Part 46: Cleopatra Jones and the Breaking of the GameCleopatra Jones and the Breaking of the Game
Last time on Tyranny, we had to decide whether to kill Cairn the Archon of Stone or leave him to be slowly drained away by his former followers. The thread near-universally decided to kill Cairn to get Cleopatra more evil power.
There are three of these staves in the area. We need to crack them all to break Cairn free.
Our reward for doing this is a cutscene where the energy stream disappears from the staff to Cairn.
This guy is bugged and doesn't attack us, even though we break this staff. He just keeps doing his little ritual animation, and I find it too hilarious to kill him. The Stonestalkers will get him anyway.
The guys in this corner put up a token resistance and die horribly.
Smashing the staff teleports the party over to Cairn.
With a final collapse...
Cairn's light fades from this world, and he is free from his follower's parasitic ways.
You should all recognize this animation by now.
We've broken another Edict! I didn't highlight this, but everyone in the area of the Edict had a -15 to all magical skills. It's gone now!
Everyone liked that! It's interesting to see Barik turn around and actually start subtly criticizing Kyros' decisions.
I don't think this warrants a summary - we broke the Edict, and everyone was pleased because it was ruining the land.
This maxed out our power bar. What do we use it for? You're just going to have to wait and find out!
There are six different fragments of Cairn. This sounds hardcore, but it's an accessory that increases one of the core stats by +2. We already have two actual artifacts in our accessory slot. I was going to complain about how much it sucked, but we can turn it into a pretty good artifact at our forge - a staff that boosts Wits by 2 and also lets us AoE petrify people. They really don't want late game to be any challenge at all, huh?
Now we can wander our merry way into the Spire.
You know the drill by now. Verse and Barik have some incidental conversation about how it might be full of traps, but I've never seen that happen in the actual Spire puzzle room.
: The Dawning Spire in Howling Rock gives you the impression of slow, inexorable movement, like a glacier of living stone. Unstoppable force moves at a pace that no eye could follow. The tower's very immobility is a pretense.
: With a triumphant heave, you feel the will of the Spire stretch across the distance to link its power with Vendrien's Well.
: Another Spire added to your collection, which begs the question of how many strongholds one Fatebinder needs. I'll leave you to answer the hard questions.
: Are you used to this rush? Because I don't know if I ever will be. We all feel it, right?
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: I am Spire, the granter of Power! I grant the power that is slow to act, yet inexorable. Do you seek...the power???
: I feel like the Spire would have saved Cairn if it could have. A pity.
: How many Spires does one Fatebinder need, anyway?
: AWW YISS POWAH!
This Spire is going to be our Training Grounds for reasons you'll see shortly.
This guy is our personal trainer, and as you can see our reputation is getting a little out of control.
Anyway, Death-Leaper here is going to allow us to break the game in half.
Here are Cleopatra's skills before training.
We have 70 ranks trainable, and we're going to dump them all into Athletics. Why? Because of how the respec system works. Both Lore and Athletics are considered "Support" skills, so when we retrain Cleopatra with the help of Fatebinder Cespar we can dump all these unneeded Athletics points into our Lore skill instead.
We also gain five whole levels in the process, letting us pick up Cleopatra's last skill. Cleopatra's build is all around being a mage who explodes people with turbocharged critical hits, so we go all in on accuracy and crit damage while maxing her Wits for spell damage too. This particular ability works on spell kills and makes one fight in the future particularly hilarious and ironic.
I've kind of run out of talents, so I grab this. Why not? Cleopatra is going to be dumping extremely powerful AoE attacks on fools, and it will also goes great with rampage, so if we get into some kind of sustained boss fight where the boss summons waves of bad guys we can just keep on trucking. I'm sure there aren't any of those in our future, heh heh!
I grab this so I can grab the accuracy boost for fighting at range later, and then...we grab whatever. I don't even know what to grab after that, thread! The magic tree is surprisingly bad at actually providing boosts to magic!
Look at this thing. Look at it. We can now put the highest level strength sigil on our Focused Rain Fire spell, and we still have a ton of lore left over.
Reduce the cooldown by thirty seconds? Sure!
A frostfire icicle spike that bounces three times and has an accuracy boost? Why the hell not?
An AoE 5 second stun that bounces around to new targets and has a 21s cooldown? Sure!
Cleopatra is officially past the point of giving a fuck, and the best part is we can probably get her Lore even higher if we keep pulling this kind of crap. We could probably go fight the final boss right now, and we have a full act of this game left to go!
On our way to Halfgate to go grab some loot I missed this random encounter kindly pops up. The kids are playing Bane, which makes us think that there are Bane in the area. We go to hunt them down.
Behold! The trash mobs return!
We just don't give a shit anymore. Sure, our party members are getting walloped because these guys have the level advantage, but Cleo has AoE blasts that whenever they kill something we get both a heal for the entire party (only 5%, but still, no cooldown!) and a +15 accuracy bonus for Cleopatra everytime she kills someone, which means a higher crit chance, which means MORE damage, which kills more people, which...
We also get a bunch of parry levels out of this, which we could turn right back around and dump back into Lore if we were so inclined. It really doesn't matter.
: So you found the Azure Shield. You're now the inheritor of one of the Tier's most prized relics. Assuming you remember half of what I've taught you, there should be few left in the Tiers that could best you in a duel.
Remember, Bleden Mark is the assassin that Kyros sends to deal with rogue Archons. He absolutely despises false praise, so when he says this kind of stuff, he means it!
: [Raise your Shield.]
It's not great action writing, I gotta say.
It's kind of amazing how the authors are unable to describe a supernaturally fast assassin attacking the protagonist with no more emotion than walking to the store.
TheGreatEvilKing writes bad fiction posted:
You walk, lumber, trot, and amble for several more blocks.
At last, the grocery store before you, you get your bagels.
This really feels like it should have come up earlier in the game, as it gives us somewhat more of a reason to trust Bleden Mark.
: Well, that was fun. But that's enough for now. We've other matters to discuss.
Normally, we'd be hitting the endgame right about now, but the anarchist path is the only path that lets us visit all four Act II areas. Of course, the anarchist path doesn't have Tunon's trial. We are getting dangerously close to the end of the game, so think about which path you want to see on the second - and most likely last - playthough.
Look, they announced a second Ash of Gods game, ok? I kind of want to LP that.
: I know the Regents of Stalwart hoarded many relics - perhaps I should look in the Blade Grave.
: A wise place to start your search. The bronze blade known as the Dauntless was the finest weapon in all of Stalwart. Though the blade was born for the battlefield and claimed many Disfavored lives, it's since gone missing - last seen during the spat at Sentinel Stand.
: I will see to it that the Disfavored patrols are reduced or led astray so that you might travel through the Blade Grave.
You would think Mark would know by now Cleopatra is going to pump him for information we can use to our advantage when we inevitably confront the Archons.
: Wait, I have questions.
: The Archon lets out a short sigh as the color returns to his image.
: If I didn't know better, I'd think you're as dogged as me.
: I want to know more about the other Archons.
I feel like the player should be slapped for picking six, and we all know that Mark is not going to be honest with us about one.
: What do you think about the Voices of Nerat?
: Where'd he come from?
: He was some noble heir from some... swampy nowhere fiefdom that was next on Kyros' list of places to enslave. His family took up arms to defend their lands from Kyros.
The Archon of what? Of course Kyros has an Archon of Misery working for her. There have been mentions of a bunch of other Archons we haven't seen - Lantry mentions Snakes in the DLC, Eb used to work for Occulted Jade, we've heard the tale of Pox and the Boar, oh, and of course all the Archons not named Sirin and Cairn whose sigils we use every day. Let's go back and ask Mark why Tunon hasn't just smoked Nerat's ass, shall we?
: He's clearly crooked, why hasn't Tunon ever sentence[sic] him to death and done us all a favor?
Hell, he even admitted before Ashe and Cleo that he tortured and murdered Ashe's son just to piss him off.
: Well up until recently, he always played by the rules that matter. Sure, he lets his soldiers do whatever to whomever, but he goes to great lengths to give Kyros little room to Edict him in the backside.
That statement deserves some analysis. Remember, Nerat isn't some crappy pacifist who lets people alone as long as they pay taxes and loudly talk about how cool he is whenever he walks by, he's actively enslaving, torturing, and conscripting people into his trash army that works on the Zapp Branigan principle of exhausting his opponents' ammunition by sacrificing his own soldiers.
Graven Ashe is worse. Now, Mark has his own agenda, and he doesn't start by laying everything out on the table, but he's kind of strongly hinted that he doesn't like the way the Kyrosian regime is run. Remember, Mark didn't become the Archon of Shadows by starting as a serial killer or a ninja or something, he was a soldier first, and he tried to kill Kyros before defecting. Graven Ashe resorts to straight up genocide if the local population gives him any trouble, and the rebels talk about "Disfavored labor camps".
Unfortunately this is one of the flaws of Tyranny. The game has a lot of text that shows Graven Ashe as being a harsher master than Nerat while hiding behind a facade of honor and caring for his men, but we never actually see any Disfavored labor camps or slave roundups or anything. The Disfavored camp in Act 1 is a disciplined looking place while the Scarlet Chorus is running some kind of weird mad max fighting pit with crucified prisoners. We do see the Disfavored acting oppressively toward the locals - such as when they bully Sterling the merchant in Act 1 - but we never really see enough of Disfavored operations to make them seem like harsher masters. The game tells us this, but the closest we ever get to seeing it is when we're ordered to kill all the Stonestalkers on the Disfavored route. Tyranny makes it very clear Ashe's reputation as a competent, honorable, and merciful general is all a lie, but if you're not paying attention he seems a lot better than Nerat.
That said, it's pretty clear Nerat has had the same epiphany we've had about the law - it's a garbage and hypocritical moral system, but as a weapon to destroy your enemies and cover your own ass it's amazing!
I'll have more to say on this in Act 3. Time to ask about Archons again!
: What did you know of Cairn?
: That name! The Archon of Stone still weighs heavily on my mind.
At least it's not Martha.
: I know that you finally ended him. The Edict of Stone was a slow, messy execution - and the Tiers are better off with the Edict put to rest.
: Reminder of what?
: I'm reminded that it should have been me that ended him.
: What exactly was his crime?
: Cairn became obsessed with the Tiers - the actual landmass of the Tiers - he didn't give a tinker's cuss about the people. But he... came to the conclusion that Kyros has not rightful claim to the Tiers. You don't need to know the Overlord as long as I have to know not to say such things.
: Kyros is a rather patient ruler, all things considered - if that weren't the case, the Voices of Nerat would have been diced into chum ages ago. But insulting or belittling the Overlord is a quick path to learning all there is to know about being a corpse.
So in the original playthrough, I avoided the second option as I thought it would piss off Mark. However, I went back and reloaded a save as I was writing this update because I was curious.
Things that were never said on this playthrough, but are in the game. posted:
: Shame? Are you to blame for his treachery?
: Not exactly, but I'm Kyros' blade. I should have been the one to end his existence. But, Cairn was one of the few who could rival me in personal combat. Because I was not strong enough to best Cairn, Kyros resorted to using the Edict of Stone... which could have been avoided if Cairn could only bleed.
: The Edict of Stone worked on him as it drains away his supernatural powers of resilience. Even my keenest blade would glance off his stony hide, fortunately Kyros has a wider array of weapons at her disposal.
: I've a question on something else.
: Maybe another time. You're too curious for your own good, kid.
: With a nod, he fades into the darkness.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Nice shield! Let's try it out!
: Ha! With this shield, my anime is stronger than your anime!
: Sweet. Now remember, you gotta get the Dauntless sword to complete the set! I'm off to be mysterious and stuff!
: Wait! I have questions!
: So what's the deal with Nerat? Why hasn't Tunon killed him yet?
: He was some crappy noble who tortured and killed his own family to get ahead in the Kyrosian pecking order. As for your latter question, he was really really good at manipulating the law. Sure, his soldiers are a bunch of barely controlled vicious murderers, but he keeps the captured populations alive to work for Kyros, he doesn't hurt kids, and he kisses Tunon's ass.
: What about Cairn?
: Ah, fuck. Well, I know you ended him - that was a slow death, and the Tiers are better off without the Edict blighting the farmland. I'm still ashamed though. I should have killed him, not Kyros!
: What'd he do?
: Oh, he became obsessed with the Tiers. Not the people, the land - then he came to the conclusion that Kyros didn't have a claim on the Tiers. This is an extremely stupid thing to say, as belittling the Overlord gets you killed horribly!
: So what does this have to do with your shame?
: Well, I couldn't take Cairn in a fight. He was a big rock man, and I fight with knives! It was totally OP! So Kyros had to do it, and I'm not proud of myself for that.
Alright, there's a lot going on here. First with Cairn, next with Mark.
Cairn is a study in contradictions. He's a big stone man who - if Mark is to be believed - became obsessed with the Tiers and then led the Beastmen in s slave rebellion because he didn't believe Kyros had any right to control the land. Rather than be killed, he was slowly tortured to death by his former followers who tried to drain his power to use on behalf of the oppressors. It's an interesting statement about legitimacy - the Earthshakers quite literally draw their power from Cairn, but Cairn is an avowed foe of Kyros. The Earthshakers profess loyalty to Kyros and Radix even announces his pride in serving as Graven Ashe's Iron Guard - right after declaring that Cairn is "MY Archon", and I'm not actually sure what he's supposed to represent. Is he a colonizer who's defected a la Dances With Wolves? A symbolic representation of the common people of the Tiers who first welcomed Kyros, then realized how bad the Empire really was? It's clear from his great stature and the Earthshakers that the Kyrosian Empire needs whatever ephemeral quality he provides - a foundation? - even as the Earthshakers fall under suspicion of treason. Cairn is able to trivially sweep away the Tidecasters during the Conquest, and if you end up going to the Stone Sea you have to sacrifice an entire army to hold him off while you read the Edict. Considering how quickly Cleo read the Edict in Act 1, Cairn is very powerful and even in death he shakes the Tiers.
Earlier in the game posted:
This works in Ashe's favor - as long as Ashe stands, he can protect the Earthshakers from the fallout and bind them more tightly to him as long as no one else is willing to risk the allegations of treason - but also exposes Ashe to these very same allegations. It's a dangerous tightrope, but that's the tale of being a Kyrosian Archon. Grab power where you can, because if you don't you'll get dragged down by some ambitious young upstart or your old enemies to curry Kyros' favor.
Mark is different. I've been kind of waffling on my interpretation of him and his motives, but here he shows pretty clear loyalty to Kyros. Note his description of the word "fortunate" to describe Kyros having Edicts at her disposal to kill Cairn and his shame over failing to fulfill his duties as Kyros' blade. It's pretty clear that he doesn't empathize with Cairn so much as wish that he'd been able to kill the Archon himself - even his regrets about Cairn's slow death are phrased as concern for the people of the Tiers, not Cairn. Thus this serves as a reminder that we should be very careful about trusting Bleden Mark - he speaks directly with the Overlord, and we've had a few hints (from Fatebinder Myothis) that Kyros has a vested interest in setting us up as a tool to get rid of Graven Ashe and the Archons. He's not completely at peace with all of Kyros' methods, but we should be very careful about assuming where his loyalties lie.
With that, I'm going to kick off some sigil research at the Library and have another vote.
Decisions Lie Before Us!
Who are we taking to the Blade Grave? Barik is mandatory due to his history there, select two more from Lantry, Verse, Eb, Sirin,or Kills-in-Shadow.