Part 16: Dragon Cave ZUpdate 16: Dragon Cave Z
Please, kick up your legs in front of the fire, drag up a servant to perch your drink on and I'll continue the exciting tale of our rise to power. Having achieved ultimate personal power, we deigned to do the tasks that Archibald's advisors put before us, to also achive ultimate political power. Which is much like personal power except it makes other people do things for you. They had taken up residence on the western side of the Pit...
The advisor quests are all mirrored except for one, so the lich jars from Nighon are still useful for a Dark path team. I had them because I thought I could use them to get the Lich promotion early, which I was wrong about.
And of course it prompts one of the usual history updates.
This is the non-mirrored mission, which takes us to Clanker's Laboratory. It's the dark path version of going to the vampire cellar in Tatalia but... it's... yeah, you'll see what the difference is.
The great part about retrieving the altar pieces for Kastore is his description of the task. Absolutely hilarious. I love the difference between his degree of respect for the party as collaborators rather than employees, and how he just does not give a fuck about the Temple of Dark employees.
Tolberti, the fourth advisor, has no quest yet. I bet no one can guess what it's going to be. Before I get started on the remaining two quests, though, I decide to drag the Dark party over to the Land of the Giants to try and collect some level-ups, gold, artifacts and a dead Mega Dragon. Now that X is a Lich, casting Souldrinker from the air really tears huge chunks out of titans, almost trivializing them. Even so, several deaths occur along the way.
Because they're so much slower at killing things in melee, and don't have the SP to wipe out all the devils from the air, devil captains' meteor showers are actually a threat when the party sets down to engage them! Jackie and X each die three times while clearing out the overland portion of the Land of the Giants, while Scalise and Punch only die once each.
As an extra kick in the dick, while the Light path party was drowning in artifacts during the entire region, the Dark Path party only finds one while clearing out Colony Zod.
And of course it's a fucking bow, about the most useless thing to both parties, even though this one's bringing an Archer.
But what you're here for is to have a look at the MEGA DRAGON, isn't it?
Looks scary, don't he? Especially since that sheet isn't telling the whole story... but for a while I actually thought this was the canon Mega Dragon, since these are also the stats it has in the hintbook, I thought, maybe I had just somehow forgotten to turn on the option even though I remembered that I did? But googling around tells me that the hintbook Mega Dragon WAS in the game files, just unimplemented, with it instead being a red dragon with 0 in all resistances in the base game, and that Grayface simply re-implemented the hidden-in-the-files dragon.
On paper, the Mega Dragon, even the "hidden" version, is really just a Red Dragon that does an extra 4d8 points of damage with each attack. Not fundamentally that scary since even Team Dark can own Red Dragons by the dozen without too much difficulty.
It's got a surprise.
For a party without a Grandmaster Protection From Magic up, it can Eradicate with its attacks. In retaliation, X is blasting it with Dragon Breath and taking off about 20% of its health with each casting, give or take, but it gets in two attacks with an about 50% Eradicate chance for each of her casts. Not good odds. Good thing this party picked up the one and only scroll I'll be using in either of these playthroughs!
Owned by facts and magic, dragon.
Then it promptly disintegrates them again.
But wait... what's this? Its final attack on X just makes it... die? Rather than killing her off? Sike. I've been casting Pain Reflection, and it's NEVER done enough of a difference for me to notice before, but here the Mega Dragon had just a sliver of health left and bonked itself into the grave by hitting X.
She promptly turns around, town portals to Erathia, and gets the priests to pick everyone up before returning so they can loot the Mega Dragon's corpse.
Hermes' Sandals are a guaranteed drop from the Mega Dragon and they kick ass. No downsides, huge boosts, and any class/race combo benefits from them. The Light party will absolutely come here off stage and pick up a new pair of shoes for Zina or Zaggut.
With that sorted, though, it's time to Town Portal to the Tularean Forest to investigate Clanker's Lab and... holy shit for some reason at this stage the game became insanely unstable. So far I've had one crash to desktop, while dealing with the Dwarven Barrows way back, but here the game was crashing every two minutes, for some reason generally when I cast buffing spells. It started just before entering the Mega Dragon's cave and continued until the end of the recording session. Very weird.
Hence why this bit got recorded during in-game night, because resting would require recasting buffs and thus risking more crashes. Though I'll say that I recall the game as being even more unstable than this, which probably wasn't helped by it being the Win 98 era, plus Grayface's patch apparently addresses some number of crash situations.
Approaching Clanker's Laboratory, you might be expecting something like Gharik's Forge, Agar's Laboratory or even Castle Kriegspire from MM6. A sprawling complex of weird rooms and weirder creatures, populated by traps and aggressive wizards.
Instead what you get is a broomcloset full of underlevelled creatures which are all distinctly less threatening than the various Necromancers and Vampires in the Tatalian Vampire Cellar. I'd say there are even odds Team Light could have taken on Clanker's Lab at the same level where the necromancers in the Vampire Cellar could one-shot them with Shrapmetal.
Though I suppose if you're big into the game's limited alchemy offerings, this is a great place to get a bunch of high-quality ingredients and pre-mixed potions.
The goal is to find this hidden book switch so you can get into the basement of the laboratory. It's somewhat easy to miss even if you have the requisite 28 Perception to make it glow, since it's hidden in a corner of the library and there are no real clues anywhere that you're looking for a hidden switch.
It drops the wall next to the party while a helpful golem stomps on over to show them the way.
The last lab has the only combat bit that's even potentially a bit threatening, with a third-tier beholder in a cage that opens when the party enters. It's not that it's extremely dangerous damage-wise, but they have some very hefty resistances(including a whole 50 Physical) which means that it actually survives long enough to land some hits.
Not that it saves it.
Next door to the final lab is this cell containing an odd machine that turns out to be the "teleport shield" for the dungeon. You press the button, it turns off and your only hint that the dungeon is completed is that there's nothing left to do. The party then steps off to collect their altar piece from the Temple of the Dark, where they shake their heads and laugh at how poorly the altar piece is hidden, just beneath the altar! How could anyone consider that to be hidden or hard to find?
Afterwards, they hop to Celeste, invisibly edging their way past angels and wizards while heading for the Temple of Light.
The Temple of Light is a bit more interesting if you're coming here as an intruder, since no one yells at you to stay out of the back rooms and also you get to kill angels.
It honestly puzzles me a bit that they basically built a huge cube of solid terrain and then buried the temple in it, rather than just having you start in front of that big, cool, pillar'd entrance. Also, fun fact: Souldrinker kills angels like RAID kills bugs.
It's interesting how while the Temple of Dark felt like a very... lived-in place. With a library, bedrooms, a high priest's office, a kitchen, etc. the Temple of Light feels very ceremonial. There are no "utilitarian" rooms, everything's a big echoing chamber that has a pond and some angels. Oh, and here, on one side, is the paper that has the clue to the end "puzzle."
Nicely hidden behind an ornamental pond.
More angels get bonked as we proceed towards the back of the temple where I did genuinely find something that made me interested in the place.
Behind the big star altar/puzzle room are a couple of exit corridors, one of which leads to a room with this aqueduct in it. You may have noticed the aqueducts in other rooms, like the entrance room, where they're just high enough up that Jump can't be used to reach them, but in this case it's at ground level. Let's try following it downwards at first.
Sadly there's no continuing down this collapsed passage, but it's so tantalizing. What was meant to be there in the original drafts? Some sort of Ancient facility? The ruins of an even ancienter religious site it was built on top of? Neither would really make sense since Celeste is a relatively recent city constructed by the wizards from pure magic, so it wouldn't really have any foundations as such, but it makes me feel like there was originally a different draft of ideas for this location. Perhaps even for Celeste itself.
Going uphill mostly lets you see the temple a bit from above, while occasionally leading to some small rooms containing stat-boosting barrels and some very low-level loot and, at the very, very end...
This overlook above the entrance area! Wow!
It'd be real cool if there was even like, a fucking chest or something up there, but nothing. It's not even a fast way back or anything, it's literally pointless and just wastes your time.
In any case, the party collects the altar piece and heads back to the Pit to progress the plot.
First, we make Kastore happy.
And then Dark Shade. I rather wish that was actually a choice we got to make, though, the one mentioned in the history log... in any case, now we can go see what Tolberti wants from us.
He's not kidding, either. Kastore is gone from his hostel and is the new Grandmaster Dark Magic trainer in Archibald's old throne room. Additionally, if we go visit Clanker's Lab again...
Archibald is actually there! With a lot of complaining about his old advisors. He's lying about the breach(not breech) being sealed, though, since you can just walk back into the lab the same way you did before, through the front door. Though I do like that he actually seems to be honest about their necromancy being less for world conquest and more for actual research. He makes it sound like they're pioneering doctors, not corpse puppeteers.
From this point on, the only differences between the two paths are dialogue, difficulty(the dark path party is going to have a real rough time of it) and ending cinematics. The two groups are going to experience almost exactly the same things. So next time... it'll probably be the last update of this LP.