Last time, I would have been very pleased with the quest if it wasn’t for how callously it treated women.
The Big Deal Prompt is unnecessary here, since it only leads to a cutscene. The game has really been overusing these recently.
This guy is a shra historian who wants to see the “Death Yard”, a place where dying shra conglomerate to share their final moments, except K wanted to go somewhere else entirely so that’s probably bunk. He wants the guild to escort him there so they do, and they find someone waiting for them:
So it turns out that Ilganyag isn’t the only guild Fell took an interest in; she’s been testing others too, particularly the Blue Guard. I like this reveal since it robs the heroes of specialness – they aren’t totally unique, just the best applicant out of many. Speaking of that, Havan’s been ignoring her (kind of like an RPG player who ignores plot quests in favor of other baubles…), so she’s giving up on him in favor of Ilganyag.
Havan: “L-lady Fell, do not be so hasty! The discovery of the artifact buried near Wadassia…”
Fell: “Yes, yes, I know all about you and your toy. T’is not an excuse for disobedience.”
Does she know what it is? Probably not; if she did, she wouldn’t be nearly so passive in her aggression. Sloppy, EROS, sloppy. Given how obsessive they seem to be about outside interference, they really should have given the Watchers a way to deal with it just in case.
Anyway, Fell says it’s time for a fourth lesson.
Dehl: “Your last request may have cost one life, but it potentially saved many, so I accept.”
What? No, it cost two lives, and given that Pazatto’s violence was only directed toward one person I doubt it saved anyone. So far the majority of her lessons have led to nothing but tragedy; he should be spitting at her feet at this point. Dehl was on the verge of refusing last time, so why is he suddenly accepting now? They don’t even need Fell’s advice to advance the plot this time! Yacatec’s distress is obvious and they work for him, so it’d be perfectly reasonable for them to investigate on their own. Dehl’s refusal wouldn’t break the story.
After she walks off Havan rambles about how important his artifact is, but Dehl is all business.
Havan: “Yes. Good! I am thankful to be allowed to share in your guild’s glory once more.”
Dehl: “T’is not glory. It is aiding those who would not otherwise be able to help themselves.”
The other characters may be iffy, but Havan’s written remarkably well. We haven’t seen him in a while, but I like to think there’s a logical progression here; as he gets more desperate, he starts slipping up more, conveniently giving us more foreshadowing the closer we get to the payoff.
Havan leaves but Adi and Cort stay behind to say that the artifact is driving him bonkers. There’s totally room for a Lovecraftian plot here, but personally I prefer the more humanistic version.
…And Fell was apparently standing just out of frame the entire time because the developer forgot to actually remove her sprite. Tsk tsk!
This little excursion is actually listed as a quest (called “Discovery”) in the records section. According to a blog post it was originally going to be a full quest, but the developer experienced burnout and just converted it into a cutscene. The final quest isn’t really a quest either; guess he lost a lot of steam after how involved “The Encounter” was.
Yacatec is giving orders to his workers. When the guild shows up, he explains that the rain has become harsh and unending, threatening to destroy his camp. (The rain on the map has become harsher-looking after that last cutscene to reflect this, which is a nice touch.) The guild enthusiastically agrees to help out even though they all think Yacatec’s evil because [not found].
Just as Yacatec muses about how it’d odd for the rain in this area to be so persistent, Moke runs up and explains that the rain is magical. Yacatec says he totally knew there was something up from the start because there was no lightning even though thunderless thunderstorms are totally a thing. He later offhandedly mentions that his explorers discovered that the rain abruptly stopped if they went far enough in any direction, as if it was centered on the camp – I’m pretty sure that’s a bigger red flag! Yacatec deduces that the caster must be in the si’shra holyland because he’s explored everywhere else, so that’s where I’m going. (Ques gives some exposition on it with a nod to the glossary if you want more details, which is a good way to do exposition in theory but now is really not the time. We’re going to be seeing it firsthand in a few seconds anyway.)
Okay, see, what I don’t get is that clean break in the vegetation. Why has the holyland remained so perfectly barren for millennia? The only thing that could cause such long-lasting damage is if Tezkhra’s cannon was filled with the radiation potential of a thousand nukes – but even that doesn’t work, because the si’shra should all be dead from such a high dose. “No vegetation can grow here ever but people are fine” is freaking magic. It’s nice imagery and I can see why the developer would want to do something like this, but it’s freaking magic.
Radiation would actually be a great point for fantasy/sci-fi interaction. The si’shra would love the barrenness, but they couldn’t actually live on the area themselves. That could just play into their beliefs, though – that it’s proof of their god’s power over life and death, and that they need to try to become strong enough to survive it. Perhaps, over time, they could even evolve some form of radiation resistance that would allow them to move further in. It’d fit with the creepy theme of their self-mutilation, too – perhaps they purposefully harm themselves by going deep into the radiation zone to prove their devotion. Radiation can also prevent wounds from healing, which seems like it’d be appealing to them. And maybe, as their magic develops, they could even find a way to manipulate it…
The only problem is that such creatures would not be threatening at all. They’d be extremely frail, constantly sick, and probably have to sacrifice their shra super-regeneration. They’d be creepy but not at all fearsome, like flagellant monks. It could work, but it’d lead to a very different portrayal than the one we see here.
(Something recognizable as a normal scientific phenomenon could also provide foreshadowing for the twist, which could be good or bad depending on if you want it to be an unforeseeable wham or a solvable mystery.)
That is one huge sprite. The developer did a good job of portraying the idea of monstrous proportions. It’s a pity the other si’shra just use normal shra sprites.
The group whispers to themselves for a bit, then Tehgonan yells for it to wake up because he’s suicidal.
He doesn’t hiss. That’s unusual.
“Undefiled outlanders must be swept away. So spoke the Tezkhra. So speak the children. The rains must cleanse the weak from the path of the Tezkhra before His return. […] Ours shall be the ONLY Will when our Defiled Lord returns, for His touch is upon us. This Holyland is His work; we, His children. He will accept no dissenters, living or dead. [Little Brother], defile thyself and destroy these unsaved outslanders. So speaks the Tezkhra.”
This is some good stuff. I have to wonder if this is based on Christianity in any aspect? You’ve got doomsday prophecies, monotheism, the return of a messiah, the need to prepare the world for that return, talk of “saving”, and condescending proselytizing. It’s an interesting commentary on religious zealotry in any case, and possibly even a good mechanism for showing just how weird religion can be to an outside observer: The si’shra concept of “holiness” is the polar opposite of what we normally associate with the term – defilement, filth, and corruption rather than purity and light.
Anyway. Dehl refuses to reason or negotiate them and skips straight to aggression because the Sikohlon and si’shra are sworn enemies. It’d be nice if there was a greater reason for this rivalry. We’re never told where it comes from. It’d be interesting if this was a religious conflict, with the Sikohlon being a sect of the same Tezkhra religion that broke off early (to further our Christianty parallels).
…Come to think of it, it’d make far more sense for the Sikohlon to insist the si’shra are friends, because Mahk’s running the organization and he’d surely be interested in any leads on Tezkhra. I guess that plot element was added late?
The warden dramatically raises his staff to the sound of a thunderclap before rallying his allies to attack, which is pretty awesome. I get the impression the developer really likes working with the si’shra; the execution and cinematic direction of this scene is top-notch.
Next week: the grueling battle itself.