Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Blake Stone: Mission 3

For this episode, I thought I'd make some changes to prevent myself from going nuts. Firstly, I'm just doing each mission in one big chunk, this will take slower, but make my life easier by a bit. Secondly, I'm switching to the easiest difficulty setting. Yeah, yeah, it was that or remove all the plasma generators and scientists in a map editor.
The mission begins after a shuttle explosion, which we never see. We land in some place called "Pan Crevasse", although apparently Stone makes a suggestion that would have been a better name. This starts the player off at a rover-module entrance to "Goldfire's Underground Network". As if I understand any of this or even care. Dangerous mission, Goldfire didn't expect survival, Breather Beast, genetic storage. Five pages is a lot for a game that doesn't really have a story. At least Halloween Harry had cutscenes, this is just sad.

We start off with one of the few decent tracks, and a few guards alert to me. He's off in the distance and he can't physically reach me, there's a switch barrier in the way, so it isn't too bad. There seems to be a half-dozen behind him. Honestly, fighting a bunch of these in highly controlled conditions isn't that bad, unfortunately there's a secret room nearby, which, although I found it afterward, still eliminates that controlled condition.

Oh...I can't imagine having to play this level on one of the harder difficulties. Its not too bad on the easiest, but turrets, and I imagine a dozen guards would be difficult there. On easy, its still panic inducing. I have to find a rifle so I can hit something, anything...and I get one...off a STAR trooper. I repeat, I kill a STAR trooper with the protector. I forget, was I on the highest difficulty? He shocked me too, he was in a secret treasure room, just hiding. It gets even better, there's a regular rifle guard in a shower near that room, and he dies in two shots. This might actually be too easy. I restart on the second difficulty, Skilled. Its still easier than Expert, but not a complete joke.

The gist of the level is a key hunt. I swear it was padded out just to increase the length. You look everywhere, the key is nowhere to be found. Where is it? Not in a secret...in the elevator. A nasty trick, but not the worst. Then it just gets annoying, the path to the red key requires you basically lap the level twice in order to get it. It feels like there's a point...but I don't really get that point.

This isn't a Network Operations and Control, this is more of an alien storage center...with...I dunno. There's barely any computer rooms here. Considering how many big computer rooms there have been in this game, I'm curious as to the reason of this choice.

There are two sections here, a series of small hallways and rooms in the south, mostly human enemies, and a wide-open area north full of pod aliens. The pod area has plenty of health, but lacks ammo, which was a problem because I tackled that first. That leads to the blue key, which leads upstairs. Despite the ammo problem, I feel like this is too easy, but I'm admittedly stuck here, because I'd prefer not dealing with too hard.

The southern section has a few rooms full of medical equipment, what I'd say are autopsy rooms. Looks like the dead bodies of informants. Very interesting. There are also more showers, and more rock areas I can't reach. I suspect there are guards there on harder difficulties.

Once again, the PDU is acquired before the Neutron Disruptor. What even is the point of having that thing at this point? Just because it was in Wolfenstein? Admittedly, it is a rather boring series of switches to get the PDU, across multiple screen rooms, but I have to admit, at this point I'm not going to be concerned with that.
I didn't get 100%, too many unknown variables for me to care. Did I miss a pod alien? Did I miss a guard? I don't care.

Not the weird music again. How long must I be tortured? I have half a mind to just turn the music off. Considering that I had to screw around with it for a different game, I actually had to turn it back on. As soon as I exit the room I see something really funny. A desk prop and a chair prop. Now, maybe I missed that earlier in the game, but it seems like those are two problems that give a massive improvement to the feeling of there actually being a room and not just a video game place in a game. Later on there's a stool in front of some computers. What the hell? What the hell?
For a level called Lunar Exploration, there isn't a whole lot of lunar. Oh, sure, there are some rocks to the north, but that's just hiding a key to the exit for some reason. Most of this seems to be some kind of medical lab, with not a single scientist in sight. A few gruesome scenes though. Most of the area fits in with the so far typical of this mission wide-open areas.
There's yet another PDU in a secret area, but the real interesting bit is that there's an alien guard in this game. I thought they only appeared in the sequel. I didn't get a good screenshot, because his appearance surprised me, and he is inside a secret area. Curious, I suspect I'll see more later.

What an interesting lack of choice I have here. The opening area has four doors, which lead to a security area, then a hallway, all of which lead to the same room. Its a big room, but c'mon. Its not really full up. A full third of the map contains next to nothing. Oh, sure, I find some secrets here later, but this feels aggressively like there's nothing.
Then in the east things get interesting. This is tighter, and more importantly, plenty of enemies. There's the return of the alien guard. They look less like aliens and more like zombies. They're not the stars here, that's once again the turrets. I realize the reason, there are three ways to get the player to change their weapons once they get the PDU, ammo supply issues, turrets or scientists. So far this game hasn't had much of the other two. Of course, I might have more of a reason if there was a Neutron Disruptor around.

Then there's new enemy no. 2, water aliens. So riveting I forgot to take a screenshot. They're puddles, then they turn into aliens you can attack. Glad to see you guys remembered that trick. Its sort of hard to see them as a threat, but they're new at least. They fit the area they're in quite well, lots of water spouts and water on the ground. There's also a lot of enemy containment units, both for the trash can looking mutants and the alien rip-offs. The area they're in is a long and confusing hallway.

Towards the end, after coming back from the secret level, I finally find the Neutron Disruptor. I can't help but feel this gun is considerably shafted by the developers.

The mission finished music, eh? That's not going to be annoying or anything...It does make a surprising turn for the better at points, so that's a plus. The gist of this level is a central fortress I'm gradually trying to penetrate. Its mostly aliens and turrets. There are no secrets and next to no scientists. Its a very simple and well-set up level. There's not much to say about it.

Secret level music. Feels weird. Okay, you're just making up random crap with the level titles now, "Network Atmospheric Control". If you don't have enough ideas for 66 levels, don't do 66 levels. There are three sections, two with a key and a central one where they go. The level is intended to funnel you towards the central area, where there's a lot of turrets and Goldfire spawns sometimes. I completely forgot about that. Great. Another really mundane open level.

Title music? Are we already all out of music? It eventually goes bonkers in a bad way. This is looking suspiciously like the last level. If it weren't for the different music and the title that the font makes look misspelled, I'd say this was the same level. Okay, it does change quickly, but for the past three levels, the area outside the elevator has been very samey. This is effectively some kind of mutant in-fighting area. I believe the implication is that the scientists are seeing what happens if they're not fed in closed quarters. What makes some of these areas weird is that there's a lot of blood walls going on. A lot.

The level starts off innocently enough. Another area around the elevator, followed by a large empty corridor. A single guard for roughly half the level's space. The secret area in here isn't very impressive either. You've got one room, contained inside the hallway, with some scientists. Still not a problem. Then it goes off the deep end.

You've got the central room, which is an X inside a box, we've got too many turrets, aliens of all kinds that pop out of containers, and we're just getting started. North is a vault filled with ammo, health and points items. Its laid out in such a way that you're guaranteed to miss something on the first try. There are guards here, but they're not annoying. South is a very neatly laid out series of walls designed so you're never sure if you missed something until everything is dead. Oh...

Why yes, the same starting layout. Corridor around elevator, followed by big looping hallway, with interior rooms and a door to the eastern half of the level. Office buildings tend to have boring layouts, I know, but this isn't supposed to be an office building. I clear out the northern half of the starting section and when I reach the southern half...well...more sadism. Scientists in a quasi-closed room with turrets and an unknown amount of enemies in containers.

The rest of the level is rather mundane at this point, although there were two points of interest. An autopsy-looking room just drenched in blood. And the southern area full of enemies is also full of barrels and radioactive goo. Its not very interesting otherwise
What? A new song? Its actually good? The level design discourages returning to the area with Dr. Goldfire? Both Goldfire and the boss die rather quickly. Is this level actually fun? Not really, after that the level just sort of happens until I reach the level exit, return, find the secret with the red key, and enter the next level.
I can't remember if I heard this Skyroads sounding music before or not. This level has no secrets, its just a jaunt into the middle of the map, grab some treasure, then leave. It doesn't really feel like a secret...or even interesting. Probably why I forgot to take a screenshot.

Next time...Mission 4. I'm going to have so much fun with that one.

This Session: 2.5 hours

Total Time: 23.5 hours

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