The Reconstruction Part 13 – “The Cryomancer” (Guest Review)

In today’s update, I’m going to do that new sidequest. I said I was going to leave it until later, but due to the magic of having played some stuff in advance I can just skip straight to it. Pay no attention to the man in the bowler hat.
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Returning here to triumphant music and sunny visuals sure presented me with some whiplash after the dreariness of Nal. But more on that next update.

Suited Guardsman: “Excuse me. Ilganyag, right? You belong to their ranks? I have…seen you around. It is important that we speak in private, so I’ll ask you now, while no one’s around.

Except for all the people in plain view.

He explains I’m with a special division of the Guard…one that handles…delicate matters. There’s a rogue Fortian on the loose, an escapee from Sanctifel. We haven’t an official name on record, as he’s styled himself as The Cryomancer. I’m not sure how choosing an alias means you can’t have a name on him? Those things aren’t really connected. It’d make more sense for him to say “but” instead of “as”.

Normally the guard would leave him alone to conduct his experiments, because the guard is full of irresponsible idiots who want the city to get blown up by mad science projects. If you want to make a doomsday device, have no fear! Even if the guard knows you’re an unstable nutjob, they won’t bother to investigate what you’re actually doing! I suppose the guard has been doing some investigating, though, because they’ve noticed he’s been diverting underground water reservoirs. Because of the drought, this is a danger to public safety, so the guard wants to crack down on him.

We had a squad of arcanists coming in from Fortifel to contend with him, but…

Again with the arcanists and guard incompetency! This was the exact situation I said the city would need specialists for! Why doesn’t it? I have a hard time believing that situations calling for magical expertise are so rare they just don’t bother. Besides, magic is supposed to be a fact of life to these people, not something strange and special like it is for us. This would be like the police not having anyone with firearm training and needing to import all their modern weaponry from a country halfway across the globe. It just doesn’t make sense. (And come to think of it, Dehl was in the guard and he has magic powers. Surely there are others like him who have at least dabbled in magic? Tehgonan proves that there’s at least one Wadassian academy that’s good enough to turn 11-year-olds into battlemages, you’d think there would be more spellcasters running around.)

This is something I believe Unsounded, a really cool webcomic you should read, did really well. The magic system is treated as a fact of life by the world’s inhabitants – it’s as natural to them as the laws of physics, because it’s part of their world’s physics. As a result, mages are commonplace instead of being a rare commodity that one country apparently has a monopoly on.

One day soon, the Guard will announce it’s turning to guilds for help.

Argh. The game starts off subverting “your characters are the most specialest”, then contrives circumstances to make it happen anyway, by sidelining an interesting aspect of the setting no less. If guild spellcasters are a dime a dozen why aren’t there any in the guard?!

However, you can save us a lot of trouble, money, and lives if your guild will help now.

Yes I know, you’re incompetent and need me to do your job for you.

Fade out, fade in. My characters are walking through a cave.

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Ques tells him he’s under arrest.

The Cryomancer: “Wadassians. Always business with you people. Do you even know what I do?”
Ques: “You have been charged with removing a water source claimed by the city. Stealing water, as it is, while the fields die and the people suffer.”
The Cryomancer: “Hah! I don’t steal water. I…set it free! No mere city can claim it for itself.
Ques: “We are authorized to use force if it is deemed necessary, Cryomancer.”
The Cryomancer: “By all means! I am a god to all the cold which lives within this chamber. And your invasion shall be tolerated no longer! Away with you!”

Battle time!

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The cryomancer is awfully far back. In the cutscene he was right up in my party’s face.

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The cryomancer is a gimmick boss, and this is his schtick. Glacial Calamity doesn’t seem terribly threatening at first because it only targets the back row, but…

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It advances by one column every time he uses it, and if you’re caught, you’re in for a world of hurt, especially since it cold-enchants the squares it hits. Rushing would seem to be the best strategy, but the two “enchanted ice” are surprisingly good at countering that. As far as I can tell, they don’t do anything else except a moderately powerful soul attack. This places me on something of a time limit.

However, that’s the only thing the cryomancer does, and it leaves him a bit lacking in the offense department. You’re free to advance to the front lines and pound on him with impunity; even without rushing, you have five turns before Glacial Calamity hits you. This would likely be more difficult if Glacial Calamity was an environmental effect that happened automatically and the cryomancer had his own attacks he could throw at you; that’s what the battle with The Cryocarrier is like in I Miss the Sunrise and I felt that worked a lot better.

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Five turns is more than enough time to defeat him. He has a special affinity that plugs his heat weakness, but he’s still weak to slashing damage. I actually defeated him before his minions here. In fairness, I’m probably overleveled – I think you’re intended to try this quest immediately after finishing chapter 1, not after dithering around in Nal for a while. My new party member also tips the scales heavily in my favor – he has an incredibly powerful slashing attack that chews through the cryomancer’s health bar like popcorn.

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The screen shakes and the animated icicles shatter, despite me already defeating them in the battle I just fought. More icicles fall from the ceiling and shatter on the ground. The guard explains that by breaking his concentration, they’ve made all the artificial ice fall apart.

The cryomancer looks up and slow dramatic music starts playing.

The Cryomancer: “You…interfere! I just want to help! To do good! Yet, I gain nothing but scorn… Do you know why I chose Cold as my elemental profession in Fortifel?”
Ques: “Why.”

Ques really does not give a crap. Does the dialogue change here if you wait until you get Alito?

The Cryomancer: “Mmmph. Cold… the cold preserves all. It stops time. It defeats decay. Food, stored indefinitely… solid water, easily transported… the sick and dying… Mad, they called me, in Fortifel. Driven out for my experiments on the living. Of course, THEY can act as they please, living or not, destructive or otherwise.”

Despite my rants on the magic system so far, I do really like this part. Even though the rest of the world’s interactions with magic make little sense, the Fortians are incredibly well-done. They convincingly and consistently act like scientists instead of magicians. Just look at this guy. He’s not your typical evil sorcerer, he’s a mad scientist. That’s awesome. He also condemns the Fortian council, but I don’t recall there being a whole lot of evidence to back up his claims. They’re shady, but they’re more corrupt politicians than unethical scientists. Maybe the Fortifel storyline underwent a revision somewhere down the line?

The guards are unimpressed, and tell him he’s still under arrest for damaging the waterways.

The Cryomancer: “Damage? No damage. I did nothing to the canals. They dried up without my intervention.”

This is pretty forced. I’m certain there were more subtle ways of establishing the “jumping to conclusions is bad” message than saying that he’s completely innocent. (And if he didn’t dry up the canals, what did?) I also think this is one of the few instances where the moral breaks down, because he was not offering any explanation earlier and was clearly hostile regardless. The guards made a reasonable supposition given the facts they were aware of, and the matter was so pressing that I can’t blame them for trying to pursue it as soon as possible.

The Cryomancer: “Hah, you Wadassians, always looking to pin the blame on the outside. Never for a minute thinking that maybe, just maybe… things you cannot see are at hand.

Darn it, game. Subtlety.

And then…

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How convenient.

To be honest, I don’t see why this is necessary. It’s dramatic, sure – this is the first death we’ve seen other than that si’shra from the prologue – but it feels like it’s being dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. It even undercuts the message by robbing the characters of agency. The game is criticizing their shortsightedness, but they probably could have made amends if this hadn’t happened. It seems pointlessly cruel and gritty for no real reason.

With that, the caves start to collapse. Everyone flees.

The Cryomancer’s defeat will surely mitigate the water shortage in Wadassia for the time being. Well done.

Darn it, game, weren’t you listening? He said the water shortage was caused by something else! Was he supposed to be lying? We never do find out what else could have caused the shortage, I’ll admit.

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I reach rank 8 here, so it’s time for a bonus: Your allies feel more confident fighting together. Their trust spurns harder personal training… Everyone gets 100 skill/mana points and 1000 of each essence apiece. Not bad.

I also get another bonus! Due to exposure to magically imbued ice particles following the collapse of the cave, all present members gain 1000 Mana points. Wow, that’s a lot. I’ll admit that this is why I wanted to wait until I had bowler hat guy. His abilities give more skill than mana points, so he often has a shortage.

Well, hm. I wonder if this scenario was written in an earlier draft or something and spliced in? The writing is quite awkward and ham-handed compared to the rest of the game, but it carries the same central theme of scope and crams an awful lot of worldbuidling information into such a short scene. The violent death is also bloodless, which is an odd style inconsistency with the rest of the game. It’s placed somewhat oddly too, an optional boss battle tacked on at the end of the first chapter. Was the developer using it as a test run to see how he could write more serious stuff, to get into the swing of the rest of the game? Hm.

Well, that concludes chapter 1. It is a bit lackluster, unfortunately. One of the most common (and, I have to admit, deserved) criticisms of The Reconstruction is that its plot takes its sweet time before things really get rolling – we’re going to be stuck with general do-gooding for a bit longer. I don’t mind this as much as some people because I have what I gather is an absurd amount of patience when it comes to stories, but I can definitely see why people would be irritated by it.

It doesn’t help that so much of it is an inconsistent mess that doesn’t mesh with later developments at all, making it feel somewhat pointless. Some of the characters (*ahem* Qualstio) feel like completely different people compared to what I remember of them even halfway through the game – and not because of character development, because their personalities just seem to completely change. It’s bizarre. The developer didn’t seem to realize how important the first part of a game is in hooking players, and appears to have left it in a mostly slapdash state, filled with artifacts from a very different version of the story. The developer has even admitted that some of the darker scenes were added later to make it more consistent – however, I get the impression that he didn’t edit the zany scenes that were already in place very much. The overall result looks like an inconsistent mish-mash of elements from very different stories…probably because it is.

The writing itself definitely has its ups and downs, and unfortunately they are much longer-lasting issues. In the prologue I mentioned that characters were extremely snarky and just a bit too prepared with that perfect quip; this continues being and will continue to be quite endemic. (Looking at you, Qualstio.) The developer is quite fond of snark, so this is going to stay around for a while. Dehl and Fero counterbalance things somewhat, but not nearly enough (and even Dehl gives in to it a little). Fortunately, the dialogue is less over-the-top in I Miss the Sunrise, so the developer has learned to restrain himself.

Positives? I’d say it does a decent job of getting us introduced to the characters, with small hints of things to come. I do think there is definitely something to be said of explicitly having the game revolve around general do-gooding – if I’m playing as a hero, it’s nice to see them do things that are legitimately good and helpful. And not just “you defeated the generic evil” stuff – the party’s efforts here are much more grounded than fantastic. I averted an ecological disaster that was well-explained and a central tenet of the chapter’s plot. The method of doing so through pest extermination was a bit meh, certainly, but this wouldn’t be an RPG if players weren’t given an excuse to hit things with swords.

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9 Comments

  1. Spacey says:
    I’ve always hated the head of the game, and would have loved to have lopped it off at some point. I stopped when working on the first parts of chapter 2 and took a year or so off before continuing, so that’s probably (hopefully) where the sharpest divide lay. It’s pretty much as you said; everything up through this point was essentially a prototype while I taught myself how to futz with the engine. Anyway, congrats on surviving this far!

    For completeness’ sake, here is Alito’s dialog (I reckon that’s not a spoiler now) if you waited that long to do it:

    “You are the Cryomancer? Please, come peacefully. The Guard seeks you.”

    “You’re stealing water that Wadassia has rightfully claimed. It’s unlawful.”

    “You don’t have to get hurt. We won’t fight if we don’t have to.” (In contrast to Ques’ “authorized to use force”.)

    (SUDDENLY, A BATTLE)

    (Screen shakes) “Ahh! Was was that?”

    (After “No damage”) “Is this true?”

    And finally, an “Oh no!” after the impalement. So, nothing remarkably different, but he is quite a bit less aggressive.

    1. Guest Reviewer says:
      Woah, neat! I always like little Easter eggs like that. I imagine it must have been troublesome to have to alter all the dialogue for every potentiality, though. Did you ever regret making the two guild managers have such radically different personalities?
      1. Spacey says:
        No trouble at all; just a simple boolean for whether Alito was the manager or not. And I thought their contrast showed the outliers of of fortian attitudes nicely, even though technically they’re both immigrants to the society.
  2. Nerem says:
    What was the plot hole with the emitter in the last episode, by the way?
    1. Mini-Farla says:
      Oh goodness, it’s been so long, I don’t even know. You’ll have to be more specific. Is this an IMTS question or specifically referring to something in The Reconstruction? Rulian’s emitter?
      1. Nerem says:
        Maybe? You said, in the context of the skeletons, “but the emitter was off” and called it a Plot Hole.
        1. Mini-Farla says:
          ??? Are you sure you’re not talking about a different section? I did say that there was an extra unaccounted-for emitter in the ending, since the Watchers’ couldn’t have been one of Tez’s five, but I can’t remember one being turned off or on when it shouldn’t have. Rulian’s is glowing when Tez reveals it in the ending, so it was definitely on.
          1. Nerem says:

            Anyway, conveniently there are two locations that need investigating.
            One’s in an abandoned mine in a southern mountain range. Apparently there has been a recent surge of Tchiitra activity and woah wait what? I thought the emitter was inactive? Plot hole. The other’s a muddy area near a great lake. Reportedly, One of my apprentices claimed the ground itself called out to him. That sounds awesome.”

            EDIT: My memory was lacking it seems, sorry.

            1. Mini-Farla says:
              Oh, I remember now! Yeah, it seems like the game was trying to imply the emitter was responsible for the tchiitra surge, which would make sense except it is very explicitly turned off, since Tez remarks that Havan turned it on in the endgame. Calling a mere implication a plot hole was probably jumping the gun on my part, sorry.
              Reply

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