A Miskatonic mystery in Second Life

A storm comes – and brings with it an assortment of nasties to plague Miskatonic

Currently open at Miskatonic County is Tales of Miskatonic County: The Perfect Storm. Described as “A Horror Survival Experience”, created by Rayden Evenstarr, Phoenix Sachin, Logan Porterfield and Tobiath Tendaze, it makes for an interesting if (for me at least) a slight confusing diversion.

Using the Second Life experience system The Perfect Storm pitches you against zombies, lurkers, cultist gunmen, ghosts, creature of the deep and more in a battle to survive and to complete assorted quests. The latter range from killing some of the aforementioned monsters and creatures through to rounding up kittens or finding puppies – which makes for an interesting mix!

As you emerge from the theatre in Downtown Miskatonic, you find a town in chaos. Torrents of blinding rain obscure amorphous shapes lurking in the shadows. Telephone poles have been sent crashing to the ground in showers of sparks while trees fall upon cars and houses alike. Danger lurks in every alleyway, and you feel as though a thousand eyes are upon you.

Miskatonic is no ordinary town, and this is no ordinary Halloween. The day is October 31st, 1991. The day a ferocious storm system suddenly formed off the New England coastline. A storm system so large that meteorologists deemed it “The Perfect Storm.” The storm turned westward, moving against the jet stream, striking the coastline with a deadly storm surge and hurricane-force winds. Many old-timers of the region dubbed the storm “unnatural.”

– Introduction to ales of Miskatonic County: The Perfect Storm

The streets are lashed with rain – and home to things that creep and lurk

The adventure begins at the Miskatonic Theatre, where players pick-up the game HUD (and must accept the region’s experience in order to play – a one-time only requirement unless the experience is subsequently blocked), together with a magic ring and a pistol.

The HUD will auto-attach to the player’s screen under scripted control, and will auto-detach on departing the game. It acts as a relay to record your health, shield and armour, and as an information giver – prompts are displayed in the lower section of the HUD, and there are two buttons: Stories and Quests, of which more anon. The gun and ring are inventory objects and must be worn. The former is required to kill the nasties (you must be in Mouselook), and the latter helps “buff” your game stats.

The HUD provides health information (top), general information on your location (centre) and buttons to view your quests (if any are in progress) and any story fragments you’ve found

Outside of the theatre, the storm is in full force. The northern end of the town is subject to flooding from the storm’s surge, and rain is falling in heavy sheets across the rest of the landscape, with copious amounts of storm damage to be found in the streets.

You’ll need to be in Mouselook whenever you are outdoors, as this is where the nasties roam. You can switch back to third-person view when inside buildings to ease exploring them and interacting with things in them. Shooting the the nasties is a case of aiming the screen cursor at them and blasting away with left-clicks. Hits earn points and will eventually kill the nasty, earning you bonus experience points. However, be warned that they can strike back with claws, teeth, knives, hatchets and guns of their own, eroding your health, shield and armour.

Health can be restored by finding crafting stations and then rummaging for ingredients, then using the crafting station to make consumables and eat / drink them. These items are added to inventory for rezzing and can also be traded with other players, allowing those playing together to help one another. Consumables, once made, can be worn to consume or carried. Some will restore lost health / shields, some may only “buff” for a period of time.

Quests and stories (shown) are displayed in a separate HUD panel by clicking on the Quest or Stories button on the main HUD

Quests are undertaken by finding non-player characters (NPCs) scattered within various locations. Clicking on them will open the Quest panel on your screen and display details of a quest for you to complete. click the “off” button on the panel to close it, and you can set out to complete the required task.

You can have up to four quests running simultaneously, and some will be auto-complete (achieve the goal and the quest ends), others will require you return to the Quest giver. A tally is kept of your progress, and I found this a little irritating, as each time I achieved a target in a quest, the panel would open, blocking part of my view and requiring I hop out of Mouselook to close it (ALT-click didn’t seem to work).

As well as quests, there are story fragments to be found scattered around – these take the form of books with hovertext floating above them. Clicking on a book will add the story fragment to your HUD – click the Stories button to open a panel listing the available stories, and click on the one you want to read by clicking on its title.

Should you find your health drops below 0, you will be incapacitated and transported to the Miskatonic Medical Centre. This restores your health and reveals one of the secrets of the experience: it exists on multiple levels stacked up one above the other through the vertical extent of the region. They are connected by teleports in the form road tunnels. Moving to each of them can earn experience points.

A creature of the deep roams Miskatonic

If I’m totally honest, I don’t entirely “get” the overall goal – other than survival (which may be the sole point) – but then, I’ve not progressed full through the entire experience. In this, the instructions and introduction are somewhat vague – and “emissary” is reportedly coming, but what / who that might be slipped by me. There is also reference to artefacts being stolen – but whether recovering them forms a part of any of the quests, I could say.

Perhaps the way to find out is to play for yourself?

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