The spoiler for Issue 3 reads:
The entire VIPER fortress, and everything in it, heroes included, has been physically transported to the Qliphothic Realm, a dimension of chaos and destruction. The heroes must protect their only link to Earth while searching for evidence of survivors of Operation Demonflame. Locating these poor souls may answer some questions, but the biggest one remains: How do they get home?
Fort Lantern has been violently transported into the Qliphothic realm, the damage causing the underground bunker to collapse. The radar antenna fell onto Ripper’s cell, releasing him though he is still damaged enough that UNTIL soldiers are holding him captive with his VIPER team. Major Okonkwo is able to see the structure where the portal used during Operation Demonflame is located to the south of the fort. Drayvin heads to check it out.
The spirit of Juan Ramirez meets Drayvin at the structure. He informs Drayvin that shortly after the final UNTIL troops retreated through the portal after Operation Demonflame, the portal was sealed, presumably by Witchcraft using her powers from Earth’s side of the portal. Turns out Ramirez is a psychic, which is why he was assigned to Major Boudreau’s unit during Operation Demonflame. He’s very much alive, and is projecting himself in order to communicate with us. Before being able to continue, someone approaches his cell, forcing him to break his psychic projection. Drayvin returns to Fort Lantern to report to Major Okonkwo, but is followed by several groups of flying horrors. Lookouts at each corner of the fort arm the defense turrets. Nice thing about having NPC’s at each turret is they are able to not only target individual mobs for maximum damage but also put the turrets into repair mode, like Drayvin had to manually do during Issue 1.
Ripper uses the distraction of the attack upon the fort to attempt an escape with his VIPER squad. There is a one transport vehicle that was undamaged in the fort’s transport to the Qliphothic realm, and they make their way toward it, grabbing weapons from fallen UNTIL soldiers and blasting any horrors who come near. Drayvin breaks off his attacks on the horrors to deal with VIPER. There are too many of them to fight single-handed so the remaining choice is to eliminate their escape route: destroy the transport before they reach it.
While blasting the transport with his concussor beams, Drayvin completed the “Sub-Atomic” perk for dealing out 1 million particle damage! Bonus! With the transport gone, VIPER has no escape and the horrors aren’t being picky who they attack so Ripper agrees to surrender again after the horrors have been dealt with.
Ramirez projects himself into the fort to speak with Okonkwo. A cut-scene plays as he tells his story of being captured a week ago by servants of the Kings of Edom. They were taken to one of the nearby towers and tortured. Ramirez explains he tried to use his psychic abilities to shield the minds of himself and the other survivors but was not strong enough. The torture finally broke Robinson; he went insane allowing his captors to further ravage his mind to use it as a conduit to his team on Earth in Fort Lantern, forcing Qliphothic energy to the other side where it drove those men insane as well and warped their physical appearance. Those were the tortured troops Drayvin fought in Issue 2 as he worked his way through the fort’s bunker.
Ramirez is both happy to see us and hopeful of a rescue but also terrified because the fort’s transport to the Qliphothic realm was caused by a ritual — the Kings of Edom want us here for some nefarious purpose, and have succeeded in bringing us to their dimension.
He continues to explain that the survivors were too weak to fight so decided to split up into three smaller groups to be able to hide better and also give the other groups a chance to survive should one group be captured. Major Okonkwo insists on an immediate rescue. Ramirez gives the location of two of the three caves the survivors are holed up in but is forced to break his psychic projection before he can divulge the third cave’s location. The Qliphothic energies are beginning to worm into Captain Urqhart, who is growing depressed and hopeless. Drayvin snaps him out of it for now, and Urqhart offers to fly the osprey for aerial support.
Urqhart tells Drayvin to grab a set of smoke grenades to signal him. Red smoke to attack, and blue smoke means it’s safe for the osprey to land to pick up the survivors. Drayvin and Urqhart fly together to the first waypoint. A horde of horrors is outside the mouth of the cave, so Drayvin tossed a red smoke grenade into their midst, signalling Urqhart to make a strafing run in the osprey then Drayvin went in and cleared out the remaining horrors. As the first survivor made his way out of the cave, Drayvin placed the blue smoke grenade in a clear area so Urqhart could land. Soon, however, more horrors showed up and began attacking the osprey and the survivors attempting to board it. After the final survivor was loaded, Drayvin and Urqhart flew to the next cave to repeat the rescue attempt then flew the survivors back to Fort Lantern. Additional bonus: Drayvin completed the “Unpronounceable” perk for defeating 100 Qliphothic horrors!
Back at Fort Lantern, Urqhart lands and drops off the survivors who are happily greeted by Major Okonkwo. Then Ramirez appears again. The reason he had to suddenly break contact earlier was that he was captured again in the tower and was tortured to reveal the location of the third group of survivors. An army of horrors is on their way now and Ramirez has been unable to psychically contact them to warn them of the horrors or even inform them that help is on the way.
Out-manned and out-gunned, Captain Urqhart suggests asking Ripper if he and his VIPER team will assist in the rescue. After all, they’re in the same boat as UNTIL as far as being at risk from the denizens and energies of this realm. Since we’d worked so well with Captain Jarvis in Issue 2, he’d told Ripper that Drayvin can be trusted so he agrees on the condition that he and his men will be freed afterward.
The osprey is low on fuel and ammo so we can’t use it as transport there and back, but Urqhart has an idea for the osprey to play a final role. All over the realm, geysers spew forth chaos energy. If we can load up enough into the osprey, she’d go out with one helluva bang! It was an optional objective but the chance to make things go BOOM in a big way? Are you kidding me? Drayvin isn’t armed with force bolts, concussor beams and a shoulder-mounted mini-gun for nothin’, ya know! Of course we’re going to blow stuff up! Drayvin grabs a set of canisters then flies to geysers, filling them with chaos energy before loading up all the canisters into the osprey.
The motley band of heroes and villains set off for the third cave, finally spying the horror army. There are more than we’d thought, so having the osprey will certainly help! Drayvin sets the coordinates and engages the osprey’s autopilot and watches as she goes down in a furious blaze of glory! More horrors still survive and make their way to the survivors so Urqhart signals to advance and engage!
We lost several UNTIL and VIPER soldiers while making our way to the cave but we succeeded. A sole survivor made his way out, telling us the horrors had entered the cave through a back passage, grabbed the other survivors and took them to one of the nearby towers.
A final cut-scene plays showing another portal opening and two VIPER members coming through. Ripper meets them — he apparently knew they were coming and where they’d be! — and the commander wants to reach that tower before UNTIL does. Back-stabbing villains…
Final thoughts: I still enjoyed Issue 2 more than this one. I just thought the pacing was better, even though the Qliphothic realm environment is cool with all the purple lighting and particle effects from the energies given off. Drayvin did suffer a defeat or two from some of the flying horrors. I’m thinking it may have been an incidental line of sight (LoS) issue because he seemed to completely stop attacking each time, while all 3 or so of the horrors were still able to nail him with their nasty damage over time (DoT) energy blasts. Next time, I had Drayvin use his jet boots to engage them in the air and that worked out much better. There were a few mobs of Master Villain level or so that could have been more of a problem, but I was careful to clear out any surrounding mobs so I could engage them solo. When Drayvin achieved level 20 last week, I chose Lock and Load as his new power, which is a major damage buff, so being able to activate that plus only having a single target to focus all Drayvin’s attacks on made the tough mobs go down pretty quickly. Big damage numbers and quick defeats has a way of making one see the fun in playing dps characters, no?
Once again, I really enjoyed the cut-scenes this week. I’m looking forward to seeing these towers up close. The one cut-scene that scrolled near one made it seem like a pretty large structure. Not as big or cool as the Vault from Star Trek Online‘s Series 3: Cloaked Intentions, but close enough to make me want to ogle it and beat up some Qliphothic bad guys, especially the archmage-looking ones who were torturing Ramirez’s team.
The plot twist at the end was not entirely unforeseen, though I wasn’t really thinking that far ahead when it happened so I’ll chalk it up with: “Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”
As always, here is the Picasa screenshot gallery for Issue 3.