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Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.
Posted By: VikingBoyBillyDate: 12/19/14 10:11 a.m.

Last time on tour of duty, Tycho promised us a party with Tfear's personal guards.

We are teleported into a large octagonal chamber with an open sky and nowhere to go. We see some ominous looking skeletons resting in the room with us, we feel the platform beneath our feet slowly descending as we wait to meet our fate below. Some pfhor onlookers are cheering us on silently in a high opening we can’t reach, shield chargers and pattern buffers behind them taunting us.

The map:

There's not much to it. This is just an arena.

Weapons and ammo teleport in, one of the doors open and the battle begins as we meet some black armored pfhor fighters!

These guys are bigger and badder than any class of pfhor fighter we met before, and I mean that literally because the sprites got scaled up in size. These are the mutant hulk basketball players of the pfhor species.

Scratchstarting, the only guns available to us are rockets, the flechette, and our pistol we won’t be using. The ammo respawns, so go nuts, but be careful not to land any finishing blows with a rocket. The pfhor will drop uplink chips, but ONLY on their soft death. The hard death gives you no reward, so we have to kill all of them with the flechette to get the secret on this map (or our fists… if you’re nuts). If you do use the rockets and push them into the lava— oh yeah, the platform we started on lowered down into a pit of lava— some strange force will make them fly back up, so no worries about losing the chips in lava. If we fall in ourselves we find out there are lifts around the outer ring of lava. I think my perception of wind pushing them up was more cool.

After they’re dead, we’re free to go in the room they came from to insert those uplink chips, save at a pattern buffer, recharge (3x!) and read a terminal from our new merged construct:

That &ci1lc smells like a reference to Tycho, or Tycho trying to hack in to stop duranda... thothrandal... duranthoth... S’bbuth(?) from trying to reach us. If the latter, I don’t see why he’d bother as the language is too cryptic for poor dumb Security Officer Us to understand. The Tour of Duty Us do try, though, and here’s my attempt to untangle it. Right, got the red &cilic out of the way already, so, we’re greeted with Decline.Decipher.Decadence. Triple D. I don’t know what that means (perhaps it’s Double D of Ed Edd n’ Eddie’s super form). Maybe this is symbolic of Durandal initially wanting to reject (decline) thoth’s mind-meld, us struggling to decipher what’s going on with both the timeline and his strange speech patterns, and the two merging together ultimately lead to creating a construct with the brains (decadence) to stop the chaos and set the timeline straight? “Left behind by one” seems to refer to Thoth, while “and one rampant” is Durandal. “New comes” is the new construct created by both their minds that is greater than the sum of it’s parts (I keep calling them “constructs.” Thoth speak is getting to my brain). The rest of the rambling appears to be the Thoth mind trying to tell the durandal mind that the two of them are blending into one entity, though I suspect that part about doubt may be another Tycho reference. It ends with line.cipher.cadence (lcc) which, again, I don’t know.

When we’re ready, we push the button in this room to open the next door to meet our next wave of challengers, the monopoly boardwalk blue troopers on steroids.

After dispatching them, we insert their uplink chips in the chamber they emerged from (one at a time, as we don’t have the ability to carry two) and press the magic button to reveal:


It took me quite a few tries to get a screenshot without a magenta hue from their plasma, and this is the best I could manage. These guys are a bit larger than your standard hunter, but not quite as big as a MOAH. Don’t be mislead, they are just as tough as the MOAH and their plasma has this irritating tracking ability that makes it near impossible to engage them unscathed. The fighters and troopers on steroids were about as large as the common hunters, which makes me ponder if we’ve been fighting that genus of the pfhor species all along since M1, just in weak green or brown hunter armor. Fusion shots activate their hard death, so we can’t rely on super effective attacks, lest we land a critical hit and miss our reward. I don’t have a Zeuss scratch starting anyway, so… it takes me quite a few tries to not accidentally finish off at least one with a rocket, and the last button reveals—you guessed it—a juggernaut! (Sorry; I lied when I said I'd stop using longdashes)

The interesting thing about this Juggernaut is it will always be a brown major no matter the difficulty (MAYBE kindergarten has a 50% chance of changing it to a silver balloon? Idunno). This is something I didn’t know for a long time since I usually play on either Major Damage or Total Carnage, but if we played all through M2 and Infinity in normal difficulty or below up to this point we would have only seen the weaker gray Juggernaut minors. This is because the map editor only has one object for juggernauts, and the physics in this level is designed to only spawn major juggernauts. Or is this just the first time the “juggernaut major” map object has been used? I don’t claim to be an expert on marathon mapping mechanics; I just know there’s something different about this situation. This is the first time someone playing easy would have ever met a brown juggernaut, so it counts as a climactic boss encounter for them, right? Double Aught could have added a new boss enemy here, but due to Marathon's dedication to minimalism we got a bunch of recolors. Comon, aren't grendels and potato anuses a way more cool addition to this series than actual new enemy aliens?

An interesting thing I’ve considered: is this juggernaut Tfear? Considering that the terminals we're about to read will suggest he's still alive, probably not. Marathon has a tendency to ditch video game logic in favor of realism logic (except in a few gameplay instances), so an admiral isn't likely to be the biggest baddest warrior in the whole army; he's more likely to be a guy hanging back giving everyone else orders like a pokemon trainer.

Well, I’m going to do this the lame way and run around him to the finish. We can ride up an elevator on the opposite end that just opened and brutally murder the spectators who I guess were marked as both blind and death to prevent them from rushing into the battle themselves.

We find a shield charger and a terminal, which I accidentally ran past in my playthrough as I was running from the juggernaut, but let's just pretend I stopped to read it:

Heh, back in the beginning I thought it was Tycho trying to infiltrate ThoRandal’s message, but it was really them that hacked the pfhor’s network to talk to us, which makes more sense given the situation we were in =)

“Victorious units” was a poor assumption. Interesting that the destination is to “gladiator” units. Is this an inaccurate choice of translation, or were those hulks on steroids slaves themselves? Oh, I don’t mean those hulks, we know they’re slaves. That was a confusing word choice on my part.

Thorandal is—hmm, Thorandal. I like that. It sounds like Thor (and Thor sounds like pfhor)—by the way, I really like that it’s so easy to make the longdash on a mac—option+shift+minus—windows has this ghastly system of unicode you have to memorize and enter it on the numpad to make it work (no, you can't use the numbers on top. It has to be that thing on the right that the original marathon made you use to move by default) after holding down some other buttons—where was I before I went off-topic? (last time I’ll abuse the longdash, I promise)

Thorandal’s dialect has changed to language we can more easily interpret. Is Durandal’s will taking prevalence? It’s Durandal’s language, but he’s talking about things only Thoth would know, like The W’rkncacnwhatever, s’bbuth, and the jarro machine. Or, at least, Durandal would carry the pretense of ignorance because he only shares information with us on a need to know basis ;)

Thorandal has contacted “S’bboath,” which the story site will tell you is just an alternate spelling of S’bbhuth. That debunks the “Thoth + Durandal = S'bbuth” theory earlier… or does it? We’ve had foreshadowing that Thoth was anticipating merging with something, and may have at one point been merged with another AI until it was split apart, waiting for it to return (remember the terminal on We’re Everywhere?). Could Thoth have been attached to S’bbuth before the pfhor invasion? It’s plausible… the cryptic s’pht history/mythology terminals from M2 mention the leaders of the s’pht clans merging into one entity... or splitting apart... or something like that. (Go back and look it up if you're confused, because I'm not digging through that mess to find the right terminals to show here.)

Notably, this is the first time we get an adequate explanation of what w’rkncancters are: chaotic godlike entities trapped in stars and storms whose memory has survived in folklore for over 60 million years. If you read the manual to pathways into darkness, you may recall that the alien god was estimated to have crashed into the Yucatan peninsula sixty million years ago, which is coincidentally when scientists believed a meteor killed the dinosaurs and set the climate into the ice age (Bungie’s sense of humor is pretty lulzy, right?). What do I mean, estimated; the jarro explicitly told us it was sixty million years ago so we must take that as a solid fact. To cut down a long-winded ramble short: Marathon really is the sequel to Pathways into Darkness, in more than just the spiritual successor sense. This war between Jarro and the W’rknacncter cited in Lh’owon mythology is the event that flung W’rks… I’m just going to call them W’rks from now on- into Earth and Lh’owon’s star.

We have to make a leap across a gap to an elevator to kill the last of the spectators, where we find a PB and another terminal, which I skim through without reading to avoid juggernaut fire, but I can plaster the message for posterity here:

Well, that explains why the spectators weren’t fighting us (storywise). It’s interesting that Tfear command specifies they will be executed first, then mentions the bets they made will be confiscated, because it makes sense they’d be concerned about their money after they’re dead, right? What are these “wagers?” Is it confirmed the pfhor use currency? This is a race of slave traders so are they dealing in conditioned species trafficking? I had the impression the lowly fighter caste didn’t have the social status to own slaves and their pay mostly consisted of food and a wall to plug their head-flap into, so what is this aspect of sub-willful rank pfhor culture being downplayed here?

If we didn’t insert the secret uplink chips, we would get an exit message, but since we did, thothrandal teleports us to a secret chamber full of ammo we may have looked down into from the arena above, but was inaccessible until now. I’m playing on Total Carnage so I get to take all of it =)

And now the exit message:

Well, off we go to have an epic boss battle and finally see what the alien god in PiD looks like! Well, not really. Due to Kirkpatrick's scattered, cryptic storytelling style and the lovecraftian-esque "less is more, and nothing is everything" ideals to worldbuilding in this series, (spoilers) we never see it.

The next map is a big one. It may take a while for me to do a write up of it. It also concludes the Marathon series as a whole... and, it goes without saying, it will be the last Tour of Duty entry lest we take on the secret vidmaster levels or unofficial scenarios. It's been a fun ride. See you next time as we enter a place that seems familiar to us, as if from an old dream, but we can't quite remember...

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Pre-2004 Posts


Replies:

Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.VikingBoyBilly 12/19/14 10:11 a.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.Roland 12/19/14 12:52 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.Martin 12/19/14 5:24 p.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.VikingBoyBilly 12/20/14 1:58 a.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.Martin 12/20/14 6:57 a.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: You think you're big time? etc.Hokuto 12/20/14 11:25 a.m.

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