Part 10: The Hell of Being Trapped In CubesUpdate 008: The Hell Of Being Trapped In Cubes
So, the Mountain Wilderness. We've already been there once before, but only briefly as it had very scary enemies, and now we're at the far side of it, and it still has scary enemies. In fact, a lot of areas are now relatively easy to breeze through, like the Arnika/Trynton Road, but the Mountain Wilderness can absolutely still kick the party's ass if I'm not careful about how I play it. Not counting single boss battles like the Sorceress Queen, I'd say there are two areas that are in my experience nastier than the Mountain Wilderness, but of course that's generally with a more magic-heavy and chopping-light party, so I may feel differently by the end of this run.
Just around the corner to the right after leaving the tunnel is a narrow pass leading to...
The last of the T'rang teleporter's locations that we couldn't identify. The Rapax Rift is a place you need to go to complete the game and is, predictably, stuffed to the brim with Rapax, including several varieties we generally won't see anywhere else. It doesn't lead back to Arnika, however, so I'm skipping it for now.
Going the main way, we run into one of the enemies that are primarily only here and the Rapax Rift: Scorchers.
Ugly fellas. They're big buckets of HP that can hit pretty hard in melee, as well as having extended-range punches and thus being able to reach over our front line. I didn't even know this and only learned it when one of them kidney-punched Werdna to death. Their big thing, though, is breathing fire. It doesn't do a lot of damage, especially not with Elemental Shield up, but when you've got an entire pack of ten or twelve of them doing it, it amounts to considerable ablation of HP each round.
The MVP of this and many future fights is Stony for using his new gadget from the SE Wilderness to keep everyone topped up. Unfortunately since I've invested primarily in things that make him better with his Omnigun, because it took him so long to get any decent gadgets, his Stamina total is dogshit and just using it or the Invigorator Belt once almost KO's him, leaving Aurora spending most of the fight keeping him topped up with casts of Stamina. It works, but it chews into the party's damage-dealing ability some.
This is also when I start experimenting with Werdna summoning elementals to speed things up. Pure damage-dealing magic doesn't do much against the Scorchers but, perversely, elementals' punches are always physical damage no matter what they're made of, and considering that the elementals he can summon about 80 damage per punch, it adds up, especially as they're also big buckets of HP that don't die easily and this, like any other punching, gets doubled against opponents that can't fight back. The main issue is that they can't be summoned in cramped conditions.
You may also notice some yellow markers on the radar, let's see who they are...
Ah, yes, the Rapax also have their assassin squads, though they mostly seem to be active in this one region of the game. Politely put they are not to be fucked with.
Because the Samurai are, appropriately enough, Samurai. They hit decently hard, but worse than that they cast even harder. They're also usually fast enough to get off a first volley before you can get Elemental Shield up. That one cast of Crush took away half of Vi effortlessly.
And there's almost half of the party not being able to act because of a cast of Noxious Fumes. These fights can very easily go south on me.
And they're not afraid of self-buffing either. Missile Shield is just as effective on them as it is on us.
Still, they explode like anything else once Chewbecka and Twinkles get going at them. During rounds where the party doesn't need healing, Stony hits them with the Invigorator Belt, which simulates their suddenly gaining several levels in terms of being able to hit enemies and get bonus attacks. At least Rapax still have a habit of dropping decent gear, this party dropped a pair of Mantis Gloves, which are more or less the best piece of heavy hand armor in the game, and the only type of hand armor that does anything but give better armor class. There are a couple of odd "empty" slots like that which just seem to be there more out of formality than anything else, but Hand/Glove slots get screwed the most, with even "leg" armor having more gear that isn't just +AC.
Enemies formerly used as roadblocks are now just casual enemies, but appropriately enough they also go down easily. Now, let's look around for one of the special landmarks of the Mountain Wilderness. It's a reasonably open area, but most of the places worth hitting are all more or less along a single road winding through the place. Including...
A retro dungeon! I'd argue this is probably the only one people could have found on their own. There's a ring of stones containing all the runes to activate, and the stone in the middle, well, I think that assuming "sword goes in stone" isn't too far-fetched. Still, it's easily activated, which I'll shortly come to regret...
So on the one hand, the Mtn. Wilderness Retro Dungeon is the simplest of the three. Compare the Cemetary dungeon...
With the Mtn. dungeon...
On the other hand...
This is the fucking doorman! I may be in slightly over my head here! Thankfully golems aren't the worst, they hit hard, but waste a lot of time throwing rocks that the Missile Shield deflects, and since they have no multi-target attacks(which could hit squishy mages) or the ability to kill a character in a single turn, it's easy to outheal the damage they do.
What's behind door number one?
Oh fuck oh shit.
This is how my first shot at it goes. Time to get serious, by which I mean abuse the game engine. Now, we can't enter combat mode and THEN open the door, as it's locked, but what we CAN do is...
...stand just like so when opening the door...
...thus allowing the door and the doorjamb to block our view of the room...
...while we initiate combat and queue up Soul Shield, Elemental Shield and Bless for round one rather than round two!
Still not a flawless victory(just before the end of the battle Werdna got hit with Boiling Blood and literally exploded from the damage, injuring the rest of the party), but at least it's a victory. So all three doors have teleporters behind them. One takes us out(glows blue), another takes us further in via a detour with no extra loot(yellow) and the third takes us onwards in the most "direct" way(also yellow). Where does it take us?
A corridor full of teleporters that shove us backwards and forwards until we get lucky and hit the one that takes us out! At least it isn't a fucking spinner room, I guess. Fuck those things. But I bet the teleporter takes us somewhere nice, right? Somewhere full of loot and good things?
Instead how about a bunch of incredibly hard-to-hit Rapax ghosts that don't drop any loot at all?
Oh and their leader is a full ten levels above the party and sometimes just decides to hit someone with a drain attack. Still, with sufficient perserverence it's possible to muddle through as they do relatively low damage for how resilient they are to dying and have no casters. Onwards ot the next door and maybe that huge cluster of items I see at the edges of the minimap!
Slowly getting closer, winding corridor after winding corridor...
Ha ha, yeah, that's like eight enemies that are each ten levels above the party's. Oh and they've got a Gibbering Head for one type of caster backup and a... Nebdar? What's a N-
Nebdar starts the fight by casting Nuclear Explosion and wiping out most of the party. Unfortunately, the door opens in the wrong direction, and if I hide to the right of it, I can see the other half of the Vampiric Wraiths and the Gibbering Head on round one even if it keeps Nebdar out of sight. Still, better than getting Tiltowaited, right?
I'm a genius. From here I can casually whittle down her troops until it's time to engage Nebdar herself!
Except that Nebdar is apparently a Bishop since not only can she blast me with Wizardry's equivalent of a Dragon Slave, she can also cast Heal All and buff up her entire army! Well, at least now I have Elemental Shield online, the only thing that'll solve this is literally putting the party in the line of fire, since the enemy AI will generally prioritize blasting you over buffing/healing allies. Of course I only think of doing this after trying to outpace Nebdar's healing(and failing) like five times.
Once again it's an initiative/targeting/stamina regen race of trying to keep Stony well enough to Heal All everyone. I actually need to top up Aurora's spell points with a Magic Nectar just to keep her capable of pumping him full of magic meth.
But little by little, the Wraiths get whittled down. The Invigorator belt helps a lot since it feels like it changes Chewbecka, RFS and Twinkles from missing four times out of five to hitting every second time. Of course at this point the stamina management becomes even trickier as the fighters, having spent about half an hour real time(not lying the battle took about that long) swinging away are starting to pass out from exhaustion. Now Lady gets put on casting duty as well since she's the only one who's got Rest All as a castable option. Werdna's mostly there to keep Elemental Shield topped up since both it and Soul Shield manage to tick down I think about three or four times each in the fight, when in most fights once cast is enough to keep them up for as long as matters.
Finally Nebdar goes down, though in the process Aurora managed to get bonked down as well. So was it worth it?
(and also a +4 AC cut off at the top)
HELL YES. Look at that, biggest XP reward we've gotten so far, over a quarter of a million XP per character, and an insane caster amulet. HP, Stamina and spell point regeneration and a Power Cast boost and elemental resistances and a huge AC boost. This is going on Werdna and never coming off(which is good, because it's Cursed, though who gives a shit? It's one of the best misc. slot booster items in the game if not THE best!).
And in addition there's the big loot room in the back...
The potions are irrelevant, spellbooks are always nice, the weapons...
The second best if not best bow in the game, unfortunately Rangers are unlikely to be able to equip it since it requires 85 Strength, but, say, Lady could snap it up with ease.
Probably the best axe in the game, but the Giant's Sword is still a better two-hander, so as long as your fighter is a Mook, you don't really care. Alternately just use the goddamn Fang or Bloodlust and a shield.
An eh cursed staff, not sure why it's even cursed.
A cool-looking sword which is sadly still not that great. If you can clear this place I'd argue you can clear the SE Wilderness and get Fang, which is a tougher boy than this thing and a one-hander, not a two-hander.
Then it's a round of rest for the party and then...
Back to the real world.
Oddly enough, sometimes hostile factions will just show up to bloviate and threaten rather than to actually attack you. Of course, this just means that I get to get into position and attack them first. They want to see how strong the allies of the Umpani are? They'll get a first-hand demonstration. Get dunked on.
Shortly past the entrance to the Retro Dungeon, the terrain turns more grassy, but not exactly verdant, and if you're following the road the first thing you'll come across is a burial mound. And we all know that tombs = treasure in Fantasy worlds. Time to get our Indiana Jones on.
If you didn't have X-Ray on to see that the barrow is inhabited, the skeleton out front is a hint, as is the occasional ethereal moan coming from inside.
Oh, just one Death Lord? What's this, an encounter for newbies?
Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck he cast Death Cloud.
I can't tell you how much of a butt clencher that was, because between the Scorchers, the Samurai and the Nebdar encounter I was completely at zero for resurrection items, and Death Cloud means everyone gets a save-or-die once per turn. Hooray!
The actual battle was just a numberslam of melee attacks peeling apart the Death Lord and then the heads, though. They never managed to stick any conditions, not even any instakills from the cloud, thank God. It's a shame we didn't get to this tomb earlier in the game, or with a different party setup, because then it would have had a lot of nice things. As it is, it just has a couple of nice things.
There are a bunch of pre-set item spawns on the floor and two chests with random gear in them.
The chests contain little of any real interest, but among what IS interesting is...
A replacement off-hand weapon for Chewbecka. The extra base damage outweighs the loss of the poison considerably.
The Staff of Doom has a constant -1 HP loss effect, but if you have a +1 HP regen item it outweighs it, and as far as staff weapons go this is, short of the Mindblast Rod and Cane of Corpus, which are limited by what class/race combos can use them can use them, probably the best one out there, tied with the Zatoichi Bo(which does similar damage but replaces the Hex chance with a KO chance). Unlike the Zatoichi Bo, though, anyone can equip this sucker. I give great thought to slapping it on Werdna so he can contribute in those fights where he either runs out of magic or there's no reason to use magic or the enemies are almost completely magic immune. The extended range would allow him to deck dudes from the back row.
There's also Diamond Eyes, which is... okay, so there are even fewer worthwhile blunt/mace-type weapons than there are axes in the game, and damage-wise they never manage to sidle up in the vicinity of what you can do with swords and polearms, even if there are a couple of interesting extended-range ones and a few that have decent side effects. Diamond Eyes and the Nunchucks, however, can be wielded as off-hand weapons(generally the only other off-hands are daggers and wands). However, only a few classes actually get the Dual Weapons skill to mitigate the penalties for dual-wielding, and of them, the only one that can wield Diamond Eyes... is the Lord. So you'd never really ever use Diamond Eyes without a Lord in your party. Any of the other available classes would wield something else, possibly a two-handed weapon. Which is a shame because the 20% paralyze chance would be great to have added into the general damage/condition mix.
If you have a Lord, you'll really want it. If you don't, you'll never care about it.
This... thing. I mean, okay, theoretically it's useful, except using the Dulcimer of Mending to cast Heal All will more or less always be superior in terms of healing, and busting out the Arresting Aria or Siren's Wail will hit more enemies and taking enemies out of the fight with conditions is superior to just doing damage to them.
Anyway, on the far side of the tomb I choose to hug the southern side of the valley, because there's actually something there you can miss.
A cave wherein the X-Ray map shows a combination of hostile and friendly characters. The obvious response is to pop combat mode outside and wade around the corner to see what's what.
A group of (pre-placed, low-level, around level 9 and 10) Rapax threatening some monks. The monks are pretty badass, honestly, and could probably clear out the Rapax on their own, but I saddle up and kick some ass to speed things up.
I think it took me like two or three rounds of combat to clear them out. Now let's hassle the head guy and find out what these nerds are all about.
Anselm is... a bit odd, really. He's a big ol' plot dump that again, you're unlikely to meet until a variety of other NPC's have already dumped all of this on you. I could swear I remember there being some way to milk a reward out of him by bringing him the right item, maybe the writ naming you a member of the order from back in the Monastery, but I can't find any mention of it in various guides and walkthroughs. He isn't even a merchant.
The rest of the valley is more or less empty EXCEPT for a sneakily-hidden stash of treasure guarded by this big golem fella. Again, he's not really much tougher than the one guarding the entrance to the valley from the Northern Wilderness side, so if you can make it down the mountain slope(easier said than done considering it can be patrolled by everything from scorchers to swarms of burning ants to sprites), you should have a decent chance of getting in and looting away.
Once he's down, note the waterfall and...
Getting close enough makes X-Ray reveal the loot beyond.
It's... again it would be nice if we got here several levels ago. As it is, most of the equipment slots worth filling up have already been filled up.
I trek up to Bela to unload some gear because the party's combat abilities are starting to be severely impaired by hauling around a small armory's worth of equipment. Sadly he doesn't buy armor or weapons from us, only wands, potions and scrolls, but it still helps. The new windfall also helps me buy three nice items off him.
The Eagle Eye Bow, it has better base stats than the Strong Bow, in fact the best base stats for a bow in the game, but a lower chance of instakill. It'll be Aurora's weapon for the rest of the game, with only ammo getting upgraded and swapped out.
The Ring of the Road, as an upgrade for Saxx when he gets back into the party, a +20 Strength boost is pretty huge.
And the Dread Spear for Lady. It's an upgrade in basic damage, and the chance of dropping Hex on enemies isn't to be sneezed at either. It also has a +20 boost to the Polearms skill which further upgrades its murdery potential. The only weapons with better basic stats are the Raven's Bill(not to be confused with the Bec de Corbin which is a wholly different weapon, being the only one-handed polearm-skill weapon in the game) and Faust Halberd, but both are also literally quite cursed with heavy HP drain. Valkyries can't use the Mindblast Rod and aside from that it requires killing the T'rang. And the Maenad's Lance, while in the game data, apparently can't actually be imported from 7 to 8, so you could only have it through using an editor.
So unless the internet is wrong (perish the thought!) and the Maenad's Lance pops out of a random chest at some point, Lady has reached the end of her weapon upgrades for the game with this.
Let me know if I'm cutting out too many in-between travel images. I just don't want to bog the posts down with 50 images I don't have anything to add to.
In any case, we're back in the Northern Wilderness where I attempt to activate the retro dungeon. I fuck up and think I've got all the necessary runes activated and... the activation stone just eats my one-of-a-kind short staff. Doesn't drop it on the ground. Doesn't give it back. Doesn't warp it into party inventory. Just eats it, thus postponing the visit since my last save is a way back. I hope no one minds the fact that I'm going to use an editor to re-add the short staff to my inventory because this feels like a bullshit bug.
The runes here are also annoying to find, because they're carved into trees. Now, half the trees in this area are the kind made out of two flat planes at right angles to each other, intersecting, so at a distance they kind of look believable. You can rule those out. Only the ones with a pentagonal or hexagonal trunk, can host a rune. Of course then the issue is that there's still 50-something of them in this area. Once you find a couple, though, you know that most of them are arranged in a sort-of straight line, even if they're spread far apart.
While exploring, I also run across another squad of sassy droids.
It's amusing to me that the party is never worried by or convinced by these lies. They always call them bullshit right away. In any case, despite having higher levels, the androids still get flattened as they're relatively fragile(other enemies of similar levels tend to have upwards of double the hit points) and not present in the big volumes they need to really give me trouble. If I didn't have Missile Shield, I might feel differently since the orbs' Neuro Bolts can cause some debilitating conditions, but since I do... they're no big deal.
Since we're in the area, I go pick up Saxx. Now, the vote swung back and forth a bit, and while everyone wanted RFS, more or less, the Vi/Saxx vote ended up being in favour of Saxx at the point that I did the recording, during which it swung back to a tie again. So apologies to everyone who wanted more Vi.
I did have an odd experience on arriving, though.
Like 10 seconds AFTER I go through, Private Panrack yells at me that I'm allowed to go through. Not sure what's up with that.
And for some reason Vi is hexed after leaving the party. Possibly the game trying to translate her Drained condidition and fucking it up?
Saxx bears us no ill will over his temporary liberation and hops back on board, after which I clear some space in the party's inventory by offloading all of our spare gear on Kunar's commissary and go to have a chat with Balbrak.
This gives us access to the interior of Mt. Gigas, thus leaving us with yet another path to explore. But for now, I pop the Return to Portal and use the T'rang teleporter to bring us to the Arnika Mystery House so we can speed things up a bit.
Immediately outside of Arnika we're accosted by some more Rattkin.
Though they're polite about it and thus I choose not to gut them like fish.
First thing I do is beeline for He'li's bar.
She extorts us for a measly 2000 gold in return for not fucking up our alliance quest, which I'll happily pay. Kunar can still fuck things up, but apparently the only one he'll tip off is Z'ant, and as long as you start dialogue with Z'ant by tossing him something, like a quest object or a pair of old boots, apparently he'll never trigger his "FOOLS. HOW DARE YOU BETRAY US."-dialogue and turn hostile.
Still, I figure we'll ice Kunar sooner or later, one way or another. Then I hit up the usual round of merchants to check for any worthwhile spellbooks, any warcrime ammunition and... I actually get a bit of dialogue from Braffit I've never seen before! Apparently the trigger is visiting him with Vi once and then visiting him without Vi again later, and any time I've had Vi along previously she's been a permanent party fixture.
His small donation to the party's coffers at the end is... irrelevant. Generally anything you'll actually want to buy will be costing between 10k and 20k or upwards for the rarer stuff. Still, we appreciate the gesture. Now let's go defraud the Mook.
The Mook embassy is kind of lame, sadly, clearly one of the game's areas that could have used more love.
I'm afraid Aurora is wrong, though, if Screg had been clever he would have bolted the doors and sounded the alarm as soon as we showed up. But for now, we're gonna have a little look around to allay suspicion, as the embassy also has a first floor.
Under one of the benches is the other part of building an X-Ray Scanner, which predictably enough casts X-Ray. If your casters have better things to spend their points on, or you don't have the right type of caster to cast X-Ray, this can be pretty useful. Until Stony maxes out Engineering he'll also be taking over X-Ray-casting-duty.
I've also strongly been considering switching Werdna over to a Bishop once he gets any level 7 Mage spells I care about, so I can pour all of the Psionic books I keep picking up into him and also generally broaden his spell selection.
There's also an NPC chilling in the corner up here.
Urq is... oddly placed. Firstly he starts CRITICALLY underlevelled compared to the party for when you'd get him. Secondly, he'll only visit a staggeringly small variety of planetary locales. Thirdly, he's supposed to be a field explorer you show the various parts of the planet, and each new area you bring him to he gives you... 500 gold. Like, just a single battle in any given area will usually get you more than that. He feels like the embassy should have been accessible as one of your very first locations so you could have brought him along from the start. Mechanically there's nothing wrong with him, he's a plain Mook Psionic, but everything else about him just screams that the embassy was originally supposed to have been accessible all the time and only the Chaos Moliri chamber was supposed to require a faction invite to go take a peek at it.
And speaking of, let's go investigate this ancient artifact of raw chaos and change. I'm sure it will be guarded by impenetrable defenses and stealing it will require all my brainpower.
Call me when you invent an anti-Chewbecka field.
I wonder what happens if we just... yoink it.
Ah, yes, monster closets for our protection and convenience. On the one hand I want the Chaos Moliri, on the other hand I don't want to have to mangle these Vulcan Wookies. Now... what else do I have in my pack I can shove in the beam...
The Astral Dominae? Hm, that's just trading one problem for another. However...
Surely they'd notice. SURELY. They'd notice me switching an artifact of epic cosmic power for a marble.
Time to woob woob woob the fuck out of here before these idiot walking rugs actually decide to check our packs.
So, we're now 2/3rds of the way towards being able to ascend! With the small issue that if we try to do so, the Savant will blow up the planet, which would somewhat complicate matters for us. So if we consider that to be a fourth, secret, artifact we need to find, we're 2/4ths of the way there. Still, it's progress!
Let's head to Mt. Gigas and see what exciting quests the Umpani have for us. This will give us access to the interior of Mt. Gigas.
Head back to Marten's Bluff, show Z'ant our new toy and get another quest from him. This will take us to Bayjin along the way.
Explore some place new. There's still the Rapax Rift to poke around in and get horribly mangled along the way.
Unfortunately most of the party members would need a lot of fresh gear if they got class changed, with no real practical gains, but there's one that could get a relatively effortless swap...
Should Werdna become a Bishop?