Part 73: The Approach"Are we done talking to statues now? No other frivolous distractions?"
"Wait, I need to tie my shoelaces."
"Yeah, okay. Let's go."
The path to the Teleport Augmenter starts on the river just south of Khoth (just north of where the axe icon is).
"It's kind of weird how all these secret passages have the same kind of mushroom growing on them."
"Maybe they're a special type of mushroom that eats secrets."
"And here's the first obstacle. I'd be very surprised if we got through without any fighting."
"You'd also be disappointed, I'm sure."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm a bloodthirsty battle-maniac. Very funny."
"You just like fighting, hon, and there's nothing wrong with that!"
"This is actually rather pleasant."
"That is one hell of a foyer."
"Nobody ever said the Empire was lacking aesthetic sense. They're just evil."
"I think this is that mural we were told about..."
"Wow, overcompensating much?"
"I agree. The First Expedition got completely obliterated. This mural is historical revisionism."
"Now where's that depression...ah!"
"Well, that was --"
"Don't say it!"
"That's it? This is pathetic! ...wait, where's Byff and One-Eye?"
"Damn it, that fool lawyer ran off with our healer!"
"I would not have thought them a likely pairing."
"Yeah, she'd eat him alive. Now let's banish these fuckers."
A split party is one of the more irritating tricks the game can pull, considering how important it is to maintain a good line of defense so you can protect your squishy casters. Fortunately, the only enemies we have to fight are Scaly Imps, which are non-entities at this point. Byff kills all four on his side with a single Lightning Spray.
"Ha! This is easy!"
"You went and said it!"
"Yes! Keep 'em coming!"
Still easy stuff -- a pair of Cave Demons at each end. However, instead of killing them, we really ought to reunite the party. This gets increasingly important as...
"This isn't funny any more."
"It was funny earlier?"
"When you fried those imps? Yeah, that got a chuckle out of me. Look, I'll hold these guys off. You get back to the others."
"You sure about that?"
"Hey, as long as none of those ice demons show up, I'll be fine. Go on!"
"Hi guys! Miss me?"
"Byff! Where's One-Eye?"
"Off playing the hero. I suggest we clean up here as quickly as possible!"
"...me and my big mouth. Oh well."
A single Mung Demon is the next round of summons. One-Eye is of course nigh-invulnerable so far, but he can't do nearly enough damage to keep up. But now that we have all of our heavy hitters on one side, they can really mop up quickly. I mean, Elly could have wiped these guys out with Divine Retribution, no problem, but I'm trying to conserve her energy a bit for the time being. Byff's spells are far more efficient.
"Oh, shit. Guys! Guys! Wait for me!"
"One-Eye! Get your fool ass over here!"
"...nevermind, I'm coming to you!"
"Now might be a good time for an earthquake, Elly."
"You got it!"
"Meanwhile, One-Eye, my complements on your ability to concentrate their attention."
"They're clustered perfectly for me!"
Icy Rain! It doesn't do a lot of damage, but it's still passable, the spell's cheap, it has a chance to immobilize enemies, and it's also Byff's only spell that can hit all of those demons at once.
Anyway, I'll spare you the blow-by-blow. This is a pretty standard fight once you get the party back together. Haakai Vhalor is a competent spellcaster like all haakai, but also like all haakai, he places a very high priority on having a summoned demon out, and his summons are weak enough that we can easily kill them with AoE spells. As a result, he ends up wasting most of his turns.
The elemental demons are more troubling, as they have powerful abilities that hit most of the party. Elly spends a lot of time casting Mass Healing. Eventually, however, they're dead, leaving Haakai Vhalor alone except for his incessantly-summoned underling.
"Time to bury this. Eat lightning!"
"That was invigorating!"
"And look! More magic pants!"
They're awful though.
"Well, now that that's over with, shall we explore?"
"Hm, switch on the wall."
"Of course. Can't let your books fall into the wrong hands!"
"You're righter than you realize."
"Well hey, at least they're polite about it."
"A polite tyrant is still a tyrant. Now c'mon, let's keep moving."
If we hadn't used the Royal Seal on the mural, the wheel here would be nonoperational.
"Oh, we're done already?"
"I suspect there will be another blockade further down the tunnel."
"Who's for flying over a lake of fire? Anyone?"
"How about we check those secret-eating wall mushrooms first?"
"The second barricade!"
"Wait, then what's down the lava route?"
"Yeah, now I'm curious too!"
...is absolutely nothing!
"No, it's fucking hot here."
"You're never happy."
"It's a character flaw."
"Back to the barricade!"
"No nice architecture this time."
"This would be the barricade that Khoth built. I doubt he liked the Empire enough to make it pretty for them."
"Hang on guys, I'm gonna scout this out. Be right back."
That's four wandering Ur-Basilisks, two Cryos Demons, two Mindtaker Golems, and Ugrew Many-Stalks and Ghyt Diamond-Eye, two unique eyebeasts.
"We are not going in there."
"Then how do we proceed forwards?"
"There has to be an alternate route!"
"I suppose at least now we know where the basilisks came from."
Note the statue right outside this nest, too. A nice subtle hint.
Three Ur-Basilisks at once is no joke; One-Eye can't reliably dodge their stunning "breath" attack and it does decent damage. Still, we cope. The switch opens a passageway:
"See? What'd I say?"
From here, if we're sneaky, we can bypass the greeters, proceedeing down the passageway to the right. But that's no fun! We'll clear out the wandering Ur-Basilisks from here (and from a similar, unguarded passageway at the opposite side), mind you. Getting pincered by high-damage stunning attacks would be awful during the big fight. But we are having the big fight.
"Too bad. Get in there!"
"I could've been a mage, and stayed in the back where it's safe, but nooooo. Hi guys, how's things? Nice teeth there, who's your dentist?"
One-Eye's opening salvo reveals something important: the eyebeasts are both nearly immune to physical damage. And Elly discovers that Ugrew Many-Stalks at least is also nearly immune to fire damage! Fantastic. Finally, the greeters are inconveniently located exactly far enough from the door that Kane can't get close enough to hit anything on the opening round.
Elly and Byff are able to destroy one Cryos Demon and the two Mindtaker Golems with their opening blitz, and good riddance. I assume the golems have some nasty ability like, say, charming their opponents if they're hit in melee, but honestly I'm so over having to deal with mental status afflictions that I don't care to find out.
"Ol' Eyeballs is pinned!"
"Got the other one! No more moving for you!"
"He didn't listen. Why do they never listen? L̺͉͔̬̙̆o͈̱͉̩̦̽o͖̹̳̺̪̱͙̅͗ͬ̈̉͋̓k͕͈͖ͣ̏̇ͬ̇̅ ͋͋̔͑̏͐ȁ͙̺͇͚͊͋̔ͦ͑̓t͙̖̖̮͉ͬ́̚ ̞̦̠͚̲͗͑̊̄m̥̭̼̯̈̑͒e̩̮̫̬̜̓͂́ͯ̓ͤ̃ ȁ̗̥̜͊̏̏͐̆ṅ̖̼̭̰̌͆͗ͣ̃ͭd̮͈ ͉̝̝͎̇̑̂̑̑̄͆ͅp̦̻̹͓̥͕ͣ̐ẽ̱̭̰ȑ̳̗̖̪̝̾̉͌̿̄ͅi̠̰͔̼͓̘̘ͧͭ̋s̹͓̟͕ͯ̑ͅͅh̹̤̹̺̼̾̾̑̓̌͐!̹̖̽̀̈́̄"
"And that was a command, not a choice!"
That's all the enemies that aren't inexplicably immune to our most reliable sources of damage, viz. stabby things and fire. We also try cold (Icy Rain) and energy (Arcane Blow) and Ugrew shrugs them off too. What the hell hurts this thing? I actually pull up One-Eye's character sheet to check what elements are in the game; the only ones we haven't tried are poison and acid. So next round, Byff tries Spray Acid...which doesn't do a whole heck of a lot either.
Long story short, our best option is still stabbing things, it's just less than half as effective as normal. We're in for a long fight, then -- which isn't helped by the fact that Ugrew can heal itself, and terrify and charm Kane! Indeed, the sum totality of the abilities Ugrew uses are:
- A weak ranged energy attack, which appears to be its basic attack.
- Mass Healing.
- Howl of Terror (mass fear).
- Domination (the charm spell).
- Mass Battle Frenzy.
Here's a hit from the Flaming Sword. That's 93% physical damage reduction and 96% fire damage reduction. What the hell, game.
Finally, after a lot of chopping, and Elly spending every last remaining point of energy on fixing Kane's brain after successful fear/charm spells...
"That was fun!"
"And completely pointless."
"Aw, don't be like that! Here, have some new boots!"
"We should keep moving."
"This is actually really nice."
"Hey, more talking statues!"
"If Erika's been here and we still had to fight through that mess...! Scary crazy sorceress lady or no, I'll have words for her."
"Er, no honey, sorry. Why on earth are you out here?"
"And a very nice garden it is, too."
"Boys, we have a quest!"
"More important than killing Emperor Hawthorne?"
"You bet your fuzzy white butt!"
First things first, Byff busts down the barrier around that chest in the corner. It has...some Graymold Salve, an Armor Elixir (spineshield/shield chant/regeneration), and a wand that costs Shield Chant. Meh.
"I wonder where her sister could be?"
"Oh, well then."
"Hi honey! And it's very nice singing."
"Yes, we met your sister, over on the other side of the garden."
"If you don't mind my saying, lady, you got kind of a crappy lot in life. What's to love about this place?"
"I...can't imagine why your sister might not appreciate your singing."
"Uh...huh. Okay. Nice talking with you, ma'am."
The chest in this corner has a couple of bandages and a healing and curing elixir. Also meh!
"We spoke with your sister; she said you had an interest in stonework?"
"The fountain? It's nice, I suppose; what's special about it?"
And here's the reason for the golem twins: they tell you about Khoth in case you somehow managed to stumble across this place at random.
...though she doesn't know how to get past the wards, nor where Khoth is. Still, it's really rather impressive how the game helps you get quests back on-track when you interrupt them in the middle.
Helena's opinion on the fountain:
"There was a time I thought of nothing more than escaping this place...it is a nice fantasy, isn't it?"
I'm reminded of the sidequest in Exile 3 where you served as couriers to facilitate a game of play-by-mail chess. Except it involved considerably more running back and forth, and considerably less dialog. Ellen's opinion on the world outside the tower:
"I like you. You understand this magic bullshit about as well as I do."
"I don't understand dragons."
"It's simple, hon. Khoth doesn't like humans, so when humans pay him to help them protect something, he subtly sabotages his protections by telling people to come to him to learn to bypass them!"
"Plus, this way he gets visitors, and he can charge those visitors services in exchange for his advice. Like he made us recover that scroll of his."
"That seems excessively contrived."
"Well, he is a dragon. Nobody said they had to be straightforward."
"Anyway, we already know how to get through, right? So let's get on with the getting through."
"Well, here goes nothing."
"Wait. The fountain's on the other side of this wall, right? How do we get in?"
"There's got to be a switch around here [/i]somewhere."
Hope you like pixel hunts! Or you could wander around mashing the "u" button to highlight interactable objects, because realistically there's no way you're finding this switch otherwise.
Do you see it?
Yeah. That's a little excessive.
"Well, bottoms up!"
"That won't help; it's the magic in the water that's afflicting us, not the water itself."
"But what did it do?"
"Hmm...it's hard to say."
In the previous version of the game, this permanently drained 2 DEX points from each character. As far as I can tell, in this version it does nothing!
"Eh, not bad. It's a little weak, though. Gimme another hit!"
"There goes the definition of insanity."
"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?"
"Oh, yes, that too."
"Ahh, y'all're just a bunch of lightweights! One more for the road!"
"Woo! Now that is the good stuff!"
And we get a full health/energy restore and some experience!
In the previous version this would have given everyone 5 DEX points, more than restoring what was drained.
"Okay, lady, you've had your fun, let's get going."
"You heard the lawyer."
"Hey guys, that's an ambush if I ever saw one."
"Still, not much we can do about it. There's only one route through here."
"Nothing for it but to counter-ambush them, then!"
Four each of Cryos and Mung Demons. After facing Grah-Hoth's screaming hordes, this is nothing.
"For glory and not the Empire!"
Four each of Fiery and Mung Demons, plus a Haakai. I decide, what the hell, we have all these Energy Elixirs we made earlier, Elly can spam the lot of them with Divine Retribution.
She kills all of them, in three shots.
"Wait...a third wall?"
"Nobody warned us about this one."
"Byff, Elly, any opinions?"
"It appears to be self-reinforcing; I doubt I have the resources to break or subvert it."
"And it's shielded on multiple planes of existence. I can't even see it all."
"Hrm. So what do we do?"
"...buncha dainty flowers. Look, it's the same as all the fights we've had, right? I draw its attention, you go through. No big deal."
"You're sure about this?"
"Look, as long as it doesn't use cold magic, I'll be fine! Right? Right! So here goes!"
"Like I said. Now if you don't mind, I need to sit down for a bit."
"Wangster, you ain't fooling nobody. I can hear your heartrate from here, bucko."
"Look, if I didn't do that, we would've had to run back to Erika, listening to Kane bitch and moan the entire time, right? I made my choice."
Okay, it's time for me to grumble about remake revisionism again. This used to be a proper location, with its own map and everything. Nobody told you about it, it was an obstacle that you weren't prepared for.
In it, you would fight a Doomguard. Doomguards were animated suits of armor covered in blades, completely immune to magic. But more importantly, every time you damaged one, a copy would appear next to it. The original and the copy would both have the same amount of health, so eventually you could whittle down the swarming horde of blade golems -- if you hit one and destroyed it outright, then it wouldn't split. But it was a hectic and tricky fight, and I would dearly have loved to see it given the re-re-make treatment as the original game (and the first remake) weren't much for boss battles in general.
I can speculate as to why it was removed. The scale of the maps has been roughly doubled, which leaves a lot more room for new Doomguards to spawn in. Some of the techniques for limiting Doomguard replications relied on being able to create damage fields or summon massive numbers of coaligned monsters, neither of which is possible in this game. And, cynically, the Doomguard would probably require its own custom art asset, as none of the existing creature models are really a good match for it.
The weird thing is, Aydin's Tower has a piece of flavor text that mentions Doomguards and their ability to replicate. So they exist in lore. They just don't exist in game.
Except that the above is all wrong! Thread poster Vil kindly directed me to the equivalent update of the Exile 1 LP (spoiler warning, natch), which likewise has two towers and then an inexplicable, redundant check to make certain you have a Royal Seal. The Doomguard I was remembering? Is from Exile 2, which also has an endgame quest in this vicinity, and this time one of the towers has a Doomguard for you to fight. And sure enough, Doomguards are in Avernum 2: Crystal Souls.
Guess ol' TMA is getting senile in his old age.
Anyway, enough grumbling. We have an Emperor to kill.
Just the game hamfistedly making certain you've learned to fly. I believe the Orb is absolutely required for each of the three victory conditions.
"And not hiding this time. I suppose they figured it wasn't helping them any."
"Oh. Well then."
"Just a quick hop and a skip..."
"And here we are. Ready to claim your vengeance, Kane?"
"Actually, if it's all the same to you, I vote we make camp here."
"Hey, I'm all for a nice nap. But why the wait?"
"Because it's entirely possible that we might not come back from...wherever we end up. And if I'm going to be facing death tomorrow, then tonight I want to spend with my friends and good food...or as best as can be managed."
"Right you are. Sounds like I'd better get to cooking, then. You know, I smuggled in some spices when I got exiled? Never found an excuse to use 'em before, though."
"I'm surprised you didn't sell them."
"What kind of man do you take me for? Food is important. And if ever there was a time for good food, it's the night before we make a move on His Imperial Imperiousness."
"Don't forget the booze!"
"If there's one thing I can say with confidence, it's that I will never forget Avernite alcohol."
"Too bad you couldn't smuggle in some decent ale, Elly."
"Mm, no, but I bet I could make you hallucinate into thinking that this swill was good!"
"I'll pass, thanks."
"If we are to die, it will be for a good cause! To friends and freedom!"
The map of the Black Spire:
And of the Barrier Tower: