Part 15: Lightning Bugs and Software BugsUpdate 15: Lightning Bugs and Software Bugs
We pick up as the party leaves Choth, cutting out a small interlude where I go get the Everedge blessed to make it really whip ass. We're heading east to Bakril and then north up to Ganath, I was originally planning to blaze it straight down to Imazi, but it turns out that the party doesn't particularly feel like doing that until they're given a reason to do so. On the way, I also take stock of some new spells added to Aren's repetoire.
This spell is either a lie or game mechanics make it irrelevant. In a later fight, William gets poisoned and I cast this on him at full strength(note that it can only be cast in combat), which doesn't nudge the poison meter at all. In fact, it increases. Afterwards, I also feed him about five units of anti-poison paste(each should reduce poisoning by 50 percentage points), on a 60% poisoning, before it takes effect, so I think the poison mechanics may just be fucked.
If we hit something like the 6-mage ambush from Krondor, this could potentially be a useful turn one cast, but enemies generally only have one mage, as far as we've seen, so it would mostly just get in the way of us casting shit at them.
In a battle that lasts ~6 turns, I can either spend 7 hit points making an enemy lose one hit point per turn or I can spend 14 to make them lose 40 immediately. Hmmmm. Tough cost-benefit analysis there... do not ever cast this.
I will actually test out Monsoon in this update! Though mostly to show off the visuals. It's a theoretically useful spell if combined with, say, Storm or Call Lightning, except for the "random wander"-effect that means it might decide to slide over and coast William instead or just edge off of the enemies I actually want it to hit.
Oh and the party also gutted and filleted some idiot bandits on the way out of Choth. There are a lot of idiot bandits and lightning bugs on the way to Bakril, enough that I actually started avoiding fights when possible because they were getting immensely tedious.
This is what the road looks like more or less all the way. Some trees, a road, a swampy ditch on the left and a wall of "mountains" on the right.
It's odd but I feel like the spell effects are probably the nicest looking thing about Antara's graphics. They're not as crusty as the rest, they're actually other colours than shades of brown... I might've well enjoyed the game more if it just committed to a more cartoony and stylized design. It would at least have kept my eyes engaged. This little bit also shows off the issue with Monsoon which is that the battlefields are generally so large that enemies easily have a lot of places to be that aren't in the area of effect, though if an enemy is under it and has a ranged attack, they seem braindead enough to just hang out there and keep shooting rather than prioritizing moving out of a damaging AoE.
On the one hand that makes Monsoon more useful for its "bonus to zappy damage"-effect, on the other hand it also makes Monsoon useless as a "suppressive fire" weapon that forces enemies to move rather than keep plunking arrows into my idiots' heads, something that will shortly become a very real problem.
Case in point.
So! We've seen enemy archers before, usually one or two in some groupings, where they'd miss most of their shots, and the ones that hit would do ~15 points of damage, and for context our most fragile party member is Aren who has about 80 hit points, and unlike in Krondor, our hit point totals do not rise passively over the course of the game, nor have I found any events that improve them.
In this case, though...
We start running into groups of these pirates archers, five to seven, all of which are archers. Since only inns and Senwater can heal the last 20% of Aren's health, he's usually at less than 75, especially after a first-round cast, and they WILL all pile on him and I think something is fucked up about the accuracy representations for archery, since they all always hit, or archery actually ignores defense ratings or something despite what it says.
They're also fast enough to always act in between Aren and William, so Aren only survives, and thus I only really "win," fights with them if his first-round cast is Armorlight since enemies will still keep machinegunning arrows at invincible targets because they're morons.
I come out of it alive after a reload, but the point is that the game devs seem to have realized that vicious alpha strikes that can one-round-kill party members are the only real threat as long as the party is hauling around metric tonnes of Senwater, and are playing for keeps now. I hope this is a fluke, because this really ain't fun to deal with. It continues all the way to Bakril, though.
It's been a bit since we last saw the beach, at least this coastline doesn't seem to have any of those incredibly gross field worms, which is good because Kaelyn had our only set of drums and I never bothered to pick up any more because... I don't actually think the entire north half of the game world contains any field worms.
Thanks to some bad luck and impatience on my part, the party's zeroed out on Senwater as they stumble into Bakril, beelining for the inn to get some holy water to pour on Aren's dozens of bleeding wounds before he dies again.
Thank you, developers, for this small mercy.
I then turn around and pile the dorks into the inn for some rest which triggers an odd interaction.
This guy is acting like we've dealt with some sort of problem for him. Odd. Maybe we killed a group of generic enemies on the road that were actually part of a subquest? Whatever, let's just step out and check out the rest of the houses in town.
It turns out that the developers, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the thing to do here was to have the ambush trigger on getting too close to the inn, rather than interacting with the door, which means that if you approach from the right angle and interact with the door from just far enough out, you skip over it. And, since they never expected anyone to "sneak" around it, the innkeeper's dialogue is the same whether you've actually killed the mercenaries outside his front door or not.
I also wonder what triggers these super-weird combat backdrops where it makes the participants look about two feet tall. It adds a bit of comedy to the game, at least.
The rest of Bakril is also odd, about half the town's houses are empty, the other two...
Like, why does it even matter whether Spooky Cackling NPC is male or female, guys? Is the truly scary thing here the violation of the gender binary?
And if we interact with another house a bunch of randos just charge out and decide to fight us to the death. I repeat my accusations that Antarans suffer from some sort of debilitating mental illness.
As I turn north to leave Bakril, I notice something... odd.
When cleaning up the sprite for this tree trunk, someone left a single bright-green dot on the upper left corner of the transparent section. At a range I thought it was intended to be a firefly or something, but up close it's clearly just a bright green pixel.
Reaching the northeasternmost area before turning west for Ganath, we spy the majestic cube of Nathby across the river. We won't get to go there, though, because despite it being barely five minutes off our path, William declares that it's too big a side trip. The same's the cast for Darvi on the western side of the zone, and Torlith in the last chapter. It feels somewhat immersion-breaking that they'll get that close before saying it's too far. My immersion would've benefited from those towns being shoved a bit back from the area borders or, hell, just loop it into the allowed zone in both chapters.
Just outside Nathby is this chest I can't open. I spent... 35 lockpicks, that's three and a half stacks of lockpicks, and Aren bounced off every single time, and that's with a ring to boost his lockpicking. I have no idea what's in here and I guess we'll never find out, completely mental difficulty on this thing.
If I'd been smart I would've ignored the Choth-Bakril road and just gone from Keth to Ganath to Bakril, because that road is way less densely packed with enemies, and more of them can be sidestepped. Either way, welcome to Ganath! It has two things.
A sword store with a new sword which, together with the Onyx Blade, isn't worth our time thanks to the Everedge. If we hadn't had that, though, I think the Malachian Bore would've been a good choice. It does about as much damage on a stab as the Broadsword and Onyx Blade do on a hack, and is insanely accurate with it at that. Toss a blessing on top and it would make you able to very reliably hit things. It does have a comparatively low Hardness, though, so you might find yourself unable to keep up with the repairs and needing to actually buy a new one before the end of this chapter, because chapter 6 has a lot of people and animals that need to die for our progress.
And a tavern featuring the dumbest motherfucker in Antara: Khorus Bale.
Short version: This idiot is missing an eye because he burned it out with a super-spicy pepper just to make a point to someone, we need his approval to get hired on by a gang of mercenaries so we can maybe find this Kahleth guy who might have the Consort. Also you can't progress the game without trying to arm wrestle him twice, and the second time you must have chugged a Halder's Brew on William first. Even if you drink the Halder's Brew before the first attempt, you then still need to try twice, because the developers really did not consider any kind of edge case. Once he's been arm wrestled and exhausted for stories about his injuries, he'll finally tell us someone in Choth will now talk to us.
Also on checking over things, I don't think any store in the Ghan region actually sells Halder's Brews, I found some on a dead enemy or in a locked chest somewhere, that was the only reason I had any. Is it actually possible to softlock your own dumb ass here?
Anyway, back on down to Choth...
A new NPC, Lokath, has materialized in front of the inn.
Short version: Lokath decides that, when two new members want to join his mercenary troops, he's going to force two old members to fight them to the death. This seems like a poor way to make a mercenary company function, but I guess he's the (new) boss!
Ha! Easy pea-
The game did not take losing politely and decided to crash on me.
This baffled me briefly, as my inventory had plenty of space. But then it turned out that the game was trying to force some rations into my inventory, and my rations/gold pack was completely full up. This bug can also set you back quite a bit, because the game autosaves before every fight, but if you reload that save for this one...
Lokath has dematerialized and no longer exists! Thankfully I had a quicksave just before the fight, so I reload, toss some food into a ditch, do the fight again and...
There we go! Now we can return to Imazi!
We see Pianda for the first time in a long while. Strangely, Aren's dad's dialogue hasn't updated, he apparently hasn't heard that his son is now a wanted criminal and that a member of the Antaran royal family has been kidnapped, or just doesn't think them worth mentioning. We can still rest here for free to advance Aren's magical scholarship, though, but I decide not to exploit that for all its worth, because A) I'm a gamer of honour and B) frankly I think we've already learned every spell of any value.
At first glance, Imazi looks much like it always was. Let's check in with some of the locals we met before, like... the guy who wanted Gersson, Garsson, whatshisface, to send his kid off to get an education and some political connections.
I'm genuinely not sure what happens if we never help Brunia, whether this entire subplot is just excised and we skip right on to the next part, or whether Brunia is just assumed to have gotten his stuff back anyway.
Yup, drums of war a-beating.
"Oh, the local noble raped my daughter, but I'm still on the fence about hanging him. I'm sure she'll get over it." What an ass.
Once we talk to him, though, she suddenly exists outside his front door.
The best I can say for this exchange is that they're trying. Now, I wonder what an abused young woman would like...
Welp, not a bribe, let's reload that one. How about...
You go get him, girl. Garsson's in the shit now. I don't even care about the money she gives us, I just wanted to give her the option to carve him a new asshole.
Now let's see what sort of vicious siege they've got Garsson's estate under!
They've got one guy with a tactical bandana and he's dug a hole. Excellent. Truly we're making progress. Sadly this is also our contact.
Short version: Mercenary man accepts his new lunch, doesn't believe we're useful for anything, and sends us back to Lokath for more information.
At this point I'm a bit confused since everything I can find suggests that things are supposed to unfold differently and this guy is actually supposed to send us off on another quest.
...I'll take a break and figure out what's going on later. Maybe it's another Brunia thing where I just need to find the right way to interact with him or I accepted some dialogue options in the wrong order or something.
Next time: We probably finish chapter 6.