Part 18: The Nightmare EndsUpdate 18: The Nightmare Ends
So, to recap: While attempting to recover the stolen souls of the Emperor's daughter and his son in law, we had pretty good evidence that Lord Sheffield(William's father in law) was involved in some connected shady bullshit. However, the instant we show up on his doorstep to make him explain at swordpoint why he's made me suffer through this fucking game by initiating the plot, it turns out that pirates have also shown up, gutted every guard in the Sheffield household, and taken the place over.
Since we do need those souls back(kind of), we're kicking down the doors and gutting them in turn. Let's get started.
We've fought pirates before, but there's something new and interesting about fighting them now. Notice how, rather than all having red bandanas, they now have a mix of red and blue? It took me a moment to catch on, but! The different types of pirates are now visually distinct. Blue bandana pirates are heavily armored melee fighters, while red bandana pirates are poorly armored archers. Visual distinction of enemy types! And it only took nine out of nine chapters! There are, of course, also some mages in here, which are distinct by virtue of having sticks rather than swords.
It's also worth noting that every second or so pirate fighter has Montari Plate, meaning I didn't entirely miss the train on getting Kaelyn a suit, though it's too late to go get it blessed. In every fight prior to this, I'll also point out, it's more or less guaranteed that every enemy would have the same type of armor and weapon, with very tiny exceptions. Enemies in a fight both being varied and being visibly varied to the player, so they both have to, and can, make choices about who to target first, is something the game desperately needed.
In any case, I immediately turn left and try to avoid as much fighting as possible, rather than barrelling on ahead. Something of note is also that this is like... the best-looking interior in the entire game. The doors, while overly thick, somehow aren't just flat sprites, among other things.
Things actually feel kind of... like a human space, not just like a bunch of random cubes, hell, look at that door casting a shadow(from a non-existent lightsource, but still.)
It's also amusing to me that the party literally ends up spending several weeks sleeping inside the estate while clearing it out(sure hope the Sheffields aren't in some kind of immediate danger) because it easily takes a day and a half for Aren to recover after a good fight's worth of buffing his party mates and maybe taking a sword or arrow to the face.
I eventually find my way to the first floor. Note that there are like... 20 fights or something in here, probably more, but only two things of actual plot-advancing interest. One room on the first floor, and the basement.
For real, though, check this shit out: clunky polygonal objects and furniture! They could have done this shit for Kaelyn's dad's workshop and the Shepherd Hideout if they could've been fucked to! The engine can perfectly well handle it! It doesn't even look all that bad!
God, this is giving me flashbacks to the interiors in the Birthright videogame...
I'm not going to LP that, too, shut up.
Anyway! We crack the chest and find...
That someone's been faking Lord Sheffield's signature and they also handily left behind a key to the basement.
We could go there now, but I want to head around the corner where I accidentally found the nicest-looking rooms in the entire estate.
Looks surprisingly swanky and detailed compared to the formerly completely blank areas we're used to.
I think this is meant to be a bathtub.
These glimmers of talent in design annoy me unreasonably much, because it shows they could have done better, that all the shit was just laziness or executive meddling or something.
Having checked out Sheffield's private rooms and found them disappointingly empty of anything valuable to loot, the party decides to head for the basement rather than leaving him to get cut in half by pirates.
I still absolutely love how lazy these gates are, I'm glad we got to see another one before the game was over.
As another cool thing, the interior of the Sheffield Mansion is bugged, and despite the murkiness of the main floor and the basement, neither torches or magical light actually improve the lighting. I fucking love everything being grainy dogshit.
You can barely even tell I left this room covered in a half dozen corpses in various states of dismemberment!
After hacking up another pack of idiots and their mage, I decide it's time for an experiment.
I've spent all game ragging on the wizard staves, calling them useless trash, but I've never actually shown them in use. Time to embarass the game devs(and not myself, because if it turned out I had been hugely wrong and they were actually useful, I sure as hell would not have posted about it).
Go on, Aren, show them the might of wizardry!
That's the exact same damage his Grrlf staff does when he just whacks these idiots over the head with it, and consider that magic damage is in every other case apparently unaffected by armor, so against less-armored enemies, just beating them with a piece of wood is more effective. Fucking Antara.
Past the latest patch of dead idiots is a cave network that the Sheffields, like the geniuses they are, built their estate on top of without posting guards or ensuring it was inaccessible or something of the sort.
At least torches and light spells work in there so we can enjoy the lovely brown.
There are predictably more pirates down here, clogging up a large amount of underground real estate with, as per usual, exactly one(1) point of interest that we're looking for.
The one "interesting"-looking thing down here, aside from the point of interest, is this "cliff" overlooking... yet more brown. Approaching it closely enough will trigger some dialogue from William.
Thank you for the insight, my lord Escobar, I have no idea what we'd do without you.
Eventually I spot some silhouettes in the darkness(note that this is WITH light-generating magic active, it doesn't get any more visible than this) that seem slightly different from the rest and cautiously approach.
There's no sound effect or anything to accompany it, but after this baffling fucking exchange, one of the silhouettes turns into a crumpled pile on the ground. Let's hope it wasn't the one we wanted to question.
Phew, it wasn't. Let's paw over his corpse before talking to Sheffield and his daughter.
Ha ha, you thought it was simple. Sheffield was the bad guy behind it all but no, there's yet another layer of bullshit here.
The dead guy on the ground is one we've never met before.
I mentioned near the end of chapter 4 that according to FAQs, we were supposed to be able to have met Fellich Marr, the Clown Pope, in Ticoro's temple, making his presence outside a bit less baffling. According to the same FAQs, this guy was also meant to have popped up there. Apparently just to barge Aren out of the way, but it would have made his presence at this stage slightly less out of the fucking blue.
Whatever, time to harass Sheffield and make him fess up.
Short version: Turns out Lord Sheffield is actually completely innocent. His finances were just going to shit, so Selana decided to impersonate him, make deals with pirates and hang out with the racist fucko Shepherds without his knowing about it! But it also turns out she's not responsible for fucking with the Consort or the Wraith, that's actually down to Sheffield's conveniently absent court wizard Bryce.
Guess we're going looking for Bryce! Lord Sheffield says he'll catch up with us, note this, he will catch up with us. As in, he will arrive after us.
While I make my way out of Sheffield's estate, I want to note how little I explored of each floor, I explored this much of both the ground and first floors, barely a third of each, and that still got me close to ten combat encounters. I didn't even know where to go, I just absolutely lucked into an optimal path through it, but imagine what a fucking slog it would be, especially for someone less aggressively trying to beat the game and draining every side opportunity for power and gear, if you managed to bungle into every fucking fight before making your way in and out.
The way to Bryce's workshop is around the back of the Sheffield castle.
For the next thirty minutes or so, the only enemies in the game are Karns.
Also caves. And we get to the part where you have to have rope to progress(though on the far side of this hole there are plenty of caches containing it).
Because crossing a pit consumes the rope you use for it, so you could theoretically paint yourself into a corner.
Our goal is to reach this poorly detailed little lair.
So we can find Bryce's journal and learn what his deal is before we inevitably stab him in the face.
Spoiler: We will be stabbing Bryce in the face.
The short version: Bryce wanted to use an inimical alternate dimension full of soul-stealing monsters as a public transport system, the government wizards told him to not do something that stupid. He did it anyway and almost died in the process, then decided to swear vengeance on the imperial wizards. He's responsible for the Wraiths that were stuck in the Ridgewood, which the Children of Henne helped him herd into the wardstone circle. Then, suspiciously immediately afterwards, Petrov(the guy Sheffield stabbed) sidles in and suggests how Bryce could totally use a trapped Wraith to get revenge on the Emperor. Petrov then manipulates Selana into manipulating the Shepherds into kidnapping the Consort. The journal also happens to contain the information needed to summon a wraith, which of course we'll need to do to finish the game, because otherwise it wouldn't be here.
Continuing past the workshop we end up in the Waste, which means...
Now we're going to spend the next half hour killing red dogs!
The Waste is a kind of labyrinth of canyons, where your goal is to reach this open space near the center of it all, since that leads to Bryce's new evil workshop.
Trust me when I say it's just a bunch of brown with red dogs attacking me every five minutes except for this one fight that features a thing that only happens to me one time in the entire game.
A fire wolf, for once, actually lands a fire breath blast on someone, in this case Aren, and holy shit that's some scary damage, I'm glad they can't hit for shit.
Past the only accurate fire wolf in the land we're... we're back in more generic empty corridors meant to look like human habitation, Bryce's new lab.
More pits! It's actually weird how they've been completely non-existent in every cave or structure we've been in previously, and then the last two interior sections of the game are suddenly crammed with the fucking things.
Much like under Sheffield's mansion, the end goal is to find some vague silhouettes and approach them.
Oh no, it's Bryce!
Oh thank God, he just set some dogs on us.
Oh no, it's Bryce again!
Oh thank God, he just set some dogs and himself on us.
I have no idea why it was split into two fights, and it's less threatening as a result. If Bryce had just brought out all the dogs at once, he could've stood at the back and cast spells, instead he's now within whacking distance.
Also the one point where a fireball might've saved the day, Aren whiffs the shot like always.
Bryce also made the dipshit decision to bring and use a Carluda's Chain, which means that rather than shielding him, his bodyguards are now a liability.
Inexplicably, a spell hard-coded to do 40 damage also does 35 damage when he casts it. I wonder if he's using another version of Lightning Bolt or whether Kaelyn has some hidden non-conductive property.
Since it's also the last fight of the game(spoiler, I guess!) I decided to bust out Blizzard, a spell I hadn't shown yet, and it actually turns out to work!
It does enough damage that William can finish off the fight with one swing. Now let's find out who Bryce was holding at spell-point.
How the fuck did you two get here before us?
We'll never know because Kaelyn refuses to talk to them.
Short version: Bryce gives us a very abridged version of his diary, refuses to help us and then dies.
Now we have to summon up the Wraith that has Aurora and the Consort's souls and convince it to hand them over.
The chest to the left holds all the ingredients mentioned in Bryce's journal.
And the cauldron on the right is a container we can put them in. All the clues necessary are in Bryce's journal, can you figure out how to finish the game???
Senwater, nudberry, talicor dust, Trrkaa feather, and hardening fluid in no particular order.
As soon as we do, we're then plunged into cutscenes, the final cutscenes of the game.
Timestamped to skip Aren putting the ingredients in the cauldron.
Short version: The wraith shows up and goes: "Blarrr, I ain't handing over no souls." William says to just kill it, Kaelyn says we lack Wraithslayer blades to kill it with(interesting fact: her sword still had the enchantment at the start of chapter 8, but I sold it for an upgrade, I wonder if it would've dissipated at the start of chapter 9 otherwise or just been ignored) and instead we have to bargain with it for the souls. Then Sheffield and Selana rush in and offer up their own souls in exchange. Then the Wraith peaces out as the Consort and Aurora's souls zoom off to their bodies.
Short version: Two months later the Consort and Aurora are going to be married, and our crew reunite as they attend the wedding. Kaelyn has, in the interval, become the Emperor's official diplomat to the Grrrlf. William's still doing nobleman stuff, but now with somewhat more respect from his family, and he defends Selana's actions post-humously as "just doing what she thought was right." My man she attempted to empower a bunch of nazis for financial gain. There's no defending that. Meanwhile, the Clown Pope officiates the wedding and the party notices his staff of office. Which is tipped by a silver hawk. Petrov's orders were signed by the silver hawk. Petrov entered the plot after the Children of Henne assisted Bryce.
And then the game ends.
We'll never know why the pope was evil and wanted to fuck with the empire.
Presumably it was a setup for a Betrayal in Antara 2, a game that I pray we'll never see, because then I'd have to play it.
That was Betrayal in Antara, thank fuck it's done and thank fuck I can move on to games that are less shoddily designed and written.