Part 9: The Update With the PopeUpdate 9: The Update With the Pope
Buckle up, because this episode there's going to be a hell of a lot of talking, including some that's slightly baffling.
We start out where we left off, by Ticoro's northern gate, and I decide to start by heading over to the locked Ramparts gate to see if the PC's want to chime up about the solution, just to avoid having an unset flag screw up anything. They don't, however, so I beeline for the solution.
We're headed back to the locksmith who couldn't do anything for us earlier, just in case he happens to want to make a criminal of himself to help us, some random fuckos he's never met before.
Surprisingly enough, he's on board if we can find whoever's making him look bad. Now, you could waste a hell of a lot of time figuring this part out, but remember that we found a couple of little square shacks with their locks popped last update? Now, if we head back there...
There's a new NPC standing around, admiring his handiwork. Let's shake him down.
Now it's just a matter of heading back to the locksmith...
And now we have our key! However, we actually want to head back to the apprentice again. Not just because letting him know he's back in the warm is good manners, though.
Instead it's because this guy represents one of the extremely rare chances to up Aren's lockpicking skill(a not-insignificant +10, too). Considering the RNG it's not so important for normal locks since it's just a matter of mashing picks into them until they're busted open, but since every failed attempt at a trapped lock requires a reload, having a high lockpicking skill is very good for my blood pressure.
Off to the ramparts with us!
Along the way I stumble into a couple of chests I'd missed earlier, one is simply locked.
It contains this grounding wire which, if I remember right, is very handy for some areas that have enemies that have pure lightning attacks that'll fuck you up proper without this stuff. It gets to hang around my inventory.
I also find one of the game's easier bead chests.
Red bead becomes green and yellow, the yellow bead then becomes a green and blue, solving the chest.
It feels like this might've been the one the party was meant to find as their first bead chest.
It contains poison for swords and arrows which sadly has the same issue as poison in Krondor. It's nasty for us because a poisoned weapon adds 100% poison to the victim(not just the 5% per hit like the Maslith's spit), which requires Fidali Paste or a shitload of Senwater to cure, but in the battle itself it's only 1 damage per round which fights aren't long enough to allow to seriously add up, and enemies don't need to worry about post-battle care like we do. The game's even gotten stingier about poison cures than Krondor, too. Unlike in Krondor where one unit of Silverthornw Anti-Venom cured 100% poisoning, one unit of Fidali Paste only cures 50% poisoning at a go, so sufficient dickheads getting their war crime practice on can drain our supplies right quick.
I just can not get over this fucking gate. Fucking Albion would've been ashamed of it.
So they actually made the ramparts run all the way around the town, as appropriate, but unless I'm extremely blind, there's literally nothing up here but our quest objective which is five steps away from the stairs.
Turns out the Consort was, in fact, staying at the very first inn we tried to rent a room at just as we came into town. We could've saved a hell of a lot of time just by being more insistent with that innkeeper, I guess.
Since our last visit, a new NPC has been added, the fella with the moustache on the left. Let's annoy him.
So that was a total bust. Now what?
I'll leave it up to the reader to consider what a logical next course of action might be. Waiting till night and then sneaking into the inn? Busting back in, swords drawn, and forcing our way past the guards to the Consort? Maybe visiting Lord Caverton or Lord Sheffield or some other NPC and telling them that since we know where the Consort is, they might as well let us in to see him?
Nope! Nothing tells us, though I suppose eventually repeated "you're getting fatigued!"-complaints would drive us there, but we're actually supposed to head back and take a nap to advance the plot. And when we do...
It's cutscene time! For those who don't want to watch the crusty video, what happens is that we're rudely awakened in the middle of the night, accused of having kidnapped the Consort, tossed into a prison caravan, rolled out of town and then Kaelyn's Grrrlf friend, whose name I keep forgetting because all of the Grrrlf names sound like onomatopeia for rude bodily functions to me, saves everyone by popping the guards with horse tranquilizers while they're camping on the way to Antara.
Chapter 4 then starts with a quick discussion of our objectives. Kaelyn, and her friend, will go look for her dad because weird stuff is happening. Aren and William, meanwhile, we'll stay in charge of as they go looking for the Shepherds and the Consort(again). We're given a quick chance to shuffle items between the three PC's we've had so far, and then Kaelyn vanishes, and we're left about a half hour's journey along the road between Ticoro and Varnasse, at night. So the first thing we do is stop by the roadside and camp until dawn.
Oh hey, it's this guy again. Let's ask him what's going on, I'm sure he's got a lot to tell us.
Revelations: The racist cult is, in fact, real bad. Also we can find one of the racist cult members if we travel to Isten!
I believe the only way there is through Korus Landing, sooooo... let's go down the Melay-Waterfork road first. There are actually some updated encounters down here we'll want to check out. Plus a good bunch more dialogue.
As usual, the chapter change has seen some repopulation of the map with new enemies, which generally have armor and weapons comparable to enemies in Ticoro. The main difference, though, as you might notice from the number of corpses, is that unlike the enemies inside Ticoro, enemies out here actually stand their ground and let me cut them to ribbons rather than running away and denying me valuable loot.
Shortly before reaching Melay, I also stumble into an ambush.
More shepherds! And a group of four despite us only having two characters to maneuver around. On top of that, shepherds feel like they usually have the better gear of the enemy types we fight.
Not that it helps them much , being able to rest anywhere and not having every enemy start in range of Aren also does a lot to defuse how dangerous they are.
The two things of note here are that 1) we've got a new type of armor! and 2) enemies are now starting to field poisoned swords and arrows which suuuuuuuucks, it super suuuuuuuucks and I hate it and I want it to go away.
The breastplate is a slight armor upgrade over our Montari Chain Mail, but also falls apart slightly faster. Not that it's a great issue since, while weapons in Antara fall apart like they're made of rotten wood, I've never had a suit of armor go below 80% durability no matter how much I got the idiot squad beaten up.
It also has one other important thing about it...
Which is that while it looks okay on William, it looks downright silly on Aren. The Montari mail kinda worked for his stance because of the way it hung on him, but the breastplate just... with the super un-dynamic stance it just cracks me up. Maybe I'm the only one.
Melay has received no updates since we were last here, so the party breezes through.
Halfway to Ravenne, a kindly band of robbers decides to drop a new sword for William.
In addition to looking weird with his paperdoll, it's arguably an upgrade over the rapier, doing more damage but being less accurate. The wiki insists that a store in Ticoro carried it as well, but I apparently never found that store. I absolutely hate the Ticoro map.
First thing of note in Ravenne is that it's where Scott's hiding out in chapter 4. I do kind of like the idea of a consistent NPC that pops up in all chapters with quest hooks, world state updates, little lore tidbits, etc.
In this chapter he's mostly good for a bit more information about the Shepherds. I'll note, again, that fucking everyone seems to know about them except for our goons.
Aside from Scott, there are two new NPC interactions in the town outside.
This one falls a bit flat for me, personally. As for the other one...
Aw, a kitty. Mind, that last paragraph is a heavy-handed hint that we should try entering the house again...
Aside from a little story(and frankly I have no idea if Stuart's comments are just babble, if they're meant to be profound or if they're supposed to be some sort of deep clue for something later on), the main outcome of this is a stat boost to Aren's generic "spellcasting" stat which, I think just governs accuracy for spells that can miss. Mind you, we now have a 70 cap on all the magic "types" and I expect to unlock a few more spells during this chapter. Aren's already gotten two, Gift of Sen(which is literally just Gift of Sung from Krondor, gives health from the caster to the recipient) and Imperious Passage(which allows the target to ignore the game's already very generous Zone of Control rules). The former's rendered less important by Senwater use not taking a turn, and the latter is less important because... honestly it's just so rarely relevant.
Stepping over a few corpses, we continue down the road to Ormede and... it occurs to me that I actually don't like this. Like, Krondor had a few quests that popped up in specific chapters, but by and large, in any chapter where you could reach a location, you could do all of the sidequests there. There was also relatively rarely updated dialogue for areas as things advanced, excepting the rare actual NPC's with keywords like Brother Marc. The downside was that it didn't feel like the world "reacted" to what you were doing, but the upside was that you didn't need to re-travel a quarter of the gameworld every chapter if you wanted to make sure you weren't missing anything.
And for Krondor it was an option, that game had only a few serious shitwrecker fights, like the six-mage battle and, well, any time you were bringing Gorath and Owyn up against the (optional) all-Pantathian fights down near Malac's Cross in the late chapters. Even if you skipped all the optional stuff, sure, you'd have a rougher time, but the game was perfectly beatable that way and you'd still mostly get geared up in time for what you were facing.
In Antara, it feels like it's a requirement to do the optional stuff, to re-clear the roads every chapter for training and such. I'm not commenting a lot on the fights, because most of them are mechanically uninteresting, but if the party didn't have all the gear and training they had, they'd be taking a lot more hits, and if they were taking a lot more hits, they'd need money for a lot more Senwater... money they wouldn't have because they hadn't been doing a bunch more grinding against randos on the road.
In any case... Ormede!
This lady wants us to find a puzzle chest somewhere in the area for her to add to her exhibit and, try as I might, I had no damn luck finding any. I imagine there's one crammed into a nook in the forest north of Ormede, but finding it probably also requires smashing through eight tiresome Trerang encounters or something.
They also decided to add a racist school to complement the racist kids from chapter 2. Lovely town, I hope someone invades it and burns it down. Twice.
Next up is Levosche, notable for being the first place I arrive at this chapter that buys and sells swords and armor. I promptly start heading up and down the road, hauling everything not leather armor and short swords back to the smith, and end up with an absurd 5500 gold by the time I'm done. Rapiers and chainmail are worth about a hundred to a hundred-and-fifty each to this guy.
Aren's college fund secured, I then go around to harass the locals.
This local worthy tells us that the nice people we met in chapter 2 were actually spies! Or possibly might be, anyway.
Chatting up this guy and paying his pittance allows us to sleep in his barn for free as much as we like afterwards which is... I mean I guess it could come in handy rarely? Not like we'll be visiting this part of the world a lot in the future, but it's cheap and...
Someone left behind their stuff inside.
The note seems ominous but is, for now, nothing we can do anything with, while the staff is another one of those "mediocre weapon, but has a special effect on Thrust attacks"-staves which will more or less always roll out to being less effective than just having Aren cast a spell, you know, like the wizard he is.
Maybe we should go back and talk to that guy who accused the nice people of being spies before we leave Levosche.
Now, I read helping the Ampersands as the right choice because we get paid for it, they pass us a low-value diamond and our Assessment gets boosted. If, on the other hand, we help out the magistrate, he tosses them in jail and we get no reward(we can then break them out of the town's jail if we feel bad about it, but we still get no reward).
I also feel like this description of the diamond is a reference to something or a common turn-of-phrase somewhere, but neither ring a bell to me.
I skip past Cardone since nothing new's there either, aiming for Waterfork which is probably one of the last few places you'd have expected would be updated for chapter 4 considering that it's also one of the farthest away(if you follow the road). So let's get started interrogating the locals.
The way Shepherds suddenly pop up in every situation when they didn't before, I'm wondering if there was originally intended to be a longer timeskip between chapters 3 and 4, or something of the sort which would explain the change in atmosphere, or whether their participation in the plot was supposed to be more of a slow boil, with the shepherds appearing in chapter 3 and then ramping up to being an important threat later on.
There's no reward for checking up with the guy whose kid we helped, but I always like a follow-up that tells the player that their actions mattered.
This guy is absolutely for real. I just toss him a spare rapier and get about 100 burlas over the base selling price, but if you really wanted to min/max you'd scrounge around for one of the encounters with a really cheap shield or short sword. Still, you should in no way be missing money in this chapter.
It's nice to make people happy.
There's one more person to talk to in town.
The Mehrat are the other thing that feel a bit odd. Once again, everyone's talking about them but... aside from that one weirdo spy in Levosche, it doesn't feel like they've actually mattered in the plot so far. Like, I feel they wanted to focus more on it, and have some anti-Mehrat feelings targeting random citizens and stuff, but the anti-Grrrlf stuff ends up basically drowning it out. At least so far.
Anyway, after this, I choose to look up past the east side of the central forest, roll west past Ticoro and get to Varnesse.
It's a bit odd that there have been no new spawns here, but I'm fine without fighting any more crabs for the rest of the game.
So just north of Ticoro, we run into this guy. Seen him before? Nope. According to the wiki he should've been in Ticoro, in the Tabernacle of Henne, but I went back and checked the screenshots and he wasn't(maybe he'd have popped up after some later flag was set?). Brightly coloured clothes... some sort of entertainer? Perhaps a clown?
Ha ha, no, he's the pope. Or one of the popes, anyway.
Each of the three Triune deities have a Hand, the one of Kor is, I think, named at some point, and we never hear of Senaedrin's. This guy? Fellich Marr, the Hand of Henne, who seems to be involved in a lot of stuff. Why the fuck he's hanging out here, I have no idea.
What baffles me most feels like the intro, because it sounds a lot like the party agreed to meet Fellich Marr here previously. And also just the general reverence when the party doesn't feel... particularly religious previously. I guess they might just be starstruck.
I'm also not sure if getting his blessing does anything... since I still have no idea what Henne's blessing actually does.
That out of the way... we're continuing to Varnesse.
In chapter 2 it only had some people telling us about a play they saw in... Isten I think it was. In chapter 4, notably more homes are populated.
This one's a handy little boost to repair skill, considering how hard it is to keep swords fixed, I'd have paid ten times that for it.
Across from the forge is...
Far as I can tell there's nothing missing here, neither the wiki or the FAQ have anything here. It's just an odd bug.
We'll plant this lady's... plants, after we talk to the last person in town, as the conservatory is finally accessible.
I rag a good deal on Antara, but I do like these interior screens for the most part. There are, amazingly enough, no recycled ones as far as I can tell. Every single store and inn are distinct, and then you get more unique ones like these. Now let's talk to this lady.
I appreciate her for dunking on Aren good-naturedly. I also really wish Aren had a different speaking sprite, it just looks so wonky, with that cocked head and all.
You'd be surprised how long it took me to plant these. For one thing, all the damn botanist tells us is "in the woods!" Which woods? The woods south of Varnesse? North of Varnesse? East of Varnesse?
It turns out to be east.
And then, in one of these three screenshots, the planting location is visible. Once again, I only saw it this early when reviewing footage, in actuality I ran in circles for another five minutes before spotting it.
Find three of these holes, pop nudberries into them(which makes the holes disappear), then return to the botanist.
The reward is a five-use Dervish Disc which might actually see some important use now that I have less guys on the field and they have an easier time getting mobbed, since as far as I can tell Antara has none of the summon spells that help break lower-tier Krondor in half.
Next time: We tread new ground in the northwestern province of Antara and maybe advance the plot a little.