NEO Scavenger

NEO Scavenger

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NEO Scavenging for story and lore
By Lin and 1 collaborators
[Outdated - written for the game while it was still in EA. You may still find some interesting tidbits I suppose.]
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Intro

The guide was written while the game was in Early Access and has NOT been UPDATED to reflect the launch version.
There are both inaccurate and missing info here currently, mostly pertaining to specific systems (the game logic and basic principles haven't changed). The chances of me updating it are getting slimmer every day, sorry. ;)

Many people seem to believe that NEO Scavenger is primarily a sandbox survival game, but there is more depth of story there than one initially assumes. Behind the survival gameplay is an interesting mystery and if you want to unravel it you need to collect clues, not just from the texts you read but also from the way the world and the people and creatures in it act and react. But because the game isn't linear at all, because it doesn't hit us over the head with exposition or hold our hand and tell us where to go and what to do next, many players may simply never even know what they are missing (or even that they are missing something). On top of that, while one can always potentially get to the core plot points in every single playthrough, there is a lot more hidden away behind closed encounter paths, skill choices and playing habits.

This is a collection of tips, hints and clues for players who already understand the game mechanics and want to hunt around for more details about Philip and his world. Consider it also a possible answer to the question: I got to DMC, I have collected every weapon, I'm super rich and I'm bored, now what?

Please keep in mind though: Many of the hints you will read below will very VERY likely be detrimental to your character's health. There are many guides out there that will help you stay alive in this game, this is not one of them. Proceed at your own risk. ;)


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Note: This is an Early Access game and this guide was made during v0.9931b. The guide isn't yet updated to include certain really important story encounters (like Saginaw), and there is nothing here yet about the end game (Grayling). Not all the information is reflecting the current state of the game, which means some of it is by now inaccurate.

# SPOILER WARNING #


If you are just starting out, you may want to try things on your own first.
If you've already played for a while, then what I reference here are more detailed explanations of stuff you probably have already encountered.
I avoid explicit descriptions where possible, and all the detailed hints are hidden behind spoiler tags, so feel free not to peek.

All that said:
There be spoilers here, you have been warned.

Skills
Let's start with the obvious: You want to see more story? Get a different set of skills. Different skills provide different options in encounters, open or close available story paths, and potentially reward you with items. Pay special attention to the skills less loved, like electrician, tracking or hacking, because they are the ones that will actually make the most difference in this case. Remember that there are options that are triggered by different mixes of skills (as well as skills and items), so be adventurous in mixing and matching.

Here's just a few examples of things worth trying out:
- Try taking the hacking skill and visiting the Isotope Mine. Bonus story for doing that before getting to DMC.
- It would be an obvious choice to be skilled in lockpicking when trying to rob a bank.
- See what happens when an electrician meets Hatter and decides not to risk his neck.
- Visiting an Indian tribe with some knowledge of plants and traps somehow feels appropriate.
- There are quite a number of locations where having tracking skills will give you extra clues. Hatter's and the Cryo Lab are only two of them.

Please do remember we're hunting for details here. Some of the things I list here will open up a whole new branch of an encounter, but most will just allow you to read a small paragraph that hints at something in the game lore. If that doesn't interest you, why are you reading this guide?

Locations & Encounters
Not all locations are made equal in this game when it comes to the type of encounters they offer. I'll split them into two main groups for convenience: Always Active Locations and Locations with Extended Branches. The bonus third group will cover the obligatory secret rooms hidden inside some of those locations.

A) ALWAYS ACTIVE LOCATIONS

The main places of interest we all know and love, like the DMC, ATN, etc. have significant plot encounters tied to them that are always open and available to all players in every playthrough. The encounters in these locations branch depending on skills, items and in-game choices, but they are always there and essentially never change. Some smaller locations with more limited encounters also work like that (for example ZomZom's does, since the last update).

Since these are the basic vehicles of plot in this game, they have a lot of meat to them. The big plot encounters (like the ones inside DMC) branch very widely and offer very different options and outcomes and quite a large amount of story that you will not get to see unless you try out different things. Sometimes they are worth approaching like puzzles, where you try different combinations to see what results you get. The basic idea is this: remember not to always play it safe and try not to pick the same choice twice, even if it kills you (not just an expression). Of course there is also the option of save scumming, if you swing that way: you could copy a save of the game in a different location, go through one path and then reload to try a different path. You still won't get to see everything there is, but you will get to see everything available for that specific combo of skills/items/player conduct.

Keep in mind that all important plot encounters include paths that allow you to survive (or rather die another day). It's just a matter of finding out which paths those are and how to get them to open up. And no, no detailed hints about getting through those here, basically because, well, most of them aren't all that secret and you can hardly miss them when playing the game naturally. If you are really (really) stumped, the NEO Scavenger wiki[neoscavenger.wikia.com] has explicit spoilers about how to get through every encounter.

However, just to prove my point, here's something to try that I don't know if many often do:
- There is a surprisingly long and interesting bit of exposition when at the entrance to ATN you choose to "prepare for a fight" instead of calling out (but do it the first chance you get). If you try it, you may also want to see what happens when deciding to lie and deny your identity, and then to keep lying and denying. Just keep in mind that, if you manage to persuade them, they may want their stuff back.

B) LOCATIONS WITH EXTENDED BRANCHES

Some of the smaller locations have a two tier system of encounters attached to them. While the first part of the encounter will always be available in every playthrough, the extended part of it will be either active or hidden. Which is which gets randomly determined every time you start a new game. However, it can be useful to know that only one of these extended branches will be active in any one game. So if you go to location A and an extended encounter is triggered, the extended encounter in location B will be not available to you for that playthrough. That aside, they work like all encounters do: the skills you have, the items you carry and the choices you make will lead you down different paths.

So about those extended encounters:
- There's this guy called Bob (there's always a guy called Bob). You may or may not get to chat with him when visiting the Isotope Mine. EDIT: This has changed, this encounter is now always active.
- Almost everyone has heard of the elusive secret lady in the Strange Forest, but actually meeting her may entail risks you don't notice right away.

C) SECRET ROOMS

Any game that respects itself needs a couple of hidden secrets that some players will simply never get to encounter unless they just get lucky (or read a guide). Below are rather explicit spoilers to get to a few of those.

1. Inside the "haunted house":
If you pay extra attention to how many "steps" you take when visiting the house in the Hidden Lake, you may be rewarded with the option to run deeper into it. There are some doors there, and a number of great ways to die, but also an interesting little secret for fans of horror stories.
2. The secret hatch:
Whether or not anyone was home at the Isotope Mine when you dropped by, revisiting it can be profitable. Here's three things you might wanna pack with you though: the electrician skill, an iSlab and a crowbar. If you also want to leave in one piece you might want to make sure you're extra athletic. But as always, you might want to find out what happens if you are not.
3. "Not of this world":
Philip's nemesis, the Merga Wraith, is very important in this story. In order to find out how important however, you have to pray to your favourite entity and then take that bronze talisman off. The ensuing battle is the toughest one in the game but it is not an impossible one, you just need to both come prepared and get lucky to survive it. And yes, this hint goes under rooms, because you get to visit "Headquarters" if you succeed. 'Nough said, go try, die, try again. ;)
Bonus tip: You may get an extra hint on what the Wraith is about by putting your talisman back on, and then observing the creature's behaviour.


Random Encounters
Occasionally you will be roaming the world minding your own scavenging and a random encounter will open up. A random selection of these little treats will be randomly spread around the map when you start a new game. Some seem to be tied more specifically to certain areas and therefore you may appear to encounter them more often if you frequent the same areas in every game. They are basically mini encounters, usually just a few screens long, which force you to make choices that may or may not affect Philip's general well-being (and continued existence in that specific reincarnation).

Apart from reminding you that this world is less empty than it sometimes feels and allowing you to see what other people are up to when they aren't busy attacking you, random encounters also seem to be at the moment the only thing affecting your character's disposition (visible in the end screen). I have only one tip about getting to see more of them: travel as much of the map as you can in every playthrough, don't just stay around the areas you know.

If for some reason you are really averse to dying...
- then keep in mind that rotten eggs may prove to be as bad for your health as old ladies, but that it won't always kill you to be helpful now and then, even if it means you need to take a nap or go hunting for some extra food afterwards to recover.

And while the following hint has nothing to do with random encounters, only random luck will allow you to meet this very rare creature that (unlike the rest of the local inhabitants) seems to somehow have migrated to Michigan from the Old World during the apocalypse:
- Ever heard of the Yezinka? There is only one of them in each game, and if you get lucky someone else will kill it before it finds you. Then again, roaming the (central) map in search for it might teach you something about the value of eyes. And if you happen to be one of the awesome people who bought the Yukon edition from the official website, the developer chose to reward you with a jar that makes the Yezinka drool. Aren't you grateful?

Items
Certain items (sometimes in combinations with skills) may trigger specific options during encounters. Others affect the player in some way when they are worn or held, or the way the player is viewed (and treated) by others, or even the behaviour of certain creatures. The obvious idea here is: if it looks weird and appears to have little practical value you'd best hold on to it and see what happens. Even if (especially if) it looks bulky and cumbersome. Still, there are examples of common items that help get things done in encounters as well, and admittedly those may be the hardest to spot until you stumble into them.

There is also something to be said about paying attention to the small things around. Newspaper articles are great little sources of information about the world right before the apocalypse hit. Same goes for the data files inside digital devices: while they rarely offer more than silly entertainment and tiny glimpses into the world that was, they still are one more reason to choose hacking more often as a skill.

Random examples of items you probably shouldn't use as tinder:
- That well known video recording you can make in your first waking hours with the correct combo of skills is useful in more encounters than one, so carry it around.
- The Mechanical Doll may be bulky but do haul it all the way over to DMC if you're about to stir trouble there.
- Start getting into fights with a dogman coat and a clown mask on and you may notice what the world thinks about your sense of humor.
- If you are suspicious about what a Dog-Be-Gone is, take a stroll while holding one in your hand to find out (and get rich or die trying).
- Both Nano kits and multitools are super useful all by themselves, but having either one or the other with you in the Isotope Mine might offer you a couple of extra options.
- What does the extra special T-shirt do? Let's say it'd be extra useful if the map had included Las Vegas.
- And don't forget to hack your way into an active bank account for some cash (while enjoying the cat gifs).

Player Behaviour
So you usually play defensively / offensively. You eat every Bad Mutha you find / you are NOT a cannibal. When we play a game often, we usually stick to what we know and what works. But if the point is to see what else is out there, then you need to get out of your comfort zone and do the exact opposite of that. Here's two general tips to remember when trying to do things differently:

1) The How
Philip's is somewhat of a blank slate. How he chooses to behave in the game, what he eats, who he talks to, who he sides with, all these things will affect your playthrough in smaller or bigger ways. If you like roleplaying, give your Philip a personality that is different from what you usually go for and see what happens. The consequences for certain player behaviors range from the possibility to get hints for locations, to undergoing a spiritual cleansing, to -you guessed it- discovering brand new ways to die. More importantly (for me), playing differently has the added bonus of potentially creating a whole different feel for the game, which does affect how you experience the story.

(As a side note: Do try talking to people whenever you can. They not only tend to be entertaining, they also often have interesting or useful clues to give you.)

Best practical examples:
- Everyone has been at ZomZom's many times, but how many fights have you tried to watch?
- So you enjoy the taste of human flesh. Folks at ATN might have something to say about that.
- Then again, that human flesh did taste good. Maybe you should have some more before going back to ATN to explain to them the error of their ways.

2) The When
Timing does matter for some encounters. So pay some attention to when you usually do what and in what order - and then change it up. Arriving somewhere before or after you have been somewhere else / before or after you have done certain things will sometimes open up new possibilities. Even simply just revisiting a location a few moves after you left it will usually at least reward you with something new to read. As always whether it will be actually rewarding or just deadly is less important then the fact that you learned something new. Right? No? Well, too late now.

Things you may not have tried:
- Revisiting the Strange Forest (for a second time in the same playthrough) with the tracking Skill.
- Visiting the Allegan Fairgrounds for the first time AFTER getting the Night Vision augmentation.
- Making sure that the room you just visited in the Hidden Lake house really had nothing interesting in it.

OOC: Peeking behind the curtain
NEO Scavenger allows you the freedom to basically ignore most of the story and go about your day in any way you want. But whether you care to look at it or not, there is always the underlying question there of who Philip is and what happened in this world. There are supernatural creatures, competing factions, someone who wanted you out of cryo, people who have helped you in the past and others who clearly want you dead. Multiple playthroughs will give you enough clues (no matter how imperfect and incomplete) to help you make up your own theories in-game. But if that isn't enough for you and you are willing to both look at the subtle references and search outside the game for answers, here are some ideas of where to start.

Some story elements in NEO Scavenger are subtly hidden behind the actions and even the names and locations of the inhabitants of the world (human or otherwise). Which faction hates which is part of the story, same as which favours what spot of the map. In this game it is usually relatively safe to assume that if the Enfield Horror's preferable combat move is running away, there might be a lore reason behind it. Remember that your map (its rough shape and size, its Detroit and Allegan, its weather, the people and creatures living within it) is clearly stated as being Michigan, and that the creatures in it belong there too, in one way or another. If you are are curious about some of the references and influences that may give you a wider understanding of the lore behind the game lore, start by googling the Enfield Horror, the Michigan Dogman, the name of the Red Gnome restaurant, or the Anishinabe tribe (whose Michigan Isabella Reservation is the real life inspiration behind what ATN is in-game).

And if making your own associations and assumptions is still not enough for you, you could try checking out the Blue Bottle Games official forums[bluebottlegames.com] more often. Scavenging around there for information will occasionally land you in posts full of interesting spoilers.
Like for example THIS ONE[bluebottlegames.com], where the developer explains his work-in-progress thoughts on the background and beliefs of the ATN community.

And if you really (REALLY) aren't shy about spoilers here's a major one about the meaning of it all.
Seriously, if you'd rather not be tipped off about the theoretical reasoning behind some of the weird or supernatural stuff happening in this world (like how come Dogmen are suddenly a common occurrence in Michigan), hands off this one. The link leads to a discussion with the developer on the thought process that created NEO Scavenger's story and the concept behind its world - and be warned that it may ruin your sense of surprise and discovery in the finished game!
LINK TO REDDIT HERE. (Added with the developer's permission.)


Death Wish
So you might have noticed by now that I could have just as well named this guide "Different Ways to DIe in NEO Scavenger". But if you enjoy learning more about this world, there really is a lot to be gained by having a death wish. There are just way too many examples of tiny little tidbits of story and lore (and just plain silly fun) that you can only get at by developing extremely suicidal behaviour in encounters. But even when you by now clearly know (or assume, or have heard) that a certain choice will kill you, don't you want to experience it for yourself? No? It's just me? Huh.

Again, there is always the save scumming option. However, what I usually prefer is ending a successful playthrough by trying to "collect" a different death. (Yes, I did delve in stamps as a child. It left me with scars as is painfully obvious). If you happen to have similar problems and plan to start a screenshot collection, you may be interested to know that at the moment there are supposed to be 43 different ways to die in NEO Scavenger. Bonus points for hitting multiple ones in a single screenshot!

Behind the walls, some of my favourite “toying with death for story and fun” tips:

The most obvious:
- I have already mentioned this, but it does deserve two mentions: Do take your talisman off. Really. There is a whole world of important game lore (that no spoiler tag is big enough to hide) behind the curtain of surviving a fight with the Merga Wraith. But yes, you will be doing some dying before getting rewarded with that.

Other fun ones:
- Do not tip at the restaurant.
- Rub off your stamp at ZomZom's.
- When entering ATN make sure your response to the ATN warrior shows them how much you love a good fight.
- Keep exploring deeper into the Allegan Fairgrounds without disturbing the blankets.
- Sell some human meat at the market. No really, insist on selling it.
Closing
I have been playing this game for more hours than is healthy and I know for a fact that there are many story elements, random encounters and other fun stuff hidden in it that I have read about but never encountered myself. This game is a nightmare for completionists, but that never stopped us from trying. And trying to get at them is generally quite rewarding: you will be usually entertained, sometimes surprised, and (in the vast majority of times) killed. But I have always insisted NEO Scavenger is at its best when it kills you. So enjoy hunting for the details and enjoy dying in a variety of interesting ways!




ATTRIBUTION:
This guide wouldn't be possible without the work of the awesome folks who helped set up the NEO Scavenger wiki[neoscavenger.wikia.com], because no single player can know every little detail about a game. Except maybe Kaaven - thanks for the help!

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P.S. Feel free to add your favourite hints and secrets, discuss your theories, and correct my mistakes in the comments, but please remember to hide any spoilers.
To do that, use [spoiler] Your spoiler here [/spoiler]. Thank you!



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15 Comments
Swedra Sep 18, 2016 @ 1:51pm 
I remember that bird incident in Sweden, lol.
chimp king Nov 28, 2014 @ 11:09am 
Arr. It may not look it, arr, but Polly be thankiful. Arr. Thaks for trying, arr.
Lin  [author] Nov 28, 2014 @ 9:02am 
I will eventually. I have most of the material already. But atm I'm spending my workdays doing copywriting under insane time pressure, and somehow the idea of collecting and compiling information on my days off as well, ahem, let's say it just isn't on the top of my list. ;p I ain't going nowhere though, and I will definitely try to update for release (which shouldn't be that far off). So for now, here's a cracker for your parrot instead. ;)
chimp king Nov 28, 2014 @ 8:32am 
Arr yeh ganneh update? Arr. I be a pirate. Arr. Update. Arr.
Dallaskid7 Oct 8, 2014 @ 3:18pm 
sorry about that but thank you
Lin  [author] Oct 7, 2014 @ 2:28pm 
Glad you like it. :) Like it says in the PS: use [spoiler] Your spoiler here [/spoiler] . Also, keep in mind this guide there's been lots of new content that has been added to the game lately, and the guide needs updating - just waiting for a final version of the new content. Most of the specific tips will still work, but you may find one or two that have changed.
chimp king Oct 7, 2014 @ 2:06pm 
Well. Looks like it's time to hop onto NEO Savenger again. Thanks!
P.S. How do you make those funky spoiler tags?
Lin  [author] Oct 5, 2014 @ 10:47am 
You can't. When the filter is used up, you need to find a new working filter. But general questions like that are better asked in the general forum. :)
Dallaskid7 Oct 5, 2014 @ 10:09am 
can anyone tell me how to refill my gas mask cartrages?
Dallaskid7 Oct 1, 2014 @ 3:12pm 
ok thank you all ive ever been is to dmc and atn camp