White Gold: cocaine is a hell of a drug

, | Game diaries

On the second island, I finally reach my CIA contact at the US embassy. The embassy is one room in a two story apartment building, a great satirical jab at the decline of American influence in the Caribbean, or just an indicator of the game’s small budget . They’re also blaring the Star Bangled Banner constantly. I don’t want to sound anti-American, but could they please turn that crap down? Anyhow, I’m told to meet another contact in the local bar. Alright, meeting an informant in a bar. I feel like I’m in Dr. No, or Our Man In Havana, or just a better game. The ass tells me to cough up 20k in pesos before he spills the beans. This is the part in a non-linear game where the developers grab you by the lapels and shout “Go do some of our side-quests!”. See Baldur’s Gate 2 for an example of the same device. What follows are tales of my adventures on the second island…

After the jump, “I come not to praise Don Guillermo…”

There’s a huge mansion called Playa de Amor(Beach of Love), the local cathouse where the local bandit quest giver hangs out. I helped Juarez back on the first island so I wouldn’t shut myself out of this quest line. The first lame quest: drop off three hos who are each making a house call. This isn’t even a timed race mission, I just drive up and see a shot of the gal walking into the house. They don’t even throw in an exterior shot of the house and the sounds of squeaky bed springs and moaning for a snicker. Back at the pimp’s place, I have to trash some dude’s apartment above the embassy to teach him a lesson. I hack everything in sight with my machete, putting the TV and other objects into their destroyed state. But the quest simply will not update. I conclude it’s horribly bugged, then as a last ditch attempt I toss in a grenade and close the door. Bam, the quest finally updates. Hooray for lateral thinking!

As with any good Eastern European RPG, you can go whoring. You’ll get a pre-rendered movie of some extremely soft focus sex. Condoms are inventory items in this game, but damned if I can find any use for them. Maybe they could integrate them into the RPG system. One condom gives you a bonus to endurance while another… On second thought, let’s not go there.

I stayed on the gubmint’s good side so I could loot respawning mint condition rifles from their old Spanish fort. I’ve got a shiny new Dragunov, but hardly any 7.62mm ammo. I’d love to use an all American M-4 instead, but they don’t have any in this game. After some exploring, I discover that the sharpshooters on the towers will sell ammo at an outrageous price, and improving my government relationship score will get me a discount. Because there’s no comprehensive wiki or faqs, finding these guys was a pain in the ass. At least the internet hasn’t ruined White Gold’s sense of discovery. I’m also using version 1.00 so I can repeat a side quest that’s not supposed to be repeatable, which will feed my 7.62mm addiction.

The quest is offered by the harbormaster for Don Guillermo, the biggest source of jobs on the second island. This guy’s decadence puts Scarface to shame. The Don holds court on the roof of a colonial era mansion, where bikini clad honeys lounge next to an empty swimming pool filled with the Don’s murdered enemies. His first jobs involve switching a map so government air strikes don’t hit his plantations, and getting rid of some bandits harassing civies in town. In a neat acknowledgement of my actions, the bandits know me from work with Juarez and they get when I ask politely. Good thing they didn’t also hear about my going away party at Juarez’s place.

The real thorn in the Don’s side is the rebels. I thought a group called FARC would be best buds with drug smugglers, but it seems they’re the only other group contesting ownership of the island. No government troops in sight. After killing rebels for a bit, there’s a change of pace when you have to impersonate a rebel orator. You get no choice in how you liquidate him. You must wait until he goes into an outhouse, then you drop his corpse off at the crematorium. But when you take his place on the platform, you have to turn the audience in the mafia’s favor by being the world’s worst demagogue. It’s a dialog puzzle. Openly bash the rebels, and they’ll open fire on you. Instead, you pick options that sound like backhanded compliments to the Don and you damn the guerrillas with faint praise. The shoddy translation makes this a little difficult, but at least it’s a novel use of the conversation tree.

Everything else that doesn’t involve shooting people feels horribly rote. The Don’s nephew makes you fly a helicopter and a plane through some rings in the sky. Once again, there’s not even a time limit to provide a ghost of a challenge. I think “sandbox game” designers keep falling back on this form of padding because it’s so easy to render glowing geometric shapes as checkpoints. Too bad someone couldn’t figure out how to implement a race timer countdown.

Too many open world game makers seem to blow their whole budget on the giant map, then neglect to add interesting activities. It’s like they’re forcing you to create your own fun. In this case, I have to make up activities like ramming a car into the gas station.

Or landing a helicopter on a boat.

But at least White Gold has something the Far Crys of the world don’t: Cyrillic editions of Maxim.

And awesome T-shirts.

And great dialog.

You’re up the pole too, Don.

Tomorrow: from (near) Russia with bugs

Sapper Gopher is a software developer who works mostly in Java. Appropriately enough, he was in Tahiti last month.