Part 5: HitchhikingYeah, that's about right. It's enough to make it worthwhile to use higher-level attacks, although you have to balance that against the likelihood of overkill (and thus wasting time). This kind of optimization gets a lot easier once we can look at enemy HP - an ability we'll be getting soon!
I had some time to murder before underwater hockey practice, so you get an update early.
After a good night's rest, it's time to tackle Outlaw Canyon. First, however, we should see what the bartender has for sale, now that he's willing to deal with us.
Note a new entry here - "Steal". If there's a character with a thieving ability, like Runner's Fetch, in the party, you can try to steal from shops. This is risky; if caught, the shopkeeper may raise their prices or refuse to deal with you at all, and repeated stealing can result in a price hike even if they never figure out it's you.
Runner, as a giant robot dog, is not very good at larceny, so we'll barter fairly...for now.
Most notably, he sells grenade launchers, and now we can afford one. This will be useful very shortly.
If I refuse?
Then we'll take it from your dead carcass...
Just try it!
Gus's nameless doomed companion is another Ruffian, like the ones we fought in the bar. He hits Grubb a few times and goes down without ever casting Barrier, which is nice of him.
Gus himself is a new type: Short Blades. He has blades attached to each arm which he can use to slash and stab...
...but in the end, it doesn't help him.
The map reveals a small, straightforward area leading to a ramp. Going with the usual procedure of dead ends first, we head left, stopping briefly to deal with another Ruffian/Short Blades pair. Pictured here: the Short Blades's spin attack.
At the end of the path we find the most poorly-concealed ambush ever.
Note the different coloration on the guy in the middle; he's a Cutthroat, a slightly upgraded version of the Short Blades. In addition to slightly higher stats, he gets a special ability, but you won't see it in this fight...
...because he starts the fight by losing a game of Catch the Grenade, and it really does not go well for him from that point onwards. The damage is about half of that of a fully charged attack, but with the splash, it's worth it against three or more enemies.
A bit of healing gets us through this fight, and we get another Potion for our troubles. Backtracking and taking the right path gets us another Cutthroat, with a side order of Ruffian.
Unlike the ill-fated ambusher, this one lives long enough to show off his skills: like the Short Blades's spin attack, he spins like top, but he also whirls around the target while doing so, damaging anyone else nearby.
He guarded the ramp, but we have another dead end to examine first. Heading further right gets us jumped by a Short Blades, a Ruffian, and an Arachnid.
Maya demonstrates the correct technique for dealing with two-meter-long armoured hellbeetles.
Behind them is a door, but we can't do anything with it. So, we go up the ramp...
And from here it's a straight run from island to island. There's no loot, just violence.
We almost sneak past the last fight...
But one of them turns around at exactly the wrong time and whistles up some help.
This fight is the closest thing to a bossfight here; the beetles will spam their multi-target blast attack constantly, which can take down your health worryingly fast. Taking them out first is the obvious course of action, but leaving the Ruffian alive risks letting him Barrier everyone.
Lots of pain and some healing items later, the last of them falls, and from here it's a clear run to Tori's hideout.
How did you find me?
Uncle sent me.
The sergeant suddenly shows up and tries to arrest us. I'm not sure why he expected it to go any better now, when we're backed up by a giant killbot, than it did when we weren't and he had friends...but in any case, it doesn't matter.
Because these guys show up, drifting in behind him.
Who are you?!
What's going on?
As the Magi drift away, two new people arrive in their stead - Tori's customer Dugan, and a woman wearing the distinctive bitek armour of the Chosen.
Look, I told you, he was about to find out that I was at the heart of this scheme.
(to Tori) Keep up the good work, kid. With this last shipment and the help of my Chosen friend here, we're ready to take Wind City from the Guard of the Seven Winds.
Maya has wisely kept her mouth shut until now, on the grounds that being exploded fucking stings, but now she lays into Tori.
I didn't know, I swear!
Tori, go back to Oasis and warn Uncle. I don't know what the Chosen are up to, but last time, we lost most of our people.
What are you going to do, Maya?
I'm going to World Shell 3. Someone has to warn the people of Wind City that their country is in danger.
Well, someone has to right the wrong you began.
Sometimes I just don't understand you, Maya.
Sometimes I don't think you've ever listed to a word that Uncle or Azziz has taught you!
Maya's right, Tori. Tell Uncle we'll be back soon.
You don't have to go, Grubb.
I'm sure Uncle would feel better if you weren't alone...we can use these Helgak mounts.
Hey, those cost me an arm and a leg!
Aaw, go ahead...
It's adorable the way they trust Tori not to cause any more trouble, and by adorable, I mean stupid. We'll be back for him much later. For now, however, here's our ride.
Unlike the riding animal next to it, this is a Helgak hoverbike - the hollow, bouyant exoskeleton of a specially bred Helgak, outfitted with stabilizers and jet engines.
Before we take it for a spin, however, let's go through Sergeant Plays-Dead-For-Scavengers's pockets a second time.
Jackpot! The Core Rune is a 25-point Core restore, we already have a few kicking around. The Soul Stone, however, is a full core restore and heal for the entire party. You may have noticed them for sale for 5,000 coin at the last shop, too; they're expensive, and arguably not worth the price when you can get the same effect with two weaker items, but they're very useful in emergencies.
They're also pretty.
But enough looting; time to leave.
Flight to Shell 3 (Viddler)
A tranquil valley in northeast Shell 2 is disturbed...
...by our protagonists, riding triple on a stolen vehicle.
As they pass through a fork in the valley, however, a Chosen battleship approaches from the other path.
Something alerts Maya, and she looks over her shoulder...
To see it right on top of them.
The ship doesn't even notice them, but they are caught up in its wake...
...and sucked into one of the mammoth air intakes that it relies on.
Personally, I think they got incredibly lucky here. I mean, how were they planning to go down a shell by hoverbike? Skim to the edge of the shell and hope it has enough bouyancy that at least one of them is conscious after the fall? Have Grubb retrofit it with glider wings as they ride? Hitching a ride on a Chosen battleship is much safer, if you can pull it off.
Looks like we're in the air intakes of a Chosen ship.
They run south, to a grille overlooking the ship's bridge.
I find it amusing that you care so much for the safety of the Wind City Guard, Selina...
The death of the Holy Guard is only going to cause trouble with Bowman, their leader.
As president of Wind City, I have no control over the Guard. They're an anachronism that I've been trying to purge for years... With your help, I'll become sole dictator of Wind City.
According to plan, my lord.
Lord Doskias, your power is unmatched!
Spare me, dog. Just remember our bargain; your city is an important supply base on our way to the lower shells. Selina, when is the invasion to begin?
Doskias does not like brown-nosers.
As soon as Balcaam shows up with his forces, my lord. Where is he, anyway?
None of your concern, my dear. He and General Kaleb fall on great duties.
Wind City shall soon lay before your feet, great one!
Dugan, done fawning, walks out. Doskias waits until he leaves.
Kill him when he is no longer needed.
Are you sure?
Marduk once said that a man who takes freedom from a people is doomed to die by their hand. I'm simply sparing him the inevitable.
As you wish...
Don't start caring for these people, Selina. The last time the Lower Shells saw my presence, I was fighting Gunnar's father. An entire mongrel city fell beneath us that day...but they are not the Chosen, and barely human. Remember that.
Doskias signs off, and Selina returns to the task of commanding her ship.
Maya! Shhh! They'll hear us!
Now I have a face to match my nightmares. Doskias will pay for what he did!
Fine, but right now we have to get of here.
We have to find the leader of the Holy Guard. We have to find Bowman, and warn him before Wind City becomes another Oasis.
Selina's ship completes its descent, and we take our first steps onto Shell 3. Now, our task is simple: get to Wind City, find Bowman, and warn him to mobilize the Guard before Balcaam arrives on the shell.
Next time: lots of dialogue! The living dead may also appear, but I guarantee nothing.