Daily Archives: November 6, 2013

A slow, torturous train ride to nowhere in Sepulchre

sepulchre final thoughts copy

If you know the definition of sepulchre, then you know how Sepulchre will play out after its first few opening moments. Regardless of that, it’s still an effective and enjoyable slice of old-fashioned horror, a playable short story that is all about tension and creating an unsettling atmosphere rather than having you run from some ghoulish monster, your heavy breathing the only soundtrack to carry you to some kind of momentary safety. It’s a slow, torturous ride, and  greater for it.

The story is as follows: you play as Dr. Harold Lang, a short-tempered museum curator low on primary memory aboard a moving train on its way to Augur Peak Island. He’d like some food and a drink before reaching his destination, and so he leaves his book and room, off on a mighty quest, only to discover that things–and people–are not exactly right on this train. It’s very hard to say much more without spoiling what unfolds, but let’s just say that you’ll talk to some characters, specifically a bartender and an attendant named Don, solve a few straightforward puzzles, and grow worrisome as the truth becomes clearer with each click of your mouse.

I’ve read elsewhere that the amateurish voice acting lessened the experience in Sepulchre; for me, it was just the opposite. Plus, I’m a sucker for anyone–or anything–with a Scottish accent. Sure, the bartender’s audio was noticeably lower than Lang’s, and there’s an airiness to everything spoken, but I felt that helped build immersion. When you learn the game-ending twist, the tinny voice recordings and distant feeling throughout maybe makes more sense. I also liked how naturally everyone spoke; it never came across as actors reading lines from a script, especially Don and Lang who, occasionally, had to talk to himself, to work things out. Yes, even Ben Chandler’s performance as the mumbling Grub is worth appreciating.

However, I will admit that Sepulchre does have some problems. Due to the limited number of screens making up the train Lang is stuck on, there’s a lot of walking from one side back to the other. It can feel a little tedious. The sound effect that plays when going to your inventory is a very loud thunk and was jarring each and every time I popped in there to see what Lang was holding. Some elements are maybe a bit too vague, such as the main painting and the name Lang says at the very end. Also: didn’t get whatever joke was hiding behind the “huge bags” though they were effectively creepy.

For awhile there, I thought there was going to be some strong revelation based around… dogs. The theme is pretty prominent–the bartender, after Dr. Lang gets verbally upset, tells him to let it out like “a good little puppy”; you find origami dogs in one passenger cart and give it to Grub, admitting it is not exactly man’s best friend, but should do just fine; there’s also a non-interactive painting on the wall of what looks like a small dog. Alas, nothing came of all this, but it was something I noticed nonetheless.

Sepulchre comes from Owl Cave and is written by Ashton Raze (Richard & Alice), with artwork by point-and-click connoisseur Ben Chandler (upcoming The Blackwell Epiphany and ^_^). You can play for totally zero dollars by downloading it from Owl Cave’s website, but you can also pick up a special edition for $2.99, which includes the soundtrack and some other extras. If you have a half hour to kill and want to lose yourself on an unnerving train ride, I highly recommend taking this short, but puzzling trip.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #38 – Sepulchre

2013 games completed Sepulchre-2 copy

Cannae stop this train
For Dr. Lang is hungry
Wants answers, not worms

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Having trouble surveying the score in Grand Theft Auto V

gta v stuck vanilla unicorn mission glitch

I slip back into Grand Theft Auto V every now and then to drive around aimlessly, look at a few jokey billboards and websites on the game’s internal Internet, and do a main story mission or, at the very least, a random event. Truthfully, I’m always on the lookout for a new Strangers and Freaks mission, really zany one-offs, but they seem few and far between these days, especially since I’m maybe now halfway through the story. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell without looking up online and spoiling myself percentage-wise, so we’ll just pretend like I know what I’m talking about and say that GTA V‘s glass is currently half empty. Or half full. Whatever.

As much as I hate glitches, especially ones that bring a gaming session to a halt, such as Half-Life 2‘s Nova Prospekt level and the randomly spawning Alpha Male Deathclaw in Fallout: New Vegas, I still do find them fascinating pieces of broken tech and marvel at what they can do to a system, both visibly and behind the scenes. So far, throughout my decent amount of time with Grand Theft Auto V, I’ve not come across many, and if I did, they were pretty minor stuff, like a pedestrian getting caught in a walking animation against a wall or being unable to switch characters for seemingly no good reason. Nothing game-breaking, and so I continued to carry on, little by little. Please note that I’m not including my troublesome time in the early days of Grand Theft Auto Online in this analysis, which was a hot mess of server problems, but also some strange connectivity glitches.

While Giant Bomb streamed for 48 hours over the weekend to raise money for Extra Life, I tried to do my part at home as well, staying up with them and playing some games. Granted, I didn’t last terribly long, but I tried to keep things fresh, jumping between my Nintendo 3DS, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ni no Kuni, and, our topic du jour, Grand Theft Auto V. I haven’t really played in a couple of weeks from the look of things, and as far as I can tell, the next main story mission is called “Surveying the Score,” which involves all three of our colorful characters–Trevor, Franklin, and Michael. It’s basically a reconnaissance mission, there for the characters to observe their next target, the Union Depository, and plan how to strike it based on the number of guards they see and its alarm system. That’s all well and good, but I can’t seem to start the mission, and the one time I did, my game glitched hard, with Franklin literally standing inside the car, unable to leave, unable to switch out over to Trevor or Michael.

Basically, you have to go to the Vanilla Unicorn, which Trevor owns, and find him in the back office to kick things off. However, something is seriously wrong in my game. The outside door that supposedly leads directly to the back office is locked, and I don’t think that’s right. If you try to go through the strip club, body guards will chance you when you cross into the back room area, and they shoot to kill. I died three times trying attempting this, but was once able to reach Trevor’s office to begin “Surveying the Score”–with body guards still in tow. I think that had a serious effect on the mission going forward, the system confusing itself, which led to Franklin stuck in the car, kind of clipping out of it, but unable to do much else. Grrr.

I turned on the DownloadStation 3 this morning to snatch up my free copy of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and noticed that there was a new patch available for Grand Theft Auto V. Alas, I think that’s mostly for Grand Theft Auto Online stuff, but maybe there’s a Vanilla Unicorn fix in there, too. We’ll see. I’ll keep playing until I run out of other missions on the map to do, and then I’ll try again; if I can’t get through Trevor’s strip club unscathed, I guess my dream of completing a GTA game for the very first time ever will come to a sad, but inevitable conclusion.