Monday, December 18, 2023

You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That! (Once Human Edition)

There's much to say about what I've been doing in Once Human since last time I wrote about the game but before I get to any of that, I thought I'd better re-assure those who may, quite reasonably, have felt  concerned about the way my character's been dressed in every screenshot so far. The outfit she's been wearing has seemed weirdly out of keeping with the gritty, post-disaster backdrop, even though there is a logical reason for her seemingly insouciant state of déshabillé.

It all refers back to the very start of the game. The story begins with a cut-scene of an unidentified technician completing some kind of procedure on a human figure in a pod. The facilty where this is happening undergoes an attack, bringing the procedure to a premature end and spewing the contents of the pod into the lab; the contents of the pod being, of course, the player character.

So far, so lore-appropriate. What happens next, though, is arguably less convincing. I suspect that most people, awakening to find themselves wearing not much more than a one-piece bathing costume with a lot of plastic tubing sticking out, then being set loose in open countryside with no more protection than the little they're hardly wearing, would make getting some clothes an early priority. It seems not.

The situation doesn't go completely ignored. V, the bird-shaped avatar personifying the brain-scan of your former Mayfly colleague stored in your backpack (Don't ask..) does make a comment fairly early on, suggesting you might think about getting some clothes. It would be perfectly possible, not to say sensible, to take him up on that suggestion right away, but you'd have to be paying attention to notice. It's mentioned just that once and never again.

As I think I said in a previous post, the game itself provides you with a framework of sorts. It's called The Journey and it's very easy to find yourself thinking of it as a linear set of objectives, to be completed in the order they come up on the tracker in the top, left corner of the screen. If you do that, as I did, you'll find yourself running around in your swimsuit for several game sessions, feeling slightly self-conscious and wondering when the prompt to do something about is going to appear.

The approximate answer to that, in my case at least, was around six hours in, when my character had just dinged Level 7. I'd been waiting with increasing impatience for the Journey to tell me it was time to make the Armor Workbench. 

By then I'd already been told to make the Primary Supplies Workbench, the Synthesis Workbench, the Weapons Workbench, the Disassembler, the Forge and almost certainly something else I've forgotten. I'd been told to make a base to put them all in and even a bed to sleep in but until then the idea of making myself something to wear just hadn't come up.

This makes it sound as though the developers must have had some rather strange ideas about acceptable daywear, let alone what the average, modern, post-apocalyptic survivor is wearing these days to go scavenging for scrap in a zombie-infested trailer park, but in fact the problem lay mostly with my own expectations as they've been formed by other games.

The Journey, as I gradually came to understand, isn't a linear, quest-like sequence of stages to be ticked off one after another. It's a menu of possible activities to be undertaken in whatever order you choose. That really should have become apparent to me when I first received retroactive credit for doing something that turned out to have an entry in the Journey I hadn't gotten to yet.

Unfortunately for my credentials as a free-thinking individual, even once I knew I could take the stages out of order, I still found myself almost slavishly following each completed segment with whatever on-screen prompt popped up next. In my defence, I would point out that the crafting process does somewhat rely on making the basic stations in roughly the order they come up but, even so, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from choosing to make yourself something more suitable to wear before you get stuck into the enticing prospect of guns, drugs and explosives.

It's not just a matter of seemliness and decorum, either. There's a reason it's called the Armor Workbench not the Wardrobe or the Changing Room. The first sets of clothing may look like workwear with a few modifications but they come with a range of stat boosts that significantly enhance your ability to survive in the wilderness - and to take more hits from those pesky snipers and flying montrosities.

The first thing I did after I made myself a full set of clothes was to go to the Stronghold just up the hill from my base to see how much tougher I felt. OK, no it wasn't. Obviously the first thing I did was take a bunch of screenshots of myself. But the first thing after that...

I'd been doing fine scavenging in my skivvies but there had been more than a few times where I'd had to duck into cover to avoid sniper fire and blasts of indeterminate energy from hovering nightmares. Even when I had some bullets for my pistols, I had to be careful not to stand around for too long as I tried to bring the damn floaters down. 

With some heavy denims and a flak jacket, everything was a lot easier. And remember I said it was already easier than I felt I had any right to expect. Then again, by this time the mobs were three or four levels lower than me. I could really have done with getting dressed sensibly before I outlevelled the content. If only I had some iniative of my own...

Crafting in Once Human is fun, I think. I'm not a hardcore crafter by any definition; I'd classify myself as an enthusiastic bodger. I like making my own stuff but I don't relish the fine detail. Consequently, I'm not crazy about quasi-realistic crafting systems that have you refining all your own ores and then making all the component parts individually before combining them into whatever it was you actually wanted at the start.

On the other hand, the ultra-simplistic systems that give you a recipe for a particle accelerator and tell you to put two copper bars and a jug of water into a synthesizer and press the big red button don't really do it for me either. Once Human straddles the two extremes quite satisfactorily. 

You do have to gather and make your own mats from ore, wood, stone and various scrap parts but so far it's not only quick but also easy to do. Trees and boulders are everywhere, as you'd expect, but so are copper nodes. They all give large yields with even the most basic tools and you can chop wood and mine ore with the same pickaxe, something I have to say makes a lot of sense - I mean, it's even called a pick-axe, right?

Recipes ask for a lot of seemingly complicated, not to say fiddly, components, some of which you do have to make yourself as sub-combines. Most, however, can be acquired by simply throwing everything you loot from buildings and mobs into the Disassembler, which instantly breaks everything down into useable mats and sorts it all neatly into your bags. 

Even better, when it comes to subcombines, the grunt work is all done for you. Taking my new pants as an example, there are three subcombines right there on the main recipe screen. If you click each of them it tells you what mats you need and if you have them it populates the fields. All you do is click once and that subcombine happens instantaneously.

As soon as you have all three done the "Insufficent Materials" notice turns into a Combine button. Press that and your pants are ready in a matter of seconds. That's another nice thing about crafting in OH; combines don't take long. It's a matter of seconds not minutes or, god forbid, hours (Hi, Fallen Earth! How's it going over there these days?)

That said, I am extremely low level still. There is a Crafting Queue, which does suggest that at some point you're going to want to cue combines up and go of to do something else until they're finished. Looking down the crafting trees, the whole thing looks pretty deep and complex so maybe it does get a lot slower, later.

For now, though, it's fast enough not to be frustrating while also interesting enough to be fun. It's a combination I find almost dangerously addictive. If combat and exploration in the game weren't easily as satisfying and exciting, I might never leave my base. 

Well, except to go up the hill behind my house to the local Stronghold  for supplies, of course. I think of it as the corner store...


  1. I like her chances of survival much better now! Notice I did not post my comment “look at those buttcheeks going down the road”, because I don’t use the word buttcheeks. Atheren

    1. Me neither, but then I am from the land of Shakespeare. I don't think he used "buttcheeks" in any of his plays, either.

  2. Knowing that you can find cloths fairly early on if you go looking for them roughly doubles my chance of trying this game eventually. It's not just you, I swear every screenshot I have seen of this game has the main character running around barefoot in their skivvies.

    1. The curious thing about that is that I've not seen one single person other than myself still dressed in the starting gear. The beta had been going for nearly a week when I got my invite and I didn't pick the newest server so I guess everyone was well past that stage when I arrived. Being the only one dressed for the beach was one of the main reasons I felt I needed to do something about it, although as you can see even then it took me a while.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide