The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts: Covenant

by The Dark Id

Part 24: Episode XXIV: Down and Brown

Episode XXIV: Down and Brown

Music: Old Smudged Map ~ Europe

This isn't the most accurate or to scale map of the UK one could ask for honestly. But, Rhondda Valley (actually two valleys) is a real former hotspot of mining activity in the early 1900s in South Wales. Given the number of deaths and relative timeframe, Rhondda Mine is based on the Wattstown mine of the Ynyshir district of Wales. In 1905 the mine suffered an explosion that killed 121 men (three were pulled out and only one lived from their injuries.) The region had a LOT of double-digit fatality mining disasters but that's the closest in timeframe and number. So that's likely the ticket.

Which means Yuri and the gang walked roughly 148 miles from Southampton assuming they stayed on main roads to get there. Look, if you're going to set your game in the real world, I'm going to do the math on distance traveled and how fucked it is!

Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon

Anyway, welcome to one of the shittier dungeons in the game. Hey, you remember the metro tunnels in Paris? What if they had even less going on and lasted a solid 90+ minutes knowing exactly where to go and what to do?


...guess what...


This dungeon is a miserable brown slog that lasts a feature-length movie in run time. Here's a lottery ticket in one random corner three screens from the entrance. It took me like five minutes to get to this. And you know why? Of course, you do...

Music: Vicious 1915 ~ Battle in Europe

Random battles! I think I fought more battles in this dungeon than the last three combined. I'd say at least I dig most of the enemy designs since it's getting back to the core Shadow Hearts 1/Koudelka weird shit. On the other hand, there's just like four different monsters and I fought every combination of them at least eight times. This was a dang 98-minute dungeon. I can look back on the footage recorded and despair!

There are a few new enemies to contend with here. The weakest of 'em is this hell dog -- Barghest. A 55 HP Dark elemental enemy. All it does is bite people for around 40 HP of damage or do Gale Spin as an AOE attack for roughly the same damage output but it can hit multiple people.

A Barghest is a mythological creature from Northern English folklore. Boiling it down... it's just a ghost dog that is really mean. It's usually depicted as jet black or ethereally glowing. Usually not quite so... reptilian. Fantasy bullshit loves this as a generic monster type. Personally, I always think of The Witcher 1 and having to fight 800 glowing green ghost dog jerks any time Geralt went out at night in the first act of the game.

RPGs have to have some sort of slime or sludge-like monstrosity. It's just the way of the world. This particular example is a Propolis. It is a 63 HP Water elemental enemy that only exists to spam Hail Break endlessly. They usually come in pairs.

As far as the entomology goes, apparently propolis is "a red or brown resinous substance collected by honeybees from tree buds, used by them to fill crevices and to seal and varnish honeycombs." So basically bee glue made from tree sap. I guess I can see that working for a weird sludge slug thing. Not sure where summoning ice spikes fit into that. But, there you have it.

Undoubtedly, the most "nope not a fan of anything that is happening here" creature thus far is this... whole thing... If you're having trouble parsing what you're looking at, it's a pair of human torsos connected in the middle with the inverted ones having a giant scorpion stinger coming out of its anus. It's hard to see in a screenshot but its top legs are also splitting open to reveal a toothy mouth like some shit out of The Thing. This nightmare creature is known as a Tammuz and comes with 60 HP and a Light elemental affinity. This one spends its days either stinging folks with its anal appendage (which has a Poison causing variant) or casting Bright Light (the Light magic AOE variant the other enemies have been using.)

Tammuz is another name for Dumuzid -- a Mesopotamian god of shepherds and fertility.

Wikipedia on Tammuz/Dumuzid posted:

Click here for more info!

Dumuzid, later known by the alternate form Tammuz, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar). In Sumerian mythology, Dumuzid's sister was Geshtinanna, the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation. In the Sumerian King List, Dumuzid is listed as an antediluvian king of the city of Bad-tibira and also an early king of the city of Uruk. In the Sumerian poem Inanna Prefers the Farmer, Dumuzid competes against the farmer Enkimdu for Inanna's hand in marriage. In Inanna's Descent into the Underworld, Dumuzid fails to mourn Inanna's death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement. Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

Gilgamesh references Tammuz in Tablet VI of the Epic of Gilgamesh as one of Ishtar's past lovers, who was turned into an allalu bird with a broken wing. Dumuzid was associated with fertility and vegetation and the hot, dry summers of Mesopotamia were believed to be caused by Dumuzid's yearly death. During the month in midsummer bearing his name, people all across Mesopotamia would engage in public, ritual mourning for him. During the late twentieth century, scholars widely thought that, during the Sumerian Akitu festival, kings may have established their legitimacy by taking on the role of Dumuzid and engaging in ritualized sexual intercourse with the high priestess of Inanna as part of a sacred marriage ceremony. This notion is now generally rejected by scholars as a misinterpretation of Sumerian literary texts. The cult of Dumuzid was later spread to the Levant and to Greece, where he became known under the West Semitic name Adonis.

The cult of Ishtar and Tammuz continued to thrive until the eleventh century AD and survived in parts of Mesopotamia as late as the eighteenth century. Tammuz is mentioned by name in the Book of Ezekiel and possibly alluded to in other passages from the Hebrew Bible. In late nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholarship of religion, Tammuz was widely seen as a prime example of the archetypal dying-and-rising god, but the discovery of the full Sumerian text of Inanna's Descent in the mid-twentieth century disproved the previous scholarly assumption that the narrative ended with Dumuzid's resurrection and instead revealed that it ended with Dumuzid's death. The existence of the "dying-and-rising god" archetype has been largely rejected by modern scholars.

Sure, yeah. I see how that can translate into a torso with a scorpion stinger coming out of its ass.

Finally, we have this big'un umm... nightmare centipede... dragon... thing? I'm not sure how you'd classify it. It goes by the name Lambton Worm which doesn't help at all identifying a descriptor. It's got a lot of spikes, teeth and likes to hang out with guys who end up in the Emergency Room because they shoved a scorpion up their ass on a dare. Lambton Worm is the beefiest enemy in this dungeon with an impressive for a trash mob enemy 208 HP and an Earth elemental affinity. Having four appendages that just have spikes for fingers, our friend Lamb here just sticks solely to physical attacks that deals out a healthy 60-70 HP of damage with a potential to cause Paralysis. These jerks are usually the priority in any battle.

The Lambton Worm comes from a Northern English myth.

Wikipedia on Lambton Worm posted:

Click here to read more!

The Lambton Worm is a legend from County Durham in North East England in the UK. The story takes place around the River Wear, and is one of the area's most famous pieces of folklore, having been adapted from written and oral tradition into pantomime and song formats. The story revolves around John Lambton, an heir of the Lambton Estate, County Durham, and his battle with a giant worm (dragon) that had been terrorizing the local villages. As with most myths, details of the story change with each telling.


Abridged Version: There was a kid named John. He ditched church to go fishing. He caught a weird hell worm and was like that's fucked. So he tossed it down a well. Since he decided that was a messed up thing to encounter while ditching church, he decides then joins the Crusades and penance.

Years later it turns into a giant hell worm which has now just coiled over a hill and starts eating livestock and children and shit. Villagers and knights come and try to fight it but they all get wrecked. John, now an adult, comes back home and sees everything is fucked and goes "Aww frick! It's that hell worm I tossed down the well." So he gears up to fight it. But not before first he consults a local witch, as you do. The witch tells him to craft some sick spiked armor since it's favored method of killing is wrapping around things. Also, a tip to fight it in a river so it'll get washed away and does not regenerate. Apparently, it could do that. Plus that'd be metal as hell. He's also informed he and his family will get hella cursed unless John kills the first living thing he sees after killing the worm. Trees and grass don't count. Curses don't play with rule lawyering. Go ask Alice Elliot.

John crafts his sick spiked armor and tells his dad he'll sound a horn if he wins so that he can release one of their hounds so John can gank that and their family doesn't get hella cursed. John fights the worm and it is dope as fuck. Thing tries to crush him and gets sliced up by his Kirk, Knight of Thorns armor and it dies. John throws up the horns and then sounds his horn to avoid that whole curse thing. But his dad is a complete dumbass and runs out to give him a high-five because his son is a big damn hero. John is all "Aww shit, I don't wanna kill my dad."

And thus the Lambton family gets cursed for nine generations to never die in their beds. THANKS, Dad!

Worm/wyrm seems like it's the catch-all term for a storyteller that is just kind of lazy with descriptors and is just "Ehh it was some vague snakey... lizard thing. Did it have legs? Maybe. I dunno. Look it was a big scaly monster." In which case, I suppose the Lambton Worm's Covenant appearance checks out.

In addition to the trash mobs infesting the Rhondda Mines, we did gain quite a few new abilities over the course of the previous chapter. Yuri has several Level 2 Fusions now. They're much more impressive than his previous cosplayer incarnations. The only thing of real note with the Level 2 Fusions is that once transformed, Yuri will automatically initiate a Combo with any members of his team getting a turn before the next enemy attack phase. So if Yuri happens to gain early intuitive, trash mobs of enemies can be wiped out before they even get a chance to attack. Which is nice since, again, this dungeon had an overabundance of random battles, to say the least.

Karin now has her Bullenfogel Sword Art. It's just a big stream of fire sent outward in one direction. But it works quite nicely in Combos and deals a decent chunk of damage in the 60-70 HP range at this point.

And of course, Joachim can now also Grand Slam enemies into space. Quite impressive, considering we're deep underground. If it doesn't instant kill an enemy (it's not a guaranteed thing) then it at least does 100+ HP of damage.

Finally, as you'll recall Blanca's Soul Comet leveled up from that last Wolf Bout with canine Terry Bogard (congrats on getting into Smash!) This now makes Soul Comet have TWO wolf spirits lash out at a target for bonus damage.

Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon

That's ALMOST there is as far as battles go. I suppose, Gepetto also has those new elemental variants of his Cast skill. But it's literally the exact same animation with a different color swap and I'm switching to Gepetto for something as trifling as that. Now... speaking of trifling, back to traversing a very brown tileset. This first level of the mine (sadly there are multiple floors to the dungeon) took 20 minutes alone (this is with the aide of a map someone made on GameFAQs to know exactly where to go for all the loot) only has exactly one piece of noteworthy treasure to the eastern part of the region.

I like the implication that Yuri stopped in the middle of this mine to sharpen up his wolf buddy's teeth with a whetstone. I suppose it's worth it for the +30 Physical and +32 Special Attack Power.

Oh yeah, when I said that was about it for battles in this mine until the boss? Yeah... I actually forgot a new mechanic we're about to encounter for Joachim.

Music: Vicious 1915 ~ Battle in Europe

So you may notice a change has occurred here. Joachim is looking a little different...

Joachim has now assumed his original Golden Bat form. What does this mean? Well, he now has double the physical strength at the cost of halved HP and all Special Attacks (read: both Muscle Arts and Crest Magic) being disabled for the duration.

Mmm! I want to drink some tomato juice.

So how did we end up with Joachim as the Golden Bat again? Well, Joachim has a weird subsystem mechanic called Joachythms. I don't believe this ever got a tutorial and if it did, it was LONG before it became relevant. I believe the mechanic was technically unlocked as soon as Joachim formally joined the party (I guess technically as soon as he gained back his Grand Papillon mask from Yuma.) This mechanic causes Joachim to transform into one of three Joachythms after a set number of battles. The Joachythm will remain in effect for the following five battles before Joachim transforms back to his standard form.

See the box there that looks like waveforms? That's the really vague indicator of when Joachim's next Joachythm will kick in. When one of the lines intersects with the center of the thick vertical line (which progresses with each fight Joachim participates in) to the leftmost, a Joachythm will automatically trigger. The golden one is of course for The Golden Bat which we currently have. The rainbow line is for Joachim's Invisible Form, which we'll see later (there's a LOT of fights in this goddamn dungeon.) If BOTH lines intersect at the same time, then we'll get Grand Papillon. But that won't occur for quite some time.

There is no way to prevent Joachythms if they're going to pop up at an inopprutune time (like going back to an earlier dungeon against enemies we could one-shot to do a sidequest for example.) There are items that can influence the fluctuation of the Joachythms wavelength speed. But there's nothing that can avoid it outside of well... just not using Joachim.

There is a calculation for when Joachythms will occur if you want some stuffy mathematical mechanics. Not that it's very complicated. By default:
Again, there are items that can reduce this number later on in the game. But that's a story for another day. Just know that The Golden Bat spent its rare time in battle dealing with nothing but random battle fodder.

A final note, Golden Bat gets its own profile blurb to replace Joachim's while he's transformed. Honestly, if I wanted to just chill out for a while, flying around as a bat wouldn't be half bad.

Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon

Back to the task at hand of getting out of this damn mine, the far western side of the dungeon contains an elevator. Not sure who is keeping the lights on or maintaining a fully operational elevator in a mine abandoned for over a decade. But don't sweat the details. There's a notice next to the elevator. Yuri cannot read it or anything. It just contains another hidden Lottery Ticket. Sneaky.

Down we go to the second level of the mines. Sub-level? Wait, should we really be going down further into the mines. They don't generally leave exits at the bottom.

Oh well, minor details. Just a short walk from the elevator is the only important encounter of this whole 90+ minute affair.

<puts hand on hip> You sure are!
I can see it... I can see your...
Bring it on, baby!
<turns to Yuri> Yuri! Stop being mean to the poor Ring Spirit!
<turns to Karin> I'm not being mean! He just seemed a little down, so I was trying to cheer him up!
I'm not the "Ring Spirit"!
I'd be bummed out too if I had to hang out in the corner of some boring mine dungeon waiting to give out power-ups.
Stop it, Yuri!
<turns back to Ring Soul> I'm sorry, he didn't mean it, Ring Spirit! Sometimes the things Yuri says come out wrong, but he's a good kid.
I'm a kid, now, am I?!
<turns back to Ring Spirit> Did you hear that?! Now he's sighing!
I told you he seemed down. How many random battles did you have to do getting here? Cuz woof...
I entrust this to you...
...I am starting to doubt why.

Sure, we'll take that. Congrats Yuri, you can now do four physical attack strings.

The power to command the Judgment Ring. Such power will help you carve your way through destiny...
I will appear again to give you more power, and I'm watching to see if you are truly the one to command destiny.
Neat. Hope you get to hang out in a more interesting dungeon next time.

The Ring Soul disappears.

Oh. ...He's gone!
He's hurt because you were mean to him! What were you thinking?!
You really think so?

And so continues our complicated relationship with the Ring Spirit Soul. Tune in next time as we get the hell out of this dungeon as Shadow Hearts: Covenant continues!

Video: Episode 24 Highlight Reel
(If you really want to see ass scorpion in motion.)

Rhondda Mines Concept Art - Yep... that sure is a mine.

Lambton Worm Concept Art - I like the little doodle he gets.