Part 8: Need For SleepUpdate 8: Need For Sleep
Welcome to chapter 3! It starts off a bit oddly, as we enter Ticoro from the north at the end of chapter 2(the only side we can enter it from) yet spawn at the south end of the city when the chapter starts proper, after a cutscene of the party briefly forgetting they're here to prevent some sort of plot involving a threat to the Emperor or at least his family. We won't be seeing the world map at all this chapter, as it occurs entirely within the walls of Ticoro which comes with some... issues.
First, though, we've got yet another Grrrlf here to make us all cringe.
Yes, thank you, the character building we needed for Kaelyn was that she enjoys participating in horny furry rituals. Now, moving on and absolutely forgetting that encounter for as long as possible, the party feels pretty unhurried about needing or wanting to find the Consort and warning him of impending danger, so let's start by having a look around first off.
We conveniently start off facing an inn, so let's drop by there.
Visiting the inn, we're promptly treated to the incredibly shitty gimmick of this chapter. Being that it's a city, we can't just light a campfire on a street corner and take a nap there like we could... anywhere else in the game. Instead we need to use an inn. And there's only one inn in the entire city we can actually rest at, all the rest are booked full. This becomes a problem both because the combat is supremely balanced around being able to take a nap after every fight, otherwise Aren is pretty fucking useless, and secondly we can hardly walk from one side of the city to the other without these lazy assholes complaining about being tired, and then fatigued(which, of course, comes with stat penalties).
We can undo the injuries with a sufficient supply of Senwater, but the fatigue penalties are only banished by actually getting some sleep, so finding an inn is priority numero uno.
The map of the city thankfully starts off explored... but of course unmarked, so it's up to us to guess which of the city's many vaguely rectangular polyhedrons are inns and which ones we can actually rest at.
While I complain about that, I stumble across one of the city's several stores, and one of the few that're actually useful in any way.
Aside from letting us unload armor to fund our stay(because of course the city is going to be crawling with as many heavily-armed random encounters as the roads are), he also sells Montari Chain. Getting that suit we found repaired for 200 burlas saved us almost 1200 burlas, which is pretty huge considering that the party's constrained to carrying about 3000 burlas at once, if they don't want to completely forego also carrying food.
Reasoning that there has to be a useable inn somewhere near the gates, that the game wouldn't be so cruel as to hide it away too far from where I start, I poke around the southwestern corner of Ticoro when I get ambushed.
A couple of things are worth noting about the encounters in Ticoro. Firstly they've stepped up their equipment game, wielding exclusively Rapiers and almost all wearing Chainmail. Aside from being able to hit us harder, which sucks, it also means it suddenly takes an extra hit or two to bring them down, often resulting in more enemies escaping than getting killed. In several fights I only managed to bring down one enemy before they scarpered, which is worsened by the more cramped battlefields meaning enemies can often escape in a single round of movement from just about anywhere on the battle grid.
With this first group sorted, I decide to harass the random person living behind them.
How strange, the amulet seems to scare people. I wonder if it is, perhaps, associated with some sort of violent extremist group that by all rights and logic, at least two members of the party should be well-acquainted with and which the third could reasonably have heard of, too? Impossible.
With that being a bust, I head up to the big central plaza, along the way running into what looks suspiciously like an open grave. Who the hell is digging graves on the curb here if we're not even allowed to sleep there? And more importantly, will they give a fuck if we loot the chest they left behind?
Amazingly, it contains a magic ring that Aren gets instantly, a Ring of Welcoming which boosts his Lockpick skill. I pass the Circlet of Senaedrin to Kaelyn since I can't tell if it actually works or not(it turns out one jewelry item per character is the cap. sad!).
At the other side of the entrance to the central plaza is an NPC who'll talk at us, or, rather, at William.
I'm really starting to miss the Ren Faire hats and costumes of Krondor, why is everyone dressed so brownly?! Anyway, meet William's father in law. This encounter is kind of irrelevant except that it tells us which inn we can find another irrelevant NPC at. Well, irrelevant to completing the game or giving us any gameplay advantages, at least, not irrelevant to telling us about the rich and colourful world of Ramar.
The big church of Henne in Ticoro has no unusual services or conversations, just their standard vague blessing option. Looks rather nice, though. The square outside feels like a missed opportunity for a "festival" town, though. Toss in a few street trader stalls, etc. and maybe some NPC's in colourful costume and such. If that would grind the game's engine to a halt, make it a sort of enterable "scene" like the market in Midova. As it is, it makes the city feel deserted more than anything.
At this point night has started to fall in Ticoro, and the party is starting to complain about being Tired, but not quite Fatigued yet. This, of course, is when I run into another gang of Ticoro's omnipresent thieves.
Four of them, and of course all but one of the assholes escapes. This is starting to get annoying. Maybe I should just start out every fight by covering the entire battlefield in Web and then taking it from there.
It doesn't help that the crusty-ass implementation of darkness in Antara contributes to it being impossible to spot shop signs at more than arm's length, even the overhead map is darkened by it being night, so I accidentally stumble into someone's house while looking for an inn.
It's slightly odd that private home interactions are only occasionally blocked by the time of day, most of the time people will be up for their scripted interactions whether it's mid-morning or mid-night.
Some time behind midnight, the party stumbles into yet another inn, desperate for a bed.
They, too, are all up, but... notice that NPC in the back of the common room view? The lady in the red dress almost completely blocked from view by the server who has the same interaction icon(for buying food only) as the lady in red has? Yeah, she's someone we can talk to!
And she's actually... actually I'm not sure if she ever pops up again, but she's William's fiancee, and thus, theoretically, an important person. And also a huge dickhead, a walking, talking argument for viciously beheading as many nobles as possible. Let's get out of this joint.
Around when the horizon starts to lighten, the party practically trips over a coded chest in a deserted alleyway.
The contents of the chest are a bad shield and... Attractors. What Attractors are supposed to do is that they're supposed to increase the benefit shields give against enemy archers. On the one hand, enemy archers are rarer than enemy mages even, and on the other hand shields already do not provide any benefit against arrows(it's purely a roll vs the Defense stat of the target). I've seen multiple comments stating that Attractors actually do not work at all. Considering the rarity of enemy archers, I'm not sure I'll ever get the chance to clear up whether they do or not.
Bumbling into some enemies in the dark, the party accidentally stabs them seven times and then loots their pockets, hoping they were actually thieves and not just drunks from the festival out late.
One of them was carrying this very nice bow upgrade, though, which goes a long way towards taking care of any issues I have with feeling bad about killing them, also being the first bow upgrade we've found or had access to, not popping up until now in chapter 3.
Compared to the starter bow, it's 4% more accurate and also has a +4 damage modifier where the starter bow has none at all. Considering that Grrlf Arrows fired from the starter bow do about 25 damage, that's close to a 20% boost, which is great.
It's literally dawn and the party has yet to find that goddamn inn that's supposed to be on the "eastern side" of Ticoro. We did find a store, though. What kind of store? A useful store?
Ha ha, of course not. That would be ridiculous.
I loop back to the armor trader to offload some bloodsoaked chainmail for a nice reward and then, now that it's day and thus actually visible, pull up the map to ponder which building I must've missed entering during the night, reasoning that it must be the large one to the southeast that's being hugged by another building shaped like a Tetris piece.
If you see the chest there, so did I, and after ten attempts it blew up the party every time because the fatigue was completely tanking Aren's lockpicking score, so I give it a pass for now.
But fuck me, it's an inn! It's an inn! Here's hoping it has rooms!
Let's see what Scott has to say, maybe he can put us down gently and without pain.
It's weird that for once there's no intro dialogue to him. Anyway, Scott claims he can help us... can he really?
He can! We now have a place to rest! Of course, as mentioned, we can barely cross to the opposite corner of the city before night falls, so we'll be back here a lot since there's no non-rest way to pass time other than literally running in circles. The party promptly drops unconscious for close to two full days. First thing I do when they wake up is dip out, turn the corner and take a shot at that trapped chest again.
Some business left their ledgers lying around, and just staring at the numbers makes the party better at trading so they can get better prices in shops. I guess that's how learning works.
In the southeasternmost corner of Ticoro are these little square shacks and... let me just go on a tangent about the layout of this city and how much I fucking hate it. It feels almost randomly generated because there are few like... actual thoroughfares and streets. Everything just feels randomly rotated and placed, which means half the time there's no obvious "front" to a building where you'd expect the door to be. For the instance, the only inn we can get a room at has its front door facing the city walls, as out-of-the-way as possible.
Anyway, these little shacks all have the same bit of dialogue attached to them.
This seems completely irrelevant at the moment, but it's actually part of the somewhat dumb way we're going to complete this chapter.
Poking around near the southern gate where we entered finds me another trapped chest that Aren this time disarms with only five failed attempts.
It contains another Shadow Ring, which goes on Kaelyn, guaranteeing that the party will now only fuck up four out of five ambush attempts, rather than nineteen out of twenty.
The Academy Pass I think we don't get to use until like... chapter 6 or something. Still, it might be interesting once we get to do so.
The large structure near the southern gate is the Corner Store, which is a godsend as it means I have a source of Senwater and thus don't need to bail back to the inn to recover after every fight.
Heading back to the western side of town, I also noticed that I missed this building last time I was in the area.
I don't think that doing this has any kind of payoff(though I do love learning that the trades unions on Ramar are extremely powerful, hell yeah), but I'll drip back by Varnasse next time I get a chance to see if it updated anything there.
Dominating the western side of Ticoro is this large structure which I think is supposed to look mansionlike and... it has... a resident. Let's meet that resident.
You know, maybe if the game had lead with a blatant, moustache-twirling asshole like this guy, dressed like he's fucking Dracula or some shit, it might have drawn people in more easily. What a titanic prick! Imagine that, just standing around bragging openly to William that he's going to bankrupt his in-laws. You absolutely get an urge to give him a swirlie or toss some rocks through his windows or something.
Across from his mansion, a group of thugs kill Aren. This happens quite a few times in Ticoro, I think like three times or so, because the narrower battlefields means they can often close with him instantly and their rapiers mean they can do more damage to him, which our armor upgrades don't wholly negate. On top of that, as far as I can tell, health and stamina never upgrade like they did in Krondor(basically being boosted by longer playtime/more resting and one or two events).
What's somewhat more interesting is what I find next to his mansion. It's a chest... with a new kind of puzzle lock!
The objective is to have the bead colours and amounts, and only those, shown at the top, be represented in the chutes below. Between them are "exchange rates" which function in both directions. For instance, if I exchange the Blue and Yellow beads I start with...
I get two reds and a white, and it also works in reverse. That's actually also the first step in solving the chest, but I'll spoiler the remainder of the solution.
Exchange the white bead for a yellow and a green, then exchange the two reds and the yellow for a blue, leaving you with a blue and a green bead, the solution.
The reward is a minor gemstone and some Shadowmilk, a temporary stealth booster potion. It's not big, but I do like these bead lock chests. They don't rely on setting knowledge or obscure clues, but at the same time they're also surprisingly hard to brute force since you end up with a lot of permutations, you pretty much need to either get lucky or to sit down and think through what combinations will give you what you want.
Continuing up the west side I find those other general store which is interesting only for the fact that I'm certain we've seen that exact same blue-robed woman helping herself to some gems from a store in... was it Ravenne? Ormede? Somewhere out there getting the five-finger discount. I wonder if that's intentional or if the artists were just a bit uninspired on character design.
In the far northwest of Ticoro we find yet another mage trainer for Aren.
Annoyingly, but appropriately, time in the gameworld passes while Aren gets his lessons, so it ends up being night again by the time we're free to move on. So it's another slog back to the inn before I can explore the northeast of the city.
I'll note at this point I have explored the northwest, the southwest and the southeast, and the party has yet to accrue any kind of clue with regards to reaching the Consort.
While coming up the east side, I find this store that doesn't sell anything... anything, that is, except for conversation!
We should keep him in mind.
Pushing into the northwest of Ticoro, I get ambushed by a new enemy type.
Mechanically they're no different than thieves, bandits or pirates, but story-wise these are Shepherds. They've popped up in mention a few times before now, and are also mentioned in the background lore in the manual. To recap, they were a core part of the original effort to not get humanity eradiated by the Grrrlf back when the Grrrlf as a culture were more warlike, and in the wake of the war remained as watchdogs keeping an eye out for any future Grrrlf incursions. Now, with war with the Grrrlf being a thing of the past, the Shepherds have instead turned into a chuddy alt-right movement arguing that Antara should take this moment to strike and genocide the Grrrlf once and for all.
Because they're huge assholes.
Tiring of enemies being damage sponges in this chapter, I also start oiling William and Kaelyn's swords to see what sort of a difference it'll make, remembering that Naphtha in Krondor was an insane damage boost and hoping it'll be something of the same caliber.
It's... not quite. In Krondor, boosters added a flat damage percentage(either 50% or 100%) on top. In Antara, oiled swords just gain another d10 of damage on top, which means it'll be at best about 30% extra damage per swing, but may also roll out to be practically no extra damage at all. I'm not really a fan of it, I feel like limited-use consumables should at least have a reliable utility.
Oh and the Junior Fascism League of Antara also kills Aren again. He's really not having a good chapter of it.
I think this is meant to be a huge well or something? I'm not entirely sure. Not that it serves any gameplay purpose.
We've now searched almost all of Ticoro, there's only the central northern section to check out, which contains something wonderful besides how it might help me progress the plot.
Finally a store that'll buy all these fucking rapiers I've been having Kaelyn haul around. In fact, selling all the armor and swords in this chapter presents a new problem...
Remember how gold and food had their own, shared, sub-inventory? That inventory can actually fill up! Thankfully I have a few perishable foods looted from enemies that I can toss. Figuring I might as well, I then clear out my inventory issues by buying up a suit of Montari Chain Mail for Aren.
While the model is largely the same, it feels like a nice detail that due to the taller and lankier builds of the Montari, it ends up as more of a chain robe practically past Aren's knees. Fingers crossed this helps him not eat shit from being repeatedly stabbed every five minutes.
In the far northwest corner of Ticoro, I find something that looks a bit... off.
With most other things featuring a somewhat better fidelity, this "gate" really looks weird as shit and stands out for how low-resolution it is. Like it's not even a gate, it's just metal rods shooting out of the ground, the spaces between them are about as wide as doorways. It feels like a placeholder graphic. In any case, this just leads on to the walls, by the looks of it, and while there's a keyhole next to it, we can't interact with either.
The only thing remaining is the northern gate.
Once again, a dead end... or so I thought. See, I walked away from the gatehouse, ready to sweep the city for any homes I might've missed(there's almost certainly at least one or two), but couldn't find anything. I then looped back to the gatehouse and it turned out there was a dialogue trigger outside, a mandatory dialogue trigger, so poorly placed that the elite strategy of "just walk straight south from the gatehouse" somehow allowed me to miss it.
So now we finally have something vaguely approximating a lead! Possibly!
God, I can easily see how this chapter could dead-man-walking people if they came into it with insufficient Senwater and explored in the wrong direction from the only inn that works, since there are two or three mandatory fights required to reach its door. You could easily end up painting yourself into a corner by being too wounded and/or fatigued from lack of sleep to actually be able to reach the only place in the game where you'd be able to recuperate.
Since it already took me close to two hours, what with all the slogging back to the inn constantly, I call it a break here. If I find the consort quickly, I guess I'll just have to record the end of chapter 3 and the start of chapter 4 for next time.
Next time: Progress? Maybe?? Possibly???