Part 44: Magma Rock
Our fancy new birdboat can get around obstacles, which really only unlocks one or two areas we couldn't get to before and isn't used for anything that would actually be useful (for example, the fields of ocean stalagmites that prevent any degree of efficient movement to anywhere). We're almost done with djinn collection, but our summons leave a bit to be desired, so let's go collect more terrible mythology distortions, mostly from caves.
We're almost at the end of the game because pacing, and there are only two more dungeons to go. One of these is Mars Lighthouse, which is a perfectly reasonable note to end the series on. The other...
Magma Rock is basically identical to the first two rocks, and there isn't a single reason for it to be in here except to let Camelot pretend they were balancing the central framing device of their game. First comes the obligatory upward climbing maze, complete with time-wasting puzzles that boil down to "Can you open the psynergy menu and do you have the pattern recognition skills of a feral pigeon?" In this case, the "puzzle" elements are blatantly copied from something earlier with a slight recolor; a fate which basically describes Fire adepts in this series as a whole. And, more broadly, everything in this series as a whole.
As always, the only "difficulty" comes from everything being extremely indirect in the dungeon design equivalent of salami slicing.
There are also water level puzzles, rebranded as magma level puzzles in a misguided attempt to appeal to the edgy yet convection-hating youth of today. After all, everyone loves these kinds of puzzles; they just hate the fact that you still retain some semblance of mobility while in the water. (By the way, yes, this is a longer version of the leadup to Tret back in GS1).
And it's even a maze! These elemental rocks are still just masterworks of exhilarating design.
Well, we might as well take a look at those summons we got:
Coatlicue, who heals the party, is an Aztec reference, just in case the ridiculously mythology patchwork wasn't incomprehensible enough already. The mother of Quetzalcoatl, she was originally wearing a skirt made of snakes and had a face that was actually two snakes (Mesoamericans loved snakes) as well as a necklace made from the hearts of unborn children (I don't even know). Camelot's Coatlicue also aims for the ridiculous, but in a way that suggests an outright challenge to the notion that nobody could make an outfit less practical than Tetsuya Nomura. There's a reason that five-foot sleeves with giant bells on them probably aren't being sold at your local Forever 21.
Haures is rather shy and tries to avoid being seen in pictures by throwing triangles at everyone, which also allows him to escape the shame of not having his hand fully connected to his wrist. Haures is a popular misspelling of Flauros since early manuscripts were made with poor handwriting, and Flauros was a demon leopard who would set fire to people who summoned him unless he was standing on the right magical symbol, in which case he would answer questions about what it's like to be misrepresented in a poorly-made JRPG. While the latter part is rather incomprehensible, I applaud him for taking a much more streamlined approach to the time-honored game of "One guard lies and the other tells the truth".
Personally, I don't think I would want to barehandedly climb up a ledge that was just submerged in lava for a few hours. That might sting.
Anyway, you and I both know how Elemental Rocks go by this point and there's nothing else worth commenting upon. Let's just pretend this dungeon is already over. Sound good? I think it sounds pretty damn good.
The reward for continuing to put up with this is Blaze, which may or may not summon an anthropomorphic purple cat. Actually, it's far less useful.
Blaze lets you light things on fire, but only if they're within a few feet of something that's already on fire. In other words, it's basically glorified wind. Or a stick. Yeah, I would take the cat almost any day.
Remember these things which have already been used as obstacles to push into pools of lava? You might think that this is an obstacle to be pushed into that pool of lava. It's actually an item, which we apparently just stuff in our pockets despite having received no indication that we should be looking for an item. What happens if you just use Retreat twice after getting the psynergy? You get to do the whole dungeon again!
The point of all that is to bring the Magma Ball here, to a city of dwarves. Yeah.
This mining town inhabited by miners with mining equipment is having trouble getting rid of a wall probably made of stuff that could be broken apart a la being mined.
So, we use the magma ball with the cannon.
Get a djinn.
And then we get the cannon attached to our boat. There's some dialogue about this, but it really doesn't amount to anything besides "We dislike this wall and will give you a cannon if you use the cannon to get rid of our wall". As always, it's not very well thought through.
With that, we're done with everything that we can do before interrupting the final dungeon. Time to go up to Prox.
The point of the cannon is solely for this wall of ice (gee, if only we had a power explicitly used to blow up large chunks of ice. Or one used for grinding up large solids. Or one for hovering over obstacles. Or...) Thus, time to use the magma ball. Again. I don't know where we got another one; the first seemed to explode into nothing about ten minutes ago.
See Camelot, this is about how long you go between plot elements in a normal game; maybe at a low point given the black hole that was Magma Rock. Instead, by TLA standards, this is like skimming a SparkNotes chapter with TextToSpeech reading 500 words per minute. I am not complaining about this development in any way.
I will, however, complain that we've done this at least three times before. There really did not need to be 72 of these things.
Things are terrible, etc. Why is it that Saturos and Menardi looked nothing like any of these other Proxians? Why didn't they get the Mars Star first and light this one immediately; in fact, why did they barely seem to care about this one at all? This should have been the only lighthouse they cared about. I wish they could have made it back and tried to convince their fellow countrymen that "lighting Jupiter was basically the same as lighting Mars" while everyone was dying of pneumonia in a moderately better written version of the end of Fahrenheit.
Also, I know this is stupid to complain about because it's not meant to represent a story element, but why do all of these towns have inns? The werewolf village constantly in fear of outsiders should not have an inn. The town of Native Americans who hate everybody should not have an inn. The inhospitable icy wasteland hidden behind walls of ice (good thing that never inconvenienced S&M) should not have an inn. Tourism dollars are nice, yes, but last I checked there were very few Best Westerns in Northern Nunavut.
Well, people seem to imply we've been here before. The only opportunity we would have had to be here was between the storm and the raiding of Sol Sanctum, and during that time our parents were presumably taken here as well (as Saturos and Menardi enacted the brilliant strategy of "Travel halfway across the world, try to steal something, travel back across half the Earth, then three years later make the journey again"). Let's see what's up with our folks.
Oh, they left. Of course; the hostages just... left.
Prox, you guys are absolutely appalling at understanding the concept of hostages.
Why was that the agreement? What if we came back before lighting the lighthouses? Like, say, what would inevitably happen since we have to pass through here to get to the final lighthouse? Why not make the agreement "Let them go when the people we're coercing do what we actually want?" This is like bringing a gun to a bank, ordering that they open the vault, and then politely thanking them and going about your business without having them actually pull anything out of said vault.
I'd heard that you had returned to us... You look so much stronger than when you left.
It seems he has brought some allies with him.
My name is Isaac.
Isaac... Isn't that...
That is the name of the one Agatio said had killed Saturos and Menardi.
You are correct, but Isaac had reasons for fighting them. Saturos and Menardi had invaded Vale, stolen its sacred treasure, triggered a volcano... You cannot blame Isaac for pursuing them and fighting to regain what they had stolen.
We only wanted to stop them... We didn't think they'd fight us to the death.
I am sad that they lost their lives in their quest, but there was no avoiding it.
By this point, are the writers trying to make their dramatic tension as illogical as it can possibly be? Two people show up to help us achieve our goal and suddenly we're bitter enemies fighting to the end, while we can waltz into a town on the verge of destruction holding our parents hostage while parading around the murderer who's stopped four of the town's potential saviors and it's a cheery reunion with the civility of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
We understand that Agatio and Karst have made for Mars Lighthouse and not returned.
We do? All we have to go on is a woman who doesn't understand Reveal warning us that something bad might happen and misunderstanding the cooling properties of wind. Maybe Karst and Agatio simply haven't finished climbing it yet. Is there any actual reason at all for us to be even remotely concerned?
We have only a few soldiers remaining, and none who can make the climb to the aerie.
Only Saturos and perhaps Agatio were strong enough to reach the top...
Ah, casual sexism. I don't even know what this statement is trying to prove; only Agatio could reach the top, hence why Agatio hasn't reached the top?
We've climbed three lighthouses already... What's one more? Let's go to Mars Lighthouse!
You just said only they were strong enough! Why do you keep trying to say things and pretending anyone might care?
This is an unexpected turn of events, but yes, I think you can light the lighthouse.
For three years you've kept our parents hostage as a means of eventually coercing us to do exactly this. Do you consider it equally unexpected when the sun rises at 5:00 in the morning instead of 5:15?
In order to light the beacon at Mars Lighthouse, you will need to have the Mars Star. You must find Agatio and Karst, and you must take the Mars Star from them.
Thanks for your help. The future of Weyard rests in your hands.