Gameplay Strategy Guide for Hugo Nadeau's The Sum (Nous Aurons)
The information in this guide is based on playing The Sum version 1.6a (in April 2022), and thus subject to change as development of the game is ongoing.
- 1 1) Howdy, y'all
- 2 2) The Big Picture
- 3 3) Your IMP Profile
- 4 4) Riders on the Storm, into this world were thrown
- 5 5) Would you like fries with that?
- 6 6) Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
- 7 7) I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum.
- 8 8) Snug as a bug in a rug
- 9 9) Whatever else happens, we have got, the Maxim Gun, and they have not.
- 10 10) Quick, to the Batmobile!
- 11 11) Line Up in an Orderly Fashion
- 12 12) Hasta la vista, baby
- 13 13) Survey Said!?
1) Howdy, y'all
Nous Aurons, or The Sum, is Hugo Nadeau's post-apocalyptic survival game based on the Fallout Tactics (FOT) Phoenix engine. Calling The Sum an FOT mod, even an FOT Total Conversion, is accurate though not apt. The Sum is an independent game which stands on its own. Though many players will have first learned of The Sum through its association with FOT, veteran FOT players will find that the creator of The Sum has thoroughly changed all aspects of the game-- interface, setting, pace and techniques of play, and gameplay goals.
The Sum is perhaps best thought of as a survival simulation game set in a post-apocalyptic world. The player-character is not a hero, their objective is not to save the world nor foil the nefarious plots of nebulous evil empires. The player-character is instead just a regular person, trying to survive and perhaps find a way to live a satisfactory existence in a hostile, toxic world. The Sum does not share plot points with the Fallout universe, and exists in an independent setting. In the past history of The Sum's game world, a multifaceted series of calamities involving harsh climate changes, biological plagues, toxic pollution, and perhaps even nuclear warfare destroyed world civilization. Now a few scattered survivors are trying to cobble together a way to survive amongst the smoldering ruins of the bygone world. Your character is one of these survivors.
2) The Big Picture
The Sum is a rather open-ended computer role-playing game (crpg). Traditional crpg concepts such as gaining wealth and power, or working toward world-changing goals, are not the frames of reference in this game. The gameplay goal of The Sum is simply to construct a meaningful narrative for your character. Whenever you as a player are satisfied with the narrative you have constructed for your character, you may end the game. You'll get a summary analysis of how decisions your character made influenced their personality and character, as well as how these decisions impacted the ultimate fate of your character. The game's design portends at that point, whether you only played for two hours or went on for two hundred hours, the tale of the character you played has been told, and you may begin exploring a new narrative with another of the great many characters available.
Thus the objective of gameplay in The Sum is to vicariously experience a series of decisions and events, the sum of which is the story of your character. As a player, you have wide opportunity to make decisions during play, which is your contribution to your character's narrative. The author's contribution to your character's narrative is the game world provided, its features, places, and population with which to interact. This game world is, as noted above, an environment hostile to human survival. Therefore, the most basic gameplay goal of The Sum is merely for your character to stay alive.
A primary challenge for your character in The Sum is to avoid starvation. Your character must regularly find and prepare decent food in a poison-filled land.
Another primary challenge for your character in The Sum is to survive in a hostile environment. Extreme heat, radiation, biological hazards, and chemical toxins are constantly conspiring to end your character's existence. Though you can never truly defeat these basic problems of survival, you must find ways for your character to adapt to life in such an environment.
Once your character is fed and isn't choking on toxic air, another primary challenge of gameplay in The Sum is to find a new home for your character. Each player-character in The Sum begins in a unique location with urgent crises of some sort which mean the character must abandon the way they have been living, and find a new way of life. The world of The Sum is a large world, with nearly 150 named locations to explore on the map, and numerous random wilderness areas. Even if your character is imagined as an incorrigible misanthrope who hates everyone and everything, the character nonetheless has to live somewhere. Finding a place to call home which you believe your character will find satisfying is meant to occupy most of your playing time in The Sum.
The final primary challenge of gameplay in The Sum is your character's relation to other inhabitants of the wasteland. Some nonplayer characters (npcs) are violent, eager to kill your character for pure bloodlust, for robbery, or even simply to eat your corpse. Other npcs are indifferent, too absorbed in their own problems to be concerned with your character's struggles. Still other npcs are only too happy to exploit your character, asking much but giving little in return. You must navigate the barbaric ways of the wasteland to discover if you can make a few friends amidst a world in tatters.
Long-time players of Fallout Tactics should take note that The Sum is not a game about warfare, nor are small-unit military tactics typically a concern of gameplay in The Sum. There are opportunities for fighting in The Sum, whether presented to the player or contrived by the player. However, violence in The Sum gameplay resembles everyday life more than a military campaign. Player-characters may use violence to help resolve their survival problems, and the game world has its share of thugs who will attempt to use violence against the player-characters. In The Sum, however, I can't think of a single instance of mandatory combat. Whenever the player-characters face violence, running away is always a readily-accessible option.
3) Your IMP Profile
The Sum is meant to be played as an ongoing series of vignettes about how regular people might make a life for themselves in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Each character begins their episode in a unique place, with unique survival problems. Therefore when beginning a new episode of The Sum, you must choose a prefab character, and cannot create a custom character from a blank slate. You may customize your prefab character to some extent, although in order to get the full challenge of that particular character's difficulties in life, leaving them unmodified is probably the most interesting way to play.
The data which comprise a player-character in The Sum are mostly recognizable from the standard Fallout Tactics game, with a few important changes. The Fallout SPECIAL system is largely intact and works as expected, though Luck has in The Sum been changed to a characteristic called Instinct. Experience Level is now Autonomy Level, Perk Rate is now Genius, and Skill Points Per Level are now referred to as Conscience. The player can click upon any entry in the character screen and gain more information about the meaning of a particular score.
Two important new values in The Sum's survival simulation are Hunger and Antibodies. The Hunger score represents how close your character is to starvation. If the character's Hunger score is less than 100, the character will suffer gameplay penalties. A Hunger score over 100 indicates the character's belly is not currently empty and grumbling. The Hunger score is constantly decrementing during gameplay, meaning one's character must eat frequently to keep the score over 100. A typical food item replenishes about 50-100 Hunger points. Expect each character in your adventuring party to consume at least 1 to 3 food items per map visited in order to remain well-fed. The Antibodies stat is a general indicator of a character's ability to resist many harmful environmental effects. With an Antibodies score of 100 or more, a character will often be practically immune to some important environmental hazards, and a character with an Antibodies score under 100 will suffer gameplay penalties when exposed to chronic environmental background toxicity.
The Sum features a thorough revision of the Skill categories found in Fallout Tactics. A few things to keep in mind regarding Skills are:
--The Energy Weapons category has been removed, though there are Energy Weapons available in The Sum. Individual energy weapons now utilize whatever skill most generally describes their construction. Energy pistols use the Pistols skill, most energy rifles use the Guns skill, and specialized military grade weapons use the Big Guns skill. The same general classification scheme is also used for all regular firearms found in the game world. Yet fighting in The Sum is almost entirely optional-- as noted before, The Sum is not a military game. You'll need some martial skill to hunt game for food, but for most characters a Pistols score of 100-125 and no other development of fighting skills at all will be sufficient for the entire game. You don't need to be a sniper when playing The Sum-- most often while you are hunting animals in the wasteland, they are also hunting YOU and won't be far off.
--The world of The Sum is awash with relics of the old civilization which existed before the apocalypse, and this includes a wide availability of Skill Books to raise skill values. There are actually two sorts of these-- books, which raise skills instantly, and USB keys, which represent training course lessons stored in electronic format and which take a bit of time before their benefits are conferred (USB use probably represents something like watching an entire 50 episode documentary series about a particular subject). In any case, the Read skill will be important for your character's future. Low Read skills can be raised, but you want to be quite concerned about any character who has a trait called "Illiterate," which means their Read score is 0 and cannot be raised. If a character with Illiterate joins your team, I suggest you use the Changed perk (called Mutate in FOT) to get rid of Illiterate at the first opportunity.
--The Lockpicking skill in The Sum is called Effraction. Lockpicking and Traps are by far the two most important skills in The Sum. Raise both to very high levels-- 150 to 200-- as soon as possible.
--The Sum combines standard Fallout's First Aid and Doctor skills into a single skill called Medicine. Both First Aid kits and Doctor bags make use of the Medicine skill, and Medicine is used to heal crippled limbs as well as replenish Life points (hit points). Players should also be aware that the world of The Sum DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY STIMPACKS. There are some items that look like stimpacks, but they function as antivenoms, and have nasty side effects as well. If your characters become injured in a critical situation, such as combat, then Medicine skill and a medical kit are the only way they can be healed since the alternatives require tranquility and time (using a Sleeping Bag and Tent to rest, or driving around on the world map until healed).
--The Sum is a game about surviving in the wasteland while your character travels about seeking a new home. Therefore travel related skills such as Drive, Scavenge, and Travel are not throwaway skills as in the regular FOT game. You'll probably want to achieve high values (over 100) in all these skills as quickly as you can. Many maps use scripted checks against these values to directly affect hidden gameplay options.
--In The Sum the player characters can carry many nifty electronic gadgets which can greatly aid survival. Electrical power is required to use these items. Through there are various ways to get access to electricity, you may often find your character needs to repair rusty old electric generators to obtain electricity. Therefore Repair skill is important in The Sum.
--Though bartering with npcs is an important strategy for obtaining valuable items in The Sum, with every step your characters will be tripping over loot to trade. The Exchange (Barter in FOT) skill is not that essential, as you'll have no shortage of goods to barter.
--In regard to the always controversial Steal skill, there are of course two sorts of Fallout series players. Those who will gleefully spend hours and hours of save scumming to Steal every item they can possibly steal, and those who think such behavior is both ridiculous and a waste of time. As in any Fallout game, if your character is detected while Stealing in The Sum, the victim (and likely every other character on the current map) will turn hostile and try to kill your character. If reloading from saved games hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times when this occurs is your idea of fun, then with a high Steal skill your character won't have much trouble at all surviving in the populated areas The Sum. For the rest of us who scoff with disdain at such munchkin antics, be aware that there are no quests at all in The Sum which require Stealing, so investing in Steal skill is fairly useless.
While playing The Sum, your characters will continuously gain Autonomy points (xp) to reflect the fact that with each breath they take they are surviving in the wasteland rather than succumbing to the hostile world in which they reside. Completing quests and killing things also score Autonomy points, but most of the Autonomy points your characters gain during their careers will come from the automatic awards for continuing to stay alive. Since your character constantly gains xp simply for surviving, it's a good idea for your main character to take the Long Memory perk (called Swift Learner in FOT) early in the game to accumulate an extra five percent on xp awards. Though I didn't check, in the standard FOT game this perk only benefits the main character and is useless to recruits, so it probably works the same in The Sum. I completed a game of The Sum in which I explored the entire wasteland, did almost everything I could find to do, and at the end of the game my main character had reached level 26 (about the same as a regular FOT campaign).
FOT's Divine Favor perk is called Miraculous in The Sum, and though I don't have detailed criteria the requirements for obtaining Miraculous in The Sum seem to have been considerably relaxed compared to FOT. All but one of my characters was able to take Miraculous, which is very helpful since it reduces a character's perk rate by one. Instead of gaining a new perk every three levels, a character with Miraculous will gain a perk every two levels. As Perks are the key to building powerful characters, everyone should take advantage of this feature by having any eligible character choose the Miraculous perk as soon as possible in order to maximize extra perks gained over the course of a character's career.
Though fighting is not necessarily a central element in The Sum (unless the player chooses to adopt violence as a key strategy), should violence occur the game strongly encourages play in CTB mode. In fact, key interface elements necessary for turn-based (TB) play-- such as the Overwatch button and keyboard shortcut-- have been removed entirely, making TB play obtuse. Yet because The Sum is not a military game with epic battles to be waged, fighting rarely grows hectic and even the most meticulous TB players should have little trouble adapting to CTB play. This is an important consideration in character development, however-- since you'll mostly or entirely be playing The Sum in CTB, perks which benefit turn based combat or reduce Action Point costs are largely wasted choices for your character.
4) Riders on the Storm, into this world were thrown
The Sum is a game where your characters use the strategy of surviving in order to accomplish the goal of finding a new home for themselves in a hostile wasteland. Gameplay in The Sum therefore consists of simulating survival while gaining information to make a good decision about where your character will make their new home. Is it a place where they will be able to live? Is there food, water, and security? Is it a place they will want to live? A place where they can make new friends, take pride in belonging, start a family, pursue their dreams-- or at least avoid getting into fistfights every single day?
Accomplishing the game's general goal-- finding a new home for your main character-- is an easy task, which the player may decide to do whenever they choose. At any time during gameplay, the player may open the Skilldex and click on the large white arrow labelled "Live Here" which appears. This will conclude the story told in your character's episode. You'll receive a summary analysis of things your character accomplished, and how this impacted their personality and way of life. You may also receive some information about larger events in the game world or the location of the character's new home. Based upon this information, you are left to decide for yourself whether your character made good or bad decisions, and whether or not they continued on to a happy life or spent the remainder of their days in misery. Though the design of the game clearly encourages the player to stop at this point and begin a new episode with a different character, if you prefer to go on a bit longer with your current character there is an option to continue adventuring in the current game world after you've "officially" ended the episode.
Survival in The Sum's wasteland has five key elements: eating, facing environmental challenges, self-defense, travel, and socializing. To avoid becoming just another set of old bones bleached by the glaring wasteland sun, your character will have to find techniques to regularly accomplish tasks related to these five facets of survival.
5) Would you like fries with that?
To avoid death by starvation, each character's Hunger score must remain above zero. To avoid debilitating penalties from lack of nutrition, a character's Hunger score must remain above 100. There are numerous ways to remain well-fed without too much trouble, such as:
--Scavenge for food. While exploring, your characters will often find food just laying about. Alternately, if your character fancies himself some sort of Raider, perhaps your character would prefer to rob or kill other people and take their food. This sustenance may take the form of prepackaged food manufactured before the apocalypse, vacuum-sealed for forever freshness. Or you may find edible plants in forests and fields. In either case, have a look at the food in the inventory interface before double-clicking to consume it. Some food is spoiled, some is contaminated, some is poisoned. If it looks dodgy, it probably is dodgy-- although getting sick is of course preferable to dying, so if your Hunger score is low enough you may be better off eating anything you can, even if it's something that causes serious indigestion.
--Hunt and prepare fresh food. In many areas of the game map, particularly the northern forests, choosing to stop in a random area while travelling the world map will place you into an encounter area where game such as deer, bears, or wild pigs are roaming. Kill an animal and loot its corpse to obtain a big hunk of meat. If your characters find fishing poles, then on most maps with a watery area you may also catch fish. As long as your character has some sort of edged weapon-- a knife, shards of broken glass, etc-- double-click on the animal corpse inventory item to skin and clean your catch. The result will typically be a pelt in the case of large furry animals, which you can sell, and some fresh meat. Meat must usually be cooked before it is consumed, but if your characters haven't time to cook a meal you can store fresh meat indefinitely in the cooler which your main character carries. Never part with this cooler! It's important for many survival related tasks, and if you lose it, you may have serious troubles continuing the game.
--There are several ways to cook food in The Sum. All these methods use a variant of the game's Barter interface. Your character can build a fire if flammable material and a flame source are in the character's inventory. For example, let's say you picked up some wood by a tree, and have a zippo lighter in your inventory. By double-clicking on the lighter, the wood will be consumed and a campfire will appear on the ground at your character's feet. "Talk" to the fire, and a barter interface screen will open. Place the food you wish to prepare in the offer area, then press "Cook." The food will transfer to the fire, and some minutes later you'll receive a notification that your food has finished cooking. At that time, the food will automatically be placed into your cooler. To get the food, place your cooler in an active hand slot and the cooler will appear on the ground at your character's feet. "Talk" to the cooler to access it, and inside you'll see all the contents of the cooler. In general, the Fallout Tactics engine simply wasn't built with these sorts of interactions in mind, and from a player's perspective it's best to keep matters simple when interacting with your cooler or cooking. Only cook one or a very few pieces of meat at a time, or you may overload the game engine. In addition to building a campfire for cooking, your characters may also use fires others have built (such as the oft-seen fire in a barrel found in urban areas), stoves and smokers (found in residential kitchen areas), and portable solar ovens which may be randomly found here and there.
--The Hunger simulation system in The Sum considers food only, and does not require your characters to drink any water at all. Yet water is often useful in preparing certain beverages with stat-enhancing qualities, and drinking a bottle of pure water will restore a small amount (1-10) of Life points to a wounded character. Your characters can gather fresh water directly from the source on maps that contain watery areas, typically depicted with vivid azure tiles. Have your main character walk directly to the water's edge in a standing stance, then change stance to prone (laying down on the ground). If water can be obtained in the current location, when your character returns to a standing stance the phrase "Collecting Water" will appear over his head. If the water is safe to drink it will appear directly in your cooler; otherwise several items may appear in your character inventory, such as jugs of chemicals or murky-looking bottles of muddy water. These poisonous liquids can often be purified by boiling, which is done by placing them in a fire or oven in the same way raw meat is cooked.
6) Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
The Sum differs from typical classic Fallout games in that environmental hazards are serious and widespread in The Sum. Unless your characters never plan to leave major cities and venture into the wasteland, you're going to need much more than a handful of Rad-X to survive the toxic landscapes of The Sum. One survival tip to keep in mind is that while I was playing, I never once saw a character inside a vehicle suffer any kind of toxic environment damage-- though vehicles themselves were sometimes damaged. Yet your characters can't do much exploring if at least one of them doesn't get out of your team's vehicle, so you'll have to find more direct ways to address the toxic atmosphere of the game world. Some of the game's environmental hazards are:
--Chemical poisoning. This type of toxin is only a hazard if it enters a character's bloodstream. Examples include monster bites or stings, and consuming poisoned food or beverages. This type of toxicity is easily cleared from the body using any type of Antivenom medication, the best of which comes in small pistol-shaped silver syringes and doesn't cause any side effects.
--Radiation. A generalized nonspecific radiation (alpha? gamma? the game doesn't say) permeates most maps in The Sum, slowly irradiating your characters with every step they take in the game world. The best defense against this endemic toxin is to keep each character's Antibodies score over 100 at all times. This can be accomplished many ways-- with perks, with certain armors and clothing, or with medication. The best Antibody boosting pills to take are white pills typically called "Cold-FX" or "Immune FX" or "Cold Suppressant." One of these pills boosts a character's Antibody score by 25, so it's easy to get Antibodies over 100 with them, and the pills have no side effects whatsoever. These pills don't exactly grow on trees, but if you do any serious exploring of the wasteland you should be able to buy or loot enough to maintain a comfortable supply for the duration of the game.
--Extreme Heat. This weather hazard is mostly found in the extreme desert wasteland in the southwestern areas of the map, though it does appear in other places. Heat hazards directly cause damage to your character, diminishing Life Points. If your characters find themselves taking damage from extreme heat and have less than 100 Life Points, there's a real danger that your characters could die before they are able to leave the current map, so take this seriously. Heat zones appear as red dots on the minimap, so in many cases you can simply avoid the hotspots. If that's not feasible, the best protection is armors or clothing that boost Fire Resistance.
--Biohazardous air. Anywhere in the game world your characters find piles of rotting corpses, your team is likely to take damage from diseased, unclean air. The hazard occurs in other places as well. Like extreme heat, this toxin directly attacks your characters by rapidly reducing Life Points, so if your characters start coughing and convulsing your best course of action is just to leave the area immediately. In theory armors or clothing with Gas resistance should protect against these types of hazards, but while I was playing I couldn't tell if that was working or not.
Sooner or later, your character will find an electronic device called a GES, an acronym for General Environmental System. If you have electrical power, putting the GES into an active hand slot will give a pop-up text detailing environmental conditions and hazards on your current map. It's a quite helpful device, I almost always used it each time I entered a new map.
There are two separate varieties of Environmental Armor in the game, which look exactly like the standard Enviro Armor from Fallout Tactics. However, these armors have distinct uses. One offers superior Fire Damage Reduction, while the other offers superior Gas Damage Reduction. Look at the armors carefully, and choose the right one to address whatever hazard your characters are currently facing.
7) I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum.
Unless your own characters regularly choose the path of violence when dealing with other people, The Sum is a game with little or no fighting gameplay required. Rare indeed are any situations where your characters cannot simply flee to safety when confronted by violence from npcs, and "pacifist" or "diplomat" styles of play are meant to be the normal experience in The Sum. Nonetheless because most potential players of The Sum are players of classic Fallout games and in particular Fallout Tactics, let's be honest-- the game you as a player experience is probably going to tell a story with lots of violent action scenes. In my own playthrough of The Sum, my character developed into a sort of Raider warlord-- if there was anything at all he wanted in the wasteland, no amount of armed guards were going to prevent him from having it.
The Sum is meant to played in the game engine's CTB mode. This means you should keep your tactics simple, keep your people together to mass their offensive fires against enemies in detail, and clear an entire area of the map (a field, a floor of a building, etc) before advancing into a new area.
While playing The Sum, take care to actively manage the activity mode of your squad. If you allow your characters to generally explore maps on Aggressive mode when no identifiable enemies are in sight, the inevitable and unfortunate result will be that your characters automatically destroy a great many computers, generators, and other machinery that would be quite useful for you to interact with in some constructive way.
8) Snug as a bug in a rug
The Sum has countless forms of armor, many of them intended to represent civilian clothing. For role-playing purposes, giving one's characters an everyday appearance in some way reflecting their personality can be fun. But when the dogs of war are unleashed, you'll want your people in military grade armor. Armor values vary widely in The Sum, and even specific types of armor which have the same name and description can have significantly different protective ratings. I suggest you have one of your characters try wearing each piece of armor you find to determine just how good that particular suit of armor performs.
For scouts, some type of leather armor is usually preferred, as this doesn't impair their Sneak abilities. Most of the leather armors in The Sum are called Hockey Armor. The sort I preferred most looks just like Leather Armor Mk 2 in regular Fallout Tactics, although the sort of Hockey Armor that looks like a large white and black plastic jacket works good as well.
Skirmisher characters may prefer some varieties of metallic armor. There are some armors that look like metallic suspenders that are decent, but mostly you'll be looking for items labelled "Carmor" that look like Metal Armor Mk 1 in the standard Fallout Tactics game. Early in the game, you can do well with "Rusty Carmor" items that look like... rusty metal armor.
Eventually as a player you'll likely be eager to find Power Armor. In my playthrough that scoured the game world, I found about 20 suits of powered armor. Some are better than others, and of the best variety I found perhaps half a dozen suits. They were called "Powered Carmor" and in essence are Advanced Power Armor suits. Though in absolute terms these Powered Carmor suits offer the best defense ratings to be found in The Sum, there are also some penalties to their use. These penalties are Perception -2, AC -7, and Sneak -50. The benefits are Strength +5, Damage Resistance +39, and Radiation immunity. Damage reduction values are the best to be found: 20 for Hits, Cuts, and Gas, and 12 for Fire and Bombs.
In my opinion, the most useful battle armor in The Sum is the Tesla Armor. Its name and appearance are unchanged from the original FOT game. While playing The Sum my main character found a suit early in his career, and never thereafter took it off. The Tesla Armor has only slightly lower defense values than Powered Carmor: Damage Resistance 33, and Damage Reductions of 17 for Hits and Cuts, the most common sorts of assaults enemies use. Damage Reduction is only 8 for bombs and 4 for fire, but the Tesla armor does provide Damage Reduction of 15 for Electrical attacks, which is very important when fighting robots and countering some forms of environmental toxicity. More importantly, the Tesla Armor does not in any way reduce a character's Perception, and thus does not reduce the character's attack potential. The bad news about the Tesla Armor is that in scouring the game world of The Sum, I only found two suits of Tesla Armor.
9) Whatever else happens, we have got, the Maxim Gun, and they have not.
In my opinion, fighting in The Sum is All About Guns. The Sum isn't by default a combat game, and there hasn't been any delicate balancing applied to make various fighting playstyles effective. Melee and Unarmed damage in particular have suffered as a result, and I don't recommend anyone pursue those fighting styles while playing The Sum. The damage values and AP costs of Power Fist and Ripper attacks are unimpressive, worse than pistols, and both use up energy cell ammunition, which is relatively rare in The Sum world, as if there's no tomorrow. Rippers in particular do only about the same damage as regular knives. Explosives do poor damage as well, and are not worth the intricate maneuvers required to deploy traps. Nor are throwing weapons and grenades particularly effective when compared to guns.
Firearms in The Sum are grouped in three broad categories, each with its own proficiency Skill. Pistols, be they revolvers, semi-autos, or lasers, use the Pistol skill. Most rifles, including fully automatic military rifles, use the Guns skill. Advanced weaponry clearly meant for military battlefield use only, such as heavy machine guns, miniguns, and rocket launchers use the Big Guns skill.
As The Sum is a survival simulation rather than a military simulation, there are few battles to be found that cannot be won with weapons in the Pistol category, and which use the Pistol skill. Therefore unless you have specialized interests, there's not much reason to invest skill points in Guns and Big Guns. Every pistol in the game has a sufficient range to use in hunting game as well as in gunfighting with enemies, and there are many pistols that do significantly more damage (nearly twice as much) as the military assault rifles in the Guns group.
Thus pistols should form the backbone of your offensive firepower in The Sum. In my opinion, the best pistols in the game are:
--Silver 11mm revolvers. These offer excellent damage of 45-50 per shot, and a low AP cost of 3 per shot. With the Radical (Fast Shot) trait and Duelist (Bonus Rate of Fire) perks, a character can empty this revolver into an enemy in one turn. Beware, however-- there are also some gold colored 11mm revolvers, and they're not nearly as good.
--10mm quality semiautomatic pistol. There are various 10mm pistols available in The Sum, but only one variety contains the words "high quality" in its item description and looks like a Glock pistol from the standard FOT game. These weapons offer good damage of 41-45 per shot, which can be further increased by ammunition choice. Both JHP and AP 10mm pistol ammo is available in large quantities in the game world. Like the Silver 11mm revolver, firing this gun is only 3 AP per shot, so your characters can fill a foe full of lead fast.
--Several 9mm pistols are high end weapons as well, such as the 9mm Mauser and a small pocket sized 9mm which looks nickel-plated. The latter are plentiful in the game world, I found hundreds of them. Ammo choice is good for 9mm pistols, with plenty of JHP, AP, and FMJ available, facilitating specialized load-outs.
Most of the rifles in the Guns category rarely rise above 35 damage, and their AP cost is high. Compared to pistols, rifles are simply not efficient weapons in The Sum. There is one exception, however. The bright shining star in the Guns category is the Pancor Jackhammer shotgun. With its area of effect and 21-70 damage per shell, this gun performs quite well in wilderness settings and when friendly fire is not a concern, such as when exterminating hordes of rats or cockroaches. The Jackhammer is also very useful for opening jammed doors, typically accomplishing the job in one quick shot. There are a wide variety of shotgun shells available in the game world, all in plentiful quantities. The only downside to the Pancor is that you may have trouble finding them. I think I only found 8 in the entire game world. There is a similar weapon called Military Shotgun, that looks like a Neostead in the original FOT, but I found even fewer of those.
Though there isn't much occasion in The Sum to use Big Guns-- somehow hunting deer with a rocket launcher just doesn't seem sporting-- to be thorough I will add that the finest weapon in the game is a Big Gun. It's called Electric Rifle, and looks like a Plasma Rifle from regular FOT. The Electric Gun does 34 damage per shot (rising to 44 per shot with two levels of Bonus Ranged Damage-- called Specialized in The Sum), and has relatively low AP cost for a large weapon. The best aspect of this weapon, however, is that it does Electrical damage-- which almost no enemies in the game world are able to resist, so it's usually a one-shot kill when using this weapon. The bad news is, of course, that in scouring the game world of The Sum, I only found two Electrical Rifles.
One important change in The Sum when compared to the regular Fallout Tactics game is that by utilizing the dynamic patching of the recent Fallout Tactics Scripting Engine mod, The Sum delivers full functionality of the Sniper perk. I looked carefully while playing, and Sniper is active with all ranged weapons-- a character with Sniper inflicts Critical Hits (Luck + Critical Chance) percent of the time. Sniper is no longer an obscure element of the game, reserved only for single shot Small Guns, and when paired with the Without Mercy (Better Criticals) perk, the results are devastating to opponents.
Due to the generous provision of Skill Books in the world of The Sum, I recommend that if you are going to raise any combat skill, raise only your Pistols skill. If for some reason you'd like to utilize Guns or Big Guns for a particular character, there are plenty of Skill Books available to raise their skills without directly investing any points at all in these skills.
10) Quick, to the Batmobile!
The objective of gameplay in The Sum is to find a new home for your character. In most cases, this means you'll need to do some travelling about in order to see what options for a new home are available to your character.
There are a great many abandoned vehicles to be found and claimed in this wasteland. Jeeps, buggies, APCs, trucks, Camaros, tanks, sedans-- if a character's ambition were to become a used car salesman, they could accumulate quite an inventory of vehicles to fill their lot. I recommend a Drive skill of around 125 for your primary vehicle driver, as this will allow your vehicle to drive over or through many small obstacles that would cause damage to your vehicle if piloted by a person with less skill. In case you're wondering, there are at least eight tanks available in The Sum, and plenty of shells for the cannon-- though it's difficult to imagine any spot in the wasteland of The Sum where you would actually need a tank and a cannon.
As a practical matter, a word of warning must be issued to those who wish to zoom about the wasteland in vehicles. Development of The Sum project is ongoing, and one of the major issues still to be ironed out is spawn points on maps. While I was playing, I found some maps I could not enter at all in a vehicle, because there is simply no room to place the vehicle outside of the exit grid upon map entry. On many maps, there is barely room to get out the vehicle. I don't recommend ever trying to use more than one vehicle, or large vehicles like the APC or the Pickup Truck-- you'll find yourself locked out of many maps if you try. A way around this is to leave your vehicle behind on an already explored map and walk to the unvisited map you're not able to explore in a vehicle. Just don't forget where you parked your car.
If you are using a vehicle, and if your style of play includes lots of combat, then I recommend you always leave one party member (set on Aggressive) behind and in the vehicle to guard your vehicle while the other teammates advance into the map. I saw several instances where previously unseen enemies near the spawn point tried to attack my vehicle while most of my team was on the other side of the map. Luckily I always left a guard at the vehicle to take care of this situation-- otherwise, the enemies would have destroyed the vehicle, and I as a player would have been forced to spend likely an hour trying to empty out the inventory of the destroyed vehicle and transfer it to a new ride.
When travelling, always be aware of the Hunger status of your player characters. I never had a party member die of hunger while travelling on the world map, but often characters with a Hunger score of 300 or 400 would be hungry (Hunger below 100) when arriving at a new map, meaning I had to feed them immediately upon arrival.
In general I as player did not find The Sum's hunger system to be too onerous-- which is a very good thing. A general rule of good game design is that no player should ever be forced to perform repetitive tasks merely for the sake of performing repetitive tasks or catering to any designer's fetish, and in many games which attempt to simulate basic daily tasks like eating there's a slippery slope that quickly devolves into drudgery and disdain. In my opinion The Sum's system is fairly well balanced between thematic imperative (the game is a survival simulation) and player entertainment (i.e. not being forced to waste hours of one's life pretending to feed some pixels on a screen). However, there are two important items to keep an eye out for while exploring the wasteland of The Sum. One is called a GECK, the other a Cheat Sheet. A character with either of these items in his inventory will see the rate of decline in his Hunger rate drop noticeably. A character with both a GECK and a Cheat Sheet in his inventory can go a very long time indeed without eating. There are perhaps 12 to 15 GECKS-- though half of them are on one particular map-- to be found in the game world, and about half as many Cheat Sheets. Some recruits from farm areas (mainly, Federated towns) also have the Farmer perk, which is the equivalent of having either a GECK or a Cheat Sheet. If as a player you're not enthusiastic about the Hunger element of gameplay, these bonuses will greatly increase your enjoyment of The Sum.
There are many useful gadgets to be found in the forgotten places of The Sum's wasteland. Usually you'll know if you found such an item because "That's handy" or "A curious device" will appear as a float text over the head of the character picking up the item. Many of these items require electrical power to function. The way this is implemented is that if your main player-character has access to electricity, then everyone on your team also has access to electricity. Sources of electricity include wireless transmission on many maps (Nikola Tesla would be proud), batteries that can be carried in inventory, and Solar Satchels that are basically backpacks with solar panels and provide electricity when carried in your inventory.
Some gadgets work automatically when carried in your inventory, while others must be placed in an active hand slot to be used. You can easily experiment to discover which is which. Some provide skill, stat, or pseudo-perk bonuses, while others do something you can see, such as flashlights which will light up a dark map at night. Some of the more useful items for which one should be on the lookout while looting dusty shelves in abandoned places are:
--Bioscanner. Provides the character carrying it with the equivalent of the Awareness Perk (called Informed in The Sum)
--Boots. Whether Rubber Boots or Work Boots, either will allow you to walk over all the broken glass littering the wasteland without suffering any penalties. Provides a temporary perk called "Shod."
--Helmet. Provides a temporary perk called "Helmeted," reducing by half the chance the affected character will be knocked unconscious. Also an inherent component of some heavy armors, such as Powered Carmor.
--Kitsac. A bag full of useful survivor gear. Provides bonuses to Survival, Doctor, Repair, Scavenge, and Travel skills-- not bad for one little bag o' stuff.
--Gas Mask. There are a wide variety of masks in the game, with different functions. Some are simply masks to hide one's face for purposes of anonymity. Gas masks provide this function as well as a bonus to the important Antibodies derived stat. There are many types of Gas Masks as well, but the best sort provide an automatic 40 point bonus to Antibodies simply by having the item in your inventory.
--Soap and Toilet paper. These work as modestly effective anti-venom items, allowing you to overcome poisoning. Though not as effective as the Antivenom syringes mentioned earlier, both soap and toilet paper are much more plentiful in the game world.
--Mother. If this jar of liquid is in your inventory, as well as tea leaves, sugar, and water, your main character will automatically produce a buff beverage called Kombucha any time you enter a new map. The beverage will appear in your cooler.
--Rope. There are a few maps where you can place a rope and gain access to special areas. Keeping half a dozen ropes at your disposal should be enough to last the entire game.
Did I mention before that Effraction (Lockpicking) and Traps are the two very most important skills for exploring the wasteland of The Sum? I think I mentioned that, but in case I didn't: Effraction (Lockpicking) and Traps are the two Very Most Important Skills for successfully exploring the wasteland of The Sum.
11) Line Up in an Orderly Fashion
While most of your time spent playing The Sum will be spent on tending to the survival of your characters, as I've mentioned many times in this article the goal of your characters is to find a new place to live in the wasteland. Social interaction with the npcs of the game world is thus the final key element of gameplay in The Sum to be considered.
Interacting with the inhabitants of the wasteland in a violent manner is a viable and legitimate way of accomplishing your character's goals in The Sum. Perhaps you imagine your character as the leader of a small cohort who are going to build a secret hideout in some abandoned military base. Perhaps you imagine your character as a hermit who wants to take up residence in an abandoned corner of the wasteland to develop a new school of Kung-Fu. Those are fine choices if that's what you want.
However, most regular people in the world are not violent predators, ruthless gangsters, homicidal sociopaths, or eccentric recluses. Most regular people want to get along with other people, and want or need to regularly interact with other people in order to feel they are leading a meaningful life. Most episodes in The Sum are meant to explore the lives of regular people. Therefore, your character will most likely wish to take up residence in a place where other people also reside. Your job as player is to sort out how your player character fits into the turbulent social landscape of the wasteland.
Civilization has collapsed in the world of The Sum. Clusters of isolated survivors are attempting various social experiments and new adaptations all around the wasteland as everyone attempts to answer the question of how they can best live in the world in which they find themselves. Each group has a different definition of "best" in this case. For some, "best" means most efficiently or productively. For others, "best" means most contentedly or peacefully. Still others believe "best" means most honorably and ethically, and others yet believe "best" means with maximum luxury or comfort.
Ideally, gameplay in The Sum is meant to comprise travelling around the wasteland, talking to people, learning about their way of life, and then making evaluations for oneself whether one's character would fit in well with this or that group if one decided to reside there. There are monarchists, capitalists, communists, religious communities, and numerous other ways of life represented in the towns of The Sum. I think the author of The Sum has done a pretty good job of making a fair and balanced presentation of all the various lifestyles, leaving evaluation of the player character's place in the world to the player.
Most major population areas in The Sum have a similar method for bringing new members into their group. If, after talking to and observing the people in an area, you decide their lifestyle is something your character would like to become a part of, then you should first seek out a computer terminal in the area which is usually labelled "Welcoming Committee" or something similar. Interacting with this computer by talking will provide you with basic information about any requirements for joining the group present on the current map, as well as how to proceed with your membership request. The latter typically involves speaking to a resident of the town after you've spoken to the Welcoming Computer. The town resident may then welcome you into the fold immediately, telling you about any benefits or responsibilities of being a citizen, or they may say you need to impress them a bit more before they accept you into their group. If they say you need to work harder, they'll usually be quite specific in their advice: "Get to Autonomy level 10" or "Raise Your Combat Skills" and so forth.
Your character can join multiple groups across the wasteland, though in some cases joining a faction will automatically (and perhaps unexpectedly) sever your official ties with a previously joined organization. For example, in my game I was a member of Road Warriors, and when I enquired about joining another town the residents there asked me to sabotage a Road Warriors facility. In that case, I decided I wasn't interested in joining the new group, because my character was quite happy amongst the Road Warriors.
To obtain recruits, teammates, comrades, pals (or whatever you'd like to call them) who will actively participate in your main character's adventures in The Sum, your main character must first join a wasteland faction or become a citizen of a town. In each populated area which can be joined, you'll see at least one large green box labelled "Friends." After your main character affiliates with an area, this green box will change into a yellow box, still labelled "Friends," with which you can now interact through conversation as if it were a recruit or personnel manager in the regular FOT game. Recruits from the current area will be added into the recruit pool.
The recruit interface in The Sum suffers of course from the same intractable Phoenix engine bug evidenced in regular Fallout Tactics. If you talk to the "Friends" box and hear a "level up" sound, this means some recruits in the pool have autolevelled to match your main character's current level, and the AI probably made horrible choices when allocating their skill points and choosing perks. When that happens, exit the conversation and speak to the "Friends" box a second time-- now the recruits who were previously autolevelled will be back to their original experience levels. This is good, because it means you can then customize them yourself as they gain Autonomy levels, and surely your decisions about how to mold them will be much better than any decisions made by the AI.
There are a few potential teammates around the wasteland who will join your crew directly from the map on which you meet them, usually after you show them a kindness in some way. However, most of them aren't very good at much except eating all your food. You can deposit these volunteer pals into the recruit pool if you like the next time you visit any town or base with which you are affiliated.
There seems to be a current trend in Fallout Tactics mods to allow non-humanoid player characters-- dogs and so forth. The Sum follows this trend, and allows the player's team to resemble a circus act with brahmin, dogs, monkeys, hover bots, and more. If you choose to take any of these non-humans into your group, be aware that no animals have the necessary animations to climb ladders, and many non-humans cannot duck to squeeze through low openings. You must take care in moving these non-human companions around the map, or they may become stuck. In worst case scenarios, such as if they are blown backward by an explosion onto a different elevation, you may have to reload from a saved game (or, if your character is heartless, you might shoot them and move on). This is why dog companions are not included in the regular Fallout Tactics campaign, in case you were ever wondering about that.
Heavily populated areas are clearly marked on the world map with large circles and graphics of residents, while abandoned places are typically small and unnamed. Roughly half of the locations present in the game world are visible on the worldmap when play begins, and the other half must be discovered by the player character. The most common ways for the player character to discover new locations are activating dusty computer terminals in forgotten places, talking to npcs, and by discovering tattered maps in lost treasure chests.
Whether your character should become a citizen of any town, and if so which faction to join, is entirely at your discretion as a player. In broad strokes, however, there is a confederacy of many rural towns, mostly in the northern areas of the map, called the Federation. These towns are mostly populated by hard-working people who are just interested in living their daily lives and feeding their families, though they do have some adventurous spirits amongst them. Another cluster of cities around the area called Capital seems to be comprised of urban dwellers who seem intent on clinging to the whatever glittering remains of the old civilization they can manage. Most other places in the wasteland are independent towns or groups, whose main desire is to be left alone. A place called Terrace is a center for tourism and recreation, a sort of New Reno in the world of The Sum-- but with fewer fedoras and Tommy Guns. Those interested in science and technology will want to seek out a place called Kofun, where the world's remaining computer hackers hang out. A rather strange but devout religious group called The Sum (same as the game title) can be found in a place called Sumbridge, though they also have missionary outposts across the wasteland.
If you imagine your character as primarily motivated by a spirit of adventure and exploration, you may want to seek out an organization called the Road Warriors. Despite their fierce name, in reality they're more like the Royal Geographical Society than the Khans, and their primary interest is to travel and assist other travellers. A city called Salvage is also a good alliance for characters fascinated with exploring abandoned and forgotten places in the world. The explorers of Salvage are called Unlockers, and their stated goal is to someday live in a world where every single locked container is accessible to the survivors of the apocalypse. In general the southwestern area of the world map is an inhospitable desert, sparsely populated and full of forgotten places which have remained undisturbed since the time of the apocalypse, and in which many ancient relics can be recovered. Exploration-oriented characters may want to begin their travels there, although the remote location, toxicity of environment, and lack of food may dictate that a bit of experience and a decent selection of survival gear are acquired before heading to that area.
These are only a few of the ways of life represented in The Sum to give players an idea of what's available-- one of the main elements of gameplay, however, is meant to be exploring the world so your character can see for himself what's out there, so I won't go through the entire game world in traditional walkthrough fashion here. Scattered around the world of The Sum there are also cannibals, sea pirates, murderous robots, Super Mutants who didn’t get the memo that the Master is dead, and lots of cats. Cats? CATS! Find them yourself, or don’t-- whatever you decide will be fine.
12) Hasta la vista, baby
Hugo Nadeau has almost single-handedly made The Sum, a huge game larger than the original FOT single player campaign, and he’s given it to all of us so we can enjoy it-- for free! The game is still an ongoing project, and while playing you will encounter some bugs. You’ll sometimes have to reload because things happened which weren’t supposed to, or because things were supposed to happen and didn’t. And yes, The Sum is an English translation of a game made in French, so there are many spelling, grammar, and vocabulary rough spots in the translated version. None of these problems are showstoppers, however. Except a few of the bugs, but you’ll figure it out. It's a game about anarchy, so anything less would be disappointing in some way. In any case, The Sum truly offers many hours of entertainment exploring this novel wasteland and its eccentric inhabitants. If you enjoy the classic Fallouts, or games about exploration, or games about green goo puddle filled landscapes, or games about deer hunting, I feel confident in saying you’ll certainly enjoy playing The Sum.
13) Survey Said!?
Have you discovered any good tactics, tips, techniques, or other helpful hints for playing The Sum? Use this section to comment and share your revelations with others.