Friday, January 21, 2011

Choose your mostly redundant role

Having completed the last mission in the desert crisis and made your way back to the vault entrance, you'll be presented with a choice to either dig your way out, ending the crisis and moving on to the rest of the game proper, or returning to the crisis, presumably to tie up any loose ends or finish turning in any missions you may have completed but not cashed yet.

In Iron Will's case, there's nothing left for him to do in the desert crisis and it ought to be over at this point, but I also want to check out the Canada crisis, so I'm returning to the desert crisis instead of finishing it. Finishing one closes the other automatically, as both crisis zones serve the same purpose in the game, to finish teaching new players about the game (buying new powers, the crafting system, and whatnot) and giving them a taste of how the game handles. By the time you're finished with one you should be about the right level to start the missions in the normal game world, and there's really no reason to do both. However, in the interest of completeness and just because I want to, I'll be putting off getting credit for the desert one to do them both. Plus, since there aren't really an abundance of leveling paths available later on in the game and it's pretty easy to get stuck a few levels behind where you should be with no missions left that aren't rated way above you if you skipped some earlier, I figure there's no harm in gaining an extra level or two beyond what Iron Will really needs to start out the rest of the game.

... That was a sentence.

Plus seeing both'll give you a better idea of which one you'd wanna take your own character through if you're potentially thinking about picking up the game yourself after reading this blog, so. There's that.

Before seeking out adventure and fortune in the frozen north, though, Iron Will's picked up a few levels to spend at the powerhouse. Mostly more of the same ranks and talents shenanigans, but he also gets one new power, and, more notably, the ability to switch between different Builds, which opens up the possibility of choosing different Roles. These are a little wonky, I'll show you what I mean.

First thing's first, might as well go ahead and get this new Power that's burning a hole in my already-full-of-holes pocket.

At this point I've got enough Might powers to open up some of the higher tier powers in the Might family, but also enough powers in general to unlock some of the first tier powers in the other sets. I could get another move... Iron Will is sorely lacking a ranged attack, for example... but anything fancy like thrown energy balls or chains or something like that doesn't really fit with the concept of Normal Guy Made Out Of Metal that I'm going for, and I've already got three ways to punch people. I could get a Blocking power, which is pretty handy, but again, force fields and ice shields and the like aren't really what I'm going for with ol' Will here. And he's still lacking a Passive power, which are pretty handy.

Passives are on all the time and don't need to be activated to work. Near as I can tell the best one in the game is Regeneration, which makes you heal damage very quickly, in combat as well as out. Think of a healing factor like Wolverine's... or Hulk's... or, y'know, what every action movie lead must secretly have and never addresses on screen. I've had characters with Regeneration as a passive at it's highest rank who could literally just stand there and let a mob of enemies shoot them, and they'd recover all their lost health points before the enemies could reload and shoot again. It scales with your Recovery stat, though, which I haven't put a single point into with Will, so it wouldn't be as strong on him.

There are a lot of Energy Form passives that really only make sense if you're a shooter of that type of energy... Fire Form makes you catch fire in combat and deal a lot more damage with your fire attacks, for example, or Ego Form turns you into a weird ghostly guy who does a lot more damage with Ego attacks. None of these are any good for a melee fighter, though.

The most obvious choice is one of the Might passives, most of which involve getting stronger and stronger as a fight progresses, buffing your strength automatically with every hit you land and so forth. This is undoubtedly the most effective passive for a might-based character who wants to do a lot of damage to enemies in a hurry, but it's also not quite what I've got in mind for Will. In fact, none of the Might ones are. Rather, I'm gunna go for the rather un-obvious choice of...

Power Armor's Invulnerability. The name, it should be noted, is a huge exaggeration. This really doesn't make any sense for an optimized melee character, as it does nothing to boost the damage you do, which is the most important thing for fighting up close. However, it's damage reduction does scale with Strength, which is one of Iron Will's superstats, as well as a stat that keeps getting boosted by most of his Arms equipment. Unlike Regeneration, it'll provide a substantial defensive bonus without requiring me to respec away from melee damage... it just won't help melee damage itself.

Plus, more importantly, it's animation involves the character in question being covered with randomly occurring sparkles, which evidently reflects a metal's relative durability in power armor builds. Who knew? They're kinda hard to capture in a screenshot, as they're rather fleeting, but here's one on Will's head.


It should be noted that there's nothing wrong with going straight Might, though. Built right, a Might character can typically drop right into the middle of combat and beat most enemies into the ground or knock them into the stratosphere before they take a significant amount of damage, ending most fights in a matter of seconds.

Iron Will, on the other hand, is going to be able to take a lot more punishment than most Might characters, but he's also going to be spending a lot more time beating up his opponents before they go down. It works with the concept: Will's special more because he's bulletproof than because he's titanically strong. Still, it should be noted that I'm somewhat gimping his damage output by not taking a Might passive. However, if you're one of those players who occasionally complains about how quickly their Might character gets killed if they don't manage to kill their opponent right away, consider this option. 'Sides, I'm about to gimp his damage output even more.

Builds are an option that you unlock around level... I'm not sure. Somewhere below nine, which is where I'm at now. They let you set up a few different equipment sets and keyboard layouts, which is kind of handy for different situations. Maybe you have one build that's optimized for offense, say, and one that's optimized for defense, with more damage-absorbing but less power-boosting equipment. They do not, however, let you choose new powers or superstats, so it's not as different as all that. I dunno, I never really use more than one myself.

More significantly, though, with the ability to customize your Build comes the ability to pick your Role.

"Guardian" is the default Role, more or less balanced and fairly good at everything. It's where I've left most of my characters for their full careers, and never felt terribly underpowered. However, choosing different Roles can boost certain attributes while lowering others... I'm not sure exactly how it works, whether it's a fixed value or a percentage or whether it actually applies modifiers to your stats or simply changes the HP value of attacks in combat or what, but it significantly impacts the damage you deal and receive in various situations.

There are five roles to choose from.

The aforementioned Guardian, good at most everything...

The Protector, which boosts your defense at the cost of, well, pretty much everything but buffing yourself...

The Brawler, which boosts your melee damage at the cost of ranged damage and takes away your ability to gain energy from blocks...

The Avenger, which boosts your ranged attacks at the cost of pretty much everything else...

and the Sentinel, which boosts your buffing at the cost of everything else.

The most obvious choice for a melee fighter like Iron Will is Brawler, which lets you dish out damage much more quickly in hand-to-hand combat, and which is an integral part of the afore-mentioned kill-things-in-a-few-seconds Might builds. Also pretty great for martial artists and melee weapon masters. The Protector is good for tanks, Sentinel's good for healers, and Avenger is almost a requirement for ranged characters, as when combined with the right Energy Form it can enable you to kill most enemies before they even reach you to counterattack.

I'd go with Brawler for Iron Will, but there are two problems. One, I've already foregone a damage-boosting passive, so he'd be at less than full strength offensively, and even though this would help, it might be a bad idea to reduce the benefits of blocking when combat is likely to last longer. This is relatively minor, though, compared to the complication that when I switch to Brawler, Invincibility unequips itself.

Turns out, some passives only work in certain roles. Defensive passives like Regeneration and Invincibility not only don't work as well with Offensive roles as they would with Defensive, the game actually prevents you from using them in conjunction. Defensive passives can only work in a Defensive or Balanced (aka Guardian) role, and otherwise provide no benefit to you whatsoever.

Personally, I find this very obnoxious, especially because it doesn't mention this when you purchase the power in the first place. But oh well. If I'm going for tough rather than strong anyway, I might as well go all out. I put him in the Protector role so that he can not only utilize Invulnerability but get a boost to it as well, and head on down to the Powerhouse's little holodeck danger room thingamapoop to test out the new and improved Iron Will against some holographic opponents.

Fighting a pair of (simulated) four-armed red guys like the one who took Iron Will down to half his health a while back, I'm pretty pleased with the results.

While I'm blocking, in the Protector role, with Invincibility as a passive, the mutants do exactly one point of damage per attack.

This is fairly insignificant considering that at this level Iron Will has about 2000 HP to his name. Not bad if I do say so myself. Of course, it takes significantly longer to beat one down than it did back in the Guardian role, but considering that it would take the two of them together approximately half an hour to kill me if I just put a paperweight on the block key and went to make myself a sandwich, I'd say this is a pretty substantial improvement overall. I'll make it a point to put some more ranks into Invulnerability as soon as I have them to spend.

Thusly reinforced, and three levels above where one would typically start it, I think Iron Will ought to be okay in Canada.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Vault

When last we left our hero, he was steeling his will and girding his loins to descend into the lair of evil known as...

The Vault. It sits heavy in the mountainside, it's dingy steel bulk contrasting sharply with the warm smoothness of the surrounding rock. Irradiated mutants with twisted and elongated limbs skitter over the cliffside like spiders and radioactive dust rises from the ground like snow flurries with every step I take.

... I'm about thirty feet from the turrets I reactivated an hour ago. How did nobody notice this place?

Whelp, looks nice. I head in.

Inside, the place is actually pretty cool. The floor seems paved, and the walls are relatively smooth carven stone. If the whole thing wasn't glowing an alarming radioactive green, I could see spending some time wandering around down here. Not fifteen feet in the door I find a backpack on the ground, and Vanderbilt radios me.

Oh, cool. So I didn't just abandon Gertz and his men to come in here and kill whatsisface. They've been in here all along, and I can probably save them on my way to all the violence. Alright, two birds with one stone. I keep going.

The passageway opens up into a wider cavern filled with rusted barrels and glowing green fog. ... I probably shouldn't be standing here breathing this stuff, but judging from my harmonica-voice lately my lungs just might be metal too, and besides, there's people in here that need my help.

In fact, I can see one of them from the tunnel, a Project Greenskin soldier huddled in the corner where an irradiate is beating on him with a lead pipe. Holy crap. These guys make Guantanamo Bay look like middle school detention. Not quite sure how this guy is still alive, but I jump to the savin'. The irradiate seems to be the garden variety ugly-and-bald type that I've been wading through since I got here, and he goes down without too much fuss.

The POW has some bad news for me. Apparently Gertz is going a bit crazy, wherever he is. More importantly than that, though, as soon as I've taken out the irradiate, this guy who's been being beat on with a lead pipe in a cave for about two days stands up straight and tells me that he doesn't think his boss can take the pressure.

This man is amazing.

He takes off up the tunnel I just came down to go back to the Greenskin base and presumably get some medical treatment, brusquely declining my offers to help him limp out the door. I make it a point to track this guy down after this is all over. I'm thinking of putting a team together, you see. It consists of myself, Ironclad, Police Chief Surhoff, and Private whatever this guy's name is.

Together we're going to save the world. Drunk.

I move on, my faith in Project Greenskin at least partially rekindled. I find another soldier being menaced behind a largish rock further into the cave, on top of a pile of leaking toxic waste barrels. This really, really seems like the kind of place that probably causes cancer.

Kind of pretty in a way, though. I check to see if he's alright before moving on.

Yes yes, but can you tell me the way to-

Wait. What? They say what?

I love these guys. No, it's YOU, the poorly armed and mismanaged Project Greenskin soldiers, YOU'RE the real heroes. I throw him a salute as he runs out the door. Keep up the good work, soldier.

Beaming, I pick up a convenient weapon of opportunity and continue deeper into the tunnels.

This ought to hurt someone.

I continue down the tunnel and forklift my way through a half dozen more irradiates before it turns sharply and descends to another big cavern, this one apparently an old military armory of some kind, judging from all the explosives neatly stacked along the walls.

There are more irradiates here, plus a half dozen robots that I recognize from Champions HQ. "Destroids" I think they were called, the robot henchmen of this Dr. Destroyer guy who Gigaton works for. I suppose that makes sense if they're all part of the same organization.

The moment I set foot in the cavern, though, my radio chimes in with a warning that the radiation below this point is so strong that it would burn through even my metal skin, and that I'd better activate that anti-radiation device that Mr. Tiller had me build. So, I do. It blinks to life and emits a shining golden shield that completely encases my body and evidently keeps out any harmful radiation. ... That's actually really damn cool.

Thus armored, I proceed around the room squishing irradiates and crunching destroids. The destroids seem the more significant threat, taking a lot more hits to bring down and shooting lasers at me which, although they don't hurt me much, do keep coming alarmingly close to the PILES OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN THE CORNER.

You guys sure you want to be shooting that stuff in here?

Eventually I manage to deal with all the destroids and head down yet another tunnel at the back of the room. A couple of the bigger purple irradiates with the chest-faces are milling around back there, but I manage to bludgeon my way through them without too much trouble. Then, finally, I see what I can only assume is my target. ... This looks promising.

I'm pretty used to beating up giant irradiates at this point, but this appears to be the first caped one who's floating suspended in a huge beam of energy. I may need a strategy. Hmmm...

Actually, on second thought, that particular strategy has a high likelihood of backfiring. I put the atomic bomb back down and decide to go with pugilism instead. Hasn't let me down so far. I step out into the cavern and notice... Gertz?

In case that's too small to see, focus on the area just to the right of Iron Will's right fist.

Gertz appears to be kneeling facedown in a pool of glowing green muck, repeatedly bowing to the floating Gigaton as if in worship. I get trying to placate your captors, but I gotta say, groveling on the ground seems a little bit excessive. But then again, he's the first Greenskin soldier I've seen since I came in here who wasn't actively being beaten with some variety of blunt instrument, so I guess I can't fault his strategy. C'mon, Gertz, I'm here to rescue you.

As soon as I start down the slope to the pool, though, Gertz jumps up and charges me, screaming something about bringing the light of radiation to everybody. He's got the telltale signs of severe radiation poisoning: one giant arm, a large two-toed foot, a general greenish palor. Looks like the major's gone... native? Rogue? I don't know the term. He's turned into a big green monster and spontaneously decided to attack me. Makes perfect sense, I hear radiation poisoning does that. Looks like the missing major, like so many other situations in the last day or so, is going to be solved by me hitting something repeatedly.

Not quite as repeatedly as I expected, though. After two or three good hits, the major takes off and runs back the way I came. I don't have time to go after him, though, because Gigaton lands right in front of me and just starts swinging. I was expecting some kind of evil speech or something, but apparently yelled taunts mid-fight are all I'm going to get. Lacking anything clever to say, I respond in kind.

He's pretty big, but not Black Talon big. Pretty tough too, but not Ferd tough. He hits pretty hard, but not Alamogordo hard. Really, I'm less concerned about the fact that a giant caped supervillain is pounding on my head than I am about the fact that we're fighting almost genitals-deep in a glowing green pool filled with decaying nuclear warheads.

... My children are going to have flippers.

As soon as Gigaton's down, the entire mountain starts shaking, and giant chunks of rock fall from the ceiling. Whoops, time to go. I leave the possibly-dead-possibly-unconscious Gigaton to drown in the toxic water or get crushed to death by falling rocks as he sees fit and race back up to the entrance, occasionally avoiding a falling boulder on the way. The dust makes it pretty hard to see, but I get there okay, only to find...

... The entrance is caved in.

Looks like, for the second time in as many days, I'm going to spend my afternoon digging my way out of a pile of rubble.

This greatest superhero of all thing kinda blows.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Built Ferd Tough

That's not my pun, alas, that's the name of the mission. Never thought I'd say this, but I really need to spend more time playing computer games. Sorry for the infrequency of posts this month.

One down, one to go. I scramble back down to the canyon floor (read: walk off the cliff and fall) and set off to find this Ferd guy, who I'm to beat to death before he has a chance to say anything, as superheros are often conscripted to do, I guess. He seems to be nowhere to be found, but there are plenty of other irradiates to keep me company, so I don't get bored. Much appreciated.

To pass the time we play a game where they throw glowing green crap at me and I punch them in the brain until they stop moving. It's pretty fun for me, and they seem to enjoy it.

Ferd is the first boss in the game you might have to team up for, but also the first boss that wanders around a given area who you'll have to hunt down and find before you can fight him. This proves to be much more of an obstacle than his actual difficulty level most of the time, particularly because everybody else in the area tends to be looking for him too, and you never know for sure whether he's actually around and you're just missing him, or whether he's dead and hasn't respawned yet.

On the plus side, this makes it easier to attract a team if you want one, because that means more people searching and less waiting around for a respawn, since you can all share one. It's this motivating factor rather than the challenge of the boss himself that makes teaming up with as many heroes as possible rather appealing on missions like this. Fortunately, it's the middle of the night and the zone isn't very crowded, so I go it alone. Kind of.

About ten minutes go by of wandering through the desert, alone but for the swarms of aggressive irradiates who keep on insisting on trying to hurt me, but then I spot him, shambling out of a hole that I must have already passed two or three times. Sneaky. I run over to make my displeasure known.

Ferd's about as tall as Alamagordo, but looks a good deal more normal. Apart from missing two fingers per hand, three toes per foot, and one nose per face, he doesn't seem all that different from your average nine foot bodybuilder with glowing arm tattoos.

Big fella, though. I'm going to have to come up with a good strategy to play against his unique size and strength and refine my tactics so as to pffffffthahaha!

Sorry. I run up and hit him a bunch of times.

As I probably ought to have expected by his stature and Vanderbilt's recommendation of teaming up against him, he doesn't go down very easily. He can't hurt me much, but I can't seem to hurt him much either, and he keeps calling in help from other irradiates that seem to just run in out of nowhere. Mostly because I have to keep turning and beating up his helpers to avoid getting mobbed, I start to worry about whether or not going in alone was actually a very good idea.

Just when it's looking like I might not come out on top, I'm suddenly assisted by the Dark Lord of the Sith. ... Wait, what?

Um... thank you? Sir?

Anyway, I'm not saying that I couldn't have taken him on my own, but it goes much faster when somebody helps out with a lightsaber. As soon as the big guy's down, the little guy takes off. That was strange.

So, I start heading back to Vanderbilt, pondering the exact difference between assassin and superhero, when I come across a big stone head with horns. Interesting.

I um, suddenly remember (?) that the statue of Grond back at the base was missing it's head. This, therefore, must be the head of that same Grond statue, and it falls to me, as a superhero-slash-battlefield-assassin, to take a sizable piece of it back with me. Yes, this makes perfect sense to me. I jump down off the rock I was climbing up to beat the assorted mutants to death and retrieve the biggest piece of the statue I can.

A short period of senseless violence later and I walk away with the horn, about twice my height and four times my weight. Don't ask me where I stowed it, because I honestly don't know.

One more irradiate tries to stop me on the way out, some sort of weird half-Alamagordo without the face tentacles or the extra four feet of height. I don't know what his attachment to the statue's horn is, but he's a little bit tougher than the others. Not, however, tougher than either of the two big guys I put in the ground in the last fifteen minutes, or as bad as the big red one with all the arms. That dealt with, I continue on my merry way.

I head back up to Colonel Vanderbilt for my pat on the head and my next assignment. To my surprise, he also offers some insight into my recent transformation.

Y'don't say?

He also gives me some bad news; apparently this whole disaster has been the work of the evil Gigaton, stationed inside the radiation vault right by the base! This is terrible! ... Maybe. Maybe it's a good thing. I have no idea who Gigaton is. Let me guess: huge guy I have to beat up? Shiny.

Wait, wasn't I supposed to rescue two of you...? He makes no mention of his missing partner, but this Gigaton thing sounds fairly important. So I suppose I'm heading back to base to find this radiation vault. That's all well and good, because I really ought to deliver this giant statue horn that I've been carrying around in my... pocket?... back to the Greenskin base. And that means talking to... erg... Kaufman.

Right, right, and a bang-up job you're doing of it too.

Okay then. Time to find this vault thing and beat up this Gigaton guy to make the sky turn blue again. I don't understand this job as well as I think I ought to.