Last week I intended to get back to truck sim but I barely put my feet on the pedals when a heatwave set in on Monday. By Thursday temperatures had climbed to the mid 30’s and reached 38C. In these conditions I had to abandon driving my trucks because it was too hot to wear headphones or a hat, which are necessary to allow head tracking to work. So I stepped back into The Hunter: Call of the Wild. I took the opportunity to visit the first of the US Reserves – Layton Lake District. Now, with even more hours of gameplay behind me it has become apparent that The Hunter COTW will be a game that gets played as a continuous companion to the Truck Sim games. As such I have decided it needs its own posts in much the same vein as Trucking Digest and this is the first – welcome to Birdshot 🙂 The Other Save Slot will continue to be used to highlight other games that I try out or play from time to time.

So – Layton Lake District – set, I believe from the in-game lore, in the state of Oregon. Unlike Hirschfelden with its mix of farmland and forests, this reserve is largely wilderness. The wonderful scenery makes the visit worthwhile……That’s Kraken Mountain with, if you look closely, a Moose in the foreground. Here’s another beautiful vista in the Belmont area of the map……There’s also a disused railway line running through the southern area of the reserve with three bridges that you can walk across or use as a vantage point…

Just like Hirschfelden, the game gives you introductory missions before continuing with tasks of greater difficulty. One of the first involves investigating who has wrecked the camp of one of the reserve’s residents – a guy called Hope who lives ‘off-grid’. I found some human boot prints at which point the reserve warden asked me to follow them to track the culprit but not to start any fights. The trail didn’t go very far before I found a very torn shirt hanging on a bush – it seems the Bear’s had taken retribution for Hope!

One of the complaints levelled at Hirschfelden by the community is the lack of wildlife. Coming over to Layton I found there were definitely more animals about though I reckon the deer are just as capable of making themselves scarce as the ones in Hirschfelden. There is an abundance of Bears and Moose here which means you don’t have to work very hard to find a target. Perhaps that’s the problem, some virtual hunters don’t like having to work for the shooting opportunity? I’m enjoying Layton but I’ll be going back to Hirschfelden very soon to try out new gear.

Bears? You can’t move without stepping on them. One early task is to get photos of a Black Bear family for another of the reserve’s residents. Here’s one baring her teeth for me……As I was getting paid for the photos I didn’t swap to a rifle and shoot her. However, this Blonde furred Black Bear was not so lucky……Apparently not all Black Bears are black even if all cats are grey in the dark!

Moose are to be found all over the reserve and present a difficulty for the guns I had available when I first arrived. You can kill a Moose with the .270 rifle but only if you can get a front on shot to the heart. Any other angle results in a very long trek tracking the wounded beast until you finally find it. The Bears are a little easier to kill with the .270 and I’m pleased to say I became quite adept at taking them down from a variety of angles. However, that gun is still a bit under-powered for them. Fortunately, as my skills have improved and as more money became available I found myself able to buy the 7mm Regent Magnum rifle which is a guaranteed Bear stopper and also works well on Female Moose or is that Mooses, Meece? – apparently not! As for large Male Moose – that’s not so clear cut and I will probably need the most powerful gun of all for those if I want to avoid a long chase. Here’s one male Moose that didn’t get too far as I shot it head on……A late evening kill with the 7mm.

I’ll finish this post with another shot of Kraken Mountain……Now perhaps I can fire up the FLB and go for a drive???

I haven’t driven my trucks for a week – been concentrating on hunting. In fact I tweeted to my fellow truckers “Martin Transport et Logistique is currently taking a well earned break from delivering cargo. We’re on a hunting trip in Germany”. The Hunter: Call of the Wild is a very impressive game and I’m enjoying playing it so much that I felt a second post was called for with more details of the game and less about my personal views on real-world hunting. I want to start by telling a story… A few years back someone on a social media site asked if anyone could recommend a game that could be used as a ‘walking simulator’ for a now house-bound parent who used to enjoy the great outdoors. At the time I suggested that although not a walk around game, Train Simulator would certainly give the scenic views that were required. That now seems a long time ago. Were the same question to come up now I’d be flagging The Hunter: Call of the Wild as a very suitable walking simulator. It certainly has the walking through beautiful scenery…… What an image can’t tell is the wonderful sounds of the countryside you hear as you’re walking. There is exquisite birdsong – many species calls easily recognised. There is the rustling of the leaves on the trees as the wind blows. There are the calls of the animals – I never knew that a Red Deer’s mating call was so melodic! On one of the hotter days this week I had the window open and I swear that one of the Blue Tits on the feeder outside replied to my Roe Deer caller in the game! There is just so much to enjoy about the environment I’m experiencing in this Central European hunting reserve. By the way, the base game also comes with an American reserve set in the Pacific Northwest – so presumably Oregon or Washington. Other reserves can be added as purchased DLC’s.

I decided on Wednesday to reset my game. I did this because I had allowed myself to be sucked into the buy equipment trap that, ironically, the game warns you about through the reserve warden early on – something along the lines of “You can earn a lot of money hunting and spend a lot too!” I found myself needing to get kills just to replenish my cash reserves and as a result, taking on shots that I probably shouldn’t have been trying. In the real world that would be bad as you miss the quick kill shots and the animals suffer. I also wanted to talk more about the background scoring system of the game and how it is set up to encourage ‘ethical’ hunting.

My first day in the new profile began with the ritual killing of the sacrificial Roe Deer I mentioned in the first post. I then followed up by completing the early tasks the game sets. This included photographing Fallow Deer as requested. At the end of that in-game day I had also moved on to discover a second Outpost and killed 4 additional Roe Deer. I’m pleased to say that only one was not a Quick Kill (that’s 1 too many!). Here is the map at that point……The violet splodges mark each location where I made a kill and represent a concept called Hunting Pressure. Every time an animal is killed at a location it causes other animals to become wary and start avoiding the area. The more animals you kill in a single spot, the more vivid the splodge will become and the fewer animals will be prepared to risk visiting the location. Stay too long in one area and you will frighten all the animals away! Move elsewhere and everything will gradually return to normal. Clearly there is a lot to be said for moving around during your hunting forays and not staying in one area longer than necessary. That’s one concept to understand early on.

Here’s my Mission Log at the end of that first day. On the left is the list of completed missions and the current missions available for me to undertake. Highlighted is a story mission……If you read the text on the right you will see that it is couched as a pest eradication task – a necessary evil to ensure the right balance between wildlife and farming is maintained. There are several missions that are of this nature including one requiring you to help investigate an outbreak of disease in the resident Bison population – it’s not all about shooting things!

Now it’s time for the unpleasant. Here is a Roe Deer buck that I shot the next morning……Silly boy was courting a Doe on the roadside. You can see this was a very quick kill as he has fallen right next to the blood spatter caused by the bullet’s impact. When you confirm the ‘Trophy’ the game presents you with this screen showing where your shot hit……There is some important information on this screen that is used in determining your score and ultimately the amount of XP acccrued. Lets take a look at each item in turn.

The top section on the left gives details of the animal. Most of this is information although the difficulty and the weight play a part in the score awarded for the kill as does the Trophy score. The difficulty for this particular animal is 2-Minor – Roe Deer range from 1-trivial to 3-Very Easy. Other species will have a different difficulty range. The Trophy type, ‘Antlers’ comes into play in the next section.

In the second panel on the left we see the Trophy rating of the animal along with three different bonuses and the total score. These bonuses are very important to the calculation of the score, but lets quickly talk about the Trophy rating first. As the trophy type is Antlers, the score in this section is based on the number of tines on the antlers and on the animal weight. Note that female Roe Deer will have a trophy score of 0 because they don’t have antlers 😦 There are differeing types of trophy based on the type of animal.

The next three items are about your performance as a hunter and if all of these are at 100% the base score for the animal will be 500. The first is very much an ethical thing – Quick Kill. We want to achieve as quick a kill as possible to minimise animal suffering. We also want to achieve a quick kill so we avoid having to track a wounded animal through the reserve. There is a time limit of a small number of seconds in which the animal has to keel over and die before this 100% score starts rapidly dropping towards zero.

The second – Integrity – is all about using the correct weapon for the species you are hunting. This is about hunting etiquette and I think possibly conflicts with the Quick Kill ethic as with a smaller calibre weapon the risk of not slaying the beast immediately increases. Each gun and bow in game has an assigned set of species to which it is appropriate. The base .243 calibre rifle we all start the game with is ok for Roe Deer and Fallow Deer but would get you a zero integrity score were you to use it on a Fox. We now also get a .270 rifle at the start (something that was gifted to the community before I started the game as part of a Christmas event). If you shoot a Roe Deer with that rifle you will get a big fat zero for integrity! This .270 rifle is only really for use on Wild Boar, Red Deer and European Bison (though I’m not sure I’d want to be taking on a Bison with a .270 – 88mm flak gun would do nicely!). Incidentally, the game Fishing Planet also adjusts your XP for each fish you catch, penalising you for using heavy tackle on a light fish. It’s not as draconinan because you can’t stop Shiners from biting bait you were hoping to catch a large Crappie with but you do still get penalised!

The third is once again about Ethics – Consecutive Harvests. Basically, you track each animal you shoot and made sure it is dead rather than leaving it to suffer. After you shoot an animal you have 4 in-game hours to find it and harvest the body or you will find this parameter reset to 0% and will have to build up to 100% again. Equally, if you shoot an animal and then log out of the game, you will find this reset to 0% because you didn’t finish your job as a hunter. I think it’s good that the game enforces these ethical behaviours. I have found videos of the game by a real world hunter and he confirms the integrity and ethical requirements as being a good approximation of the real world situation, at least in the US.

And – coming back to the Doe our handsome Buck was courting, here she is showing her rump to me……That’s not a shot that would be even remotely ethical so I lowered the rifle and let her go on her way 🙂

Finally, before I reset my profile I had killed a Red Deer Buck. Here he is posed by the taxidermist. He should have a surprised look on his face but that would be undignified so I made him look the proud animal that he was……There’s a story behind his demise. I was out in the pre-dawn light heading towards the Cornfields for the mission to cull Fallow Deer. Just after 5am as I made my way through some light brush I heard a warning call from a Fallow Deer off to my right behind some thicker foliage, so I immediately crouched down and pulled out my rifle facing towards the sound. I was just getting ready to creep forwards when a Deer appeared coming slowly out of the trees towards me. He hesitated looking around and I raised my rifle. But he turned away and started ambling back into the brush. He had almost disappeared from view when he turned again and began walking slowly straight towards me. I took my second chance, raising the rifle and placing my shot in his chest. Imagine my surprise when he went down like a sack of potatoes! It was even more of a surprise when I realised that this was not the expected Fallow Deer but a Red Deer – the first I’d actually seen at the time. When I looked at the harvest screen I couldn’t believe it – my shot was clean to his heart – He probably knew next to nothing about it 🙂

Next week we should be back to trucking and a Digest report. I will be hunting too so expect the occasional post sharing some of the lovely views within this game 🙂