable of crafting items that can boost most any stat.

It's all kindsa wonky. Hope that helps.

The trainers are some strange people. I talk to a guy named Art. E. Tiller (heh) who seems to have laser guns on both arms, his chest, and one eye, who claims he can teach me the making of Ordnance, various Fighting Styles, or how to have an Alien Metabolism. I'm um... I'm not sure I understand what he's saying at me. I keep walking past the guy who wants to alter my body chemistry and talk to the science guy.

Who turns out to be a portly man in some sort of robotic suit with an awesome muttonstache thing going on. He is, obviously because of said muttonstache, surrounded by women. He offers to teach me how to make Inventions, or the science behind Exposures or Mutations. That seems like it would be pretty handy to know, as I'm pretty sure my current state is the result of some pretty abnormal Exposures to unknown elements, and knowing as much as possible about Mutations will probably come in handy in a few decades when I have some flipper-kids of my own thanks to all this time spent wandering around in clouds of radiation. But I think advanced chemistry or radiology or whatever the discipline is might be a ways beyond me, as last I checked I was getting a D in geology, which only really involved memorizing types of rock. I pat him on the tummy and keep walking.

The last trainer I come across appears to be some kind of crazy sorceress waving her arms around and making some sort of cloudy blood-fog dance through the air in front of her. This is kind of awesome. Can this lady teach me how to be a wizard? With a hat and a pipe and everything? That's way better than being a college graduate.

She seems to be able to do the same trick as Witchcraft where her right leg goes right through a piece of her cape, so she must be legit. (Where IS Witchcraft, anyway? Isn't she the one who called me here?) She offers to teach me how to Enchant Gear, Arcana, whatever that is, or how to... be an Avatar? Meaning like... become an aspect of a god or godlike being of some kind? And what's Arcana?

This stuff is awesome, but it's clear pretty much right off the bat that it's way beyond me and likely to stay there for a considerable amount of time, and I'm looking for something I can pick up today. Bidding fairwell to the nice sorceress and to my recent aspirations of professional wizardry, I trot back to Mr. Tiller and say I'm willing to learn Fighting Styles. Seems more my cup of tea, I suppose. So I guess we're going to spar, or something?

Oh. No. Apparently by Fighting Styles he meant Building Stuff. You um... you're a weird guy, Tiller. I suppose that's better for me, come to think of it, as I seem to have no trouble beating up mutants but do in fact need help building anti-radiation devices. So, yeah, this is a good thing. I wave goodbye to my strange new teacher and head back towards the elevator leading outside, mentally preparing myself for the tasks ahead: beating up mutants and rescuing scientists, beating up mutants and taking their bombs, and beating up mutants to take parts to build some kind of radiation suit thing.

I'm not so sure about these guys.

Up Next: Project Greenskin!