Part 4: Just the Absolute WorstUpdate 4: Just the Absolute Worst
Resuming the game, we're headed eastwards out of Midova to Aliero, and usefully enough, the first thing we see as we look down the road is a pack of worms. Let's test out how well the drums work on them.
The answer is that they work...
A bit jankily. In Krondor, you used the tuning fork and all trolls would bail for the edge of the battlefield to retreat as soon as their turn rolled around. In Antara, it seems to reliably make 3 out of 4 worms(all the groups I tested on were 4-worm groups) flee instantly, but the fourth worm would hang around doing nothing for multiple turns. In one case I lost my patience and just killed it, and it never fought back, and in the other cases they seemed to sit around for three to four turns before also instantly running away.
It raises some questions about Antara's morale mechanics which are very hard to parse. In Krondor you only had enemies run away when their own health was quite low, in Antara it also seems to be tied to how well their whole group is doing, as sometimes killing one or two enemies will make a completely "intact" enemy start legging it.
Anyway, this means that I largely won't have to waste my time killing these particular enemies without loot from now on, so it's back to travel.
I think Aliero is meant to be a mountain-y sort of town, the game simulates this by giving the terrain leading up towards it stair steps to indicate that it's rising, because Antara's engine can handle height differences, but not gradual slopes. Which is honestly a bit odd since it seems to be a direct descendant of Krondor's engine, and Krondor's engine could at least handle the slight sloping that happened at the start and end of every bridge in the game.
Now, there's Aliero, but before Aliero... there's a cave! And caves are always interesting.
This one is a, and possibly the only, I can't quite recall, mine-style cave in Antara, and thank God for that. 90% of it is nice, regular square corridors where I don't bounce off the geometry all the time.
Several of the intersections are these more natural-looking caves, but they're not too complicated and the worst enemies they occasionally hold are some Masliths and Carliths, which aren't much of a threat, especially now that I have Fidali Paste to neutralize even large poison scores.
The cool thing here is that this room has something special besides the little pond! Can you see it? I sure fucking can't.
Even with the "find hidden minerals"-spell up, the deposits are only visible by being slightly brighter sections of the wall.
They either produce just plain money or decent-quality gems, but whether we get anything at all(though not, I think, the volume/quality) is down to our Foraging skill. This means that I actually end up burning through my three pickaxes down here when one high-difficulty(or just cursed-RNG) deposit melts through two full ones without yielding anything.
A couple of places the mine corridors are also intersected by these rift-looking cave structures. Somewhere in the background lore is a mention of an ancient chamber in these mine containing technological artifacts from a non-magical forerunner civilization, but there's no sign of anything like that here. It's always disappointing when the writing hints at stuff like that, and then you can't poke at any of it.
And, you know, sometimes this game can actually look perfectly fine! Good, even! This little cave lake with the stepping stone bridge feels like a neat place to come across. All it's really lacking is a few nice stalactites or something to really "sell" it as a cool cave.
Aside from the gems and a few nice things to look at, though, there's nothing important in the Aliero Mines, so now we can pop over to the town itself.
The structures up here are a bit different from the ones down in the south, more bricky while the ones down south were... more non-bricky? I don't quite know the term. But it's nice that it's not just the same house model reproduced across the entire world map.
Also one of the houses here contains some free pies. Sure, just go ahead and yank those cold pies out of an abandoned house and eat them, you fucking slobs.
Can't hear you over how much pie we've got.
The house behind it...
I feel like we had something like this exact convo with a random farmer in Krondor.
Leaving that house, I discover a puzzle chest chilling in the plants behind the town.
So if you aren't thinking, you'll spell out SENAEDRIN here, and be puzzled that it won't work.
The answer is actually D-EN-N-A if you read the description on a bottle of Senwater.
The reward being a book that boosts the reader's Foraging skill. I could've used that before I hit the mine.
Appropriately enough the sole store in town sells mostly mining supplies and also finally buys our gems. Between the various pearls and stuff the party's picked up from chests and the stuff from the mine, it's about 400 Burlas which isn't bad at all. The only novel item here is Beeswax which repairs bows.
There's also a new tavern, and what I will absolutely congratulate Antara for is that every tavern and store has a different image, unlike in Krondor where there were three or four of each that got repeated over and over. We also have an NPC we can talk to here.
Poor guy. At least he had someone to listen to his woes, though.
And the last house at the edge of town fills it out. Aliero has had it rough.
Heading east out of Aliero towards Imazi, it starts to become obvious that taking the northern route must've been what the devs intended, despite Kaelyn pointing you towards Balmestri. Every encounter up here is against smaller groups and no mages.
On the south side of the narrow pass are a few narrow canyons with some enemies and a bit of loot in them. The only thing of notice is that one of the loot chests there is a code chest.
The name for the three deities of Antara as a whole.
Not a big score, but still nice.
On the north side of the pass is this ledge which starts high up near Aliero and then drops in height towards the middle of the pass where it's just as low as the "steps" up to Aliero, but despite being so low it's still just treated as a wall which offends my brain slightly.
As soon as we're out of the pass to Aliero, we're right on top of Imazi, which looks more like the towns we've visited so far.
Oh, yeah, Imazi is where some dickhead noble was repossessing people's farms due to bad crop yields! Sounds like an absolute asshole. I wonder what other sort of damage he's doing to this place.
Something a bit odd about this river, too...
Ha ha, oh yeah, he's responsible for the starving and aggressive Montari, too, due to damming up the river for his fucking moat.
William is just the apex of good taste in jokes.
Oh and he's also taking bribes and pressuring local craftsmen. Sounds like he is, in fact, a greedy prick.
The store here has one new thing of importance, which is a weapon upgrade for Aren at long last. Very nice. I also take the chance to swap out William and Kaelyn's swords again. I'm not sure whether it's a consequence of their low maintenance skills or still being relatively early days in weapon hardiness, but it feels like it's consistently impossible for them to keep them well-repaired and they need swapping out for entirely new ones sooner or later.
Maybe we should have a talk with "Lord Garsson" and see what he's got to say for himself...
It appears that what he has to say for himself is unending justifications for being an abusive shithead. We can't do anything about it... for now. Antara seems to have a generally more jaundiced view of nobles than Krondor does, which includes their often being assholes and also includes their feeling the consequences of being assholes.
Heading east out of Imazi we're really just on the road to Briala again, where there's nothing new for us, but along the way I do run into this very long fence.
It leads to a very large farm that I can't find a way to interact with, possibly it's something that becomes relevant in later chapters or maybe it's just set dressing. I couldn't find any mentions of anything to do here. So, with the visitable area fully explored, I decide to head off and do a bit of cleanup, which is mostly me dragging large amounts of spare Leather Armors to Midova where they sell for about 120 gold a piece before heading down to Panizo so William will finally have to deal with his family again.
Like Midova, Panizo is a Cube City, but without brick walls.
The large structure at the top is obviously the Escobar Estate, and interacting with it ends the chapter, so let's visit the three other buildings first.
There's an armor merchant which sells a nice armor upgrade, Chainmail, better in literally every way than Leather Armor. It's also worth noting there here you get a mere 22 gold for sold Leather Armors, which is less than 20% of what you get for them in Midova. Another item of note is the Oil, which is like Naphtha from Krondor in that it gives your sword extra damage for a battle.
I also like how just a change of armor suddenly makes Kaelyn and William not look like dorks wearing rags and instead like actual soldiers or mercenaries.
Another bulding is, of course, an inn, where we can talk to the barmaid.
I'm not even sure what to really say about this whole interaction. It makes William seem like kind of a dick because maybe he shouldn't be fooling around with this girl when he's got a marriage incoming, even if it's likely a political one.
And the last building is a very underwhelming bookstore. The only new thing it has is, well.
A book about lizard sex that makes characters better at gambling. I have no idea how the gambling works in Antara, some inns have a single guy who wants to play cards with you, and my experience with gambling in these games is that it's either A) a complete and utter money sink(like real gambling) or B) you've found a glitch in the system and it generates infinite money. As I have yet to find a glitch, I won't be wasting the party's money on this.
On the gambling, that is, I still get the book for completion's sake. Then turn around and sell it right back to the guy because unlike in Krondor using a skill-boosting item consumes nothing from it.
That's all there is to do in Panizo, though, time to watch the cutscene for ending the chapter...
I feel like what's really missing in Antara, personally, is the like... stakes. If we really care about the characters, then personal stakes like "William has dad problems" and "Aren wants to become a wizard" are fuel enough. But... man, maybe it takes time, but I just don't care that much about these characters so far.
Krondor plays it much safer there, having a threat to the entire Kingdom pop up from the very first cutscene, pretty much.
Still, it sounds like in chapter 2 we'll at least be dealing with a wizard and then some court drama.