At this point we run into a couple of new monster types. Actually, you may have run into these earlier, depending on how far you strayed off the obvious path provided by the main quest. But here is where you unavoidably encounter them, so let’s talk about them now…
This enemy is a big black blob that hovers overhead and mind-controls groups of humans. The dialog hints that this experience is agonizing and terrifying for the victims. If the telepath senses you, it will send these human puppets after you. The human victims will shuffle towards you, flailing their limbs like marionettes in the hands of a novice. If they get too close, their heads explode, dealing huge damage.
I’m not totally sure what causes the head explosion. I mean, it’s obvious the Telepath monster triggers it, but I don’t think that human brain matter is particularly combustible. The game hints that this explosion is extremely violent. The head basically vaporizes and turns the skull fragments into shrapnel. This doesn’t seem like a natural extension of the telepath’s ability to manipulate minds.
Later the cook (we’ll talk about him in the moment) refers to the puppets as having “black eggs behind their eyes”. Maybe he’s talking about neuromods? Typhon flesh is indeed an oily black color and you obtain neuromods by injecting these huge needles through your eye, presumably depositing the mod behind the eyeballs. So perhaps the telepath isn’t exploding your fleshy human think-meat. Maybe it’s causing the clusters of Typhon cells to explode.
If this is the case, then someone without neuromods would be immune. The telepath wouldn’t have any way to weaponize them, and maybe it wouldn’t even be able to control them in the first place. Maybe those neuromods are creating the vulnerability that gives the telepath a way to hijack your brain?
Man, this setting is filled with such interesting ideas. I have a hard time condemning Alex Yu for studying the Typhon, because *I* want to study the dang things.
I didn’t realize it on my first trip through the game, but you can save the people being controlled by a telepath. If you knock them out, they’ll go limp. I just assumed these people would just remain unconscious for the rest of the game and were doomed to die when/if you chose to blow up the station at the end. But no! When you come back later, their bodies will be gone. The game isn’t totally forthcoming on where they’re hiding out, but the game seems to suggest that they’re somewhere arbitrarily safe where you don’t need to worry about them and where you can’t talk to them because voice actors are expensive.
You’ll never see these people again,With one exception of Rani in the screenshot above. but if you take the ending path that allows people to escape Talos-1, these former puppets will be counted among the survivors.
This is very obviously an attempt to make something spooky. And I guess it worked.
The poltergeist is invisible and attacks by flinging objects around the room. The sound design borrows heavily from common horror movie tropes. Lots of howling, dissonant echoes. It also “speaks” by using weird distorted snippets of chatter from the victims it’s absorbed.
One cool detail is that it’s territorial. Unlike the other foes, it won’t chase you. It’s usually content to patrol one or two rooms and it only bothers you if it catches you trespassing. This encourages either stealthNot terribly effective. It’s hard to hide from something you can’t see. or just running through to get the item you need. Running and hiding is more scare-inducing than combat, which helps keep Poltergeist encounters spooky.
My first few Poltergeist encounters were brilliant. But once I was familiar with their tricks, they stopped being so scary. They’re not physically tough, but they’re annoying to fight because you can’t see them. Once you’re used to their jumpscare noises, they’re more irritating than frightening.
Still, those first few encounters are really something. Particularly if you have no idea what you’re dealing with ahead of time.
And speaking of monsters, there’s a different sort of monster here in the crew quarters…
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
A Telepath is terrorizing the dining hall. Once you deal with it, the cook calls you over. He’s locked himself in the kitchen, but he’s willing to let you in if you do him a favor. He wants you to go to his room and retrieve some culinary award from his personal belongings. It feels very much like a classic fantasy-style RPG quest, which is a little odd in this context.
Once you fetch his shiny thing, he lets you into the kitchen. Next he asks you to fix some equipment so he’ll have access to fresh drinking water. He plans to hide here in the kitchen until this disaster blows over, so he’s looking to make sure he’s got enough food and water to get through. There’s no way to tell him that his plan is a waste of time because you plan to blow the place up.
He says that if you fix the water, he’ll let you into the freezer. He says he’s stashed some of the Telepath’s victims in there, and they might have some good stuff for you to loot.
Once you fix the water, he unlocks the freezer. You go inside, he locks the door behind you, gas pours in, and you die.You don’t really die. I’ll talk more about that in the next entry.
There’s a lot odd about this setup.
It turns out that this cook is one of the test subject prisoners. He escaped, murdered the cook Will Mitchell, and then impersonated him. His real name is Luka Golubkin.
The game is sporting enough to give you several clues that he’s a fake:
- His name is supposedly the very anglo-sounding “Will Mitchell”, but he’s got a thick slavic accent. We already know that a lot of the human test subjects (the “volunteers”) were from the Soviet Union, so his accent in this context ought to be a bit of a red flag.
- If you go to Mitchel’s room, you can see a picture of the real cook. Luka Golubkin looks nothing like Will Mitchell.
- In Will’s room you can find a recording of his voice, which is much younger-sounding and doesn’t have an accent.”But Shamus, EVERYONE has an accent!” No. When speaking informally like this, it’s obvious that “has an accent” is a relative measure. I speak the same as the people around me, so I don’t have an accent. If I went to Texas, then I would have an accent relative to my surroundings. If a Texan visited me here in Pennsylvania, they would have an accent and I wouldn’t.
- Luka is wearing a red TranStar pressure suit, which doesn’t make sense for a cook. Given the generous size of the suit, Luka probably stole it from Morgan’s brother Alex.
- Luka is initially confused by Morgan’s nametag. He doesn’t recognize this incredibly famous company executive, when Morgan ought to be very familiar to him. Morgan and Will have both been on the station for years, and I have to assume she’s been eating food. There’s no way she would be a stranger to the real Will Mitchell. I can understand why Morgan doesn’t remember the cook, but the cook should at least know her name.
- If the player was reading the experiment data Psychotronics, then they probably read about test subject 37, a mentally disturbed individual that a Telepath monster refused to possess. Now they find the cook has been close to a Telepath for hours without being possessed. That’s not enough info to immediately prove that the cook is really subject 37, but it is something to make the player curious if they’ve been paying attention. (Although, that makes me wonder why the Telepaths don’t possess Morgan. I assumed her spacesuit protected her somehow, and Luka is wearing the same kind of suit. So I dunno if this counts as a clue or not.) EDIT: As many people pointed out in the comments, it doesn’t possess Morgan because you have the psychoscope. I KNEW this, at one point, but then I blanked out like a dimwit when I started thinking about this scene.
- If the previous items make you suspicious you can go to a security station and have it locate Will Mitchell. The resulting map marker will appear in the freezer and not on the guy claiming to be Mitchell. It’s unlikely a player will try this, but if they do that should be a total giveaway that this guy is both lying and dangerous.
Despite these clues, I managed to blunder into his trap like an idiot anyway. In my defense, there’s a lot going on in the crew quarters section. I was learning a lot of names and following a lot of different plot threads. I’m not great with faces and names to begin with, and the constant stream of audiologs from dozens of people was overwhelming my ability to keep track of everyone. By the time I got around to cleaning out the crew cabins, I’d forgotten the details of who the cook was claiming to be and why I needed this cooking award.
I did notice the red pressure suit and I thought that was kind of odd, but I cynically blamed that on the designers re-using existing character models. “Oh look, they reused Alex’s body and they thought I wouldn’t notice.” I also thought it was weird that the cook wouldn’t know Morgan’s name, but I didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion, “Ah-ha! Imposter!” I just thought it was, you know… a little odd.
Yu Got Me
I love the idea of a “gotcha” moment like this, because it was properly telegraphed. During my first-time playthrough I got distracted and blindly followed the in-game waypoint marker, which means I blundered into this trap unaware. That’s cool! I deserved it. Falling for cutscene incompetence is outrage-inducing, but falling due to actual incompetence is actually kinda fun, if handled right. Conversely, if you see it coming and avoid it, then you can feel clever.
Sadly, there are a few oddities with this ambush that kinda took the fun out of it for me.
One is that it feels like this shouldn’t work. When Luka springs his trap, white mist comes down from the ceiling and Morgan collapses. I can’t tell if this is flooding the room with gas, or if it’s flash-freezing me. In either case, what kind of walk-in freezer has a button that allows you to suffocate / insta-freeze someone? It’s not like you can “hack” a freezer to be able to do this. Someone would need to specifically engineer this capability into the freezer. That would be impractical, expensive, and serve no purpose other than to create needless danger for kitchen staff.
Moreover, I’m wearing a spacesuit. It’s specifically designed to provide me with breathable air and keep me warm in the frigid 2.7 Kelvin of space. You can’t get much colder than that, so I don’t see how a walk-in freezer could pose an immediate threat to me. I guess maybe the game is saying that this hits me when I have the helmet open? But then, it takes several seconds for Morgan to fall over, and that seems like plenty of time to get the helmet closed. Also, you get this overlay of triangles on the HUD, which the game normally uses to indicate that your helmet is closed. But if my helmet is closed then how is this a threat to me? I should be able to hang around in here for hours.You never have to worry about running out of oxygen during a space walk.
But the worst thing for me is that this feels like a game over, when it isn’t. There’s a flash of pure red and a musical sting before the fade to white, which really felt like an insta-death damage spike. I associated that musical sting with death, so when I blundered into this trap I just assumed I’d died. So I opened the menu and loaded a save, not realizing that Morgan was knocked out and that I’d be able to wake up and continue playing in a few more seconds.
I’ve been through the game six times now, and I didn’t realize you could survive this ambush until I decided to read about this scenario on the wiki.
Also, what could a freezer POSSIBLY do to someone in a space suit that would knock them out and somehow NOT kill them? If it somehow overwhelmed me with such intense cold that I passed out, then I’m going to freeze to death before I wake up.
This is a great moment, but it’s somewhat ruined by the confusing presentation. It doesn’t make sense that he should be able to knock you out, and when he does it feels like a game over anyway.
Solving the Crime
The other problem with this scenario is that it breaks the unspoken rule of a silent protagonist: It’s fine that I can’t talk, as long as you never put me in a position where I NEED to.
It’s possible for an attentive player to realize the cook is sketchy. However, I don’t think they have enough information to justify pulling out a weapon and taking physical action against him. In this situation, the most reasonable course of action would be to draw a weapon and demand to know who he is and why he’s pretending to be Will Mitchell. The game has placed our silent protagonist in a situation where they need to be able to speak, and that’s a no-no.
It would be fine if Morgan was a literal mute or a robot without the ability to speak, but Morgan is presumably a functioning adult that knows how to communicate with other people using mouth noise.
I’m not even sure you could solve this with a dialog wheel. The whole point is to have players fall for this trap, and having pre-baked dialog options would ruin this. If the player sees “I know you’re not the real Chef Mitchell!” in their dialog options, then they’ll realize the truth even if they missed the clues. There’s no way to allow the player to respond in dialog without also ruining the secret for the unaware.
Also, I’d really like to know why Luka Golubkin asks Morgan to go to Will Mitchell’s room and fetch his gold medal. Why would Luka want a sentimental item like this? More importantly, this is what ultimately incriminates him. The cook’s quarters are where you discoverAssuming you’re paying attention more than I was. that Luka’s face and voice don’t match with who he claims to be. Luka basically incriminates himself by asking you to get an item that is of no practical use to him.
One final oddity with this setup is that Luka offers you the opportunity to loot the people in the freezer. That’s a creepy thing to bargain with. “Hey, I’ve got a bunch of your dead colleagues in my freezer. If you help me out I’ll let you through their pockets!”
Now, as it turns out you really do need something from one of the bodies. But it feels like Luka immediately senses that you’re the player character and thus he knows you’re going to be obsessively looting containers and bodies like a crazy person. I mean, he’s right, but this is usually the sort of thing that NPCs aren’t supposed to notice.
Incidentally, the whole reason we need to have to have this crazy misadventure here in the Crew Quarters is that the door to Deep Storage is locked, and that’s our real goal. For some reason, Danielle Sho locked the door to Deep Storage using her voice, meaning she’s the only person on the station that can get in. That’s an outrageous and absurd thing for her to have done. It actually reminds me of the Simpsons gag where Homer exits the power plant during a fire drill and pointlessly barricades the door behind him. Moreover, it’s not even clear why she did it. Disclaimer: Like we’re all discovering in this series, there are tons of messages, emails, notes, and audiologs scattered around the station. It’s possible that this was explained somewhere and I missed it. Still, Danielle ought to have a SPECTACULARLY good reason for sealing the door to Deep Storage.
The place was already infested with Typhon, so it’s not like she did this in an attempt to keep them out. Moreover, part of her job was the safekeeping of all the drives in Deep Storage. By locking the doors, she not only locked herself out of her own office, but also ensured that nobody would be able to rescue any of the data that had been entrusted to her. If your job is to protect paintings in an art gallery, then the last thing you should do is lock the doors when a fire breaks out. Maybe the paintings can be saved and maybe they can’t, but there’s no reason to guarantee they’ll burn with the building!
It’s possible that this is deliberate on the part of the writer. The confusing thing about Ms. Sho is that she has sympathetic line delivery and a little side-story that humanizes her, but if you judge her solely on her actions in the game then you can actually make a pretty good case that she’s a petty, small-minded dimwit.
I bring this up because you actually get the chance to talk to her. She’s stuck outside the station, but you converse through the windowShe’s outside the station, so I assume you’re actually talking on the radio and not literally shouting through the window and the hard vacuum of space. and she gives you the last of the audio samples you need to open the door to Deep Storage.
My problem is that once again, we find ourselves in a situation where my silent protagonist needs to talk. Danielle does all the talking, but I have a dozen questions for her that I’m unable to ask. Why did you lock the door to Deep Storage? Why did you lock it with YOUR voice? Why are you deliberately suffocating outside the ship when you could easily come back inside and be as safe as any of the other dozen or so survivors? My suit seems to have an unlimited ability to recycle oxygen – why doesn’t yours? Why were you hanging out so close to the telepath that was controlling the pool? How did you avoid being mind-controlled? You asked me to kill the cook to avenge his murdering your estranged girlfriend, but why don’t YOU do it? If you’ve already resigned yourself to die, then why not try to make it worth something? Why did you seal yourself in Deep Storage and then escape using the data vault, when you could have just walked downstairs and gone through the door that was keyed to your voice?Okay, Morgan can’t ask this yet because she hasn’t been to Deep Storage and therefore can’t see how needlessly convoluted Danielle’s plan is. Also, you seem to be trapped between the outer hull and the inner hull – how did you get there and why?
I like silent protagonists, but only if the writer makes sure that their silence is never a hindrance to the player. Otherwise it turns into I Have No Mouth and I Must Nitpick.
We finally have samples of Sho’s voice, so now we can get around her inexplicable sabotage of the door to Deep Storage. But I have one last thing to nitpick before we leave the crew quarters behind. I’ll talk about that next time.
 With one exception of Rani in the screenshot above.
 Not terribly effective. It’s hard to hide from something you can’t see.
 You don’t really die. I’ll talk more about that in the next entry.
 ”But Shamus, EVERYONE has an accent!” No. When speaking informally like this, it’s obvious that “has an accent” is a relative measure. I speak the same as the people around me, so I don’t have an accent. If I went to Texas, then I would have an accent relative to my surroundings. If a Texan visited me here in Pennsylvania, they would have an accent and I wouldn’t.
 You never have to worry about running out of oxygen during a space walk.
 Assuming you’re paying attention more than I was.
 Disclaimer: Like we’re all discovering in this series, there are tons of messages, emails, notes, and audiologs scattered around the station. It’s possible that this was explained somewhere and I missed it. Still, Danielle ought to have a SPECTACULARLY good reason for sealing the door to Deep Storage.
 She’s outside the station, so I assume you’re actually talking on the radio and not literally shouting through the window and the hard vacuum of space.
 Okay, Morgan can’t ask this yet because she hasn’t been to Deep Storage and therefore can’t see how needlessly convoluted Danielle’s plan is.
MMO Population Problems
Computers keep getting more powerful. So why do the population caps for massively multiplayer games stay about the same?
Games and the Fear of Death
Why killing you might be the least scary thing a game can do.
What was the problem with the Playstation 3 hardware and why did Sony build it that way?
Game at the Bottom
Why spend millions on visuals that are just a distraction from the REAL game of hotbar-watching?
Gamers Aren’t Toxic
This is a horrible narrative that undermines the hobby through crass stereotypes. The hobby is vast, gamers come from all walks of life, and you shouldn't judge ANY group by its worst members.