Part 6: TeaUpdate 6: Tea
We pick up outside of Midova. For reference, we're currently looking for tea, so a wizard will talk to us and take Aren under his wing, so he, too, can become a super wizard. But the tea has been repossessed by a loan shark who wants us to hunt down a guy who owes him money. For inscrutable reasons we aren't just pounding his head in and taking the tea, thus improving the world considerably along the way. All we know about the loan-ower is that he's in "Montari Territory," and where we encountered the most Montari was between Balmestri and Sortiga, so we sort of know where to go.
Since I, uh, missed a bit of content in Imazi, however, and Briala and Aspreza have also been updated a bit for chapter 2(but not, oddly enough, Balmestri, Ligano or Sortiga), I'll be taking the long way down the east coast to clean up some of all that stuff.
The trip to Imazi is zero danger, since I already cleared it. Now let's poke our heads into Farmer Brunia's new cave. It strongly feels like there should be some kind of dialogue prior to ducking in, but I guess not.
Since we're dealing with some generic bandits, I decide to try out some of the new spells that Aren's been picking up in the meantime. First up is Web, cast at full power.
Web is actually pretty good at slowing down enemies if you get it off first, with the caveat that the web itself just sort of "flows" randomly from the target point. This means that casting it in the middle of a bunch of enemy melee combatants, it may either perfectly slow them down or inhibit you as much as it does them. Probably the best use is to drop it in the "escape corner," upper left, so that fleeing enemies can be picked off with spells and arrows before they get out of the combat area.
As an interesting note, unlike Owyn in Krondor, Aren is perfectly capable of calling down lightning from the sky to hit enemies even when below several meters of solid rock and dirt.
Next up is a group of five bandits, nothing interesting there, they go down like chumps. Lastly, however...
Four wizards in a super krangled combat plane? Please, what are they going to do? Not like wizards have been any kind of threat so far.
Turns out they have a new spell I can't get access to yet which looks like a projectile that can miss. It does, however, not miss any of the times they cast it and they just toast down Aren in a single round, prompting some amount of terror since judging by the usual spell costs I expect that they can cast it twice or thrice per caster per battle, meaning they can, if their AI judges it a good idea and I don't bully them appropriately, actually torch my entire team.
It feels like my owning them and not vice versa is more luck than skill. Anyway, let's head out and tell the farmer that we killed some people he hopefully wanted us to kill since we know nothing about them and more or less just killed them for being slightly shady in the wrong place.
His face always weirds me out, I'm not sure why.
Okay, cool, we've now given him control of a literal gold mine. We're not given a reward for this or any sort of immediate feedback that we did something smart, but as far as I can tell it might be important later.
We haven't seen Briala since the start of the game, but it has undergone a few changes.
Laura still hasn't moved from the well since we were last here, she's just been standing there, pining for Aren.
I feel like Laura dodged a bullet here, Aren seems extremely excited about this new lifestyle which sees him murdering several people per day, to the point that it matters more to him than a woman he was prepared to marry just a month ago. Maybe we can help her feel better, though...
Well, her mom certainly isn't any help. Maybe we can set her up with some eligible bachelor? Who do we know in this town?
And that's basically the end of that subplot. Laura, Scott and Laura's mom vanish from the game from this point onwards as far as I can tell, but at least we tried to bring it to a happy ending? While we're in town we can also visit Aren's dad a last time.
It goes better than saying goodbye to Laura does, though that's not saying much. Last thing to do in town is check up on whether or not we managed to save those cows.
The reward for having saved this guy's cows is that we get a full stack of Senwater, which is pretty good as rewards go. Since we can't get spells directly from scrolls any longer, really the only meaningful rewards are Senwater and equipment upgrades, the latter of which are reasonably rare.
Next stop: Aspreza, which is hopefully less plagued this time around.
Last time we were here, all the doors with a red diamond on them got some mild variety of: "let's not fuck around with this place, everyone inside is probably busy dying horribly." and no further results. Now that we've helped the Sisters north of Ligano by clearing out the Montari and giving them a stack of food, all four doors with red diamonds now have actual interactions. One of them being somewhat important, but most of them just being fluff.
As far as I can tell this is the only place in the game you can pay an NPC to repair stuff for you, which is pretty important as you'll occasionally stumble across a gear upgrade which starts with dogshit durability, and stuff you just pick up off the ground you can't immediately repair, it has to suffer some wear and tear in combat first, at which point you may then be able to laboriously inch it back up over its original damaged state. This is a bit of a difference from Krondor where A) stuff you picked up off the ground or dead enemies was repairable immediately nine times out of ten and B) where you very quickly got the skill levels to repair stuff 20 or 25 percentage points in a go if it was already rather beat up.
If we hadn't helped out Aspreza, this would be denied to us, mind you, which is why doing so is rather big deal. Also of course for about 2/3rds of the game's chapters we also won't have access to Aspreza, so.
The reward for this is one of the rare-ish Emerald Shieldstones which I'm still desperately trying to find a shopkeeper that'll buy, since effective use of them would largely require being psychic. Still, nice of them. And it makes no difference if you choose cards or magic to entertain the kids with, except for the descriptive text that results.
Just one last house left, now.
I still always forget to use Tonguecoat before selling and buying, but at least we helped an old man, ain't that nice of us?
Now, back on the road to finding the mysterious Enkudi.
While heading along the southern coast past Balmestri, I get waylaid by a bandit ambush and decide it's a good chance to test out another one of Aren's new spells, Blazing Barricade.
Unlike a lot of non-"blow a mans up"-spells, this one actually has some uses! It creates this flaming field(always with the same radius, sometimes William or Kaelyn will spawn where the barricade would, in which case... move them before casting it. It knows no friendly fire) which does damage = duration(max of 20) to any enemies walking into it, and any round they end in it, they eat a further 2 to 3 damage, but for some reason it sometimes does this damage twice or even thrice, I don't understand the logic. If you stack up William and Kaelyn in front of Aren, enemies will usually very obligingly go stand in the fire to whack at them, and since it'll usually add up to being about another swing's worth of damage over the fight, it can make them go down a lot quicker.
The main downside is that to make the most of it, you'll usually end up with a formation where Aren loses line-of-sight on most enemies, making him a bit less useful. But especially if you're fighting enemies that he can't Lightning Bolt away anyway, it might be superior.
The other downside is that chasing after fleeing enemies becomes more complicated and requires that you have a good set of bow and arrows, or some ranged spells and Aren in the right position, to blow them up.
It actually took me forever to find this jackass since "Montari territory," to me, was the coastal stretch between Sortiga and Balmestri, but he's actually a good bit along the road between Sortiga and Ligano, quite far inland.
I love how confused the party is at the concept that someone might just want to help others. If you can't write an essay justifying why you want to help people, something fishy's up. Now, we don't actually have to finish Enkudi's task for him, since he already gave us the gems for Antoni, but there's an extremely good reason to do so.
So now we actually go to the Montari. Thankfully no enemies have respawned in their tunnels, at last not in any of the areas I went through.
At the very backmost part of the cave, down a small tunnel I missed, is this dried-up stream.
Aside from the stream, there's also a chest I'm very happy to find.
Despite looking almost exactly like the chainmail the party's already wearing, this is Montari chain mail, identifiable as such by the black diamond in the middle. This suit is busted all to fuck and thus completely useless to wear until I think to haul it back to Aspreza and pay to get it repaired, but when it's fully repaired it's 20% more protective and 30% more resistant to falling apart than standard chainmail. Seeing as how it's the third-best armor in the game, it's also a while before we can actually just go buy this from a store.
Anyway, to complete the quest, you gotta jam the divining rod into the trickling stream, but it's a bit kludgy since you gotta find the one spot it'll accept.
Neither Chee from the colony or Enkudi has any dialogue about us having done this, but the reason we do it is that it has a hidden benefit.
In that it unlocks Aren's access to Water magic! And if I remember right, there are some absolutely busted spells in there. For now, all it does is unlock Dehydrate, which is the same as the basic melee-range static zap spell, except it does a tiny bit less damage and, presumably, works against targets immune to electric damage, if the game has any of those.
What follows from here is a walk back up to Midova to get Antoni off of Paolo's back, so we can finally, after like an in-game month, get Finch his tea, and thus get him to teach Aren about magic.
Relatively speedy trip.
Now to go to Paolo...
It's worth noting that despite Paolo mentioning a refund, we never actually paid a dime to order the Chailan Tea in the first place.
The magic powder is, sadly, dogshit, because unless an encounter has specifically owned me before and I happen to know fired weapons were why, there are no real ways to identify when enemies are using or might be using weapon boosts.
And tea. I'm not sure why the sprite is a literal teapot when all the descriptions are as though it's just, you know, dried tea leaves, as is reasonable.
So, I have a couple of issues with this entire sequence. First, fuck him for having had the tea all along. Secondly...
They make a big deal of Aren "not knowing magic good yet" when by this point he has reasonably been roasting bandits and montari with lightning bolts every couple of days, no issues. What would've made this part stronger would've been if the game had, say... some sort of "wild magic" system, to borrow from D&D, where Untrained Aren had random strength values for the spells he cast, or random side effects, or something of the sort so that getting him formally trained in some way was actually a big deal.
As it is, it represents a very minor change.
Though it does have the advantage that gains from trainers can push past the training limits imposed per chapter, allowing Aren to scoot slightly ahead of the curve.
Now, William also doesn't make a big deal of it at this point, but our objective is now to reach Ticoro, to the west. Of course, I, being a genius who knows that the worst thing you can do in any game is to follow where the plot wants you to go, am having none of that. There was a little bridge to the west between Midova and Panizo that William was very unwilling to let us use in the last chapter, but this time he surely can't raise any issues with it.
And a quick map repost so the location names make any sort of sense to people.
The only obstacle to getting over the bridge is a small pack of bandits, and just like that, we're in a new region.
With new enemies! Crabs!
They're not dissimilar from Carliths, in that they slowly approach and then snip snob you for minimal damage. The only noteworthy thing about them?
They're inexplicably full of milk.
This entire region is also designed a bit different from the one we started in, Pianda. This is the Ticor region. While Pianda is more or less cities built around the edges of big rocks that you can't pass over, Ticor is a fishhook of towns built curling around and then through a large forest which we can travel through. Of course, large parts of said forest are clusters of impassable forest jpegs, which means that it's quite possible to get somewhat lost on the twisty paths since the overhead map is rather zoomed in and only shows you a chunk very near to where you are.
Also, practically every chest in this region I've found has been trapped and even using the Essence of the Wind buffs, I've been unable to crack them. Unlike in Krondor, I don't have a character that's the designated lockpicker, Aren is only marginally better than William and Kaelyn, and I've yet to find any trainers who can do anything about it.
In any case, I mash through a few crabs and some lost Montari before reaching Waterfork, either the nearest or farthest city in Ticoro to Pianda, depending on which side you approach from.
Waterfork isn't the most happening of towns, but we can accidentally fix something while we're here.
But first, more songs at the local pub.
Now, uh, back in I think update 3 or 4, just after reaching Midova, I poked my head into the little cleft where Mage Finch would be at the start of Chapter 2, there was a chest there containing nothing but a scroll that's unreadable to the party but is marked as being related to the Contuso family. Let's see what happens if we toss it at this lady, once again I don't think anything ever implies that we should think to do so.
It apparently ends a decades-long family feud, which is good! And it also gets us an emerald, which is also good! We can either hock it for money if I ever find a fucking gem trader again, or I can keep hold of it for a while longer and use it to get a magic item in a way that I'm 90% sure the game doesn't tell you how to do but you just have to kind of stumble into. You never know, though, maybe I'll actually find the hint that makes it make sense at some point.
Like practically every town in Antara, Waterfork has only one trader, and like most of said traders, this one has only one thing we might care about : Senwater. I've still yet to find out what the use for the fucking Nudberries is.
Not a bad reward for a single Fidali Paste... in theory. A Banded Shield is roughly twice as effective at blocking as our existing Small Shields(and having played some more, it does seem to be correct that shields just sometimes roll a total deflection on a hostile attack, though certainly not with their listed protection percentage rolled straight), but this one, starting at 50%, means it's also 50% as effective... and thus literally no better than our existing Small Shields. It even has a lower Hardness than them and would thus come apart faster, and I've been drowning in Small Shields in practically every fight in Pianda.
This mention of the fisherman actually isn't just a piece of trivia, since said fisherman actually is in town and we can go talk to him. Visiting him is a grave mistake, however, as I'm about to learn...
What in God's sweet merciful hell is that concoction?! It'll haunt my fucking nightmares. And I say this as someone from Scandinavia, I'm perfectly well-used to fish-based war crimes, but what in the everloving fuck? That's absolutely rancid. I'd rather eat Icelandic Piss Shark.
In any case, that's my cue to head down the road to Cardone before I hear more about any other terrifying local specialties.
Crossing this bridge, things open up enough that we could in fact scamper right up to Ticoro and end the chapter, and so out of curiosity I decide to have a look around(though I have more NPC's to interact with since I strongly suspect, once again, that many of these interactions will be chapter 1 exclusive and I don't want to miss out on them, so I don't actually enter Ticoro).
The mighty sand-coloured cube in the distance there is Ticoro. To the right is the bridge we'd have reached if we went by the main road and...
Huh, guess we couldn't have gone this way anyway. Lore-wise I seem to remember the Mehrat nation is supposed to be somewhere northwest of Antara? And speaking of Antara, I always found the capital's location to be weird. Capitals are generally either roughly central in their nation or on a major coast or waterway, it feels like. Having it tucked away in a mountain border just violates my sense of disbelief slightly.
Anyway, back to the south and we reach Cardone, at which point I realize I feel kind of confused by the setting's naming. Like on the one hand you have places like Panizo and Imazi which sound(to my ears) Italian, then you have Cardone which sounds more French, and then you also have stuff like Waterfork which sounds plain English. Maybe I'm the only one who cares about things like that, but I wish they'd kept to a consistent theming.
As usual, we'll hit up the local drinking hole first, for clues and rumours.
This provides us with the first of the two Cardone-related subquests, finding the Beast of Cardone and doing something about it. We can also buy food here(though sadly no rations), along with an unusual item.
I believe it was the witch down in Sortiga who told us that Nudberry roots were useful as a painkiller. We will only ever need one(1) unit of Nudberry roots for one(1) sidequest, but there's no point to buying them here as there are some buried in a pile of rocks in the woods not far away.
The local store sets a new bar for uselessness, as it only sells the lowest tier of archery gear, which we literally started with, and which we have relatively little use for. Some of these constraints, on where you can go and what you can access, feel like a response to Krondor players snapping the game in half before chapter 1 is even over, but it also feels like an overreaction. I prefer a game that lets me snap it in half if I'm clever, to a game that tries too hard to provide a "curated" experience.
Most of the residents in town, meanwhile, are busy talking about how spooky and scary the Beast is even though it hasn't actually done anything other than make a lot of noise and eat some chickens.
With one exception, of course.
This crotchety old guy seems absolutely on the level and not like a weirdo dickhead at all. In any case, there are two ways to find out the answer to his riddle, and I did it the hard way(because of course I did), and I still don't get it. If anyone can actually figure out this fucking riddle faster than I do, you're some sort of psychic wizard.
Now! Cardone is about as forest-centric as possible. There's forest on both the northwest and southeast sides, and all we know is that the Beast is somewhere near or in the forest most likely. We have no idea what it looks like or where it might be roaming, so I make the wise choice of just stomping into the woods and completely going the wrong way.
While over here looking for a rock pile full of Nudberry roots(I find them), I get ambushed by a new enemy!
The sinister Trerangs, which are just straight up a shitty sprite of an ape that's been tossed through a dozen blue filters. They play a generic "OOK OOK OOK.mp3" every time they move or attack, and at first you'd think they're kind of laughable.
Until you remember that they're roughly about the size of chimps and that chimps can pry your arms off and beat you to death with them without breaking a sweat. They have abysmal attack stats, so most of their swings end up missing, but they can three-shot more or less any member of the party, and if they land the first two, the cumulative injuries will make the third hit extremely likely to land as well as making the injured party member super likely to be unable to hit back.
Additionally, they seem to have some weird immunity where the ring of fire spell doesn't hurt them when they move into it. They still take the per-turn damage of 2 to 3 points, but not the ~20 points that every other enemy takes when first moving into it.
Exploring the woods to the southeast, and beating up more Trerangs as I go, I also stumble across this hidden temple of Senaedrin. Or, at least, I'd consider it to be hidden since it's about as out-of-the-way as is possible.
No interesting dialogue, and the temple only offers two services: curing poison and healing. Temple healing feels a bit superfluous considering that the only thing they could really need to cure is the near-death status, which would cost about 200 Burlas(for a full, total healing), meanwhile the herbalist in Waterfork sells a full stack of Senwater for 60 Burlas which accomplishes clearing up the Near-Death condition(with some Senwater to spare, even, it takes 20 bottles and a full stack is 25), and then you can just rest the rest away at an inn for almost no money, comparatively.
Maybe if the game had some more hard-to-shake conditions, like damaged limbs or diseases, and didn't have omnipresent healing potions, if it was something a bit more like the frankly-cruel DSA(Die Schwarze Auge, AKA The Dark Eye) cRPG's which featured death from tetanus as a very real threat, divine healing would start to be much more important.
Anyway, I'm rambling. The point is that the Beast isn't southeast of Cardone, it's northwest. So I head back over the creek, through Cardone, and promptly fail to find the Beast again.
In addition to Trerangs and Crabs, the woods over here also feature a few bandits, including these four who are busy staring at a chest. I walk up and casually stab them so I can stare at the chest instead.
And here we are again, confronted with Mage Chilblain's riddle. One of the two ways to get the answer is to solve the riddle here at the chest, then it's possible to go back and tell him you did it. I smashed my brain against it for close to fifteen minutes before I resorted to just brute-forcing my way through every word I could think to construct with the allowed letter combos.
What I came up with, which worked, was:
And frankly, even knowing the answer? I still don't see the logic. I'm sure it's something incredibly fucking stupid and I look forward to someone explaining it to me.
Nothing amazing in the chest either, though pearls do sell for a decent amount. I think this one might land about 300 Burlas.
In any case, at this point I've spent close to a literal hour hunting for the Beast of Cardone and I decide to look up a guide. It says he should be "northwest of Cardone," I've gone through all of the interior woods ten times over, but maybe he's at the edge of the woods? Time to go through them with a fine-tooth comb.
You see him? He's in one of these four screenshots. I think I walked past him well in excess of three or four times before I finally saw him. Fuck those colours, and frankly fuck the use of overworld NPC's like this, too, they're hell to find, and they don't get marked on the map until the first time you've talked to them either, it seems. Son of a bitch.
In any case, now that I've found him, I advise everyone to brace themselves for some of the most amusingly dogshit voice acting in the game so far. It completely busted me up.
For anyone confused about what happened, this is the one place we need Nudberry Roots. We mix it with a ration, getting a Nudberry Ration, throw it at this guy which calms him down because he's just eaten a sandwich full of morphine, and then we can talk to him. And everything else about the conversation is just fucking stupid.
The reward is a stack of Grrlf Arrows, which finally make archery somewhat useful as they provide a +20% hit chance over normal arrows and a further +5 damage, too, meaning that they can actually hit reliably and do damage approximating that of just stabbing someone with a sword as well.
I also want to repeat that I spent close to an hour finding this asshole. I need to communicate how much that sucked.
Ahem, in any case, time to head over to Mage Chilblain and tell him the answer to the riddle! I'm sure it'll go well.
Oh no! Who could have foreseen that he'd try to fuck us up. What a tradgedy.
Now, I presume this asshole knows some new cool spells that I could've taught Aren by letting him toss some of them around, but I fucked up and just went for the kill instead, which I think may have delayed by learning cold magic by several chapters.
Killing Chilblain isn't exactly a challenge, anyway, considering that he's pulled the ol' Navon where he's technically an imposing opponent because of his stats(I think, presume, assume, or he may just be a moron), but a one-on-three fight is pretty hard to win unless you have some real bullshit up your sleeve.
Yeah, Chilly, how did you think this was going to work out? Did you think you'd get the drop on us and just wipe us out with magic or something? Asshole.
Perhaps the real magic was inside us all along.
I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Roll him over and let's go through his pockets.
If you didn't already have it from Imazi, there's a nice staff upgrade for Aren, and if you were a bit less completionist or thoughtful about where you sold your loot, you might not have been able to gear everyone up with chainmail from Panizo, so that might also be an upgrade. What's definitely an upgrade, though, is Chilblain's ring.
The Shadowring is a bit like the Weed Walkers from Krondor, providing a permanent stealth boost to the wearer. As another nice benefit, characters actually have a "jewelry" slot this time around, so passive boosters don't have to hang around their inventory taking up space and being a nuisance in that fashion.
All in all, that took me two and a half hours to accomplish, so that seems like a good place to take a break, especially as there are still another five towns to visit before the party reaches Ticoro.