Metro 2033 EP14: Door is MVP

By Shamus Posted Sunday Nov 10, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 71 comments

Link (YouTube)

Like a lot of people, I missed the hint from your companions that you’re supposed to stare down the librarians. On one hand, this is a great mechanic. The stare-down is unnerving and reinforced what Khan had to say about thinking before shooting. On the other hand, I think it was way too easy to miss (a lot of people missed it, not just me) and an uninformed player might easily find themselves unable to proceed because there aren’t enough bullets to kill all the librarians.

Lucky for me, I was using the volt driver and had bought a massive stockpile of ammo many stops earlier. I was fine in this section of the game, despite getting hilariously turned around and confused at a couple of points.

I think a lot of the problems with the library boil down to malfunctions or mis-communications with two important mechanics: The staring and the gas masks. Both are interesting, both reinforce the themes and atmosphere of the game, and both lead to awful game-killing failure states if the player messes up.

While I don’t think there are simple answers for these issues, here are my own suggestions for how I’d try to alleviate them:

1) I think that the staring mechanic needed more than one mention. Lots of people (myself included) seemed to miss it because their character was gasping for air on a low filter, thus drowning out the NPC’s. Either that, or they were running around looting. (Perhaps trying to grab all the stuff before the next camera-grab cutscene shoved them through a one-way door.) I think it would have been good to have a conversation about the librarians earlier in the game, preferably someplace where the player wouldn’t have a gas mask on.

2) Assuming we can’t snap our fingers and make Polis a full city (alas) then I’d suggest putting the shop AFTER the council meeting. When the player rolls into town, the next item on their list is “attend meeting”. When they exit the meeting, they know (roughly) where they are going and can plan accordingly. It’s one thing if the NPC offers the player some friendly advice to buy filters. It’s another thing if that player is properly informed (and not completely distracted by a new town) when the advice is given.

I notice both of these fixes involve Polis. I really suspect that Polis needed to be cut for budget reasons and as a result we ended up with these rough spots as a side-effect.


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71 thoughts on “Metro 2033 EP14: Door is MVP

  1. Lovecrafter says:

    Was Rutskarn’s comment near the beginning a reference to The Dark Crystal?

    1. Vyndallis says:

      I’m pretty sure it was a reference to an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, where the main characters went to a library and had to trick a giant owl spirit into letting them use the library to learn when the next eclipse was.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Exactly.As they said,a classical work of literature.

        1. anaphysik says:

          Specifically English literature, since, as Chris said, Rutskarn is quite eurodite.


          1. MrGuy says:

            I’m pretty sure that pronunciation was sarcasm.

    2. Bearded Dork says:

      I assumed it was.

      1. ET says:

        Obviously this is the correct work of art being referenced.
        What the heck is this Bender-of-Air nonsense?
        I mean, come on, please.


  2. Helios Apollo says:

    The staring mechanic never seemed to work for me anyway. The librarians always seemed to get pissed off no matter what.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Unfortunately, I never could get it to work either. I had no idea about the mechanic, and just ended up in a staredown with one when it caught me unaware.

      After that, I tried to get past the rest of them without violence, but every time I tried to stare one down, it would get pissed off and attack, or even if it got bored and wandered away I would be attacked as soon as I tried to get back to whatever I was doing.

      Made me feel bad; I just wanted to leave them alone.

    2. Disc says:

      This. Judging by the video, it also takes way too freaking long to do succesfully. If you’re low on filters, that’s the last thing you’ll want to be doing. It’s shitty advice anyway, since they say they’re not supposed to attack you when you stare at them and avoid provoking them with gunfire, but as it’s evident in the video, they’ll still attack if they feel like it.

    3. Corpital says:

      Also never managed (or knew it was possible) to scare them off with just one shot, but then again why stop halfway when you’re already shooting anyway?

      At least for the black librarians underground. They are a lot more aggressive and I don’t think it is actually possible to stare/scare them off after they got shot or started attacking.

      1. Dave B. says:

        I just gunned them all down with the volt driver. It’s super effective! Then (just out of curiosity) I tried shooting one with my Kalash. That librarian WRECKED MY FACE! I sprayed two magazines into that thing and it still didn’t die!

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh man,that door!It was all like:”Hey there.Wait…what are you doing?Why did you nudge me?!Oh gods,Im slowly falling down!Catch me!!AaaahhhH!!!”

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Poor door. I was like, “tiiiiimberrrrrrr.” Apparently the apocalypse hasn’t only compromised the air outside, but also somehow … the gravity?

  4. Nano Proksee says:

    Oh god the anxiety when Josh had to escape the librarians and get to a place where they couldn’t reach him. I’m glad I didn’t picked up this game.
    Also, the constant growling at the beginning. I would be terrified all the way through.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Open up your coat and appear larger than you actually are”?I think its high time we talked with Rutskarn about the birds and the bees,seeing how he has reached puberty and should know what he implied with that sentence.

    1. PossiblyInsane says:


      What is heard can never be unheard…

    2. ET says:

      You mean this, right?
      Wait, hold on, I think I know what you mean now.
      Derp; It should be obvious.
      You mean this!

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats just opening your coat.Its the appear larger part that comes afterwards thats the problem.

  6. Spammy V says:

    I got the staring them down part, but I did not get the standing your ground part, so I was staring them down while backpedaling until I slid into an open door.

    One thing that did do though as install a healthy fear of the Librarians in me. While it might have made some of the level very DIAS it was also very tense and fun as I was staring them down until I turned and was bolting for cover. And the game still played fairly well when I was running like hell from the Librarians.

    They also creeped me out. They’re sharing some traits with the Nosalises but they’ve also got very primate features and apelike mannerisms and that one sets a trap.

    1. “Am I alone in thinking, by the way, that it doesn't add to the status of the University to have an ape on the faculty?”
      “Yes,” said Ridcully flatly. “You are. We've got the only librarian who can rip off your arm with his leg. People respect that.”

      – Terry Pratchett, “Interesting Times”

  7. anaphysik says:

    “It’s time for your performance review! *gun gun gun gun gun!* …You’re fired.”

    1. Gruhunchously says:

      Sounds like something Gordon Freeman (Freeman’s Mind) would say.

    2. ET says:

      Well, at least he didn’t fire him…with kerosene!

  8. “Would you like Door to be a guest star on this show?”

    At first, that made me think of the occasional angry slam when Josh makes a mistake while playing.

    Then it made me imagine what Spoiler Warning would be like if Rutskarn was armed with a load of wacky sound effects files.

    1. Adam says:

      Why ISN’T Rutskarn so armed?

      1. I’m having a hard time figuring that one out, myself. He should at least have a rim-shot and sad trombone at his beck and call.

    2. Ithilanor says:

      I started thinking about a Metro/Neverwhere crossover, personally. “Comrade, we’ve gone so deep in the metro that we’re in a completely different city’s subway system!”

  9. Decius says:

    I had both problems, for related reasons: I had no gasmasks, and arrived at the library while dying of suffocation, not having had the time to wait for the cutscene.

    So I killed the librarians as quickly as possible, using throwing knives to the face.

    1. ET says:

      The gas masks seem to be part of a larger problem in games.
      i.e. Getting the game to an unwinnable state, where the unwinnable-ness is communicated far, far after the point at which the player fucked everything up.
      I suppose that implies a sort of quick mistake, like, I dunno, forgetting to pick up trinket X which is required to kill bad guy Y later on.
      Obviously the gas masks are a more slow mistake, where you might be just scraping by for several levels in a row, only to find out in a later level that you now need twice as many of them.

      So, the first type of unwinnable-ness seems easy enough to solve.
      Just make things like trinket X either forced-into-your-inventory, or make it so that you can kill bad guy Y with a slower method, or let the player fight their way back to trinket X after a big glowing sign says to the player, “Go back, stupid!”

      The second type, the slow-burn mistake, like gas masks, would need a bit more work to solve.
      One solution would be to know about how long the player will need in gas masks for each section/level, then have a random shopkeeper spawn somewhere near the start of a level when the player doesn’t have enough.
      Obviously, they should charge an arm and a leg.
      Maybe twice or three times the normal cost of gas masks.
      Or have them cut the player’s money count in half.

      1. Stalevar says:

        There is no such thing as “when the player doesn't have enough” in this game. They always start you with some filters by forcing them into your inventory before the level start(“NPC: here, take my spare filter”) so you don’t die right away, then the level has 2x amount of filters you need to complete the level. Those filters are spread evenly across the level, so as long as you keep moving and picking them up, you are fine. This removes the “slow fail” problem, because you are never too far away from the next filter. Worst case scenario: you’ll have to restart from the last checkpoint.
        Giving all the filters at the beginning of the level is what will actually cause a slow fail problem. If you fuck up early and waste to much filters, you won’t notice until much later in the level, when it’s too late to fix your mistake, all you can do is restart the level. This can’t happen in the actual game because of a good level design.
        So you just made up a problem, that’s not in the game and then proposed a solution, that will cause this problem to appear.
        I completed the game 4 times now, I never bought a single filter(first time because I was greedy and hoped they’ll provide me with enough, and they did, next time because I knew that I don’t need to buy any filters ever) and I never had any problems with running out of filters. Most of the time I was maxed out on filters, leaving spare ones on the ground because I couldn’t carry anymore with me.

        1. Disc says:

          Actually, there’s only a couple spots where they specifically give you filters in the game as opposed to buying or finding them yourself and they’re few and far between. When you go in blind, there’s evidence enough that the game doesn’t really do that good of a job with a fair spread of filters across the levels. Unless you can guarantee that people will always find the filters without fail, then it’s not really that well thought-out system. There’s no real feedback you’re missing something or doing something wrong, until you’re running on your last minute of gasmask time and there’s fuck all to loot in sight and the last shop that sold them was half-a-game ago. They’re easy enough mistakes to avoid if you know what you’re in for. My first playthrough, I ran into some serious gasmask problems inside D6 and had to resort to stupid glitching just to get through. Hindsight being 20/20 like always, on my second playthrough, sure enough I never ran out, since I was already familiar with the levels and gameplay.

          1. Stalevar says:

            Yeah, and those couple spots = couple of surface levels where you need those filters. You don’t need to guarantee that people will always find the filters without fail, that’s why the put 2x more, than you need. If you are bad at it, you’ll just have enough, if you are good, you’ll be bathing in filters. Sure, if you screw up too much you may die a few times, but you will die a lot more for much smaller mistakes in combat. And your screw ups will never carry on from one level to another, no “slow fail” problem, because all surface levels are designed in such way, that you can complete them even if you start with 0 filters in your inventory.

            1. Disc says:

              “Yeah, and those couple spots = couple of surface levels where you need those filters.”

              The only surface level you’re given any filters is for the very first one you do with Bourbon. The second time you get given filters by somebody else is in the middle of D6, so that doesn’t really hold up.

              “You don't need to guarantee that people will always find the filters without fail, that's why the put 2x more, than you need.”

              Judging by all the complaints of running out of filters anyway, it clearly doesn’t work as well as supposedly intended. I’m not really sure where you figured these optimal numbers anyway. With two playthroughs of experience I can only say there aren’t that many of them and the main advantage to my resource management on my second playthrough was knowing to prepare ahead and taking overall much less time to go through the gasmask areas thanks to being familiar with the levels already.

              “Because all surface levels are designed in such way, that you can complete them even if you start with 0 filters in your inventory.”

              Only with trial & error in most cases I reckon, and that doesn’t really make it good game design.

              1. Stalevar says:

                Trial & error? Well, you need to really try and do a lots of errors to fail.
                I just replayed first surface level twice. First time, spending a lot of time searching every corner of the map, found 15 filters, used 6, that’s +9 filters for exploring. Than I just run through the level, only picking up stuff, that was in my path. Found 5 filters, used 2. +3 for not exploring. If you remember, where all of the filters are, you can probably use half of what I used and still get all 15. Really, the only way to die is to intentionally avoid picking up filters or go afk for 10-15 minutes. It’s much easier to run out of bullets and die a lot(especially in stupid D6 amoeba escort mission), because knife is not a very good weapon. I honestly can’t understand, how people manage to run out of filters in this game.

                1. Disc says:

                  You don’t have to understand, just try to accept that it happens.

                  My first time in D6, already having had to struggle through the Library on low filters, I didn’t have a lot going in. Going through the motions, I find myself running out of filters some time into the gasmask area with the big nosalis ambush. It’s been two years so it’s a bit fuzzy on the details, but one particular memorable moment is having to fight through the ambush with no filters, dying repeatedly to suffocation failing to find any filters in the desperation, until I go to the internet and find out there’s a glitch with the gasmask you can abuse. Whatever led me into that point, it’s hard to say other than that I never bought filters because like you, I was trying to save money.

                  Maybe there is theoretically enough filters, but coming from personal experience they sure aren’t spread in a fashion that makes sense.

                  At the end of the day, there’s so many things that can go wrong in this kind of system that it’s impossible to count all the possible things that can lead to a negative result. Stuff like different difficulty levels or personal gameplay choices (which guns do you use, do you stealth etc.) are probably the biggest influences.

            2. anaphysik says:

              “If you are bad at it, you'll just have enough, if you are good, you'll be bathing in filters.”

              Which is a persistent problem in game design, IMO. ‘Doing poorly = going to continue to do poorly, or even going to do /worse/’ is a very bad balance paradigm. Normally it can be avoided by using a large range of difficulty levels, but of course we know that Metro doesn’t know how to difficulty-slider, so…

        2. Deadfast says:

          It is entirely possible to get checkpointed with 1 minute of filter left.

          1. Bearded Dork says:

            Or less.

          2. Decius says:

            … And either the player gets more filters than they use, in which case they never run out anyway, or they use all of the filters they get, in which case it is statistically likely that they will be low-on-filter when they reach the checkpoint.

            I reached the library transition with zero filters, gasping for breath. I had to grab every filter I saw and hurry through the library; I didn’t have time to stare down the first librarian, because he was standing over the filter that I needed to breathe.

            I also hadn’t realized that I was past the part where I sneak around and kill people stealthily, so I had the wrongest weapon loadout. The throwing knives were a last resort at first, but then they worked better than anything else.

          3. Andy says:

            I got checkpointed with a broken mask. There were no replacements within the range accessible before keeling over dead. Had fistfuls of filters that did me no good. That was slightly frustrating. Had to quit and restart the level.

            1. Stalevar says:

              Well, your gas mask is your second lifebar, that does not regenerate, like your main one. So you will die, if you get damaged too much, which is ok, but being able to save at a checkpoint, when you are already dead is not ok. It’s a real problem, designers screw up, unlike running out of filters, which is players screw up. But it’s a very rare problem, most players won’t encounter it even with multiple game runs, that’s why it wasn’t fixed(either they didn’t find it during a game testing, or decided it’s not worth fixing, because it’s so rare).

          4. Stalevar says:

            But it’s pretty hard to find a checkpoint that’s more than 1 minute away from the next filter.

        3. Abnaxis says:

          From what people are saying, it sounds like the game does dynamically change how many filters are in the levels.

          At the same time, it sounds like there’s a tipping point. If you have no filters at all, the game will bump up the number of filters to find. If you have filters, there are fewer to find.

          The problem I’m picking up is, if you are low on filter but not completely out you don’t get the boost to findable filters you get if you were completely out. I haven’t played the game, but it sounds like the game is working toward an unintuitive system where you’re better off running your filters down before a transition than you are trying to conserve those last few canister.

          It would be interesting to experiment with, and might explain the gap in experience people are expressing.

  10. Mersadeon says:

    I know everyone is probably sick of this, but for the sake of those that don’t know the book: the whole library shenanigans makes more sense in the book.

    You see, in the book, Artyom isn’t sent to the library to get documents about D-6 – in fact, those who send him already know about it. These people are kind of the “scholar”-half of the Polis government, and they are essentially blackmailing him. They will tell him and his buddies where D-6 is, but for that he has to go to the library to find a mystical book those guys believe is there. Why? Because they think Artyom is “the Chosen One” for reasons that are pretty cool but I’ve been rambling on enough now.

    1. Humanoid says:

      And this is why we killed Manny Vargas.

  11. Ofermod says:

    I hear “D 6”, and I think he’s looking for information on the alter-ego Number 6 created in the “Hammer Into Anvil” episode of “The Prisoner” to mess with Number 2.

    1. postinternetsyndrome says:

      The first thing my mind calls up upon mention of “D6” is Max Payne.

  12. Nick says:

    Anyone else surprised no-one chimed in after Shamus said “I need to talk to you in my office” with a good “You’re fired!” ?

    1. Mersadeon says:

      THANK YOU. That was bugging me, that no one made that joke!

    2. Chris Davies says:

      As long as we get a rousing chorus of “THIS. IS. SPARTA!” next episode, I can forgive them anything.

  13. AJax says:

    I never knew you can scare off the regular Librarians by shooting them once. That would’ve saved a lot of headaches in this section… >_>

  14. Corpital says:

    I really liked the level design of the library, the upper part was as confusing as a ball of yarn after a kitten played with it, but the underground section? Loved it!

    I generally like rooms with a more vertical design and a little jumping puzzle thrown now and again. And no matter how nonsensical they may be, glowing crystals/stalgmites/stalactites/giant mushrooms illuminating an underground space are some of my favorite things in games.

    No need for me to comment on the goofy physics, but I found something in the room Josh went through at about 17minutes. There are a few bones lying around and if you step on them, they make a strange noise. Now I noticed that this noise gets louder, every time you walk over them, until you reach a maximum of pretty loud.
    Anyone found other magical sound litter or is this something special in the lower library?

  15. Ben Hilton says:

    Honestly I was really disappointed with the librarians. So much time is spent building them up as fearsome, and Miller even tells you not to fight them what ever you do.

    I had imagined them as some crazy creature, so when I first saw one I just thought it was another type of nosalis, because it was just another big furry thing on all fours that sometimes stands on two feet.

    On top of this, because I thought it was a nosalis I just opened up on it with my auto shotgun and it died after a few seconds of fire. (playing on ranger easy)

    Then when I realized it was a Librarian I was just like …”that’s IT”?

    From my first encounter I knew they could die easily so there was no tension. I was plenty stocked up on shells so I just killed them before they ever got near me.

    Later on I realized that the auto shotgun was a bonus to the steam version and it made me sad. I was playing with an unfair advantage without even knowing it….had I played the original version with the regular weapons it probably would have been an intense, frightening and fun experience, but as it stands I just felt like i was fighting a tough breed of nosalis.

    I don’t know…any other opinions?

    1. somebodys_kid says:

      I somehow missed the sublime awesomeness that is the auto shotgun when I played it early this year. So yes, with an assault rifle, useless grenades, and a near empty volt driver, I can confirm that this sequence was intense, frightening, and memorable.

    2. Corpital says:

      Had exactly the same experience, was pretty bummed when Klay explained what the Ranger modes did to this section.

    3. Stalevar says:

      Nah, they are so weak, you can easily knife them to death even at highest difficulty. Killed all of them on all 4 runs through the game, never spent a single shot of ammo to do so. NPCs try to scare you a lot about the library, but it’s actually the easiest level in the game. Only works if you listen to them and try to avoid the fight. The atmosphere is pretty good, but as soon as you realize just how weak those librarians are, it all falls apart.
      Same happened to the cradle(or whatever it’s called) level in Thief. First time was scared shitless, because zombies are so hard, immortal unless you have holy water or fire(and i didn’t), gotta hide, avoid, etc. On my second run I knew how to kill them, stocked up on ammo – cakewalk, zombie massacre and not scary at all.

    4. Michael says:

      I played through it with a normal shotgun, before the Ranger mode patch, and, honestly, I mowed them down pretty effectively too using that semi automatic shotgun. So the autoshotgun probably isn’t that big a step up. (But, I haven’t done a full playthrough since the ranger mode went live, so I could be wrong there.)

  16. hborrgg says:


    I remember that from Last Light. There was this really awesome gun and a corpse hanging out of a hole and when you try to pick it up some monster suddenly attacks you and runs off.

    I reloaded so many times trying to pick up that gun. :(

    1. ET says:

      I think you can grab it if you’re fast enough, and you don’t grab the ammo.
      Like, you can only do one ‘interaction’ with the gun before the monster script is triggered?
      I wasn’t paying much attention in that area, and I already had pretty good guns.

      The weirder part of that section of the game, is that it’s got some of the hardest combat in the game, and then a little after that, all the combat is easy-peasy.
      But it’s easy because the game gives you squad-mates and overpowered guns, not because they let you shoot people down with your (hopefully by that time) fully-upgraded hand-cannons!
      Kind of made me angry, that the combat in the game got artificially easy just at the time I finally had guns to take on the monsters which were giving me so much trouble. :|

  17. Rutskarn says:

    Sorta surprised nobody’s called me out on dissing the D6 system yet.

    1. Lovecrafter says:

      Well, this is Twenty Sided, so I’m not that surprised.

    2. Corpital says:

      D6? Meh. As long as nobody dumps on Shadowrun, I’m fine.

      1. ET says:

        Oh, you mean the game which got smelly elves and magic mixed in with my nice cool sci-fi? :P
        I actually like Shadowrun, but it’s got so many rules, that it’s hard to keep track of everything.
        It’s kind of like GURPS, I think, but without the implicit 0th rule ‘Don’t stick to the rulebook like glue, or you’ll go crazy.’
        Actually I think the GURPS rulebook(s) phrase it more like ‘use rules-of-thumb whenever seems appropriate, so the game session doesn’t get bogged down with roll-playing.’

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          No matter how bad you think Shadowrun you’ve played recently is, the first edition was worse.

    3. ET says:

      Oh, dang, I missed that.
      My fault for always listening to these while doing somehting else, or watching them late at night.

      Personally, I like D6 game systems, since D6s are so darn common, that you’re always likely to have enough to play whatever game uses these dice.
      However, in my DnD group (which hasn’t played in about a year and a half… ^^: ) I’m pretty much the only guy who actually dislikes using physical dice.
      I mean, my phone has an app for rolling as many dice or whichever sizes I want, and has a log of what the rolls were.
      It even lets me mix and match sizes of dice in a roll, add or subtract a fixed number to each roll, and save each roll with a custom name.
      Wait, there’s more; It let’s me save each set of dice rolls in a grouping with a custom name!

      So, for example, I could have:
      Dagger: 1d4 + 1
      Double-Dagger: 2d4 + 2
      To-Hit: 1d20 + 5

      GURPS ‘desert planet’:
      Strength check: …

      So, yeah…I won’t fault you for hating on a particular dice system.
      But I totally disappointed in you for not hating all physical dice systems! :P

    4. Bearded Dork says:

      I wasn’t sure which system you were referring to. If you are referring to the WEG D6 system then you should probably be burned at the stake*, if you are referring to the FAFSA or WizKids D6 systems then I kind of agree with you.

      *disclaimer the author of this post does not condone burning at the stake for any reason.

      1. MrGuy says:

        Bearded Dork, I’d like to see you in my office…

  18. Ithilanor says:

    Watching this without having played the game, Metro 2033 feels rather uneven. Really good atmosphere, some good parts, but the narrative’s a little incoherent at times and the mechanics need tuning.

  19. Michael says:

    It’s been a while, but, haven’t we seen our last merchant? Meaning the Librarians are probably one of the best things in the game to use military grade rounds on?

    1. postinternetsyndrome says:

      I seem to remember despicable slimy things in D6. I’m not sure I ever used the military rounds though. A classic case of Too Awesome To Use.

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