Neo Scavenger is one of the best turn-based RPGs I’ve ever played. Although still in Early Access, it has oodles of content and has received several hefty updates since I first played it. As part of Survival Week, I decided to document a single playthrough of the game. No quicksaves, no restarts, no chance. Here’s how I died.
It’s just after dawn on the second day. I limp into a dilapidated mobile home, in which I’ve set up my snazzy sleeping bag, and collapse, exhausted. My adventure was nearly over before it started, but I’ve managed to find the basics that I’ll need to survive another night. I’m wearing a gas mask and there’s a sniper rifle strapped across my shoulder – if this were a Fallout game, you’d assume I was a bandit and go out of your way to avoid crossing my path. Look closer.
I’m limping because one of my feet is scabbed over and numb from the cold. My jeans are blood-stained and I’ve only got one shoe. Most of my belongings are stashed in a plastic carrier bag that I’ve slung over my shoulder and if you were close enough to see them, you might be forgiven for thinking I’ve just spent the last of a meagre paycheck at the local off-license. A bottle of whiskey, a half-empty bottle of Coke and some water, with loops of string and wire as padding. There’s a scrap of paper as well, with instructions for water sterilisation scribbled across it.
Almost everything I own belonged to another man last night. It probably belonged to somebody else the night before that and so on back until the time when there were still laws, or at least some form of goodwill between the wanderers of the world.
The man whose clothes I am wearing was the first living thing I saw after leaving the laboratory. I hunted him down and I beat him to death with my bare hands.
I spent the first evening of my post-apocalypse shivering in an office building, wearing a soaking wet hospital gown and listening to the rain outside, wondering if it would keep on keepin’ on until the whole sorry world was cleansed.
Neo Scavenger always starts the same way. You create a character by choosing skills and positive traits. Four are permitted by default but more can be added if you’re willing to select negative effects as counterweights. For this diary, I’ll be playing a brawling botanist, who just so happens to be a top notch hacker as well as a promising pugilist. The hacking skills come in useful immediately upon waking – I’m in a lab and some kind of genetically altered monstrosity is snuffling around outside the door. It’s part dog, part man, so I’ll refer to it as a dogman.
The dogman would very much like to eat me so before I can worry about where I am, where my next meal’s coming from or where I’m going to find something warmer to wear than a paper-thin gown, I’m going to have to figure out a way to avoid the drooling beastie. There are several options available to me, including fisticuffs, but I go with the smart choice and use a computer console to lock the door. The creature scratches on it for a while and then leaves. I’m not convinced the facility is safe – if there’s one of those things there might be more – so I leave through the window, taking a shard of glass with me so that I can at least draw blood if I do run into another mutant.
There’s a town right outside the lab and it seems like a good place to shelter and to scavenge, so I head straight toward it. When I arrive, I find that almost everything has been picked clean. I can’t carry very much at all, being without pockets or bag, but I do find a bottle of water and quench my thirst. I need to remember to refill it whenever I find a fresh supply. There’s no food but I’m not even slightly peckish and my botany skill should allow me to forage once I’m out in the wild.
With a container for water and the knowledge I need to feed myself, I’m feeling fairly confident. It’d be nice to have a weapon, sure, but I can always keep quiet and cover my tracks as I explore. The last thing I want is to end up wounded, with no medical training and no bandages or medicine to treat myself with. Conflict is to be avoided at all costs.
I find berries and mushrooms in the nearby woods, and am able to sort the edible from the toxic. The berries are particularly useful as they’re light, and slake my thirst as well as satisfying my hunger. Unfortunately, I’m still wearing the hospital gown and haven’t found anything to carry the berries in, so I have to discard my glass shard and keep them in my hand. Berries in the left, bottle of water in the right. A survivor I may be, but I’m about as intimidating as a Crème Egg.
There are more urban areas around the lab and I begin a search of the buildings in each, hoping to find clothes before nightfall, when the temperature is sure to drop. I’m leaving an office building when I first see the man, meandering down the road with a sniper rifle cradled in his arms. I duck behind a wall and wait until he’s gone and when I resume my scavenging, I don’t risk making too much noise, even though it’s much harder to find anything useful when sneaking around these derelict edifices.
Eventually, I find a carrier bag, which has some junk in it and a disc that I identify as a “Hiya Poopy” UVD. Great. Apparently it’s worth $0.18, not that anyone wants to trade with me anyhow. There’s a bottle of whiskey too, which I take, even though getting blind drunk – or even partially sighted drunk – doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea.
The rain starts shortly after my big haul and within minutes, I’m soaked to the skin and at risk of hypothermia. I need clothes, desperately, as well as a sleeping bag or tent. That’s when I see the man with the sniper rifle again. At first, I think he’s hunting me and I take cover. If he is stalking me, he’s not very good at it because he doesn’t see me. He’s walking toward me and I’m waiting, gripping a shiv that I quickly fashion using a glass shard and a rag that are among the odds and ends at the bottom of the carrier bag.
When he’s within a few feet, I charge and tackle him to the ground. The fight is over far quicker than most of the clumsy, desperate scraps that I’ve had in previous games of Neo Scavenger. My first blow hits my victim on the arm and he starts to bleed, then turns and runs. He’s making some headway when he trips, falls to the ground and that’s where I kill him. A flurry of blows opens more wounds and the shiv shatters inside him. I beat the last of his life out and strip him naked, right there in the rain on a blood-soaked pavement.
There are no bullets in the rifle.
I head North, worried that the sound of fighting will attract other scavengers, or that the scent of blood will attract a dogman or worse. My victim had two left shoes but I decided just to take one, so I’m walking lopsided now. I rest under the stars, in a sleeping bag that I find in the boot of a car while retreating from the scene of the crime.
I think it was a crime. I could have threatened him and asked him to put down his weapon, or I could have talked, maybe even traded my Hiya Poopy disc for a spare t-shirt (he had two). I wonder. briefly, if carrying the gun is wise – anyone who sees me might try to kill me before I can use it, just as I did, and anyone friendly might flee before I have a chance to talk to them.
A sound wakes me in the night. There’s something out there, in the dark, and it isn’t human. I see a bloated head like a balloon about to burst, swaying uncomfortably at the end of a pale neck. I see two of them. Maybe even more.
Whatever they are, I don’t want to meet them, not in the dead of night with no way to pick them off from afar. I spend the night moving North, covering my tracks and scavenging for berries and mushrooms.
It’s just after dawn when I arrive at the mobile home. There’s no sign of any pursuit and I’m tired so I set up my sleeping bag and prepare to rest.
In four days, I’ll be dead.
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