Choose My Adventure: Brain bug mischief in Project Gorgon
As soon as I knew I was going after something called “brain bugs” in Project Gorgon, my mind immediately jumped to images of the infamous intellect devourer from Dungeons & Dragons. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what they are, and I can think of no finer place for these creatures to show up. They’re a perfect example of the stuff that D&D generally seems to be backing away from over time but that serves as a lovely legacy of the days when it would churn out new monsters to kill no matter how silly the remaining concepts were.
This is where something like that belongs. A brain walking around on four legs and using psychic powers while slashing at you. Silly ideas taken very seriously. Thank you.
My overall results in Project Gorgon were a bit more mixed this week, as it turns out that brain beasts also have ties to the psychic mantises, which are at once viciously difficult opponents at my current progression level and also my new favorite things in the world. I want to play one. If there is a curse that turns me into one, please let me know about that in the comments. This is what I want with a passion.
The game tries to convince me, through text, that the psychic mantises are really scary huge bugs. This does not work. I used to live somewhere that had a lot of mantises in the areas, I frequently had them outside my front door. Give me a praying mantis and I am happy. They are so cool, and the prospect of “giant praying mantis but it’s pink and has a hat” is not terrifying at all. It makes me want to subscribe to its newsletter or whatever.
It took me a bit of searching to find the mantises, though. First I had to go digging around following the vague quest directions (this isn’t a complaint, it’s part of the game’s structure), then finally stumble across the right place after first finding a set of docks and a few other tidbits here and there. I also found several things I wanted to forage, but I couldn’t forage them without a saw (which I don’t know where I can get) or more levels in foraging (which I don’t know how to get because I have yet to find things to forage).
This is, honestly, one of the flaws that I’m finding with Gorgon in general. It’s not a crippling weakness, but it’s notable that the game gives you so many options for what to do but then makes it sort of hard to know where to start with some of them. Case in point: after thoroughly exploring the first city you come to and selling a whole bunch of junk for cash, I finally found the supposedly “first” guard you meet… who gave me a minor task to talk to another guard, who just gave me a bunch of money. Oh. Well, thanks.
It seems like a slight error in guidance. Then again, it’s also one of the things that feels very much like the sort of game this wants to be. You aren’t out of options if you don’t find this little task, but you are rewarded if you do. I feel like it needs lightly more pathing to get you started, just so you can start off with more of a wide-open feeling instead of quite so much “and what do I do now exactly.”
The other big problem that I’m noticing is… well, once you get over the initial weirdness and discovery of the game, it starts falling into pretty rote grinding. Like, the autopsy skill right away was amusing, but once you’ve learned it… you just do it, over and over, and at least thus far it never gets more interesting or involved. Autopsy everything and hope you get useful information. Hit stuff with swords over and over and level up your sword skill. Reasonable? Yes, fairly. But not tremendously novel.
Right back in the “fun” category, though, is the way that you level up NPC favor with gifts and with what are essentially individual quests, and the way that every single NPC has both something useful to offer you and a notable personality of some sort. Even for a world that is explicitly cobbled together piecemeal by what’s available, the setting of Project Gorgon winds up being compelling and interesting, partly because the NPCs pull off a trick that I always appreciate in that they know everything about the world while you don’t.
Case in point: that first guard I mentioned above? He doesn’t like elves. His justification is that elves aren’t really people, but he makes it pretty clear through brief dialogue that what’s really going on there is that he personally dislikes elves and he’s picking out the statements about them that personally conform to his stereotype. But he doesn’t go into lengthy history or even make a big deal out of it, it’s just subtly made clear through discourse.
It’s a trick other games do well to establish their world and that is oddly uncommon in a lot of MMOs. It’s not starting by hitting all of the big lore beats and explaining everything to you, it’s starting by giving you a zoomed-in picture of a tiny part of the world that lets you extrapolate from there and tries to feel real at that level.
I also found out, almost accidentally, that I can hold down the Alt key to see all the objects I can interact with in the area. That’s helpful!
Anyhow, I managed to net my first death at the pinchers of a psychic mantis, which gained my first level in the game’s Dying skill, and I also spent time exploring, trying to gather information about foraging and such, and generally picking up some relevant tasks. It seems like brain bugs are going to take a little more work for me to really take them out, but I think I can manage that while I walk around and discover more stuff hiding throughout the game.
Also, I inadvertently managed to advance the other “main story” quest whilst I was fumbling around. This is not quite a game where you have distinct tracks for all of the various things you’re doing, you wind up sort of stumbling from place to place.
Whilst I continue to explore around and paw at the game, this week does not have a normal poll to buff things out. Instead, I’m turning to the population reading this series of articles because they’re always there, the people who know the game and are curious to see what a new player’s take on the game is. You folks know the game better than I do, and thus, I turn to you for advice. Is there anything I should be doing or fun things to discover that I haven’t discovered yet (or at least, haven’t mentioned discovering)? What useful stuff have I not yet picked up on?
There’s no time limit on those suggestions since it’s not a poll, so feel free to share those with me until I come around next week with a new set of ambiguous explorations. Until then, you can mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or offer other feedback down in the comments. I’m certain someone would like to say stuff in praise of intellect devourers or otherwise offer feedback on the nature of the game. It’s hard not to have opinions.