Part 10: Murder and CheeseUpdate 10: Cheese and Murder
When we last left off, we got done checking out the chapter 4 updates for the province of Ticor, and were about ready to head north from Varnasse to Korus Landing, the last town south of the Glassrock Mountains that we've yet to see.
On the way are a few combats where I test out some spells I haven't tried yet. Here I test out Armorlight on William, it's pretty much Skin of the Dragon from Krondor, gives someone total immunity for up to 20 "phases," which isn't 20 rounds, i.e. one action per character. I have no idea how it's counted in Antara, but it seems to last about five to seven rounds? Also sometimes some characters inexplicably get extra actions, usually Kaelyn.
I also test out Emulsify, a new spell that has a hilarious animated icon.
It turns out to be the "lightning orb" spell that Aren got owned with several updates back in the Imazi caves(or I think so, anyway, there are apparently some re-used effects like Armorlight having the exact same effect as the blinding spell). It can technically do great damage and the stat penalties it causes are useful, too, but I've never had Aren manage to land a hit with it, so I prefer having him cast Lightning Bolt and Geyser to avoid wasting his magic.
I was also running a fever from a mild-ish case of pneumonia while recording this update so Aren ended up getting dunked on a lot as this, surprisingly, impacted my decision-making abilities.
The bridge south of Antara is still blocked, so we've got to head farther north.
Korus Landing doesn't have a lot to do, it only has one quest, but it has an awful lot of words.
This guy is desperate for cheese, he'll pay us a whole five burlas a piece(barely any more than it costs to buy), and it would require hauling our asses all the way down to Ravenne to buy any. So hell no we're not fetching his damn cheese.
The sole store in town is a general store, rations and whetstones and such, but the proprietor is chatty, unlike most stores.
Unlike the major, this nice lady will pay us fifty burlas per unit of cheese, which is a fat fucking profit. I think you may only be able to trade her one stack(that's all I tried, at least), but if you can feed her more than one stack, she's an infinite money engine.
Plus her glee at fucking that guy over is great.
Let's hope we didn't convince this guy to go raring off on an ill-advised adventure and get himself killed some day. In any case, that's all for chatty citizens, profits and quests in Korus Landing. Now, heading north...
Behold! The majestic pass north of Korus Landing! The way Krondor handled this was to have you approach something that looked kind of decent at a distance, then provide some cool text describing how it looked as you got closer and eventually went through. Antara, on the other hand, uh.
Losing the technology to actually have angled mountains and hills was kind of not good.
The north side of the pass otherwise looks much like the south side, but welcome to Chuno. The deep lore for Chuno is that they've got Mehrat and the Waste to their north/northwest, the Waste having been created when a pair of mages nuked each other out of existence in yonks back. Apparently it was pretty much like a nuclear explosion, complete with leaving the residents of Chuno riddled with genetic damage. We won't see many ethnically Chunese in this update, but when we do, we can see that they look a bit rougher around the edges than the rest. Mehrat, meanwhile, kind of keeps posturing at Antara, and Antara postures back, but it's worth noting that for as much as everyone fears Mehrat spies and invasions, I think that one guy down in Levosche is literally the only sign we ever see of it, which makes me wonder if the Antaran government intentionally plays up how aggressive Mehrat is for the purpose of keeping people more worried about an external threat than internal policies.
I don't think it's ever elaborated on, but it would be an interesting plot point.
Our current goal is Isten, which means that we're going everywhere else first. I think Friole is as far east as we can go, so the plan is to head north and then go around the region clockwise before eventually ending up in Isten.
First stop: Everton!
Almost right off the bat, we trip over a chest containing some new stuff.
The Grrlf Bow is another straight upgrade on what we've got so far, but even with that, William can't shoot for shit. The slowness of training compared with the lack of trainers to buy training from means that it's really hard to turn William into a competent archer, Kaelyn is really your only good choice for it.
The corrosive arrows are useless, meanwhile, in part because they have an accuracy penalty which makes doubly sure William will never hit with one, but also because they damage equipment which means enemy corpses are suddenly worth less. We're not going to a fight a fight that's unprofitable.
On a whim I decide to visit Everton before Teal, which turns out to be a decent idea.
On the way, I bump into some more enemies guarding a chest, deciding to try out a bold new strategy.
Defending both William and Aren is very effective, but the downside is it's also super-expensive in Senwater since it ends up draining so much of Aren's life that only William is still really able to do anything afterwards, and most enemies up here are armored enough that Aren is our major damage dealer.
I also realize I've learned another spell along the way.
At full power this does 120 damage, which is the biggest boom that Aren can generate in one go. Unfortunately, all session, I don't get any real good chances to use it since either someone's looking at Aren, preventing him from casting, or William would be in the blast radius, which would be very bad.
The only notable thing in the chest is the fire arrows which are like a good version of the acid arrows, except still useless to William because his ranged accuracy sucks.
Everton is an unusual town because it's actually got like... more than just a straight road running through town with buildings on either side. People's houses are actually split off into two little side roads set slightly off the main road.
What hasn't really changed since Krondor is that some of the writers were pretty hungry while writing their bits, it feels like every second NPC encounter is about the party getting invited in for food.
Around the corner, a name to remember for in like ten minutes' time.
Another person who's eager for us to get to Isten, good thing for her time only advances when we change chapters, because we aren't getting to Isten within like a month of in-game time. Possibly a month of real-time, too, depending on when I stop having this fever.
Unusually, this merchant has some dialogue when we first talk to him.
And slightly different dialogue if we visit him again afterwards.
I don't think we can ever find his aunt.
He's a nice source of Senwater at this point, but his equipment has the usual issue that most stores in Antara seem to have, which is that by the time you reach them, there's no reasonable way you won't already have gear equal to or better than what they're offering.
We're slightly outnumbered here and Shepherds tend to have decent gear, so I bust out all the stops in part because otherwise I always forget to.
Aren casts Armorlight on himself, while William cracks a Dervish Disc(defense boost) and chug's a Kor's Blood(attack boost), then rushes in to tie everyone up.
The really amazing thing is that the Dervish Disc is actually efficient enough that William doesn't take a single hit during this fight.
Up ahead, a group of fucking Trerangs is blocking the way to Teal, so I cast my eyes around looking to see whether I can sneak around them and spot something on the east side of the road.
The area encircled by Everton, Teal, Elona and Burlen is riddled with valleys, containing enemies, rock piles and a few chests. However, I will not be finding all of the contents because...
This place is a miserable fucking maze, compounded by the fact that sometimes the map's pencil-narrow crevices are passable canyons, and vice versa sometimes the broad passages on the map turn out to be impassable or simply non-existent in the 3D world. From a quick dive in, in any case, it seems like it mostly just contains low-tier equipment and consumables, nothing I want or need, so I'm just going to head back to Teal and mainly stay on the road.
Teal has something we haven't seen since Krondor, an actual graveyard! Sadly, we're not in the golden age of videogames where every single gravestone would contain a hint, bad pun or reference to a developer, only one of these gravestones can be interacted with.
I absolutely have no idea how or why Aren makes this conclusion. Do popular people have messy gravestones? Maybe whoever lives in the building next door will have something to say about it. They're probably like... a mortuary or something, they'd know about burying people.
Turns out it's actually a school instead. Great location for it, also note the party commenting on "recent events in Teal" that we haven't learned about yet, which is yet another example of Antara not having as many small variations on character dialogue depending on flags as Krondor had.
Ah, there we go, now we kind of know what's going on, apparently the local weapons smuggler trading with the Mehrat got himself killed in a horse-related accident.
Teal also has the first non-dogshit bow store we've found so far. I pick up a stack of Enchanted Arrows because I figure this is the only way William will ever hit a damn thing and on rare occasions I have some need of him firing a bow at stuff. Spoiler: He will still never hit a fucking thing I aim him at.
The local inn has a few folks to talk to, first there's a guy on the left.
That totally wasn't shady in any way, now for someone on the right.
This leaves us with three houses to visit, first up is the dead guy's.
On closer reading this conversation is so weird. Why are they referring to him being thrown from his horse as a "despicable deed" when it just sounds like a riding accident? Why are they talking about "bad ka," which as far as I'm aware is something related to the ancient Egyptian religions and which never seems to occur anywhere before or after? And then at the end they mention a break-in which as far as I can tell the priest never brings up. It's like there are several pages cut out of this, or like it was pasted together from several versions or something.
Anyway, time for the town bakery.
And then the last house in town.
Okay! Now, without any warning, having talked to everyone in town has Set A Flag and altered something in the game world, allowing us to get farther in the mystery of Brian Castere's murder!
Now this incredibly shitty jpeg is pasted on top of Brian's grave. It's not even fucking aligned, what the fuck. Let's poke it.
So someone already dug this coffin up to loot it... and then completely missed the one thing to loot, which we then looted? Whatever, let's follow the map to a vague bump in the ground.
A key! If you're perceptive you already know what it's for, since we've already had a locked door described as "reddish" not long ago in Everton, but before we head to it, we should head back to Castere's house.
Our second hint at where the key fits is that "GF" also matches the initials on the locked door in Everton and it's super-obvious now that this guy killed Castere for shady smuggler reasons. Let's go break into his house.
Couple new items in here! Also less than 500 gold. Note this, less than 500 gold.
Necklace items use a separate slot from ring items, but they're super rare and, in the case of this one, also super useless. All the Lucky Charm does is boost your gambling skill which means it might trick you into thinking that it's anything more than a way to lose money at taverns.
Brian's journal boosts spell training in the "Movement" type by 5, which is nice but not huge. And then there's a letter. As I pick it up, though, I accidentally read the wrong document in my inventory.
I feel like this accurately encapsulates what feels like several different directions Antara is being dragged in. On the one hand you have people who just want to do Krondor MkII, then you've got people who want to do a wacky high-magic setting("insurance doesn't pay out if you get resurrected!") and then you have what feels like some folks wanting to do something like an Italian peninsula filled with inter-province/town feuds, politics and mercenary companies going up against each other.
The actual letter is a bit less interesting. Let's stick our heads outside and...
Get ourselves ambushed by Fayle.
Mechanically Fayle is just a generic swordyman, but since we can't just freeze him or Five Finger Death Punch him like Navon in Krondor, he's actually marginally dangerous since he has an absurdly high defense stat of 75 or so.
Which means that William would at baseline have barely a 50% chance to hit him starting off, thus I have Aren load Fayle down with Tortoise Bind and Unseeing Eye.
Even so, William barely lands a single hit and the fight is instead sorted by Aren running up and dropping Fayle with multiple Static Discharge casts(it would've been smarter to hit him with lightning bolts, so not sure why I did that), and eventually he goes down.
As an odd thing, his corpse drops across the street in front of someone else's house. Not that it stops me from looting his body and heading over to the blacksmith to sell his stuff, triggering some new dialogue.
We didn't find 500 Burlas in Fayle's house! I also have no idea why this dialogue is triggered by killing Fayle rather than just... always being an option of some sort as soon as you hear the shopkeeper got ripped off. What's more interesting is that he gives us a suit of 100% Montari Chain as a reward for it(and does not, in fact, restock his store in any way), which means that he gave us a 1500-gold suit of armor for 500 gold, to restock his store with, rather than just selling the 1500-gold suit of armor and using three times as much money.
I sure wonder why this guy has trouble in business.
Anyway, now we can consider Teal to be done and sorted and continue on the way to Elona, another town about which I'm going to have complaints.
Along the way to Elona, Aren also researches a new spell, Storm. For 30 Stamina, it summons, well, a storm, which strikes a random target for 25 damage every turn for the rest of the battle, targeting only metal-wielders like lightning bolt does. In most battles it ends up doing a decent amount of damage over the duration of the first fight, and is what I'll be starting practically every fight with from here on out unless I need to Armorlight someone at the start of the fight or I'm fighting purely animals or wizards.
I think they tried to have Elona sort of crammed in between trees, give it a sort of "elfy tree-town" feel, but it doesn't really work well for me. Also note that the only shop in town is a jewelry store.
But before we talk to the locals, we have to save some plants! I'll have to remember to visit Korus Landing for our reward before the chapter ends. I'll go poke at the remaining citizens before we leave, though. Also there's an abandoned house here containing another academy pass in case you missed the one in Ticoro.
So the reason I find the jeweler thing so interesting is that these guys are trying real hard to make it feel like Elona is a poorly-attended, slightly, well, poor backwater of the Empire out near the Mehrat border but... maybe then they should've had a fletcher, or a general store or something, not a fucking jeweler, which is about as bougie as it gets.
It's also a good thing we bought the chest location from this guy, because we'd never have found it on our own.
Never. Ever. Ever.
It takes a slight amount of effort to get the colours here, but some of the symbols still have some faint tinge to them. Red potions, yellow skulls, green tomes, blue orbs. This chest actually challenged me a good deal until I "got" it.
Solution: Yellow, Blue Red, Blue Green.
I think I spent like 20 minutes on it.
A bit of misc. loot and a new type of shield which, like most other new shields we've found so far, start out so beat up that they're in no way as good as our much lower-tier, but better-maintained shields.
Now we're on the road towards Burlen, the south side of which is lined with canyons and crevices, some of which lead into the same maze network as east of Teal.
Aren gets owned by some bandits a couple of ways along the road, mostly because I'm running low on Senwater and too lazy to loop all the way back to Everton. The cube up ahead is Burlen.
Burlen feels a bit odd since it's supposed to be a rich town, known for being opulent, in fact, but it's also in Chuno, the province that's supposed to be full of poor, irradiated survivors of a magical apocalypse who sit around worshipping trees and are kind of alien to the rest of the Antaran Empire.
The inn has a guy that acknowledges stuff is happening even in places where we aren't.
There's an armor store which sells 100% versions of the tortoiseshell shield we found earlier, I think over this entire game so far I've had shield parries proc maybe five times, so I'm not super eager to pay almost 1000 burlas just to up that to maybe 6 times.
The last thing of note in Burlen is the Pernath Academy. To interact with anything in here other than getting told off by the lady at the counter, we need a ticket either from Elona or Ticoro, at which point she lets us inside. You might think this is a place where we might be able to, say, increase our skills, or learn more magic... but no, the entire place just holds deep lore for the gameworld and naff else.
There are two rooms deeper in the building, first we'll take the door under the stairs.
Every shelf in here is clickable, and each one has multiple books on each... with no clear separation of where each one's click position starts and another ends. So I might well have missed one or two, but here's the big drop of all of them.
I had no luck finding the ones I missed, sadly. Anyway, backing out of the library, we can also head into the office at the top of the stairs.
I think this is the biggest piece of info we ever get about the Vell, and also more or less the last point they're really mentioned. They feel like they play into yet another partial Antara theme, the idea of the world being partially post-apocalyptic, but outside of Chuno and the Waste, and the odd mention of the Vell, that never really feels like it's made a big deal of either. The Vell feel more like they're suited for a game like Age of Decadence or something.
With that, I don't think we ever have a reason to visit Burlen again. At this point I am boned for resources and decide to loop down to Everton.
On the way down, the one interesting thing that happens is that I run into some actual Chunese for once.
You can see they look kind of messy compared to normal enemies, and oddly enough they're also the only group that has any female members as enemy combatants.
Here I also decide to test out Quicksilver on William and it DOES make him a lot more powerful, but note once again the drain-per-phase, which ends up like 3 or 4 phases per actual action, so it drains him dry relatively quickly if you power it up to the amount where it's notable. During my first try at this, I also discovered something odd(due to my eating shit).
As you can see I lose while William is still on his feet, which is because if Quicksilver kills him from health drain, he doesn't actually keel over like a genuine corpse.
The fight also illustrates this odd issue where the only real danger in Antara is your own impatience, for the most part. As long as I have the patience, I can always go pick up enough Senwater to be functionally immortal. Like, if the game was more linear, and had no options to loop back to towns, so it suddenly became a lot more about resource/inventory management, that could've done a lot to make things more interesting.
Anyway, this is not that more interesting game, sadly, so I'm just talking the walk towards Grandeur.
Along the way, I stumble on another Church of Kor.
Since I'm stacked on cash, I decide to bless William's sword since he has trouble hitting enemies and... I have no idea what the blessing actually does. I assume it's a +attack bonus or something, but nothing in the game indicates what it does. It's entirely possible that it does not a damn thing.
Further up the road are some Shepherds which have a couple of notable things about them.
Firstly it's the first time we see a Shepherd mage, I didn't actually think there were any.
And secondly it's the first time we see Shepherd armor, which is apparently unrepairable(? why???) and also not particularly good. I wonder if armor was originally meant to be generally unrepairable and you were supposed to be switching up regularly or whether there was originally going to be some sort of disguise mechanic so you could skip, say, Shepherd fights by wearing their colours.
I kind of wish we saw a port at some point in this game, considering the amount of coastline we get to visit at various points. Just a single pier. Also you might note that the skybox has changed! It's not due to the time of day, or a weather system(Antara doesn't have one), but the eastern part of Chuno just has a different, slightly more ominous and brooding, skybox. I kind of like it.
Grandeur is one of the odder towns in the game. It has no NPC's to talk to, no quests connected to it... nothing unique.
It has a generic Temple of Senaedrin.
A neat-looking tavern.
And a store full of a bunch of new shit we haven't seen before.
Necklace of Communion
When worn, increases Assessment.
The silver loops, each intertwined with its neighbors, were elegant in their simplicity. [Character] traced his/her fingers along one of them and got a brief sense of those around him/her -- as if he/she was inside of them, with a better understanding of their abilities than they likely had themselves. [Character] let his/her finger slide away from the silver and the feeling faded.
Whoever's wearing it splits the damage they take equally with all members of the party.
When you hit someone with a "Thrust" attack it hits them with a cast of Emulsify, when wielded also increases Electricity magic by 10 points.
Increases the wielder's Attack and Defense skills but drains 2 hit points from them per "phase," which once again rounds out to almost 10 per actual action.
Of these, I guess the Necklace of Communion might occasionally be useful since if you get lucky(it randomly picks which stats you get to see), you can sometimes tell which target is closest to death and thus worth finishing off, since Assessment is a free action now. The rest... ehhhhhh. I'll pass. I'd rather Aren have a staff he can actually beat people to death with on occasion than once with a niche special function.
With that, we've completed about half the circuit of Chuno and, as I recall it, it's the second half of the circuit that actually has the more interesting stuff.
So join me next time as we see whether I remember right and whether not having a fever makes me fuck up less while playing videogames.