This post could be incredibly short and sweet; I could just say “last week, I played Reach, ground Chrono Trigger into the dirt, and checked out a couple of demos on XBLA”. And whilst that is factually correct, it’s the periphery and the detail that holds all the interesting stuff.
This week is the first week in ages where I’ve felt the need for a bit of retail therapy; the opportunity to try something new. That’s been something I’ve been resisting for much of this year (with notable weakening of resolve around Portal and After Burner Climax) but by and large I’ve managed to stick to my guns – I had a List (surprise, surprise) of stuff that I really cared about, and desperately wanted to stick to it. I even managed to strike one off that List (Vanquish, which – much to my disappointment – was too much Gears of War, not enough P.N.03). Lately, though, trusted chums have been banging on about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and the demo (despite reeking of the shiny-Unreal Engine) felt interesting enough to warrant a buy. I managed to suppress that urge, only to have an inexplicable yearning for Borderlands (nearly a year old at this point), which was recently released onto XBL. Again – I bit my lip, buried the urge, and decided instead to try and satisfy my wanderlust by dabbling in a few missed XBLA demos.
First up was Darwinia+ – and it’s fair to say that, despite looking and sounding lovely (like a Proper Computer Game), it’s not my cup of tea at all. I can imagine what would transpire should I buy that: I’d toddle about ineffectively in-game for a dozen hours, before resorting to a guide to help me dominate. And that doesn’t feel right; although I love the fact that Introversion have put out a game that’s polished just the way I like it, it’s not really fair to subject myself to guilt and anguish if I’m not going to get on with the game.
On the other hand, Costume Quest ticked just about every box imaginable. Gorgeous audiovisuals, wonderful sense of play and humour, and the opportunity (hopefully) to grind away at a (hopefully) shortish quest. Double Fine’s latest is on the Must Buy List (yes, yet another List)… but something else has to be finished first.
And this week I invested all my time in the same games that I’ve been playing for… well, pretty much the last month. My second Chrono Trigger playthrough (and first on my intended 100% Save File) was completed, with a thumb-numbing bit of grinding that managed to drag my character levels into the 90s, and one character to Max. That allowed me to clean up the last of Spekkio’s forms – part of my 100% quest – and a New Game + for the second playthrough is coming up soon. But that’s all fallen by the wayside…
…because my Solo Legendary run through Halo: Reach has consumed me. This time last week, I had just started struggling through the Sixth Mission (Long Night of Solace), otherwise known as the Space Mission. Now – spoilers beware! – I’d really struggled with a number of sections of this level when playing on Normal and Heroic, and Legendary was wiping the floor with me… so I was very, very, very nervous about tackling the Corvette sections. Of course, they had to wait until I learnt how to survive space combat on Legendary… who knew the flip would be so shield-protectingly effective?
So – I eventually landed on the Corvette. Two Elites floated up to greet me and my Sabre pals and obliterated us. Oh, OK – learn where they appear and deal. A couple of attempts and I’ve got my melee-dash-melee down pat; two dead bad guys and no ammo wasted. Perfect! …hang on, where have my offsiders gone? Oh, they leap into the ship (and a nest of nasty Elites) once the two up top have been vanquished? Bummer for them… and me. Restart from checkpoint. Do it all again, follow my chaps down. We don’t stand a chance – there’s crossfire opportunities a-plenty for the Covenant nasty-pasties, and even when I stick to the high ground, the sheer weight of numbers means that I don’t stand a chance.
Off to the Interwebs. What do other people say? “Give one of your colleagues your rocket launcher,” someone recommends. But I don’t have a rocket launcher…
Restart level. Grab rocket launcher. Space battle. Re-jig my melee-dash-melee path when I can’t palm the rocket launcher off to the closest friendly due to another poor weapon choice. Drop down into the room… and we’re still hammered. Even from my lofty “safe” position, I’m still slaughtered, and my rocket-powered friend is completely ineffective.
Hmmmmm. Teeth are ground.
Interwebs. “Don’t forget the Bubble Shield” …what?
Restart level. Grab rocket launcher. Grab bubble shield. Space battle. Further refine my melee-dash-melee because… well, I had to forgo Sprint for the Bubble Shield. Finally, all is in place…
Lambs to the slaughter. Again.
Deep breath. Try it again…
I drop down to my usual vantage point, and the enemies seem to have been expecting me; volleys of plasma come from multiple directions and my health is shredded. I erect the Bubble Shield to restore my health; the Covenant’s eyes collectively light up as they target the Shield, barely affording it enough time to replenish my health before it collapses. I’m crouching to avoid their fire, wondering how in the hell I’m going to get past this… when I hear it.
My UNSC buddies – they weren’t yet dead! Apparently the bubble shield had distracted the Covenant long enough for my men to float to the ground floor; two had made it, and the guy with the rocket launcher was lighting the room up.
It was beautiful.
Of course, they eventually both perished – but the damage had been done. A few headshots from me had helped thin the numbers out and, bounding up to safety when my shields were down, I managed to whittle down the rest of the opposition. That next Checkpoint was a relief.
I pushed on. The odd death here and there was expected, usually as a result of trying to rush the enemy. Slowly, I learn about the need for patience. I clear the way for Jorge to meet me; I collect a new group of
cannon fodder soldiers and move on. They die quickly, but I’m through the room… and suddenly I’m facing the area that I dread, the Corvette Control Room. I get a checkpoint; I duck back to the dashboard, copy my save file to another device. There’s no way I want to risk having to do all that again.
I’m being ripped apart by nerves now; I’m thoroughly amped, jittery, unable to sit still. To help soothe my nerves, I decide to watch one of the many Legendary walkthroughs on YouTube (I really enjoyed HaloReachTutor’s video). And it is calming, leaving me with a good idea of what was to follow.
Namely, death. Mine. A lot.
Still, eventually the game takes pity on me. The principal Elite in the room winds up watching me from the opposite side of the map; he seemed content just standing there (as opposed to dashing about looking to kill me), so I took the opportunity to shoot him in the head. Repeatedly. He didn’t even move when I whittled his shields down to expose the fatal head shot.
Phew. Easier than expected!
The trek back to Jorge was tense. I’d started nursing weapons – dragging a stockpile of arms along with me, covering any eventuality – and a few of them came in mighty handy when I was set upon in the next room. I return to the hanger, help Jorge out with his fight… and then the final batch of Elites arrive.
I run. I run like a chickenshit scaredycat. I run for the “safe” room, where “usually” the Elites don’t follow… I’ve already hidden a sniper rifle there, but just as I get to cover…
…a plasma launcher?
Ducking back for the plasma launcher almosts costs me my life, but it was well worth it. Two of the Elites noticed me in the “safe” room, and started coming towards me; Jorge saw fit to shoot them in the back. The Elites, obviously miffed, turned to accost him… and, ever the opportunist, I globbed them with lots of explodey plasma.
Bear in mind, that action took over five days, I reckon. The anticipation of that level had terrified me, and now it was done. To say I was relieved would be quite an understatement.
…so I pushed on.
The next level, Exodus, also has a few fearful memories, but another visit to YouTube found the Beginner’s Guide to Legendary, which demonstrated easy solutions to several of my pain points; better still, they were solutions that were easy enough for me to implement. Far from being a feared level, Exodus ended up being the easiest on my Legendary run to date.
The next mission was a bit more of a headache; again, I was terrified at the thought of I intended to ease my run by taking advantage of the Grunt Disco easter egg to help me get through the big Hunter face-off; unfortunately, you apparently need to access the hospital before the nightclub for the easter egg to work… and it was then I discovered that the objectives issued in the Eighth Mission come in a random order.
Which meant I got to do the Bug Run first. I mapped my route, timed my run, then threw the whole plan away because a Bugger saw through my active camouflage and started shooting, leading to a lot of very tense hide-and-seek before I escaped. The hospital eventually became my final objective, and was a nightmare – ammo was at a premium, and I managed to knock off the final jetpacking Elite with my last DMR bullet. Apart from that, New Alexandria was pretty straightforward.
Then came The Package, ending in the monstrous defence objective. Again, the Beginner’s Guide pointed out the best approach which made the task a doddle, to be frank. Which just leaves The Pillar of Autumn.
I spent most of today playing through this level, nursing weapons across vast distances (only to have them disappear when I turn my back), getting slaughtered by the three Elites just before the Hunters, but now I’m perched just before the penultimate battle: the firefight standoff with the Brutes at the landing pad.
And I’m absolutely shitting myself. I struggled here on Normal, barely made it through on Heroic (mainly due to a surprise attack which turned very bad for the attacker and netted me a Gravity Hammer), and none of the walkthrough videos I’ve seen look even remotely doable to me. I’ve got no Noble team-mate to lean on, I’m jittery as hell, and I can’t sit still long enough to even trigger the first wave; nervous energy has decimated my ability to even start. The backups have been made, and all I have to do is start. Push through it. One kill at a time. Checkpoint.
…that’s tomorrow’s job. Right now, I’m just scared.
Yes, this post could have been incredibly short and sweet; instead, you got me blathering about Reach for over a thousand words. Thanks for reading this far! :P