I can finally get Zargos up to speed with everyone else now. His first passive skill is a melee enhancement that makes his next turn come sooner, but that’s useless to me. His second skill is a mix of stat boosts and skill enhancements. This one is a much-needed agility boost, and with it, he’ll go from the slowest member of our party to on par with Fero.
Oh hey, it’s mysterious plot lady! As you can probably guess, she’ll lead us to the final mission of this chapter but I still have two quests to go aaaaa
Let’s talk to this guard instead.
Stern-Looking Guard: “You must be with a guild. And I mean, a real guild, one that gets out and does things. Not one of those pathetic, no-traveling, kitten saving ones looking for an easy out.”
Stern-Looking Guard: “S-sorry, I’m ranting again. My doctor says to let it out in little spurts all day long, and—“
I have to say that something this game does really well is NPC dialogue. Maybe the quest mode approach freed the developer enough to direct his energies into personalizing the few NPCs you interact with directly. These guards, for instance, aren’t just generic quest dispensers – they make funny asides that endow them with a sense of personality outside their description. The developer even has fun with the titles, giving them all personalized epithets. It’s little touches like this that make a game world feel truly alive.
The guard goes on to explain that the city guard has a request to make. An “Alert” (because Capital Letters Make Everything Better) was recently issued. Dehl overhears this and is very disturbed.
Stern-Looking Guard: “Oh. It’s you. Yes. Anyway. It’s a simple Alert, as Alerts go, at least.”
Stern-Looking Guard: “Yes. Some scientists we summoned from Fortifel have been watching the situation—”
Stern-Looking Guard: “Now would you LET me finish, you damn nerve-wracking Shra?”
Mmh, so I guess I wasn’t entirely correct about my guard theory. Although I could be optimistic and say that maybe this one’s just a bad apple. It would provide another explanation for why Dehl was so frank with him, beyond the obvious one that he’s worried and losing his composure.
The guard continues and says that they’ve been studying the tchiitra, even bringing in a Fortian scientist. The conclusion is that they’re evolving. I’m just going to assume that the reason they’re evolving so fast is magic radiation or something and not lose sleep over it.
Dehl: “Now that you mention it… there was one rather peculiar kind at that farmer’s tree. It was not like either the hatchlings or the adults we have seen in the fields.”
Despite the individual quests seeming unconnected and episodic, they actually do a remarkably good job of connecting to form a coherent whole.
The new tchiitra are larger than we are trained to fight. What are the guards being used for, then? If can’t handle aggressive wildlife, how are they supposed to defend the city against human troops? No wonder they have to outsource to guilds all the time if they’re this pathetic. Zargos agrees to help, apparently deciding not to comment on this sad state of affairs.
Stern-Looking Guard: “You mean, you’re really willing to answer the Alert? You and this Shra?”
Dehl: “My name is Dehl Sikohlon, thank you. And, it is not just us. We have more allies.”
Dehl is surprisingly snippy here. I guess that’s some more inconsistent writing – he gets snarky over verbal abuse that he should have gotten used to be now, but he’s selfless and self-deprecating when someone threatens to beat him to a bloody pulp.
Zargos reiterates that he’s willing to defend Wadassia, at which point the guard starts…crying. Okay.
Stern-Looking Guard: “Y-you’re so brave, selflessly offering your lives when I haven’t even given your task yet.”
Really? I would have thought he’d make some aside about shra not being capable of bravery or hoping Dehl dies in action or whatever. I’m surprised the game missed an opportunity to hammer in the shra racism. Such shocking restraint.
Dehl: “My life for Wadassia. The comfort here is the only peace which I have ever known.”
Poor guy really does have to give other places a try, then.
The guard explains that I’m to collect exoskeletons from the corpses for study. Yay, science! And they’re not firefiends, so I should be able to do this without getting brutally murdered.
I head to the northeast, where I run into an NPC.
“It tends to really clump up in places where water collects under ground, like here. Sometimes it spreads a dozen paces in every direction. Any spot with flat ground. That’s why they call it that. Spreads like fire!”
And, all the moss here is a single organism.”
Huh, really? That sounds more like fungus, actually. Maybe it is and they just don’t know about fungi.
“But Dehl, thou must!”
The fire moss is actually pretty useful here – you can use it as a pathway that will direct you to a soldier, most of the time. For instance, both forks of this crossroads lead to a soldier. I think you’re supposed to split up and try to cover multiple paths at once, but eh.
Here’s one. They’re about as observant as scouts.
They’re not too tough. Sometimes they’ll inflict crushing damage by default, which really hurts Santes, but beyond that they’re not too dangerous.
Tile solidity weirdness continues. I don’t know what happened here.
This soldier can’t be passed without fighting it. Let’s see what it’s guarding.
A mysterious sack that I can’t get to from here? Oh no! D:
I have to walk around instead.
Inside the sack is a pouch of nutrient-fortified instant porridge.
So…not only do they know about nutrients, they’re capable of synthesizing them or at least combining natural sources with other foods. That’s, uh, really advanced. But no guns. This is a weird technology level.
Consuming it gives me some body essence, yay.
There are two soldiers here. Both of them change what direction they’re looking in from time to time. Mechanically, though, this doesn’t make any difference, because they still instantly spot you when you get too close… Wait. But that means… Oh God! They’ve gained peripheral vision! We’re doomed!
These woods are unsafe now. It is only a matter of time before the adults begin to intrude upon the farmlands as well.
Try as they might, the guild can’t really improve anything, can they? The whole chapter has been pretty steadily downbeat. The tchiitra are winning.
No rank up this time. It’s a pretty generic quest, overall – just a basic “exterminate some new monsters” type. Completing it unlocks a new quest, which is functionally identical.
Tehgonan cackles at him for sleeping on the job. After this, his title changes to “non-day dreaming guard”, which I find amusing. Then Tehgonan offhandedly mentions he’s in a guild. Yeah, like he’s gonna buy that–
Non-Day Dreaming Guard: “A guild, huh? Man, the Foundation must be really desperate to be going after kids now.”
…That’s it? What are these guards getting paid for? I guess playing hooky is legal? And presumably child labor is too. He does wise up a tad in the next line and demands some proof, but that’s all. Tehgonan makes some derogatory comments about Fero, saying he’ll obey anything he says, and starts yelling to him. When Fero comes over Tehgonan tells him to hop on one leg. Fero is understandably confused.
Non-Day Dreaming Guard: “All right all right, kid, move it along. I’m sorry that you were disturbed, sir. You know how kids are these days.”
Huh, so is the rebellious teen a common sight? That places social modernity way further along than my previous estimates. Even the concept of children being treated or seen as separate from adults is rather modern – turn of the twentieth century at the earliest, I’d say. However, rebellious teens didn’t become a common sight until parents would actually put up with such behavior, which only happened very recently – 1950s or so. I suppose we can chalk this up to more anachronism stew.
Fero reveals that they are, in fact, in a guild together. “We are bonded by guildship and friendship alike.” Aw, Fero even considers the obnoxious brat his friend. The guard finally reveals that there’s a job he’d like the guild to do, which Tehgonan is enthusiastic about. The guard tells him to bring the manager…and I believe that’s the only instance someone has asked for the manager beforehand. Tehgonan doesn’t care: “Yeah? Well today, *I* am the manager, so, out with the details, old man!” How is this being regulated? Is it regulated at all? This is the second instance of someone bypassing the rest of the guild’s approval.
Anyway, this time I will be dealing with firefiends. As to our Guard Incompetence Excuse of the Day™: “These creatures are far more than the Guard can handle. We are not mentally trained to endure the sort of abilities these Tchiitra possess.” So mental and spiritual combat is an in-universe thing. But, the entire guard is helpless, really? Don’t they ever fight rogue spellcasters or something? Shouldn’t they have a special mentalist squad for this kind of thing, just in case?
I guess the Wadassians are right not to fund these guys. They’re completely incompetent.
Non-Day Dreaming Guard: “We had a squad of arcanists coming from Fortifel to help combat them, but they—“
Why are Fortians the only option for this? Do they have a monopoly on magic? That’d be fitting, but Santes and Tehgonan seem to be evidence to the contrary. Hm…maybe they did have a monopoly until recently, and Wadassian institutions are a new development?
There’s a “beachcomber” in the corner who warns me about firefiend burrows in the sand here. “They’re awfully hard to see until you’re knee-deep in one, so be careful.” They really are. Most of my time in this quest is spent wandering around trying to run into one, or straining my eyes to try and make them out. “Of course, if it’s twitching, then there’s probably still something inside…” To make matters worse, some of them are empty, and it’s virtually impossible to make out the “twitching” unless you focus.
This is an example of what happens when you step in one. This one’s empty.
But this one isn’t!
These things are much less problematic when they’re on their own. I also got rather lucky – they have two other special skills besides Phospho Spray that aren’t nearly as deadly. Which one they use seems to be a bit random. Although, maybe they have a rudimentary AI and only use Phospho Spray if you clump your characters together? I’m more cautious this time around and keep them spread out.
Also, this is the coast, where Brenetto was convinced the frame of his device was. This drove me mad on my first playthrough – I knew this had to be the area, but I never noticed this nearly-invisible passage.
Following it leads me here.
There’s a square-shaped piece of wood sticking out of the sand. It’s too well-cut to be natural, and seems to be in good shape.
It’s awfully far in for something that was supposed to have just washed up on shore. It is also in remarkably good condition for something that was lost at sea. But, whatever, RPG logic.
After I kill five firefiends, the quest ends and I get the message Even the Tchiitra have their own magical adepts now? Perhaps this ability is become more a curse than a blessing… Yeesh, what a downer.
Alas, there is no celebration. The bonuses only happen at multiples of 4, I think.
To finish the update, I’ll talk to Brenetto. I have all of his components now, so it’s time to get him to tell me what they actually do.
It turns out to be…an abacus. That’s…underwhelming. All he tells them is that it’s a counting device but is still prototypical. He runs off after saying “Perhaps we shall meet at a later date, and I shall have made improvements!” Yeah sure. Somehow he does manage to create the equivalent of an electronic calculator (or something similar) later, and thus we get to see millennia of technological progression happen over the course of a single quest chain.
And…an abacus is a brand-new experimental invention, but nutrient-enriched food is no big deal? I officially have no idea what is up with this world’s technology anymore.
Okay, so as for what the abacus actually does, in terms of gameplay benefits. It connects to a mechanic I haven’t talked about yet, because I don’t use it. You may have noticed the “chain” thing at the top-right of battle screens. It randomly and continually generates a set of red, blue, and green “links”. Every skill is also labeled with one of those three colors. If you use a skill of the same color as the currently selected link, the chain counter increases, which slightly improves the strength of your future attacks. If you use a skill color other than the one selected, the counter resets to zero. The abacus allows 25% of the chain counter to carry over between battles, which I guess encourages you to keep it high. Honestly, I feel the chain is more of a hassle than anything else and don’t bother with it, so this is a pretty pointless reward to me.