A game review: Dead State(a tale of errors, a chicken, a murderess and a ghost.. and lots of zombies too)

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(Note: This review is about the Early Access version and not about the full release. I have not had the opportunity to replay the full release game. )

Welcome to my review of the game Dead State,  which is about to hit the market on the Fourth of December, according to their press release. I have to excuse myself for making a rather long post, but I have to because I initially made a review based on wrong assumptions and now, after playing, this game for about 70+ hours I feel that I can make a better judgement of the game.

First an introduction:

You are in restaurant. The waiter asks what you would like to eat and offers you the opportunity to select the ingredients yourself. In fact, you are invited to visit the kitchen and point out what you would like to have, to tell how much of it you think is sufficient and to describe how you like it to be prepared. After doing so you return to your table to await what must be a memorable eating experience.
Some time later the waiter enters the room holding aloft three plates.  He walks over to you, puts one plate in front of you and then tosses the ingredients of the other two on top of the first plate and then shuffles the heap of food. He leaves Then wishing you a most enjoyable meal.

This then, is the condition of Dead State at the end of early access: full of things that would make for a memorable gaming experience, but the overall result is a mess.

But first let’s get you an idea about what kind of game this is.

Dead State is an isometric role play game set in the zombie apocalypse where you take charge of a group of survivors holed up in a school in Texas. The game has two parts: one part is managing your group of survivors, the other part is heading a party of up to four characters to scavenge for supplies, do quests and deal with the various enemies.

Those who are familiar with fallout 1 and fallout 2 should be at home with the mechanics of this game.The game has two map modes that each come with a different way of movement. There is a strategic map that you use to travel from one location to another in which time progress as you move. This movement can be done in three ways: on foot, on horseback or with a car. Each mode has advantages and disadvantages: foot is slow, but cost nothing; travelling on horseback gets you there faster, but requires food for the horses and the car is the fastest of them all, but costs fuel; a resource that is scarce.

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The strategic map…early game(left) and late game(right)

The other map is the local map. Local map movement occurs on a tactical map and is real time until combat is imminent. In combat mode you move turn based. As far as I can tell there is no progression of time on the local map.

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Local map movement: real time(big picture) and turn based in combat mode(insert)

During combat mode actions cost action points. Walking cost one point for instance, fighting with a small weapon three, shooting a handgun perhaps four, up till complex attack movements which cost perhaps eight points. Therefore, the more action points you have, the more you can do in one turn and the more powerful you become, provided you have other good fighting statistics as well.

Characters have varied attributes and varied skills. Your main character can be customized at the start and can be developed further during the game. Other characters also develop, but you can’t control that directly. They grow over time on their own, although it seems as if you can steer this progress by assigning them to do jobs that require a certain skill which they will thus improve.

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Character sheet

You can improve your base by building various upgrades like a wall, a watch tower, a science lab and a recreation room. These upgrades often enable other upgrades or give the ability to create new objects, like the science lab, which allows you  to create such things as improved armor, antibiotics and ammunition for guns.

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The job board where you assign jobs such as building upgrades for your shelter. To the right an overview of various upgrades you can build.

The game has a kind of flow.. At first even a single zombie is a challenge, but gradually as you and your companions get better equipment and advanced skills they become less of a threat and you deal with looters, gangs, rogue cops, militia and finally the military.  This shift in enemies means also a shift in weaponry. At the start you deal with you enemies with melee weapons, later on you start to depend more on ranged weapons.

I would like to special mention is that the game has implemented that people killed by zombies become zombies themselves. Which is a great idea. In addition the game also makes zombies appear when you make a lot of sound and especially gunfire, most notably shotgun fire  draws in zombies. This is also a nice aspect of the game.

One important aspect of the game is handling the community of survivors. You become the leader and thus you have to deal with various challenges, like recruiting more survivors, getting to know your fellow survivors, assigning them jobs, bolstering their spirits, handling conflicts, dealing with community politics and making decisions, including those concerning life and death. It is up to you to deal with the situation.

Now doesn’t this all sound great?

Well,  here is the other side of the game…

The game is beset with many issues. Just a list of random examples: a character dies, but her avatar stays on the map the rest of the game; doors return to undamaged state when you reload a game and you haven’t bashed them open; the fresh food you gathered on the day is not preserved when you restart the game;  some doors allow no entrance after being opened; locations are unfinished; you have to reassign jobs to your characters every day even if you just want them to prolong the job; your fishing rod is removed from your inventory and put in the storage every time you enter the shelter and thus has to retrieved again when you want to go fishing again; somehow the fourth party member is afflicted by bad pathing which could make him/her run the other way and right into enemies.

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My four avatars facing off a group of zombies . There are plenty of zombies on this map, but nothing else. Note that one of my party members is Fiona.. We will have a special part about her further down.

A rather annoying aspect of the game is that there is no log of conversations so you can’t find out what you have heard the other day: you have to write it down yourself. Sometimes a character tips you on a location, this location might or might not appear. There is no check if a location has already been found nor does the location offer new things..
And more: you can build a chicken coop, but that requires a chicken, when you bring a chicken, it is slaughtered automatically because there is no chicken coop. There is quest where someone offers you to trade medicines for food, but you can’t bring food from the shelter as any food that you take to your shelter disappears into an inaccessible storage. Some quests are broken: like one where you are asked by Aggro to pick up her friend Alan at the Dublin bar: he never shows up. There is one where I got a tip to go to Eden next to the Wicked Lily. Whatever Eden is remains unclear and I could not find it.

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The chicken and egg problem: to make a coop you need a chicken, to bring a chicken to the shelter you need a coop.

One of  broken story line is the story of  Fiona Parks. At some point during the game Davis, the wheelchair guy who is your sidekick, comes up and told me how sorry he is about what Fiona did. I was left to wonder what he was talking about, but I through she was killed or commited suicide. But whenever I checked Fiona, she was alright and could be assigned jobs and taken along with parties, just like all the other party members. From that moment onwards Davis kept telling me every morning the same thing: that he is sorry about what happened to Fiona or was she did.

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Davis telling me about Fiona.. the same story every morning.

Then one time I am told she has killed someone. A trial is organized and after the trial I had her expelled, and just after the trial has finished, I am told another murder has occurred: Fiona had killed again!. After a second trial Fiona is expelled again!Then the next morning Davis approaches me yet again to tell me how sorry he is about what happened to Fiona or what she did, and the morning after that one and the morning thereafter:basically every morning I have this same conversation.

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Oh… you did do what???
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Funny detail: Fiona is a supporter of Sandy, who votes to have her killed…

After a while it becomes clear that there is no progressing storyline and there seems to be no finish to the game. There is a conflict brewing between the militia and the military, but you can’t do anything with it.. They even have accessible headquarters, but I never get the ability to talk to their leaders and even killing them outright doesn’t seem to do much. It for instance doesn’t even make the rest of the militia angry when you shoot their fellows at the militia hq. It seems like this part still needs to be worked upon.Just like for instance the suggestive skill of Karen. She can fly a helicopter and at one point this is brought up in a conversation, which seems to imply that it is something important. but what it is, has still to be revealed.

Now all of this and much more needs to be looked at(just another bone: the dogs in the game can only be attacked from the front and the back) and fixed, but we are to believe that game has entered Beta in Augustus and should be in state that will allow it to be released to market on the 4th of december. It could be that all these issues will be solved around that time, but it is strange that they haven’t been solved in the current version and I have my doubts if all these issues can be fixed in that time.

The final straw that makes me give this game the thumb down is simply the price. The developers asked to be funded via kickstarter and got more than double the money they asked for. In addition they ask a whopping 27 euro for an early access indie game(compare that to state of decay: 18 euro’s). Yet the game is not finished and I wonder in what state the game will be released. There is a lot of fixing to do and we have to believe that all this fixing is done at the time of the official launch.

Some random  things that need to be looked at:

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Some errors: at Coleman(left side) you can walk right through this barricade. Items still need icons(top middle). The interior of that shop is on the move(top right). And sometimes you are blessed with a random 5th party member(lower right). The door is no obstacle for this soldier(bottom middle)
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The ghost that haunts the shelter: Elaine killed herself early in the game, but her presence lingers on. Even the sun won’t chase her away.

State of Decay: Breakdown: ten tips for playing the dlc

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Updated 11 January 2014!
Removed some typo’s and errors added some new I am sure.
Added some things to tips.

 

Hey, welcome to my post about Breakdown, the downloadable content for the video game: State of Decay.

In this post I will experiment with fragmentary story telling. And who better then to have that taken care by my nekos!

First off it might be handy to give a general idea of what the post will contain.

1 Three differences as compared to the basic game.

2 Ten tips that might be useful to remember.

3 And something else I forgot. Oh yes.. a commentary of sorts…

But first let me introduce Krisp. She is in the picture at the top..Krisp is a neko. For those who do not know exactly what a neko is let me tell you.. neither do it. Literally Neko is Japanese for cat and in a certain context it is used for a hybrid of a human with cat. A human with cat features so to say.. like ears, or whiskers or a tail. However, being completely inaccurate as someone pointed out, a Neko is sometimes used me to mean any human animal hybrid.  So Krisp is a neko because Krisp has cat teeth, cat claws, cat shoes(sometimes) and a nice fluffy tail.

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This picture shows the new things that make breakdown different from original game: heroes, levels and new goal(s).

While in the basic game survivors were also important, in Breakdown they are even more the focus of the game. When you begin the game you choose a random hero(the first time), start the game and run! For you are alone.  During the game you will be able to have more survivors join you and here in this there is a slight difference from the basic game. In the basic game most survivors came either via predefined quests or the occasional random quest. In Breakdown the most important source for companions are enclaves.  You will find that you are now actually able to gain their trust and recruit them after a while.

Secondly, Breakdown has levels. And I do not mean levels of the survivors, but levels of the game. Each level is slightly harder then the next. This is achieved by making the zombies slightly harder, spawn more, and spawn more special zombies, while at the same time, resources are harder to find and, especially, vehicles are harder to find. There are even levels where there are just a few vehicles to get. With each new level, you also start a new map. The only thing you will take with you from a previous game is a small group of survivors, their inventories and the supply.

Thirdly Breakdown has no story line.. hence the goal of the game is a simple one: find the recreational vehicle, repair it and then go next level. Sounds boring?
I thought so too.. but each and every level is slightly harder then the one before. And to make it more rewarding they threw in achievements, so that you have something to strife for.

So now the ten tips with their explanation below.

1 Bring a buddy.

2 Ready the RV.

3 Home, sweet home site.

4 Use your outposts!

5 Neighbors are your friends.

6 That vexing supply locker.

7 Take care of your cars.

8 Boom!

9 Guns guns guns.

10 Hand to hand.. choose your skills wisely.

————

1 Bring a buddy.

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Maybe you are a very exceptional fighter, but even the best fighters will tire eventually and it is a though job surviving on your own at higher levels.  Searching items in houses might be tedious task is you are continuously interrupted by zombies. Your survivor will break off the search to confront the zombie and you have to start the search again after it is killed. So bring a buddy to watch your back.

Buddies can be recruited in various ways. You can pay 100 influence to have on over your fellow survivors to tag alone. This has some disadvantages. It costs 100 influence and the survivor will leave the moment it is severely wounded, sick or  you accept a quest(the latter not always: sometimes they leave and sometimes they don’t).

Buddies can also be recruited as part of a quest. Most quests give you one buddy that stays until the quests is finished. The advantage is that it does not cost you influence and the survivor tags along even if severely hurt or sick. There are three disadvantages: the game does not save while your are on a quest,  you can not move a home site and you can not change to another avatar as long as you are on a quest.

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2 Ready the RV.

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Eventually you want to move to the next level. Readying the RV is a requirement.  
But first you have to find it! Unless you want to search the map for the RV you probably better of waiting for Lily to tell you where it is. She will do that within an hour of real time play. At the first level you only have to do one thing: fueling the RV.. but on higher levels there are more things needed. With each repair or preparation you need influence and materials. In all you will need 30 fuel, 30 materials and 10 medicine to prepare the RV on higher levels. Oh and some repairs require a lot of time and also some extra things that you are required to find.

The RV can only hold a small amount of survivors. In total eight, but there are two catches:. One of them is  that you have to take Lilya along(and Lily is not a playable character).  And when you take the full compliment of seven survivors along , one of them will get lost on the higher levels( this is changed now: on higher levels it seems the max characters you can recruit is six but you do not lose one anymore.). Who gets lost seems to be a bit random although my experience is that it is often one last one’s you assign to go with the RV. And the one you play will not be killed.

A word of advise. When you find the RV you do not need to get out of your car to have it added to your home site. Just driving along it is good enough. It is even advisable not to get out of a car as the RV seems to be a spawning point for zombies. Also be aware that when you are on a quest and you find the RV during this quest, it will not be added to the home site! And also, when you have a companion with you it will leave as if you accepted a quest.

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3 Home, sweet home site.

When you start on a new map, except for the first, you will be out in the open. So you have to find a home site sooner or later. Although there are seven home sites in the game, the choice is actually limited. The three biggest one’s(Fairgrounds, Trucking Warehouse and McReady) you can not get as you lack the materials and people to choose them. McReady Farm can only be picked from the start  at the first levels, but once you start to loose a survivor you will not have enough people to claim it. The two smallest are not really an option as they are too vulnerable. Unless of course you like that sort of thing. It comes down to either hold out in the open till you have enough people (McReady only needs one more survivor to the basic seven) or to either occupy Savini or Kirkman.  I prefer Savini as it is located in the town Marshall, where most supplies can be found, is protected from the rear and one side and comes with a watch tower. Also it requires only a few outposts to make it safe.

4 Use your outposts!

Outpost have a lot of useful functions. It creates a zone where no zombies will spawn, it will destroy a horde of zombies, it gives you access to your home site inventory and it generates materials for it. If you occupy one of the bigger home sites, you usually can have one or two spare outposts that you can move around when you explore further out, thus having a place where to stock up, fall back to, or put items you found.

5 Neighbors are your friends.

In Breakdown neighbors are even more important. They are a source for new survivors, quests, a way to get rid of excess items and  create a kind of  safe zone.  Especially handy will be their use to get rid of items that you can not or do not want to store in your own supply locker. In addition sometimes they even sell things you might have a shortage of, like bullets.

6 That vexing supply locker.

You will soon start to notice something annoying about your supply locker: it is limited in the amount of items it can contain. Since the supply locker travels with you from level to level. -that is from map to new map-, with it’s content intact, you will run into this problem again and again because you need to create influence by finding new items and storing them in the supply locker. This is where you neighbors come in. Their supply lockers are a way to get rid of excess items. However these supply lockers are limited as well so eventually they will be full too.

Now all of this would not be such a problem if the game did not automatically add items to your locker every once in a while. So even if you take out the cheap or worthless items out of your supply locker, the game will generate new items, some of which are cheap and worthless items. The only way is by taking them out and replacing with more expensive items..

On top of this the game will also top off certain items contained in your supply locker. Bullets, for instance, will be topped off at sixty. The same goes for snacks. It seems the game limits snacks to six. So stocking up on bullets and such is only possible for a short while otherwise you have to remove any excess and store it in the inventories of your survivors.

7 Take care of your cars.

Unless you like to leg it through fields full of zombies you probably value your car simply because you move around a lot faster. Cars are  vitally important and you will find less and less of them at higher levels. Since cars are also spread out over the map, retrieving the few ones that are on the map can be a tedious and dangerous task.  But you have to. This means that you might consider building a workshop(at least a basic one) or moving to the trucking warehouse, which is has a  full fledged workshop built-in.

Most cars are located in and around Marshall and I found that Marshall always seems to have at least one car.  I also found that when you do not have enough cars near your home site then the game sometimes gives you cars at your home site. How this exactly works is not known to me as it has only happened a few times.
14-01. When you move your home site the game will move the cars sometimes. I have moved my home site only twice during the games and in both cases the cars were moved the next day as well. Hence you do not need to get the cars you leave behind. However I think only the cars that are actually in the parking spots are moved. 
In addition the spawning of cars when you have none seems to spawn random new cars.. At first I thought it would a selection from the cars you drove past of occupied, but recently I tested this and non of the cars I actually drove past or sat into were moved. So they game seems to spawn new cars and not take the cars that are already in the game.

Big cars, like the modern pickup, are handy for using a cross country shortcut between Marshall and Spencer’s Mill.  This saves you a lot of driving over the road. This shortcut begins at the Tartan Mart that is located on the south-east side along the road leading to Marshall(see picture below).

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8 Boom!

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Gradually, when you go through the levels and discover it is getting harder and harder and resources decline, you start to appreciate the little things that did not really matter in the basic game.  Here are a few.

Gas-tanks are everywhere and they come in handy when a shed or another building is inhabited by a group of zombies. The blast kills everything except for the tougher freaks(Big Un and Feral) outright.. even through a wall. Watch out with cars though… they get destroyed too. The blast might attract nearby zombies, but not as much as firing a gun or an artillery barrage.  Funny detail..they reappear when you move away.

A nice weapon to have is a grenade launcher. They come in two versions: the one shot grenade launcher and six shot one. They both fire the same grenade. The great advantage of the grenade launcher is that you can actually fire a grenade inside a building. This makes them very handy for cleaning out infestations. Grenade launchers are rare finds. However the most likely place to find the six shot version is at the military camp in front of the fair grounds.
14-01: There are three stashes, one in the back near the fairgrounds and two near the entrance that is across the road where the crashed helicopter is. 

Of course the weapon of choice is the petrol bomb or Molotov cocktail. In state of decay there are a lot of them around and they are very effective too. You can wipe out a horde of zombies with one. Not only are there many to be found(some house have wine cabinets, that provide up to nine molotov cocktails) but also the game will generate them for you.
14-01: When you explore you will find fuel. Breaking down fuel will turn them into three of four Molotov cocktails. 

9 Guns guns guns.

You will find a lot of handguns like revolvers and pistols in the game. Equipped with a silencer most hand-guns are decent weapons. It is wise to equip you adventurers with different caliber guns so you will not run out of bullets because as said above: the game tops of the bullets at 60.  Revolvers and shotguns are weapons that can not be silenced and as a consequence they will attract zombies when fired. The exception seems to be the .22 caliber. which seems to attract less attention. .22 caliber gun are not very effective. I seldom use guns on ‘normal’ zombies but reserve them for the screamers and  bloaters, but considering that the game tops off your bullets you might use up bullets if you have too much.

To find the better types of guns or even military grade guns see the maps below.

10  Hand to hand.. choose your skills wisely.

Most of the time you will fight  the zombies with hand-weapons. During their use you will gain experience and once you gain a certain level you can choose a skill to enhance combat or be stealthy.  Most of these skills do not seem to do too much, but my preference is to use bladed weapons and pick the  skill that cuts of the legs of a zombie at random. The other option: decapitation offers up speed for a certain kill.. however in the higher levels you the delay usually results in a zombie grabbing you. If possible pick survivors with the power house skill as it increases their critical hits.

11 (Hey wait.. that is not ten?) Flow of the game.

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Perhaps a final tip is to pay attention to the flow of the game.  The game has moments that there are many zombies and hordes spawning and moments that there are non around.
Here are some observations:
– At night there are more zombies around than during the day.
– Around dusk, dawn and noon it seems there are far less zombies.
– Zombies have a tendency to spawn after you have arrived at a certain place. Sometimes there is a delay in the spawning that you can use  to quickly enter a place.. grab stuff and run before the game starts to spawn too much zombies. However this can also work to your disadvantage: sometimes a place seems to contain only a few zombies.. but a few minutes later more will spawn…a lot more.. An example of place where this is likely to happen is the Grange.
– When you are required to go to a place and it is crawling with freaks you can force the game to remove them by driving around a bit. When you are far enough away the game will remove spawns. However there will be new spawns.. so it might not solve your issue.

12 (Hey?) Quests and other assignments

Whenever you built a facility or repair a part of the RV there is a chance you have to find something to finish the job. Lily will tell you where to look on the map. I found that you are likely to find these items at any place you search. However it looks like that the places Lily designates have a higher chance to give you the object. But diligent searching at other places have almost always resulted in finding these objects.

Another interesting thing I found is that when you are assigned to hunt a particular freak you are instructed to locate it at certain place. I found that finding and killing a freak of the kind you are assigned to hunt at other places sometimes is enough to resolve the quest.
14-01: This seems to be the case for bloaters and ferals. The armored zombie quest is usually for a swat zombie and that seems almost only to be spawned for the quest. I do not know for big uns as I try to avoid them.

Be aware that with the hunt quest your companions will leave the moment the quest is resolved. This might mean that they leave you to face any remaining zombies. Sometimes they will help you fight, but as often as not they leave you to face the music alone.

Okies..

Now for some closing comments.

I like state of decay as it offers a combination of resource handling, character management, leveling and so on. The game does not compare to a big commercial game. This should also not be expected as the game is made with far less budget and market for about a third of what a main stream commercial game costs.  All in all Undead Labs, the maker of the game did a decent job.

Handy maps…

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Trumbull valley map.
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Trumbull Valley.. best places to find guns. Guns shops and police station in blue. Military camp sites in green.

trumbulll valley mapb-dangerous-places

Henry and Kristl sweat during the Reign of Fire(2002)

“So this movie is about dragons destroying the world..” Kristl sat back
on the couch resting her heavy booted feet on the old worn surface of a
table. Something Henry felt as being very unladylike. He wasn’t quite
sure if he ought to mention it, but from Kristl’s eighties punk look,
with her short hair, sturdy black leather jacket, worn jeans and high
laced army boots, he gathered that she was not going to give a toss.

“That alone should be good for big haul. Who doesn’t want to see
dragons?” Henry said.

“Well, people will be disappointed no doubt. It is not like there are
that many to see. Dragons is plural.. I can’t recall to have seen more
than one up close in any one scene. If they had not killed one to show
there are two, it might as well have been only one dragon. The dragon.”

“But when you get to see one it looks really cool. I know people moan
at cgi, but I liked the way they did those dragons.”

“One dragon. They just made one dragon and then reused it. The big male
one they kill at the end looked just like the female one they killed
earlier in the movie. They did not even bother to give it another
color. Just because it was male.. or something. Or different. Little
lacking details.” Kristl added.

“Anyway there were dragons, cool ferocious dragons. Fire Breathing
dragons.”

“Exploding dragons..And for the rest it awash just hogwash..the story
was just laughable. Somewhere under London sleep dragons and when they
are woken they start destroying life as we know it, just like they had
done before with the dinosaurs for instance, so the over-voice tells
u.. I wonder how people found out about it, did the dragons tell them?”

“I liked the scenes where they try to kill one by throwing a net on
them and use people as bait. Really cool. ”

“Yeah, that was a cool scene. Cool scenes are far in between though,
mostly you see dirty scruffy men in brown-gray rags sneering at each
other. They never get along or develop in any sense. Many movies have a
group of reluctant people who have to team up to solve a problem. They
eventually start to respect each other even if they don’t agree. This
movie has no such development. Nothing changes in the persons
themselves.”

“And eventually everyone dies..Haha.” Henry laughed, “almost everyone,
that is. Only the guy and the girl remain.”

“And not one joke or witty line. I mean a movie like that should have
some relief. Some moments of humor to break the continuous gloom that
pervades, but I can’t remember one intentional joke or witty remark,
Not even sarcasm. Just two guys bickering for the sake of bickering. ”

“Yeah. They could have added some jokes in it.”

“I also can’t say there was exceptionally or interesting scenes in this
one. The only memorable screen moment is when the American dragon
hunter jumped from that two with an axe to attack the main dragon.”

“So basically a grim humorless movie that has nothing working for it
but some cgi dragons that some might like and others might hate.
Especially considering the lack of dragon movies overall”

“That is the gist of it.” Kristl nodded.

“Which reminds me.” Henry said and he reached down to open a box, “I
wanted to celebrate the movie with this.” He took out a few bottles.
Most were of different sized bottles made out of brownish glass, except
one complete white one, but covered wide variance of of colorful
labels. “Dragon stout, Double Dragon, Red Dragon, St. George & the
dragon, Dragon Troll Ale, Dragon’s milk, Gulden Draak, Dragon Year,
Copper Dragon and finally Green Dragon. A random selection of beers.”
Henry smiled broadly..

“Oh nice.. though, come to think of it, are we supposed to drink them?
You know I sort of stopped drinking alcohol.. well unless there is a
special occasion, that is.”

“Isn’t this a special occasion?”

“Well, it would have been if we had drunk them during the movie, but
since it is done and I don’t want to see it again the moment seems to
have passed.”

“Ah.. but I have thought of that.. We can go and see the hobbit.. that
has a large dragon in it.. at the end, if we ever get to the end.So we
reserve them for that moment”

“Ah.”

“And if you by then still don’t drink alcohol I make sure the beer is
duly replaced with water… or any other non alcoholic beverage you can
think of..” He scratched his head.

“You are my hero.” Kristl said.

“A real dragon hunter.” Henry said.

“A dragon beer hunter you mean.”

“That to.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0253556