The Long Dark -
Slowly continuing progress on my Episode 4 story-mode. Working on all these side quests has really allowed me to explore the whole Blackrock region map. It reminds me a little of how thoroughly you explore the huge Pleasant Valley map in Episode three. Episode 1 allows you to skip past alot of Milton and Episode 2 has you trekking across several different regions, but Episodes 3 and 4 really seem to let you focus on exploring the one feature region. Its been nice because this region is a really nice map with all kinds of challenging, sometimes frustrating features. The raging river, that flows through the region, apparently unique to this region is a nice touch and a change of pace, since most of the water in TLD is frozen over. Anyway, its a beautiful map.
A couple challenges, besides the confounding steam tunnel puzzle that I mentioned earlier, are pretty difficult. For example, the convict cache special missions. Those damned caches are so tiny... its like looking for a needle in a haystack... or maybe more accurately, a lunchbox on a mountainside. The amount of time I spend scouring the ground for them almost negates the goodies that I eventually find, because the food I find in them only replaces the calories I burned up looking for them in the first place.
Another difficult challenge was finding the lost workers. Their locations are so remote... they seem like they will be so easy to get to on the map, but when you get close your path is always blocked by terrain and you have to find your way around. I still don't know what the "correct" route to get to worker #2 is. I ended up having to reach it by scaling/shimmying down a rockface (which is a borderline exploit of movement mechanics in the game), then jumping down from the rockface, which caused me to take a ton of damage and suffer multiple injuries. The other issue is that there is a bascally impassable bear right smack in the middle of where you need to go. I had to die/restart a few times to finally complete that objective. One more thing about the Blackrock region... So.Many.Wolves... its seriously ridiculous. There is no region or episode in the game where I have ever faced so many wolves like this before. Its like you can't even take 20 steps without encountering wolves. Plus its not like its only one wolf. Every wolf location has a pack of at least three or more wolves.
What makes it even more hair-raising is that Blackrock region has tons of timberwolf packs, which are much harder to fight off/ scare off than ordinary wolves since they have that "pack-morale" stamina bar. I've also learned that you can't escape/avoid them by hiding in cars or structures because they will actually wait hours and hours outside, for you to come out and attack you again as soon as you do. Even when it seems like the coast is clear (because their stamina bar disappears) its not, because as soon as you take a few steps away from your shelter/hiding place they immediately descend on you and attack again. I tried passing time, sleeping... nothing makes them truly go away except actually fighting them and defeating them. They even stay nearby through storms and come right back after you as soon as a blizzard ends. The damned timberwolves actually ended up eating/ruining my character's custom/story mode boots, so I was walking around in socks until I could find some old ragged dress shoes. I even had to repair those so I didn't end up shoeless again
Against timberwolves, I find that the noisemaker (improvised flash-bang grenades) is the only reliable weapon. Red flares are useless of course, they just ignore them. But even blue flares have only minimal effect, and guns are also suprisingly weak against them... you basically have to shoot them dead, they won't fully retreat even after being shot at, or even actually wounded multiple times. It usually takes 3 noisemakers to get them to retreat. I've gone through about 20 flashbangs in my current game fighting off timberwolves. Its also nerve-wracking, because the flashbangs are so dangerous to the player. I've blown myself up with them several times because when you pull one out and light it, the timberwolves rush you to make you drop it, which causes it to explode in your face, seriously injuring you along with the wolf.
So I think I am in the home stretch now. I found the bricklayer hut where the "mysterious person" side quest is located. I got trapped in the hut overnight by a nasty blizzard that lasted all night and I used up all the available wood and choppable furniture to make a fire in the fireplace as the hut isn't a proper warm, closed structure, despite looking like one on the map. As a side matter, that's a characteristic of the Blackrock region that makes it more difficult. Alot of the structures on the map are just ruins that don't give warmth or protection from weather, similar to Forlorn Muskeg, curse its evil name. Once I find the "mysterious person" (or more likely, their dead body), I just need to complete the "aggressive wolf" quest and I will be ready to complete the abandoned mine main mission which is right nearby the wolf quest. I guess that will be the end of the Episode, unless there is another mission added after that.
Incidentally, I'd been wondering why Episode 4 seemed so damned hard and I realized last night that I've been playing the Episode on hardest difficulty, "Hardened Survivor". Previously, I had usually played on normal difficulty, so maybe that's why I am facing so many wolves