Part 44: Episode XLI: Good Boy Sneaking MissionEpisode XLI: Good Boy Sneaking Mission
NEW Music: The Real Intentions (Sounds vaguely like a downtempo version of Veronica's theme.)
While Veronica is busy electrocuting Yuri's balls or whatever is on the docket of torture for later that evening, Nicolai has decided to just chill out in his study and read a few excerpts from his newly acquired arcane cursed tome. That is until he is interrupted by...
That S&M broad is nuts, I tell ya! She's really into some weird stuff.
You know she's got some wacky room in the back, right?
We are in a prison. I'm sure it was already there.
I'm pretty sure the electrocution torture gizmo ain't stock.
Is that why the lights keep flickering? It's getting irritating.
<returns to reading> Did you find the dog?
Lenny moseys over to a nearby couch and plops down on it.
Hmph! I'm looking for it now!
It appears to me you're lounging on my couch.
That thing's slippery as hell. I wonder where it's hiding...?
I do not think it is on my couch...
This book... is most definitely cursed...
I mean I could tell ya that from here. It's shaped like a frikkin' skull. That ain't no comic book.
...A fair point.
<closes the book> Why in the world would anyone want such a thing...?
Nicolai gets up from his desk and heads to the door.
Hey, where are you going?
It is time for me to see the Master. Now that I have this, my work is done. <holds up the book>
<starts to get up> I'll go with you.
No. You stay here.
Aww... the Master never wants to see me! Does he not like me?
He likes you just fine, Lenny. But you ARE the muscle of the group, so...
Hey, that's not fair! I'm more than that. I do a lot of HR management and team coordination. Keeping a bunch of goons in line is more trouble than you'd think.
Be that as it may, I still need you for certain tasks. Such as...
After she's had her way with them, you finish them off.
Not again! Why do I always have to do clean-up?
She's the one who's got them in prison and doing all freaky torture stuff. Why can't she take care of 'em?
Remember the one time we tried it that way? ...We're not going to have a repeat of THAT incident.
<chuckles and shakes head> She'll be tired of them in a few days. Just be patient until then.
We got all of those board games and coloring books you requested to keep the men busy. It'll be fine.
Hmph. Okay... but, you owe me one, you know.
<abruptly stands up> Oh yeah. I gotta find that dog.
Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon
Speaking of that dog, Blanca has managed to evade capture and has ran all the way back to the starting area of the dungeon. He certainly didn't leave the party for dead and attempt to operate a rowboat to return to the mainland. Blanca is loyal. He'd never do that. Jeanne who? Never heard of 'em.
The door back into the prison proper has been locked. I'd like to think one of the Clawed Soldiers saw Blanca go by, went NOPE to the wolf that can cast ghosts and just slammed that door and barred it shut as soon as Blanca passed. So we'll have to find an alternate way.
Such as that hole that teleports us to the woods Blanca entered earlier. It was essentially a dead-end earlier. But perhaps something has changed since we were here and bullied a stray wolf last.
Before we carry on, let's make life a little easier for Blanca by stopping at Zac, the Peddler Wolf's Wolf World shop and picking up a Mental Break preventing Silver Bracelet and slipping that on Blanca. This might not entirely be necessary but, hey. We've got the funds and maybe it'll make a semi-drawn out fight go somewhat faster. Plus we should support the local wolf economy. Especially, in wartime!
With that taken care of, let's head back to the clearing where we encountered that key stealing wolf earlier.
Uh-oh. This wolf has a character portrait -- you know it means business.
Blanca is quickly surrounded by a couple of accompanying generic wolves.
<shakes head> Awroo, awroo. (No way. This island has a couple of little rules, you know.)
Awroo, Awroo... (And I am sure you are going to tell me them now with great authority...)
Awroo, Awroo! (One: No littering. Two: Be courteous to others and respectful of their personal space. Three: Always remember t)
Awroo! (Can we just cut the part where I have to fight you?)
Awroo... (Fine. Don't respect our ways. Fine, we'll jump to Rule 47...)
Awroo? Awroo? (You were going to have me sit here as you spout out 47 rules? Really?)
Awroo... Awroo. (There were actually 72 rules I was going to educate you on. But if you want the one relevant to this conversation. Rule 47...)
Awroo! (If you want to get through, you'll have to fight your way through!)
(Awroo!) I'm in a hurry. Guess I'll fight.
Music: Soul Comet ~ Spirit of the Wolf
<enters fighting stance> So you're top dog on this tiny little island, huh? Big deal. It's a big world out there!
Get back to me when you've bested an inter-dimensional starfish in an ancient alien ruin in Wales.
Oh god, that fool is rubbing off on me... Forget it. Let's fight.
Music: Glint of Light ~ War of the Hungry Wolf
It's time for a mandatory Wolf Bout. Our opponent this time is Philippe, a Dark elemental wolf with a pretty decent by Wolf Bout standards 352 HP to its name.
So that Silver Bracelet we bought was entirely to counteract Philippe's main Wolf Bout gimmick of having Mental Break be imbued in his physical attack string along with a fairly decent 40ish HP damage output.
Alongside that he can also cast that Sarlaac Pit Dark elemental spell we saw from enemies earlier in the dungeon. Which hits for far less than his physical attacks so... I guess you can waste some MP and do half as much damage if you want, Phil.
Philippe innately has a fairly high physical resistance and in normal circumstances, we'd be drained of MP and have to grind away at him with physical attacks and stop mid-fight to use a consumable to heal. It'd make this fight take significantly longer. I mean like by only two or three minutes but ehh... I'm willing to part with a couple of G in Cash to save some time and just spam Soul Comet to victory. Sorry, Philippe. Blanca has a rescue mission to perform.
Music: Result ~ Victory
Our victory nets us the first Pure Extract -- the most powerful and rarest SP restorative item in the game. It is pretty much 100% reserved for Yuri somehow getting into dangerously low sanity levels, likely from some bullshit boss attack. The cheaply made white wine comment reminds me of how back in halcyon days of Koudelka where most of the restoratives were just getting hammered on assorted bottles of wine and whiskey. One of the few things I wouldn't have minded keeping from that trainwreck of a game.
Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon
I didn't have time to be fooling around. Sorry, but I had to do that for you.
It's just the rules of nature.
<nods> And they run when the sun comes up with their lives on the line.
Alive for a while.
No choice. Gotta follow the laws of the wild.
The other wolves return.
Awroo! (Enough! All of you!)
Awroo! Awroo. (I'm alive even with my life on the line. No choice, out here only the strong survive.)
Awroo, awroo! (The strongest is our Alpha. That's the law of the island.)
...Awroo... (...That's fine. I just want to go now...)
Awroo. (We will abide by Rule #49.)
Awroo. (Here, take this.)
Blanca earns a new Manifestation here. Full Moon is an 18 MP spell that recovers Ring and Status Abnormalities for all allies. That's honestly not too shabby.
<nods> Awroo, awroo... (They captured my friends.)
<nods> Awroo. Grrr... (Oh, yeah? I thought I heard those no-good humans getting up to something.)
Awroo, awroo. (My friends are humans. Except for the vampire. And the one that occasionally turns into a monster in battle.)
Awroo, awroo... (That is... interesting company you keep.)
<looks to the left> Awroo, awroo. (Take a right on this path. It'll take you to a hole that'll get you inside.)
Awroo! (Okay, thanks.)
Blanca begins to walk off.
Awroo, grrr... (There was this wolf...looked just like you. He rescued me when I was a pup.)
Awroo, awroo? (When I first saw you, I thought you were him. Maybe you're his grandkid?)
<turns back and shakes head> Awroo, awroo. (I don't know. Never knew my family...)
Awroo, grr... (An actual lone wolf. Except for all the humans I follow around. And the little girl that kept me for a while. It's a long story.)
Awroo, awroo. (Oh. Sorry 'bout that...)
<starts walking away and stops> ...Awroo? (What was this guy's name?)
Awroo... Awroo. (I think it was... Lobo. Yeah. He said he was "Lobo, King of the Wolves.")
Awroo... (A little pompous of a title but I didn't question it.)
Awroo... (Lobo, King of the Wolves, huh...?)
Well, I'm sure that'll never become relevant to this questline. Before we continue on proper, there is something I have failed to mention about Wolf Bouts.
In Blanca's Personal screen we can actually view a Wolf Bout entry that tracks all the paw prints he's earned from officially sanctioned Wolf Bout matches. Additionally, each paw print comes with a blurb the age and birthplace of each wolf we've defeated as well as an epilogue to their story after their loss to Blanca. For instance, our first fight with Tetsu reads...
Treats Ernest as his grandfather. Normally obedient, but has a fierce side as well. Still a child in the ways of combat and conversation.
A few of these are mildly spoilers as the ones that are just a brief bio almost certainly indicate the wolf in question will become relevant again in the extensive sidequest. And then there's ones like avid Terry Bogard fan, Kelly...
After the battle in Le Havre, returned to his hometown. Dreamed of a rematch for the battle he lost till the end of his days.
If it's any consolation, he did drop the rival wolf that killed his father off a skyscraper and then raised his pup as his own.
Academy valedictorian. Also a Ph.D. After the defeat, became a fierce wolf-rights advocate.
Good on Jerome getting into Wolf Yale and excelling like that and looking out for his fellow wolf. Tragically, was assassinated by the Wolf FBI in his later years for rocking the status quo with the wolf rights movement.
An old man turned into a wolf by a spell. Called "the old tiger" for his sharp reflexes, which belie his age of more than ninety human years old.
Apparently in wolf years, if this I'm sure entirely scientific online calculator for assorted animals is to be believed, Henri is 404.44 wolf years old. He's looking pretty good, all things considered.
A born-and-bred Saint Marguerite wolf. A dedicated fan of the fairer sex. Thinks about she-wolves constantly on his deserted island!
Here lies Philippe. He never scored.
In any event, I'll remember to look at the wolf stats after future Wolf Bouts. We have QUITE a few more left to go. But for now, a new path has opened in this clearing letting us return to the prison and hopefully welcome our friends. But the wolves we've encountered and now apparently lead on this prison island do have a bit of dialogue. Let's see what's crackin' with the Saint Marguerite Island pack.
Awroo! Aw-aw-awroo! (Nails and wire and other dangerous things. Can't you do something?!)
Awroo! Grr... (That's like the second rule! Don't litter! C'mon!)
Awroo... Awroo... (The humans will never respect the environment. Not while the capitalist engine churns their hearts...)
<shakes head> Awroo... (I do not know what that means. But I am inspired.)
Awroo. (Good, comrade.)
Aw-awroo. Awroo! (If you show any weakness, they'll attack. Don't let your guard down.)
Awroo. (Yes, I noticed that. When you all attacked me.)
Awroo! (Ah! You're sharp! It is good that you are now alpha.)
Awroo. (I'm leaving shortly. Don't worry too much about it.)
Awroo. (Don't hold your breath.)
With the new pack spoken to and abandoned, we can now travel to the right path and just sort of teleport back from that forest zone to a new part of the prison. I hope you like the muted grey, browns and torches we're seeing right now because that's the next forty minutes of the game.
Oh and by the way, if the update title didn't clue you in. This is a stealth section. We're going to have a sneaking mission with Blanca. It's not very good or fun. But it does have my favorite animation in the entire game.
S T E A L T H - W O L F !
So this is basically just Metal Gear Solid now but you're a wolf and against soldiers with even worse vision than the Genome Soldiers. There are patrolling enemies on the map. The lack the Soliton Radar vision cone because that won't be invented for 90 years and also in a different universe. But they basically have a vision range comparable to Metal Gear Solid 1.
This first idiot we can just run past and move on. Blanca is a very quiet wolf. Unless...
They're slave-drivers! That's what they are! Just the other day...
They had me walk back and forth across this one 10 meters long walkway and I was ordered to only investigate if I heard someone tap on a wall or saw any footprints in the snow. It's bloody July! What the hell?
It's not right, I tell you. They've got Fred in full plate armor and carrying this giant sword... knife thing attached to his gauntlet. It's ridiculous.
We're not getting paid enough for this... I got whipped by that one lady the other day for slacking off because I was turning around too quickly in my patrol. They want me to stare in one direction for ten seconds before walking in the other direction. I swear, I sh
Awroo... A-awroo! (They're engrossed... Now's my chance!)
Scattered along this stealth mission are bramble patched that, if run across, will alert nearby guards to Blanca's presence. This will result in a fight against a couple of guards. They're the Paladin enemies from earlier in the in the dungeon. They're not a major threat or anything. Honestly, Blanca can easily just flub every stealth check and fight his way through here. But that would add an extra 20 minutes to this dungeon and it's already a way too long area with incredibly drab visuals.
So the secret is to... just walk across these patches of branches. They actually do show up on the radar as slightly darker blips in pathways. So it's not hard to do. Protip: The D-Pad is a walk by default otherwise you're at the mercy of the analog directional sensitivity sweet spot and that's less than optimal. O is also a dedicated walk button when held which I didn't know up until this point since there was zero reasons to ever walk anywhere instead of run.
Moving right along. The next challenge is getting by two jerks that are patrolling a narrow area. The guy beyond the fence with the chest (don't worry about that chest for now) has eagle vision unlike everyone else in this segment and we need to make sure he's not looking in this direction as we slip past to the east.
We now get proper sneaking mechanics unlocked. Blanca can hide behind pillars now to evade guards patrolling.
As is the tradition of video games, nobody in-universe has peripheral vision and will walk right past anything that isn't in a narrow 180-degree cone in front of them. Also, that narrow vision is limited to about a 30-degree vertical cone as well so the giant whitetail of Blanca clearly sticking out from the pillar is untraceable.
Continuing to the next room, a guard is heading this way and no pillars in sight. Time to duck into a random office and hope nobody is sitting in there and startled by the fact a huge white wolf just opened a door and waltzed in. It takes quite a bit to startle me but that shit would DEFINITELY do it.
Time for another kind of challenge. We do need to find a key to rescue our friends in their jail cells. Apparently it is somewhere in this room? Where, though?
Well, that is completely randomized in some manner of baffling fashion. Like the type where you can reload a save state and it's not in the same place. I think it might be in-game time cycle based like something out of Koudelka where the flying fuck this key is in the room at any given time. Or it might be tied to the first place you look and randomly shuffled from there. I have no clue. I reloaded this like twelve times and found the key in three different spots and outright failed the rest of the trials.
The spots Blanca can search this room are:
- The drawers in the front right.
- Under the couch.
- On the table.
- In the prison cell.
- The shelves behind the table.
- The closet behind the table.
Blanca has five tries to look for the trans-dimensional jail key that both exists and does not exist at any given point in the room. Failing to recover it in five attempts results in a battle and then the key is automatically found afterwards.
But screw that. Sure, of course the jail keys are themselves in a jail cell. Makes sense to me.
Now that we've recovered the keys assumedly to our allies' jail cells, we can continue onward. The guard from before has moved on since Blanca didn't have to tear out his throat in this timeline due to failing a random chance event. There are two sets of stairs here. We are going to ignore both of them and just continue to the east. Blanca will straight up refuse to use either stairs because his nose detects guards. Fair enough.
In the next room there is an elite guard on full alert. Which means he actually stops at an intersection and looks in ALL directions before resuming his patrol. Blanca employs the ninjitsu art of waiting for him to go south before heading downstairs to the north.
In the next room, there is the stealth enigma of TWO guards on patrol. There's also a couple of bramble patches. You really need to put the stealth skill to the test of Blanca or else have him recall the basics of CQC (close quarters chomp.)
Our final stealth task of this segment are two guards standing stock still near the exit to the north. An impenetrable defense. Scholars in the art of anti-stealth tactics should take note. Solid Snake would be utterly incapable of avoiding an alert here. So the solution?
Well, just alert them from behind the bars where they can't get you and they will proceed to hurriedly... begin patrolling both sides of the area. The window for hiding against a pillar and slipping by is actually kind of tight since they will walk to the end of a hall, turn around immediately and if Blanca is still in the same hall he'll be caught. But, Blanca is a very good boy and slips past to...
OK! Let's hold the fuck up for a moment! That there sure looks like it's a boss. Veronica DID mention some manner of fella was guarding the area accompanied by bestial roars.
We're going to do something *very* important before we start this fight. There have been ZERO save points since back in the forest after defeating Philippe. This has been a good 20+ minute stretch of the game on my end. We do NOT want to repeat that by beefing it in a boss fight. Thus, we are going to use our foreknowledge of having beaten the game before skill and equip a Shell Bracelet that negates poison before tackling this new foe.
Unlike the Philippe precaution, you are incredibly fucked if you go into this fight without protection. I definitely didn't have to replay this entire stealth segment my first time through the game. No, sir...
Music: Glint of Light ~ Mid Boss in Europe
Meet the alpha dog of the prison segment of St. Marguerite Island -- Oscar. Yeah... I don't know why its name is Oscar. If there is some do or pseudo-Cerberus reference to an Oscar, it is lost on me. Since this IS a solo battle with Blanca, the game takes mercy and this guard dog has only 400 HP and a Wind elemental affinity so it won't be trouncing Blanca too badly. Unless he lacks resistance to poison, in which case he is immediately poisoned because Oscar has initiative in this fight. By the way, Poison does stack in Shadow Hearts: Covenant. If you are Poisoned and then get Poisoned again it can potentially become Deadly Poison. Which is like 10% of maximum HP each turn versus 30% of maximum HP each turn. And that is A Problem. Which is why we nipped that in the bud before even entering the fight. Otherwise, this is a losing scramble of wasting a turn curing poison only to get poisoned again and then healing and maybe you tank one turn going on the offensive. It's not a good plan, to say the least.
Additionally, you want to get fancy with buffs of any sort? Oscar is absolutely not cool with that and WILL immediately negate it the following turn. So there's that fun part too.
Other than the poison spam, Oscar has a Wind based attack, Slash, that actually much like Philippe, does less damage than just his normal physical strikes (25 damage vs. 35 damage.)
Since Oscar is a Wind Elemental, Blanca's usual Soul Comet routine is less effective than just landing physical strikes. So with the poison gimmick neutered, the rest of this just basically plays out like an optimal unsanctioned Wolf Bout with a battle of attrition that needs to be tempered by Blanca just taking a knee and healing every 3-4 turns.
And thus another of Veronica's ongoing Monster of the Week familiars is bested. She HAS to be running out of them soon. What's the limit of active team Pokémon you can have at a time...?
Music: Result ~ Victory
Our victory nets us a modest amount of EXP and Cash alongside an upgraded Poison Add-On for the Judgment Wheel and...
A new Tarot Card for Lucia, should we ever take her out of the vault after... the incident. This one just only loses 1 SP every two rounds. Or get boned by RNG and lose 2 SP every round. I believe the special card version is SP only reduces every 4th turn vs. lose 4 SP every turn and get fucked. Hmph.
Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon
Before we head any further. Hey... remember that treasure map we got from Loud Croft back in Cannes. A row of cells... huge dog... chain... I do believe the stars are aligning. And...
...If we check right where Oscar was camping out for a boss fight, we find yet another Tarot Card. This one affects the ever nebulous Luck for... who knows? It's behind the veil RNG. Hitting the Special version basically guarantees a rare drop, if the enemy has a rare drop, or guarantees you don't get squat. Great.
You don't know what I've been through in here... I can't go back...
Blanca!! Thank goodness you're all right!
Oh, Blanca! We knew you'd make it! You're a wolf among wolves!
You really did it! You really came to save us!
My muscles quiver with pride.
Oh, boy! Now we'll all be saved! Good Blanca!
Blanca is the wolf, right? Nobody has actually told me its name since I joined... Good Blanca!
Blanca proceeds to unlock each and every cell by himself. No handing anyone the key. Blanca is going to work his jailbreak magic with his paws and maw. Don't fret.
Everyone readies themselves to pet Blanca and call him a good boy. However...
Uh-oh! They're onto us! Let's go!
Blanca! You should have been more stealthy!
...Awroo! (Bite me!)
Alright! The gang is back together! Tune in next time in which... we just do the entire segment Blanca just stealthed past but there are random battles and it's a proper dungeon now and it's a bummer scene. Dammit!
Video: Episode 41 Highlight Reel (Dog Steal
Blanca Concept Art - Good boy found.