Our regular mod wrangler Chris Livingston is indisposed this week likely pruning back his INIs, and exorcising rogue RARs. Normal service will resume next week. Before that, I'd like to step in to highlight Pilgrimage, an Arma 3 scenario that, judging from the response to Andy's showcase of the game's best solo missions, is a clear community favourite.
It's a needle-in-the-haystack simulator, only with guns and angry men. Your job is to find and collect the body of your deceased brother from one of Altis's churches or chapels.
Altis is over 270 square kilometres big. It has over over 200 churches and chapels. Fortunately, I have ways of making people talk. (See earlier: "guns".)
I start in a randomly picked spot on the island's north-east coast. It's foggy, it's raining, and my map is huge and empty. I'm almost questioning the wisdom of embarking on a solo mission to recover a corpse from a hostile-filled island without first collecting event the most basic intel.
I've got a lot of walking to do. I decide to head west. Before long, I stumble across a small building with a rotating yellow exclamation mark above it. Loot! Inside is a sniper rifle. This puts me in a tough position. I'm only carrying a crappy SMG, but swapping it out for this will seriously limit my tactical options. Instead, I decide to sell it using Pilgrimage's auction system. This is involves the box disappearing, a text log informing me of how much "fuel funds" I've been awarded, and, most importantly, me doing my best to not question the logistics of this instant interaction.
I continue west, and am informed I've spotted the trail of between one and three hostiles. I duck into a crouch, which does nothing, but makes me feel about 30% safer. Through masterful orienteering (or "luck," as it's also known), I'm able to avoid the patrol. Instead I spot a church. Damn, this could be a short- no. It's empty.
One down, 217 to go.
Clearly I need to get smarter in my approach. The first thing I do is track down that patrol. I get a new message, saying they're now to the north-east. I head back up the hill, and, with the help of a little more luck, spot them in the distance. My SMG is clearly not up to the task, but I'm well hidden. I manage to take them out before they spot my position. After a bit of corpse looting, I'm sporting a new rifle and some better armour.
My next job is to get off the coast. Anything I don't loot, I sell pulling out a box from, er, somewhere, loading it with equipment and watching it disappear into the omniscient auction house. I've got a decent amount of money at this point enough to fast-travel much further in land. Reach any road and you can select "hitch-hiking" from the game's context menu. Click a position on the map and you'll materialise there, short a few "fuel funds".
My objective is the town of Sofia, but first I've a church to scout. A one-in-217 chance? I like those odds...
At this point my phone rings. After a few seconds of randomly pressing buttons, hoping to find the one that answers it, my character picks it up automatically. It's my uncle, with some choice words about a) my brother's death, and b) my father's "machine". Holy shit, this mission has a story.
Unfortunately, I don't get any more hints as to what that story might be. Overlooking the final church on the way to Sofia is a radar tower that's swarming with enemies. They spot me, and I'm plunged into a gruelling fire-fight as I try to escape. At this point, any further phone calls are hurriedly cancelled before the ringing gives away my character's position. At no point does he decide to just put it on silent.
During the fight, one of the soldiers surrenders. A blue exclamation mark appears over his head, informing me he can be interrogated. This, finally, is where I make some headway. The interrogation marks off a number of churches. Now I've probably only got 180 or so to check. Progress!
"Now tell me everything you know about churches..."
I reach Sofia, still under fire. The town itself appears to be surrounded by hostiles, and so I'm sprinting between each highlighted building, picking up first aid packs, selling unwanted weapons and gathering intel laptops that further narrow my search.
It's here I finally get my first piece of actionable advice. A blue exclamation mark points to a civilian with some information. I could ask him directly, potentially marking off a few more churches, or I could risk paying him a sizeable chunk of cash. I do the latter, and he tells me I should concentrate my search to the south-west. I now have a proper lead... assuming he's telling the truth.
The beauty of Pilgrimage is its effective combination of soldiering sim, orienteering adventure and detective mystery. It's truly open ended a randomly placed objective on a massive map and a handful of tools to help you hone in on your target. It's endlessly repeatable too, with a myriad of options that let you extensively tailor your experience.
It can feel overwhelming at first, but only until you find your first solid lead. After that, your journey is give purpose and the true mission of dodging patrols and gathering intel proves an exciting way to spend time in Altis. And there are a lot more options than those that I encountered including dedicated hideouts to hide out in, enemy strongholds to attack, and assassination missions that can be done at the behest of certain civilians. You can see a full guide to what Pilgrimage can do here.
Installation: Simple. Download from Armaholic, and extract the .pbo file into the Missions folder of your Arma 3 directory. You can also subscribe via the Steam Workshop, although there have been reports of that version not retaining your saved data.