Part 5: ArnikaUpdate 004: Arnika
The votes seemed more or less in agreement that for now both Saxx and Sparkle should be recruited and the party should join the Umpani as step one towards joining both warring races and attempting to reconcile them. This post will be relatively video heavy since there are a ton of new dialogue NPC's, both some who'll actually talk to us now and others that we'll be meeting for the first time.
So we're headed back to the Umpani base camp after my brief hunting expedition the Northern Wilderness to grab up Sparkle and tell Balbrak we want to join.
Getting Sparkle on the team is pretty effortless, she's a useful enough girl and not actually notably behind the party in XP.
Sparkle has gear that's comparable to our current loadout, and much like Aurora she's got an axe for her melee weapon. There are a couple of Ranger-only axes in the game, but they are, as has been mentioned, kind of a sub-par choice considering the limited selection of good axes compared to, say, good swords and polearms. The blunt weapons suffer much the same fate. Stats-wise it looks rather like she's been generated in much the same way as a player character, which is nice, because some games generate their NPC recruitables much differently which lead to a lot of them being unbalanced towards either uselessness or being OP. Sparkle's main issue is that she doubles up on a class we already have, when what we really want more than anything is greater class variety so we can use more spell types and equipment types.
Once we tell Balbrak we want to join up he gives us a level 1 access card(which we don't really use) and we get to quiz him about a lot of stuff.
Having joined up, we can also recruit Saxx(and talk to Saxx), talk to Bildublu(the bartender) and actually shop at the commissary!
Saxx is an excellent recruit, since he opens up some spells we can't cast yet. Specifically, his starting instrument, the Soulful Sax, which can be acquired no other way, casts Soul Shield, which ups resistances against a lot of awful "fuck you and your entire party"-conditions like Insanity, Turncoat and instant death. He also has some bagpipes that do cone damage and a horn that casts Bless. He can actually cast it at a higher level than Lady, but I want Lady to get in the Divine training and he's better off starting most fights with Soul Shield.
The game defaults new recruits to the frontal quadrant, but to keep the wide front, I shove Saxx and Sparkle on the right flank while Aurora gets to hang out with Lady on the left flank.
Kunar should appreciate our business more.
Most shops will have a couple of equipment upgrades from this point on, in Kunar's case it's mostly a heavy crossbow for Aurora since it'll be a punchier option than her shortbow until I can glue a bunch of Light Crossbows together(as drops and shop lists are somewhat level-scaled, some kinds of low-level drops can actually be frustratingly hard to get if you don't find them early enough). However, if we had the money it would also be a good choice to buy some resurrection powder from him and some magic nectars. Magic nectars are about the only way to recover magic points for mages without resting or rare fountains, and so are very important consumables to find.
Speaking of, not having a Bishop or Priest for the first time ever, I'm getting a lot more use out of consumables than I normally do, as potions become ever more vital for stamina/health regen. Offensive spell items remain a bit pointless, though as always I'll hoard Canned Elementals(more about elementals later this post...), while selling most other things(the stat reqs. needed not to backfire these items tend to be a bit fucky since some require Artifacts, which only levels very slowly and passively and others require sling/throwing which also levels slowly since it very much tends to be a backup skill for the characters that do use it.
Shops also tend to carry spellbooks which is where you should be getting your low-level spells and especially Bishops live or die more or less purely on what spellbooks you can pick up for them, since they will NEVER get a decent loadout from simply level-up learned spells.
Sadly I will never have the gold to buy everything I want from these stores, so we're off to basic training.
I forget to talk to Rubble, so we don't get his full selection of dialogue yet, as he's moved on by the time we get out of the training course.
I wish I knew why someof these screenshots are unusually grainy. Just trust me when I say that blue stuff is water. We jump a few ramps, leap into the water and...
Yeah so these go up and down and if you get hit by them(though they're not exactly hard to dodge) you get instakilled by physics damage. Physics damage is, as previously mentioned, extremely unforgiving in this game and sometimes using objects from the wrong angle will just annihilate you as the game clips the party into a five-cubic-inch space.
Oh and then some MAGMA. How many Umpani recruits met their end on this little training course?
You can't actually jump in Wizardry 8, so you need to run on to this platform at the right time, and because of the way the game's physics work, getting off while it's over the fence at the end is surprisingly difficult. You move with moving objects you stand on, so as you move forwards and the platform backwards, you remain at the same position in space until you reach the edge of the platform and fall off. So moving a bit too late gets you dragged back over the lava.
Wizardry 8 also handles slopes real weird, plenty of stairs you need a run-up to be able to climb as you kind of bounce over the first step rather than simply stepping over it.
The Umpani approach to target dummies is interesting.
In that they're animated and will run over and attempt to ninja kick you in the face while you try to gun them down. Umpani training is hardcore.
After chunking the "target dummies" you have to pick the lock on the door out. I'm not sure if its possible to softlock yourself here by having no one with any lockpicking skill at all in the party.
For our trouble we get a level 2 passkey, the only purpose of which is to open the door letting is out. It'll be more interesting when we get a level 3 passkey, but that won't be for a while yet, sadly. Since I always do this after Marten's Bluff in my own runs, I had forgotten that we couldn't get the level 3 key until visiting the T'rang base.
Balbrak demands we go collect some trophies before he'll promote us any further.
Now, the vote seemed to mostly be that if I couldn't progress any further at Mt. Gigas, I should do Arnika next, but I decided to poke my head into the Mountain Wilderness anyway, just to see if I could make any headway there and continue advancing in an unorthodox way.
The trip over to the bridge is mostly uneventful except for encountering another Hogar.
Did I mention party members have different commentary lines depending on whether the person killed is a PC or an RPC? I win out over the Hogar in the end, it's just a big numberslam fight, really, and collect some things from the cave which include an un-ID'd set of bagpipes. Later investigation reveals that they cast the spell Hex on an entire group of enemies. It's a divine-type condition that's rarely seen but just functions as a big ol' penalty to everything.
Now for this bastard blocking the way into the Mountain Wilderness.
He's several levels above the Hogar that almost prevented us from reaching the foothills of Mt. Gigas, though only half the health. Thankfully he has a secret weakness I'm going to be exploiting because I'm a big brain genius.
To emphasize what a big boy he is, the screen literally shakes and jiggles with every step he takes. Now, the secret to beating this guy? Missile Shield. Roughly every second attack, or possibly even two-thirds of his attacks, are thrown boulders rather than punches, and Missile Shield doesn't give a fuck how big your thrown object is, it has pretty good odds of just bopping it out of the way and no-selling it.
On top of that, Stony manages to blind him with his Omnigun which gives us a couple of rounds of bonus damage and the golem running away, giving the crew a rest. He goes down without killing anyone.
A rare few enemy types also have non-chunky death animations. Golems, for instance, sort of crack and fall apart.
Welcome to the Mountain Wilderness. We're really not supposed to be here yet.
I really wish there was a fan patch or mod of some sort to fix the atrocious draw distance, it always feels like the part of the game that has, technically, aged the worst, and it somewhat spoils the more open areas if you can get up anywhere a bit tall.
The path splits into one leading down the slopes and one leading up. Upwards we can see some interesting architecture and also something with big wings.
Thankfully Bela, players of Wizardry 6 may recognize him, is a friendly NPC.
Somewhat vague, but he drops a decent bit of lore on us. It costs us nothing to, for now, promise to spare the Savant so Bela can get close to him, so we may as well. Bela is also a high-level merchant, selling tons of spellbooks and some unique gear items. Once we're rolling in the dough it wouldn't be a bad idea to come back and pay him a visit.
Now, about that big arch behind him...
...it's actually where the endgame area is. Sparkles is sadly one of the NPC's that will refuse to go up there, so I have to run back and forth for several real-time minutes to make her pass out so I can haul the entire party through.
Of course I can't really do anything much here yet, but there's a thing or two I was hoping to see if I could get far enough up the peak to trigger them.
All NPC's have some dialogue when they enter a new major area they're not afraid of. Some of it's interesting! Saxx is, I'll note, one of the four RPC's who will go with us to Ascension Peak without crying about it.
I make it around a couple of bends in the barren mountain pass before spotting all these large, angry things in the distance and deciding to haul ass back to the Mountain Wilderness before I get pasted.
Peeking down the other path, I confirm that if I tried to head down into the valley I'd be dealing with a half dozen or more level 12 ants on fire. Fire ants can usually, well, spit fire, and predictably they're also immune to fire, which would mean that my biggest damage-dealing spell, Fireball, would be out of the running right away. I decide to back off and head to Arnika instead, rather than bouncing my head off this encounter twenty or more times.
So the first thing I see, coming back over the bridge to this wilderness, is three scrub thugs and the two sorceresses leading them. I think to myself, "oh, this should be easy. the sorcs will just like, cast Terror or maybe Frost a couple of times, while I mulch the thugs and then beat up the nerd wizards. This fight will be over in a couple of minutes!"
Sparkle's real gung-ho for this fight, just like me.
Oh God ow.
The fighty types tank the fireball well enough, but two fireballs or one fireball and some misc. damage, would wipe out Werdna easy, and I need his spells to win this fight.
What's even worse is that they can apparently Summon Elementals and if they start flooding the battlefield with those I am VERY fucked.
Next turn, the summoning succeeds and... whoof. Elementals are big, fast and hit like trucks. We're talking like 40 damage per punch. Their one weakness is that if their summoner, who's usually a lot weaker than them, goes down, so does the elemental. But the highwaymen get in the way of my shooting and Werdna's cone spells can't hit them and it would take something in the region of five or six Fireballs to blow the Sorceresses up, which would take an unacceptably long time.
I think that's a reloadin'. Time to think TACTICAL. Time to think STRATEGY.
I back down the bridge a bit so the pack stops focusing on me and start heading down the road, first off.
Just after heading away from the bridge there's a U turn with a small ridge in between. The plan now is to wait for them to round that turn, lurk on the other side, hit COMBAT MODE, and RUN over the ridge so I can instantly get into combat with the sorceresses. The theory is solid.
The execution less so.
Most of the party bar Werdna gets to go before the Sorceresses, so it's entirely down to what they cast and how effective it is, because the only way I can win the fight is if Werdna pegs them with a Web or a Freeze Flesh before they take him down.
In about 20 or so tries they...
Double up on fireballs turn one, blowing up Werdna.
Beat me to casting paralyzes or sleep which puts enough of the party to bed that I lose on turn two.
Once bust out Whipping Rocks which does a completely unreasonable amount of very painful damage(imagine a shotgun blast of gravel to the face).
Several times they also summon an elemental on turn one and I get pasted before I can take down the summoner.
The Highwaymen decide to use the rarely-seen Protect command to defend the Summoners(means they take the hit for the summoners, doesn't work for spells, though), delaying me enough in taking them out that they recover from conditions and kick my ass.
But eventually I get lucky rolls and pin down the casters and mulch them in the early stages of the fight.
As you can see by the party's HP totals, however, it was anything but an easy ride even so.
There are a few more encounters on the way back to the road, mostly small groups of highwaymen and vines, but ultimately nothing that presents a real challenge.
We emerge right next to Arnika's gates, helpfully enough, and it's just a quick left turn and we're inside.
The soundtrack helps make you feel like you've just arrived somewhere you can take a peaceful breather after getting attacked by everything that moves on the road.
Myles here is recruitable. The only time I've ever recruited him has been as a meatshield on the runs where Arnika was my first destination, and he got dropped like a bag of trash the instant I had a replacement. Being a pure-classed rogue, we have no real use for him as we already have both Stony and Twinkles with lockpicking skills, and like so many others he can't really enter the later stages of the game with us, so spending time levelling him up is kind of wasted.
For once the poor draw distance works in the game's favour as Arnika feels a lot larger than it is, and I actually find myself getting slightly lost in it on occasion when looking for a specific building. Sadly it's somewhat small and is clearly one of the areas that suffered from crunch time, with several areas feeling like they had more intended for them.
The local police station. We can get in here easily enough in short order, but it contains nothing of real interest except for a bit of flavour text which, I suppose, is fine enough on its own, but it's still a relatively large building for how little flavour text it contains.
Arnika's soundtrack is a bit deceitful, because while it's not AS hostile as the road, it's certainly not entirely peaceful. Periodically patrols of savant androids will spawn and march the streets, getting into fights with the cops(the Higardi Lunar Legion, which is probably why that mod added a moon bit.) and you. Thankfully these early types aren't so bad.
I duck into a bar rather than fight them for now, though.
He'li is probably one of the chattiest NPC's in Arnika, and we WILL need to talk to her again later. Because as the "rumour" NPC she is, once we join both the T'rang and the Umpani, she hears about it... and she'll happily sell us out if we don't pay her off. Of course, if we DO pay her off(and we will), she keeps her word and doesn't snitch on us.
Once I'm done talking to her, it's time to loot her back rooms, which consist of two small rooms and the upstairs.
The important part here is really to get this keycard out of what is, presumably, Anna's room. There isn't really anything else in the rooms of notable interest unless you came here first, then there might be a small gear upgrade or two.
We can also see the androids still waiting outside for us. Enemies can't open doors, ever, so as long as we've got a closed door behind us, they'll never path to us. Still, more and more androids keep showing up, so I suppose we should go outside and deal with them.
As the first round closes up we come to the true horror of fighting in Arnika... there are two types of allied patrollers, Lay Brothers and Higardi Patrols, and their needing to take their turns makes every fight take twice as long as it should. Thankfully they are, at least, usually competent backup that scores some kills for us and shortens the fight that way.
Due to being robots they have a grab-bag of immunities, and they come in four variants. These are the basic punch troopers, then there's a version with a gun for a hand, the Savant Orbs which fly around and shoot KO/Insanity projectiles at you("Neurobolts") and the big burly androids we saw in the Monastery, the one that mocked us after Aletheides gave us some exposition, which are strong in melee but can also use their scythes to shoot at you. Later-game droid armies that mix all four types can be surprisingly threatening as they can engage you at all ranges and some lucky Neurobolt hits can severely limit your ability to fight back. And if you're heavily reliant on Psionic spells, they resist some of the best effects from that school of magic.
For now, though, we're good.
Cleaning them up gives Stony a level-up and his Omnigun now has twice the chance to blind enemies. This is very exciting since the random blind effects from that has turned around a couple of close fights before, and trivialized minorly threatening ones.
Investigating the name plate on this statue of Phoonzang causes it to drop off, revealing a hidden compartment behind containing a few potions and dusts that could be handy for a starting party.
I'm sure there are no shenanigans we could possibly come up with in a bank and that I will not have looted the main vault before this update is over.
Lorrac has clearly worked customer service for too long. She doesn't have anything to really say to anything we ask her, she mostly serves two purposes.
Firstly, if we hit the buttons behind her to open the vaults or sound the alarm, she summons the guards to kick our ass. Doing this would be stupid.
Secondly, if we give her clear evidence that we're a customer here to access our safety deposit box...
Clearly we wouldn't be carrying around He'li's access card if we weren't He'li. This bank just defines security and trustworthiness.
I poke around a bit while heading down the hall to the elevator. The bank primarily just consists of the two vault elevators and these waiting rooms which are probably the nicest-looking(in terms of luxury) rooms in Arnika. Also the floors are very reflective. Considering the age of the game, that's a bit of a surprise, since I remember other games not too far removed from it in age that could hardly handle anything reflective. Then again, Wizardry 8 also cheats by not reflecting anything that actually moves or changes, like player characters or NPC's.
So the basement of the bank, on the deposit vault side, has two sections. The first one contains the personal vaults of He'li, Anna L'am and Antone Rapax, while the next section has three general storage vaults. The first three require keycards, while the latter three just requires that Stony break open the locks. This bank has no alarms down here, which is great for us, less great for the local economy when we finish looting the place.
The loot down here would be great for a starting party, but as it is set and un-levelled, I have no use for it currently(though when I bust open Antone's vault, I'm hoping one of the items will remains useful). Still, it's the principle that if there's a bank, you damn well rob it, and also I can sell the items to buy things I actually do care about. The vault does yield a lot of un-ID'd blue potions that I hope will turn out to be Magic Nectars and Potions of Heavy Healing, though.
The only nasty surprise for a starting party is that the third general storage vault contains a guardian golem. Considering that he's more or less just a half-size and half-stat version of the Marble Golem I pasted on the bridge to the Mountain Wilderness, however, he doesn't represent much of a threat.
On leaving the bank I encounter a pair of the big henchmen with the scythe-staves. They go down in seconds from a combination of the party and a pack of lay brothers walking up behind them and punching them repeatedly in the back of the head.
As thanks for their helping out, I decide to go visit their bossman, Lord Braffit.
For most players, Braffit is probably their first chance to buy spellbooks. He tends to offer a good selection of Divine-related ones, and like all stores, every in-game three days or so, his stock replenishes with some randomly rolled new items.
We can also give him this note from the monastery.
Which makes him forget who we are and tell us to go graverobbing to find the key to that weird door back in the Monastery. You bet your ass I'll be heading back that way as soon as I've got the key and am done with Arnika. Those things are pretty useful this early in the game.
So poke your head around the side of the temple and you find a way down into the basement.
The door immediately ahead leads to the crypt.
Going around the side breaks you into the Lay Brothers' quarters, however, where you can find a pair of real important amulets.
I have no idea why these are female-character only, but it's a good reason to make your melee combatants female, which ours luckily are! Chewbecka and Lady each get one of these, which will help a lot to make sure they don't get tuckered out during longer fights. There's also a Ring of Protection which applies a +1 AC across all body parts. I'm not sure exactly how the game handles body part targeting, but +1 is good, so take it and slap it on someone vulnerable. In my case it goes on Aurora.
These ghosts can be troublesome if you come here early. They've got the same immunities as androids, basically, making them imposible to turn insane or put to sleep, and in addition to punching you, most ghosts have "touch" attacks that can make your guys go insane, fall asleep, etc. a bunch of annoying paralyzing effects.
They also tend to have access to causing those conditions through party-wide spells.
Coming here after you know Fireball or Holy Water, however, tends to trivialize this fight. The ghosts go down without doing much more than lightly bruising Sparkle.
Despite the size of the room, all it guards is this key. Now we just gotta take a walk back and make use of it.
Back outside I take a look at the map of Arnika which once again illustrates how the game's automap doesn't handle layered rooms well.
Antone is the local smith. Not shown: me breaking into his bedroom and stealing his bank keycard.
Antone is part of the aforementioned "pseudo-crafting" mechanics where you can add special items to his shopping list by bringing him rare objects. The Featherweight Plate is the only one I'm particularly interested in since it's a very low-weight suit of plate and carrying too much makes your combatants slower. In addition to what they're equipped with and what's in their personal inventories, they also all carry an equal share of what's in the shared party inventory which they can't access during combat.
Outside Antone's Armory, we enter one of the residential parts of Arnika. Sadly, of all the abandoned houses, I think a grand total of two contain anything to steal. The rest are just there for flavour. It's hard to tell if this was intentional or again a result of lacking time to finish content. I feel like it's the latter.
So we head down to the docks! The ships are sunk, but there's another store here.
Anna is one of the chattiest NPC's in town, mostly being able to talk about the other town NPC's.
She also sells Electrodes, which Gadgeteers need for some of their cooler, better, more awesome gadgets. She also occasionally has spellbooks, so worth hitting up if you're travelling back through Arnika for whatever reason. Oh and we steal her bank keycard, too, while we're there. Because why would we not?
On the quay we get ambushed by some bandits(for like five seconds as Werdna hits them all with a Web) and find this item, which is also a Gadgeteer part. We have 50% of a LOT of cool gadgets now.
This structure, between Antone's Armory and the crashed spaceship(it's the last place I'll be going this update), is our next destination.
It's the old jail, locked up while the Savant is invading.
Considering that the HLL chases a man halfway across the planet for stealing a divine artifact but never think to check his locker for evidence, or even have thought to empty his damn locker like 100 years later, does not speak greatly to their professionalism.
Oh and they didn't empty the cells before locking up and abandoning the jail. These guys will fight us to the death if we let them out.
The last two cells are empty, but only the last one is really so. The central one has a secret!
A hidden tunnel under some floorboards that collapse if you interact with them.
It's guarded by a trivial slime that nauseates everyone before Stony blinds it and it runs away while I pepper it full of arrows until it dies.
It's the main vault of the bank! It's a bit unimpressive for a main vault, but it does at least contain some magic gear. The other way in is to fight your way through the teller and security guards, and then pick a 10-lock door. Thankfully there's a teleporter in the corner for getting out, because I tried picking the door from the inside, and even having used a Knock Pick(casts Level 3 Knock Knock) to paralyze 3 of the tumblers, I think I spent something like 10 minutes trying to get Stony to pick the remaining 7 and he failed at the finish line every time. On the bright side it was enough tries to level up his lockpicking a bit!
Now, with Marten's ID badge in our pocket, let's go approach the local police station again.
You'd also think maybe they would have updated their systems to void Marten's credentials or something.
And that's basically all that there is to this building. Again, I feel like more was originally planned, but at least Tramain is nice enough.
Back outside, it's time to check out the spaceport.
We can't really do much of relevance here yet except blowing up some android squatters, picking up the X-Ray chip for a future Gadgeteer item and talking to a spaceship.
The Callisto has exactly zero relevance to anything that happens in the game, sadly. It feels like it could have been used to travel to some other locations, the moon, maybe boarding the Savant's ship(or those of the T'rang and Umpani) or just as a Mook-aligned fast travel system.
The spaceport itself consists of three rooms.
A big main room that could be seen as a departure lounge. Needs some furniture or really ANYTHING.
A black box reader. We will eventually need to get a black box read here to complete the T'rang/Umpani alliance quest.
The tracking tower which monitors space traffic around Dominus, but someone's yanked part of the system and we need to bring that part back as soon as we find "Bobo" somewhere in the gameworld.
Back in town, I decide to check out this slightly more futuristic-looking building next to the crashed ship. Let's find out what's up.
If you have any Mook party members, they pop inside to visit the Mook embassy. I don't know what happens if you have multiple Mook party members. Or indeed an entire Mook party. They return to the party after you camp for a bit, so I pop into a nearby abandoned building and get everyone a nap.
Clearly some changes during dev. There is, in fact, not a spaceship inside the Mook embassy. She's thinking of the Chaos Moliri, which the Mook brought to Dominus and are keeping inside their embassy. This is progress, we've now tracked one part of the trio. Of course, we've yet to get our grubby little mitts on it. But where there's a greedy enough will, there's a way!
I raid the last couple of abandoned houses, getting yet another Gadgeteer part, before setting off to check out the Savant's tower here in Arnika.
There's a fixed encounter of low-level androids with an android orb loitering around the back. They need to get flattened so we can loot them.
Here's a close-up of one of the Orbs, by the way. It's shaped more like a nautilus shell and moves by "rolling" through the air rather than just floating.
I'm sure anyone with even the slightest bit of imagination can understand why we'd want to bring along something for repairing a Dark Savant android.
yes, one of the potential RPC's is in fact an android, and he's one of the best ones.
Time to FINALLY investigate this crashed spaceship. I'm sure whoever's inside is doing just fine.
The interior has been completely cored out, though there's damaged black box that's "survived" the event. We sadly won't be able to get anything out of a black box in this state of disrepair.
Inside there's only one damaged door to kick down to investigate the smashed-up building further.
Five low-level savant troopers and a friendly NPC... Vi Domina. She's kind of plot-relevant, though she was more important in Wizardry 7 than 8. Anyway, let's bail her out.
Predictably this does not take long.
Before talking to Vi, I grab the box in the corner. Combined with the clown doll from the abandoned house, it lets me craft...
Now, let's see what Vi has to say...
Quite a lot of chatter from her, but with that done, we've tapped out Arnika for content now(except for returning to the merchants every so often to buy their stuff). So it's time to get a couple of votes up!
Should we swap Vitalia or, ugh, Myles, out for either of our existing companions? And if so, which one(s)? Personally I'd swap Sparkle for Vi. She's a decently beefy Valkyrie.
Unfortunately with the Mountain Wilderness too tough for us at the moment, we really only have one destination we can go to at this point, and that's Trynton(though Trynton is also a quite large area with a lot of content), but after Trynton the game opens up somewhat again.