Part 10: I Fought The Devil, and The Devil WonI Fought The Devil, and The Devil Won
Welcome back! Last time we skipped Sir Arthour because otherwise we would have to sit through insightful dialogue like this:
Anyway, let's go talk to Leto. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it's a Dune reference.
Seriously - she's named after a Dune character (Paul Atreides' father) and is basically a Fremen Bene Gesserit.
: Ziobe says one of you is a psychic projection. Are you the projection, or are you real?
Leto: Who can say what reality is? I see strands of possibility tying the future and the past together. Probabilities grow and decrease. Is a small probability a reality? In one universe, it will be. In another, it has vanished into the web of might-have-beens, an opportunity for nostalgia or gratitude in avoiding it.
Translation: The authors read a pop book on quantum mechanics and were really fascinated by it.
Leto: I tell you that reality is more than our perception of time. It exists beyond us. What is in the past extends into the future. Touch the threads of the past and you can see their intended shape. Know what it is that you seek, and you will be able to discern your reality.
The past...shapes the future? Tell me more, Captain Obvious!
I legitimately cannot tell if the authors are poking fun at this faux-mysticism shit or whether they believe this is a deep dive into the nature of reality. This game is marketed as being a deep philosophical experience, so I suspect the latter?
: What can you tell me about yourself?
Leto: To the northeast, in the middle of the Lost Sea, there is a small town called Jerboa. Dwarfed by the magnificence of the Oasis of M'ra Jollos, Jerboa is a poor town dependent on the charity of its neighbor.
The Oasis of M'ra Jollos was the 4 million dollar kickstarter goal. If they hit 4 millions dollar, they would add the city to the game.
The developers got the four million dollars and proceeded to not add M'ra Jollos to the game. For bonus points, they got to 4.25 million dollars, which was supposed to include "crafting numenera" and that never made it into the game either.
I'm gonna do a bonus update about some of this kickstarter stuff, because people were pissed.
: She nods to the bartender, and he refills her drink, floating a bottle through the air without touching it.
Stuff like that makes me really think the writers wanted to direct a movie rather than write a psuedo-novel.
Leto: I was born in the slums. The ghibra - residents of the city - would sometimes tour our ghetto. One of them saw my eyes and declared me touched by their god, Ny'kul, They taught me the deep secrets of their church and showed me how to comprehend the tapestry in my mind.
: "But one day I saw a light flare in Sagus Cliffs. Though this city and mine suffer...hostilities...I knew that I must brave those dangers, for I saw the darkening storm." She grips your sleeve. "I see the futures".
The cliched philosophical question is to ask about free will and determinism with a seer, but quite frankly actually competent authors have weighed in on this and I don't want to read a bunch of RPG nerds waffling.
: What can you tell me about the people here?
Leto: I know the stories of my comrades in arms - their past and their future. I have a deep bond with Ziobe, a friendship with Theboros. My respect for Dhama knows no limit, and I have fond recollections of Feriok's ready wit.
This is another hint that Feriok is actually dead.
: What can you tell me about the Adversaries?
You know, something else I realized when typing this up is that for a "clever" jack we don't get many attempts at being clever. The Last Castoff is characterized entirely as a passive observer, semi-mutely pumping other characters for that sweet sweet exposition.
Meanwhile in games like Baldur's Gate you were given a list of options from compassionate to psychotic. It wasn't much, but it's a lot more than this.
The only bits of characterization we get are the few Tidal Change options that let us show a bit of egotism to shift our dominant tides. More on this when I figure out how that mechanic works.
: How did you know I'd be coming here?
: Can you tell me anything more about the people I travel with?
: Tell me about Callistege.
: Can you tell me the steps that lead to my destruction? What do I do to succeed?
Leto: Your future shifts even as you ask the question. The sisters to your right seek advantage, the ones to your left compromise. You are on the edge of the blade. Your choices are yours, but your future echoes through realities. All you need do is step.
Oh, so Callistege is Congress.
: You're trafficking in supposition and simile. What makes you any better than a hedge witch prognosticating in laak entrails?
People used to divine the future in animal entrails, but good lord is that a clunky sentence.
You literally just said you had no idea what Callistege should do, only that she should pick one.
On an unrelated note, "playing god" is going to be one of the themes of this game, and hoo boy are we going to completely mangle everything by the end!
: Tell me about Erritis.
: Yes, tell me about me!
: She frowns at him and pokes a finger at the golden glow that surrounds him. She snatches her finger back as if burned. "His future is bright, but short".
: Tell me about Tybir.
Leto: For the gallowglass, I have only one prediction. Change your ways, or live with your regrets forever.
She's not kidding. If you kick Tybir out of the party and ignore him, he becomes more and more depraved and then gets executed. Oops!
: Forever? That's a long time, my dear. And I'm told nothing lasts that long.
Having exhausted all possibilities, we nope out and end the conversation.
TheGreatEvilKing dialogue summary posted:
: Hello young lady. Have you read Dune? Have you read Dune? Have you read Dune?
: Uh, nope. Can you tell me anything useful?
: Nope. I can give your companions advice - they suck and need to stop doing what they're doing.
: It's the truth.
: Ok, bye.
: Dhama said you're blind. What does that mean?
: Ziobe challenged me to find the person who's a psychic projection. Are you the one?
: Theboros said I should know about people's stories.
: Leto said that you were an empath, not a telekinetic.
: Ziobe said I should focus on physicality.
: Let me ask a few other questions.
So we're not getting a drink yet. We will be soon.
: Can you tell me about this place?
Feriok: The Fifth Eye is a bar for psychics. At least, it is now. In the prior worlds, near as far as we can tell, it was an old pumping station. All these pipes lead down to some reservoirs deep beneath the city, and they pump whatever is in the reservoirs up here.
Is this supposed to be clever? "Desert-dwelling interloper?"
There is a bit of symbolism here the writers didn't intend. As the Fifth Eye seems to be a sewage treatment plant serving up whatever shit the psychic warriors found lying around, the game is serving up whatever pretentious themes the writers have but are unable to add new ideas to.
: You said this is a bar for psychics. What does that mean?
Feriok: Means this is a place where psychics can unwind. Get away from the city. Get away from the noise! You know what it's like to be psychic? Let me paint a picture. Imagine every time you're going to sleep, someone comes and starts screaming in your ear. Or objects in the room start whispering about how they want to burn, Or they might tell you their secret names and how to make them float and dance at your command.
This sounds more like mental illness honestly. Weirdly, even if you come in here as a mind-reading nano, these guys all treat you like you're not psychic. Sir Arthour makes fun of us for trying to read his mind, but we are psychic. We have a psychic power that powers up our weapons with energy and shit and we can smash anything automatically once per day. Does that not count?
If you take Scan Thoughts you get passive extra text. Most of it is meaningless.
: That's all for now. Thank you.
TheGreatEvilKing dialog summary posted:
: You want some booze?
: Are you a cripple? What does that mean?
: I'm just gonna answer you and pretend what you said wasn't terribly offensive.
: Are you a psychic projection?
: I'm not not not not not the psychic projection.
: Page 242 of the Numenera Players Handbook says that you can't spec into telekinesis as an empath.
: No comment.
: So, tell me about this place.
: Oh, this used to be a sewage plant. Then some dumbasses started drinking the sewer water and got really drunk. Turns out the shit blocks psychic emissions somehow, so we turned it into a bar. Incidentally, do you want a drink?
: Uh, nope. Tell me about how it is being psychic.
: It is so terrible, having command of hereditary powers your fellow men envy!
: OK, bye.
Now that we have talked to the psychics, we can go back and talk to Ziobe about Feriok being the psychic projection.
Or we can talk to the many fascinating beings in this bar.
: Who are you?
: What does it mean to be a word?
...I really don't have anything else to say.
Revelation 1.8 posted:
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
I get what they're trying to do here. This is supposed to be a mysterious, divine messenger with deep cosmic truths inspired by the God of the Bible you can't possibly comprehend.
They immediately ruin the grandeur by having him appear in a bar that serves sewage to mentally ill people.
: What are you doing here?
: Did you say this was the final attempt at entry by the Adversaries?
: Where did you come from?
O: You would not understand. Let me show you.
: Its eyes widen, expanding to fill the room, your vision, your consciousness, and you tumble into a starry immensity. Swirls of nebulae twist and knot, and in the hearts of these stellar clusters roar hungry vortices. You tumble helplessly into a myriad of them at once, torn apart and reformed in an instant, a being of pure light and will, a-
: You said you had come to offer a vision to Leto?
You know, usually when divine messengers show up in the Abrahamic tradition they're not incoherent and will actually tell you want they want, like "lead the Hebrews out of Egypt" or "don't look back at the pillar of flame". This "it's true, so it's not an intervention" is kinda incoherent.
Oh, fuck! He's still talking!
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: I am Pretension made flesh. I am the messenger of the writers, who seek to make a setting "weird" and "incomprehensible" but lack the imagination to do more but emptily echo better writers. I am the end of the player's patience, the lack of originality in attempting to clone Planescape. I am the cargo cult, and the cargo cult is me.
: I'm leaving now.
: No, wait! Here, have an intellect boost and 4 free max hit points.
There are a few other NPCs in the bar, and I'll go through them shortly because they're not that interesting.
This guy is trapped in a dream here or something. He never, to my knowledge, comes up again, and quite frankly you don't care.
This guy floated through space as the last survivor of a dead civilization. He used to be one of the ruling caste, but then he doubted and everyone died, maybe? I don't know, but if someone opens a conversation with "Reality's winds carry me" I'm just gonna back away slowly.
This woman is out of it. There are a bunch of women talking, but if you say hello she turns on you and tries to kill you.
We make the might check and she goes back to standing around. This is the one NPC in here actually linked to this game's main plot. Really.
This girl is trying to recruit the five psychics that own the bar into the "Endless Battle" between the Changing God and the First Castoff. She's recruiting for the Changing God's team and will reward us if we recruit the veterans.
This sounds important, but for the most part is told and not shown. If you all vote to do this sidequest I'll show off her dialog. I do want to show off one thing:
This strength through conflict motif is going to pop up throughout the game. Notably it's not strength through adversity, it's strength through conflict. More on that later.
Anyway we can tell Ziobe we found the psychic projection. It's Feriok.
She's manifesting him as a memorial to him being killed by a devil. It is very sad.
Anyway now we can progress this sidequest. If you talk to Dhama you can accuse anyone in the bar of being a devil, but that's wrong. What you have to do is go talk to Feriok again and order a drink. Incidentally, this took me forever to figure out.
: I'd like a drink.
...holy shit, this is jenkem. This is literally the jenkem joke about kids huffing shit to get high.
We want the experimental drinks.
I completely forgot at this point which drink was which and was clicking through dialogue to make it end. You're supposed to order the black ichor. I remembered the grease-cone nailed you with a permanent debuff.
: (Pay) I'd like to try the pink sludge.
Ok, I take it back. The Last Castoff is deliberately characterized as a stupid idiot moron. We go back to the Labyrinth and the portal which I forget to screenshot, and then get back up.
Anyway, the correct choice is to go back and pick the black ichor.
A better game would change the background music to the dread chorus. Unfortunately this game's music is completely unremarkable.
Now that we have gotten high off space alien jenkum we can see the devil. That is not a sentence I ever wanted to write, and somewhere my parents are weeping and do not understand why.
This is what this deep and philosophical game believes absolute evil looks like.
I...what? What is a "throbbing core of a fallen vessel?" A vessel is either a ship or a container. This only makes sense if you are assuming some kind of sci-fi spaceship, and why would we do that? Why would a ship throb? This is awful!
The devil is "almost" oppressive. Really. This is a being described as Satanic evil, and it is "almost" oppressive.
I want my 20 shims back.
: Where did you come from?
You could actually write dialogue that the devil was sneering, or you could awkward construct expository text with passive voice.
: Do you know your name means sickness?
That is not how I would describe the word, but what do I know?
Also he's a devil. Everyone in this bar had told you he's a devil. Dhama has proven himself trustworthy by not destroying your mind and giving you an intellect boost.
There's a lot of expository chaff from the psychics about how the Adversaries are unknowable or whatever, and then Malaise goes and says "you cannot defeat me, I am more than pestilence."
Turns out in this playthough, he's right!
: Can you tell me about yourself?
: Why are you watching those people?
: What can you tell me about this place?
It's nice to know that even absolute evil isn't above spouting off synonymous lists that these writers love so much.
My current bad fan theory is that Malaise is evil because he killed all of inExile's editors.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Holy shit! It's a motherfucking devil!
: I am Malaise.
: Tell me about yourself.
: I am a powerful devil. I am powerful and evil, and you cannot beat me!
: Do you know you might be evil?
: I'M THE FUCKING DEVIL, BITCH!
: I think I may have a lead on the identity of the Adversary.
: Do you see that man there? Malaise? He's watching you."
Yea, Ziobe is...a robot. Why not. Sure.
: Let me handle it.
: You're right. Then we'll confront it together.
This is not an easy fight. It's also not really a fun fight.
Now, you might be asking, what does psychic combat look like?
I don't even know.
Anyway, the five psychics get caught in cutscene powers and leave our party to fight the eight devils. Malaise is a Naruto fan, apparently.
This fight sucks. That is Flash, an AoE attack that the nano gets at tier 2. When I did this fight on my playthrough, I was a Nano who Breathes Shadow, giving me the same AoE attack with extra relativistic damage.
We are not at all built for combat.
The psychics can randomly get free and they fight just like standard character classes. What, you expected unique psy powers? Don't be silly.
Anyway, these shits can inflict psychic bleeding, which is a DoT that does mental damage. The cyborg lab nanites make you immune, and I had those up going into this fight.
One of the things I should mention is that this fight is slowwwww. The standard walking speed of a combatant in Numenera is played out at a snails pace, and we have thirteen other characters not in our party. The camera needs to slowly display whose turn it is, zoom to that character, and then watch as they shamble slowly forward like they are trying to convince a federal official that they qualify for Social Security benefits.
Anyway we get him down to the last asshole and he busts out an AoE super move I literally have never seen before.
Anyway I go back to Dhama.
: Not right now. Farewell.
This party is in no shape to fight. At this stage of the game, every attack is going to need you to burn your pool to do things like "hit the enemy". Anyway, I leave for a rest.
Wait, what do you mean, "wish us luck"?
I turn around and head back in.
Oh. Oh. Well.
: What was that eye in your head?
She doesn't want to talk about it, and asks us to keep her secret. We will not.
Anyway, there's a psychic projection of Dhama, and I'm completely confused by this.
That makes it sound like we helped fight? I don't know.
Do we accept this result, or go back and save scum to win the fight? If I do this, I will also save scum for the Doom Pepes. As you might imagine, we get actually good rewards for doing this.
Are we recruiting the psychics to the Endless Battle?