I’d Be Lying if I Said We Weren’t Monsters

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Major theme spoilers for the fight with that Wolgraff’s-voice guy

Butch:

Well, yesterday, went to a parent teacher conference, came back to fighting family, people having their screens taken away, and two hours of calming everyone down.

Sigh.

So I didn’t play. But I DID ponder previous posts, and I found a little nugget that was worth discussing before we discussed all the other stuff that was worth discussing.

You said, back in April, in reference to your end of Bairdotr’s story (that you didn’t live with cuz Mr. O totally cheated), cutting and pasting here:

And Bairdotr is at least physically adult, although one could argue her lack of experience in the human world makes her comparable in some ways to a child…

Which was a good point! And became a more interesting point in light of how my stories, plural, ended with her.

The first time, she embraced her independence. She acted like, well, an adult. She said “I’m going to make my own decisions.” Moreso, she said “These people” (this man and this woman) “TAUGHT me how to be independent!” She grew up. The second time, she was ABOUT to stay “young,” but Wograff…what, declared his love? Or something? She grew up right before our eyes.

Which, well, I’ll quote you again:

And it absolutely is the wrong choice, in the game-world …. . Jareth’s comments made it clear that he didn’t actually care about Bairdotr, he just saw her as a sort of amusing pet. He also seemed to suggest that he was intrigued by her immunity to rot and might be going to experiment on her, making her not even a pet but a lab animal. It’s objectively a bad choice, to go with that guy!

It IS a bad choice! The GOOD choice, the RIGHT choice, is to grow up and to stay in Rivellon, with the PCs.

Which means, the right choice is to accept sin. To shed the innocence of childhood. Experience and knowledge and all that….that’s sin, right? Original Sin, even? And here, that’s what SAVES Bairdotr.

(Or keeps her crazy/deluded/whatever, which I am sticking with, and you’ll see why soon enough if you ever play cuz cutscenes. And before you go there, I think, in this context, crazy/deluded IS good. Cuz cutscenes.)

More “sin is good.” Which makes me nervous. Why? Cuz this post also illustrated how we have to live with the traits we got through choices we didn’t know we were making. Obedient and forgiving and all that. Know what trait I have?

“Spiritual.”

I don’t think that’s gonna be a positive in this game.

There! When we don’t play, we can recycle! We never reuse games, and BOY do we never reduce.

Feminina:

Also didn’t play. So yes, let us mine past discussions for more discussion!

One thing that strikes me now, which you politely didn’t stress in your brief mention of how we missed these themes because we cheated, is the implication of missing that choice.

Our Bairdotr never chooses either to leave, or to stay. She never gets to grow up: she remains perpetually in a ‘child’ state not by her own choice, but because the circumstances never allowed her to mature.

And I think in the larger sense, it doesn’t really matter that it was our decision that resulted in the circumstances not allowing it–it could also have happened accidentally if we had stumbled on Jareth when traveling with someone besides Bairdotr (see: Jahan), so the real point is not that we’re monsters (though I won’t argue that), it’s that the game is built so that it is entirely possible that things will simply never align to allow a character to ‘grow up.’

It’s not her fault! Potentially, it might easily not be the PC’s fault either: they might just not know (as we didn’t know with Jahan, who is likewise trapped in a state of unfulfillment which could be read as arrested development and a failure to completely mature and ‘move on’).

And it’s entirely possible that this is just a flaw in the game design, and they weren’t really thinking. Certainly we complained about the fact that you can just miss companion story and have no way of knowing it, and viewed it as a shortcoming.

But I wonder if maybe it’s also part of a theme (intentionally or no), not so much of sin, sanity, etc., but of an essentially random quality to life.

It’s dumb luck on these companions’ part whether they ever get a satisfying conclusion to their story: did they hook up with conscientious PCs who make the effort to travel with each of them (and have the good fortune to stumble into their stories early, die, and then come back later), or do they get stuck with the ones who are all about party balance with the same two people, and saving the good arrows?

You do the best you can, but sometimes things just don’t work out, maybe it’s saying. You can get stuck in a delusion, or kicked out of a delusion, without ever really understanding what’s happening–without ever growing up–because things just never came together for you.

There’s only so much we can control, and all our decisions to sin or not to sin, the actions making us spiritual or materialistic, are ultimately played against the limiting backdrop of the time and place we were born into and the people born there with us.

We don’t all get the chance to grow up.

Butch:

That was polite? Oh, you’re being sarcastic. Carry on.

Well….see, even though I haven’t finished Jahan’s quest, I did get the pre getting slaughtered dialog, the lead up where Jahan shouts his intentions and motivations before charging into battle and getting me slaughtered. So I know some shit about that. I don’t know how it’s going to resolve, but I think it’s going to be a very interesting counterpoint to this particular discussion. I’ll let you know. If I ever play.

And before I get deep, we viewed it as a shortcoming not really because we saw it as a narrative shortcoming, but because we LIKE companion quests and we were kinda annoyed that we missed out on them. We knew there was interesting themeage there, and (ironically, given you ended up skipping it) we wanted to play it (or, in your case, at least have the chance to). The way we play, we like completeness. If we skip something, we want it to be because we skipped it.

Take FONV. We missed a lot of the companion quests. But that didn’t affect the overall narrative. We were just irked because we missed them, and we knew they were there, like when you go to a restaurant and they’re out of the thing you want. It’s irksome. Not because the thing you end up ordering sucks, but because you want the full range of choice.

But do we deserve that? And is it really a shortcoming?

You could read it the way you describe, and, if you do, it still fits into the rather…maybe not ANTI religious themes, but certainly the themes were obedience/adherence to a dogma aren’t right. Most religions, especially the ones that involve some concept of sin, don’t buy that if you do the best you can, things don’t work out. You can, or God does, control it all. There is no luck. It’s all a plan (and not like our plans, but plans that actually happen because God says so). My in laws, for example, really, REALLY believe that if they do x, y and z, they’ll get to heaven. Period. You do the best you can, you follow all the rules, check all the boxes, it works out. No luck, no limiting backdrop, no randomness.

And really, in their world, x, y and z boils down to “avoid sin.”

This game, by adding some degree, if not a high degree of luck, is the antithesis of that.

And, in some ways, of games in general. Pretty much all games, if you solve the puzzles and do the QTEs and kill the Kevins, you win. In the end, there is no randomness or luck. Do what the game asks, get the kiss at the end, ride off into the sunset, credits.

This game, less so. And I don’t expect a kiss and a sunset before the credits, either.

Feminina:

Well…sort of. I mean, luck, or cheating. If we knew what boxes to check, we COULD check all the boxes and get all the story. And I expect that if we kill all the Kevins and solve all the puzzles we will ‘win’ in that we get to the end of the story. So I don’t know if this game is breaking a ton of new ground (meaning no disrespect to it).

As you say, FONV (good comparison, I’d forgotten about that) also had a lot of companion stories that you had to luck (or cheat) into, and just as it is here, those stories were probably interesting, but don’t affect the ability of the player to get to the end of the game. I feel bad about Bairdotr and Jahan being trapped in eternal no-conclusion-land, but I don’t think it’s going to mean we can’t get to the end of the main story. Will it have some effect on the way the main story ends? Possibly! But kiss and sunset or no, I’m confident we’ll get to an ending of some kind.

I mean, it would be breaking new ground if there were paths you could stumble on that would literally just lead to the game giving you nothing to do and no way to reach the end. It’s pure luck whether or not you ever finish this game! That would be possible, and different. And we would (justifiably, I think) hate it.

Butch:

Ah, but “if we knew.” If we weren’t cheating, we wouldn’t know. Let’s face it: If Jesus himself came down and pretty much proved my in laws were right, and we should really do x, y and z or face eternal torment, we might start going to church. If we played this game straight, we would, like in real life, be taking our chances.

We would hate it if the game didn’t end, and it isn’t ground that, I think, should be broken. We talk about how games are cool because they, as a relatively new genre, can toy with how narrative gets delivered, but it’s still a narrative. Maybe games haven’t solidified their rules, but narratives have, and they have a beginning, a middle and an end, no matter the genre.

Speaking of ends, PLAYED! And turned down the difficultly. And it was STILL hard and cost me a bloodstone! But I did it. (By the way, can you make bloodstones? I could use another.)

And…gotta think on this. First, irony. The ONE TIME you don’t get XP for killing minions. NOT. ONE. Only the baddie. Should’ve cheated. Fuck XP.

But…Hm. Themes? Seeing themes? I have a bit of an idea, but I gotta ponder.

Feminina:

The important thing is that you defeated him. And the bitter irony is that his minions (being aspects of himself or whatever, I suppose) didn’t even give you XP. You can’t catch a break.

We didn’t use any bloodstones, but we did have a couple of ‘huge’ healing potions that were chugged during the course of that battle. And I don’t know if you can make bloodstones or not. I suppose you have to sacrifice something to do it, so…I mean, if you’re going to be killing people anyway…but no doubt they won’t let you charge it up during normal combat, you’d probably have to specifically set out to murder someone for the stone or something (we were supposed to be able to do it with the chicken back in the temple, but I didn’t kill the chicken, so I don’t know what happened).

In closing, I don’t know.

And no more do I know why that fight was relatively easy for us and murder for you. I wasn’t trying to mislead you! I really didn’t think it was that bad when I told you it would be fine!

Ha. This is always the way for us with this game.

“I meant well! I thought it would be OK!”

And then someone ends up dead.

Butch:

Art imitating life.

I tried to combine a stone with a “tormented soul.” Nothing.

I’m still pondering themes.

Feminina:

I think tormented souls help make weapons magical. Enchants them with strength and dex, says the internet.

Which makes me feel a bit weird about using some of the loot we’ve picked up, I must say.

Magic: powered by tormented souls! (That feels vaguely familiar to me…have we encountered this concept before in another game?)

Butch:

Have we? Probably.

Ok, themes.

Sin to win. Again. And insanity. Hear me out.

See, the mute guy wasn’t being all that bad. He was born weak and frail. He wasn’t really an immaculate; he was playing along because he was trying to fix himself. He was being mocked. He didn’t kill anyone. He was just a desperate, sad, wretched man. He’s usually the kind of person we help.

And…here’s the thing: Wolgraff explicitly attacked him first. He threw a dagger. The guy, maybe, wasn’t about to fight us. We started it. We started the fight against the poor, sad, disabled man. We didn’t help him. We didn’t care.

That’s….kind of mean. And not “the right thing,” really.

As for sanity……

The “good” outcome of all these quests seems to be to solidify the NPCs in Rivellon. Bairdotr decides not to go with the “doctor” figure. Madora’s own ideals of being a bloodthirsty source hunter are set in stone. Wolgraff finalizes his own place in Scarlett’s delusion. (Remember, he doesn’t get his voice back: he gets a voice he’s “never heard,” he says “I’ve finally FOUND MY VOICE,” he’s finally become “himself.”)

I also know some stuff about Jahan.

Scarlett’s “success” is keeping people here, with her, or bringing them deeper, reconciling them better, with her own nutsiness.

Maybe the latter. Maybe not “driving them to delusion,” so much as having their presence make sense in her own head. You asked earlier, did I think everyone else was nuts or did I think Scarlett was just trying to fit other people into her own construct of reality, and it seems that’s exactly what she’s doing with “good” outcomes. If they fit her world, they stay. If not, they go, or never “find their voice.”

Feminina:

Well, first off, we haven’t finished Wolgraff’s story yet because we haven’t been in the temple of the dead or whatever to get the last ingredient we needed, so I don’t have any thoughts on that.

Secondly…I feel like that guy was kind of evil? I mean, true, he wasn’t killing anyone, but he was stealing from them, and all the mute animals we’ve met seemed really sad about that loss. He didn’t just run off with some small thing: he took away an important part of their identity, which they can never get back. True, it’s not quite taking their blood/life, but he was similar to the Immaculates in that he was taking an essential part of another creature and using it up for his own purposes.

He wasn’t just “trying to fix himself,” he was trying to fix himself AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. By forcibly taking something he knew they didn’t want to give. The fact that he didn’t kill them in the process is something to consider when we think about how bad the crime is, to be sure, but so is the relatively trivial nature of his own need.

As far as we know, he didn’t HAVE to speak to live, any more than the animals whose voices he stole did. If he just wanted to communicate, he could have written notes, like Wolgraff. Used sign language. Whatever. Being mute was a non-fatal problem HE had to deal with, and he chose to make it the problem of a whole bunch of other creatures as well, in order to (temporarily) spare himself some mockery and fit in with a crowd. (A crowd of murderous jerks, lets not forget. Saying “he wasn’t an Immaculate, he was just going along with them for his own reasons” is no more exonerating than “I don’t personally dislike black people, I’m just going along with the KKK because it gives me a chance to show off my new sheets.”)

Dude was not exactly a sympathetic figure in my mind.

And yeah, OK, he MIGHT not have been going to attack us (although, he was going to attack us), but we didn’t start it, either: Wolgraff, representing the wronged creatures, did. We can argue with Wolgraff about that if we want, but his choice isn’t on us. We didn’t have an option there to encourage forgiveness or anything: he just did what he was going to do.

So personally, I have basically zero concerns about the poor disabled guy. Agreed, in other circumstances he could have been someone we’d want to help, but those are the circumstances where…you know, he wasn’t stealing an essential part of themselves from innocents and taunting them about it.

In other circumstances, like the ones where he wasn’t mad with power and killing everything in sight, we might have been good friends with Braccus Rex. We can imagine alternative situations all day.

I do think this dude was a really interesting case in that he’s kind of a Vampire Lite. He doesn’t kill others so he can live…he just steals voices so he can speak. His crime isn’t as serious, but neither is his justification. It weirdly balances out to the point that I think he’s basically as bad as if he were in fact a vampire, you know?

Butch:

Oh. Heh. Right. Heh. My bad.

Wait…you think that muting a dog is up there with killing things? Sure, the dog was sad, but I don’t think it would trade places with a dead animal. WE kill things all the time. And, more to the point, we HELP people who are suffering all the time. If this was some poor beggar who had a quest, we’d help. Shit, Wolgraff WAS a poor beggar and we helped.

And before you’re all “Yeah, but would we steal from an animal,” how many hams have you looted?

Ham. With which we fix ourselves. Temporarily. Yes?

Shit, I used a bloodstone in this fight. This very fight!

Again, you could very much say it’s a matter of perspective. From some points of view, Source Hunters are murderous jerks. How do we appear to Kevin? And we eat ham and we kill people just cuz people ask us to for less than this, etc. We didn’t like this guy because he was all growly scowly. And Wolgraff attacked him BEFORE we asked if there was anything we could do to reverse the spell! We could have asked. And, by the time dudes are chucking daggers at you, are you really gonna keep chatting?

Not saying he was sympathetic, per se. But we didn’t give him any chance, and judged him for doing far less than we do all the time.

But true. Once again, the end of a companion quest rests on someone else. Interesting.

Zero concerns. Mmmm. Ham.

Feminina:

Now now…I specifically did NOT say that muting was on par with killing. And sure, if it had been a question of “what punishment do you think this man deserves?” I personally wouldn’t have picked death. I would probably have said “stay mute forever and spend your life trying to make it up to the animals you harmed,” but that’s me. As noted, Wolgraff felt differently, and once the fight was underway, we couldn’t exactly decline to back him up.

As for hams, I loot them, true, but I don’t kill pigs to GET hams. I only use hams from pigs that are already dead! It doesn’t hurt the pig any further if I use the ham at that point.

Just like I only loot the graves of…people that are already dead. Ahem. But I don’t pick the pockets of the living! Because I’m so nice!

Unless I’m trying to pick a fight with them so I can kill them. Ahem.

Butch:

Ahem, indeed. Ahem, indeed.

Sinner.

Feminina:

Hey, I believe I noted earlier that I was not arguing we aren’t monsters.

Hm…perhaps it was poorly phrased.

Tp quote myself, “…so the real point is not that we’re monsters (though I won’t argue that).”

Which could be read as “I won’t argue FOR the point that we’re monsters”, or, to put it another way, “I don’t think we’re monsters.”

What I actually meant was “I won’t argue AGAINST the point [contention] that we’re monsters,” or, “I do think we’re monsters.”

Anyway, what I mean to say here is, I have never (intentionally) tried to suggest that we’re not monsters and sinners. I just want it on record that we’re nice, well-meaning monstrous sinners.

Butch:

“Hey, I believe I noted earlier that I was not arguing we aren’t monsters.”

T SHIRT!!!!!

“Hm…perhaps it was poorly phrased.”

Also a T SHIRT!!!!!

You’re proud of all that, aren’t you?

Rightly so.

Feminina:

Pride is a sin!

So yes, I’m very proud.

Butch:

And rightly so.

We did well this week! Considering the only thing we did between us was finish Wolgraff’s bit and die.

 

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Responsible Grown-Up Conversation

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for a fight in Wolgraff’s storyline

Butch:

So….uh….

How’s the house?

****crickets****

Uh….

Food was good. Mrs. McP had a good birthday.

****more crickets****

Uh….

You play?

Feminina:

Well…uh…

***tumbleweed blows past***

No. We haven’t done anything.

So. Uh…how’s the pear tree? Brandy futures looking bright?

Butch:

Well….rain’s been good…..

Hey I mentioned food and wife, so that’s two tags, right? Romance? That counts.

But hey, I was impressed that, yesterday, despite anything really to talk about, we managed to talk about stuff. Which is a testament to our 22 year friendship. And our ability to babble inanely.

That said, might play some while Meatball’s at school. But I do have to do some other chores, like pay my mortgage and stuff. Gotta set some priorities.

Feminina:

Paying the mortgage is good. Possibly the only thing worse than complaining about the house is complaining about living on the street because you forgot to pay the mortgage on the house.

Uh…I paid ours last week! So, yeah! Mortgage payments! Woohoo!

Speaking of financial stuff, I should probably get around to checking my bank account to see if the tax refund is there, and move it to the kids’ college accounts if so.

And then throw in an extra half-million each from my expansive savings, just to give them a chance of actually PAYING for college with said accounts. Ha.

Butch:

Harder to get rid of mice when you’re on the street. True.

Well, NOW I’ll pay the mortgage cuz I got distracted by watching highlights from sports I didn’t watch live cuz I’m a phenomenal husband. Romance.

Paying mortgages. Whoo. Hoo.

This is getting depressing. We better start playing soon. At this rate, TLOU2 will be a pick me up.

Feminina:

“Yay! We’re all going to die of fungus! No more mortgage payments for me, man!!!”

Butch:

Yeah, but the mice will be a bitch…. all immortal and shit….

Feminina:

Yeah, but all the better to support the kids’ advanced education! Hunting immortal mice will BE college.

That’s if there even are immortal mice, because I don’t remember them in that game. Animals were pretty normal, weren’t they?

Butch:

Fair.

Ok, in order to get us back on track, played. Or something. What did I do? Tried to get Wolgraff’s quest done.

“We only died, I think, once” said Femmy.

Dude.

I barely made a dent. Must’ve died ten times. Tried everything. Gear changes, spell changes, went shopping for gear I thought would help, nary a dent.

So I STILL got nothing.

What are you DOING? That was IMPOSSIBLE!

And I COULD get all tricky and teleport him before he does anything or something, but I want to do something straight.

So now I’m just angry.

God I love games.

Feminina:

Dude…I don’t know!

He murdered the hell out of us the first time, with all his summoned alternate selves or whatever, and so we came back, kept more of a distance at first to throw things at him, summoned a bunch of stuff ourselves, Wolgraff did the sneaky, and we managed it on the second try.

We didn’t do anything especially brilliant or strategic, that I recall. Just…summoned a lot of things, kept the wizard and the archer back, didn’t waste energy on the selves while they were invulnerable…I don’t know.

Maybe what we’re learning here is that in this game, you’re way better at following the plot and being smart, but we’re more effective in brute combat? Although you defeated Braccus when we didn’t even bother to try, so…I don’t know.

Dude. I don’t even know.

Butch:

I don’t know either!

First time: Got muted. Then died.
Second time: Put on thing that made me immune to muted. Got off two meteorstrikes! Didn’t do shit. Died.
One other time, lost count: Scarlett got charmed right off the bat, charmed Roderick, then charmed Bairdotr. One turn. Died.
One time: Got an undead decapitator and an ice elemental on the battlefield! They ignored them. Died.
One time: Got a fire elemental on the battlefield, blinded the guy, charmed a baddie! They ignored the elemental and the charmed guy, then resisted blindness. And charmed. Died.

I mean, what else IS there?

Feminina:

Damn. I don’t know. Grenades? We got muted AND charmed the first time, but the second time, resisted. I don’t know how, though. Like I said, I don’t think we did anything especially clever, we just…succeeded the second time.

Do any of you have the thing where you can ‘examine’ enemies to see what they’re vulnerable/resistant to? I can’t remember the details, but we looked at that and attacked accordingly. Though I can hardly think that information was so stunning that it turned the tide of battle on its own.

Butch:

They’re all tanks except for crushing!

And I could get some grenades, but I’m getting poor again, and I don’t want to blow all my cash before I need to load up for Barberieth.

This GAME man.

Feminina:

Man…I don’t know. Maybe we just rolled really well in that combat.

Uh…maybe go try Balberith? He might be a piece of cake in comparison.

I mean, we defeated him on the second try, so it’s either a piece of cake, or completely impossible.

Butch:

Very funny. Very, very funny.

But again…I’m level 18, and all that was level 19. But hey, I’m only 350K away from level 19. And I got 4800 just for finding this place! So if I find, what, 80 or so secret places, I’ll be all set!

This sucks.

Feminina:

But that can’t be it, because we only hit level 19 while fighting this guy over Wolgraff’s voice, meaning we went in at 18 (and we didn’t pause to level mid-fight, so we also went out effectively at 18). And we handled Balberith when we were only 17.

Maybe it’s just the party makeup? Like, the man-at-arms is overpowered compared to every other class, or something?

Butch:

I don’t know, man. I’m gone before I even start most times. I’m serious: I had three people charmed before I did ANYTHING. He got Scarlett right away, then it was her turn, then BAM charm skill, BAM charm arrow. I was down three characters before I could do anything. Skills don’t matter when you’re out of the fight before you can even use them.

Bonkers.

And discouraging. How am I gonna do the endgame if I can’t do this?

Feminina:

No doubt you’ve tried having one person go in first and provoke the fight, and then the rest come in later?

I mean…I don’t know. Go hire one of the mercenaries from the Hall of Heroes and see if having a man-at-arms on staff will make a difference?

Butch:

I’m too poor!

Grumble.

This GAME man!

Feminina:

Really? We’ve reached the point of having more money than we have things to spend it on. There’s just all this loot, you know?

So apparently there’s a fundamental choice in this game:

  1. follow the plot and be smart, leaving you poor and underpowered but caught right up on the story;
  2. galumph around randomly picking fights like a murderous magpie and wind up behind on plot and missing out on companion story, but tough as nails and swimming in cash.

Because that’s kind of where we’ve respectively arrived, isn’t it?

Butch:

Well…..I’m stubbornly hanging on to certain things. And I’m glad I did! Cuz I have the “Immune to muted” armor! Which hasn’t helped!

But the tricks I have are 1) meteor strike scrolls and 2) multiple ressurects, which are expensive.

This GAME man!

XP are an issue.

And I HAVE killed things! Except the things that I was so smart, they never got spawned. I’ve done every random encounter! I think! Maybe!

Shit.

Feminina:

Dude, we have 8 resurrect scrolls between us right now. And that’s only because we used two last time we played.

Not that many meteor strikes, although I would buy those if I found them, because they are awesome. I didn’t realize how awesome right away, though, so I haven’t been collecting them as long as the resurrections.

I guess…there’s always turning down the difficulty…?

Butch:

Dude the dude in Silverglen and the dude in Cyseal always have them. You just gotta put up with “lettuce see if” you know.

Feminina:

We’ll stock up next time we go!

In a month or so, when we play again.

Butch:

Come now, how long can a yearbook take?

Hopefully not very long, as my failures can only sustain a blog for so long. And God forbid we fall back on that 22 year friendship thing. That got depressing.

Feminina:

Yeah, it turns out games are the only bright spot in our bleak and hopeless lives.

I mean, we knew that. Still, it’s hard to have to face it in what’s supposed to be a cheery and/or rage-filled blog about games.

Butch:

Cheery and rage filled. Sums us up, really.

Feminina:

It does! Good-humored anger. White-hot fury with a jaunty air. It applies to so many things.

Butch:

I’m proud to be a part of it.

Gossiping About Our NPCs

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Small spoilers about companion relationships in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Well, we had a good kid/my parents bday celebration for Mrs. McP. There was a lovely coffee ice cream, oreo pie. Was nice.

****crickets****

So….uh…..can we tag today “food?” That usually gets some likes…

Feminina:

Yes! Food! Food is so great!

Let’s all go eat some. Because I certainly don’t have anything else to talk about, since Mr. O’ is still working. Siiiiiigh.

Oh, the emergency management department is doing at ‘active shooter’ drill at work today. So, that’ll be…topical.

I signed up to play a victim or panicked bystander or whatever, partly out of a sincere desire to be of service in this valuable training exercise for our hardworking emergency responders, and partly because I don’t want to leave the office. I mean, it’s all polleny and allergic out there.

So, perhaps appropriately, my laziness and distaste for the outdoors will probably result in my (feigned–for now) death.

Also, guess what? A piece of the flashing came loose on the roof last time it was windy and rainy, and is now banging against the side of the house and leaving wood exposed to the next rain.

It was SUCH a great idea to buy a house! I can’t even express how delightful it is to watch some exciting new thing go wrong every couple of weeks.

So that’s the agenda for today: food, complaining about houses, and my possible death.

Butch:

Food is the best.

You’re showing remarkable dedication with the not playing without him thing. I salute you.

As for your drill, nah. What’ll likely happen is you’ll be all “So, what do I do? Is this the right room?” and everyone else will feign death, because you are an avatar of death. Watch, some poor chicken will wander into your drill and IT will feign death.

Life imitates art.

House…yeah. We found, shall we say, evidence of mouse activity this weekend. Now, I live by a farm. There’s a fucking menagerie of all nature’s creatures in my yard. EVERY DAMN HOUSE in my town has “mouse activity.” It’s part of life.

Tell this to Mrs. McP. Then tell it to her again when she doesn’t believe you. Then tell it to her again and realize she does not give a fuck about EVERY DAMN HOUSE in town, she gives a fuck about THIS house, and THIS house isn’t gonna have any damn “mouse activity.”

Bright side? Our kitchen (and cabinets, and closets, and, well, everything) has never been as clean as it is now, as she went completely batshit on that. Downside? I’m waiting for the exterminator now.

He will likely want money.

So I feel ya, dude. I feel ya.

I’m making hot fudge kahlua sauce and almond brittle for tonight.

Feminina:

OHMYGOD I WILL BE RIGHT OVER.

After we get some nails. And a ladder. The hammer we already have, of course–we use it regularly to repair our underwear.

Ha–that will be awesome if I’m the lone survivor.

“I meant well! It was completely an accident that I was sending people directly into the path of the shooter while I wandered around looking for loot.”

Butch:

You don’t have a ladder?

Seriously?

Even I have a ladder. And I don’t climb ladders.

You know, we have to set up a visit soon, as it’ll stay spring someday and you still don’t have an edger! How can you let your first spring as a homeowner go down without nice edges?????

Just gravitate towards the baskets. And the rows of books! You have so many rows of books! You’ll be fine.

Just wait for the poison clouds to clear first. Would be kinda silly if they said “Ok, drill over!” and THEN you died. Happens to the best of us, though.

Feminina:

Always watch out for the poison clouds! And the fires. The fires must be given time to die down.

We’ve been living in an apartment for 20 years. What would we need a ladder for? Where would we even put a ladder? Until now!

OK, orientation for the drill is about to begin, so if you don’t hear from me in a while, don’t worry–I’m probably just dead.

Butch:

T SHIRT!!!!!!

As for the ladder, I don’t know, under the bed? In a closet? Get creative!

You know how the badly titled “Detroit: Become Human” is coming out this week? And we’re on the fence about whether we care?

Well, it seems Quantric Dream’s LAST game, the almost as badly titled Beyond: Two Souls (the fuck these people have with colons?) is free this month.

Hmm.

Free’s good. We don’t have to be on as high a fence for free.

I dunno. Look up some reviews. Check it out. I’d give it a go for free. And if we think it’s awesome (or not), it might get us off a fence.

Feminina: [later]

Hey, I survived! I hid in my office until the all-clear. Sounds about right.

As for Beyond: Twin Souls…I heard that was an interesting concept, but disappointingly executed. Still, free is free. Assuming we ever manage to finish Divinity, which we might if we ever played.

Butch:

It was…divisive. Some big reviewers thought it was awesome, some didn’t. It sits at a 72 on metacritic (higher than MEA, I point out), but with scores ranging from 100 to 40, which is pretty much what I heard at the time.

Free is free. Download it. We shall see.

There’s always Life is Strange.

I also had a random thought, re the end of my Bairdotr deal.

You said you never saw Bairdotr and Wolgraff get all moony. You also said that, usually, you run Wolgraff and Mr. O runs Bairdotr. Do you think that you had to be running them through the same player to have them interact? Cuz that would be either interesting game design or bad game design.

Feminina:

Oh, yeah, that! We did see him get moony, later. She had a moment of doubt and he gave her a note that said she was perfect the way she was, or something.

So they’ve got a thing going on now, it just either took longer to get going, or we failed to notice it for a while. Which is entirely possible.

Butch:

Yes! I got that, too.

I’m happy for him. And he’s glad you so cheated.

Feminina:

He is. He would be so sad if we’d stood idly by with our principles and let her die, rather than cheat to keep her alive.

We couldn’t break Wolgraff’s heart, man! Hasn’t he been through enough?

Butch:

****Wolgraff passes you a note saying “Thank you for saving the love of my life!”****

Delios: Whatever, dude. She had the arrows.

****Wolgraff starts to cry****

Delios: And…uh….what you said.

Feminina:

“Right! Yeah! What you said! We’re looking out for the love of your life, man!”

[Glancing at each other, they mouth “he likes her?” and shrug.]

“We care about you, Wolgraff! Hey, we’re going to get your voice back, dude. It’s gonna be great.”

Butch:

Though he’s gotta be careful. Sometimes having a voice isn’t a plus in a relationship when you’re a man. I’m sure Mrs. McP would have preferred:

Bairdotr: AIEE! Mouse activity! Call an exterminator! Now!
****Wolgraff nods solemnly, as he knows even his magic quill doesn’t have enough ink to convince her to chill the fuck out****

Feminina:

There is a certain mystery and charm in the silence. I mean, we’ve both mentioned that we appreciate how he doesn’t complain about everything or exclaim “good as a new penny!” every time he heals. Plus, Bairdotr’s a bit minimalist in the conversation department herself.

Butch:

What? She’s all poetical and stuff! She’s really rather articulate.

You don’t run with her much. Trust me.

Feminina:

Oh, she is that!–but only on rare occasions when something stirs her. The rest of the time she seems to keep her own counsel.

Of course, so do they all, I suppose.

Butch:

Hey, man. You never know. Maybe they’re doing stuff when we aren’t looking.

Stumbling on the Way to Brilliance

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers. Slow time.

Butch:

For some reason, at 430 I got so tired I just couldn’t do much of anything except fall asleep during both Odd Squad and Pinkalicious (which is on PBS. It’s called Pinkalicious. The war on science is real). Good thing I leveled up earlier.

But I got nothing new.

So I guess, what, we just spend the day with me wondering why you can’t solve puzzles?

Ha.

Feminina:

Well, Mr. O’ is working on the yearbook, so we didn’t play. Didn’t even get a chance to cheerfully cheat through the puzzle you solved for us because we’re too dense to solve puzzles!

So, yeah…we could talk about that. Or…yeah. That’s about that. I got nothin.’

Butch:

Well, after what has been a pretty good streak of good bloggage, we were bound to hit a wall sooner or later.

A wall of other things. Mrs. McP is home early today as Meatball has his kindergarten orientation, and we’re celebrating her bday with the kids, then tomorrow is her actual birthday, so I’m cooking, all that.

I don’t have a marriage where we can celebrate a birthday by playing games together for three hours. You win in that regard.

Feminina:

It was bound to happen. Sooner or later we hit a patch of time where we have other things going on. Like birthdays and kindergarten orientation (but hey, that’s an event to celebrate!) and SOMEBODY who is not me bringing work home and interfering with my ability to take advantage of someone else’s puzzle-solving.

Everything is failing!

There’s no time! There will never be time! I’m panicking! Heck, let’s just give up games.

Butch:

Oh now you’re just being silly.

Some things are constants in life. There will be time again. We’re cool.

Feminina:

Good point. We’ll find time. It’s like expecting me NOT to loot all of a sudden.

“Nah, I’ve got enough treasure. I’ll leave this pile of pillows and wood chips for someone else.”

Ha!

Butch:

It is at times like these, that we must cling to the bedrock of our own beings.

Front of the T SHIRT!!!!!

Cuz everything else is a fucking mess.

Back of the same T SHIRT!!!!!

Given the state of my children with others, I’m slightly terrified of going to New York next month.

Sigh.

Feminina:

I’d be more afraid of coming back.

Butch:

Fair point.

I better take everything I care about in case the house burns down.

Feminina:

The PS4 will fit in your carry-on, right?

Butch:

It’ll be the first thing I pack.

Don’t really care as much about underwear.

I can always repair the pair I’m wearing.

Feminina:

Truly, those repair hammers are wonderful things.

Brilliance is Its Own Reward

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some hints/spoilers for Phantom Forest puzzles in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

So, to quote music icon and national treasure Britney Spears, Oops, I did it again.

I did Cassandra’s tomb (that would be the dead people temple). I did the hell out of it, except there’s a place I can’t get into that most likely has killer loot. Anyway, did that, then went to face Cassandra. Died. Badly. Why? Cuz she summoned dudes. So I thought, and thought, and did a smart thing. And killed Cassandra. BEFORE SHE SUMMONED THE DUDES you see where I’m going with this.

So I’m STILL LEVEL 17 GOD DAMN IT. This did not assuage my bitterness of getting nary any XP for figuring out three, count ’em, THREE damn puzzly bits.

I was fucking BRILLIANT this weekend. I mean, on fucking fire. But, with the exception of a big fight in Cassandra’s tomb, and another epic battle that was down to Roderick and one tough baddie that went, count ’em, 55 rounds (for real, 55), I didn’t really have any big death kill a lot of baddies fights.

I’m gonna be bitter re XP for a long, LONG time.

And I feel like I’m sorta fucked. When I met Cassandra, I got the whole “You best flee,” thing, but after I did the brilliant thing I got the “You best flee” thing, then won without taking ANY DAMAGE cuz I rule.

But see, here’s the thing: Cassandra was a level 18 baddie. So the level 18 baddie was still a situation where, with summons, I got the “You best flee” prompt. Barberith, who is with the spirit who has the key to the source temple AND the fern thingy for Arhu, is level 19. And really, I have two paths ahead of me: Wolgraff’s bit, and Barberith. And if I was underpowered for Cassandra, I’m WAY underpowered for this. And I can’t think of anything else I can kill! I tried the ghost boars and poachers again, and still can’t figure that out.

So really, the fuck.

All I can hope is that everything bad around got weaker now that I took out Cassandra. I hope. Though probably not.

So really, the fuck.

What did you get up to?

Feminina:

Dude, you just can’t catch a break with all that brilliance, can you?

On a hopeful note, I feel like we were 17 when we defeated Balberith, so you might not be as out of luck there as you think. We were pretty pleased with ourselves for handling something two levels above us, and thought maybe levels didn’t matter as much anymore. I’m not sure about that, actually, but at least it might not have mattered as much in this particular fight. So go give it a shot!

We had Madora and Bairdotr with us, and Madora resisted death about 5 times, which helped, and Bairdotr did rain of arrows and those big archery tricks, and it was tough, some of us died (including, eventually, Madora), but we did get it in the end. He’s got a ‘fear’ ability that was pretty irritating since it kept making us flee…but, again, we got it in the end. Of course, you’ll want to have Jahan with you, which will change the balance somewhat.

Anyway, you accomplished a lot. Go you!

We accomplished…a little. We put the statues on the platform and went through the mirror. Messed around ineffectually with that and the door with the elemental symbols.

Went off to poke around in the swamp and fought some swamp monsters (mud lords, I believe they were called), so there’s XP out there if you want to hunt for it. Just watch out for those damn exploding eye things. HATE THOSE THINGS.

Ran into our old friend Bellegar! That was a thing we did. Got some loot and possibly some XP, but I can’t remember…probably just loot. (I don’t even notice XP, you know, since we get so much of it it hardly signifies. I really don’t know who all we’ve been killing that you haven’t, other than everyone we see, but I didn’t realize the XP for leaving innocents dead in our wake was so high.)

Ran around and around the whole temple area there but, not being as brilliant as you, could not figure out how to get through any of the locked gates.

Delios got over to the other side of the stone door with the elemental symbols, but couldn’t do anything with that side either. So that’s where we are. Fairly satisfied with our thorough exploration of the swamp, but no further along in the plot.

Oddly, we also didn’t find a Titan Head. Maybe we’re not even in the same swamp.

Butch:

When you kill Cassandra, and given what I got from killing Cassandra it’s a “when” if you want to finish the game, we’ll talk about how I gamed the game but not really.

Sigh. Well, what’s easier, the demon or Wolgraff’s deal? Cuz I’m fairly close to level 18, though, knowing me, I’ll do something the game didn’t expect, Wolgraff will wind up speaking nine languages, and I’ll get 21 XP.

“Resist Death” is a wonderful skill. And something I can relate to! I’ve been successfully resisting death for forty one years and change.

Fear sucks. My Bairdotr is very prone to fear. Like, fuck, Bairdotr, again? We talked about this, Bairdotr. It’s all good, Bairdotr.

Once, I used a nightmare grenade, missed, and scared my whole party. All four of them. Lost that fight.

Ah, yes. The door with the symbols. You didn’t get that?

When I said I figured out a bunch of stuff and got a grand total of NO XP, that was a) that mirror deal and b) three out of the four elemental symbols, some of which did require some degree of brain power. I’m short the one that’s behind the big main gate. You can do at least one just strolling into a place near there. Take Wolgraff. Being invisible is good.

And, that, too, is a when, cuz the entrance to the source temple’s in there.

But level up well cuz it’s worth NO FUCKING XP.

Mud lords. Exploding eyes. Can’t. Wait.

Can’t I just get XP from puzzles?

I even figured out how to get into the temple of bones! Which you also will have to do cuz you can’t kill Cassandra without doing that, and you can’t move the main story forward without killing Cassandra.

Hint: You can do all of this already. No special scrolls or killing or anything needed.

This GAME, man. I’m gonna be bitter a long, long time.

I wonder if I’ll get anything good for actually being a Bellgarette! I did say I’d do it (figuratively).

Uh…you got to the lever, right? Through the mirror? Two levers? And you….did you PULL the levers? Cuz…well….

I mean, dude. This is not rocket science. I’m starting to worry about you two.

“Well, we found a big locked stone door with a star on it, and we found a key that said ‘This unlocks the big locked stone door with a star on it, you know, the one right the fuck over there,’ but we couldn’t figure out how to unlock the big stone door with the star on it so we just wandered around. Guess we’re not as brilliant as you.”

Did you, I don’t know, STEP ON THE TILES??????? The big OBVIOUS “STEP ON ME TILES?????”

I’m worried about you.

Ok….that’s it. I’m doing an intervention. I sent you a screenshot OF THE MAP, with points of reference noted, and my characters very clearly, cuz they’re arrows, POINTING AT THE TITAN HEAD.

I’d say: “Dude, do I have to draw you a map?” bud I DID draw you a map and you still can’t find it!

I’m worried about you.

How are you the ones with the fucking XP?

Feminina:

Sorry, didn’t see that screenshot. We saw the one with you walking on the previously-lava tiles. There was another one? Sorry, man. We have short attention spans.

Also, of course we pulled the levers. Obviously we pulled the levers. And immediately, like magic, nothing happened. So after pulling the levers about 50 more times in various directions while wandering around looking for something to be happening and putting barrels of things on symbols and so forth, we left to kill mud lords.

Step on the tiles? What big obvious tiles? Not the previously-lava tiles. Are they buried under the fire that Delios walked through to get over to the other side of the door? Because there’s that.

You gotta tell me what your meeting with Bellegar is like! I was not a Bellegarette, so maybe that explains…something.

Butch:

I shall! If I can survive the monsters that no doubt live on the way to him, which I probably can’t cuz no XP.

But…

*****bangs head on wall*****

The screenshot of the map. OF THE MAP!

Ok. From that little ledge there, where the little levers are, look down. While pulling the levers. Doors open. One lever opens doors, one selects what door opens.

Voila.

Hint: Split up. Put one person on the levers, one by said doors. Preferably one that can go invisible unless you want to hear INTRUDER SPIED a lot.

No, not the lava tiles, the tiles that are under handy dandy symbols of the elements. Fire, air, earth, water. There are symbols on the walls, with tiles under them. This will do something regarding the large stone door with symbols of the elements on the ground in front of it. The ones that are currently, for you, red. For me, three are now green. I’m taking this as progress.

They are not buried under anything. You should be able to see the symbols on walls on the other side of the doors that you CAN OPEN WITH THE LEVER.

I take it you did not get into the temple of bones.

Feminina:

Oh, THOSE tiles. Yes, we saw those, and the symbols they’re under, and figured there has to be a connection, but since the gates were locked we couldn’t step on them. And dude, we looked around while pulling the lever! We looked down! We didn’t see anything opening!

But I trust you. We’ll go back and look harder. We were probably paying close attention to the exact wrong spot every time.

For a while I was half convinced that the lever had something to do with the repeated bursts of fire and poison in that one area, but then I realized it was just that constantly-exploding chest we sneaked by earlier. Did you teleport over to snag the other chest on the bit of cliff there? Nothing amazing, but you gotta loot.

Butch:

Oh wait…..lever….singular? Cuz there were levers. Plural. One that changed and said “First stage, second stage, third stage,” and one that actually opened doors.

So, if you were doing the stage one, yeah…nothing happened.

Plural. Levers. More than one. Specifically, two.

You gotta loot.

And you gotta kill. So I just played some. And DUDE! THEMES! BLOGGAGE! I WAS BRILLIANT no actually all I did was pick two completely random, pointless fights that were just random pointless fights. But guess what?

Who’s level 18? This guy. That’s who.

Which….

Look at all I did this weekend. Puzzles. Tomb. Cassandra. Nothing.

But some mushrooms and spiders? Now THAT’S worth it.

Fix this in game two, game.

But hey, maybe I can actually do something without being brilliant now.

Ha.

Feminina:

No, sorry, ‘lever’ was a misprint. We did notice that there were in fact two, connected by a little string. One being distinguished by ‘first setting, second setting,’ etc., and the other not. So I get what you’re saying: set the one lever on one of the settings, pull the other lever to open one of the locked gates. Which gate being determined by the setting.

Will do! Thanks for solving that for us!

You’re right, it isn’t that complicated. I guess we must have just always been looking in the wrong spot while we tested it, or something. Because we were staring down into the green mazy area that the mirror overlooks, watching for something to happen, and we didn’t see anything. Possibly also a bit of added complication due to the split screen and so forth.

Or we’re just really dense. I can’t rule that out either.

Woohoo level 18! Rock on! You can definitely handle Balberith now. After you kill a few mud lords, just for funsies.

Butch:

Can I have some XP for solving it for you?

Ha.

Extra hint: Go way around. The first gate up that path that goes north, near the dead body and the sign that says “Beware what lies beyond here” with a busted bridge. That’s the first door that opens.

Mud lords for funsies. Ha. Very much Ha.

I mean, these were RANDOM. I remembered there was a cave with mushrooms near hunter’s edge. Went there. Killed mushrooms. When it had a name (forlorn tunnel) I thought for sure there’d be something interesting in it, what it having a name. Nope. Just monsters and loot.

And what eventually did level me up was a fight I didn’t even see coming. Spiders from above.

Well, thanks random spiders. I guess.

But see, I’m also wary of fighting in the swamp, as the deer told me that Barbereith gets stronger if I harm any swamp creatures. Last thing I need is stronger demon. But thing I DO need is XP.

Sigh.

Feminina:

Good point–we were also very wary of fighting in the swamp, until after we’d killed Balberith. Now it’s open season on everything we see! Except for that deer that stands right near the waypoint. We haven’t managed to accidentally kill him yet. But everything else, we figured if it’s still attacking us, it must be possessed or whatever (I mean, what other reason could any being have for being hostile towards US? The avatars of light and goodness?!), so we’ve been fighting them.

But yeah, until Balberith is dead, that is a bit of a problem. Well, go kill him! As I said, we managed it at 17, and we aren’t even brilliant strategists.

Or go do Wolgraff’s voice…I think that’s all 18th-level things. Maybe 19? I think 18. You’re gonna love it.

Oh, and the forlorn tunnel…yeah, if you had freed the prisoner’s in Hunter’s Edge, they would have escaped through the forlorn tunnel, which has a secret entrance into the dungeon. So that’s where that would have been relevant. We also wandered into it, fought some stuff, and found it didn’t go anywhere, so we were puzzled, but then later when the prisoners were freed and were all “we’re afraid to go in there, please clear the tunnel of monsters for us before we tell you where the wizard’s people are,” we were able to say “head on in, folks!”

Butch:

A ha! Figured it must be something. Especially as I got courageous banter. Scarlett was all “I’m getting tired of seeing corpses,” and Roderick responded all steely and determined “If we do our job, you won’t have to keep seeing them” or something.

Which made me say “What? Dudes. You just killed a lich that was terrorizing a forest, who was surrounded by mountains of dead bodies, who gave you something that is crucial to saving all of creation (well…hm. Creation. Got any more cutscenes?) and nary a word of dialog. You kill five stinky mushrooms and now you’re all “Death to random fungus….for JUSTICE?” Priorities, dudes. Priorities.

But yeah, gotta say, the whole Cassandra thing was kinda a let down in the ‘resolution’ regard. I don’t know if the tree things are still all upset, as I haven’t checked, but I went back to the deer expecting at least a little something and it was still all “Our forest is bad as it’s ever been…” and I was all “Dude, you said that the last time, and that lich? All the bodies, yeah, dead and all, so things are kinda sorta looking up oh no new dialog options. Ok. Whatever.”

Wasn’t Cassandra the Phantom? Of the Phantom Forest? Shouldn’t it just be “forest” now? Sure, there’s a demon and all, but there’s demons fucking everywhere. Shit, Jahan thought the damn pyramids were demons. So, really deer, give some credit here.

Granted, I was still level 17 when I went back there, so maybe had I said “No, dude, the phantom is dead!” he’s have been all “Riiiiiiiiight. So, um, where’s the new ability point? Hmmmmmm?”

Feminina:

Ha! “Unjust fungi will go DOWN!”

Priorities.

The Wolgraff’s voice bit was not that bad. Honestly. Go have a try. It only killed us the first time, so by being a bit more thoughtful we were fine afterwards. It’s gonna be great.

Butch:

Hey, I have a new trick! Scarlett and Roderick now have the very handy talent of getting back to full health when they die and get resurrected! So key. Scarlett pretty much spent the fungus fight drawing fire while Bairdotr and wolgraff picked away, and Roderick kept bringing her back to have her fight again! And, as it took three turns to kill her, she STILL did all sorts of mayhem and no one else took damage.

Nice!

Feminina:

Ooh, ‘morning person’! That’s an awesome trick. I just gave it to Wolgraff, because he had a talent handy. Basically, anyone getting up and instantly being ready to fight, instead of having to spend a turn or more hiding and sucking down potions/regeneration is amazing.

Two of you with that trick will totally destroy the piffling little challenge at the end of the downward path, where Wolgraff is begging you, with sad pleading looks, to go.

Don’t let Wolgraff down. Go check it out. You’re gonna love it.

Butch:

So is. And makes it less likely that you lose a fight cuz Scarlett and Roderick go down. That’s kind of a cheap move, I think. You don’t generally see that in RPGs. Dragon Age didn’t care if the PC went down. Why does this? I always picture Bairdotr and Wolgraff saying “No, dude, really we got this and…load screen. Sheesh.”

I also took your advice and gave him the “never miss with grenades” bit. That pretty much rules.

And I was just able to get the “creeping infestation” one now that I leveled. Sorta curious to try that one. I wonder if the summoned monsters help me. I’ll be bummed if they attack me anyway.

Skills, man. Ya never know.

As for the whole arrow skill thing, I have mixed feelings. I have these tenebrium bows that just fuck the shit out of everything. I’m usually just better off shooting everything instead of getting fancy. One I got from that wizard/mirror room chest, and it’s just a damn wrecking ball. Which is good, in a way, but sucks in the fact that I amped up Bairdotr on all these marksman skills which are getting obsolete.

Feminina:

Yeah, that is a weird twist, that both companions can still be alive and fighting and totally capable of winning the day, but if the PCs go down, it’s over. Certainly the game was aware of Dragon Age and the BioWare approach, and intentionally chose not to follow it, so I suppose it’s just meant to underscore the unique, special, rare qualities of the PCs.

WITHOUT US ALL IS LOST! Give up now!

Butch:

Still, weird. And, at times, annoying. Especially when, for some reason, the baddies focus solely on the PCs. Many a time I have had to hit reload when Wolgraff and Bairdotr have taken no damage at all.

Feminina:

That does happen.

Hey! Those other two people are also attacking you, you know! Spread the hate a little!

Butch:

But you know, this time I really am getting to the point where I feel things are coming together. I haven’t gotten a new quest in ages. The companion quests are wrapping up. Killing Cassandra got me a thing that pretty much screams endgame, or at least “thing before endgame that games always seem to have.” I’m one silly puzzle and one fight away from being able to get into the source temple. I think I’m down to weeks, not months. Badly titled game is out end of May, and, if I’m not done by then, I’ll be close.

You’re only behind because puzzles, dude. Puzzles.

Once you figure out how to get into the temple of the dead, you’ll cruise through it. I eventually won the fights there (spoilers: there are fights), and you’re ahead of me, level wise. And it isn’t that long. And you’ll likely have no issue with the Cassandra fight even without my little trick, as you’re level, what, 19? She’s only 18. You’ll be fine.

And really, all of it is pretty intuitive. Once you get it, it’s one of those “SHIT why didn’t I see that, like, right away?” deals. Or, at least, why didn’t that occur to me, like, right away. This game doesn’t really do the whole multi stage ridiculousness you get in TR or UC. It’s very much a “Oh YEAH!” and you’re done sort of thing.

Thing’s’ll be really quick once you start opening doors and doing temples.

Feminina:

Thinking of random quests, we never went back and fought the two elementals and the ‘boss’ of Sacred Stone…did you? Although if the boss is the Conduit, she presumably wouldn’t actually be in there, and/or would be there but would simply laugh at us and disappear…I mean, surely we’re going to run into her in the endgame, right?

We did go back and fight the guards in the prison there, and released all the prisoners, and then we fought the acolytes in the classroom, just because. I’m inclined to go back and fight the two weirdos who are standing there singing about killing imps, just because their song is damn annoying, but that will probably entail the elementals getting involved.

We can probably take them now, though. We’re level 19, and fairly badass.

So yeah, I guess the point was, if you haven’t done that, you could go back to Sacred Stone and collect some XP that way.

Butch:

Uh….hmm. I got past the elementals, I talked to the person in there, who was not the conduit, I started a fight, died. Reloaded, did Rock paper scissors, won, she became a reluctant merchant, then I went to leave, and she made me Rock Paper Scissors again, and then I forget what I did. But she wasn’t the conduit.

I didn’t do shit with that dude teaching the “class” or the prison though.

That was kind of a weird part. There really wasn’t anything you had to do there. Jareth, maybe, but even he was a side quest. Hunter’s Edge you kinda had to do to get to the phantom forest, Cyseal you had to do, you had to do the mines and shit in Lucella, Sacred Stone was just kind of there.

So no, didn’t do much. And no conduit, for sure.

So I could go back, but why, man, why?

Anyway, now that I just leveled, I’m about 350K away from leveling again, and no way that has 350K associated with it.

Weird “level.” Kinda pointless. I totally forgot about it until now. So that important.

Feminina:

No Conduit, eh? Makes sense. It is kind of a weird throwaway town. A place to shop and sell stuff, I guess.

As for WHY go back, dude, you’re the one saying you never get XP. I was just making a suggestion. Killing everything whether we have a good reason or not is probably why we’re level 19! Although you’re only one level behind us, so it’s not really that big a deal at this point. Go deal with Wolgraff’s voice and see how you do.

Although…are you going to just leave those prisoners there in the dungeon to be sacrificed? You monster! Also, there was a troll in there that we tried to help, and…well…I’d be curious to know what happened to someone else. It’s not huge or important, but…it was weird.

At least go free the prisoners. It’ll be no problem whatsoever, and we can compare notes on the troll.

Butch:

Gratuitous killing so I can do killing that matters.

It’s how we do.

Are We Talking About the Same Forest?

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Vague spoilers for some traps and things in the Phantom Forest in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

For some reason, I’m very tired and out of it. I’ll do my best. At least it’s Friday.

So, found the “relic,” spoke to the head, went back to talk to the statue in the knight’s tomb (all it was was you could rock paper scissors it out of that long fight), killed the bunch of dudes near the entrance to the forest (one had a pumpkin head, etc.) for XP. Found those lava plates you mentioned, and got past them, which I would brag about, but it was Junior that spotted the trick. Again. Way to go, Junior.

STILL can’t beat those damn ghosts. Well, I can kill the human ghosts, but MAN. Ghost pigs are a bitch. This game was made by vegetarians, I think.

So I’m up on the lava plates. I take it all back about the plates being in the place I was mentioning yesterday. Disregard that. Lots of plates? Totem? Silencing? That sort of thing? That’s what we were discussing?

That’s where I am. Solved it. BOOM!

Thanks. Junior.

Feminina:

Talk to the head!

You did more than we did, which was nothing. So we’ll go with what you did.

Yes!–totem, silencing, lava plates. That’s where we were most recently, until we went around the corner to look for the lava steps.

The lava plates were interesting. And not, in the end, all that important, unless we missed something. I mean, you get over there, loot a bit, turn off the plates, it’s all good, but is that it? I couldn’t open the giant circular ‘stone door’. Does that open and we missed Junior’s trick?

Also, did the totem DO anything? Ours just sat there, but we destroyed it anyway because obviously you destroy creepy branch statues in haunted forests. Maybe it would have been helpful.

The silence was an interesting element for a challenge, though. Prevents you from casting spells right there. Although as we determined, you can cast useful spells from farther away just fine, so it was of limited value in the end.

We’ll just discuss this one area all day.

Butch:

We shall. As the game has no nudity.

Happy Friday.

Uh….lava steps?

I didn’t open the big stone door either, but the lever that turned the plates off also opened that metal gate opposite the stone door. I haven’t gone through it. We shall see. Did you go through that door?

Destroying the totem turned off the “silence” thing, as far as I could tell. I kept getting silenced, then I destroyed it, then I didn’t get silenced. Or even saw “silence failed,” so I think that was it. It turned out not to be particularly important, not to be silenced, and maybe it did something else, but that’s what I could tell from it.

So limited value unless you destroy the totem. Then you can cast skills (terminology that still bugs you, as you keep saying “spells”) just fine. But I managed to do it without really needing skills.

What lava steps?

Feminina:

You know, the steps that got all lava-covered when you went close to them! INTRUDER SPIED!

Perhaps they aren’t as close as I’d thought. One gets turned around in the forest.

We have not gone through the open gate. I don’t think. Unless that was the gate that led to the green portal that bounced you back to the other side of the forest. That was around there.

We’re like two people bumbling around the same room in the dark: “I just found a chair! I think it’s near a cupboard? I feel some cups.”

“Oh yeah, I was just there! Unless they were different cups, because I don’t remember a chair. I’m over here by a door right now.”

“What kind of knob does it have? I remember finding a door earlier that had a kind of oval knob.”

“Watch out for the lava steps! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”

That makes sense that the totem had the silence spell. (Damn it, ‘casting skills’ DOES bug me. I refuse!) I was able to destroy it by dropping boulders on it from a distance, so its influence didn’t extend very far, and having been successful from there I forgot to care about whether or not I could do it again close up. But yeah, Wolgraff did teleport from the doorway once it was gone, and presumably ‘silence’ would have prevented that. Since it’s a skill you ‘cast’ and all. Bah.

Butch:

Oh the Temple of the Dead! It’s called the temple of the dead.

See? I remember the name now! So we’re even on the whole Lord of Bones/Baron of Bones/Dude behind the trap house/whoever the fuck thing.

Oh, shit, is that all it is, a portal?

I’ll find out. All I know is that the lever both turned off the lava and opened the metal gate, but didn’t do much to the stone door.

So you DID figure it out!

I reiterate: this game would likely have been frustrating as hell (or a “check the internet” fest) had we not been playing together. We can’t forgive it that. Let the haters be all “Git gud! You hate hard games!” No. This game isn’t hard. It’s confusing.

And sometimes hard.

Yeah, ironically Wolgraff, when “silenced,” still can’t do shit. That’s kind of amusing. Except it isn’t, cuz I sold an “immune to silenced” helmet that was really good because I didn’t think it mattered to Wolgraff, what him being, you know, silent.

Sigh.

Feminina:

The Temple of the Dead! That you have to be dead to get into!

It’s all coming together. But let’s just call it the Trap Temple for old time’s sake.

That is extremely ironic about Wolgraff and silence. Maybe he makes a whistling sound? Or snaps his fingers in a special way?

Yeah, I got nothin.’

I DO hate hard games! We’ve discussed this before! But yeah, this particular game is also confusing.

Butch:

Sounds good. We’ll go to the trap temple to meet…Charlotte? Lassandra?

I kid, I kid. It’s Allasandra.

The Wolgraff thing was a game design oversight, for sure.

Except, this game isn’t hard, really. Confusing, yes. A little convoluted, yes. But hard? Not so much. Usually, when things look “impossible,” they are kinda easy. Like finding that statue in Boreas’ treasure room. That was frustrating and counter intuitive, but not HARD per se, in terms of, like, a reaper moment. The reaper was HARD.

Like, another thing: last night, when I went to look for the thing that lets me talk to heads, I went back to Zandilor’s house. Remember that “off” mirror we couldn’t turn on? That we stared at? Well, Junior, once again, figured it out. And it was one of those “Oh….that was pretty much staring me in the face.”

I haven’t really hit a hard part. Well, the only time I turned down the difficulty was Boreas. So that. But otherwise, doable.

Just confusing.

Feminina:

It is. It’s extremely confusing at points. You’ll just be trucking along, everything is making sense, and then…what the heck are we supposed to be doing? Is the answer too obvious? Too complicated? Too hidden behind some leaves, or on a bloodstained switch too far out of the way?

But turning down the difficulty would not help at all with these problems, so no, it’s not DIFFICULT, I guess. I mean, it’s all about how you define ‘difficult’ (looking and thinking is hard, man!) but as games generally define it, it’s not.

It’s just confusing.

Very confusing.

Butch:

Which is maybe why we’re feeling it more. Games that have traditional “hard” bits, when they get frustrating enough, we just turn down the difficulty and move on. You can’t do that with the things we get into here. It wasn’t like turning it down would make that statue be all “Over here! I’m here! Let’s chat!” It was still gonna be there.

The reason that the reaper in ME3 remains fixed in my head was that I was still having trouble with it…on easy. Nowhere to go.

QTEs used to have the same problem. You’d be playing an action game, and Kevin killing would be tied to difficulty, but the QTE heavy boss fight, you know, the frustrating bit, wouldn’t be. I hated that. Games seem to have fixed that.

But, short of the statue being “over here! Over here!” this sort of thing can’t be fixed.

Or, I suppose, short of spamming the whole map with hexagons.

Feminina:

I would really appreciate a “hey, over here! Let’s chat!” option at some points.

Or maybe how in some games your companions will drop helpful hints like “must be something to do with these levers” when you’re standing in a room full of levers?

I would like an option to “turn up companion helpfulness” to the point that eventually they would just say “it’s that one. Right there. Pull that lever now.”

Voiceover: Wolgraff spotted something! It’s the hidden thing you’re looking for. It’s right there next to where he’s standing and pointing.

Me: Thanks, Wolgraff! You’re a pal.

Butch:

Ok, that would be kinda awesome. And it would deal with the fact some games go in the other direction. I can’t remember which games did this cuz I’m tired, but I have played games where NPCs, who you didn’t control, would kinda wander around looking thoughtfully at places, and you’d run up all “You find it? You find it?” and they NEVER fucking found it. Never once did you get a “Oh, shit! Here it is!”

Once, Wolgraff came close. Grutilda’s study, he was all “Wolgraff noticed something. It’s a torch that looks very out of place there.”

So, I guess he’ll do it if you give him a rank in interior decorating.

Feminina:

Ha! I remember that torch! Although we didn’t have Wolgraff with us, so I noticed it myself. And then it turned out we had already looted Grutilda’s Secret Cellar anyway, because we got into it from the other side a long time ago, so that was kind of disappointing.

But yeah, I would happily spend companion skill points on decorating if that’s what it took. Or, you know, “clue-finding,” or whatever they wanted to call it.

Also? Looting.

Companions NEVER help loot. It’s always up to me to be running around checking in every sack and barrel while they stand around, even though they’re perfectly happy to use the charm arrows and healing potions I might find! Start pulling your own weight, people!

I would like an option to say “hey, go check those barrels, would you?” and then they’d come back with “here’s what we found: 3 potatoes, some scraps of cloth, an unidentified sarong and a silver arrow.”

Now THAT’s companion helpfulness!

Butch:

What was REALLY disappointing was the HUGE pile of gold that you couldn’t touch. Like, what was that? PICK IT UP!

And YES to looting help! At least you have two players to do that. My heart sinks when I search and find 42 sacks. Sigh.

That would be damn awesome if they helped.

But, I figure, being used as a test subject for lava plates, it evens out.

DID you figure it out?

Feminina:

Did we figure out what now?

But yeah–HUGE heaps of gold!

“Nah, that’s worthless. Ignore it. Check out that barrel, though! It might have a potato in it.”

At least we do have two of us. It’s kind of handy: “you looted that side of the room?”

“Yup. I assume you looted that one.”

And there we are.

Butch:

The lava tiles. Cuz I did.

And three more things after that.

And how to get into the dead temple. BOOM!

But now, after two fights, I’m at that crossroads: need supplies, deep in a thing. Conundrum for sure.

But dude. Dude. I did three rather involved puzzles before that. And got how many xp?

None. Absolutely none.

Not bitter.

Ok, bitter.

Feminina:

Oh, the lava tiles, whatever. We got over those days ago. Much good it did us since we’re still roaming around the forest.

A little bitter about the XP, yeah. They should at least acknowledge the effort of solving a puzzle! That’s hard brain work!

Unless maybe they just figure everyone will look it up online? Whereas even if you look up hints online, you still have to fight a fight? Thus making it more worthy of reward?

I don’t agree with that logic, I’m with you, I think puzzle-solving is worth something, but…

Butch:

Well, you had to get by the tiles to get to the statues and the mirror which led to the lever. So it did you that good! Which is good!

Why yes. Yes, it is hard brain work.

Except it really isn’t when you have a friend who is sending you maps and shit and oh what’s the point.

I’m so bitter.

Neighbors From Alternate Universes

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Hunter’s Edge and some other Phantom Forest locations in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Well, levels still matter.

Got to level 17 in Hunter’s Edge there, fighting side by side with friendly maniacs. And, upon returning to the phantom forest last night, that fight with the zombies and shit that kept killing me was cake. Cake, I say! Maybe it was the gear, but there was certainly a difference.

XP. You always get it when you don’t need it.

T SHIRT!!!

Anyway, did that, talked to a bunch of creepy assed tree people, got into a fight with a bunch of ghostly poachers who I WOULD have beat if I hadn’t lost track of their damn boar, and if they hadn’t been clued into the rule that if Scarlett and Roderick both die I lose (SHOOT BAIRDOTR FOR FUCK’S SAKE!). So I skirted around them upon reloading, found the Cassandra temple thingy there, it tells me I can’t get it unless I’m dead, and I’m not dead, and all that. So I putzed around trying to find a trick and found no trick. At least I disabled all the sentries so I don’t have to listen to them being all “INTRUDER SPIED!” even though I disabled their damn lava things.

And then I called it a day and made dinner.

Did I miss a trick? Have you gotten in there? Cuz I dunno.

I’m curious about this, you see. You know that I’m still going with “death” being “cured.” (I so wish you had done Jahan’s deal!) “Death” means “getting sane.” So having to be “dead?” Hmm.

Anyway, couldn’t figure it out last night. You?

Feminina:

We were just puttering around the Phantom Forest fighting those ghosts yesterday! Against all odds, are we back in the same place at the same time?

We’ve only poked around the edges of the temple as well. We’re kind of thinking that the rune stone we got from Balberith’s corpse will allow us to enter even though we’re not dead (the spirit made it sound as if that were the case), but we haven’t found a way in yet either, so we haven’t actually tried that out.

Did you meet Cassandra herself?

Butch:

Ah, man! I still haven’t killed Barbereth! Just heard Jahan’s monologue and died. He’s level 19! He was what got me the “You best flee” prompt.

I don’t think this was the main source temple thingy. This was just a little square bit with four sentinels with lava who were easy to get by, and a lever that didn’t do much cuz I’m not dead. I got the sense from the rune stone thingy was to get into the main, end game, meet Leandra source temple. This seems to be the Cassandra side quest bit. Or something. It certainly doesn’t LOOK all main endgame etc.

And no, I have not met Cassandra herself. I sorta thought she’d be past this “gotta be dead” lever. She isn’t?

Must poke around more.

If you’re at that square, sentinel lever place, we are standing in exactly the same spot.

No. Way.

Feminina:

OK, we’re not EXACTLY there. We’re around the corner from that wall where there’s a big weird-looking statue made of branches or something, and if you step on the trapped panels in the floor around it you instantly burn to ash.

I accidentally discovered a trick for that, if you need any spoilery mechanical tips.

Oh, and yeah, good point, this isn’t the end-game temple, is it? And that IS the one the rune stone was about. Hm. So we have to figure out how to get into a place we have to be dead to get into.

My first thought was to summon an undead soldier and send him in, but they last such a short time outside of combat (or inside of combat, but it seems longer inside). Unlikely we’d have time to send one in to do…whatever.

Maybe Jahan is technically dead and we can send him in?

Maybe WE’RE technically dead and can walk in ourselves but will have to leave our companions. I mean, we know there’s a lot that’s weird about the PCs. Maybe we’re not actually alive, strictly speaking.

Hm. First we’ve got to find the door.

Butch:

That we do. Indeed, the log said “This puts us in a bit of a pickle….” Yes, yes it does.

HA! I did that, too! Didn’t work. I even had Bairdotr stand right by the lever, and pull it right away, and nada. Anyway, I’m not sure what I’d’ve done. Can’t give him the pyramid.

Oooo! Didn’t think of Jahan.

And on Jahan and pyramids, forgot to tell you: He did NOT like the pyramids. He got ALL about demons and that’s demon shit (paraphrasing) and it was evil and all sorts of shit. Which was kinda surprising. Like, dude, they haven’t given me any trouble….they’re just a game mechanic, right?

But, well, I got the sense that the circle there with the lever WAS the door. Cuz it was when I pulled the lever that a) all the dead stuff on top of it disappeared and b) Scarlett was all “I guess I have to be dead” (paraphrasing) and the log updated. So I think we have to be standing there, pull the lever, while, somehow, dead.

It’s that last bit that’s tricky…..

And where you are… Yeah. Uh….haven’t found that. At all.

But I can’t wait. Ash. Great.

Do they also annoyingly say “INTRUDER SPIED” over and over?

Feminina:

Miraculously, no–this one does not say that. But it’s right around in that same area. You’ll find it soon. We’re probably about 50 feet apart, in-game.

We should make our characters wave. “Hi alternate selves!”

Butch:

That would be kinda awesome. Your Scarlett would be all “I’m SO much hotter in his game” and she’d be sad.

That INTRUDER SPIED stuff was both annoying and silly once I disarmed the traps. Then they just kept looking at me, sternly saying that, and doing nothing. “Yeah, yeah. I see you seeing me! You can stop now!”

Feminina:

Ah, see, I only know we have to be dead because one of the tree corpses said so. Also someone else that we ran into that you’ll undoubtedly run into soon enough.

We haven’t disarmed the lava yet…we walked past it when we first got to the Phantom Forest, went around, talked to people, and were on our way back to check out the lava steps again when we got to this trap-floor branch-statue place first.

But it is right around the corner. We’ll be there soon.

Butch:

Ah. Well, spoiler. You have to be dead. And there’s a lever.

One of the great mysteries: Remember WAAAAAAY back in that cave? The levers and the pipes? In Cyseal?

We’ll never know.

Feminina:

Levers! You have spoiled the discovery of the lever! That’s it, I’m not playing this game anymore.

Butch:

It’s quite a lever.

You can pull it.

Feminina:

Oh, well, if you can PULL it…fine, I’ll keep playing.

Butch:

Best kind of lever, really.

There’s even a couple of buttons. You can push those.

Feminina:

Amazing! I’m so there!

Butch:

If Wolgraff could talk, he’d probably be saying “Like, guys, can one of you learn the invisibility trick? I mean, happy to do it, but it’s kinda stressful, all this ‘get past the deadly lava trap before it counts down from five.’ I have other skills, you know.”

To which Scarlett would say “Dude, until you learn not to drive your bomb exoskeleton in such a way that it doesn’t draw an attack of opportunity when it’s right next to all of us, we’ll talk about your other skills. In the meantime, get in there.”

Feminina:

Yeah, that bomb skeleton is an awesome but dangerous trick. It pops into existence so CLOSE! We’ve all been burned more than once by it getting hit while it was still right next to us.

But when it works out, it’s so satisfying!

Bomb toddles up to some monster, stands there invitingly. Monster hits it. BOOM.

Is there anything more delightful?

I actually have the invisibility trick, but Wolgraff’s lasts longer, so it’s still on him.

Butch:

Plus, the little laugh it makes is truly, truly awesome. Such a wonderful sound effect. You generally don’t notice that sort of thing, but isn’t that just perfect?

Feminina:

Uh…probably? I hadn’t noticed.

You know me so well.

Butch:

That insane “Hee hee. hee hee hee.”

Frankly, it’s how I feel inside when using the thing vocalized.

Feminina:

Oh right, that. Just its normal noise. I thought maybe I’d missed some specific “I’m exploding now!” noise.

I wouldn’t be surprised. Missing noises is what I do.

Butch:

Well, played some.

Met Cassandra, found the mute boar that made Wolgraff all “MY QUEST!” Did you meet him? Killed a couple of void demons which made me feel good about myself. Didn’t kill the ghost poachers which didn’t make me feel good about myself. Discovered a waypoint so at least I can go shopping and come back. Failed entirely to find a way into the Cassandra gotta be dead place, but I figure that’s how to make her vulnerable. Found a bigassed head that spoke in tongues, and learned that I need a relic to talk to same. Have no relic. You find that?

I THINK I found the step on lava bit that you mentioned. Is it behind gates? Gates that are, at least for me, very much locked? Cuz they locked. I did see little plates under pictures of fire, but they were on the other side of said locked gates.

Basically, met Cassandra, found a head. I’m starting to think I really, really have to kill that demon to do much of anything. Though it sure feels like I should be able to do Cassandra/tomb/all that shit before Barberith. Cassandra is level 18 (once I can hit her) and Barberith is 19, and the gotta be dead temple is closer to the entrance than the abandoned shack.

So we’re missing something.

And fuck if I know about the big head. It seemed to be the same language as the weird shit by the Knight’s tomb in Hunter’s Edge.

Compare notes! Cuz I’m even more confused.

Feminina:

Big…head? OK, now I’M confused. I don’t remember a big head!

I also don’t remember having to go through any locked gates to reach the trapped area we’re near right now, although maybe something we did unlocked them…I guess?

Hm. Well, let’s both keep poking around and we’ll probably stumble onto whatever it is we’ve both missed.

As for Cassandra, yeah, interesting. And poor Arhu there in the cage, all “please don’t make me be human full time, that would be horrible!” Another crushing moral decision awaits. As soon as we find whatever that thing is that she wants, which may be a while.

We indeed met the mute pig, and then, because we love Wolgraff and care about his concerns, unlike you, you monster, we immediately followed up on it and went downhill in the direction indicated. At least Wolgraff will get to participate in the conclusion of his own story arc!–we vowed.

I shall not spoil what followed. You’ll get there. It’s 19th level, so maybe don’t go there immediately. We were 18, and it was a tough-ish fight, though we managed it on the second try. Levels matter!

Butch:

Dude. Big. Head. Indeed, “Titan head.” It’s a big, stone thing that looks like it fell off a really big statue. You can even see it on the map. You go up, it highlights, you hit use, it talks to you in gibberish, you say “I guess we need a relic.” It’s just a step north of the gotta be dead temple.

I’d tell you more, but I have no relic.

Well, were there iron gates? Cuz if there were, you have something that unlocks them. Likely the rune you took off Barberith. I do not have that.

Big. Head.

Might be useless, I dunno. No relic.

Oh, that wasn’t obvious? Cuz she was all “The spirit will know,” and you freed the spirit, right? Shit. More to do. Game is large.

Heh…I am a monster. Especially as I said “Yes! We shall charge forth and resolve your quest!” and then screwed up, went the wrong way, met Cassandra, and completely didn’t follow up at all.

GOD DAMN IT! I’m always the bridesmaid, aren’t I?

At least I’m a damn good looking bridesmaid.

Feminina:

Being good-looking is some consolation.

I think the spirit does know, it’s just that we haven’t been back to talk to the spirit since we met Cassandra. We had JUST been there trying unsuccessfully to provoke Jahan into recognizing the end of his story arc, and we kind of felt like “nah, don’t need to go back there again right this minute.”

There’s no waypoint nearby, and there are those exploding eyeball things along the way…it’s just a hassle to travel there, you know? Like going to the south shore. Meh. We’ll go. Eventually. After we find the Titan Head.

Which…I’m beginning to think we aren’t in the same area at all, except we have to be, because we’re talking about a lot of the same landmarks (ghost fight, Cassandra, lava steps) but not all of them.

Butch:

“Being good-looking is some consolation.”

Phenomenal T SHIRT!!!!!!

HA! “END YOUR DAMN STORY!”

Some people just won’t.

yes, the south shore. Which also has exploding eyes.

At least there’s a waypoint there by Wolgraff and Cassandra and the titan head. Still, I’ll go see if I can find the thing that’ll let us actually get something out of the titan head first.

I saw the lava things (I think) I just couldn’t get there. Pressure plates? Under signs with fire on them? In, like, a stone maze/courtyard kinda place? Void demons outside?

The titan head was one of those things you had to get close to to highlight (like the lever cave way back when) or you can totally miss it. I found it merely cuz I was hugging the wall, sneaking, trying not to die. It’s there, I promise.

Feminina:

Sneaking and trying not to die…that sounds like the Phantom Forest, all right.

Or the south shore.

Butch:

At least the void demons aren’t so hard. They freeze easy. XP!

Feminina:

XP! Love it. Maybe Jahan would open up if we brought him along to freeze demons.

Missed opportunity!

I mean, honestly, he’s basically told us his story at this point. Was king of noble land, scorned all ladies, met THE AWESOMEST lady, fell ill, summoned a demon to tell him why he was ill, demon revealed it was THE AWESOMEST lady (the horror!!!), made a deal with the demon to be cured but demon now has power over him, has been traveling the world for ages hunting demon.

And, as of the first thing he said to us when he joined, but which he himself has apparently forgotten, is now FREE! The demon’s hold is broken!

He just won’t stop brooding about it. Because he apparently can’t remember that his story is over. MOVE ON, dude.

Yeah, yeah, you’ve spent a millennium thinking about this one thing, but it’s done! Accept that! Pick a new hobby!

Although…put him in some heavy armor, and that brooding obsession with his dark and troubled past could make him VEEEEERY attractive. He’s a little more of a jerk than I generally like–I prefer brooding, angsty, mournful types to brooding, grumpy, snappish ones–but…there certainly aren’t any better options at the moment.

Off to increase his strength so he can wear plate mail.

Butch:

Yeeeessssss……he did say that, didn’t he? Yes….yes he did…..He did do that….

There is, of course, a wrinkle to that. That doubtless will have either a choice or a result based on things I don’t remember doing which I will confront when I go there intentionally and don’t die.

Wrinkle. There’s a wrinkle. That I’d spoil, but I don’t know how it ends cuz died. I’ll spoil when I don’t die.

There you go! See? He’s even bearded! You LOVE that! LOVE IT!

But remember when I said “I see how they can do sequels even if I’m right about Scarlett? At least got when he said “My Rivellon.” MY. And then doubled down: “A Rivellon you cannot see…can never see.” Which is completely consistent with people here having their own delusions, insane people talking, incorporating each other into their own delusionary worlds. And before you say “Wait, how can the sequel take place in Rivellon,” you can continue the metaphor of Rivellon=delusion just fine.

After all, the idea that Scarlett is nuts isn’t really the metaphor. The metaphor is Scarlett is Eve and Eve was nuts. That WANTING to stay in Eden, feeling punished for leaving Eden, that even considering that sin was bad and knowledge was bad was, well, nuts. That Eve should’ve been dancing the happy dance, and that Scarlett, who is crazy by “real world” standards, is really the one who’s right: Sin is good. Sin works. We should all embrace our own “insanity,” our own misconception that Eden is paradise. Rivellon’s more fun.

So you can take the “Rivellon’s a delusion” and apply that to any narrative where you’re putting a twist on any accepted real world concept and it would be good.

That said, I highly doubt that we’ll get any clear resolution that I’m right or wrong. I don’t anticipate Scarlett waking up in a hospital bed in Pittsburgh and the “reveal” happening. I think they’ll leave it sufficiently vague. Better metaphor that way.

Feminina:

Wrinkle, eh? Well, maybe that’s why he can’t let it go.

Siiiigh. I really kind of wish they’d worked harder to not let us complete peoples’ quests without them. I mean, I forgive. First game. We talked about that. But it’s really something I regret, unintentionally getting into all this stuff without people and never getting any resolution for it as a result.

Maybe I’ll put him in heavy armor and bring him around with us some more, and it will finally come out.

Or you’ll spoil once you don’t die. Either way.

This We Shall Forgive

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Hunter’s Edge story in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

One thing I’ve noticed is that this game, ability wise, kinda messed up. Early in the game there, special arrows really, really mattered. I had Bairdotr and Scarlett really leaning into bows because poisonclouds and charms and shit REALLY mattered. So I loaded them up with “bow” in skills.

Now, I find, those arrows aren’t anywhere near as good as master level skills. But I didn’t put enough into skills, so now I’m barely getting there.

Now, that’s not the end of the world, because my bows do just fine on their own, but when your best trick is really just “attack,” over and over, that takes some of the tactics out of combat that were really cool early in the game. And, right now, my best, most consistent trick (other than using, like, a meteor strike scroll), is attack over and over.

Sigh.

Oh, also on combat!

Remember a LONG ways back when I was in that fight and POOF my armor vanished? Well, that happened with my weapons last night, and I finally figured out why! It’s not a glitch! Something hit me with something that lowered my ability scores temporarily, and it dropped them below the minimum of what I needed to use the item! So it just unequips!

That would be kinda funny in practice. “Oof! I’m too weak for this armor…just…gimme a minute to get it off…thanks…couple more seconds…there. Phew! Good thing I wore the red lingerie. Where were we? My turn? Cool. METEOR STRIKE!”

Oh, and the new people you talked about a while ago who are looking for [noun] — those are the watchers?  They must be. 

Feminina:

Yes! That happened to Madora recently, and I was confused as heck about why she was suddenly punching people with her bare hands until I realized she’d been weakened and couldn’t hold that sword anymore. I didn’t connect it with your earlier experience, though.

And yes, those people from the completely new place were the watchers. Still haven’t seen them again. I suppose I could go back and tell them I’ve seen the imps, if I feel evil.

Or lawful. Or, to be strictly accurate, lawful evil.

Butch:

Ah, see, I had met the imps already, so I told the watchers to go look someplace else, thus, likely, dooming them and their comrades to terrible demon death. Not sure why. Empathy with crazy people, I guess.

But when I told boss imp that I helped him, he gave me a book that gave me an ability point, and told the other imps to leave me alone, which was worth all the gold in Cyseal.

I wish that when your ability got restored you automatically re-equipped. It’s annoying having to be all “What was I wearing?”

Which, oddly, happens to me in real life all the time. Just walking down the road, get tired, have coffee, forget which pants I had on.

Feminina:

Right! “Damn it, did I have my blue shirt or my white one when I left the house this morning?”

It’s annoying enough having to deal with these issues in real life, game. We play to ESCAPE reality, remember?

Ha.

An ability point is nice. I appreciated the one I got from the Keeper of Secrets or whatever she was called. Need to go back to the end of time and try to find more goodies.

Oh, and yeah, I don’t know if the mountain men are actually still in Hunter’s Edge or not, but they were when we left and I was thinking of going back. Remember that chest in the room where that one guy never leaves you alone to loot? I think I might go back and (if they’re still there) loot it right in front of him in hopes of getting into a giant fight with those guys.

Also, I think you could have wound up on the side of the orcs, who presumably would have killed all the mountain men for you, because wasn’t it an option to take the broken off horn to Grutilda instead? So you could have supported her (lying) claim that it was the humans who’d stolen the stones, and then probably the fight would still have broken out but the orcs would be the ones not attacking you.

And then, I guess, if they were all drunk and half of them had been hanged, they might be easier pickings for you if you provoked then into a fight later…hm. We may have made a strategic error here.

Ah well.

Butch:

The ability point is nice. And I STILL haven’t used that one that says I might descend into madness. The intelligence/perception one. That’s riddled with metaphor.

I looted Hunter’s Edge pretty well. There’s a lot of good stuff. Level 4 and 5 loremaster stuff.

We so often make errors, though. That we do. Games are just regret machines.

Feminina:

OK, we played a bit, and here’s what we learned: you have to attack the mountain men the minute–no, the SECOND!–they say “OK, we’re off to loot more villages!”

Otherwise, they sprint away and presumably are never seen again except by the screaming villagers they will soon be putting to the sword. But we killed them all, and I’m not sorry, damn it.

Butch:

Of course you’re not sorry. It’s part of your plan to leave absolutely nothing in Rivellon alive. NOTHING. Sure, you can justify it cuz they’re evil, but let’s be honest: They could have said “Free of Jarhl! We shall now spend our lives doing naught but handing out girl scout cookies to blind, poor lepers” and you would still have been “Sorry. We’ve seen you. You gotta die.”

I’m kinda surprised you haven’t killed the “Lettuce see if you can pick the finest greens!” person. Shit, even I’ve been tempted to do that.

Feminina:

That is very tempting. And if the guards come in response to our vicious attack upon a beloved local business, we’ll just flee! They’ll be mysteriously dead when we come back, and no one will ever mention it again. It worked with the mayor!

Who has had his revenge by ensuring that his quest about that staff, as well as the one about Tom’s sister wanting to know where he went, will never be completed.

Butch:

“I shall curse you with a cluttered quest list for all eternity!”

“Or until the game ends!”

“I call upon the spirits of Bethesda! AID ME BETHESDA!”

That is a pretty nasty way to get revenge.

Feminina:

I would certainly think twice about my actions if I knew that curse would be laid upon me.

Well, some of them. Not killing everything we see, that stands. But other things, maybe. I mean, not looting. But possibly certain minor dialogue options.

Also, you were right: we hauled Jahan all the way to that cabin in the forest to look at Balberith’s body, and he warmed enough to confide in us that “the demon’s name is Balberith! I must slay him within the year or be bound forever!” but when we pointed at the corpse of Balberith, and had the nice conversation with the forest spirit about how great it was that we’d killed Balberith and freed her, he was unmoved.

Sigh. I guess at least Madora was there for the end of her story. And we sent Jahan to the hall of heroes and retrieved Wolgraff for some more tramping about the forest, because I know his story is out there somewhere and maybe we’ll manage to actually have him with us when we find it.

I have to say I’m a bit unsatisfied with this lack of resolution. I mean, fine, if they want to let you wander around and miss out on companion stuff if you don’t travel with people, that’s their call. I kind of like the way BioWare makes it incredibly clear when you’re doing companion stuff and won’t even let you embark on a crucial mission without that person, but hey, that’s only one way to approach the thing, and leaving it more up to the player to figure that stuff out is a legitimate call. But if you’re going to do that, then at least make the companion AWARE of what the hell happened. I’d even take him being angry about it, like “why did you kill this demon without me?! Now I haven’t fulfilled the letter of the bargain, which was that I should slay him myself, which means I am doomed forever!”

I’d feel really bad about that, but at least it would be a recognition of events that have occured. This lack of any acknowledgement is just weird.

Butch:

Dude.

I’ll fill you in later, cuz there may well be themes….

But yes, he’s very old.

See, the best thing to do is stumble on shit, then die, then you know where it is. That’s been working for me.

It is a bit of a stumbling block, the companions stuff. Really a growing pain. We keep reminding ourselves that this is their first game, so there are going to be narrative hiccups. It’s kind of impressive there are so few.

Now, if they don’t correct this in the sequel, then we can really bitch.

But, first game. I’ll forgive it. For now.

Feminina:

Yes, we can forgive a lot, including companions with limited awareness…they did do a very good job with a lot of other things. We’ll let it slide. For now.

Butch:

It’s been a while since we played a first game. We’ve gotten harsh.

Feminina:

Well, there was Horizon. But we weren’t very tough on that.

Butch:

Hey now, Horizon wasn’t a first game. New IP, yes, but Guerilla had made two games before that: Killzones one and two. And we did call out the hiccups it made in terms of first RPG, notably the terrible, terrible inventory screen.

But still: that was, technically, a third game for the studio. Divinity is the first thing Larian has ever done ever. So we can forgive.

Feminina:

All right, all right. Noted.

Forgiven.

For now.

Ah, Those Charming Murderous Raiders!

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Hunter’s Edge events in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Here we go again.

Ok, so, what. I got some totem from Cordelia, only to find I can’t do anything with it without activating it. I have no idea how.

So I went to the phantom forest. Hooray. Promptly died. Went the other way. Died. Surrounded by all sorts of things that are level 17 and 18. I’m still 16. Did the sneaky. Found a spirit that told me all about the good spirit, her mentor, heard about Balberith. Good! Progress! Talked to the animals I freed. Nice! More sneaky. Found the swamp. Sneaky around more monsters I couldn’t kill. Found Barberith! Talked to the spirit, learned what I had to to do to get into where I had to go. Progress! Barberith saw me. Didn’t die, because I got the “Yeah….you best run…” prompt.

Decided that I needed to kill shit and level. So went back to the place near hunter’s edge and picked gratuitous fights with a troll and some slavers and some spidery things. Won. Didn’t level. Found a statue with a scale. Put dinner and a pumpkin in it. Nothing happened.

And now here I sit, wondering what to do.

The game sure seems to WANT me to go to the phantom forest, but there’s nothing there but monsters I can’t kill.

I have open quests, but the only ones that don’t seem to involve the phantom forest are either the thread/story ones or the armory key, and I can’t find the guy that lost it. Or Cordelia’s totem.

So what do I do? I need hexagons. I’m stuck.

Feminina:

Oh man, we couldn’t find the armory key guy forever either. Turned out we were checking all the humans, and the guy who wants it is an orc. Doh. He’s in that house near the town center there, muttering to himself.

Or you could just give it to Grutilda!

I think she’d have him hanged for losing it, although we just gave it to him because…we’re nice like that, I guess?

I don’t know, the Hunter’s Edge stuff is weird because we’re kind of helping people, and kind of playing them against each other, and we don’t actually support either faction because they’re all terrible.

I think the best case scenario is they turn on each other and kill each other off. Probably we should actually be turning everyone in to Grutilda so she can hang a bunch of them.

Butch:

Oh yeah….that guy….in the house with the still, right?

Well, I think there’s a way to play them against each other. Someone, the undead guy, maybe? Was all “best to let them fight and weaken each other,” or some other game hinty thing.

But even if I do that, I’m still adrift without hexagons. What the hell do I DO??????

Or, shall I say, what do I do that I CAN do?

By the way…..

Once again, stumbled into the impossible end to a companion quest. I had Jahan with me, and…well…he said stuff…..

Have you run with him for a while? Any fights? Anything seem…off?

Feminina:

We haven’t fought much while Jahan’s been with us. A few spiders. Haven’t noticed anything odd about him so far. He fights like a wizard, which I am pretty good at, so we get along fine.

Have you talked to Jahrl about the murder of his dude and all that? That’s a thing you could…get involved with…

Also, so the end of Jahan’s quest was something you stumbled on that WASN’T Balberith? You led me to believe it was Balberith.

Butch:

Anything….like…have you had to use a resurrect on him?

Murder of his dude? Hmm. I…think? I found a dude with a horn next to him. But isn’t that the armory thing?

I certainly have to do something.

At least the fights I got into were fairly close. Fairly.

Feminina:

A resurrect…why no. Maybe I’ll get him killed on purpose next time to test it out.

The horn is not the armory dude, it’s the “all the bloodstones went missing and the two groups are blaming each other and Jahrl thinks one of the orcs murdered his dude who was supposed to be guarding them but Grutilda says he just ran off with the stones.” More or less.

Butch:

GAAAAAAAH!

Just played a ton.

Gave the armory key to the guy. He was happy. I talked to the lovers. They were happy.

And it was all short lived cuz I then gave the horn to the dude.

And…THAT happened. More than once, because I kept dying. And then it KEPT happening cuz I kept running into orcs. And I think there are still a couple left because the quest is still open.

But I won. And got mad loot. And got into the armory. And got more loot. And sold mad loot, and all that, as one does.

But you know what I didn’t do?

LEVEL that’s what. And c’mon! I KNOW I got XP this time! I HAD to have!

I JUST HAD TO! I mean, EVERYONE is dead! Grutilda was nasty! THAT SUCKED!

So now I’m back where I started. With better gear, more money, and THE SAME LEVEL.

I feel bad for the lovers. And for Hershel, who I can’t find.

But some good news: The reward for turning in the servants to the rat king was the key to the armory, and I got in anyway and they’re safe (cuz they left). And you know who made it? The silent dog and the cat! WHOO HOO!

But narrativeness:

This game spent a lot of time getting us invested in this place. Lots. We met the skeleton, the Ratcatcher, the executioner, did all the politics, there was Grutilda’s kid, there was STUFF man! We got to care about some of these characters! There were even star crossed lovers! And then the game killed the fuck out of all of them. Like, ALL of them. This didn’t seem to be avoidable, unless you just said fuck it and left.

And that, too, is a take on “sin is good.” Cuz why did this go nuts? Why did everyone die? Cuz we were trying to do the “right” thing! We told the truth! We wanted justice! We wanted to solve a murder! And we DID!

And that promptly got everyone killed. Lovers and all. We tried to make this situation work, and it just killed everyone. We should’ve just walked away. But the moment we pointed out an injustice, we destroyed everything. Everyone. Period.

Cuz I feel bad about this. I do. I kinda liked some of these characters. And now they’re dead.

AND I STILL HAVEN’T LEVELED!

Maybe I’ll go try to find the last couple of orcs.

Feminina:

Man, I’m sorry you still haven’t leveled. Sucks!

And…hm. I get what you’re saying about getting invested in that place and kind of liking some of those characters, but…hm. I found myself constantly remembering about all those characters “of course, these guys DID just murder everyone in this village.”

I mean, these are not nice people. I was actually pretty pleased when one of the factions killed the hell out of the other one (and like you, I ended up on the humans’ side, but honestly I didn’t really care). If there’s a way to pick a fight with the humans so we can murder the hell out of all of them too, I might just do it, although at the moment they’re still alive.

I mean, I did kind of like the star-crossed lovers, purely because they were star-crossed, and the humans all sounded like Sean Bean so I was naturally inclined to like them too, but they were not actually nice either. That repeated comment about how it was a waste to have killed all the women too, because now we have to depend on sheep, reminded us of that.

I wonder if maybe the whole point was to blur the line between villains and likeable characters and then forcibly remind us that these people are actually violent groups with their own agendas?

Butch:

I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I HAVEN’T LEVELED!!!!!

Was there even a way to do that? Side with the orcs?

True, true, these were bad people. But shit, I found myself even trying to save the spinebreaker.

It’s funny cuz they didn’t READ as bad people. Interesting counterpoint to our discussion yesterday (by the way, you’ve been doing just fine without a keyboard or time, blog wise) about presentation of people being important. We had no sympathy whatsoever for the disemboweler, but I did find some of these awful characters likeable.

You know, I’m sitting here pondering who I do like, or who I should like, and I notice that, objectively, this game does not have very many likeable people. Like, VERY few. If any. Arhu can’t be trusted. Zixzax either. Icara? Forget it. So who do we like? Bairdotr, I guess, but she, given half the chance, was more than ready to turn on us. Wolgraff seems ok, but he’s a thief and a scoundrel, and may turn out to be an asshole if he can talk (I haven’t figured his quest out yet, but I’m sure I’ll bumble into it soon, way before I’m ready). Jahan’s probably the biggest asshole NPC I’ve ever seen, and his quest does NOT make him more likeable.

This game is full of awful people.

We’ve even noted that we, the players, haven’t done anything particularly good. Scarlett and Roderick were patting each other on the back prematurely, for sure. Maybe we helped out Cyseal with the undead and all, but we bankrupted Silverglen, we got everyone killed in Hunter’s Edge (even the good guys, cuz I can’t find Herschel)…we suck. Shit, you’ve even left a trail of collateral damage behind you!

And, yes, sure, video game protagonists are, often, murderers and thieves and colonizers and all that, but at least they’re either rather likeable, or surrounded by likeable characters. We aren’t here, and yet we care about the characters in the game.

Hm.

Yeah, the casual horrific banter wasn’t so cool. They killed kids, for god’s sake. But…

I dunno. Maybe we judge based on both presentation and relative awfulness? Games are usually rather binary: good guys, bad guys. We don’t usually have a choice between bad guys and even worse guys, so we might be inclined to want to shoe horn the bad guys into the good guy category (or look the other way enough so we can do that) because SOMEONE has to be on that side of the scale, because games.

Maybe more than just “own agendas”…. Sinners and not. Relative sin.

But yeah ok, I see your point.

Just finished off the orcs. Ironic that the way I LEVELED was basically hanging back while mountain men did all the work. I try to actually DO something and no. But chillin’ in the back all “Hey guys! Nice work! I’ll just be here, drinkin’ a beer, tending the grill….” gets me leveled. Sigh.

But back to your point: Yeah, I thanked them, they thanked me, and then were all “well, gotta get some human blood! Good thing there are lots of hamlets to plunder!” and off they went.

Uh…thanks? For the XP? I think?

So, uh, good point. Hmmm.

At least I leveled.

Oh, and I did the bone totem thing and reunited those two undead folks. At least they were happy! I think. I hope.

Did you do that bone totem? I was intrigued by the bone totem.

Feminina:

Yeah, that was how we ended up. Just kind of chilling while the mountain men killed all the orcs. And I’m seriously inclined to go steal from them now just to provoke them so we can fight them before they raid a bunch more hamlets. Not cool, dudes.

Of course, then we’re left having to fight all of them, but if we provoke them in small groups maybe we can handle them…

Butch:

Oh, are they still there? I finished all that up by the knight’s tomb (VERY unclear that I had to follow everyone around everywhere, game. Gimme a hexagon!) and just didn’t go back there. Ah, well.

I now have, I think, five quick saves where I’m standing in the same place, because I start my sessions there, in the forest, watching a spider and a couple zombies playing nicely in their little ooze pit, and I think “I better do something else,” and then I come back there and save. Repeat.

But I think I’m out of stuff to do that isn’t fight those ooze dudes.

Happy Monday! Have Some Ew!

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for ‘the Disembowler’ in Hiberheim, in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Well, then.

Remember the other day when I was all “I wish this game would move it along a little?”

Be careful what you wish for.

I said “a little,” game.

So stopped the attack. Didn’t fight those “lava things,” because each time I tried they said “invulnerable,” even with tenibrium weapons, so I just did the sneaky (keep your fucking XP) and then teleported over lava and didn’t kill the demons (no really, keep your fucking XP), and stopped the attack.

Then. Stuff. Happened.

Opened the armory, met the trife again. Told the imps they were safe, they stopped bugging me. Opened the place with the merchant. Got the last two cutscenes (which….get the last two cutscenes. And I know they’re the last ones, so just tell me about whatever cutscenes you got and we’ll be cool, you can’t spoil). Whoa. Just…whoa, dude. Got to the air plane. Hmm. Met the trife AGAIN and…whoa. Just…whoa, dude.

LIKE SO MUCH STUFF!

And then, after all that, Icara was STILL all just “Yeah, nice, go find Zandilor.”

So I went back and tried, once again, to have Madora forgive the kid orc, failed again, killed the kid orc, and, oh well, that’s a trophy I won’t get. Madora seemed ok with things. Got 5300 XP! Hooray!

For all that! 5300 XP! NOT BITTER.

The pacing in this game is odd. Cuz MAN all that stuff at the shelter plane is usually stuff you get, like, the day before you finish a game. And yet…this is not the day before I finish this game. It just isn’t. I’m just…done there, or damn close. And I don’t think I am in the “real” game. I STILL haven’t entered the phantom forest!

Odd pacing.

Anyway, if you’ve gotten any of that end of time stuff, let’s have a brilliant conversation.

Feminina:

Hm. No. We have not been back to the end of time since the second cut scene.

But we didn’t fight the lava things either, we just hastily killed the Immaculate who seemed to be commanding them, and once she was dead they were totally chill and we just strolled right through them.

What did we do lately…we tried going back to the wizard’s house, but failed utterly to throw the pyramid through the barrier, so instead we went back to Hiberheim, got into the treasure room, got the spell, fought the guardian again, freed the wishing well, got the amulet, broke the crystal, killed the Disemboweler, went back to the treasure room, got the Winter Ring, went back to Cyseal, visited the two wells, picked up Jahan, united the two cats in blissful love (to Jahan’s scorn), and went back to the desert to look for an imp, whom we utterly failed to find.

So we got around, did some stuff, but no plot relevant stuff.

Jahan definitely came with a lot of story dumping, although there’s still some stuff he hasn’t told us. One of the first things he said was something like “at last my thousand-year ordeal is over and I am free!” But he didn’t explain WHY, so in-game we’re left looking at each other saying “I guess we did something important?” and wandering around with him waiting for him to work up to telling us about Balberith. I took him to the goblin village, but all he said was “this seems like demon work,” which, no duh man. Figured that one out. I guess we should take him to the Phantom Forest and maybe the sight of Balberith’s body will jog something loose.

Anyway… Yeah. We caught up with you on some little things, but not the big ones.

Butch:

There are more cutscenes. There is theme.

That is so odd. I had no trouble with the pyramid at all. Well, no loot for you.

Ah! That’s stuff!

I wonder why Jahan had scorn. What was his problem with happy cats? (I think this may tie to the themes worth discussing today)

Which imp? Yox, by chance? Slave imp?

Ah, the disemboweler. I remember him. That was one crazy dude. More on him in a bit. But what did you make of the fact you could free him? Cuz you could, right? Give him the rift spell? I wonder what would have happened…..

And yeah….um….well….Jahan may not do that, what with Balberith being, you know, dead already. Sorta makes explaining the whole deal kinda moot.

I’ll give him some more time then spoil. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Seeing dead Jareth didn’t make Bairdotr talk.

Well, this is still good.

Cuz with the disemboweler, I got two things.

First, of the three prisoners, he, like you, was the one I killed. This, despite the fact he killed fewer people, or was responsible for fewer deaths, than the other two. And the other two were just as unrepentant. It wasn’t based on what he did, but how he described what he did. Or was it? Cuz, with him, it seemed sexual. Which dovetails into my second thought, and why I’m curious about what Jahan said about the cats:

This game doesn’t have a very high opinion of love and sex. Right from the get go, we see the charmed orc, which doesn’t end well either way. The disemboweler had the most sexualized descriptions of anything in this game, and, well, eww. We had to deliver a will to a woman who cried, and the choice in that wasn’t about making her happy, it was about stealing from her or not. One of the happier ghosts we met talked merrily about rape and child abuse. We had Desdemona and the lighthouse keeper, a lovely story of murder and jealousy. Even the main story has a bizarre love triangle that probably will end badly.

And then there are cutscenes. And diaries. And stuff.

And this is a strange thing in this game. We talk on “sin” being “good” in this game. Well, isn’t the thing that really sin-adverse people in the real world abhor the most, well, sex? Here, we HAVE to steal and kill and lie and betray, but sex is still treated with disdain. If anything, sex in Rivellon is MORE sinful than it is here.

Which, well, cutscenes. Get on that.

And I ask about the cats because I saw two exceptions to this: The lovers in Hunter’s Edge, who I still don’t know much about, who are an interracial (literally) gay couple. Those are two things that pearl clutchers here clutch pearls over. And, I thought, the cats. I thought the cats were rather sweet. Little greedy of Maxine there, expecting loot and dowry, but still. They seemed happy, and I wondered why the happy romance was not humans. But now there’s a wrinkle, isn’t there?

Feminina:

Jahan scorned the kitty love because he scorns love in general. It just leads people to value material things and the venality of life and so forth. Basically being bitter because his own love turned out badly.

Which, you’re right, we don’t see much happy love. Hm.

As for the Disemboweler…hm. Yes, I suppose we did kind of reactively kill him because he grossed us out. Interestingly, though, he also didn’t offer us anything useful, so it wasn’t a particularly difficult decision. That elemental we freed, who also didn’t repent at all, offered to give us useful information (which he did). This dude, what did he say? Did he even offer money? If so, it wasn’t anything we cared about at all, because it was last night and I already can’t recall. So the game didn’t work very hard to make us think about whether or not to kill him, did it?

I did feel kind of bad that we had to kill the snowman guards, though. I would also have helped them kill him, if they’d waited a minute! I was on their side, sort of! Other than the whole “freeing the prisoner they were charged with guarding” thing. Water under the bridge. They’re all dead now. XP!

And yes, we were looking for that slave imp. He’s got to be in the desert somewhere, right? Maybe?

Butch:

Yeah, I can see Jahan feeling that way.

Ah, see, the disemboweler didn’t offer us anything. Indeed, he said that our reward would be “leaving our liver where it is.” Buuuuuuuut…….

We make game decisions that cost us loot/info all the time. Why? Because we feel that doing so is the right thing. For example, we didn’t tell the goblins to shower us with loot when we hijacked the totem. We often don’t demand all sorts of payments for helping others. Shit, we feel bad “stealing,” and Mr. O is annoyed that he has to steal to get ahead in this game. So the idea of “We’ll help the ones that give us stuff, but if there’s no stuff in it for us, who cares?” isn’t a way to make us do/not do things.

Because usually, loot/not loot isn’t a factor in what we think is the “right” thing to do. Sure, all things being equal, we go loot, but usually we side with right over personal greed. This guy, objectively, wasn’t as bad as the other guys, but we let the other guys buy us out, and said “fuck this guy” cuz he couldn’t/didn’t buy us out. We NEVER say “fuck this guy cuz he can’t buy us out.” NEVER! And, usually, when someone evil offers us something or other, we say “Nay! We shall avenge whoever the fuck!”

Because the stuff the others gave us wasn’t all that great. Sure, I got a quest marker to the hatch thing, but you found the hatch without it. The loot thingy the other guy gave us was ok, but hardly earth shattering. So, in this case, we made our moral decision based on presentation of the offenses at hand, and trinkets/useless secrets.

Cuz I, rather casually, did the same thing. “Oh, nothing useful? And you’re icky? Whatever.” But if you step back, why were we really so casual?

XP. Ha. At least I got those.

But, oddly, the guards’ reaction was part of the reason why I killed the guy. The other prisoners, the guards seemed mad, like “You have interfered with justice!” The disemboweler’s guards seemed legitimately terrified at the prospect of this dude being cut loose. You gotta figure if the monsters are scared, best to be scared, too.

Which is another thing that makes me think we’re dealing with “real life” crazy people and “real life” doctors/guards. Would a fantasy “evil” king really care about the disemboweler? Would snowmen care about human women in some other plane getting killed? We’ve never seen that sort of thing in games. Monsters care about their own shit. You never see darkspawn arresting a demon for killing elves. The snowmen were reacting the way human doctors would react if someone let a dangerous human loose in the real world.

Feminina:

See, I kind of idly thought about this: was the Disemboweler talking about human “girls” or fellow trolls? Not that it matters in one sense: obviously, it’s horrible either way. But if he’s actually talking about humans, maybe he’s got a (small) point when he says “a butcher kills a cow to make sausage and he’s doing a useful job, but I do the same thing to a girl and I’m a maniac?”

I mean…traditionally, trolls do eat people. We haven’t seen that they do it in this game, but it’s part of their lore. Are we misreading his descriptions of how great it feels to kill them (which, absolutely, read like sexual references) the same way we misread Ruby’s invitations to spend some time with her? Maybe he was literally just talking about how much he loves his food, and we’re the ones turning him into some twisted sex murderer.

Which is nevertheless bad from our standpoint, and by all our game ethics we’re justified in killing something that’s going to kill innocents, regardless of whether the motivation is hunger or twisted lust. So again, in one sense it really doesn’t matter, but in another I think he’s certainly a WORSE person if he’s murdering other trolls (or humans) for sex kicks, than if he just enjoys playing with his food.

I don’t know. It was weird, that whole bit. And disturbing, and gross, and in every way pretty much designed to get us to just kill that troll. Which in a way feels weird. As you say, we don’t usually go against our morals (such as they are) even when someone DOES offer us a reward not to, but he didn’t even try. There was no attempt to make it even remotely appealing to us to let that guy live. He was in the game to gross us out and then die, as far as I can tell. There was no moral decision involved. So is it really that simple, or is there something else going on there?

I’m not sure. I mean, I’m not sorry we killed him. I stand by that decision. But the ease of the decision, paired with all that gut-level discomfort (pun intended, hahahaha) with his disturbing dialogue, makes me feel like either we missed something, or it was maybe a little lazy in terms of writing.

“Add disturbing serial- killer character, then kill him immediately,” is…I mean, again, not that I wanted to spend any more time with that character! But does it add significantly to the experience of the game, or is it just for grossness’ sake?

I suppose it is another reminder that this fantasy world, while often amusing, has a lot of dark edges.

Butch:

It certainly does. And, frankly, I think it’s getting darker the more it goes.

Hmmm. I didn’t think about it like that at all.

I…hmm. I suppose it was suggestive that he didn’t say “people,” he said “girls.” That certainly put a maniacal spin on it. I suppose it could be misleading…but….

But if our game ethics are cool with killing something that’s going to kill innocents, how come we weren’t cool with killing the orc child? Or how come we both rather casually let the elemental go, despite him saying he would keep killing?

There was a decision! We could have let this guy go! And games, especially this one, aren’t exactly explicit in saying “if you do X, you get Y.” Shit, just last night, I told the imps that I misled the Watchers, and they were all “hey, thanks man, here, take this cool thing as a token of thanks” (and it was quite cool.) There was no “Save the imps, get the thing” beforehand.

Again, we did have the chance to not kill him. It wasn’t a deal where he was all “Thanks for freeing me…now…DIIIIIIIIE!” thing that sometimes happens. So there was some degree of making us decide, even if the decision isn’t all that important to the overall game.

Feminina:

Well, yeah, we hear “girls” and we think human girls, but that’s our bias, isn’t it? What else are young female trolls called? We don’t know! “Troll girls” would be my best guess as a human, and as a troll, maybe it just didn’t make sense for him to specify. “Obviously I meant troll girls, why would I find human girls sexually appealing anyway?” could be the argument.

Which is also a legitimate question. There’s certainly a long tradition in fantasy and sci fi of assuming that every strange, inhuman thing out there desperately wants human women (and I’m happy to play that up in my many interspecies romances in BioWare games), but why would that necessarily be true?

I’m not really arguing that we did misread it, just that I guess it seems almost too simple, and I’m wondering if it’s more complicated than that.

It might not be, though! Some things are what they seem.

Butch:

Well…wait. I’m not at all saying that he was sexually into who he was killing. What got my attention is that these grotesque acts were so obviously sexualized, and that the game very intentionally did that.

Interesting you say “strange, inhuman thing,” because my theory is that this is a very real human human. Now, whether his tastes make him inhuman, well, that’s a different discussion. I think the game is using this trope of “weird things liking human women” as, once again, a vehicle for the tearing up of a very real reality. Or, at least, letting Scarlett use all these tropes as a handy template for her delusions.

Tearing up reality. I like that image.

Feminina:

It’s true, it does fit well with your insanity theory. I’ll give you that. Your theory, like any good delusion, is capable of working all manner of things into its fabric.

You’re probably insane, but go with it.