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Tour of Duty: Acme Station
Posted By: MartinDate: 3/14/14 10:14 p.m.

Last time on Tour of Duty, we bore witness to the end of the world … no, better make that -a- world, because, umm, here we are again. We always get caught up with the idea that it is the end of the world as a whole – but is it really? Our knowledge of the world since the end of M1 has really been restricted to Lh’owon and its surrounds, and all the stories, in terms of both the S’pht mythologies and the bigger picture, have been there or thereabouts. How far would this chaos really go – is that one early nova accident really responsible for the end of the universe? -That- is after all what Durandal and Tycho have been looking to try to escape for a while now, and the Infinity final screen has certainly been interpreted as being viewed at the end of all things, but to be honest, it all seems a bit anticlimactic.

Anyway, whatever it was the end of, it basically involved us running around a spooky Jjarro station, trying not to get blown up by that pesky respawning juggernaut, and collecting what ammo we could in the meantime. As we find out later, it was something of a practice run for the grand finale, so that when we get there we remember it, as if….

Or maybe it was actually last time on Tour of Duty, and there was no end of the world as such, just a story about a knife that was more like a broadsword, a subway, chewing gum, and sanitation workers. I just couldn’t make that up! Of course there was also that nasty business of limbless corpses suspended in a hangar, but hey, forgive and forget, eh?

We might do well to wonder if we weren’t still dreaming here, except for the fact that not long after we materialise on this level, we hear the telltale sounds of cyborgs approaching, and then those of their nasty exploding balls. A rude awakening! Of course there was also a small hint in the form of a new chapter screen:

A synonym of another one of those purported stages of rampancy – thanks to whomever pointed that out recently, I rather missed the point on these names myself. The SO looks pissed; he’s out for revenge on … something – the sanitation workers? I don’t think I’ve thought of it this way before, but this also suggests that the SO, or at least the part of him that is cybernetic, is well on the way towards rampancy himself – well, I guess that would happen to anyone if you threw them around madly through time repeatedly, without so much as a by-your-leave!

There’s also the level name, and the Story page has words on this – acme represents the highest point of development, perfection … well, their stuff never worked for Wile E. Coyote, that’s all I’m saying!

We start in a narrow corridor with a narrow hole running the length of the floor – probably looking towards a terminal, there seem to be a few start spots here. We probably realise immediately that we are in vacuum, except that it has been such a long time since we experienced that condition, we might well suspect instead that someone has simply nicked off with our shiny weapons, interesting given that we were just discussing the fact that that does not happen in this timeline jump.

I must have rushed the game in the writeup playthrough save I’m using, as going straight from Monsters I found I was down to only a magnum, ouch. Well, at least I set it to kindergarten for the purpose, and my god are the cyborgs weak. 7-8 magnum shots and they seem reluctant to shoot me while I reload, preferring to just keep coming towards me, maybe going for an intimidation strategy. Okay this level is just such a different beast when it’s not on TC, so I might just write it up relaxedly and comment where things would be a bit different.

Like right at the start: on TC it is a bad idea to sit and read the terminal, as that saps a lot of oxygen! But here it is, our welcome to this new world:

Ahh, Durandal is back! Or actually, we’re back, in a more familiar role at least, to do his bidding. If this is indeed supposed to be just after we’ve woken up from stasis, it really is lacking in any explanation of the situation – this is fine from a “we-played-M2” perspective, but isn’t ideal. Oh well, it feeds our confusion, and it is that upon which we thrive in this game, so whatever. The only slight suggestion is in the scout ship that has been tailing us for the last several years. Lh’owon, on the other hand, is introduced without preamble. Is everything we’re going through just part of our dreams in stasis??

The picture is a nice kind of 3d view of the map of the level. Interesting that the only other time we’ve had that was in M2’s first level, and that -that- image is what eventually triggers our checking out of this timeline, but that’s skipping rather ahead and stealing a bit of thunder….

Okay so we need to smash three panels, and I guess those are they, marked with red circles, but really that’s not much use to us. It’s not as if we’ll have the breathing space to return here and study the map, as was often handy in the early, more informative days of the likes of Never Burn Money and Defend THIS – ahh Leela *sigh*.

We have the usual less 3d view of the map, with more informative markings, courtesy of PS, a much less rampant AI :), of course:

A rather barebones map mainly made up of narrow corridors – another thing that makes it notoriously so tricky to vid. The most impressive thing about the map is not obvious from the picture – almost throughout we are able to look out windows and see other parts of the level, including the pointy bits around the outside, and sometimes even see Compilers hanging around out there, unable to get to us – whose side are they actually set to be on on this level?

As we can see, one of the objective markers is actually rather close to our location, and turning that way we see a bright dead-end, and suspect a teleporter. Indeed that is the methodology here, we step in teleport to the room with the switch – not as conveniently as depicted, no, we arrive on the equivalent little square in the corner, and as such, if we just stand still, we enter an infinite teleport process, there and back again. So move, switch to fists, run around avoiding the cyborgs, admire how far away we can see other parts of the map, smash the panel, and get out of there! And we just need to do that three times … yeah right!

Of course on TC I would in no uncertain terms head for the pattern buffer first, especially if I had done a decent ammo run on Aie Mak Sicur! Also, getting to that teleporter would have summoned more Fighters and such nasty things. So let’s find the PB. If we head away from the terminal, we see something that could be a door, but resembles more a very steep staircase leading away from us. Behind this indeed-a-door is a handy dandy 2x health recharger! It’s not marked on PS’s map, just to make it even secreter, but his link embeds much better than my OneDrive links, so I didn’t bother to add it. On TC accessing this area or not is a big question, as 2x health is a major yes, but taking the time is a major no, and there is -still- no oxygen charger! Yeah sorry, Durandal wasn’t lying about that. It usually becomes a yes, because the health makes general exploration and killing stuff in narrow corridors quicker. Anyway, it’s locked at the moment, so why am I even talking about it?!

Around the corner we do meet more Cyborgs and Fighters, and even on kindergarten, it gets frustrating having only fists, and so I go for a kindergarten run in Aie Mak Sicur. Then it’s overkill time with shotguns! Okay so if we follow the Pfhor we run the risk of getting confused and taking the wrong turning. The first right is the one we want. It takes us towards the PB, which is the next left, and on kindergarten there isn’t even a Cyborg guarding it! It is a perilous one on TC as shooting the guarding one wakes up one behind us, and we are left trying to dodge grenades in a single-file corridor! For now, we’re saved comfortably on kindergarten. On TC it is best to save under a new filename, just in case.

Back from the PB and left towards point C on the map, we find another one of those doors – this time with a button above it, the pressing of which opens said door. It’s a bit of a pain to hit it as just pressing tab usually tries to open the door by force and returns a locked sound – you have to aim up, just another inconvenience in the sweet little time we have here! Not as frustrating as Pfhor falling into the narrow holes in the floor and our shots missing them consequently … it’s a great fun level really :). Behind this door is a Cyborg *boo* and he hides an SMG and some ammo, and lo! We can use the SMG in vacuum as well as underwater – flash! Turning back, we see the door button, and probably think nothing of it, but hold on, back up a second, something flashes through our heads from our ToD time on Waterloo Waterpark, and the double-sided switch secret door mechanic. Indeed, this switch opens that door back near the start. We can also hit it without opening the door, which can be a quicker option on TC.

Back up a bit, directly away from the PB, is a long corridor to yet another staircase door. This leads us to point A on the map, which is where Durandal teleports in one of those oxygen canisters he promised – a huge relief on TC; on kindergarten I’ve barely lost enough oxygen to justify it! That’s the very short version of the story anyway – there are also Cyborgs to contend with, and they don’t like venturing outside of this room, so they can be a pain to deal with on TC, especially as one of them has homing balls! There is also a terminal (unmarked again) for our troubles:

A Pfhor administration terminal that talks about stamps, like the ones Tycho was trying to forge last timeline. It’s a complicated business, “station aggregate units” are supposed to keep on working but are getting demoted in class? I guess this is Pfhor motivation – you’ll be demoted until you do your work, as opposed to being promoted for it. Interesting.

This is also a good spot to look at the other interesting scenery outside. I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated it before: there’s nice pink stuff in space, and then just in the corner of the image we can see Lh’owon and its moons! I’m not sure if we’ve seen quite this image before, although I remember we had something similar on Requiem for a Cyborg. It’s hard to get a good look at it as it is on an extreme angle, but here it is:

Now we have to backtrack in the maze whatever we do, so we might as well stop off at that 2x recharger. Some Fighters find their way out of that secret door, but nothing we can’t handle. From here on things go rather quickly, and that really is for the best! Heading towards the first terminal and then following the corridor around the other way from what we did first up, we come to that second passage that we took care not to take when heading for the PB earlier.

This takes us to an area with more Cyborgs and Fighters, and some very annoying protrusions in the already narrow corridors, when we’re on a tight schedule here! At point B we find the second oxygen canister. Further down the corridor and around, we find two very narrow entrances to the rooms we need to get to, each with a teleporter in the corner. These two panel rooms are much smaller than the first, and are actually empty on kindergarten, but house a Cyborg each on TC. The panels are easier to find than in the first larger room, anyway. Finally, at point D on the map, we find a Fusion Pistol and some ammo! A bit late for anyone that didn’t have one I feel; I’m not sure I even knew it was there before.

And then we make our way out, and return to that first terminal as Durandal said to. But for some reason, someone thought we might have the time and inclination to revisit that other Pfhor terminal, and implemented a second message for it as well!

Sorry we won’t be able to demote you, our bad. Error of type eight means someone destroyed our security system? And then we’re off on another adventure.

So the Pfhor have been following Durandal for years, and they’ve built a ship faster than his. Mention of its captain makes us think of R’chzne – I wonder how he’s doing in this timeline. On The Slings & Arrows of Outrageous Fortune, Durandal expressed surprise that the Pfhor were at Lh’owon waiting for us and suggested that they must have found Tycho. In this timeline, he’s had them following him, and has spotted a Pfhor ship nearby already – no surprises this time, but as he says, we’re going to give them one.

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Replies:

Tour of Duty: Acme StationMartin 3/14/14 10:14 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationGodot 3/15/14 9:26 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationMartin 3/15/14 10:49 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationPerseusSpartacus 3/15/14 7:45 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationHokuto 3/15/14 10:24 a.m.
           Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationPerseusSpartacus 3/15/14 7:44 p.m.
                 Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationHokuto 3/16/14 2:27 a.m.
                       Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationPerseusSpartacus 3/16/14 8:07 a.m.
                             Re: Tour of Duty: Acme StationMartin 3/16/14 9:46 a.m.

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