Part 3: Still Avoiding The PlotUpdate 3: Still Avoiding The Plot
So last we left off, we were about halfway between Balmestri and Sortiga. As I start up the game again and go over my stuff, I then notice a serious problem. I had been assuming that weapon maintenance was less "strict" in Antara than Krondor due to whetstones not being a common drop but instead a thing I've so far only found in two stores(Balmestri and Briala, and I won't have found them in any more stores by the end of this update). It turns out I'm super wrong and my swords are down to like 25% durability, which is why it's felt like they've been falling off damage-wise in the last couple of battles.
My heading back to Balmestri is mostly off-screen except for one fun bug that happened on the way.
Antara lacks the very obvious "dang, we're heading south now, proceed?" and "dang, we're heading north now, proceed?" dialogue chunks that separate Krondor's world map into sectors, but it does have separate sectors that need to load in as you travel between them. Usually this just means some terrain looking a bit barren and then suddenly trees and stuff popping in but this time... the terrain didn't load. I must've found a hole in the triggers or something. I had to run back and forth a few times to make the north part of the coastline actually load in so I could, you know, go places.
Once I get up there my swords are actually so busted that I replace them entirely and buy whetstones.
Along the way, I run into some pirates with a mage and decide to test out the "learning magic from watching enemies cast it"-thing.
With a bit of patience, I get this guy to cast Hotfoot at William. It's a direct-fire spell(i.e. it can miss) that does 3/4's of the damage of the lightning spell, at almost twice the casting cost. This makes it, in 90% of all cases, a worse option. The remaining 10% are when enemies aren't carrying swords(like animals or mages), or when the side-effect is useful. The side-effect it has is that when cast at max power(and when would you cast it at any other power tier?) it shifts the target to a random hex next to the one they start in. This can sometimes be used to buy a bit of space.
And whaddaya know, after the battle it turns out to be correct. This does change the uh, calculus of the game a bit in that for now, as long as enemy mages aren't mustering one-shot-kill stuff, I should obviously let them get off a spell or two before I aim for them and possibly leave them for last rather than going for them first. But imagine just coming to this game after Krondor and not knowing that, and thus screwing yourself out of so many magical unlocks by thinking you were a clever boy who always took out the wizards first.
Sortiga doesn't look awfully different from the other towns we've visited on the coast so far, but it has some new people to talk to and a new store to poke around in.
The first two houses introduce us to Sortiga's sidequest, where we're going to help someone get a wedding on the road, though, honestly, it doesn't particularly feel like a wedding I want to see happen. These guys sound kind of like assholes.
Before I find the third house in town related to this quest, though, I stumble into the local shop.
It has a few new items we haven't seen. The drums are Antara's version of the Tuning Fork from Krondor, but for worms instead of trolls and you can't just go ahead and use it, you need to find an NPC who teaches you the trick. The Fidali Leaves can be mixed with the otherwise largely useless Ale bottles every second enemy carries to produce Fidali Paste which is a counter-venom item that cures about 50% poison per use as far as I can tell. I'm also not sure if anything in the game ever quite tells you this, and it doesn't seem like Fidali Leaves have any use by themselves.
Lastly there are the Nudberries, which I can find absolutely zero information about anywhere. I'm not sure if they have any use or what. They do look nice, though, their flavour text informs us they're a crop pest, but I'd taste one. I end up buying enough Fidali Leaves for a full stack of Fidali Paste(bizarrely the Paste stacks top out at 10 while both ale and leaves stack up to 12, an odd and annoying choice).
Around the corner we meet the last of the NPC's relevant to the town's quest. This idiot mislaid the wedding rings and, of course, we can save his ass. The only hint is that he hid them "near the coast."
Out near the coast there are no obvious containers, no chests or big mounds of stone to dig through.
After walking back and forth a few times, I finally spot this little bump on the beach. It's supremely hard to see unless you're almost right on top of it, and I wouldn't be surprised if I'd missed a couple of these along the coastline in other places.
I was wondering if this was a unique tradition to Antara or if it's something people do/did in the real world, too. I've never heard of rings for your firstborn kids. Anyway, let's see if the blond fella is thankful for this.
He doesn't seem too chuffed about it, but he still gives us a reward. It's a book that gives +5 Scouting to whoever reads it. Unlike in Krondor, books can only be read once by each character, rather than one guaranteed bonus and then a bunch of gacha rolls for more skill boosts. The way it works here it feels a bit like he might as well just have given us a +5 Scouting bonus as a reward for completing the quest rather than wasting our time.
Time to head back a bit east and then north to Ligano.
The road is, as per the older man in Sortiga, absolutely clogged with starving and angry Montari which we have no option but to kill. It's kind of a shame that, despite knowing what the problem is, we can't just pass them some rations and go on our way. I'll also note that so far, despite like... I wanna say 30+ fights, I've succeeded at all of one attempted ambushes. They are definitely a lot harder to manage than in Krondor, though not having any real access to a Weed Walker equivalent so far probably isn't helping. The semi-unintended route I took in Betrayal at Krondor got the party equipped with nice ambush shoes pretty early on, almost certainly earlier than the game was balanced for.
In this particular fight, the Montari mage uses a new spell, Tortoise Bind, on Aren. It seems as far as I can tell to be a strictly worse version of Unseeing Eye. Unlike Unseeing Eye it doesn't lower the target's accuracy, and instead trades that in for lowering their initiative. Since as far as I can tell all characters and enemies always get their one action per round, I'd rather make that action have a bigger chance of missing than making it come later.
It turns out they were guarding another code chest, and unlike the first one, this one I figure out relatively quickly.
Sadly all it contains is a stack of rations, nothing I'll turn down but I feel like chests so far are generally more of a letdown.
So far it's also worth noting that except for one stack of rocks and the sand lump on the beach, literally every lootable interactible(rocks, chests, etc.) we've found have been at the end of a path of some sort, never just in the wilds. This is a stark contrast to Krondor where almost every such object was, in fact, just hidden behind a hill, or behind some random trees, usually never hinted at by a path. So when I get here, about halfway between Sortiga and Ligano, the road suddenly widens up and there's a big woody dip in to the right, I instantly think: "hell yeah! gotta be some sweet swag hidden in here!" and dive off the road to check it out.
And then when I'm almost at the treeline, something very fucking odd happens.
Suddenly every single tree is a different type! Like I've entered another kind of biome!
And the world behind me has disappeared!
I walk around for a while and find absolutely nothing. I note that there's a reference to a busted "gully" south of Ligano on some forum posts, apparently an issue with the GOG version that doesn't exist with the original has bugged out an area near Ligano to not contain a temple to Henne that it normally would, due to game files on the game's two CD's having the same names and the devs not being sure how to make it call the right one. As far as I know this one may yet be unfixed and... maybe this is it? Maybe the bug is fucking up this place and making it not have a temple it normally would?
I'm genuinely unsure. Maybe it's relevant later in the game.
Back on the road I'm soon right by Ligano.
The only notable incident on the road is that the gang has gotten good enough with melee that I've taken them off mainly using Thrust attacks and on to using Swing attacks instead, which gives them on average +5 damage. It might not sound like a lot, but considering that William and Kaelyn were doing about 25 damage before, the upgrade to ~30 damage is still about +20%.
Ligano, like every other town in the game, has a stock of colourful NPC's who'll talk to us, but probably the least of any of the towns we've been in so far.
I'm not sure whether this is a result of us killing every group of Montari on the road to the south or whether we always get this dialogue on arrival.
I later learn that this was supposed to be a subtle hint that using some food on the house, i.e. giving it to Kalyx, would make him offer us some training(+5 Defense across the party). This is one place where I feel like Antara is a definite downgrade from Krondor, its handling of encounters like this. In Krondor, we would've terminated the conversation on a yes/no prompt to giving him some food, making it absolutely clear how much food would be given and that it was an option at all. In Antara it's all so much more vague, and there's never any tutorial element to make you keep an eye out for things like this, nor is it ever common enough to keep you on your toes for NPC's looking for inventory objects.
Aside from Kalyx and Rosie, the town also has an inn with no NPC's and two other houses to poke at.
And lastly a store.
This one has a lot of exotic stuff. Yelloweye is a nightvision potion, not sure why it would ever be superior to using torches which are much cheaper, maybe having no torches lit increases ambush chances underground or at night? Halder's Brew is a strength booster, I don't know what "An Optics Primer" does since of course it's the only book on the wiki without its effects described, but I would assume it boosts Assessment or Archery. Rings of the Ranger passively increase Scouting. Dervish Disks... I have absolutely no idea about because once again no one on the internet appears to have noted what they're good for. It's not on the wiki, it's in no FAQ's, so it's a complete and utter mystery.
From memory I think they're used to cast a powerful spell once, but if that's the case then their cost is completely insane unless it's a "win any battle"-spell. If I find one or eventually get a huge money surplus to buy one with, I'll test one out and report back. Fucking mystery-ass game.
On the east side of Ligano is this little gap in the rocks which is INCREDIBLY annoying to navigate because, like in Krondor, you "bounce" off walls you hit at anything less than a completely 90-degree angle, but unlike in Krondor walls are no longer neat, straight geometric lines and instead have more realistic and organic shapes which means that moving down one of these narrow crevices, or narrow cave corridors, feels distinctly like being a pinball.
It does look rather pleasant, though, even if there's nothing at the end. Probably the place will be relevant in a later chapter or quest... or maybe this is where there was meant to be a temple which was bugged out of existence. The supposed temporary "fix" for said non-existent temple involves deleting a game file before approaching it, then placing it back again after leaving the area. For a game as janky and unstable as Antara, I think I'd rather not provoke it to wig out any more on me than it already does.
A short distance northeast of Ligano a bunch of Montari are menacing some vague, coloured blobs on the road.
As usual it goes extremely poorly for the Montari, after which I step in to see what the vague blobs want. It turns out they're Senaedrin nuns.
The janky part about this conversation is that the sisters want more food than is in a single stack, but because, once again, handing people stuff can't just be part of a dialogue, you have to hand stuff over and have a dialogue for it twice, with the first one resulting in nothing.
In addition to healing us when we first talk with them, and the reward for handing them the rations, this now makes them warp to Aspreza where they'll spend the time between chapter 1 and chapter 2 helping with the Feeblepox outbreak. This means that somewhat more NPC's will be alive there if we visit again in later chapters, meaning some more dialogue and a few rewards as well.
Also, of course, despite the dialogue there's no time limit on actually reaching the Sisters here and helping them out. They'll wait till doomsday(or at least the start of chapter 2) before despawning.
Having done this, I then promptly turn around and head westwards away from Ligano instead, intending to reach the western limit of how far we can explore before looping north to Midova.
As far as I'm aware, Poolkeep is nowhere in the explorable gameworld, nor is it mentioned anywhere. However, the answer is nonetheless possible to figure out...
Either by simply seeing it's an option or recalling that we've only met one group of expert burrowers so far.
This time, at least, the reward is more worth it. That's a very nice sapphire. However, I'll note that even by the end of this update, I've yet to find a damn store that buys gems. I managed to offload the brooches found farther down south in Ligano, but, and I feel like I'm saying this a lot, unlike in Krondor, Antara shops tend to be far more specialized both in what they sell and what they buy.
With mages being less threatening(at least so far), combat in Antara is(at least so far), notably less interesting. I'm skipping over most encounters that don't introduce anything new or kick my ass as a result. You'd think that the zones of control would spice them up, but seeing as how each character can only "control" one hex immediately in front of them, you can't control facing(or even which hex an enemy is attacked from, the nearest is always picked even if there are multiple options) and the zone "only" prevents casting, archery and moving straight through, rather than, say, provoking attacks of opportunity, they don't actually spice things up that much.
If the ZoC could be "guarded" and facing could be chosen, it would quickly become viable to have Kaelyn and William run interference for Aren while he chucked out spells. Combined with some sort of obstructions on the battlefield you could actually make tactical decisions or bottle enemies up.
I have vague memories of battle maps with obstructions, but since it's close to 20 years since I last played this, that may well just be a flaw of my memory.
Almost as soon as the road from Ligano meets the north/south road from Panizo to Midova, there's a cleft in the cliffs to the west.
It opens up to this nice-looking foresty meadowy area, but if we attempt to cross the bridge, William pours cold water on our fun.
Doesn't seem to stop us making a detour every time we're almost there.
I said I need to, not that I want to. We're taking every excuse we can to put it off.
Really? I've always wanted to see the mines in Aliero...
We're headed for Imazi anyway, so it's not much of a detour.
Oh, I'm sure you're deeply concerned about lord whats-his-face in Imazi.
I'd be lax in my filial duties if I didn't keep an eye on worrisome rumours near my father's estate.
See that huge square lump up there? That's Midova.
Krondor solved the issues of "towns too big to explain away as five houses by the roadside" by letting you approach their invisible outskirts, and then hoovering you in to a hand-drawn screen displaying the glory of the local area and often looking quite nice.
For Antara they for some reason did not simply tuck these towns away inside the omnipresent cliffs or after a lot of fields or something else that would let them warp you in from a distance. Instead they just encased them in these big protective cubes which look hilariously bad.
Like, alright, fair if you're going to wall them in. But then at least give them like... some guard towers or a gatehouse or something.
Before ducking into the city, I check out a hole in the cliff across from the gates.
All it contains is this scroll which is a quest item for a quest which we can't access for, I think, another two chapters. We also can't read it or anything, we just have to remember the family name and keep an eye out for when it pops up. Anyway, Midova!
The cube cities get little subscreens like this, it looks nice enough but it feels like a step down from Krondor's sweeping pieces of almost-painterly art.
The only thing of notice in the inn is that it has a single-verse drinking song. I do like it, though.
Two of the five buildings are also inaccessible at the moment, but I think both of them become relevant as part of the main plot as the game advances.
The local store is an armor store, but it sells nothing we haven't seen before, just leather jerkins, leather armors, rope and drums. The great thing about it, though, is that it lets us sell all the leather armors we've been picking up from the Montari along the way and they sell for FAT loads. The party gets close to 1000 Burlas once I'm done going back and sweeping the roads for more sellables.
The last building, the big one up north, is a market, which actually has four people to interact with: the nearest stall on the right, the middle stall on the right, the alley in the back and the nearest NPC on the screen(listed in that order because that's the order I interact with them in).
The first two are just fluff, this one is a sweets seller who tells us that the Montari apparently make the best chocolate in the Empire. Odd, not what I'd usually associate with mole people. But sure.
The next one is a vegetable merchant, and "please do not wave my carrot disdainfully" will never stop being funny to me.
The guy in the back tempts us with a "magical bracelet," and while it seems SUPER shady, I can't remember if it's bullshit or not so I click yes since it's pretty cheap...
All it gives us is a low-quality piece of jewelry. I'm like 90% sure it won't recover our losses if we sell it, but that it is something sellable makes the financial sting a lot less bad.
Lastly, the guy nearest the screen is the guy who teaches us how to use drums to scare off Field Worms. Seeing as how Field Worms drop nothing and only serve to waste our weapon durability and my patience, this seems like a win to me and is really the main reason(aside from selling armor) to come to Midova at this point, since there are no quests that start or terminate here for the time being.
Next stop: Aliero, Imazi and then at long last Panizo. But that's for the next update.