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Chilling by the Lake


raymac46
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I’m not really much of a PC gamer. I have my train sims, a PC building simulator, and Cities Skylines (Sim City 2020 I guess.) But lately I have been playing a laid back walking simulator called “Lake.”

It’s 1986 – no COVID pandemic, no Internet, no email, no social media, no wifi, no Smartphones, no 24/7 connections. Meredith Weiss is a stressed out DOS computer engineer working on an office suite of some type in a big city software company. She just spent Labor Day working to a deadline while her overbearing boss and the rest of the staff  had a big pool party. Now she’s going back to her small hometown in Oregon to fill in as a letter carrier for her father and take a break from the pressure. Her parents will be in Florida so she’ll stay in their home for two weeks. 

Meredith will moonlight on her old job - told ya her boss is a jerk. She brings along what looks like a 1st gen IBM laptop. But she has to snail mail back the diskettes after she is done working.

I can empathize with Meredith, even though she is a female video game character. Her timeline roughly parallels mine. I left my small hometown as a teenager knowing I’d never be able to stay. I lived in or near big cities mostly. Had my midlife crisis in the 1980s where I left a stressful job for a simpler one. Dealt with jerks for bosses. Finally settled down in a lovely small town again. So her story resonates with me somehow.

“Lake” is a role play game but not much happens day to day. You get in your truck, drive around, deliver mail and packages, talk to people. It’s like Grand Theft Auto without the Grand Theft. No collisions, no gunplay, just daily life.

The graphics are gorgeous. A small town near a lake with snow capped mountains nearby. You even have a task to take photos and it’s hard to take a bad one.

While driving you are entertained by some nice country music - a bit more like “new country” of the 2000s but OK.

The truck is old, slow, and steers like a lumber wagon but you can’t damage it,  or get into a wreck with the infrequent AI traffic. Nor can you run over pedestrians or wildlife. It’s a peaceable kingdom.

Meredith has choices. The small decisions she makes and what she says can have quite life altering consequences - but no decision seems to be terminally bad, really. Here’s what can happen in the end.

  • She puts in her two weeks, goes back to her stress filled job and jerky boss. But things are really breaking for her firm and she stands to make a lot of money if she commits to the job for 5 years.

  • She stays in the town of Providence Oaks and starts a relationship with Romance Option #1 - Robert, the hunky lumberjack.

  • She goes the LGBTQ+ route and leaves for a whole new Route 66 type adventure in an RV with Romance Option #2 - Angie, the perky owner of a video rental store in P.O.

Ending #1 probably makes sense for the left brain people out there and Meredith would probably be set for life if she chooses it - but 5 more years with this Steve Jobs character - Pah!

Ending #2 is the Hallmark Channel one and would be OK I guess. Meredith finds a partner and stays in P.O. as a letter carrier. But Robert reflects the old school conservative town that eventually will get changed as folks move in from the city. I can’t see the idyllic life of 1986 continuing. Besides, the Internet access will suck in 2021.

So, strange as it may seem for a straight guy, I liked ending #3. Angie is by far the most interesting and intelligent person Meredith meets. The RV option looks like a good one for a while. YMMV of course.

Would you like “Lake?” Not if you want monsters, demons, shoot ‘em ups. But if you just want to chill for a few hours, it’s great.



 

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Agreed it's not exactly PUBG or Monster Hunter. You do need pretty good GPU capability to enjoy the graphics at their best.

The hardest part is trying to keep the mail truck on the road without swerving into the oncoming lane or smashing into a tree. You nominally control the truck with the keyboard, but I think an XBox Controller is likely a better idea. Oddly enough you have much better control of your character when she's walking around, as you can use the mouse to head her in the right direction.

As far as meeting other characters goes, well if you want to just do your two weeks and go back to your programming job - it's difficult. You have to avoid romantic entanglements and Angie is rather aggressively friendly. :oops:

Meredith is a truly kind, helpful, and empathetic character so it's hard to play her like a hardass. If you do I guess you can just drive around and deliver the mail and stay home every night and watch TV - when you aren't working on your boss's priorities. That is sorta like playing Grand Theft Auto and never getting a parking ticket.

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I replayed the game playing the role of "jerk Meredith" with the goal of putting in my time in the small town and heading back to my regular job. This required a lot of a$$hattery - fending off vivacious Angie and ignoring laconic Robert. I had to turn down lots of opportunities to help out, and as a result missed out on a lot of after work lifestyle - no dining out or going to the movies. Spent my evenings at home, sucking up to the boss or reading a trashy historical novel. I managed to escape back to the big city but it wasn't as much fun and I feel I got a lesser experience of the town and its beauty. Oh well, it was a slice of life I guess.

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Forgot to mention that the XBox controller makes it easier to drive the mail truck but it's harder to walk around with the character. So it's a wash really. If you don't have a controller for a PC it isn't the end of the world with "Lake."

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