Monday, May 30, 2011

Zombies in Disguise!

When last we left our hero, he had received some rather disturbing news: that some of the soldiers he had been working alongside this entire time were, in fact, mystically disguised zombies. How is our hero going to get out of this one?

Blight Of The Living Dead is the second Public Mission you'll encounter, the first being the battle alongside Ironclad by the Champions HQ in the tutorial. It comes in three stages: a quick one you might not notice is even happening, a slow, boring one, and then an awesome one that doesn't last nearly as long as the awesome one.

While wandering around the area immediately outside of Force Station Steelhead, you'll notice a little counter in the lower right section of your screen that appears to be rattling off mission objectives for a mission you've never actually been given. That's the Public Mission, and since it's area-based rather than questgiver-based, it'll always be active when you're within the borders of the mission area, and you can do it as many times as you want.

During the first stage, which nobody actually tells you about, near as I can tell, there are six survivors of ill-fated Steelhead scouting parties that are hiding in the woods near the base. You have to find them and rescue them... which is to say, you have to walk up and talk to them or they won't head back to base and save themselves. Without your words of warm encouragement, these hardened wilderness commandos can do naught but huddle amongst their dead teammates loudly bemoaning their fates.

Fortunately, there are superheroes friggin' everywhere. This part tends to go pretty quickly, as you can generally see one from the position of another. Most often all six will be rescued by other players before you even know the mission has reset, but if you know right where they are you get the pleasure of their thanks.

Not sure I'd call several dozen zombies in the Canadian woods an apocalypse, but then, what do I know?

Once you've "rescued" all six lost Steelhead guard patrols, the mission goes on to it's second stage, which involves hunting down the mystically disguised zombies that have infiltrated the Force Station itself. Alas, this isn't nearly as interesting as it sounds.

To get this Zombie Device, you have to find one of two Steelhead soldiers who are waving their arms at you and talk to them. This is where ol' Iron Will came in at the end of his last adventure.

Once they've explained the situation to you, you get the Zombie Device out of a box at their feet and go around the base scanning soldiers until you've found all ten. This can take a while.

When a soldier scans clean, nothing happens, although they might give you a few words of encouragement or complain that you suspected them in the first place. When a soldier IS secretly a zombie, though, they glow bright green when you use the scanner on them, before turning into a zombie... oddly, also transforming their clothing into tattered civilian garb... and attacking you. They also comment on the fact that they're a zombie and threaten you, which I don't like one bit. I like my zombies completely mindless, thank you. A zombie that talks is just all manner of disturbing, and makes you think twice about blowing their heads off en masse. This is simply no good.

I mean, come on, he knows how to correctly use the word Voracious. You have any idea how few high schoolers know how to correctly use the word Voracious? We should be sending these zombies to college, not pulverizing them.

I know, I know. Sorry, man. Just doing my job.

After you've scanned away their disguises and then beat to death the apparently thinking and feeling person underneath, you can either move on to another group of soldiers or scan the same group again. Now, you'd think that certain soldiers within the crowd are zombies all along and that the Zombie Device merely detects them, but I've found that soldiers that scan clean initially may in fact be zombies if you go back over them a second time. So what the Zombie Device actually does is turn perfectly benign soldiers into zombies that you can guiltlessly kill with a roughly 50% chance of effectiveness. Harsh.

Once all ten mystically disguised zombies have been outed and defeated, the base is suddenly swarmed by undisguised zombies that crawl out of the ground within the base itself. This is the part you've been waiting for. Time to put a shambling horde of undead back in the ground!

... Except there are only thirty of them. If you're the only one in the base not currently shopping or using the tailor (it can happen around 4am on a weeknight, sometimes) this might take a little doing, but typically there are between five and a dozen other players in the base who, though they had no interest in helping with the lengthy scanning process, are only to happy to join the fray once there are zombies crawling out from right under them. So the horde of thirty zombies usually peters out within half a minute or so, and somebody with a decent Area Of Effect attack will have racked up more points in fifteen seconds than you got in your previous ten minutes of patrol-hunting and zombie-scanning. Drat.

And, as if the disguised zombies being capable of carrying on a conversation wasn't bad enough, at least one of the horde even has a name.

I'm sorry, Joe The Evil Spirit!

All of this information together leads me to conclude that the Canadian Snow Zombie is less a standard modern movie "zombie" and more akin to a "deadite" of Evil Dead fame, some kinda crazy ancient evil snow spirit that possesses dead bodies and uses them to attack the living and/or taunt superheroes and flail at them ineffectually. Fortunately, unlike Deadites, they're put down with a single weighted steel punch to the gut.

And after that short flurry of combat, you have successfully repelled the ongoing zombie siege for a good ten minutes or so. You also get to claim an sometimes-useful item reward over by Justiciar, general rarity and usefulness depending on how much you contributed. The mission resets itself after five, and you can do it all again. Or, you know, move on, or skip it altogether. That's why I love Public Missions so much.


You generally can't expect a lead this wide, though. When people are playing, generally the first place won't be able to get more than 700-800 points, I just did this in the middle of the night.

Alright, so the passengers are safe, the lost patrols are safe, the base is safe... let's finish off this storm and head back someplace warm, eh?

UP NEXT: The final showdown! ... Well, of this place, anyway.