Part 2: School Days2: School Days
Now that the opening scenes are done, we can actually start playing the game. This is the main screen; Core pool across the top (spell/ability fuel, basically; more on that later), current party down the left side (Maya only, 34/34 hitpoints), items at the bottom (a Root and a Core Rune - a medium healing item and weak core restorative).
We can click on Uncle - or any other NPC - to talk to him. Some NPCs will just give you a canned response, but many of them will result in this: an honest to Marduk conversation menu. Clicking a character portrait will result in a character-specific conversation:
Uh, how's your back today, Uncle?
Don't try to change the subject, Maya...
Or you can ask about specific topics.
(Tori) Tori snuck off pretty quietly...
He should be on his way to class...if you hurry, you can catch up with him.
(Mayor) Do you think Mayor will catch the smugglers?
He'd better, for all our takes. Trading with the other Shells is one thing, but smuggling weapons leads to war...and I doubt we will escape its wrath.
(The Chosen) Do you think the Chosen ships mean us harm?
The last time Chosen ships darkened our skies was over ten years ago, during a battle between their own lords. As you well know, many of our people were killed in their wake. These sightings can never mean good tidings...to them, we are mindless animals, to be stepped on blindly as we do the ants beneath our feet.
I won't let that happen again!
(Bread) The bread you baked smells good. Can I have some?
Ha, ha, it's in the fridge.
That's enough conversing for now. Exploring the house reveals two points of interest. First of all, there's a bed we can sleep in to completely restore health and Core. Secondly, if we go to the fridge...
...the bread is there just like Uncle said, although for some reason the "You found: 1x Bread" popup isn't showing up in my screen captures.
Stepping outside takes us to the streets - or rather, ramps and platforms - of the city of Oasis. We can wander around and talk to NPCs:
Just this morning.
Well, don't tell him, but Mayor is trying to duplicate his precious Workbots.
You think he can?
Mayor? Not on your life!
And there's also that staple of CRPG cities - shops. The Stockpile sells weapons.
At the moment he doesn't have much in stock. Two Core Engines - one for fighters, one for casters - and a modular grenade launcher that's way out of my price range at the moment. I buy the basic Engine, for now, and open up the menu to equip it on Maya.
The equipment screen. Maya uses a Core-powered gun; this means that rather than replacing her entire weapon, she gets upgrades by replacing its Core Engine, the device that collects energy from the Core and processes it into a usable form. You can also see slots for armour, boots, and an accessory (the gold ring). Finally, the six slots under the Core Engine are for addon modules, such as the grenade launcher we saw in the store - each one adds a new combat ability. Each character gets six such abilities; some abilities by leveling up, some by equipping modules. Maya is unique in that all six of hers come from modules; she doesn't learn any "naturally".
With the new Engine equipped, Maya's Strike and Power have increased noticeably. The stats in Septerra Core don't quite match up with most CRPGs, so I'll take a moment to explain them here.
The main stats are Strength, Agility, Perception, Psyche, and Vitality. These do nothing directly, but determine the character's secondary stats, which do.
The secondary stats are what actually determines efficacy on the battlefield. HP and Armour are obvious and are determined by Strength and Vitality. Strike is hit accuracy, determined by Agility and Perception. Power is hit strength, determined by Agility and Strength (for melee characters) or Perception (for ranged characters). Speed is how often you can act, determined by Agility and Vitality. And finally, Core - determined by Psyche and Perception - is a measure of spellcasting skill and power, and how much Core Energy that character contributes to the party's pool. That I'll get into in more detail once we have something to spend our Core on.
Maya is a well-rounded character; average at everything (perhaps a bit below average at casting), but outstanding at nothing. She remains useful throughout the game, which is good, as she's in your party for most of it.
That was a bit of a mouthful, so let's get back to the task at hand: going to school.
On the way out of the city, we encounter Mayor again and strike up a conversation. Like Uncle, he has a conversation list; we ask him about the Workbots, then about Grubb.
You shouldn't treat Grubb's workbots so badly...
You have to show 'em who's boss...and we know who that is, don't we?
Work faster, bot!
I wouldn't count on Grubb to repair the workbots if you break them.
That cheat? I wouldn't let him near them anyways...they're mine now.
Well, he wouldn't have left if you used the bots for what he intended them for, collecting junk from the desert.
Eh, Grubb's too narrow-minded. There are millions of uses for the bots, you just wait and see...
That's not ominous at all! Let's stop wasting time here and hurry to school.
There's actually three areas to Oasis - Downtown, the Smelting Complex, and the Junk Heap - but at the moment, we can't enter the Smelting Complex and we can't do anything in the Junk Heap, so we head straight out to the world map and hike west.
The Badlands are our first taste of danger. Several of these creatures - Howlers - wander the area, and wandering too close to them will cause them to attack.
Combat in Septerra Core is fairly straightforward. Each character has an action bar that fills at a rate dependent on their Speed. The bar is divided into three segments; as soon as the first one fills, they can act, but some skills require two or three segments to use. In this screenshot, Maya can use her weakest attack - RifleShot - but needs to wait longer to use RifleVulcan (two segments) or RifleGatling (three).
She takes a few potshots at it, and it gnaws on her legs a bit.
Eventually I have her charge up to full power and hit it with RifleGatling, finishing it off.
The rest of the Badlands is more of the same - and not much more, it's around three screens wide - except for this guy.
There's actually two of these Pack Wulfs wandering around. They're a bit more durable and hit a bit harder than Howlers; I ended up having to use my bread to get through this fight intact. On the plus side, Maya leveled up.
What makes them really dangerous, however, isn't their slightly boosted stats; it's their special ability.
They can summon Howlers. This battle started as a one on one fight; before long it was three on one, and by the time the last Howler went down, Maya looked like this:
I take this as my cue to run back to Oasis and heal up, snagging another loaf of bread (if you have no bread, there'll be a loaf in the fridge) while I'm there. All the enemies in the Badlands have respawned, but sneaking past them isn't hard; I have to dispatch a single Howler near the west exit, but that's all.
West of the Badlands is a narrow rope bridge leading to Azziz's Temple. Yes, this means that to get to the local equivalent to elementary school, you have to cross a desert, a rocky pass filled with large, aggressive carnivores, and a rickety bridge over a most definitely fatal drop.
On the plus side, anyone who survives to graduate is going to be pretty hardcore.
We arrive just as Azziz is wrapping up the day's lesson. He sends the kids away and then turns to you.
He's not here?
Well, let us start without him. Are you familiar with the legends of Marduk?
Yes, he was the great hero who defeated Gemma with the help of the Seven Winds!
Azziz is clearly unhappy that we're late, because he hits us with REMEDIAL GIANT WALL OF TEXT. This also happens to be a tutorial on the game's spellcasting system.
You get ahead of yourself, child. You know the final scene, without the benefit of the first act. Marduk is but one of the principal characters of the ancient stories. Together, they all rule the use of spells. As you know, a great energy and power emanates from the central Core of Septerra, harnessed from the rotation of the World Shells themselves. This very power is used by the Core to regulate the rotations of the shells, creating an eternal equilibrium. The excess energy is radiated out of the Core into the world. We use this energy, called Core Power, to run our machinery and cast spells. To cast spells, one must use ancient relics called Fate Cards to draw Core Power. Each card is its own spell...but they can be combined to create varied effects. Up to three cards can be combined; each played by a different user, each adding its own power. If any more than three are aligned, then the power is lost. Fate Cards are ruled by the demigods of our world, called Fates.
The first is Marduk, son of the Creator and Fate of War, who defeated Gemma in the Battle of the Seven Winds, banishing him to the Pits of Janaak.
The second, Kyra the Angel, Fate of the Heart, who helped Marduk with her light, and begame his queen.
The third, Dogo the Trickster, Fate of Cunning, who used his illusions to ensnare Gemma.
And finally, Gemma himself, Lord of the Dark, Fate of Demons, who ruled Septerra in mockery of the Creator, soiling the Father's great work with the blood of his children.
Each of the Fates can be combined with any other, and once you find them, you can use the cards as many times as you wish, as long as you have enough Core Energy. You must practice this technique to learn the ways of magic. That is all for today's lesson.
Do the ancient heroes still exist?
Their power does, and it helps watch over and protect the world.
Sometimes I feel as if my mother is watching over me.
Pray she watches over us all, my child.
Whew. Somewhere in that pile of exposition, Azziz also slipped us a loaf of bread and our first Fate Card - Water. We'll get to see that in action next update.
Now that the lesson is over, we can ask him about specific things. Most topics are just a reiteration - only with four times as many words - of the prologue or of our conversations with Uncle, but there's a few points of interest. If we ask him about Marduk's prophecy:
Did he think Gemma would return?
No, no, child. That kind of thing only happens in stories! No, I fear there are much worse evils that this world may one day have to contend with...evils like greed, lust and ignorance.
As it happens, he's right. There's no canned evil in this game; the horrible things that happen over the course of the storyline are entirely by humans, for humans.
We can also ask him about the Chosen, to learn a bit more about them.
I saw Chosen ships today...
Chosen?! That's a bad sign...
Why did they exile themselves to the upper layer?
The Chosen are the descendants of Marduk's people. After his passing, they began to believe that they were the superior race. Soon, they discovered the Great Spine, the living axis which connects all the World Shells of Septerra. They learned that the Spine is a generator of power, tapping the very energy created by the rotation of the continents. They journeyed to the upper Shell to tap that energy from the north pole. With this new power, they began to twist and shape the very nature of life, sculpting great ships and weapons from the animals of the earth. No-one has communicated with them in a thousand years...
Oasis scavenges the scrap metal and junk they dump from above...do you think they're mad at us for that?
No, my dear. They hardly notice at all...we are like ants to them.
Today's lesson done, it's time to head back home and find out what the deal is with Tori. We sneak back across the Badlands and into the city, and when we enter the house, there he is!
Um...I had other plans?
Uncle's going to kill you...
Not if you cover for me!
And with that, he dashes out the door, just before Uncle comes in from off screen. Given how small the house is, I don't know how he didn't hear or see Tori; the game seems to have a sort of "off of screen, out of mind" convention.
Tori's annoying, so we talk to Uncle and rat him out. (This isn't actually mandatory - Tori will be at the pumping station whether we know he should be or not - but he deserves all the grief he gets. Trust me.)
Tori wasn't in class today...
He asked me to cover for him.
You'd better find him, Maya.
Do you think he's in trouble?
Let's hope not. Check the water pumping station, he usually hangs out there.
I have a bad feeling about this, so before I leave for the pumping station, I get some rest...
...and go shopping.
The Junk Mail sells armour. The LightVest gives me another five points of armour, but at the cost of one point of speed; the LightSheath is less effective, but has no speed penalty. The PlasticCoat and ThinCoat are robotic equivalents. The best option is actually Greaves, which give me just as much armour as the LightVest, cost less than half as much, and have no speed penalty.
I also take this opportunity to sell off my old equipment, and the skin I got from one of the Pack Wulfs in the Badlands. It's actually armour, but for a character we won't get for quite some time - and by the time we do, we'll be able to pick up better armour from random street vendors for a nickel. Here and now, though, it's worth 25 coins.
Duly fortified, it's time to head south along the pipes to the Pumping Station. When we get there, we find Tori talking to a shady character in grey and gold armour...
But, what if Uncle finds out?
It's not my problem...hey, who's that?
Maya arrives. Dugan, wisely concluding that this means his cover is blown, gets the hell out of there.
I can't believe you're the smuggler, Tori!
Hey, a guy's gotta make a buck...
Maya looks ready to tear him a new asshole, but they're interrupted.
The guards, understandably, assume that the adult here is the smuggler and let Tori escape while Maya resists arrest, kicking off the game's first bossfight.
Wind City Sergeant fight - Viddler
As bossfights go, this one isn't very hard, but it's not completely trivial either. The two Guards are a minor threat; they'll attack periodically for 1-3 damage.
The Wind City Sergeant in the center, however, can actually dish out some pain. His normal attack does around twice as much damage as his cohorts', but he'll often ignore it entirely, instead spending every turn doing this:
Which will take your health down worryingly fast. (The crazy pose stems from the fact that characters in battle don't - for the most part - walk or run around, but leap into position; here he's jumping back to his normal location after setting Maya on fire.)
The two Guards are the lesser threat, but they're also pretty fragile, so I spend two actions (six segments) taking them out. With them out of the way, I think it's finally time to use the card Azziz gave us, unleashing the fury of the Fates upon our foes!
This is the Fate Card screen. At the moment we only have one card, Water (which, like most attack cards, is Gemma-aligned). The Core bar across the top of the screen indicates the card's cost.
Giving the card to Maya readies the associated spell, Hydro Strike. If we had more cards - and more characters - we could keep handing out cards to create combo spells, but since we don't, we'll have to settle for just casting this.
And it does...six damage. About as much as a normal attack. Charging up to three segments would double that, but would also better than triple Maya's normal attack damage, making it even less worth it.
This card will become useful once we have skilled casters in our party, but for now we're better off just attacking...so we keep pounding on him with RifleVulcan.
Hey, what's he doing? That looks like a Fate Card!
That's right: this nameless policeman is carrying a Heal card, and once you damage him enough, he'll start using it. Fortunately, he's not very good at using it; even if he uses it every segment, he'll be healing 15 points of the 20 you can deliver in the same time with RifleGatling. And best of all, as long as he's healing, he's not attacking!
This the key to the other, easier approach to this fight, by the way. If you attack him first, he'll spend the next few turns healing rather than attacking, letting you deal with his companions unmolested before finishing him off.
Not realizing that at this point he could finish us off with a single blow, he makes a valiant, but ultimately futile, effort to heal faster than we can damage him. After he goes down we pause briefly to go through his pockets and take the Heal card, then flee.
Will our heroine escape the fuzz? Will Tori's smuggling bring ruination on Oasis? Answers to these questions and more in the next episode of Let's Play Septerra Core, featuring a robotic uprising, giant man-eating crabs, and a bar fight.