Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sugar Shack 46: Mockingbird: Pointless Passion

Some Exiles have their own newspapers. Some Exiles have their own nightclubs. Some Exiles have their own businesses. Others don’t. Like Mockingbird. Mockingbird perches in the middle of a forlorn, anonymous block in Gracy Heights (-720, 1, -1507) like a streetwalker scouting for tricks. And when you see her, you just have to shake your head at her fashion sense. Camo green baggy pants, a silver V-top halter, open-toed heels, and, improbably, long combat gloves! Heaven help her! What a disappointment! I felt like buying her lunch or telling her to check out my clan’s web site, for a better life. But all she wanted was a few missions.

1. All We Ever Wanted. Ever notice how your reputation is never good enough? She expects you to steal a couple of candlesticks for her to show your ability. It’s one of the standard first missions. So, you get to the provider, and discover that two other “buyers” have beat you to it, and aren’t very inclined to give up the candlesticks unless you can make them a better offer. Normally I love wheeling and dealing like this, but there was no hint about what they wanted, and there was also no option to give them anything. So we killed them.

The provider was very cooperative after this. I mean, we had what we came for, and had killed everyone else in the room, so his leverage was kind of limited by this point. For some reason, I had the option of killing him, too. But I was feeling generous, and spared him. After all, it was Mother’s Day.

Then a huge hike to the Mockingbird’s cutout for the candlesticks. There, we were greeted as pizza delivery by the security guards. Then the cutout saw fit to give us a lecture about greed. I never! We spared her too, reluctantly, and left.

The idea of candlesticks which can bend light is delightful! Alas, nothing was done with this! And no demonstration of this effect was given. No backstory on their origin, provenance, or raison d’etre was provided, or even why Mockingbird wanted them. Some tie-in with the Pandora’s Box quests would have been natural, and could easily have been retrofitted. Umm, and the meaning of the title was not very clear.

2. All We Ever Wanted. Yes, you have not read wrong. The mission name gets used again here. This time, Mockingbird wants me to get some information on a different artifact. This starts imaginatively, with me speaking to a sort of traffic control program knowledgeable about the flow of items (almost like a mission operator in herself). She says “tell the Bird” that Digger had the item but it has been stolen. Others in her office think about different matters of importance; one guy wails about problems with the copier. I feel your pain!

This lead took me to a total dump of a building, where I found my next contact, the reluctantly cooperative Alvarez, who curtly answers my question and then sics his team on me. Thanks for nothing! The object of Mockingbird desire is a cat statue of fine amber. It’s rare. It’s amber. It’s also cursed. I’m told to stay away from it. Like that’s going to stop me! Mockingbird has the right attitude: “This is all starting to make sense….good”. The mission ends up with me a stone’s throw from Mockingbird for the next mish. Now that’s what I call good mission design! Points for that! However, the title is no more clear this time than the first time. Points off!

3. Dark Entries. For this mission, you need to steal a painting from Digger so you can trade it to Hypatia for the Circle of Cernunnos. Got that? The subtle approach (sneak in and disable the computer-controlled lock, etc.) does not work. I killed everyone there. The painting itself is rumored to contain a sentient being (and why not?). “Not bad for an organic” Mockingbird concludes. As I left with the painting to drop it off for safekeeping, she and the operator say virtually identical things about Digger getting on my trail; this seems like another editorial blemish.

After you retrieve the painting, you take it to a genuinely interesting character: Man Kempner. He runs art galleries, and has created reputations for several obscure bluepill artists. He would be a perfect tie-in with The Sculptress from downtown! He would hide this just for the pleasure of being able to examine it. While I wait to see him, his assistant tells me about a gallery show opening by a new artist with great mechanical beasts. This seems like an obvious lead-in, but it never seems to have gone anywhere. He explains that the painting is part of the human emotion monitoring system for the Matrix, but with a bit of a bug: it projects emotion rather than recording it. Intriguing!

Alas, no such minimal backstory for the Circlet of Cernunnos. And Hypatia, who is easily one of the most interesting of the neighborhood contacts, makes no appearance. Disappointment!

4. Exquisite Corpse. For this mission, you collect the Circlet for Mockingbird. However Digger has brought in mercenaries to intervene (and who can blame him?). They have killed Mockingbird’s Crushers, so you have to put them down, and collect all the items. These are then deposited in a safe. “If I play my cards right, Hypatia will think that Digger has the circlet. And I get to keep the painting as well! Thanks for your good work, Sugaree!” Someone’s thinking! Too bad they weren’t thinking about the opaque title!

5. In the Night. For this mission, you steal the cat statue from Amber’s guys. “I’m not finished with you yet. Remember the amber cat statue? The kitty needs to be brought in, and guess who has it? That’s right, Amber.” The toughest part of this is figuring out the instructions. The artifact is in a locked safe in a sealed room, with two computer commands necessary to unlock it (the room, that is). The entire site is guarded by Daggers, who greeted me with “Death to you!” and “I wonder how your bones will taste!”, obviously meant to lull me into a state of false confidence.

The cat, once procured, is taken to Mockingbird’s flunky, the fretful Davis Thjarden. He starts off as soon as you arrive: “Do you have it? I mean, do you have IT? I mean, the statue, did you bring it with you? It’s not hurt is it? Did you drop it? You didn’t drop it, did you? No bullet holes or anything? Mockingbird would be very upset if it were shot.” Then, “If you have it, give it to me! What are you waiting for? I need to inspect it. I need to make sure that it’s okay.” Once I gave it to him, he was subdued and said I could go while he “documented” a few things.

Mockingbird is pleased! “Good, very good. You have talents I can use. You have impressed me with your hard work. If I have anything in the future, I will contact you.” But she remains as much a mystery as when I first met her.

Conclusion. In retrospect, this seems like a suite in need of some work. The same mission name gets used twice. Messages from Mockingbird and my operator are almost verbatim identical. Not only that, the personal touch is oddly missing here; Mockingbird (whose name cries out for explanation) seems to want for the sake of simply having, with no social or strategic purpose to her mad acquisitiveness. She is just like her flunky, Davis Thjarden, albeit less frenzied. The opportunities for tie-ins between the art gallery owner and The Sculptress (or other exiles) are absolutely missed. Hypatia never appears, as she does in other missions.

There’s more. The materialism of the Exiles is always perplexing. More seriously, why the weird fascination with items from previous iterations of the Matrix? Is it like collecting Pokemon cards? Or do they offer some special power? Is this one original, forgotten task for some exiles, to act as defraggers, hunting and gathering loose bits of code in the codestream? No clue is forthcoming here; these missions explore mad desires, but not their reasons.

Thanks to the formidable RemagDiv who gave me invaluable assistance with doing these. This review may be found at manifoldmischief.blogspot.com, along with other reviews and writings relevant to MxO.