Part 13: They Made It WorseUpdate 13: They Made It Worse
So! Last chapter ended with William and Aren infiltrating the Shepherds' headquarters, and so, right at a dramatic point, we're skipping to Kaelyn and Raal heading off to visit her dad and getting intercepted by a racist hit squad.
It's slightly odd that we're spawned looking in the wrong direction, with the Shepherds not technically blocking our way(if we turn around and move, we're still within their aggro radius, though), and we can't even really go the direction they're in because they're practically right on the edge of the area we're allowed to explore in this chapter, being a rectangle that's roughly got Grandeur as its upper left and Durst, Friole and Darvi as its lower right edges.
Kaelyn is as we left her, same inventory, same skills, and by default she inherits 50% of the end-of-chapter-3 burlas and food the party has.
Raal is... he's pretty chunky, which is the best thing about him. High hit points, high strength, but, despite being a staff-wielder, not a mage. For this chapter we only have two physical combatants, and only one of them has any kind of trick(in the form of being able to use bows). With Antara having much less in the way of combat expendables(no Horn of Algon-Kokoon, no scare-enemies-away potions, no Eliaem Hearts, etc.), it makes combat a lot less interesting and also... a lot more painful.
To illustrate, let's go beat up those racists that just threatened us.
If this was William and Aren, Aren would buff William with Adrenaline, then Quicksilver, and he'd killing one per turn, possibly more if Aren softened some up with magic.
Kaelyn and Raal, however...
Even ignoring the Pearl Trainer Guy, Kaelyn and Raal start out about 20 points of Melee below William, which means 20% less chance to hit enemies than he had, and he was doing plenty of missing already. Hell, even with the trainer he's not guaranteed to hit anyone. I only tucked away 4 pearls for them in Friole, but God, I wish I'd done the work to stash away 8 pearls.
On top of that, they do miserable damage against armored enemies. Raal roughly does as much damage as William would, without Adrenaline, while Kaelyn both has lower Strength, has a lower-tier weapon(still a rapier) and lacks the combat skill, once she gets a broadsword, to use the most damaging attack(overhead slash) without missing most of the time.
It makes the fighting something of a slog.
In the end I win the fight, though, Kaelyn and Raal have a quick chat and we get to pick over...
The corpse. As in singular, because when you have a harder time hitting enemies and do less damage with the hits you do land, they also get more chances to run the fuck away. At least this dickhed was carrying a breastplate we can toss on Raal so he isn't still wearing leather armor, he might be chunky, but he's not chunky enough to survive multiple stab wounds without decent armor.
The first order of business is to head east to Friole and the barn, in addition to the pearls there I had also stashed a broadsword(which Kaelyn finds on the way anyway...). If I knew how dogshit she'd be at fighting, though, I would have made sure to bless it at a Temple of Kor first, since the borders on the party's exploration in this game prevents me from getting to the one Temple of Kor I know is in the area, son of a bitch. In the Friole inn there's also a free Grrrlf Bow under one of the tables, which is an upgrade for Kaelyn, though arrows still do comparatively negligible damage.
Using the pearls just barely get Kaelyn and Raal to where William was before he used pearls himself.
Friole has no updates, but Durst has one change.
There's another lost kid to find. I'll get around to this before the end of the update.
At this point I'm also not aware that I can get east enough to get to Darvi, nor know what shops it has, so instead I loop around westwards through Camille and Eastbank to sell off armor and bulk up Kaelyn and Raal's inventory a bit. There's not a lot for them to buy, not even Kor's Blood, Dervish Discs or anything of that sort, so it's mostly a fund for food, Senwater and blessing gear on the off chance that there's a temple around that I don't know about.
Past Grandeur's walls, on the right, there's a mountain pass leading south. If you try to enter it in chapter 4, Aren and William bitch and complain about not wanting to get off track and refuse to head there, but Kaelyn and Raal will happily head that way as it leads into the Ridgewood where Kaelyn's dad and a bunch of Grrrlf live.
There are a few generic enemies on the way and also...
Now, you might think, "oh, it's just a locked chest, full of trash," and yes! That's right! But Kaelyn smashes away at the lock with her lockpicks and, predictably, picks up a bit of lockpicking training doing so.
Oh did I say "a bit," I meant "it instantly teleported her from 20 lockpicking to 70."
I have no idea if this particular chest is bugged to fuck, or if the "training multiplier" for lockpicking is just set insanely high for this chapter, or perhaps for Kaelyn(since Aren was marginally better than the others, I had him do all the lockpicking in chapters 1 through 4), or maybe the game is just fucking weird.
But I guess Kaelyn knows how to crack chests like a pro, now!
I think this body of water is meant to be the ocean to the north rather than a large lake, but I'm not sure. In any case, we're about to enter the Ridgewood proper, and that's when we encounter an NPC!
It's the leader of Raal's Grrrlf tribe! Here to tell us what's going on, which is that Kaelyn's dad is: gone. And evil ghosts are: eating people's souls and turning them into murderous zombies, which explains a lot about why everyone keeps trying to kill us for no obvious reason.
I also just... I cannot deal with the fucking Grrrlf speech tics and their terms and stuff. It just... it his some sort of deeply annoying note for me. I think it's because it feels halfway between furry roleplay and some sort of pastiche of an aboriginal group(possibly Native Americans?).
The smart move would be to peace out and hope Kaelyn's dad shows up and, if not, hiring a boat and moving to somewhere not infested by mind-eating ghosts. Unfortunately Kaelyn and Raal are not smart and instead decide to keep going.
Also despite what the Big Grrrlf said, the Wraiths are super-visible, big glowy fuckers, you have to really be barrelling ahead without looking around to bounce into one. However, he's right that we can't do a damn thing about them yet so for now a lot of the Ridgewood is inaccessible to us.
The next fight we run into is mildly interesting, not because of its contents, the brain-wiped husks in the Ridgewood fight like anything else except I don't think they ever retreat, but because of a bit of dialogue afterwards.
Firstly, Raal, everything we run into randomly attacks us anyway. It can never be negotiated with and a lot of things fight even when wildly outmatched.
Secondly, while some of the husks in the Ridgewood are just "peasants," i.e. carrying dogshit weapons and trash tier 1 armor, these guys were actually wearing plate and carrying around big swords, so either they're not just random farmers or farming in Antara is a high-risk job.
Heading southwards, I actually reach the end of the Ridgewood and arrive in Darvi, revealing to me that it's actually accessible, which I didn't know.
Time to go poke around and see what Darvi has to offer.
It's one of the rare towns that has two shops, and one of them is thoroughly useless, just another store full of overpriced books(including the one that doesn't teach you jack shit) we've already read.
I couldn't find any wine for this guy, but apparently it only provides a single shieldstone, so I'm not very torn up about it.
The house behind his, though, is slightly more interesting.
I like that it actually gives Raal a bit of personality beyond "slightly congested generic native." Don't get used to that, though, he doesn't really have much personality outside of "I am Grrrlf" in most interactions.
I've not been having much luck finding this guy's book, but apparently it gives a large Assessment buff if you read it, and just some arrows if you give it back unread, so it's objectively a better choice to just read the damn thing and toss it in a ditch.
The other store in town is only worthwhile because it sells Senwater, everything else is stuff that you literally can't get to it without already having or having a superior version of.
Any stat boost is better than no stat boost, but archery is a lot less useful when it's only Kaelyn and Raal, as it prevents Kaelyn from being outside of the big melee scrum where she can snipe wounded enemies.
Right next to Darvi is the rickety bridge to the swampy province of Ghan. We can't go there without getting complained at so I guess we shan't.
Before heading back into the Ridgewood, I decide to clear the road between Friole and Darvi and rescue that lost kid. Along the way I run into a few Shepherds guarding a chest and something... odd, happens.
One of the Shepherds tries to fire an arrow at Kaelyn and it quite literally backfires. Aside from crashes, the game's usually been relatively un-buggy(aside from the Lockpick skill thing...), so this one was something of a surprise.
The chest they were guarding also has something new.
So, this bow fires two arrows at once, as one attack, at the cost of a worse both damage and accuracy mod than the Grrrlf Bow. It means that Kaelyn can now actually do non-negligible damage, but since she's also lost access to places where she could buy Enchanted Arrows, and the +damage fire and corrosive have a nasty accuracy malus, it's more of a sidegrade than an outright upgrade since bows are never super-accurate, even at their best, though I think the game displays their accuracy wrong in combat.
Heading north of Durst into the Waste feels... odd. It's supposed to be a big hellblasted zone, but it's just sort of crammed in between Grandeur, Durst, Eastbank, Camille and the Ridgewood, all relatively verdant areas. Like, I'm fine with a mage apocalypse creating a verdant hellhole, rather than a blighted hellhole, but that's not the mental image that the name "The Waste" conjures up.
In any case, the entrance is guarded by a few generic miscreants, but once we get inside, we actually reach a new type of enemy!
Like how Trerangs are just a primate .gif hit with a blue bucket tool in MSPaint, Fire Wolves are just, well, wolves, hit with a red colour bucket. They're not particularly strong and do thankfully underwhelming damage, but predictably have an unusual ace up their sleeve.
I wish I could tell you how devastating it was, but every single use of it missed Kaelyn. I think something like ten shots or so all whiffed her, completely absurd. I could imagine it being the same as the spell that uses the same projectile, which would mean probably 20 to 40 damage, depending on the power level.
Just around the corner, another pack of Fire Wolves are patiently sitting around poor Toddy, probably considering doing something awful to him shortly before the heat death of the universe.
And now back to Durst.
A book, hm?
Reading it gives +3 to Melee, Scouting and Stealth skills. I mean, I'll always take a skill bonus, but it's pretty minor.
With that sorted, it's time to head back to the Ridgewood. Maybe if we range a bit off the main path we'll find a clue or two.
Alright, the North of the Ridgewood.
The Ridgewood is sort of L-shaped, with one end at Grandeur, the corner above Darvi and the other end east of Darvi. Since this cabin is near Darvi, the "north" could be either along the horizontal or the top of the vertical, I check the former first.
No secret hideouts here, but plenty of wraiths and their thralls... including one hanging around a suspicious stone circle.
I also get ambushed by some Grrrlf husks, which are exactly the same as human husks. I'm als pretty sure they're literally a slightly colour-shifted Raal sprite.
Time to check out the vertical.
It's honestly perfectly easy to miss the entrance to Kaelyn's dad's lair, especially as a lot of paths are cut off by wraiths, but here it is, hidden behind this little cluster of trees.
Despite visibly being made from stone, an artificial structure, it's full of weird twists and turns and some pretty weird textures besides.
But, weirdness aside, it's really just a twisty corridor with no enemies or loot which leads to a large open area within which...
We find an NPC.
In my opinion they fucked this up, and they fucked it up bad. They wanted to have both an emotional reveal(that we have really not spent enough time with anyone involved in it to earn) and a huge fucking lore dump. Plus the game's never really made "being a wizard" feel special enough that it seems like a big twist this guy is one, especially when said twist is revealed the moment we meet him.
Anyway, the Cliff's Notes:
Kaelyn's dad accidentally killed her mom with bad magic, never told Kaelyn. Never even told her he was a wizard. Cat is now out of the bag and Kaelyn isn't happy.
Wraiths are from an alternate dimension where they breathe magic energy, should not be able to survive on Ramar for long.
Kaelyn's dad will jazz up our weapons so they can cut open the sheath of magic energy that the Wraiths breathe, thus allowing us to kill them.
So now all we gotta do is purge the Ridgewood of extradimensional invaders before they spread and eat the brains of everyone in Ramar.
Sounds simple enough.
I'm sure it can wait an update, though.