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Some spoilers for things around the Phantom Forest in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

DUDE stuff. And I don’t want to forget, so info dump to start.

Take. Madora. To. Hunter’s Edge. Because it leads to Mount Saint Themage.

Don’t go right to the town. Take her, start at the bridge there, right when you enter the phantom forest.

I did a bunch with that. And now I’m making whiskey. And I have poison cheese.

Oh! And I had a troll tell me about a human who made it to the troll king. He said that this human is a sorcerer (no u, he pointed that out) and has a lair in the desert plains of the Lucella forest. You know where that could be? Cuz I don’t.

I also very much want to discuss the skeleton who wanted a new skull. Very much.

Ok. Now I won’t forget. Much. Though, more likely, you’ll be all “so what did you want to say?” and I’ll be all “Huh?”

Feminina:

All right! Madora! I’m trying to talk Mr. O’ into going back to Cyseal to pick up new companions. He’s reluctant because we have a good balance of skills in our party already, so adding another melee fighter and/or wizard in exchange for the archer and/or rogue will just throw us off. Which is true, we are well-balanced, but we’re going to have about 14 levels worth of skills to build these people, so I figure we can make Madora an archer and Jahan a sneaky lock-picking master if that’s what we need (and it is).

We’ll get there.

We made whiskey! That was so great. Also poisoned cheese. Did you get a result from the poisoned cheese?

We gave the skeleton a new skull. He turned into the mayor. Interesting…

Did you talk to the silent dog there?

A sorcerer on the desert plains? Hm. I don’t think we met him. See, I knew there was something in the desert we hadn’t done! Unless he was that bard dude who was telling stories to the animals, although he wasn’t really in the desert. More of a little forest oasis.

We…wandered around in the Phantom Forest. It’s really a bit overleveled for us (everything is 18), but we poked around a bit and then ran off. Back to Hunter’s Edge to give a key to a dude, if we can find said dude.

Butch:

Oh, is that armory key? That isn’t in the town at the end of some blood tracks that I started following before I got distracted?

Shit.

Yeah, I kinda feel the same way in terms of skills, but companion quests, man. Story. Mr. O is very practical. And yes, you do get a bazillion levels of everything to do whatever with, so it isn’t like she should stay a tank or him a wizard. Very flexible. And Madora’s story arc is really, REALLY good.

Sigh. No. No I did not get a result from the poisoned cheese. Why? Because I was off to give whoever the poison cheese, and kinda got turned around, and ran into the end of Madora’s quest (which is how I know it’s really, really good) and I really wasn’t ready for the end of Madora’s quest, so I died.

And realized I hadn’t saved since BEFORE I made the damn whiskey.

And it loaded and I was in a field of barley and I said fuck that. So I’ll make whiskey again when I boot it back up. And not stumble into the end of a quest I am not prepared to finish.

Yeah, I did the same thing with the skeleton. Very interesting. Because we were all “DUDE no! The soul isn’t anywhere! It’s who you are! You’ll always be you!” and then he wasn’t. We were totally wrong. And…what’s more…I thought he was a complete asshole AFTER he changed.

There are two levels on which we could discuss this. One is a very lengthy way we could discuss this, if, in fact, you’ve gotten some cutscenes that I have. Which I don’t think you have.

But the other: I’m STILL on the Scarlett is nuts thing. Here, we have a situation where we were all “Who you are is absolute.” And I agreed! (I as in me, Butch.) Of COURSE who you are is absolute. Anyone would believe that, I think.

But it wasn’t. Turns out, at least in this reality, that “who you are” is something that can be changed, almost completely, with, dare I say it, surgical precision. Almost…medically. And, moreover, it isn’t the heart or something else where “you” are, it’s your head. Change your head, change “you.” Change your reality. Because he didn’t just turn into the mayor: he turned into a rather deluded mayor. He wasn’t saying “Hey! What has happened to my wonderful city? There’s….HEY!” He seemed to be under the impression that nothing much, if anything, had changed, when it obviously had, whereas the skeleton dude understood where he was in relation to the game world just fine. When he changed his head, his brain, his mind, he because someone else with a totally different view of reality.

Hm.

Talked to the silent dog: Sure did. And the “sad deer” in the forest who also indicated that he had his voice taken in the same place. And I didn’t put two and two together until I was in bed that night trying to fall asleep (thinking about the damn game).

I didn’t have Wolgraff with me. When I go back to age the whiskey (benefit of having to redo shit, you know where you’ll be) I think I’m gonna swap him in for Bairdotr. And talk to that dog again.

Archibald the troll (the one with the kid he’s teaching) told me that the only human who’s met the troll king was a sorcerer who set up a lair in the desert plains of Lucella, which has to be spider town, right? I haven’t found any other plains. Ooo! And he knew the sorcerers name, which was Marandino or something, which rang bells. I think he was the sorcerer who wrote the spell that either put up or took down the barrier to Icara’s house in the forest way back when. The one you hear about from the mushrooms. I think. It was a very familiar sounding name.

Maybe I’ll talk to Icara when I age the whiskey, too.

Cuz I wanna find the one human that met the troll king and ask him a couple of questions.

Feminina:

Yeah, the armory key. Which is not in the place where you go by following the bloodstains…although definitely follow the bloodstains when you get a chance.

The key is not in the Phantom Forest, either, no worries. It’s in Hunter’s Edge, we’ve just been carrying it around for a while and then were like “hey, let’s do THIS thing off our list!”

Good point about the ‘change of head’–that is thematically suggestive. Although it kind of implies that ‘medication’ can mess you up as easily as it can help you, considering the skeleton seemed pretty with it at first and then became, as you say, a fairly delusional mayor. “Oh, we’ve been having a bit of disruption what with all the mass slaughter, but things are really very nice here!”

Another way to read it, though, would be to say that indeed, who ‘you’ are DOESN’T change, but that while the skeleton seemed to think ‘he’ was his body, in fact he’s just his skull–that we didn’t give ‘him’ a new skull, we actually gave his body to another person.

There’s kind of the same point there in terms of “who you are is in your head,” but the meaning is a bit different depending on whether we see it as “we dramatically changed one individual so that his character became quite different but he is still that individual” (which is how he himself seemed to be thinking of it, but he as well as we could be wrong) vs. “we took one individual off his body and gave the body to someone else.”

Undead Nick is an interesting parallel case here, because his body DID seem to recognize and desire to reunite with his head, suggesting that the essence of ‘Nick’ is in fact contained both in his head and his body. I’m not really sure what that implies about this dude, though–the body didn’t really express any opinion, so it did seem to be perhaps purely a vehicle for the head. Maybe because there’s no flesh left? Maybe ‘you’ are your head and flesh, but not your other bones?

Anyway, we haven’t seen any cutscenes lately, so no lengthy spoilers.

That sucks about having to make the whiskey all over again. I’m sorry. You’re good at stumbling on the end of peoples’ quests, though, huh?

Ah, the sorcerer Maradino! We’ve come across a few mentions of him. Makes sense we’ll have to find him. And…dude…Archibald…

Sigh. Remember I said there was a thing that made me feel like we were horrible people? Yeah. We killed Archibald. Right in front of his kid. Who then stands there wailing “daddy, wake up! they’re getting away! daddy, why won’t you get up?” for…I don’t know, probably the rest of the game.

It was awful. But he wanted a toll and we didn’t have that much money at the time, and then we couldn’t just walk away even though we didn’t even WANT to cross his bridge, it turned into a fight, so what could we do but fight him? We’re so terrible, though. We’re going to turn out to be the avatar of cruel death. It was nightmarish. Sigh. I blame Mr. O’–I would have just reloaded, but he only does that if Bairdotr has all the good arrows. Ha.

But definitely talk to the dog when you have Wolgraff with you. He’ll be interested.

Incidentally, in our world that dog is dead now, due to a tragic accident. Of course. Because everything we touch turns to death. It’s not even a joke anymore, I think we genuinely represent the footsteps of doom to all we come near.

Butch:

Are you serious? You’re not doing this on purpose?

Dude. I’m starting to fear you.

Oh I shall investigate the trail of blood. Always follow bloodstains.

T SHIRT!!!!

But that was another thing I stumbled on! I was just toodling and Scarlett was all “I found something!” and then another, and I thought “You know? This screams ‘quest.’ And, as my log has not updated, this is a quest I do not yet have.

I have a feeling I do now. But I have to make more damn whiskey.

And Well, that’s something I’ve been pondering as well, not so much “medicine” as “stuff.” The spiders there, they were giving their people there some substance or other. A “poison.” But we could just reduce that to “drug” or “substance.” Some chemical, we shall say, that we could read as symbolic of medicine or illicit drug fairly easily. And those wackos were a) more immaculate than the immaculates in terms of their zeal and b) people you very much did not want to be, if the game world is real or it isn’t. It was really the first we’ve seen a thing where “medicine” or something CAN mess you up.

But remember: if Scarlett is a delusional person, being “cured” or “medicated” isn’t a good thing to her.

This against the backdrop of being given a quest where we make whiskey. Whiskey very much exists in our world, and we admit (very reluctantly admit cuz we like it) can cause you problems in the real world, including depression or hallucinations or whatever in certain people (not us). But in Scarlett’s world, whiskey HELPS her. Makes the orcs, which are trying to “remove” her from this world, easier to beat.

I’m not sure that contrast, that linear progression from spiders (level 14) to Hunter’s edge and skeleton and whiskey wasn’t an accident.

(You know, as a tangent, one of these days when we don’t have anything else to talk about, as it will take all day, maybe two, we should dish on the symbolism of blood in a game about sin. I am reminded of this as the most powerful medicine of the game is, literally, blood. We’ll talk. Later. Too busy with good stuff today.)

And since you haven’t seen any lengthy cutscenes, I’m not going to respond to any of the rest of your notes. We’ll talk. Later.

We’re gonna have some mad bloggage when you finally see all that.

Yeah Archibald! He seems to be the guy. But what did we miss out there? Did you kill the spider queen? Cuz I didn’t. Yet.

DUDE! I was wondering what that horrible thing you mentioned was. Shit, I didn’t do it as I didn’t want to kill the kid, but DUDE that’s even worse!!!! SO much worse!

Again, NAUGHTY Mr. O! Not only not a purist, choosy about it! Bad!

Dude, I’m deeply upset and want to hug my kids knowing it happened in your game. I would have reloaded. I would have found a way around that. Period.

Which…hm. Remember last week? The other time I was all “Nope?” Tranquility Lane? It was my “noping” making a kid cry. And killing him instead.

Which here, ok, you didn’t kill him, but I would have noped a crying kid despite the fact that a) dad was a killer, which usually is instant “yeah I’m gonna kill him” (Shit, you have to walk past the bodies of his innocent victims to get to him!) and b) he’s teaching said kid to BE A KILLER. Archibald and his kid will continue to slaughter countless innocents. How many game bad guys have we killed for that or less?

And yet, you feel guilty and I would have reloaded.

And we didn’t feel guilty or reload even though we now know that trolls can have cute kids and be good dads (who train their kids to slaughter innocents) and there were probably kids who’s lives we ruined. But the kid was THERE, so we were/would have been upset.

Man, I like games. What else makes you ask these questions?

Feminina:

Man, we are not doing this on purpose. We can’t help ourselves. We’re doom to all! I kind of fear us myself.

But Alfie and his humans are still alive! For now. At this rate we’re probably going to unwittingly make some decision that will result in Silverglen being burned to the ground, and they’ll be toasted in the ashes.

Crying kids are the worst thing imaginable. The ultimate horror game would just be full of crying children. I would nope that so hard it would never get out of the plastic wrap. Or into my house in the first place, actually.

But yeah, there are a lot of good questions around that knee-jerk reaction. Because hey, Archibald DID start this fight. And he HAS killed many other people for the same ‘crime’ of not having money for his toll. And his son is going to do the same thing. This is bad!

But making the kid sad is awful. And the troll WAS just doing his job, as he was ordered to do by the troll king whom we must eventually find and steal from. Killing all those people wasn’t personal, anymore than it’s personal when WE kill a bunch of things that are in the way of us doing our job of pursuing some quest. Or collecting some loot. Whichever.

And I don’t think we’ve fought the actual spider queen, but as for those cultists…so we told them “hey, good luck with that” and turned to leave, and then all the eggs hatched. And then the spiders attacked us, and most of the cultists also attacked us, although a couple of them seemed to have second thoughts (interesting) and attacked the spiders instead. That was the long drawn-out battle that we WON at great cost, and then the last of the spiders exploded when it died and killed Delios, the only surviving PC, so we still had to do it again. But eventually we prevailed, by which point all the cultists were long dead (because everyone around us dies).

Then we moved on and ran into even MORE spiders, and that’s when we stopped exploring that part of the desert and wandered off and found Zixzax. So I think the spider queen is still out there, probably standing between us and Maradino.

We need to go back there. And to the mines. And to Cyseal. And to Silverglen. And to the goblin village. And to Hiberheim.

Butch:

It’s starting to get rather uncanny.

Probably everyone will die in the end. Especially as you keep clinging to it. And it’ll come late! Like, the absolute endgame will be “Burn Silverglen, kill everything” and you’ll be all “So close! Yet so appropriate!”

Hey, I paid the troll. I wasn’t all “DIE FOR THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE I JUST WALKED BY!” It was all good. Shit, I was kinda glad, cuz Scarlett heals when she walks through blood and she was kinda hurt.

Thanks for clubbing innocents guys! Here’s your money! Good luck with the child rearing!

And I’m the good guy. Hmm.

Shit you haven’t been to the mines YET? Dude! Next. Promise.

I think that spider is important. It had that silver health bar that says “I either can’t die or must die, or first one then the other.” And she didn’t move. So she’s likely plopped in front of Marandino. Who DID “disappear.” He’s probably in there unable to get out. Cuz big spider.

Makes sense.

Feminina:

Indeed, it makes sense that if you go somewhere and a giant possibly unkillable spider plops down in front of your cave or whatever, you find yourself maybe not going out again anytime soon.

Ha. “Here’s your money, good sir. A fine young troll you’re raising! I wish you both much continued joy of slaughtering the hapless losers who can’t afford your exorbitant fees!”

Yeah…there really wasn’t a ‘good guy’ option there.

It’s so true! In fact, probably the last thing will be “burn Silverglen and kill everything, or walk away?” and we’ll say “obviously, walk away,” but we’ll actually click on “burn and kill” without even meaning to, because we’re so invested in the narrative.

Sorry, everyone. You can’t fight destiny. Or a series of unfortunate coincidences that forms a neat, destiny-like story if you ignore all the people we HAVEN’T actually killed.

Like…uh…that lonely troll! Yeah! And Ralfie! And the romantic couple in Hunter’s Edge, although we’ll probably be responsible for their deaths later.

Butch:

Pretty much! “Oh, and could you leave some blood around? Might be hurt next time I come by….”

Dude, I found that couple, but can’t get them to do anything because even when you sneak up on them they clam up. I have it in my quest list, and I WANT to tell them to go be happy, but it won’t let me!

Cuz I’m very romantic.

Ok, so remade the whiskey, talked to dudes, etc. Wolgraff sure is interested in mute animals. Took him to both. The deer made him all “MUST KILL SOURCERERS!” and the dog gave him hope cuz I said “Maybe there’s a cure….” Icara didn’t even give me a dialog option for Marnadino. I guess we’re just supposed to go explore the desert and stuff. Now I’m about to chat up the rat catcher.

Feminina:

I think with those two I stood back and listened to them from a distance, and then went up and talked to them and had an option to say “I overheard you talking about etc.” and they confessed their feelings. I was looting that house near them and I could hear them talking from their campfire. Try that.

I told them I’d keep their secret, but as I said, I’m sure we’ll be responsible for their deaths later because at some point this whole situation is going to blow up. The orcs are going to attack the Immaculates, or vice versa (or we’re going to attack one or the other of them) and all hell will break loose.

And I don’t even know which side I’d feel like supporting, because we’re all relatively chummy at the moment, but I can’t quite forget that they all cheerfully participated in the slaughter and/or enslaving of everyone in this town, so…kind of they all suck (even if the mountain men do sound like Sean Bean) and I hope they all die. With the possible exception of those two lovebirds, if their love has made them see the world in a new light and they decide to quit slaughtering and enslaving people.

Basically, I’d be happy to see them go off to live in a vine-covered cottage baking warm cakes together, but if they insist on sticking with their tribes, I’m pretty sure they’re going to die. Even if I don’t personally kill them. Maybe one of them will kill the other in the heat of battle, and then collapse in anguished wailing! That would be dramatic and heart-wrenching. Although not as much so as that troll kid.

Yeah, for Wolgraff’s story, we’re going to wind up hunting something in the Phantom Forest for sure. But not right away, because everything in there is really tough.

Butch:

Ok, I’ll try lurking. I keep coming up the stairs.

Nah. You’ll be fighting, and the fight will be over, and they’ll be the two left, and they’ll be all “Now we can be togeth-” and the one oil barrel will blow up cuz you’re on fire and you’ll walk to close and they’ll die. Or something.

And I think the game is fooling us, as the human leader is far more sympathetic than the orc leader, but watch: there’ll be a twist. That’s…well…do Madora’s thing. Go from there.

Still. Things are STILL tough in the Phantom Forest. And we’ve been playing this for many, many hours. Fuck those SPIDERS are tough. I’m what, level 14? Maybe still 13. And the spiders are 14 (and were killing the hell out of me last I was there), the Sacred Stone dudes are 15, and everything here is 16. And you say the Phantom Forest is 18.

The fuck.

And if I can’t kill shit, how am I gonna level? Making the whiskey was a mere 8150, and that doesn’t hit bottom. I’m still, like 98000 points away from leveling (seriously).

This is a puzzler, it is. Maybe I’ll get something for the cheese/rat thing?

Feminina:

Well, see, maybe here’s where our magpie approach pays off. We’re behind you in terms of story, but we’ve been to a lot of random places poking around while not following the plot, and I guess we must have fought a lot of things and collected some experience along the way.

We’re 16, and we were taking on 17th level things in the Phantom Forest and doing OK (the difference between levels does seem to get a bit less pronounced as you get higher up, although the hordes of 18th level dudes were still more than we wanted to mess with).

So, I don’t know…maybe go magpie some? At this point I don’t even remember where we’ve been that you haven’t been, but we’ve been wandering a lot.

Butch:

I dunno, man, magpie where? I’ve been pretty much all over Lucella, done the hell out of hiberheim….I mean, there’s spider town….I don’t know where else to magpie! Shit, I even did more of Hiberheim than you did!

Go back to the trap house and blow up the ooze. Ha.

Feminina:

DO IT!

We were going to do that and never got around to it. I bet there’s mad XP involved. Ha.

But yeah, that’s the thing, I don’t even know where we’ve been that you haven’t, but dude, we’ve been doing SOMETHING all this time that you’re following the story and we aren’t. We’ve been wandering around, getting in fights, looting stuff…is there any darkness left on your maps at all?

Or maybe it’s all the people we’ve left dead in our wake. Maybe being the harbinger of doom is good XP.

Butch:

I don’t think there’s a lot of black. I genuinely have no idea where I haven’t been. There’s a lot of phantom forest, there’s a cave near Hunter’s Edge…have I missed some caves?

It’s so weird. I sure feel like I’m being thorough. My maps look well explored. I don’t get it.

Feminina:

Yes…it’s kind of a mystery. I mean, it’s not as if we haven’t been playing, and it’s not as if whenever we play we just kind of putter around in one place, do some shopping, and call it a night. (I mean, sometimes we do, but not all the time.)

So in order to have filled all this time that we’ve both been playing with stuff that ISN’T the story stuff you’ve done…we had to have been doing something. But I can’t think of anywhere we’ve been that you haven’t, now that you’ve made it to Hunter’s Edge and this map. (Half of this map is still dark for us as well, since we haven’t been all through the Phantom Forest.)

You’ve been through Hiberheim (even more than we have). You’ve been thoroughly around Cyseal (certainly as much as we have). You’ve been in Luculla Forest, probably almost as much as we have, though we might have done a bit more in the desert. And you probably have about what we have in Hunter’s Edge/the Phantom Forest.

And yet, we’ve picked up two levels worth of XP from somewhere that wasn’t the main story. Maybe some caves, as you say. I don’t know. Wish I could help you.

Magpieing pays off, but we don’t know exactly how.

Butch:

We sure don’t. No way the couple of spider fights you did was two levels of XP. Plus, I imagine my cutscenes and stuff gave me some XP you didn’t get! It’s so weird.

The hell, game!

Feminina:

No, we definitely didn’t do two levels’ worth of spider fights.

We went partway along the path where we have to go to stop the attack on the end of time, that was good for a bit of XP before we ran into the stuff we can’t hit without tenebrium. Not two levels, but some. Maybe try that, just for something to hit.

Unrelated note about magpies: I like that the characters, when exploring bird’s nests, will actually comment “I was hoping that was a magpie’s nest.” Because everyone knows the magpies find good loot!

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