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Against my better judgment I am once again working for Socrates. Shockingly, my current job doesn’t have me rushing to the site of a catastrophe to deal with the least pressing problem. The usual Socrates job goes something like, “Viper agents have stormed a local nursing home and are converting the residents into mildly senile cybernetic shock troopers. Please hurry there and make sure none of the Viper assault vehicles are double-parked.”

But this one has me going to an area of the city and getting rid of the Viper forces I find. As always, Viper does a lot more loitering than terrorizing, but at least they’re striving to be some sort of respectable threat in this city. That’s gotta count for something.

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I dispense the requested supply of justice and return to Socrates. I explain how things went and Socrates thanks me for my ongoing-

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Gah! What? Who has just run up to me and begun shouting in my ear?

Ah. It’s a citizen in need. Sigh.

The “help a citizen” quests. They’ve been patched quite a bit since I wrote this, but at the time they tended to pop up when you were turning in a quest. You’d be sitting there, considering the list of quest rewards and trying to figure out which one was the least useless, when all of a sudden the entire dialog would blink away and be replaced by a dialog with some citizen who has just run up to you.

In any case, how they work is this:

The citizen will mention that they saw some “suspicious activity,” and say it happened “right over there.” In this case, “right over there” means “on the other side of the city, miles away from any other meaningful quest location.” There are several “help a citizen” jobs, but they all have several things in common:

1) Always involve going into some instanced map and fighting a bunch of dudes.
2) Lots and lots of combat. (And remember combat is a time-sink in this game.)
3) Usually far away.
4) They have an imposed time limit of half an hour, so you can’t just take the quest when offered and plan to look into it when you’re in the neighborhood.
5) They are slightly more time consuming than the average mission.
6) They are worth absolute crap for XP, usually about 1/3 to 1/4 of the yield from other level-appropriate quests.

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I borrow a pen and a notebook from the distraught citizen and then I listen carefully to his tale. I nod my head and take notes while he explains that he saw something vaguely suspicious on the far edge of the city, and then ran past the fields of burning cars, wrecked buildings, gang wars, and escaped supervillains, so that he could come here and give me this report about guys doing something that may not have been on the up-and-up. I ask a few questions and make sure I’ve got the details correct, and mark the location on my map. I thank the citizen for his concern and congratulate him on his keen eye and attention to detail. Clapping him on the shoulder, I send him on his way with directions to “keep safe.”

And then I ball up the notepaper and toss it over my shoulder.

No story. Long travel. Dull locations. Generic premise. Crap XP. Time limit. Can’t be shared with teammates. There is just very little incentive to bother with these.

Moving on, I find Corporal Antoine Harrison, another police officer in need of my help.

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“Gentlemen, I must congratulate you on your superb taste in uniform and hair colors.”

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At first I’m a little worried he wants me to act as an accomplice while he goes on a suicide killing spree like the last cop I dealt with, but no, this one seems okay. He’s complaining of having a headache, but otherwise his directions seem pretty reasonable. He wants me to save some pamphleteers from groups of thugs. Sounds good to me.

I’m sort of apprehensive about this job. It’s like when the movie hero says, “I have a bad feeling about this. It’s quiet … too quiet.” Well, this job is sane … too sane. “Save civilians from gangsters” is a perfectly good task for a superhero, and so I keep waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I fly over to the trouble site – which is delightfully nearby – and find civilians being harassed by gangsters, just like he said.

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Hey bully! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size but who is also way, way stronger and bulletproof and can make force-fields and can fly? Huh? Huh!?! Chicken!!!

I return to Corporal Harrison and let him know that everything NO I DO NOT WANT TO CHECK OUT A BUNCH OF GUYS SNEAKING INTO A WAREHOUSE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CITY SO PISS OFF worked out okay and those pamphleteers are safe now. Next up, he wants me to go after the leader of the Purple Gang, Kevin Poe.

“Wow. Really? You’re gonna send me right to the head honcho, and not make me work my way through his entire org chart before I can face the man himself? Corporal Harrison, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to say this to an officer before without lying, but … you really are doing a good job.”

Well, okay. This isn’t perfect. Poe’s inner sanctum is in the sprawling, well-lit sewer complex beneath the city, but I’m willing to overlook both the clich√© and the smell for a shot at doing a mission that doesn’t put me up against someone slightly more absurd and eccentric than Willy Wonka.

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This must be the place. I’ll just open this lid, climb down …

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…and emerge from a massive steel door. What?

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Let’s see … Pipes? Check? Nondescript machinery? Check. Labyrinthine tunnels with requisite river of spinach smoothie? Check. Waves of idle henchmen? Check. Inexplicable presence of built-in sewer lighting to illuminate the river of ick? Check. Pointless barrels? Check.

I don’t know much about Kevin Poe, but I have to admire his lavish attention to detail. When he embraces a trope he does so with style. I am really looking forward to punching his face in.

Although, I have to say I’m not all that impressed with his outfit. It’s pretty bland by supervillain standards:

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Wow. I’ll surrender and you’ll let me work for you as one of the hundred or so low-level mooks I’ve pummeled on the way in? Sign me up! As long as I don’t have to wear purple…

Oh. Your gang is called the “New Purple Gang?” So I guess blue and yellow is out of the question? Ah well. I guess we have to fight, then.

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Your what? Dad something? Sorry. I didn’t read your backstory before I came in here. My bad.

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Wait. You’re willing to take over Millennium City? Do you have any idea how stupid and messed up this town is? I have to ask: What are you asking for in return?

And I have to admire your “hold still while I monologue a second” power.

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You are exceedingly talkative, even by supervillain standards. I think … yeah, you’re getting on my nerves now.

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Dude. You are face down in the sewer. Shut up already.

Well. Back to Corporal Harrison, I guess.

This completes a simple two-mission quest line. The Foxbat series was another quest line. Strangely, this isn’t the only quest line that involves Kevin Poe. There is another, unrelated quest line where you meet Kevin Poe in the final mission. That quest is another forced-teaming mission, so I typically put it off until I have enough levels to do it solo. Since the quest chains aren’t connected, it’s actually likely you’ll see Kevin Poe’s big introduction after you’ve had your showdown with him.

Hm.

I look around to make sure there aren’t any civilians comping nearby, waiting to gank me and hijack my dialog box as soon as I talk to Officer Harrison. After making sure the coast is clear, I rush in and initiate conversation!

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“Quick! Give me my quest reward before an NPC comes along!”

He seems grateful enough.

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Nice work Harrison. Hope you get that headache thing worked out. Next up, Harrison sends me to meet with another superhero. Great. Hopefully he’ll be as diligent and sensible as Harrison himself. It turns out the hero is…

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…Kinetik.

Ugh.

There’s this long awkward silence as we meet again. He doesn’t mention the whole cage incident, but I can tell he remembers and that he’s hoping I don’t bring it up. I don’t. I am sort of curious how he got loose, though. Did Ironclad save him? Defender? Clayton Griswold? I’m curious, but I don’t want to make this situation any more uncomfortable than it is.

Kinetik explains that the mayor’s daughter has been kidnapped. Okay. Sounds like pretty boilerplate superhero stuff. So far so good. Then he drops his bombshell…

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Whaaaaaaat?

Look Kinetik, Harrison is the first person I’ve met in this entire city who isn’t a complete idiot.

And yes that includes you. In particular.

And now you’re telling me that the only non-idiot on Team Justice was actually under the control of one of the bad guys. You’re killing me, here.

Fine. I’ll help him. But I’m not going to like it.

NEXT TIME: Make the stupid stop! MAKE IT STOP!

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