Last time on The Reconstruction, the captain’s crew sneaked its way through a ship and also set off an explosion.
The group waits near the stairway to Yat’s cabin (Captain S notes that he can smell him). There’s some banter where Clapian gets confused about metaphors:
Captain S: “I trust you’ve seen what happens to a wild animal that’s been cornered.”
Pvt Clap: “Animal? So is this rival of yours…a Shra too?”
Captain S: “No, just a Human, unfortunately. That was what we call a ‘metaphor,’ mate.”
Which, to me, suddenly raises the question of if their metaphors and language should be different from ours or not. If there are sentient beings commonly referred to as “wild animals”, would people use the metaphor the same way we do? It or something similar would probably still exist, but I feel the connotations might be different, especially if confusion like this is common.
They walk into the cabin.
Oh no, a typo.
Captain Yat: “I’ll pay it double, just don’t come any closer!!”
Captain S: “No deal. There is no bounty.”
Captain Yat: “So this is personal!”
Captain S: “Not exactly.”
Yat goes into a more aggressive stance.
Captain Yat: “You want my blood, then, savage? Come, take it from me! Strike me down! They should have exterminated your kind when they had the chance!”
Captain S: “That isn’t very diplomatic. So, it’s a fight you want, then? Have it your way, mate.”
…Where did those guards appear from?
Anyway, here’s the first boss. He’s actually pretty difficult.
And this is why. Lightning Strike is utterly devastating, and you’re given no advance warning of it. The problem is, it’s an elemental attack, and Vasra’s weak to it. This means she stands a very real chance of getting wiped out in one hit – as she just was. Since Vasra is your only party member with healing spells, this means that things can go south very quickly once she’s defeated.
Sea Cutter is much less of an issue, but it can really hurt Clapian, who has crappy soul stats. He took 8 damage here, which is more than half his maximum health.
Yat also has another attack called “Harsh Advance” that I could screencap properly. It’s also an area-of-effect attack, but the damage it inflicts is more minor. It does inflict mind damage, however, which can be problematic for Captain S. It also advances the Rush meter in Yat’s favor.
Now is probably a good time to explain the Rush mechanic. You see that blue/red bar at the top? Enemies and allies alike can spend a turn “rushing”, which advances the meter. When it passes a certain threshold, stuff happens: You get more room to move around in, the enemy gets less, and you also inflict more damage and take less.
I like it. I’m not sure how original it is, exactly – I believe there are other games that have had similar mechanics like morale meters or whatnot – but it’s a nice gimmick that works well with the spacial gameplay. At maximum rush, even if you go all the way back, you’re still in melee range, so it can be helpful in pinning down evasive enemies (of which there are few, but still). Plus it gives characters something to do when they’re not able to attack effectively. I think it’s also supposed to be a bit of a deterrent to playing too defensively – if you head too far back in the hopes of spending a few turns recuperating, the enemies will catch up to you.
The trick to beating Yat, I believe, is to use Fiery Raid. He’s weak to heat attacks, and his soul stats are pretty poor – he took 17 damage here, which is apparently more than half his life bar. Clapian can also chip in for small amounts of soul damage with his regular attack. On my first playthrough, I made the mistake of attacking him through body damage instead, which took significantly longer.
And after two casts of Fiery Raid, he’s down for the count. Captain S is a bit worse for the wear without Vasra’s healing, but I can defeat Yat fast enough that that’s not too much of an issue.
There is a pause as Captain S gets out of his battle-ready pose.
Captain S: “All this time you’ve known me, and you still don’t understand what I do at all.”
He walks over to the left and says that “something seems very out of place here”, but Vasra has no idea what he’s talking about. He walks towards a crate on the left. It’s locked.
Ensign: “I-I’m afraid that door does not open, Captain Sikohlon. The lock is jammed shut.”
Captain S: “…is that so?”
Ensign: “It’s been stuck for months. There is nothing inside anyway. It has always been empty.”
Captain S: “Was. Was empty.”
He orders Yat to open the door; Yat just laughs and says he won’t kill anybody.
Captain S: “So, is that a wager you’re willing to take? We’re like wild animals sometimes, ya know?”
Yeah he walked right into that one.
Captain Yat: “Urghh, no use in trying to intimidate a Shra.”
Captain S: “Particularly not a Sikohlon.”
…Okay? I’m not entirely sure why a pacifist cult would be more resistant to intimidation, and it’s weird for him to be saying this when he’s not very representative of the group. I have to wonder if this is an artifact from an earlier version of the story where the Sikohlon or the captain’s personality were different.
Yat admits defeat; for some reason he says “Forgive me, Ensign,” before unlocking the door. I’d take that to imply there’s a pretty violent justice system in play, if innocent bystanders are at risk from this.
Captain Yat: “I… you win, Rehm Sikohlon.”
Captain S walks up to the crate again.
Captain S: “Listen up! I’m opening the door. You will see a Shra. Do not be afraid of him.” (If you’re still alive, that is.)
Ensign: “Who’s he talking to?”
He opens the crate, and…
Pvt Clap: “Cap-Captain!!”
Captain S: “it’s all right, they’re still alive. They’ve just been drugged into sleep.”
Ensign: “That’s… a person! A Human! Who is she, and how is she there?”
Captain S: “Tell him, Yat. Tell him everything. I’m sure we all have some questions.”
Yat just looks defeated, and doesn’t say anything except “…”
Captain S: “Fair enough. They’re thralls. Or, they were gonna be, anyway. Fresh batch of slaves.”
Ensign: “S-slaves? Humans can’t be slaves! The only legally tethered slaves are Shr—Uhh…I…”
So yeah, we’re looking at not only fantasy racism but also slavery. I don’t think the developer was trying to draw a deliberate parallel to historical racism and slavery, though, since this subplot goes in a rather…weird direction.
Captain S: “And yet, here we are. This looks like slave trade to me. I should know, after all. Folks kidnapped from their homes, to be sold in the Nalian underground. Fatanstic. I know what you’d say, though. ‘Times are tough, but there is money in slave trade.’ And, ‘Every man, woman, child, and Shra for himself.’ Well? What do ya say, Yat?”
Once again, he has nothing to say.
Now that I think about it, this revelation doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense. This isn’t readily apparent right now, but shra are supposed to be super tough and physically fit. That makes them the best candidate for worker slaves to begin with. If owning shra is already legal, why spend time on risky maneuvers to get slaves that are less useful? Furthermore, we will later learn that there is plenty of money in shra slave trade, so Yat has no reason to risk his hide when he can be trading legal slaves for similar profits. Maybe there’s supposed to be even more money in non-shra slave trade? But again, that doesn’t make sense, since shra should be worth more.
The ensign asks them if they’re working for the Wadassian navy; they say no, the Navy just gave them “a little lead on your captain here”. I really don’t see why the Navy would bother baiting vigilantes instead of just arresting the guy themselves, though…?
Ensign: “Then what are you pirates getting out of this? If it wasn’t a direct order…”
Vasra: “You’re in no position to demand details, little man. You’re as guilty as the others.”
Ensign: “W-wait!! We didn’t have anything to do with this! We… you don’t believe me, do you.”
Captain S: “I believe you.
Wait, then why did Yat say he was “sorry” about unlocking the door? Unless the law enforcement is crazily totalitarian and punishes people for being in the vicinity of the crime, they should be alright. Although, Captain S does rather ominously say that it’s up to the city of Nal to decide their punishment, so maybe they’re crazy totalitarian. The previously mentioned royal navy has no say in this, though? Is Nal a completely independent city-state?
Captain S: “I’m neither judge nor jury. I’m just the executioner.”
Yeah not really encouraging.
The woman regains consciousness. Captain S asks her how many others are in the crate.
Human Female: “F…five of us. Two Fortians, two humans, and a, a Si’Shra…”
That’s a pretty tiny crate for five people. Maybe that’s the point, though.
Captain S: “A Si’Shra? Well, don’t worry yourself; we’ll take care of everything, mate. Vasra, Private; Make sure the others are awake, then help them onto the Vigil. We need to take them some place safe. Wadassia, perhaps. Yat is comin’ too. Oh, and ‘Ensign,’ have someone bring the Si’Shra to the top deck. I want a word with it.”
They agree, and there’s a fade to black. There’s a short scene where the captives express their anger at nearly being sold into slavery (though it does not appear to have made them any more sympathetic to shra), and mention how the si’shra was violent and fought back a lot. There’s also this:
Male Fortian: “Such a strange vessel, though. Why keep the mast if you have no sails?”
Vasra: “The captain says it’s his “lucky” mast. Yeah, I dunno what that means either.”
This has always confused me and I still think it makes little sense. It might be foreshadowing; in a later scene, the mast saves the captain’s life. If it is, it’s a really weird instance, since it makes no sense for him to realize it’s “lucky” unless he’s clairvoyant. It’s possible this is just a coincidence, or an amateurish attempt at foreshadowing that makes narrative but not logical sense.
We then cut to the captain:
Ragged Si’Shra: “Sssss!! Leave usss, undefiled Human!”
Captain S tells the guard to leave and he does.
Captain S: “So, you speak the Human language, huh. How are you feeling now, mate?”
Ragged Si’Shra: “My Zind’an!
Huh, that’s a grammar mistake, actually. Later in the game it’s always “Zin d’an”, two words. Maybe the developer was flip-flopping about how to syntax it, and this didn’t get converted in the final version?
You were the one to liberate me from that Human? Ssssss-hah!”
The si’shra continues to go on about liberation, “none shall enslave”, “our people’s conquest”, and “revenge upon our oppressors”, so it looks like they may actually have a plan to do something about the whole slavery thing. Captain S rebuffs all of this pretty coldly.
Captain S: “Not possible. I have a ship, and a crew that I’ve not yet been able to give my life for.”
Ragged Si’Shra: “Leave them! They will mean NOTHING upon the return of our Tezkhra! The time isss near!”
Captain S: “I’ve never actually spoken to a Si’Shra. You are everything that Dad claimed you’d be.”
Ragged Si’Shra: “For too long you have been in exile! Sssah!”
Captain S: “‘Too long,’ huh. Do you know what I tell my crew before every journey, mate?”
Ragged Si’Shra: “No, what, my Zind’an? Ssspeak!”
Captain S: “Well, I say to them… ‘Nobody dies today: none of us, none of them.’ Let me ask you something, mate. Which one are you? Are you ‘us,’ or are you ‘them?'”
He draws his sword and stabs the surprised si’shra through the heart.
Captain S: “You are correct, friend. You are neither. I’m not your ‘Zindan,’ nor was I ever. I am a Sikohlon. And you are nothing.”
Captain S tosses him overboard.
Captain S: “That one was yours, Dad. Now we’re even.”
Fade to black.
This certainly makes for a shocking ending – the entire time, even though Captain S was acting very violent and aggressive, he did fulfill his promise of never killing anyone. As I’ve been saying, the entire prologue seems to have very much a playful action movie tone, where there’s lots of fighting and explosions but no one actually gets hurt. This breaks that paradigm, and the si’shra’s ominous dialogue hints at deeper things to come. However, it’s also why I felt it was better to save the Sikohlon infodump for later – his actions seem odd already, but I believe the feeling of cognitive dissonance would be stronger if we found out about the pacifistic nature of the Sikohlon after this.
But nonetheless, victory! For those curious, the condition for “Survivor: Onboard” is to never group your characters, and have all three on their own. I don’t see the point of that or how it relates to the mission, but okay. (Or maybe it’s only Clapian who can’t join? That would make more sense.)
Well, that’s the end of the prologue, finally. To be honest, I have to say it’s probably the game’s weakest point, which is a shame considering it’s what players see first. I have the sneaking suspicion that the developer only placed it like this because he heard in medias res storytelling was good for hooking a reader, but to be honest it doesn’t really work here. It’s an action-packed swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, which sounds great at first, but the main game is about something completely different, with a very different tone. It doesn’t help that the prologue has no real relevance to the main plotline at all – it’s more of a side story set in the same world than anything else.
And gameplay-wise, yikes. It is a complicated battle system, but that was really not the way to introduce players to it. And was dumping the time limit and special objectives (especially since they don’t matter) on new players really necessary? I think it would have been better to keep things simple, and introduce players to more advanced mechanics later. Fortunately, the next game in the series does a much, much better job of handling the tutorial, so I suppose the developer’s learned from his mistakes here.
That’s all for now. Next time, we’ll start the real story.