Fallout 4 fanfiction: “Happy Birthday, Fiona”

Another story based on my first playthrough of Fallout 4. My Fallout 4 fanfiction doesn’t include the entire story of the Sole Survivor but is intended to fill in the gaps between the quests and storylines experienced within the game. In other words, it’s “headcanon.”

“Happy Birthday, Fiona” is my take on Hancock’s unrequited lust–and growing love–for the Sole Survivor. It takes place after Fiona becomes general of the Minutemen and kills Kellogg, but before she enters the Institute.

I’ve had this chapter ready for awhile and didn’t want to publish until I’d finished the bits in between, but I’m going in for surgery later this week, with several weeks recovery, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to work on this series again. So, I wanted to put out what I had. Hope you enjoy!

If you’d like to see a tour of my actual Abernathy Farm settlement in the game, check out my video on Youtube.

Strong language, alcohol and sexual references.

2,400 words

* * *

Part 1: MacCready’s Lucky Cap – MacCready meets Daisy & leaves the Gunners.
Part 2: A Home No More – Fiona adjusts to life in the Commonwealth wasteland.
Part 3: MacCready Meets the Mayor 
– MacCready arrives in Goodneighbor.
Part 9: Wanton Wasteland – Hangman’s Alley – Adults only! In a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Boston, the ghoulified mayor of Goodneighbor indulges in whiskey and voyeurism.
Part 10: Happy Birthday, Fiona – Hancock deals with unrequited lust that just might be love.

* * *

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FIONA”

Hancock joined MacCready in a dark corner of the Abernathy’s rooftop bar. The place was packed with people celebrating Fiona’s birthday. Minutemen, settlers, caravaneers, Trudy Drumlin and her kid Patrick, Deacon, Piper… Damn. He could’ve made a ton of caps, if they’d held the party at the Third Rail. But, then again, if the party was in Goodneighbor, most of these fine folks wouldn’t’ve shown up.

Music blared from several strategically placed radios and Preston Garvey guided the general around the dance floor.

Hancock nudged MacCready’s shoulder. “She gonna dance with other guys all night?”

MacCready shrugged. “Dancing’s stupid.”

“She doesn’t think so.”

“I don’t know how, okay? I don’t want to look like an idiot.”

“Too late.”

“You trying to piss me off?”

“Just trying to help.”

Piper dropped beside MacCready, jostling the bench and making him spill bourbon down his chin.

“Jeez, Piper, c’mon.” MacCready wiped his face. “This stuff isn’t cheap.”

“Are you for real, MacCready? All the drinks are free. It’s a party.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to go around wasting them.”

“OK, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but…” She grimaced in disgust. “We need to have a one-on-one.”

“Why?”

She gaped at him in exaggerated horror. “Really? That’s all you’ve got to say? ‘Why?’ I suggest a one-on-one and you’re not going to say something that you think is a smooth come-on but is actually really weird and pervy? You’ve changed. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.”

MacCready scoffed. “You never knew me to begin with.”

“A little radioactive birdie told me that you’ve been trying to find a way into the Institute.”

“Go talk to Fi.”

“I don’t pay for information.”

“Fi, not fee, as in Fiona. My girlfriend?”

Piper busted into mocking laughter. “Oh, MacCready, you’re a riot. Stop the presses! Delusional mercenary slash former Gunner has imaginary relationship with Minuteman general.”

“I’m not delusional.”

“If she’s with you, then why’s she slow dancing with her second in command?”

Hancock split before MacCready could appeal to him to verify the relationship or Piper could grill him for information. He wove his way between dancing pairs and sidled up to Fiona and Garvey just as the song “What a Wonderful World” ended.

“Thanks so much for inviting us all out here,” said the Minuteman, doing his best impression of a knight in shining armor. “I can’t remember the last time there was anything worth celebrating, but you’ve changed all that, and I hope you know how much I appreciate it. How much we all appreciate it.”

Fiona smiled that healthy, white-toothed smile, like rows of perfect Mentats.

“I didn’t do it alone, Preston.”

“But you brought us all together and gave us a purpose. I hope you see that. We couldn’t have done it without your leadership. The past year’s been rough, for all of us, and I know we still have a long way to go, but it’s nice to be reminded of what’s good in the Commonwealth. If anyone deserves a happy birthday, it’s you. We owe you so much, General.”

“I wish you would call me Fiona.”

Garvey glanced in MacCready’s direction and noticed Hancock for the first time.

“Oh, um, yeah, well, I think it’s better if we keep things proper. Ma’am. Happy birthday.” Preston touched the brim of his hat and nodded to Fiona, then to Hancock. “Mayor.” Then beat a hasty retreat.

Preston wasn’t Hancock’s style. The guy was all sorts of well-fed, clean and shiny. Meanwhile, MacCready was a skeevy little bastard. Great in a fight, sure, and Hancock had nothing against skeevy bastards. But it didn’t seem like her type. Which was in his favor. He needed to know more.

“Remind me again why you’re not shacking up with that one?” He nodded in Garvey’s direction.

“Hey, Hancock, glad you could make it.” She looped her arm through his and guided him to the edge of the roof, in the opposite corner from her old man and away from the crowd. “How’s the alley?”

“Doing good. The medical center needs supplies. We get a lotta messed up folks passing through.”

“I figured, with the location. I’ll take care of it. Think I could ask you to head over to Egret Marina, help them get their shit together?”

“Sure.”

Fiona leaned against the railing and crossed her arms. He leaned beside her. She lowered her voice. “Preston has issues.”

He shrugged. “Don’t we all?”

“He freezes up when he should have my back. In the Old World, we would have called it post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Hancock nodded, removing a cigarette pack and a lighter from his coat. “Yeah, and…?” There had to be more to it than that.

“And he cares more about the Minutemen than anything else.”

He flicked his lighter, lit a cigarette, took a drag, exhaled. “You don’t?”

“I want someone who cares about me for me, not just how much I can contribute to their pet project. The Minutemen are great but…”

“They’re great now. They weren’t so hot before you came along.”

“They’re great as a vehicle for helping people, and for making the Commonwealth a better and more secure place to live, for everyone. Which will make it a better place for Shaun. But, ultimately, Shaun is my priority. I want someone who understands that.”

“Like, MacCready. That was a real sweet thing you did, helping his kid.”

“And now he’s helping me find Shaun, not expecting me to plant tatos at Tenpines or fix the water purifier at Covenant.”

“Yeah, first and foremost, you’re a mama deathclaw. I get it.”

“I got nothing against Preston, y’know? He cares, he really fucking cares about everyone, everybody loves him, everywhere we go. He should be the general, not me, but I can’t rely on him. He can’t handle it.”

“But you can?”

The silver moonlight made her look like one of those marble statues downtown, the ones that were still standing, even after going through hell.

“I don’t let people down.” She said it with the kind of certainty that he wasn’t used to hearing from anyone but himself. “And if I do, at least I know I did my best. If my best wasn’t good enough, well, there’s no one else trying to do it. I like to think that an attempt, any attempt, is better than doing nothing at all.”

He could’ve stayed there looking at her all night, but he heard someone say, “Hey, Sturges!” and turned to see a hulking guy in overalls heading their way with a bundle under one arm.

Hancock chuckled.

“What’s funny?” She turned to look in the same direction.

“Another contender enters the ring.”

Sturges fussed with his dark coiffe of hair and flashed a big grin. “’Scuse me, Fiona? Am I interrupting?”

“No, Sturges, not at all.” She got a kind of flustered, hot-and-bothered look. Hancock would’ve given the Third Rail to get that kinda reaction out of her.

“Happy birthday. I brought you a present.” Sturges held out the bundle, something long, wrapped in cloth and twine. Hancock guessed rifle. He was wrong.

Fiona carefully unwrapped the gift. “A guitar! Where did you find one?”

“I made it.”

Her eyes grew red with tears. “You… made it? For me?”

Damn, he was good. Hancock dropped his cigarette butt and stomped it out.

“You’d mentioned it to me, awhile back, how you used to play. Figured it’s the least I could do, while you’re out saving the world.”

“Thank you!” She flung her tits against Sturges’ beefy chest and kissed his sideburned cheek with well-practiced skill. “Thank you so much.”

So, that’s how it was, huh? She must still have a wet spot for him, didn’t want to admit it. Which probably had more to do with her self-respect and those Old World morals she dragged around like an anchor, than her actual love for MacCready. Would also explain, in fewer words, exactly why she wasn’t hung up on Preston.

“Took a lot of trial and error, and research,” Sturges explained. ”I had Carla find some holotapes with old diagrams and photos. I thought about fixing it with a laser. You could shoot ghouls and sing about it at the same time. Uh, no offense, Hancock.”

“None taken.”  

“I don’t suppose you’ll play something for us? I wanna make sure it works.”

“I don’t know if my fingers still remember how to play, after being in cryo freeze. Let me practice a little first.” She gazed at the instrument like a lover and Hancock wished he had six strings. “Sturges, I’m… I’m at a loss for words. This is… amazing. You’re amazing.”

“Nah, it’s nothing. I needed a challenge.”

“It’s not nothing,” she gushed.  

“I just want you to be happy. Are you happy, Fiona?”

Whoa, that had subtext. Hancock couldn’t wait to hear her answer.

“I’m… I’m as good as I’m going to be, until I find Shaun. We’re getting really close. We tracked down the guy who took him and killed Nate. He’s a blood stain on the floor of Fort Hagen, now.”

She said that with such relish, it made Hancock semi-hard, and he had to agree. “Anybody ever deserved it, it was that piece of garbage.”

Fiona took that as encouragement to launch into a war story, which she mimed with vicious enthusiam.

“It’s not our style, getting up close and personal, right? Mac and I like to hang back, let our guns do the talking. But we found Kellogg — that’s the asshole who took Shaun — and he had a Stealth Boy, which means my Pipboy targeting system doesn’t work. But Mac just ran right up, flips his rifle around, starts pounding and pounding. I didn’t even need to fire a shot.”

Bingo. Killing her husband’s murderer trumped Minuteman and handyman. MacCready would get a lot of mileage outta that. The little shit.

Warm and fuzzy Sturges got cold and prickly all of a sudden. “Well, that’s … great. I’m just glad you’re alright and you’ve, uh, got some justice.”

“But we’ve still got to find Shaun. I’m working on some lead-lined power armor so we can enter the Glowing Sea.”

She said it as casually as Hancock might say, “I’m working on a way to make Joey Slickfingers cough up those caps he owes us.” Just another day.

“Jesus H. Christ, why do you need to go out there?” Sturges seemed to be getting more uncomfortable by the moment.

“To find the information I need. To find Shaun.”

“Well, if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know. Right now, I think I’ll go grab a beer. See you later?”

Sturges went off to the bar without waiting for an answer.  

Hancock pushed up the brim of his tricorn hat. “You’re scaring people away, all that talk of murder and mayhem.”

“You’re still here.”

“I happen to enjoy murder and mayhem. It’s better than jet. So, what’s with you and your friendly neighborhood guitar man?”

Fiona looked all forlorn and wistful. “He’d rather I stayed in Sanctuary Hills, but I’ve got shit to do.”

“Yeah, you do.”

“I… I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I miss him sometimes.”

She’d never tell MacCready something like that, he was certain. That sort of honesty was a gift, and he appreciated it, more than she knew.

Hancock adjusted the cuffs of his red coat. “Look, I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I… I think you should know.”

Especially when I’m curious how you’ll react.

“What’s up?” She moved real close, like, smell the wasteland in her hair and the sweetness of her breath close.

“You smell like gumdrops.” He said it a bit too warm and sultry, he couldn’t help it.

“They were a gift from Piper.”

“You got any left? Don’t hold out on me.”

She fished a small box from her shirt pocket and offered it to him. “They’re hard as rocks.”

“I know the feeling.”

She laughed. He wasn’t fucking kidding, but to her he was a joke. She didn’t look at him and see someone with feelings and needs, the way she looked at MacCready, or Garvey, or Sturges. She saw a melted wax clown.

“Um… Is that it? You wanted to tell me I smelled like gumdrops?”

“No, I, uh, had something else.”

He paused, wagged his finger so she’d lean closer, whispered in her ear. Strands of her auburn hair brushed his scarred lips.

“Sturges is a synth.”

She reached for the 10mm at her hip and Hancock grabbed her hand.

“Whoa. Not the Institute spy kind of synth. The rescued and rehabilitated kind.”

She fixed him with a look that could melt steel. Her eye twitched. All that sugary laughter from a minute ago, gone.

“How do you know?”

“Who d’ya think lets the Railroad operate in Goodneighbor? Shit doesn’t happen in my town without my approval.”

“Does he know?”

“Synths don’t usually know they’re synths. Once they get out of the Institute, get their minds wiped, they’re like anybody else, just trying to survive. I shouldn’t know, either, but I happened to be in the Memory Den when he passed through. Kinda hard to forget biceps like that, but I don’t have to tell you.”

She stared across the rooftop. “Everything seemed so real. I mean, it all felt just like… Damn.”

“Because he is real. Synth, ghoul, mutant, we’re not human, but we’re still people.” He needed her to believe that.

“I slept with him, back when I first left the vault.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured that out.”

“Not right at first, of course. At the time, everything felt like it just happened yesterday. But, after a few months, when we were fixing up the settlement… I was so lonely.”

“I ain’t judging you. Don’t judge him, either.” And don’t judge me, that’s what he really wanted to say, wasn’t it?

“Thanks for telling me. I… I should go. See how Mac’s doing.”

Her port in a shitstorm. Well, we all need one. Hancock’s was chems and liquor. But he wanted hers to be him. He wanted it bad, and he wasn’t used to that sort of feeling.

He still had a hold of her hand and he pulled her toward the dance floor, sliding his arm around her waist.

“MacCready’s fine. Let’s dance.”

* * *

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Skyrim smut, part 5: A Tsunny Day in Shor’s Realm

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Tamriel and its inhabitants belong to Bethesda. Zephyr Silvertongue is an original character.

Do not read if you are easily offended by fanfiction, romance, or an Imperial Dragonborn who snogs gods.

This story takes place in Sovngarde, just after the defeat of Alduin. While not “smut” like the previous installments of this series, it is a fun little interlude involving true love, temptation, and headcanon about the Dovahkiin’s relationship to Tiber Septim.

I’d actually written this many years ago, but didn’t want to publish until I’d finished the previous chapter, “The Dunmer of Debauchery.”

1,250 words.

– J.L. Hilton

* * *

A TSUNNY DAY IN SHOR’S REALM

With the dark fog of Alduin World-Eater lifted, color and light poured into Sovngarde like Cyrodilic brandy in a silver chalice.

I stood, swathed head to foot in dark leather, a spectre in the sparkling glade, and tried to conceal my disappointment. The Nord afterlife pleased the senses, but offered no treasure, no cunning crown, rare scroll, nor gold coin to steal back to the mortal world. I settled for a blue mountain flower—fragile and faintly aromatic as any in the land of the living—which I plucked and slipped into my alchemy bag. Delivered by the Dragonborn from the fields of Shor’s Realm, it would have the worth of a thousand sapphires in Skyrim.

Teldryn Sero might have suggested I gather pebbles, too, and sell them at a roadside stand outside the Thalmor Embassy. But, here, my snide Dunmer lover could not accompany me. The dragon Odahviing bore only one mortal to the ruins of Skuldafn, and I alone battled the dragon priest Nahkriin to enter eternity.

Bare-chested immortal warrior Tsun waited near. He served as sentinel of the Whalebone Bridge and the Hall of Valor, still and sturdy as an oak, ever watchful. When he spoke, his voice rumbled like a storm, shaking the boughs of the trees.

“Tarry not too long, the land of the dead is not meant for mortals to linger. Tell me when you are ready to return.”

There was a nip in the air despite the blossoms on the mountainside. Not cold but invigorating. I removed my Nightingale mask and drank in the idyllic landscape, wishing Teldryn could share it with me.

“Give me time, I implore you, mighty Tsun, to taste Aetherius and savor the soul hearth of the Nords, for I shall never walk here again.”

“When you have completed your count of days, I may welcome you with glad friendship and bid you join the blessed feasting.”

Ah, yes, feasting. Piles of meat and sweet pies filled the tables of the great hall, ale flowed like water, and swords clashed in friendly combat. Not unlike Jorrvaskr, but not my idea of paradise.

“I am pledged to Nocturnal.”

He stepped closer, radiating magical energy that prickled the hair of my neck into gooseflesh. The glow of him was not seen with the eyes but felt deep in the bones and in the spirit, a radiance that soothed aches and eased burdens I wasn’t even aware I had until I felt them cease. His hands moved over my shoulders as if dusting void salts from my armor.

“Aye. Shadow clings to you.”

I turned, my nose level with the guardian’s heart. In Skyrim, my height equaled any Nord, Dunmer or Imperial. But he stood head and shoulders taller than even Knight Paladin Gelebor the Snow Elf, and twice as thick. I tore my eyes away from his fur loincloth and the steel tassets over his impressive thighs, and looked up at his face.

“I’m an Imperial, not a Nord.”

Tsun hooked his thumbs under the edge of my hood and slid it from my head, cupping my cheeks in his enormous hands, reverent as if drinking water from a holy well. “The river of your lineage flows from the blood of Tiber Septim.”

The honorable shield-thane of Shor was no liar nor a fool, but the Septim dynasty had ended centuries ago, during the Oblivion Crisis. Or so said bards and scholars.

“How is that possible?”

He threw back his head and laughed, a robust laugh that echoed in the heavens. Then he smiled at me, his eyes sparkling. “In the usual way.”

“There’s no rumor nor record of any living Septim after the sacrifice of brief Emperor Martin.”

“Blood may flow without a name. Some songs are sung in darkness.”

“Ruling requires more than mere words – even those given to me by the glorious guardian of Shor’s Hall. For me to become Empress would require mighty deeds.”

He stroked my hair. “By such deeds as the doom of the soul-snaring worm Alduin, so the valiant Dragonborn will return to Sovngarde.”

I felt light-headed by the intoxication of his touch and my lips curved in a reckless grin. “Are you trying to convince me to come back? Or reluctant to let me go?”

His eyes turned hungry, as a bear might gaze upon a salmon in a stream. Was there not as much fornicating as feasting and fighting in Sovngarde? Truly, not the forever for me.

“Long has time been since I beheld a doom-driven hero of the dragon blood, and longer still since that hero be a shieldmaiden.”

“You are the lord of trials,” I said, standing on tiptoe and combing my fingers through chest hair that glinted like Dwarven metal in the holy light of the afterlife. “Would seducing you be as difficult as winning my way across the Whalebone Bridge?”

“Seduction is not the trial, Dragonborn, but the act itself would be formidable, unless you are as brave in bedding as you are in battle, as I hope you are.”

Of course, a legendary fighter would have a legendary “weapon.” The thought evoked an elemental clash of heat and dampness in my core. I’d not bedded another man nor mer since my first night with Teldryn, more than a year ago. This, however, was no man nor mer, but a god. Could I deny him Dibella’s holy ministry of pleasure?

I pressed as close as my leather armor would allow, my chest crushed against the ornate steel buckle of the fur belt girding his waist. He bent to kiss me and the silvery ornaments binding his thick, russet braids tinkled like bells. He smelled fresh as the wind and tasted like a mountain stream, lips supple as kid leather. I stretched my arms around his massive neck as he lifted me from the ground with surprising gentleness for such a hardened barbarian. The curved torc at his throat hummed with a host of enchantments, cold as ice against my skin.

I thought of the heat of Teldryn’s ash-gray flesh with its scent of lavender and leather, the long, precious points of his ears, and the web of deep creases around his red eyes. His lean elven physique fit mine like a hand in an enchanted glove. How nimble Teldryn’s lips would have danced across mine, around my ear and down my neck, while his musical voice whispered depraved desires. A sudden yearning for my dark elf overpowered the radiance of Sovngarde or any promise of powerful bedding.

Tsun set me on my feet and stepped back, straightening to his full stature. “The Night Mistress is not the only one who claims you.”

I belonged as much to Teldryn as to Nocturnal. He knew, with that preternatural knowing of a god, connected to the currents of magic and time that wove through all things, from a moth’s wing to an Elder Scroll, though I wondered exactly what he knew about the forces that bound my soul.

Stern and inscrutable again, he seemed disinclined to continue his daliance with me. I left my questions unasked, weary of arcane knowledge and the intrigues of Aedra and Daedra. The revelation of my birthright weighed heavy enough, and I had more to deal with in Skyrim, where the civil war would resume upon my return.

“Then I should go.”

He nodded. “Return to Nirn, with this rich boon from Shor, a Shout to bring a hero from Sovngarde in your hour of need. Nahl… Daal… Vus!”

And thus I left the afterlife.

* * *

Read more Skyrim…

Skyrim smut 1: “Come with me to Sovngarde
Skyrim smut 2: “I need another stamina potion”
Skyrim smut 3: “Tickling the angry troll”
Skyrim smut 4: “The Dunmer of Debauchery”
Skyrim smut 5: “A Tsunny Day in Shor’s Realm”
Skyrim smut 6: “Return to Solitude”

How I left my husband for a man with pointy ears

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Skyrim smut, part 4: The Dunmer of Debauchery

* * WARNING: ADULT CONTENT * *

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Tamriel and its inhabitants belong to Bethesda. Zephyr Silvertongue is an original character.

Do not read if you are easily offended by fanfiction, erotica, or an Imperial Dragonborn who likes to lick Dunmer.

This was a challenging piece of writing for me, and it’s been more than four years since I wrote the previous story about Teldryn and Zephyr, “Tickling the Angry Troll.” My Skyrim fanfic is ribald and fun, but I wanted to take things a bit more seriously here. I hope this work captures both the passion and the poetry of their first night together.

1,700 words.

– J.L. Hilton

* * *

THE DUNMER OF DEBAUCHERY

I left Iona with the Blades in Sky Haven Temple and spent a small fortune for the fastest horse in Markarth. Though its hooves beat a furious rhythm upon the roads between the Reach and the Rift, I could not return to my Dunmer lover fast enough. Teldryn Sero awaited me in Honeyside, my home in southeastern Skyrim, as far from Solitude and my husband as possible, and empty now of any housecarl to report our deeds. Iona would serve the Blades well but serve me better with her absence.

I’d never kept secrets from Stenvar. My husband witnessed the events of my life at my side, slaying enemies, forging alliances, counting coins… until Solstheim. The island nearly killed him. When he returned to Skyrim to recover, I’d hired the “greatest swordsman in all Morrowind,” whose boasting turned out to be more than a mere sales pitch. And, I, the Dragonborn, Nightingale of Nocturnal, agent of Dibella, favored of Sanguine, blood Imperial, found myself enthralled by a dark elf whose snide tongue wielded words as well as his hands slung spell or sword.

That tongue and those hands had been enough to grant me Dibella’s gift in the wagon to Windhelm. Now I yearned to discover what pleasures the rest of him could provide. And so I rode through dark of night, swift as a rumor, ruthless as the truth, past Helgen, where Alduin World-Eater belayed my execution, and into the icy windswept peaks of the Jerall Mountains.

A rag-clad skooma seller hailed me near Ivarstead, but recoiled when moonlight revealed the Nightingale insignia upon my armor. Though such miscreants only dabbled in thievery, they could recognize the leader of the Thieves Guild and dared not risk my wrath. He sputtered desperate apologies and I rode on without a word.

Dawn broke as I reached Heartwood Mill, and sunlight spilled down the Throat of the World. I crossed the bridge and took the north road around Lake Honrich to Riften’s main gate where I dismounted and left the horse in the stablehand’s capable care. My heart pounded like a blacksmith’s hammer as I approached the boat dock behind my home.

I would not seduce Teldryn smelling of horse and sweat, so I undressed and bathed in the lake. I had little to fear from the few farmers, fishers and millers waking to their morning chores. Karliah retained Goldenglow Estate, not far from off, and the gambler’s den of Faldar’s Tooth on the north shore answered to Maven Black-Briar, a powerful ally and personal friend. I even had the friendship of righteous Mjoll, so easily bought with a few careful words and the return of her sword, Grimsever. By all this, and more, did Jarl Leila Law-Giver declare me Thane of the Rift. In truth, I was safer here, swimming naked, than anywhere in Skyrim.

Refreshed, I gathered my gear, climbed the steps to Honeyside and unlocked the back door. Oiled hinges opened in silence and I entered the bedroom. In the dusty morning light, I could see Teldryn asleep on his back, one arm flung carelessly above his head, bare-chested and the rest concealed by bed covers. Naked and dripping, I shivered not with cold but anticipation, no doubt enraging the goddess Mara who’d blessed my marriage in the local temple. Her priests were probably writhing in uneasy slumber and rising from dark dreams as I lusted for a daedra-worshipping Dunmer.

Beverages, cheeses, sweet rolls, bread, butter and honey covered the table at the foot of the bed. Leaving my weapons and baggage on the floor, I closed and locked the door, then filled a tankard. I sipped mead and drank in the body of a swordsman, more muscular than my sweet Bosmer archer, Faendal, not as bulky as a Nord or an Orc, but strong and agile. His chest rose and fell, mesmerizing as the waters of White River, gray skin peppered with darker gray freckles and curls of black hair. I spoke no shout to slow time, yet all of Mundus seemed to stop while I watched the mysterious mercenary who’d never revealed his face until declaring his love for me.

Climbing into bed, I pressed my body along his side, placing my hand over his chest and resting my head on his shoulder. His heart beat strong under my palm and his skin felt warm and welcoming as hearthstones, radiating his natural Dunmer heat. He smelled of woodsmoke, lavender, and his own unique distillation of Mer blood.

He didn’t move, didn’t even open his eyes, but his sleepy, sultry voice murmured. “I’d wondered where you would put your hands.”

I kissed his cheek. “Everywhere, in time.”

“Yet, you chose my heart first. You value my love, most of all.”

I caressed his arm. “And if I’d touched you here?”

“You’d want my strength and protection.”

I moved my hand from his hard bicep and traced one light fingertip along his brow. “And here?”

“My knowledge.”

I touched the bridge of his nose, his violet lips, his chin, his throat, and drew a path down his chest to his stomach. I slid my hand under the blanket, over his thigh, and cupped his pouch of precious stones. He exhaled a sigh when I grasped his elven sword, hard as a steel hilt wrapped in the softest suede.

“And if I’d touched this first?”

“You’d want pleasure.”

I gently nibbled the edge of his pointed ear and whispered. “But you’re wrong.”

“Am I?”

I squeezed. “I want everything.”

The purple orb of a spell swirled in his hand. “I can give you even more.”

His tusk swelled from horker to mammoth size in my grasp. I recognized the unique light of conjuration magic, used to summon a variety of weapons — axe, sword, dagger, bow — but never knew it could manifest this sort of tool.

“Is this one of the fornication spells you spoke of?” I stroked the length of his conjured cock. “I thought they were just tales to taunt me.”

“Oh, no, Serah Dovah, they are quite real.”

His hand glowed blue, cold as ice, and traced spirals around my breasts, which he warmed with his mouth. He slid his hand between my legs, sending a shocking chill through me that did nothing to cool my desire.

I wrapped my arms around him, kissed him, and felt the magical length of him between us. Like all spells, it had a limited duration and soon returned to its natural size. He raised a hand to cast the spell again and I laced my fingers through his.

“Don’t.”

“Says the woman who boasts of bedding enormous Nords and Orcs.”

I held his red eyes with my own gray gaze. “I want you just as you are. No masks. No enchantments.”

His smug smile was more precious to me than Barenziah’s crown. Teldryn had every right to his conceit. He had no dragon blood nor gifts from the gods, and yet he followed me down every path without misstep. He had no bardic training, yet his voice was music and his wit as keen as Dragonbane’s edge.

“You may have me, but do you love me? Say you do.”

“I swear by Aedra and Daedra…”

He quieted me with a kiss. “Oaths are as empty as a beggar’s purse. You break one, even now, to be with me. Don’t swear. Show me. Make me believe you.”

He was alchemy, and I had to taste him to unlock his secrets. He was a treasure map, full of unending riches, and took my time exploring every landmark. He was my own Apocrypha, a library of forbidden knowledge, and I read every line, fingers probing like the tentacles of Hermaeus Mora, until I knew him well. Then I used every skill I possessed to whet his blade until he erupted like Red Mountain. His hands tangled in my hair as he thrust, flowing white-hot down my throat with a rush like the release of a dragon soul.

Teldryn took his turn at me, torturing with the flick of his tongue, light as a luna moth’s wing, building exquisite tension until I overflowed. Dibella’s gift shuddered through me but only made me want him more. I toyed with his long, elven ears and dark hair, as he kissed a path over my stomach and between my breasts. Eye to eye, heart to heart, we held each other and I felt his sword stiffen against my damp sheath.

“No stamina potion needed?”

“Every road we have traveled, every arrow from your bow, every word spoken by campfire and moonlight, every foul creature slain by your sword, Zephyr Silvertongue, is my stamina potion. Each moment with you is a drop in the vial of my desire. And I’ve collected too many, waited too long.”

“You need wait no longer.”

I pushed him onto his back and positioned myself at the tip of his cock. He grasped my head between his hands, fingers clutching my damp hair, and his eyes held mine as I took him, inch by inch. As light spreads through darkness, as water slakes thirst, as warmth seeps into cold bones, he filled me, not just in flesh but in spirit.

In bed as in battle, we moved like the gears of a Dwemer machine, attuned to one other with perfect precision. Constantly shifting, moving, grinding, fueled by the numinous fires of something deep and discarnate, I lost myself in a sacred realm of our own, climbing to a peak of unfathomable ecstasy as the sun climbed higher in the sky.

He was above me, my legs wrapped around his waist, hands on his backside, when Dibella’s gift rose in me again. I cried out the names of every god I could remember, until there were none left but his name.

“Teldryn.”

He drew back for a final thrust, deft and deep, and I felt him spill into me. I clutched him until my nails drew blood. My body twisted and writhed, as I wrung every drop of pleasure from oblivion. His voice spurred me on, harder, faster, until the last spasm passed, and then it was a soothing balm, a singsong of love eternal and grateful joy.

I held him in my arms and knew that we were forever bound, heart and soul, Teldryn Sero and Zephyr Silvertongue, and not even the gods could tear us asunder.

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Try-It Tuesday: NIGHTMARES FROM THE DEEP 3 Davy Jones

NIGHTMARES FROM THE DEEP 3: DAVY JONES is another Artifex Mundi game with a free demo for the Playstation 4. I love these point-and-click puzzle stories for a change of pace. You can see the others I’ve tried, here.

This one is a ghost pirate adventure where museum curator Sara Black must save her daughter from a soul-stealing pact, solve 29 mini-games and 11 hidden object scenes, awaken 12 mysterious statues, and explore 68 locations.

I enjoyed this one, and my viewers seemed to like it, too, so I may continue playing the full game in future. Check my gaming schedule for updates.

Available for PC, Xbox One, PS4 and mobile. Rated “T” for teens.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: MASS EFFECT Andromeda

MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA is an action role-playing video game developed by BioWare for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Released in March 2017, it’s the fourth installment in the Mass Effect series.

Some of my readers have asked if my Stellarnet books were inspired by Mass Effect, but I’ve never played the games and know very little about the franchise. At the time I wrote Stellarnet Rebel, I hadn’t even played a Fallout or Elder Scrolls game, yet.

With a free trial on PS4, and at viewer request, I tried MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA this week. I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t have a single complaint, other than being in third-person, which is awkward for me. I wasn’t crazy about the face of the main character, Sara Ryder, she seemed too young and dopey looking, but I’m told that there’s a way to customize the character in the full game.

Definitely a game to consider buying and playing in the future!

MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA is rated “M” for mature players over 17, due to blood, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, and violence.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: BEYOND Two Souls

Quantic Dream releases Detroit: Become Human for PlayStation 4 in a couple of days so I tried a demo last week. Another Quantic Dream game, BEYOND: TWO SOULS, was free this month for Playstation+ members, and I figured I’d try that one, too.

While Detroit: Become Human is a near-future science fiction story about androids, BEYOND: TWO SOULS is a supernatural thriller with similarities to the 2016 Netflix show Stranger Things. Both games are single-player, third person, with quick time events.

I found the gameplay in BEYOND: TWO SOULS excessively frustrating and awkward. As someone who’s played thousands of hours of games like Fallout, Skyrim and BioShock, the camera movement felt cramped and the controls confusing. I spent too much time walking around, opening doors, and bumping into the limits of the world.

I wasn’t keen on the stiff camera in Detroit: Become Human, either, but didn’t feel the same sense of frustration with that game. The points of interaction enhanced the story in the Detroit demo, but they really got in the way and detracted from the experience in BEYOND: TWO SOULS.

In spite of my intense dislike of the game mechanics, BEYOND: TWO SOULS has an interesting story and my viewers tell me there’s only about ten total hours of gameplay, so I may go ahead and finish the game. Check my Patreon page for updates.

BEYOND: TWO SOULS was published in 2013, featuring characters voiced by Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, and is rated “M” for mature audiences due to blood, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, and use of drugs and alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: DETROIT Become Human

Quantic Dream releases DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN next week for PlayStation 4 and a free demo, the “Hostage,” is available for preview. Some of my viewers suggested I try it out.

Quantic Dream also developed two other Playstation exclusives, Heavy Rain (2010) and Beyond: Two Souls (2013), which I never played. The latter is free this month for Playstation+ members and I’ll be trying it out next week.

While I’m a fan of first-person point-and-click puzzle adventures like Eventide: Slavic Fable or the Mystery Case Files franchise, I don’t usually play third-person story games, like the Telltale games. When I play a video game, I want a video game, not an interactive movie. I don’t like cutscenes or quick time events. I don’t like playing in third-person. I tried Murdered: Soul Suspect last year and couldn’t get into it.

So, I wasn’t expecting much from DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN. But when I finished the scenario for the first time, successfully saving Emma, I was stoked. It felt good. I was totally engaged. The story tense, the characters compelling, the gameplay intriguing. The game showed me a branching timeline of unexplored possibilities and I eagerly played the scenario again. The second time, Connor died and I got all choked up. That’s the sign of a good game.

It remains to be seen whether the rest of DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN will be as good as the demo, but I’d like to find out.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: LITTLE NIGHTMARES

LITTLE NIGHTMARES is a single-player puzzle-platformer horror adventure game developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment in 2017 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version became available in 2018.

During my playthrough of Unravel, a few of my viewers suggested this game to me, so I tried the free PS4 demo this week. Unravel was a sweet, but deeply emotional and at times very dark, puzzle side-scroller about Yarny, a yarn creature who unravels as it travels through the memories of its creator.

LITTLE NIGHTMARES is about a small child (I assume but am not entirely sure) in a yellow raincoat who is trapped in what seems to be an orphanage on an oil tanker, constantly rocking as if at sea, and populated with gnomes, leeches and characters that would be right at home in a Tim Burton movie.

While I could admire the creepy atmosphere and excellent graphics — which really felt like looking into the side of an open dollhouse — I won’t be playing any more LITTLE NIGHTMARES. I’m not a fan of horror and I’m particularly not a fan of horror when children are in peril. Blame it on an over-developed maternal instinct, but I felt utter agony when the small protagonist fell to her death and I saw her foot twitching. Just… no. Not for me.

Rated “T” for Teens, for blood and violence.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ZOMBIE VIKINGS

It’s like someone at Zoink! said, “Hey, let’s make a game with zombie Vikings, like in Skyrim or Game of Thrones, only our zombie Vikings are the good guys!”

And, lo, they created ZOMBIE VIKINGS, a dead funny adventure about a putrid posse in search of Odin’s missing eyeball. Available for PS4, Xbox One and PC. You can play alone or with up to three other people, with online and couch co-op.

Choose one of four Zombie Vikings — Gunborg, Seagurd, Hedgy and Caw-kaa — each with unique power moves and dialog. Impale your friends on the end of your weapon (you can’t hurt them, they’re already dead!) and hurl them at your enemies. Visit a lonely witch’s love lair. Battle animated hairballs hacked up by a cat king. Wield wild weapons, including a kitty lollipop, a nose sword, and a peppermint stick.

I’m not usually big on side-scrolling, button-mashing games, but I enjoyed the animation, creativity and silly story of ZOMBIE VIKINGS. It’s okay as a single-player, thanks to the addition of a piggy-corn companion, but I think this game is really meant to be played with friends. I’m hoping to continue playing through with my youngest daughter, and maybe some of my viewers, when I’ve finished Cat Quest.

Rated “T” for “Teens,” due to crude humor, fantasy violence, language, mild blood, suggestive themes and drug use.

~ J.L. Hilton

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BioShock Infinite: Final Thoughts

I started playing BioShock Infinite a month ago, after years of avoiding spoilers and reviews. Upon reaching Battleship Bay, I wrote down my first impressions. Now I’ve finished the game, I’ll share my final thoughts:

BioShock Infinite was a visually beautiful video game with some fun moments, overshadowed by crappy game design, a skeevy protagonist, and a muddled mess of a plot, that demeans women and trivializes racism.

Watch over 100 videos in my playthrough of BioShock: The Collection

No game is perfect. Some of my favorites, Skyrim and Fallout 4, have glitches galore, plot holes and other problems, but there’s enough good content to make up for the bad. I loved BioShock and BioShock 2, and I wanted to love Infinite, but it just didn’t work for me.

I have played Burial at Sea, parts one and two, but this article addresses Infinite, because a game should stand on its own merit and not need an expansion to fix or explain its failings. I’ll talk a bit about the DLC at the end.

* * *

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS 

* * *

Crappy game design

Shooting dominates Infinite, when you’re not busy looting garbage cans for money, cash registers for cotton candy, and robots for oranges. Sure, there’s shooting in BioShock and Fallout 4, even in Dishonored, and those are all games I enjoyed. So what’s the difference?

In BioShock, enemies were monsters, spliced, twisted, barely human, and beyond redemption or cure. Killing them was a piece of mercy. But, in Infinite, enemies are human. A compelling argument could be made that white supremacists are barely human monsters beyond redemption, too, but I also had to shoot the Vox Populi, an army of Columbia’s oppressed. Despite the best efforts of the game to make them out to be as evil as their oppressors, all that killing just felt wrong.

And boring.

With Fallout 4, most enemies were dangerous animals, irradiated monsters and morally-bankrupt raiders. Aside from shooting, there were towns to rebuild, characters to befriend or romance, an open world to explore, crops to plant, junk to scavenge and sell, people to rescue, factions to join, armor to upgrade, unique weapons to find, recipes to cook, and more.

In Dishonored, I had the option of stealth to avoid conflict, or I could choke my enemies with a non-lethal takedown. There were no non-lethal options in Infinite, and no stealth, except for the asylum level near the end of the game, with a whopping total of two Boys of Silence I could dart past.

I felt as if I killed ten times as many people in Columbia as all the splicers in Rapture, Bioshock and BioShock 2 combined. And I probably did, considering how many BioShock Infinite trophies were based on killing people:

To get all of the achievements in BioShock, a grand total of ten people were required to die. In Infinite, hundreds. Most of the trophies in BioShock were based on using the research camera, hacking, inventing, upgrading, and collecting. Infinite featured no research, hacking nor inventing, at all.

I managed to get through most of Infinite with my machine gun and RPG, when I wasn’t playing “shooting gallery” with a conveniently-placed sniper rifle.

Possession was useful for saving ammo and distracting enemies, but I was only ever required to use vigors for powering one gondola and unlocking a couple areas for extra loot. Whereas plasmids were integral to the level design and to the player’s survival in previous BioShock games: Door controls zapped with Electro-Bolt; frozen areas thawed with Incinerate; dark corners explored with Scout; hidden goodies grabbed with Telekinesis; cameras and turrets tricked with Security Command; or enemies flushed out of hiding by bee swarms.

The game’s constant reminder, “remember to use your vigors,” felt like a plaintive request rather than genuine assistance.

In the very last battle of Infinite, I did need to use Shock Jockey traps to keep the Vox away from the airship’s power core, but can we just stop right there for a minute and ask: Why could Elizabeth conjure walls on either side of the power core, to protect Booker, but somehow couldn’t conjure walls to just protect the damn core itself?

The game was inconsistent, incoherent, contrived and chaotic. Elizabeth, voxophones and loudspeakers often talked over each other, so none could be understood, and it was all so muddled even the captions couldn’t sort it out. Possession turned some turrets friendly forever, while others were only friendly for a few seconds. Tantalizing coins shimmered behind invisible walls and couldn’t be collected. A ghost couldn’t be killed, yet suffered critical damage from headshots, and despite floating everywhere, left footprints for me to follow.

The square button drove me crazy. I frequently found myself going through a dead man’s pockets instead of reloading, or reloading instead of catching a health kit from Elizabeth. This was even worse during the final battle when, on top of everything else, I had to press square to control Songbird.

A space-time tear in Finkton, through which can be heard the song “Fortunate Son” by CCR from 1969

The tears — or as I call them, the singing space-time vajayjays — were described by Elizabeth as a form of “wish fulfillment,” yet she couldn’t seem to imagine much more than hooks, sniper rifles, water puddles and the odd motorized patriot. All her bragging about the books she’d read, and that’s the best she could come up with?

The excuse given for her limited ability was a siphon machine that somehow prevented her from using her powers to the fullest, at least until the plot called for her to take Booker into an alternate timeline, pick a rose in an elevator, or summon a tornado. I was reminded of the mechanics of space travel in science fiction: “At the speed of plot.” That’s how the tears seemed to work, as well.

I overlooked the fact that every jump off the skyline would break Booker’s legs, because the skyhook was a fun feature of the game. In a similar way, I may have overlooked the chaotic soundscape, repetitive boss fights, constant backtracking through levels, Booker’s inane dumpster diving, the two-weapon limit, the square button, and other irritations of this game, had I liked the characters and the story. But, I didn’t, and that’s the REAL problem I have with Infinite.

Skeevy protagonist 

In BioShock and BioShock 2, the protagonists Jack and Delta were in a bad situation due to no fault of their own, and had to fight for survival. In Infinite, Booker DeWitt is a killer, a human trafficker and a douchebag. He seems, at first, to be a rescuer, but then we discover that he’s only accepted the job because he’s got gambling debts and intends to take Elizabeth, against her will, to a place she doesn’t want to go, for money, and kill a shit ton of people while doing it.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, by the end of the game we find out it’s much worse. He not only sold his own baby, he’s somehow Comstock himself, the violent racist prophet of Columbia.

Jack and Delta were silent protagonists. Giving Booker a voice did nothing to increase his likability. Most of his lines were either insignificant, like “holy shit” and “thanks,” or game tutorials such as, “I need to take this skyline to Monument Island.” Better dialog might have made a better Booker, and may have moved me to care about the plot twist or his ultimate fate.

The only Booker line I liked showed up somewhere around the middle of the game. He said, “Sometimes there’s precious need of folks like Daisy Fitzroy… Cause of folks like me.” When I heard that, I thought, wow, that shows self-awareness and an awareness of what’s going on around him, and there’s a sense of morality in what he said. It made me hope that he would eventually develop a personality, and maybe even get with the Vox and fight the good fight.

But, no.

There are moral choices in the previous BioShock games — save or harvest the Little Sisters, spare or kill key characters — and those moments not only affect the outcome of the stories and the actions of other characters, they allowed us to bond with the protagonists, to truly become the main character.

Infinite offers only three in-game choices — stone the interracial couple or not, kill or spare Slate, pick out a pendant for Elizabeth — and those choices have no impact whatsoever on the story, the ending, Booker, Elizabeth, or anything else. They certainly did fuck-all to help me feel connected to the story.

A muddled mess of a plot

In BioShock & BioShock 2, characters, environments, audio recordings, weapons, level design, all served the story. But in Infinite… I can’t even figure out what the story is.

What did the salts and vigors have to do with anything? Rapture was a city with scientists and capitalists, unfettered by morality or regulation, who used sea slugs and little girls to produce and gather Adam and Eve, turned humans into Big Daddies, and created new abilities through gene splicing. How does that fit the milieu of Columbia, city of rightwing religious folks who dislike Darwin and the devil?

If Booker was Comstock, then why didn’t anyone in Columbia recognize Booker? They knew him from the “A.D.” on his hand. Why? Who put up the warning posters about his brand? Why does Songbird have a connection to Elizabeth? Who’s inside of Songbird? If Songbird is trying to protect her, why does it keep tearing apart things and nearly killing her? And if they have something that can rip apart the city, why can’t it defend them from the Vox uprising?

“Songbird, he always stops you,” Elizabeth says in 1984. But if the realities are “infinite,” why aren’t there any where Booker succeeds? “Constants and variables,” is the phrase repeated throughout the game, like a mantra. I guess it sounds better than “contrivances and plot devices.”

Then, after the credits rolled, there was that bit where Booker pushed open the bedroom door, calling to Anna. What did that mean? Had everything been a dream?

Who the hell were the Luteces? Delightful eccentrics? Whimsical villains? Annoying red herrings? Siblings? Lovers? Two alternate reality versions of the same person, but somehow different genders? Then where’s the female Booker and male Elizabeth? Now, THAT would have been interesting.

At the end of BioShock, I cried. At the end of BioShock 2, I cried even harder. At the end of Infinite, I laughed, it was all so ridiculous. You know who did a time-warp story brilliantly? Dishonored 2, in the mission “A Crack in the Slab.”

Demeaning women

Elizabeth seems to be a fan favorite. Digging into my dusty old psych degree for a moment, I can only assume she appealed to players who related to her youth, and to the restrictions and expectations placed upon her by the adults in her life. Or… I dunno, there may have been something else about her…

She seemed, to me, to be presented as a romantic interest, from her trope tower rescue, to her cleavage window, to her Princess Bride-like “I’ll go with you if you spare him” scene. At one point, I wondered if she would somehow turn out to be Booker’s dead wife, who — if I recall correctly — was also named Anna. That would connect Elizabeth to Lady Comstock in more ways than just a dress.

But then we found out she was actually Booker’s daughter? Ewwww.

Giving Elizabeth special abilities doesn’t make up for her blatant objectification. It is Booker’s narrative, not hers. She serves his physical and emotional needs. She finds him health kits, ammo, money and salts. She is his motivation and his punishment. She requires him to rescue her (again and again and again), and when he doesn’t, she becomes what Comstock (who is also Booker) wants her to be. The developers contrived a storyline in which she couldn’t even use her amazing superpowers to save herself. Nope, it all comes down to that gambling, child-selling asshole whose alter-ego is a white-supremacist wife-killer.

Her best moment, in my opinion, was when she whacked Booker with a wrench and escaped, after discovering that he lied about taking her to Paris. But her anger didn’t last long. She forgave him after being assaulted by dockworkers and having her modest dress ripped open at the bosom. Better the devil you know, I guess.

One of my viewers told me that her torn dress was meant to outrage not titillate. Was the racism of Columbia not outrage enough? The attempted stoning of a black girl and her white boyfriend? The abject poverty of Shantytown? The lifelong abuse of a child, locked away from human contact, watched and studied without her knowledge or consent? Was all of that not cause enough for outrage? A white girl must be sexually assaulted to facilitate the player’s engagement?

A viewer asked me, “Why does Elizabeth always stand against walls like a parisienne lady of the night?” I googled “paris whore belle epoque” and found this black & white photo, which I paired up with a screenshot of Elizabeth. Uncanny coincidence.

If the torn dress was meant solely to elicit sympathy for Elizabeth, then why did she change into a new outfit with even more exposure? If she is wearing Lady Comstock’s dress, why is it missing the high-necked lace collar shown in all of Lady Comstock’s paintings? If it’s meant to be historically accurate, why is she wearing an uncovered corset? A corset is an undergarment, and it is indeed a corset, because it is labeled as such when Booker is prompted to lace it up in Comstock House.

I have nothing against cleavage, in general, and I assume it’s meant to be shorthand for “look, her innocence is gone and she’s all grown up now,” but it’s weak storytelling that reeks of “sex sells” and fan service.

BioShock Infinite developer Ken Levine disappointed with Internet for being obsessed with boobs

In related news, Metal Gear Solid V’s director Hideo Kojima says we should be ashamed of ourselves for being concerned about Quiet’s lack of clothing 

In Victory Square, there’s a conversation in which Elizabeth suggests Lady Comstock is still alive in a world where she never met Comstock, and Lady Comstock replies, “Or where I saved him?” As if it’s somehow Lady Comstock’s responsibility to fix the violent and abusive man in her life? The very man who killed her? This message is wrong wrong wrong on so many levels.

Then we have Daisy Fitzroy, falsely accused of murdering Lady Comstock. A woman of color dares to rise up against oppression, and the developers chose to portray her as a savage child killer.

Trivializing racism

The game does an amazing job setting the stage for Columbia’s conflict by contrasting its Utopian idyll with its brutal bigotry. On the way to Monument Island, I found a secret society of progressives, printing pamphlets down the street from a temple to John Wilkes Booth. I spent an hour marveling at the sights and sounds of Main Street, before I found myself in the midst of a horrific raffle where I “won” the opportunity to stone an interracial couple.

But it wasn’t long before Infinite declared it’s own political points moot, and racism was nothing more than set dressing. Just shoot everyone, they all deserve it.

“The only difference between Comstock and Fitzroy is how you spell the name,” said Booker, in the lift while leaving Shantytown, during the uprising.

“They’re just right for each other… Fitzroy and Comstock,” said Elizabeth, in another lift, in the Finkton factory. Then she said it again, in Port Prosperity, just in case you missed it. “Fitzroy’s no better than Comstock, was she?”

Infinite tries to draw an equivalency between jingoist, authoritarian white-supremacists, and the abused, impoverished, despised, exploited working class of Columbia. To say Comstock and Daisy Fitzroy suit each other, when one is hellbent on violent oppression and the other is fighting for freedom, is a bullshit conclusion to the game’s social and political setup.

I came away from Infinite with a sense that Ken Levine was trying really hard to make a great game, all the pieces were there, but it was just too ambitious and it got away from him, like Icarus flying too close to the sun. Either that, or it fell flat under the pressures of a big budget and triple-A executives who demanded he appeal to a young white male demographic: Simplified shooter, dudebro protag, boobs, and dial back the libtard SJW political themes. I could be wrong, but…

Burial at Sea

The downloadable content (DLC) Burial at Sea seemed like an apology letter, acknowledging and addressing many of the gameplay and story problems I had with Infinite.

For example, there’s a weapon wheel, so the player can carry more than two weapons at a time. Medical kits can be carried and used as needed (something I complained about in my previous Infinite write up). There’s a significant stealth component and non-lethal options for neutralizing enemies. A great deal of time is spent explaining the connections between vigors and plasmids, Handymen and Big Daddies, Columbia and Rapture.

Elizabeth is the main character in Burial at Sea, part two, and the storyline punishes Booker, acknowledging that he’s an asshole, though it later brings him back as a helpful voice in Elizabeth’s head and her “only friend,” underscoring her inner turmoil with this villain/parent and her own loneliness. She becomes the likable if conflicted protagonist, with depth and personality, that I’d wanted all along.

Burial at Sea also attempts to change Daisy Fitzroy into a self-aware, self-sacrificing savior, who voices serious doubts about the uprising and the resulting violence, and who never intended to kill the boy at all but was only pretending, due to a request from the Luteces.

Now that I’ve finished BioShock Infinite, I’ve looked around the Internet to see what others think of the game. Here are a few articles and videos I found interesting:

The Gilded Cage: BioShock Infinite review by John Teti
BioShock Infinite Privilege by Anjin Anhut
The BioShock Infinite we never got
BioShock Infinite is a bad game by Brett Hicks
Everything BioShock Infinite Gets Wrong – VideoGamer
The Problem with BioShock Infinite by Alanah Pearce

~ J.L. Hilton

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