Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Really Bad Day in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead

Yeah, these screenshots don't do the game justice. Sorry, but I didn't take any screenshots while I was playing, because I didn't know I was going to post this.

I haven't been blogging about games or books lately, although I've still been reading and gaming just as much as ever (if not more so). But I'm sick to death of politics, after what bigots and idiots (and bigoted idiots) did to our country last week, and I thought I'd post my first day of a new play of Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead.

I've blogged about this game many times before. It's one of my all-time favorite games - which is really something, given that it's free, developed entirely by volunteers. Note that I'm playing 0.C Cooper, which is still the latest stable  (i.e. non-experimental) version of the game. But it has tons of content.

Cataclysm is a turn-based zombie-survival game. I set the options to my own preferences (no joke monsters, no skill rust, no NPC's - which tend to be annoying as hell - and extra character points), then usually pick the hardest starting scenario in the game.

Ironically, if I survive, that makes my character even more powerful. But I don't play long enough for that to matter much. I like the early game the best, when I'm struggling to survive. When survival seems assured, I stop playing or start a new character. But hey, those are just my own preferences. They don't have to be yours.

When the day began, I was drunk to the point of incapacitation, depressed, dying of an infection, and sick with the flu. I was naked, wearing only a wet towel, inside a city infested with the undead. And the house was on fire.

There was actually a zombie in the room with me, only a couple of steps away. [That's a first for me. I've never started this scenario with a zombie in the same room!] The door was only a couple of steps to my north, but my afflictions and the pain I was suffering had slowed my movements drastically. I would have died in the next few minutes, but for a chair which slowed the zombie just enough that I could get through that door and close it behind me.

[The hardest part of this "Really Bad Day" start is how slow you are. Until you heal up, you can't outrun anything (and you certainly can't out-fight anything, even if you weren't naked and completely unarmed). Luckily, zombies are mindless. They'll walk into lava if it's on a direct path to you. In this case, the lucky placement of that chair made the difference - and only just barely, even then - between death and at least a few more minutes of life.]

Zombies can break down doors, but it takes awhile. With the house on fire, the roof would collapse before that would happen. And speaking of which, I needed to get out of that house ASAP. The fire had started in the wall to my left, that same wall I'd just come through. Unfortunately, that was the same direction I needed to go.

I found myself in a large room - a combination living room, dining room, and kitchen - and there was no possible exit to the east. There were bedrooms to the north, but I could hear zombies behind the doors in that direction. So that left only west, through the smoke, as a possible escape route.

Luckily, the main door to the house was in that direction. However, I could see a second fire burning in the northwest corner of the living room. I had to get out fast, before the roof caved in. There was just no time for anything else.

So I plunged into the smoke, taking further damage (thus, slowing me down even more) and increasing my coughing. Admittedly, at this point, there was enough noise from the burning house that a little coughing wouldn't make much difference. But it would make it just that much harder to hide, assuming that I managed to escape at all.

When I opened the door and stepped outside, I ended up on a little patio at the northwest corner of the house, which was itself at the northwest corner of town. Walls on the south and east sheltered me from sight, and there wasn't anything but an empty field in view.

Of course, it was snowing, and I was naked, but you can't have everything, right?

Map: I started in a house in the northwest of that north town, then entered the two houses just north of that. Once I broke contact, I looped around counter-clockwise, west of that tiny subway station town, then southeast to the town with an office tower (T), ending up in a house at the northeast side of that south town, south of the mansion (M), west of the prison in the forest.

I walked west along that wall until I could see around the corner to my left. There was a pack of wolves to my southwest - and zombies closer yet (apparently drawn to the noise of the burning house). One of the zombies was huge, and another was... well, I don't know what it was. It was humanoid, but snow-white in color and with no eyes or nose, just a perfectly round mouth in a blank face.

[Note that, as many times as I've played Cataclysm, that's a monster I've only ever seen once before - and I avoided it then, too. So all I knew is that it was very, very scary-looking.]

Clearly, I couldn't go west. Maybe the wolves and the zombies and that... weird-looking horror would all fight among themselves, but I couldn't risk it, not as slow as I was moving! So I backed up, then moved north along the wall there, staying as close as the smoke would let me get.

There were zombies nearby to the east, and since I wasn't able to hug the wall and peer around it, they quickly spotted me. A grabber zombie, with long arms, was the closest, but there was a van in the street just a few steps to my north, and it wasn't smart enough to go around the van to get at me.

But when I went along the van to the north, with the grabber zombie mindlessly ripping apart the vehicle in a frenzied rage to get at me, I discovered another zombie, which shrieked loudly when it saw me, coming from the northeast. I don't know if that one had a few brain cells left, or not, but it came around the van to attack me. So I just entered the side door of the van and escaped out the back, still heading north.

The shrieker zombie saw me, but I went through a car the same way I'd gone through the van [and out the trunk, somehow], which put me just a few steps from the southwest corner of another house.

The door was to the east, but it was almost certainly locked. And there were more zombies in that direction, anyway. So I stumbled my way to the nearest window and smashed it with my bare hands. Then I leaped through the broken glass, cutting myself on the sharp edges, just ahead of that shrieker zombie, which had been delayed - but not very long - by my previous tactics.

That window wouldn't delay it very long, either - not even long enough for me to pick up a piece of the broken window to use as a weapon. But there was a bedroom door to my north, and I was able to make it there and shut the door behind me.

Luckily, there weren't any zombies inside, but there wasn't anything useful, either. Another door to the east led to a hallway, and I checked the rooms which led off from that: another bedroom, a kitchen, and a pantry. But I couldn't find any clothes or medicine. (I was hoping for a well-stocked bathroom medicine chest, but the bathroom wasn't in this part of the house.)

Before leaving, I quickly drank a coke and ate a cheeseburger I found in the kitchen. That was the only way I could carry anything, except in my hands (which I needed for smashing windows). But there was another house very, very close to the east of this one - close enough that I could probably cross the gap without anything seeing me. Things were looking up!

Of course, I was still naked (and drunk, depressed, infected, and sick), and it was still snowing. But it's funny how adrenaline and the prospect of being eaten alive can take your mind off the inconsequentials. :)

This time, I smashed a window on the north side of the house. (I was on the edge of town, so nothing but empty fields were in view in that direction.) I entered into a bedroom, and although I could hear zombies in the south part of the house, the bedroom door was closed.

There was another bedroom to the east, and I finally found some clothes there: winter boots and gloves, a hoodie, and a raincoat that actually fit. (That last was very welcome. It was early spring, and I knew that the snow would turn to rain as the day went on. Nothing like being wet to put the capper on a really bad day...)

OK, I was still naked below the waist. And if you want to talk shrinkage, try being freezing cold, sick, and seriously injured, while being chased by zombies. Luckily, there wasn't anyone to see my embarrassment. (I don't think the zombies cared, one way or the other.)

After that, I snuck back out the window and headed north, only to discover a giant, pink crab-like monster fighting a zombie dressed in tattered military gear. I didn't wait to see how that turned out (though the zombie was clearly out-classed), so I turned around and ran - or hobbled, really - west. There was a science lab and a hazardous waste sarcophagus to the north, but neither would have done me any good, even if I could have gotten to them.

So I went west, into the open field, then south when I was far enough outside of town. After awhile, I came back east to loot a house on the outskirts - and finally found a pair of pants! - but there wasn't much else inside, not even enough to fill up the pockets of my hoodie.

There were a bunch of non-animate dead bodies outside the house - they looked like scientists - and some weird blob-like creatures. There were lots of zombies further east and southeast, so I turned around and headed west again. I had to skirt a large hotel and a megastore that were absolutely packed with zombies, and then squeeze between a couple of slime pits filled with more of those weird blob-creatures.

But eventually, I found a gas station, where I could grab some snacks. I ate what I could, since I couldn't carry very much, but it was very close to the forest, and I had to sneak out the back to avoid a bear which had become enraged.

As it turned out, there were lots and lots of bears around - and moose, too. There was only one direction I could go - southeast - and even that was quite difficult. In the distance, directly to my east, there was a subway stop, surrounded by a few buildings, but I couldn't even get close to it. Face it, I couldn't have outrun a bear or a moose even if I'd been healthy. As it was, I was just very, very glad to avoid their attention.

The next day, I moved into this mansion.

Eventually, I came upon another town that was directly south of the first one. I got inside a house on the northwest side of town and found a few more clothes (it was still very cold outside), but then a bunch of zombies spotted me through the window.

I couldn't outrun them, but I had a head start, so I jumped out a south window, then ran around to the back and entered the house again from the west (where I'd initially smashed a window to get inside). I closed an interior door behind me and slipped out a north window, leaving the zombies happily smashing their way through the house.

Luckily, zombies are mindless. If you use your brain - and you're not surprised in the middle of nowhere, without many options - you can usually confuse them and lose them. Of course, in town, there are a lot of zombies, so you might just run from one bunch of mindless predators to another.

Again, I had only one direction I could go - this time, north. So I skirted the north side of town (too many zombies to loot any of the buildings there) and ended up in a house on the northeast corner, with a mansion off to my north and a prison to the east.

This time, nothing spotted me, and I was able to close the drapes on every window. Better yet, I found a well-equipped first aid kit in the bathroom, so I was able to treat my infected wound. [The infection is fatal if left untreated for too long.]  It was mid-afternoon, so I'd sobered up by then, too.

But I was still sick with the flu (although I'd found some cough medicine, at least), and I had nothing to kill the pain, not even aspirin. I hadn't found a knife or a backpack or a flashlight. I'd picked up a rock, which I wielded as my only weapon. Not that I was in any shape for a fight, anyway.

Still, I'd found a few snacks and a bottle of lemonade. And nothing was trying to eat me right this minute. There were even a few magazines inside - Cosmopolitan and Sports Afield, to be precise. But it was pouring rain and too dark to read, and when I tried out the bed, I couldn't sleep either.

So I explored a couple of nearby homes and found a backpack! Finally, I could carry stuff. I didn't find much else, but I made a crude knife out of a stick, a sharp stone, and a piece of string (not for fighting, but for crafting).

Finally, I went back and tried to sleep again, but I was too sick. I kept throwing up, which just made me hungry and thirsty again. When it got dark, I cleared out a nearby grocery store, finding a shopping cart with wobbly wheels to carry everything. Still no medicine, unfortunately.

I tried exploring a couple more houses, too, and I almost died stumbling into a dark basement filled with zombies (still no flashlight, either). Luckily, the zombies weren't smart enough to do anything but stumble around in the dark themselves, and they made enough noise to mask my own movements. So I escaped with deep scratches and torn clothes.

I headed back to the house I'd found (still zombie-free) and tried to sleep again. After a few tries, and numerous fits of vomiting, I finally got to sleep, and when I woke in the morning, I was no longer sick. I'd survived one really bad day in the zombie apocalypse.

Note: I'm not sure if I'll continue with this or not, but the rest of my game-related posts can be found here.


Chimeradave said...

As always these are a lot of fun. I love the way you put yourself into the game and write about it as if it were really happening.

Bill Garthright said...

Thanks, John. And that's just how I play these games. I try to imagine myself in the situation, whatever it is.

It helps that there's a science fictional explanation for all these zombies. :)