Part 3: Sol Sanctum (2/2)
This update will be a long one, but I want to get the terrible early-game portions done with so we can move onto the marginally less terrible middle-game portions sooner. If you feel the need to bang your head against a series of walls, please blame Camelot rather than me.
No, it couldn't be...The ocean has waves.
The ocean...What's that?
The ocean is a thing of endless water at the end of the world. You would not understand.
I can, however, entirely understand why the nonexistence of waves was the primary clue that an endless body of water at the end of the world isn't the same as an enclosed pool of water under a mountain. Keep on being brilliant, wise alchemic sage.
The Elemental Stars...they really exist...The Elemental Stars exist! As I have told you many times, the elements are the source of all matter. Legend holds that the four Elemental Stars contain the purified essence of each element. And now, those legendary stones are before us!
The entire reason we came here was because earlier this afternoon you didn't know anything about the elemental stars, though I guess consistency is a bit too much to hope for a whole one dungeon into the game.
Mercury Star, possessing the power of water's many forms! There is the Mars Star, glowing red with a fire contained within! And Jupiter Star, bound with the wind's fury!
I'm not sure why Camelot felt they needed to triple-up Roman gods, planets, and Greek elements for the theme naming here. Jupiter for Wind I accept, since Jupiter was a god of the sky and the planet is a gas giant known for its storms. Mars for fire is a bit of a stretch, but I guess War -> Red -> Fire isn't unreasonable. Venus for Earth is rather arbitrary seeing as there's a slightly more reasonable planet to represent Earth in the same general area, Venus was the goddess of fertility, and the Romans already had a diety for Earth. Mercury is where I think they started pulling names out of a hat because message delivery, liquid metal, and 427-degree Celcius temperatures don't tend to remind me of ice and water.
(Apparently, however, the odd one out is actually Venus because it screws up the Sailor Moon plagiarism they had going. This may just be a case of me not understanding Japan.)
The Wisdom Stone...the Stone of Sages. This stone dominates everything...It can transmute crude matter into gold, even thwart death itself! You understand now, don't you? [No] You still do not understand? Alchemy exists because of the Elemental Stars.
You didn't miss anything here. This is essentially very forced Chekov's Gunning for something that won't come up for another 108 pages of GameFAQs game script, though it might have worked a bit better if it were a reference to anything or fit into the conversation in any way. Writing is difficult.
I don't really get how it works, but they have enormous power, right?
Beyond enormous...With a single gem, one could conquer the world! Now, perhaps, you begin to understand.
In practice, the enormous power becomes the ability to light a lighthouse, and the direct world conquering is never actually addressed. In fact, we're going to be carrying one around for the whole game and it won't do much of anything except take up some space that could have been used to hold herbs.
Truly, Kraden is a worthy successor to Malcolm.
Jenna's warning only comes after Kraden nearly falls into the water due to slipping. Apparently the game is now taking cues from King's Quest 5.
Make the boys do it!
Oh, I couldn't ask...Would you mind?
He'd be glad to get the stones for you, right, Isaac? [No]
If you actually look at the rationale for each step of this process, you'll realize that it's pretty much the most absurd slippery slope possible. Let's verify that there's a sanctum -> Let's explore the sanctum -> Let's steal priceless and all-powerful alchemical artifacts that may endanger the world from the sanctum. Godwin would be proud.
Also this is a maze.
When you get one of the stars (they have to be sealed in the bags for fear of... something, though this doesn't affect your ability to triumphantly hold it over your head for a few seconds) a few more pillars spring up to allow you to get to one of the others. I suppose giving you the ability to choose which corner of the room to visit would be way too much nonlinearity for Camelot. What do you think this is, a sandbox game?
I cut out the second star because nothing happens. The third time, however, Camelot realizes that it almost let two minutes go without a wall of text and decides to remedy this posthaste.
I thought we'd be safe until they'd gotten all the Elemental Stars.
You! You mean to steal the Elemental Stars?!
Inspired by Isaac and Garet's impressions of guards, Kraden decides to channel the Solid Snake method of repeating everything he was just told in the form of a question. Now that they've stood in front of him for a while, he can scarcely contain his shock that the people who loudly announced their plan to steal the elemental stars are planning to steal the elemental stars. Perhaps we should have told somebody about this plan instead of "verifying" it by doing it for them.
What will you do with us once you've got the Elemental Stars?
I'm sure they'll do us in once they no longer need us!
Relax...You will not be hurt.
Sorry I'm not using a different portrait for the two lines of dialogue where Felix is wearing
What guarantee do we have once we've given you the Elemental Stars?
Felix! Remove your mask!
What? What did he say? He called that guy Felix...That's what he said, isn't it? [No] But that's what I heard. Felix? It can't be...That day...The Boulder...We saw him die, didn't we? [No] We searched for weeks, but we still couldn't find him.
So Felix was washed down a small creek that doesn't empty out into any large body of water, yet no body was ever found after weeks of searching. And Garet is using this as evidence that Felix couldn't have survived. Deductive reasoning at its finest.
I'm not going to compress the next section of dialogue so that we can play a game called "Guess what Camelot's favorite punctuation mark is!"
What's wrong, Felix...Don't you want them to feel safe?
Felix...Wasn't that the name of your brother?
But that accident...My brother, he...
I'll do it. I'll...take off my mask.
I-It's not possible...
I know I've caused you much grief, Jenna. It was a miracle that I survived that day... I've been with them ever since...I've experienced a lot.
But why? Why did you leave me all alone...
My own brother...I thought you were dead!
Either the writers got paid by the ellipsis or all the characters in this scene are talking like William Shatner.
This is Alex. He suddenly enters in the middle of this, probably because he was too busy admiring the same brick texture as Kraden for the last ten minutes, and flies over to where you are because he can fly (this is important). Alex will make not-at-all-dramatic entrances every time he shows up, which usually entail waiting in a closet solely so that he can miss the important parts of a conversation.
Will you permit me to relieve you of those Elemental Stars?
Oh, Alex...You're late! Alex is another of our companions. Hand the stones over to him.
I'm afraid I must apologize in advance...For you will be bringing us the remaining Elemental Star, as well.
Ready for another game?
Easy mode: Explain why Alex is making you get the gem rather than flying over to it himself.
Hard Mode: Guess Alex's gender.
(Answer to the easy mode question: So that Camelot can blame you for what happens as a result of their railroading)
No, this must be more of Alchemy's power!
Everyone, including the two who tried this three years ago and saw the exact same thing happen, is stunned that stealing priceless artifacts from a trap-lined sanctum carries negative ramifications.
This doesn't look good...Maybe we should just escape while we can.
But we need the Mars Star. We can't leave it behind!
We'll take this Jenna with us...If they survive, they will want her back. And if they want her back, they will bring us the Star. Regardless, Kraden must come with us. He is connected to all of this. It's a pity that we have to leave it, but perhaps we'll be seeing it soon...
In the time it took to argue about how they were leaving and the nature of the deal between them and Felix (a lot of useless dialogue was omitted), Alex easily could have flown over and grabbed the star. Taking two hostages as a way of coercing people who are abandoned in a volcano to give something to you seems a slightly less effective way of accomplishing things.
Djinn are essentially summons. Nobody ever bothers to explain what they are, why they returned, where they went, or anything else about them, but everybody except you recognizes them on sight and nobody seems to find their presence all that interesting. In fact, nobody else makes any reference to them having been gone, so the only real reason to include this line was for the benefit of the studio's collective typing fetish.
Take out the Elemental Star... [No]
This is the only effective use of foreshadowing in the entire series. The
The Elemental Stars are...moving away from here...
That they certainly are, given that we gave them to people who didn't want to hang around on a volcano and are instead likely moving to a place where they will not die. Thank you for imparting your wisdom on us all.
The world will be exposed to the threat of Alchemy. If the Elemental Stars ignite the flames of the four lighthouses, that power will be released. As long as the four lighthouses remain unlit...
Remember what the ultimate plot twist is: lighting these lighthouses would be an amazing thing and you're destroying the world by not helping Saturos light them this second. Notice how blatantly Camelot is cheating here, but also notice how idiotic your characters are forced to become.
Lighting all four of these lighthouses will unleash alchemy. Not three out of four; all four have to be lit. They are lit using the elemental stars. One of the elemental stars is in your possession.
If you do absolutely nothing, you win. If you lock the elemental star up in a safe deposit box, you win. "But what about Kraden and Jenna?", you don't ask because you're reading a thread on Something Awful instead of inquiring into a topic during a conversation. Well, even if you think that rescuing them is worth risking the world (as you've been led to believe will happen), you could always choose to follow S&M around and rescue them while not carrying the star that they need.
This game's storyline was not well planned.
Did that floating eye thing save us? [Yes] Yeah, right! Let's get out of here...
Either answer nets this exact same response. Somebody was wondering if choices that don't matter were better than flat-out admitting there isn't any choice, but I don't think it takes long to realize that they're basically one and the same.
By the way, all of that was unnecessary because we had this magic spell, though its use was arbitrarily limited to every single room in the game except that one. Game design!
Vale's citizenry decides that the best course of action upon seeing a volcanic explosion is to form a mosh pit at the base of the exploding volcano. The volcano in turn decides to stop exploding and calm down for the rest of the game in consideration.
Weren't Jenna and Kraden with you? [No] What do you mean they were taken away?
I'm sure that eventually you'll get sick of my jokes about how little choice there is in this game. Until that point, look at how little choice there is in this game. Look repeatedly.
Asked to explain why they violated a religious order, stole priceless and dangerous artifacts, and destroyed the symmetry of all those statue chambers, Isaac and Garet decide to express it in interpretive dance. Moved by the duo's vaudevillian antics, the religious order decides not to harbor any ill will at all towards the people who very clearly caused all of this.
We had no idea...The true sanctum...
There are a number of lines to this effect, since not even the caretakers of the sanctum ever questioned why a temple to the sun wasn't a temple to the sun. By this universe's standards somebody like Lenkmann would be a savant.
That hovering stone, the one that appeared before Isaac... I have seen it before in my dreams. In my mind's eye, it appeared again just now and spoke to me.
The mind's eye is a fancy term for imagination. We're going to embark on our quest based on this guy's daydreams of a rock with an eye. Just throwing that out there.
Vale will be safe. The Wise One will prevent the lava from reaching us. But something even more dreadful than Vale's destruction looms ahead. The Elemental Star gems house incredible power. The elemental lighthouses will loose that power upon the world. The world is ours, to save or to destroy. Our inaction may bring about its destruction.
Apparently said rock is "the wise one", which by the game's standards doesn't seem too unbelievable.
Incidentally, remember that thing that Isaac and Garet just explained to us after Kraden and The Wise One explained it to them? Let me explain it to you again!
Acquiring the Elemental Stars is their fate alone. The Wise One has spoken. Each of you shares responsibility for this. Now, each of you must make your own decision!
No reason is given for why I have to collect the elemental stars, nor is any reason given why I have to do it myself. Perhaps they could have elaborated on this instead of re-re-iterating the exposition that doesn't even describe the actual conflict.
Isaac, will you accept responsibility for the fate of the land? [No]
What's this, an actual choice? Well, not really, more a non-standard game over that doesn't actually punish you.
Instead it just sends you directly back to this exact line of dialogue to choose correctly this time, having pretty much lied to you in order to make you play along. I guess you can kind of justify this by saying that the world drifts towards destruction because Isaac keeps the Mars Star so the lighthouses can't all be lit, but this is pretty unforgivable. It's one thing to be misleading; it's another to just pull the wool over the players' eyes and hope they don't notice.
(And really, everyone in the world is perfectly fine letting everything get destroyed instead of taking it into their own hands? Disagreeing with the priest's imagination isn't the lesser evil here?)
As you can tell, there was a bit more to that scene, like the wise one telling you nothing useful and the priest magically knowing about the djinn and telling you nothing useful. I'm trying to make this drag on as little as possible, so we're leaving.
Aunty Dora asked me to give this to you, Isaac.
Apparently this is Isaac's cousin, never given a name or even unique sprite. This game sure does care about its characters. Everyone wishes you farewell in boring ways, but this is my favorite:
As Garet's mother, I know how Dora must be feeling. But I still have Garet's father, while Dora has only Isaac. She doesn't want you to go, Isaac, but she knows you have to, and it hurts to see you leave.
Vale Tribune Headline Story:
Earlier today, Garet's mother was declared the victor of Vale's regional Ms. Clunky Exposition Pageant. When asked how she felt about her success, she replied with the poignant statement, "As the victor of the Ms. Clunky Exposition Pageant, I am currently being interviewed by this paper." Local girls have surely found a strong role model.
God damn. Finally. Now, I know that seemed to go on forever, and it did, but you have no idea how much I cut out. From the start of the game to this point, the actual game script (not including optional NPC flavor text) has about 7500 words. For an arbitrary reference, this is longer than Edgar Allen Poe's The Purloined Letter, and it is spread entirely across three-line dialogue boxes, used to establish about five sentences worth of information (the town got destroyed, Saturos and Menardi are probably evil, you snuck into a sanctum to get gems but Sadism and Masochism took them, now you have to stop them from using the gems to light lighthouses). And this is just the introductory sequence.
Let's just say I do not feel my thread title is an exaggeration.