Part 37: The Eye of Judgement - GlaziusThe Darkness of Astoria - Prelude: The Eye of Judgement
In issue 22, they revamped Dark Astoria. The previous version of Dark Astoria was covered here, at least the look of the place.
To introduce the new zone, there was a brief interactive prelude, accessed heroside through Peregrine Island. So let's see how that went.
This thing on? Yeah, I've been around Paragon City for a while now. Shut down the WEB when it first came up and everything.
Course in the papers this is usually the side they catch, but anyway. It all started when I got a call from a PPD officer who needed some help with an investigation...
Big John Snow, thanks for coming. The situation we have calls for someone of your... power level. Allow me to explain.
We've had a series of deaths in Paragon as of late, starting a little before we had to shut the doors to Dark Astoria. The autopsy reports say that some of them were suicides, while others were murders. However, the one thing they had in common was some sort of religious symbolism behind all of the deaths. The victims believed they had done something wrong and deserved to be punished.
We sent in Detective Hopp to investigate the case, but now he's gone missing. We then sent in some heroes to check it out, but they're gone too. We even requested help from a small supergroup, but... well, they're also missing now.
This is why I've asked for your help, now that you're an Incarnate. Whatever is going on here is bigger than us, Big John Snow, and I think it has to do with whatever is flaring up in Dark Astoria.
A man's body has been found in a nearby alley of Peregrine. It looks like he jumped to his death off one of the apartment buildings. Witnesses say he was mumbling something about sin and burdens before he jumped.
This fits the pattern that we've been seeing. I'd like to ask that you check out the crime scene and see what you can find out, Big John Snow.
I told him investigating a suicide was a little under my pay grade, but then he talked about what was going on in Dark Astoria.
Some time ago, these monsters began to spill out of the gates, monsters more powerful than we've ever seen before. Blue Steel and a squad of our, well, let's just call them 'super' PPD Kheldians held off the monsters as long as they could, but it was obvious that we were fighting a losing battle.
Blue Steel ordered that we shut the hazard gates while the heroes of the city investigate what to do about the situation. The Midnighter Club has set up a portal in Peregrine Island for those who are looking to investigate the cursed city.
I believe whatever caused these monsters to appear in Dark Astoria is somehow linked to this case, which has not only claimed the lives of civilians but also possibly the lives of an entire supergroup of heroes.
That kind of pitch, you don't say no to. So I headed across town...
...took out a robot clone duplicate of a criminal mastermind who's been active for decades...
And found the scene. The PPD had it cordoned off and put their best personnel - Kheldian Peacebringers fused with officers, after the pattern of Sunstorm - to make sure nobody else got wrapped up in it.
The victim was one Harry Ifer, living out of a houseboat by the docks. His pockets were stuffed with ramblings about monsters clawing him from within, saying they would feast on the power of his sin. Fit the pattern, anyway. So I headed over to the docks...
...put down an advanced scouting party of invaders from another dimension...
And found Harry's boat.
He didn't have much, but I did find his journal. He was one of the people evacuated from Dark Astoria. A woman named Heather Townshend was leading the evac, but he ran for the gates to Talos Island when he had the chance. The people who did survive didn't seem keen on talking to him.
Most of the following pages were about his nightmares, but he did mention having visions of a nearby apartment complex, and something in room 113 that his dreams told him would help. I figured it was worth checking out.
The building was easy enough to find among the skyline. Nothing too out of the ordinary about it. But when I stepped inside...
The place looked like it had been abandoned for years.
Well, nothing for it. No answer at the door, but it opened easily enough...
Squalor. Squalor, and candles laid out in some kind of... ritual circle? No, they were marking a path, like some kind of luminaria.
So I followed them. I opened the door, and-
I was somewhere else. The forest looked almost normal except for the scaly, spiky pillars running through it. I turned back to find the door, and
-that wasn't a door at all-
There was a man standing there, with his back to me. I struck up a conversation, or tried to.
It begins again. The ebb and flow, back and forth. More march to the slaughter which we all hoped to stop. But we were cast out, called insane, after our work was done.
No one would try to remember the past, how hard we fought to save the future.
Who are you? And... where am I?
I am no one. I was someone, once, but now, I am no one. I was cast out for what I did, for what we all did. They called us crazy, they couldn't believe what we said.
We tried to save the world, and we were destroyed for it. Now, the world is paying for the sins of the past, for the sin of forgetting the past.
You are at the border of life and death. Its world, or rather, part of it. I've been here before, when we first fought.
If you're here, it means it wants you, just like it wanted me so long ago. There's no turning back now. If it wants you, it will find a way to get you closer and closer. That's what happened with me, but it wasn't expecting what I did, not that it mattered, in the end.
But what did the world forget? What is this 'it'?
He didn't say anything more than that. So I left him behind.
I went deeper into the forest. Not much choice here, really. And then
-it was looking at me-
I ended up somewhere else. A disused sewer, cysts lining the walls and rupturing, spilling into the channel.
The way back was blocked by fog. Was I in Astoria, somehow?
I knew better than to touch this stuff, but I did it anyway. It felt... ghostly, is the only word for it.
I pressed forward, towards the red light spilling into the tunnel.
But it wasn't from outside. It was coming from some kind of rune, and I went closer to see what I could make out.
-have you ever had a dream where you were running-
-and you knew as you do in dreams that something horrible was chasing you-
-and you knew that if you looked back it would catch up to you in an instant-
-but you couldn't stop yourself from looking back?
AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH - oh, there's something off in the distance there - HHHHHHHHH!
And that was my introduction to what happened to Dark Astoria.
I couldn't capture the loading screen for the new zone, but yeah, that's what happens. Head into a mission in Peregrine Island, go through that head trip of scene cuts, and get spit out ten stories up into the new zone.
Fortunately there's no fall damage from this and you land in a safe area.
I suppose one way to think of things is that if the old Dark Astoria was the foggy Silent Hill, the new Dark Astoria is the Otherworld.
The fog was gone. That red light illuminated everything, usually just enough to see by.
Someone had created a circle of sigils that were proof against the undead, judging by the fallen zombie corpses all over the place. I'd seen another one when I was falling, so I headed over to it.
Something had happened to the Banished Pantheon, turning them from the punching bags they'd ordinarily be into fitting opposition. I didn't think it was just the equal opportunity employment.
The Circle of Thorns was here too, of course. Along with a group of fighters who bore some resemblance to the Knives of Artemis but had radically different weapons and tactics. At least they didn't drop caltrops all the time.
Enemies in the new Dark Astoria range from levels 51 to 54. 50 is the hard level cap, but there are Incarnate powers that will give you an effective extra level, either always-on or when playing Incarnate content, which this counts as.
When you defeat an enemy in Dark Astoria, it'll give you a small amount of basic Incarnate experience if you haven't unlocked your slots already. It's kind of intended to be a way to work the slots if you don't have 15 to 23 very best friends to run the various trials with.
The moon hung fixed in the sky, white and full.
I had to take a couple of detours around overwhelming opposition, just like I was a rookie again, but I eventually found the circle, and the Midnighter who'd set it up.
Ah, Big John Snow. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Ephram Sha. I represent the broader interests for the Midnight Squad, here in the heart of darkness.
Dark Astoria is in turmoil, Big John Snow. Everywhere one looks, there is death and chaos rising to claim this world. My mind's eye is capable of ferreting out the sources of this darkness, but my powers alone cannot banish it.
The Midnight Squad has tasked me to seek out spirits of great power, and request their aid. If your aim is to turn back the tide of death in Dark Astoria, then we have a common goal. I will be here to fight against the darkness that emerges. However, if you wish to get to the bottom of what is happening, I would suggest finding Heather Townshend. She is helping two of my associates with the matters here in Dark Astoria.
Ephraim Sha is the heroside repeatable mission contact for Dark Astoria. He's got about eight slightly different door missions. The reward table includes random Super Inspirations and, once a day, 10 Incarnate Threads.
In terms of relative power levels, that's about half a common component or one-sixth of an uncommon one. You need two common components and one component of the power's tier in order to create or upgrade an Incarnate ability.
He pointed me to another runic circle set up on an overpass.
You're Big John Snow, right? I've heard everything about you. My name is Heather Townshend. It's nice to see a friendly face around here. But... how did you get here?
I gave her the rundown. It didn't really sound more believable the second time.
Entire supergroups gone? And a mysterious apartment? I... see. It seems whatever is in this city wanted you to come here... perhaps to destroy a hero as well known and powerful like yourself.
What are you doing here? What are these runes?
I can't really answer either of those very well, but I'll do my best. A while back, I began to feel a... pull to Dark Astoria. Something was calling me to return. I used to live here, before the city was taken over by these monsters.
When I entered the city, something felt wrong, more than usual. It felt like something was on the brink of bursting forth. There were these strange winged creatures flying towards the cemetery. Some of them were attacking some women who were armed to the teeth, they looked like assassins.
I hid in the shadows as I watched these winged women fight the assassins. The monsters called them traitors to the cause. Their fight was interrupted by this... this horrible moaning in the distance, followed by a violent earthquake. Something must have burst out of the cemetery. The monsters killed the assassins and departed. I felt an incredible force overcome me, and I blacked out.
I woke up where we're standing right now, surrounded by these protective runes. There were two people with me, a man named Kadabra Kill and his wife, Sigil. I asked them where the runes came from, but they said they did not know. All they knew was that they were enough to hold back the darkness and the monsters, but they would not last for long.
They both told me to leave, that they would help get me out, but I refused. I... came here to finish something, Big John Snow, something that had been bothering me for a long time, and I intend to do just that.
They requested that if I saw anyone else that I ask them to help their investigation. They said they were part of some secret organization that was seeking to find out what was happening in Dark Astoria and put a stop to it. I guess that you would count as someone who could help their investigation, right?
Did you know a man called Harry Ifer?
He came to me a while back, even though I told him never to talk to me again. Harry said that he was having dreams about Astoria and asked if I was having them too. I... lied to him, told him I did not.
He and I both were from Astoria and were here when the Banished Pantheon rose and attacked. We were separated... I went with one group of survivors, while he went with others. We both barely made it out with our lives.
I wanted to forget it all happened, Big John Snow, that is why I told poor Harry to leave me alone. But the dreams... they wouldn't stop. They became worse every day. I knew I had to come back here and find the answers to my dreams. I tried to find Harry, but by then, it was too late. He was delusional, driven mad by his dreams. I hoped that if I went to Astoria, I could find the answer to both our problems.
...how is Harry doing?
Harry is dead, Heather. He killed himself.
... Just like the others. I heard about the rash of suicides. They were all people who used to live in Dark Astoria.
Whatever is awake here is causing this, Big John Snow. We have to find out what's going on and put a stop to it!
Well, at least I had a safe base to work from. This wasn't the most hopeless cause I'd ever taken up, but the road ahead was like nothing I'd ever imagined...
Now, I have a confession to make. I may have given slightly the wrong impression. The thing about the intro arc is that it gives you a little sop of mission-complete XP for sitting through the whole thing, but there's no real combat. And freebies like that don't really show up in the in-game flashback system, so the only way to see this is to do it for the first and only time.
Running through this mega-arc is going to happen with someone who's a little more...
I AM THE DESTROYER OF DESPAIR!