Part 42: ReleasedEpisode 40: Released
Last time, we reunited with the rest of the party and found out the entire Imperial Army was on their way to Dirge. We can't exactly fight hundreds of golems and Lotus Assassins, so instead we are going to cut off their path by blowing up the only bridge leading to the temple. Kang has volunteered for that particular mission, with Silk Fox and Dawn Star making sure he doesn't get killed while he sets the explosive charges.
At the end of the previous update, we took control of Silk Fox. Whenever you play as one of the other party members, they get their own status screen as we can see here. Quest logs, too.
While we can't access the style menu as Silk Fox, we can at least see her sword is known as the Captain's Blade. Speaking of weapons, there apparently is powerful gear hidden around Dirge, so we should check that out before we proceed to the main task.
Here's Silk Fox's log of active quests. Apparently, party members also have their own completed quests, but I didn't think to look at those when I was recording. We can see Silk Fox still doesn't think much of Dawn Star, who turned out to be her cousin (and, as Emperor Sun Li's daughter, technically higher up in the line of succession, not that Li would care of such things).
One of the hidden weapons was said to be close by and found before the bridge, so there's really only one spot they could've hidden it -- behind one of the Dirge fountains (the one where we fought the betrayers). Blade of the Broken Bough is a weapon upgrade for Silk Fox, and... well, that's about it, really. If we were playing as Dawn Star here, she'd be the one getting the weapon.
With the new sword (it's a single blade, even though the icon suggests otherwise) in hand, we can get on with the job and go blow up this bridge.
Here they come! Hold them off! I only need a minute!
Cute. Let's do this. A minute doesn't seem too bad.
Oh, and now we're in a side-scrolling beat 'em up for some reason.
Well, it's not really scrolling because the bridge consists of different segments and there's a quick fade to black when we cross between them, but close enough.
All we have to do here is make sure the soldiers don't get to Kang. They die very quickly and easily, so as far as escort/protection missions go this is quite manageable. The soldiers spawn in from the right side of the bridge, so standing at the end there and waving our sword around like a moron is an efficient tactic.
Well, at least until one guy decides to spawn in behind us. He literally just popped up in the middle of the bridge and tried to beeline for Kang, but we stopped him before he could do much.
That bit of silliness notwithstanding, protecting Kang wasn't difficult at all.
Kang, you had one job. You're a minor deity and everything, get it together!
Surely you didn't expect this section to be over so quickly. Now we've got Lotus Assassins coming in, and they're a bit more dangerous than the soldiers.
Someone managed to get to Kang at one point, but we've got it all under control.
Silk Fox and Dawn Star don't appear in this cutscene. Of course, they're perfectly fine.
That siege golem isn't too thrilled about what just happened. And yeah, as Kang says, the flyers can still get to us, but at least they won't be accompanied by several hundred golems and a bunch of other shit.
Goddammit, Silk Fox.
High praise from a farm girl.
At Your Highness' service. We should get back to the temple. Lead on, I'll be right behind you.
I guess they're getting along? Sort of?
With the bridge destroyed, we can head back to the inner courtyard and go see how many enemies made it.
Just shut up, and get ready!
A couple of Lotus Assassins won't be a match for the Black Whirlwind, that's for sure.
Well, that just might.
It's "just" a jade golem, though. I'm sure Whirlwind would rather fight one of the siege golems, which are even bigger, but I suppose they are stranded on the side of the mountain now.
Whirlwind seems to approve regardless.
This is not the first time we've played as the Black Whirlwind, but there was something I didn't look at when we took control of him for one of the arena fights.
Whirlwind's quest log reads much as you'd expect. The best part here is the Daily Reminder, which is a bit long so I'll just put it in quotes:
Daily Reminder posted:
Since I keep forgeting (sic) where I put everything the night before, I'm writing this checklist to myself... to help get me through mornings.
1. Do you have your axes? If not, you're probably dead.
2. Do you have your clothes? Are you wearing them? If you don't see your clothes nearby, you'll probably never find them, so don't waste time looking. If you really need clothes for some reason, take what you need from the nearest dead bodies.
3. Are you in a bed? Is there someone with you? I've learned from past mistakes, waking up with someone usually turns out badly. Get your clothes and leave quietly.
4. Is anyone still alive nearby? Don't be shocked. Sometimes I pass out before I start fighting. Since the people nearby probably won't be up for a fight for some time, it's best just to move on and find another place to stay for the day.
That's just excellent life advice in general.
Whirlwind's segment actually has a kill counter! You can also pick up bottles thrown by Hou (that's what the glowy orb to the right is) to replenish your health and chi.
This time, the enemies aren't immune to friendly fire, so when the golem swings its axe there's a good chance one of the Lotus Assassins gets murdered.
Puny jade golems are no match for the Black Whirlwind.
More is good! Let them come!
We're safer if I destroy the enemies they send. I prefer an active defense.
Whirlwind's got the right idea, so let's go find some more idiots to kill. There's a weapon upgrade for Whirlwind to the right, but I don't find it until later.
Heading towards the camp, we run into more Lotus Assassins who fare about as well as their friends in the courtyard.
Every 20 kills, you're informed of how good you are at murdering men. Unfortunately, since we killed the golem already, the maximum number of Assassins we can kill is 34.
If you ignore the golem and just hack away at the little guys, you get to slaughter a hundred of them before the game finally decides it's had enough of your shit and tells you to "just kill the golem already".
However, as the golem is gone, this is all we get. How sad.
Of course I find the weapon when everybody's already dead. Time to head back to the temple, I suppose.
When we make our way back towards the temple, we hear a bell ring for some reason.
You just keep the Lotus Assassins busy here. I will go to the temple.
I won't stop until they are ankle deep in blood! Head first!
It's nice to see someone who enjoys their job this much.
Eh? I don't think that was in the plan.
I... was approached... once or twice. The Lotus Assassins offered much, even the chance of returning my daughter. But, I assure you, I did not plan to betray you. You showed me that the world... my life... is not as pointless as I once thought. My daughter is long dead. Their offer only shows how desperate you have made them.
This is a chance to isolate the leader of the troops! Death's Hand thinks that he and a group of Assassins will enter the temple unopposed, but I have a surprise. I set traps... remember how I asked Kang for some of his explosive casks? The Assassins will be destroyed, and Death's Hand will be yours alone.
Right, so, despite seeming a bit dodgy for a moment there (especially combined with his previous disappearances), Sky remains loyal to us and wants to help us take down Death's Hand. This was not the case until quite late in the game's development -- before his character was rewritten into the rogue with a heart of gold we see in the final game, Sky was much more tormented by the loss of his family and actually was supposed to betray us at this point unless he was turned to Open Palm or romanced.
The original plan for the character was revealed in a BioWare forums thread by Chris Priestly, one of the designers of Jade Empire (I found these quotes on the wiki, the original forum thread from 2005 has long since disappeared into the ether... along with the whole BioWare forums, now that I think of it):
Chris Priestly posted:
"Sky was originally (up until about 9 months before shipping) designed to be a Closed Fist NPC all through the game. He was suave and sexy and all, but was really quite rotten at the core due to the death of his daughter and his lust for revenge.
"The scene in Chapter 6 Dirge where he is ringing the bell to bring in Death's Hand was originally him betraying the party and allowing Death's Hand to sneak up on the Player from behind. He would do this every time unless the Player had turned him to Open Palm or done the romance. If the Player was Closed Fist they would defeat Death's Hand and then had the option of imprisoning Sky or Executing him. If the NPCs objected the Player could execute them too.
"But in the end, the Design team revisited Sky and made him into the lovable rogue that he was when we shipped".
Explosions aren't going to work on Death's Hand, so fisticuffs it shall be.
Thank you for this opportunity, by the way. I could never face Death's Hand myself, but I want to make him pay for thinking I would be so weak. Use my daughter against me, will he? Make him hurt.
Guess again, you slab of rot.
The Lotus Assassins accompanying Death's Hand have been taken care of, just as planned.
And now we'll be alone with Death's Hand. Wonderful.
Rrrgh! You have a better grip on your fellows than my master thought. The plight of a dead child is difficult motivation to resist.
The will of the master guides me. The strength of the dragon empowers me. I cannot be defeated. I must obey.
VIDEO: Boss: Death's Hand
As you might expect, Death's Hand is a tough opponent and easily the single most dangerous enemy we've faced in combat. Arguably, he might even be the toughest fight in the whole game, because his damage output is absolutely ridiculous and he attacks incredibly quickly. We absolutely don't want to get hit by that jumping slash.
Obviously, harmonic combos won't work on him since he's a boss enemy and all. Getting a few good hits in while he's petrified will still be nice.
See what happened to our health bar? That was one combo. One three-hit combo, and our health just melts.
The Eye of the Dragon may have saved our ass here.
Okay, time to bring out the big guns, by which we mean the good old Storm Dragon combo. The last thing we want is giving Death's Hand an opportunity to hit us.
You don't want to get too far from him when he's low on health, because he'll heal himself and he'll do that really fast. There goes all that progress we made in the fight, and now we're at a disadvantage because we're rather low on chi.
Death's Hand remains more than happy to almost kill us with his combos, and we don't have that much resources left.
And there goes the last of our chi. Great. Time to whip out Spirit Thief once more, otherwise we'll be fucked.
That's better. I spent quite a bit of time using Spirit Thief, which was cut from the video because it would've been boring to watch. Focus mode helps us a bit, although it's still in your best interest to be extremely careful around Death's Hand.
Fuck this guy.
Oh hey, it's Sun Li. Nice of him to join us.
Looks like he couldn't quite make it in person, though.
Do you pretend to have insight into my character, some great truth from beyond the pale that will reform me? I am no villain. There is no malice in my actions. I had no choice. My brother had no restraint. A world under his heel would be chaotic and violent. I will bring order. I will ensure that everyone is safe within their roles.
I will not hear this. Your tongue profanes a place in my heart where no one is permitted.
You force my hand. I must picture her, unblinded by strategy or hate, and consider what it would mean if she truly were my child. I must answer, it does not matter.
I don't think anyone expected anything different.
If I had the emotions you think I should, I would have defended her or died at her side. But her death had no real meaning to me, so neither does her life. I am forced to confess that my first feeling was not sorrow at her loss, but anger at my brother for destroying my possessions in so petty a manner. In the end, it changes nothing. I intend to make the Empire a better place. As a god, it will be a simple matter.
To the Glorious Strategist, people are simply tools he can use and throw away as necessary. We knew that perfectly well already.
Speaking of tools, looks like Death's Hand isn't done yet. He probably won't be, as long as he remains bound to Sun Li's will.
Of course, we can also perform the Ritual of Binding, and we don't even need the amulet to do so.
Do you intend to rescue Death's Hand? Perhaps you think you can appeal to *his* conscience, to the remnants of Kin that swim in that helmet.
Now that he mentions it... yes, that might be worth a try.
Will you? Even if you could, I believe you would find it difficult to release so valuable a tool. Come, then, pit your will against mine. Take him if you can.
Time to see whose will is stronger.
And we're going to do it by dueling Death's Hand as the spirit of Prince Kin! Not gonna lie, this is kind of awesome. Most of the chapter is.
VIDEO: Boss: Death's Hand vs. Prince Kin
Naturally, Prince Kin also has his own status screen and quest log.
For some reason, it took me until I was grabbing the screenshots to realize that the Demon Sword we found as Wu is the exact same blade Prince Kin and Death's Hand wield in battle. Well, I might have realized when I was recording, but that was a while ago. Also, I completely forgot about this, but Prince Kin's title in life was "The Hand of Heaven".
This is a really cool fight, with lightning strikes and all kinds of neat effects enhancing the atmosphere. Death's Hand hasn't changed his approach since the previous fight, but then again he doesn't really need to because that worked quite well for him. Prince Kin is not as strong as Wu, so being cautious is even more important than it was before.
I got a bit greedy here and could easily have paid the price for my hubris. Fortunately, this was the first time Death's Hand hit us, so we have plenty of chi for healing.
Prince Kin has emerged victorious over Death's Hand, but what does that mean in practice? Is he just going to be Prince Kin now, and if so, could he help us fight Sun Li?
Take this corpse. See if you can throw away such a useful tool. I will face you at the height of my power, in the heart of *my* Empire. Your master awaits you, child.
So, apparently, Sun Kin would in fact be dead if it wasn't for the binding. I thought the implication was that he was bound to the armor while still alive, but I guess not.
In any case, we have a choice to make. Do we grant Prince Kin's wish and release him from his torment, or should we bind him and make him atone for the horrible things he has done?
There's really only one answer here. We will let him have his rest. If you choose to bind Death's Hand to yourself, he becomes a party member for the rest of the game, albeit one who isn't particularly popular among the rest of the crew. I have bound him on an Open Palm playthrough before, and while other party members complained a bit they didn't turn on me or anything like that. My understanding is that if you're Closed Fist, you actually have to bind several of your followers at this point.
Thank you, Spirit Monk, for letting me rest.
And with that, Death's Hand is finally gone and the spirit of Sun Kin has been freed.
Meanwhile, our friends in the courtyard don't seem to be doing so well.
I don't know why this one golem is giving them so much trouble. The Black Whirlwind easily disposed of one earlier, and surely the whole party should be able to defeat this guy even easier. I guess his powers are dramatically amplified in cutscene land.
I do like Silk Fox trying to protect Wild Flower.
Uh, Whirlwind? You maybe want to hit this thing with your axes or... No? Anyone?
Silk Fox prepares for the fatal blow, but it never comes.
Death's Hand's, uh, death means the golems are no longer linked to him, and without anyone to control them, they immediately shut down.
And apparently fall apart, for good measure.
Our reward for freeing Prince Kin is the Way of the Open Palm gem, which adds +10 to Intuition and +5 to Spirit at the cost of a -5 hit to Body. We have precisely zero use for Intuition at this point, there aren't even any more Intuition checks left if I recall correctly, and the -5 Body hit just isn't worth it.
Guys, we really need to talk about your shameful performance in that last cutscene. Seriously, what the shit was that?
The day already drags like an overloaded ox. Our enemies should be more efficient.
I do not shy from meaningful combat, but eliminating your boredom is not a worthwhile cause to fight for.
If there's no wine, there should be fighting. That's the way of things for a warrior.
More like the way of things for a violent drunk, but never mind.
Emperor Sun Li waits for us, growing in power. He is draining the Water Dragon far faster than Sun Hai ever managed.
Of course we're going to talk to everybody before we head out.
I will ferry whom I can for an initial assault. Give me a few moments. We will leave at your command... when my work is done.
So many changes. The Jade Empire is not the place I once thought it was. You didn't say how Master Li reacted to the news that I am his daughter, but your silence on the subject says much by itself. He didn't believe you.
What Master Li has done is unforgivable. We have to set things right, and undo the evil he has put in motion.
I do not envy you, but I will be with you, my friend. We will make sure the Empire does not fall to the desires of a corrupted few.
Ready yourself. We will be leaving soon.
I know everything will be fine. You will see to it.
Your master is a formidable opponent. We cannot leave the Empire in his hands.
Some of these decisions have been hard to make.
I will help you carry that weight, but I'm not sure how much use I can be. I will stand by you. Once the corruption is excised, the Jade Empire will be a blank slate, my friend.
Ready yourself. We will be leaving soon.
I will be ready. Rely on it.
As you probably noticed, everybody has the same conversation options at this point. Well, Silk Fox has one more because we romanced her.
The sins of my family must be dealt with. Only then can the Empire regain the glory it has lost.
I hope there is time for us in all of this.
I will make certain of it. You and I are owed that reward.
I have made some difficult decisions to get here.
Have we, though? Most if not all of the decisions have been pretty straightforward, it's not like this is The Witcher. I guess it's better than "EVERYONE SHALL FEEL MY WRATH "
The power that has been unleashed cannot be handled carelessly. The fate of the Empire is at stake. You and I will make things right.
Be ready. I will signal when we leave.
I will be ready. Don't worry.
Well, okay, I guess I lied. Only some of the party members have the same dialog options here.
And I'll never forget it. No matter what. If things here... if they turn out well, I hope. someday, when I'm older... we could meet and... be friends again. I know that to stand by you. it won't be me, it'll be the Guardian, but my hopes go with him.
I thought we were already friends.
This place is old... so old. There are voices in the stones... each one trying to command the others, but none of them listen. It's like they can't listen. They just... can't. Their own voices is all they're left with. So long, only hearing the sound of your own voice...
Who are they?
I don't know... they never say. They just shout.
Here they are overwhelmed by the power the Emperor stole. Only whispers of their spirits remain, but Wild Flower is sensitive to such things.
It doesn't. There's nothing to be done except restore the shepherd that would guide them to rebirth.
What do you think about what has happened here, Chai Ka?
You lead as you must. I will serve the will of the heavens and follow in your steps.
Do you have any wisdom to share about the coming fight, Chai Ka?
I do not. You have suffered enough interference from my kind and many others. You would be better served listening to the wisdom of the child within: Do what you must, but be happy.
Be ready. We will be leaving soon.
The Guardian says he'll be at your side when you need him.
I look forward to the day when we can return to our simpler lives, although I doubt that will be easy for everyone.
Oh, it will be easy for me. I just cock an ear to the wind and listen. Eventually the shouts of my wife will make their way to me. I hope everyone has so clear a path... and a more peaceful arrival.
I always have my fists, so I'm always ready. If I lose those, I'll have bigger problems than missing a fight. Actually, better safe than sorry. Kang! Make me a wine bowl I can hold with stumps!
Yours or someone else's?
There we go, looks like everyone is ready to finish the fight. Now, all we need to do is talk to Kang and board the Dragonfly once more.
Just make sure you are done talking to everyone. I lost the interior baffling, so you won't be able to hear a thing once we are in the air.
I wanted to speak with you.
Oh no. I tend to confuse things. Yes, I know I do. This is too important for my mutterings. Er, besides, the decisions that are coming... they are beyond me. You are deciding the fate of an empire. My mistakes result in the occasional crater. How big a hole might you be digging, hmm?
I'm ready to go. Call everyone to the flyer.
Oh, I think they know you are ready. Every eye is on you, across the whole Empire, I think. We'll have to see if you are worthy of that gaze, hmm? All right, everyone in!
Next time, we take the fight to the Glorious Strategist in the final update of this LP. It's been quite a ride and I already have plans for my next LP thread (Persona 2 is more of a side project), but it's not over just yet!