A Fistful Of Gelli Bears: Neo Scavenger Diary #3

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.

The previous parts are here.

A brief interlude before I die.

These fragments of a life lost don’t paint a pretty picture of NEO Scavenger, nor do they show even the tip of the post-apocalyptic iceberg. Like a recently hatched barnacle goose, characters in NEO Scavenger have difficult beginnings but survive that painful birth into the new world and there’s so much more to discover than carrier bags and Gelli Bears.

We’ll get to the Gelli Bears in good time.

The game tips its hand at the end of the first day, describing a glow in the East that is the first breadcrumb on a trail that leads to trade, conversation, quests, mutations, diseases and more advanced tech than you can shake one of my whittling sticks at. Whittling is not an advanced tech, but it’s about as much as many of my characters ever learn.
Sticks. Sticks. Sticks and stones. Broken bones. I killed the man with the Gelli Bears.

After the traumatic loss of my bag, I was distraught, as you might well imagine. I sat in a heap, feasting on berries, the juice drooling down my chin like the fakest of fake blood. It had started to rain and I fiddled with my multitool (my monotool was in no mood for fiddling), wondering whether I could fashion a roaring campfire using twigs and a cigarette lighter. I’d even have been willing to burn my hospital gown, which I still wore beneath my hoodie, looking for all the world like a bedraggled catwalk runaway.

I needed a bag. Whatever else I found would be useless without something to carry it in. I might discover an abandoned diner, packed with turkey dinners and cans of beans, but they’d be no use to me if I couldn’t take them with me. I was heading to the East, toward the light, and I didn’t know how long the trek would take, so I’d need supplies. I’d need a tent too, if possible, or at least a sleeping bag. I’d left the other one at the campsite near the scene of my first murder. I didn’t want to go back.

But the sun was retreating, the rain was turning from drizzle to deluge, and I was cold and tired. Me! The King of Sweat! Shivering as dusk approached. It was a terrible situation and called for immediate action, so it was with some relief that I noticed a lone traveller in the distance. He would have a bag. Maybe he’d swap the bag for a multitool.

I took the screenshot as evidence that I tried to talk to the stranger. I didn’t intend to attack – that offer to swap my multitool for a bag wasn’t going to be followed by a snidey shout of, ‘A MUTITOOL TO THE FACE’.

Still, a few minutes later, there I was, blood on my hands, bruises up my arms as bleak reminders of the feeble attempts at self defense, and a cute ‘Hello Poopy’ bag strapped across my bag. Remember ‘Hello Poopy’? I found a disc that had the character’s name on it. I don’t know if it was a video, an album or a game. For all I know, it might have contained the code that unlocked a secret bunker with enough plastic bags inside to keep me happy for the rest of my days. I’d chucked it away though and now the rest of my days were to be brief and violent, and I’d be creeping through them with Hello Poopy’s face watching from my back, making a Janus of me.

“Hey!” I shouted. “Slow down. Let’s talk. Why are you wearing a child’s rucksack?”

He didn’t respond. He ran up to me and punched me hard, knocking me to the ground. I grabbed at his ankle and managed to pull him down with me, then administed a flurry of strikes, cutting open his arms and chest.

I asked him to surrender then, which would have meant keeping his life but giving up all of the things that made life worth living, like that fancy bag and the clammy, sticky fistful of Gelli Bears.

His organs reconfigured, he coughed up blood, got to his feet and punched me in the face, hard. I sat out blood and teeth, and went to work with the blade. When the clumsy butchery was done, I took the bag, emptied it out and something shiny and colourful among the pebbles and CDs. The Jelli Bears.

The combination of those little sweets and the schoolkid’s backpack made me feel queasy. It’s impossible to see the specifics of other scavengers in the game, they’re mostly generic ‘Bad Muthas’ during the early stages, but the inventory provided details I wanted to ignore. How old was this person? Would I find a name stitched into the waistband of the clothes, beneath the collar of the t-shirt?

Since I’d lost my whiskey when my bag split the day before, I ate the Gelli Bears, hoping they’d help me to forget.

The next morning, I managed to make my way back to my makeshift camp and as I was gathering the sleeping bag, two people approached from the East. They would have passed straight by the corpse I’d left in last night’s rain, smoke curling into the cold air from the holes in its gut. Friends? Relatives?

Parents?

I ran.

Throughout the day, they came close occasionally and each time I took cover and crept away. The sun had set when they caught me for the last time. Both charged and I decided to stand and face them rather than fleeing. I was fit, strong and armed. They were unarmed.

Combat in NEO Scavenger is messy. It feels like a drunken brawl but that’s probably not fair to the sober scavengers of the world. Fighting is desperate when the participants aren’t trained and have spent weeks or months living on a diet of dog meat and contaminated water. People stumble, fall, stagger, swing and bleed. Sometimes the last man standing is doomed to die from wounds hours later. There are no clean kills.

And I died as dirty as anyone. I’d knocked the first assailant to the ground and left him there, choking on his own blood, when the second attacked. His first blow was lucky for him and unlucky for me. I fell and couldn’t regain my feet before kicks and punches rained down.

It was still raining when I lost consciousness and it was still raining when I woke. I knew I was going to die. My weapon was gone, my satchel was gone, I could barely stand.
Before I could register how long had passed, the assault began again. My lungs collapsed, my ribs splintered. I never found out who they were or why. Maybe the satchel had been a trigger, a marker that told them who I was and what I had done – maybe they just wanted it, as I had, and were disappointed to find it as good as empty.

I didn’t even have any Jelli Bears for them to steal. They killed me for no good reason. I died for no good reason.

In the few days I’d lived in the new world, I’d made so many mistakes. The water I’d been drinking was probably toxic, the blood that my enemies spilled thick with contamination. I’d meandered instead of setting objectives, never truly finding a reason to survive other than the next day’s dawn. I’d left a trail of objects, bodies and my own passage, a trail that might have led the killers to my camp.

A dismal death and a sorry life.

13 Comments

  1. LuizPSC says:

    well i remember Bad Muthas being cannibals, so if you dind´t killed their son, those two motive of killing you is actualy YOU!

  2. Enkinan says:

    I love that “wearing 3 dog moon shirt” is a condition.

    Fun article.

  3. Zankman says:

    From my experience Botany is a near-must, since it gives you so much more food via fruits and mushrooms – and prevents you from eating poisonous ones.

    Also: Things are really, really hard if you don’t get a bag. :/

    • Zafman says:

      I always go for trapping skill. The ability to make fire by rubbing sticks together is not to be sniffed at early on. The forests are full of juicy squirrels, source of meat and fur.

      • Zankman says:

        See, I am totally oblivious to that – I haven’t even tried it!

  4. Firemaster says:

    I have followed RPS for a while and decided to register so that I could say I have been playing a fair bit of this lately and I have a couple suggestions that should make it a bit easier to survive.

    First, at least select Strong, Melee, and Trapping as starting traits.
    Then, during the initial encounter with the dogman, select both Strong and Melee as your options. This will kill the dogman with no harm to you (just selecting strong will also kill the dogman, but you will take some wounds in the process).
    Third, combine the dogman corpse with a shard and the trapping trait. This will turn the corpse into a bunch of meat (which is easily prepared into safe food) and give you a Dogman fur coat, which alone should be enough that you don’t really have to worry about freezing. (Without trapping, the corpse + shard gets you the meat and a bunch of fur which would be useless to you initially.

    The other suggestion is to find a forest ASAP and after scavenging it, use (hold 2 while clicking) the forest item. It will create a bunch of branches and kindling (which if you have tracking can be combined into a fire without a lighter to cook meat) and one large branch. The large branch makes a really good early weapon (it deals a good amount of damage and attacks at range 3 instead of 1 so you can usually get in a solid hit before your opponent has the chance to attack) and it is easily renewable since any forest essentially has an infinite supply of them. They can also be upgraded into a number of better weapons fairly easily.

  5. Bent Wooden Spoon says:

    Your very first diary made me buy this – the dev probably wants to have your babies right now, you must have stuck his sales through the roof.

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these – there’s no way I’d have staggered across this game on my own, many thanks for the introduction. Sadly, I’m now grimly aware how much artistic license you’ve used given you mentioned this wasn’t your first time playing. ;)

    In my experience, and I’m still very new, trapping’s pretty much essential if you don’t want to spend ages hoping for a lighter in the early game, as well as for all the other benefits it brings. Botany’s okay, but I find the nutritional value from plants to be quite small. Melee allows crafting of the hardened spear as well as other benefits.

    I’ve been using:

    Trapping
    Melee
    Mechanic
    Electrician
    And, with Myopia as a disadvantage (I’ve read you can cure it later), Botany.

    Very deep game, and looking at some of the mods available it can get even deeper.

    • Nogo says:

      Mechanic and Electrician are effectively useless at this point in development. Lockpicking is only slightly more useful because locked sheds. I personally prefer Ranged over Melee. You can throw rocks at people’s faces early, and late-game you can identify bullets properly. Tough is also a favorite. Live longer play longer.

      Athletic can be a crucial survival skill in a pinch. Helps avoid fights, bonus action point, and I once ran from a Dogman for so long that he passed out from exhaustion, which let me kick a nice coat out of him!

      I’m also impressed by how my playstyle has changed. When I started I was a hoarder that relished vehicles, supplies and inventory space. Now I pack as light as possible, with the majority of my items all being multi-use thanks to heavy crafting. It’s a bit obnoxious to break down all my noise traps in the morning to boil then store water (thank god there’s no cleaning mechanic), but I’ll be damned if I can’t survive off a few bits of string and three t-shirts at this point.

      • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

        I used to take Tough, then I noticed it had very little effect – I’ve honestly had no problem wiping the floor with most enemies using just a hardened spear, be they tough or otherwise. Only issue I’ve run into with my spear so far is blue rot – given you need to deal with enemies at range to avoid it, tough isn’t much use there either.

        Have to admit, I’m yet to find a decent use for Electrician outwith fixing the lights at the cryo lab. Mechanic is useful even if only to build the trevasse though – I see no benefit to travelling without a vehicle, it can easily be dropped at the start of combat and is worth it just to ensure I always have enough food and bottles on me, as well as extra room if I come across something I want far from my more permanent campsites.

  6. slerbal says:

    Love these diaries — stuff like this is one of the many reasons I love RPS — but I keep bouncing off NeoScavenger. It genuinely has the worst UI I’ve ever encountered and most of the time I cannot figure out what is going on, what I can do, or even what I am currently doing. Obviously that is partly my fault as lots of other folks seems to get it, but I wish it were a bit more accessible as I think it would find a huge audience. There is so much that is awesome about this game that I will keep banging my head against it until I finally figure out what I am doing, but I wish it the UI was not so opaque :)

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      Honestly, the UI isn’t so much impenetrable as cludgy; whilst it belongs in the same era as the game’s visuals, it’s not actually that complicated.

      The most annoying element for me is the inability to “use” things in encounter screens like the cryo lab at the start – why do I have to click it into another box to use it, then click to confirm, when on the normal screen I just hold down “2” and left click to achieve the same thing?

  7. Yglorba says:

    I could never get into Neo Scavenger. While I liked the idea, it just seemed completely directionless.

    It could just be that survival games aren’t for me, though I vaguely recall enjoying a few of them.

  8. Monggerel says:

    So I turned my Lil’ Scav into a cannibal. It was necessary, I swear! Didn’t pick any food-related skills and was near dying of hunger when a Bad Mutha attacked me.
    Bad Muthas are cannibals so I guess I thought they’d feel less weird about being eaten.
    Turns out I’m a textbook repeat offender.
    By the time Lil’ Scav reached Detroit he has devoured several people and was a full on super cannibal. In my defense, they did all attack first.
    But there was jack fucking shit to eat around Detroit (the market only had some berries, which I promptly traded my binoculars for) and I couldn’t enter either and he starved to death, not willing to attack a soldier or just catch and kill one of the “tourists”.

    Death Log at game over screen read:
    “Player has starved to death.
    Player is unburdened by what Player is carrying.”

    Count no man happy indeed.