The Reconstruction Part 8 – “Watch Your Ankles” (Guest Review)

Last time, we saw our first quest with Dehl and company. It was pretty boring. Two new, more interesting quests have now opened up. The tchiitra-killing farmer has a quest for us, and so does the off-duty guard that we couldn’t interact with before. I’ll do the latter quest first.


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“Well, I guess if you had some sort of…invisibility shroud, at the bottom of the sea…”

This follow-up thought is amusing but a bit unrealistic – it reminds me too much of the type of comedy where people immediately point out the logical errors of a hyperbole even though conversation never flows that way in real life.

He turns around and sees Santes, stutters awkwardly for a bit, and Santes says, “You’re talkin’ to yourself, you know that?” I think that’s probably the least objectionable line Santes has all game. It’s even pretty funny! But it says some things that this is her high point.

She mentions she’s in a guild, to which the guard takes interest. He asks if they know about the tchiitra.

Santes: “Tsh, well yeah, hel-lo, that’s all anybody talks about nowadays. Well, other than the drought, and the guilds, and the slaves, and—“

This is actually pretty interesting. We’re currently focused on the tchiitra problem, and we will continue to do so throughout this chapter. However, the game does drop hints like this that society’s problems are more complex than just a bug problem. The story is presenting us with the typical do-gooding RPG hero scenario to let us feel good about ourselves, but at the same time it’s reminding us that there are other problems as well, ones that can’t be solved by just whacking things with a sword.

And huh, I think this is the first time we see someone speak out against slavery. Unless she’s referring to non-shra slavery like we saw in the prologue.

The guard then asks if she knows where they come from and…this is her response:

Santes: “N-no…my husband might know, but, he woulda told me by now, I think.”

Jesus Christ. Are we really doing this? Are we really doing the “incompetent wife is ignorant and needs her smart husband to tell her everything” trope? I really, desperately hope that the developer was trying to go for “the caster is dumb and hotheaded while the fighter is stoic and knowledgeable, I am so clever for subverting the stereotypes” and just didn’t notice the gender side of the equation. This is still reeking with unfortunate implications no matter what.

Off-Duty Guard: “I doubt it. You see, even we don’t know for sure. I gather no one does, actually. They just clawed out of the ground one day about ten years ago. We ignored them at first…

You ignored them? Did you not notice that they were a threat to the crops? An agriculturalist society like this should have been at least wary at the sudden appearance of a new addition to the ecosystem, and would have gone into red alert the moment one took its first bite. Maybe if they had, things wouldn’t have gotten this bad. I’m suddenly tempted to just let natural selection take its course.

We believe they lie dormant underground at nightfall and in the cold… We aren’t entirely sure, however, and we lack the funds and manpower to explore.

…There’s a crippling threat to the city’s food supply and the guard doesn’t have the resources to investigate it? Does Wadassia not believe in taxes or something? You know, maybe they don’t. They apparently lived under a monarchy until recently, and we all know how tax-averse that made America in real life. Guess they must not be Communist and the farmers are all getting screwed over by the free market.

Because the public sector can never do anything, the guard wants help from the guilds and sees this as an opportunity. He shows Santes a map of spots where their were rapid population bursts recently.

Off-Duty Guard: “We would like you to discuss the situation with your guild, and pick an area—”
Santes: “That one!”
Off-Duty Guard: “Ehh, wouldn’t you prefer to know the various terrain and dangers in each—”
Santes: “I’m picking this one because it’s shaped like a shoe! I LOVE shoes! Is it taken?”

And suddenly, Santes has gone from annoyingly quirky to actively endangering the guild. They’re just starting out; she could easily get them killed if she sends them somewhere too dangerous. At this point it really seems like Zargos needs to chaperone her constantly to keep her from being so incompetent and urgh this is going really bad places. Why did the developer think this was a good idea.

I accept the quest, grudgingly. I’ll just try to pretend the choice to accept is a stand-in for Santes calling the rest of the guild instead of just shoving them out into a flooded swampland without warning.

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I can talk to the guard here.

On-Duty Guard:

Heh. The developer had some fun with titles, I see.

“I’m sorry I can’t accompany your guild any farther. I must remain here to guard the area. Sigh. Why are guards never allowed to do anything useful in video games? Find evidence that the Tchiitra are using this area as a sort of relay point. Additionally, attempt to do so without making your presence known to the scouts. The less attention we draw to ourselves, the safer all of Wadassia will be.” This is a hint towards a special objective – this time, it’s to avoid being spotted by any of the tchiitra. I’m always up for a good stealth mission, so I’ll try to fulfill it.

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“Nearer to the lake itself – not one of these little finger lakes – it gets DEEP. Still, keep an eye out for places where it looks bad. Suffocation sounds kinda painful.”

Lovely. Why did the group go along with Santes bringing them to this deathtrap?

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“There’s a patch here. It’s gritty. Good for polishing windows and the like. Won’t be too much longer before it’s all gone. It’s a very delicate plant, you see.”

Huh? Coarse and gritty doesn’t really mesh with “delicate” in my mind. Maybe he’s referring to soil conditions?

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I need to grab some tealgrass to solve some puzzles here, so I do so, trying desperately not to think about how I’m uprooting an endangered species.

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The bridges here are weird. If you start walking across them, your character will walk the rest of the way automatically with no input from you. I have no idea why they’re coded that way.

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Here is where the stealth aspect comes in. See that faint, shadowy outline by the tree? That’s a tchiitra scout. If you get too close to it, it’ll spot you. Their camouflage is remarkably effective – the first time I played this, I didn’t even realize how I was getting spotted. But for some reason this one is, I don’t know, blind or something, because you can get pretty close to it without it spotting you. This area is so thin that it’d be impossible to avoid otherwise. I don’t see why the developer just made the bank a bit thicker instead of giving this particular scout poor eyesight. It’s especially bad since it’s probably the first one players will run into, yet it won’t give them a good estimation of the scouts’ vision range.

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And this one apparently has no peripheral vision, but it’s a hatchling, which as we’ve established are not the most responsive creatures.

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The game will occasionally force you into splitting your party by pulling tricks like this. It’s mostly just kind of tedious, but I do it anyway and walk across…

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He turns and notices Dehl.

“Help! Need help! Cart break down. Farm masster left me to guard while he get cart. But bugss come out! They take all food! Need help! You help?”

Of course.

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Dehl makes short work of these guys. They all have light armor, so his slashing-type White Cleave skill makes short work of them.

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“And… get me too, right? He come ssoon I hope. Feet hurt.”

I’m…not sure what the game is trying to say here? Is it implying that his master won’t come back for him because evil slaveowners are evil? Because, pragmatically, slaves are worth a lot. Slavemasters wouldn’t just abandon them this whimsically. They did bring this one to work in a death swamp, though, so they probably don’t care about its life very much. Perhaps they have money to burn.

Oh, and I forgot to screencap it, but there’s some tealgrass in this area as well. I grab it.

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…it’s too slick. Only one thing is worse than drowning in mud, and that is breaking your neck and THEN drowning in mud. However, tossing a patch of Tealgrass onto the rock might make it safe to cross.

Here’s the puzzle element I was talking about. And like so many RPG puzzles, it’s just a variant of “find key, use on door”.

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This is a nasty area. There’s a tchiitra here that’s practically invisible because it blends into the river reeds. To make matters worse, there’s a special sack that’s going to draw players like a moth to a flame. I’m pretty sure this is where most players break their streak for the special objective. Speaking of that sack…

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Inside the sack is a set of books devoted to various types of obsolete fighting arts and techniques. Quite old. The pages shred and crumble as you turn them due to their exposure. They can only withstand one final session, it seems. Reading them now will

Whaaaat? No no no what are you doing! That’s a priceless artifact about to be lost forever! Get one of the guards over here and copy it down!

…But unfortunately that’s not an option so I’m going to be a selfish RPG minmaxer and use it. It’s basically the same as the liquid mana from the hunting area – 500 skill points, divided equally among the whole group. I’m horrible. :(

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This hatchling is slightly dangerous because it can move around. It’s still pretty slow, though, so I grab the tealgrass and get back out with it none the wiser.

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This tchiitra isn’t camouflaged, but the bank is too small for me to get past without it noticing. Using the first tchiitra I showed as a baseline, it looks like I should be able to just walk right in front of it, but I can’t. Naturally, this made me fail the stealth requirement multiple times on my first playthrough. This is why you don’t make the sole exception to a new mechanic the first instance players see, game.

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What you’re supposed to do is wait for it to look to the other way, in true incompetent guard fashion. At least it looks like there’s another area over there that it could conceivably need to watch. And I suppose it is easier to accept guard stupidity when you’re dealing with bugs rather than humans.

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This is where you need to go to finish the quest. Unlike the earlier example we saw, this needs five units of tealgrass to cross. I don’t have enough yet.

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This is where I’ll get the last bunch I need. There’s another one, but as you can see, it’s a trap. Fortunately, because we saved the shra from the bugs earlier, we don’t need it. Good deeds pay off!

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I jump across. On the other side…

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Worse still, considering the depth of the lake in this area, they can tunnel very long distances underground if necessary. No wonder they’re being sighted more often. With the lack of rainfall, farmers have been forced to rely on other water sources. They’ve been using any available freshwater lakes and rivers for their crops, which has been disturbing the Tchiitra that nest there. We should report this area as hazardous and return to the assigning guard at once.

Our adventures in ecology continue. The poor farmers just can’t catch a break. Something that seems like a solution just causes more problems elsewhere, which is pretty accurate in terms of how interconnected real-life environments are.

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Ques: “Ilganyag, you’ve acquired Rank 3. My…heartfelt congratulations.”

I actually get a double rank up here!

Ques: “Rank 4, recognized by all of Wadassia. Well, most of it, anyway.”

Still not enough to impress Ques, though.

Then something else happens.

The bond between your allies is growing, slowly but surely… All active allies of Ilganyag have been granted 100 Skill and Mana Points apiece!

Hooray! This is what I was talking about back in the difficulty selection thing. I wonder if this is why I find Dehl, Qualstio, and Santes so powerful? They’re already strong right out of the box, but as starting characters, they get the most bonus experience.

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Dehl tells him not to worry. And… what about you? Were you still considering that recognition you received? It must be quite an achievement to be offered such a position of importance.

Huh. I wonder if this is referring to the noxious councillord seat? That seems way too prestigious an offer, but the seat is currently empty and I don’t see what other “position of importance” there could be. Green guy says he’s still mulling it over, though.

Dehl: “Are you afraid of…being injured again? You very nearly did not recover last time…”

??? I’m not sure what he’s referring to here and I don’t believe it’s ever brought up again. Was there a lynch mob? Did a spell backfire? Greenie says that’s not the reason, regardless.

Dehl: “I did not mean to startle you so. It seemed an appropriate concern. But, this is your own decision, so I shan’t pry further. I shall support your choice fully.”
Spectacled Shra: “So exhaustive! Forgive me, young master. I believe that I must retire for the evening.”
Dehl: “You are excused. Rest well.”

Hm. They really do have a strong master/servant dynamic going on, don’t they? Dehl is being nice about it, but it’s pretty clear that he’s speaking as a superior. I wonder how that intersects with his self-loathing and guilt complex? Does he feel uncomfortable in the role, or is he used to it? Could he blame Moke, consciously or otherwise, for what happened? It could be telling that he only frees Moke after he confronts his issues regarding that…

Regardless, he goes into a nearby house and Dehl walks right, meeting up with Qualstio and Fero.

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Fero: “Greetings again, Shra-friend.”

I forgot to mention this in his introduction scene, but I think it’s a nice touch that the fih’jik have a separate honorific for shra. It’s a neat little detail that makes sense and acts as good foreshadowing for their different views.

Qualstio explains that they’re looking for more recruits. I thought this was already established to be pointless? Fero says they haven’t had any success, regardless. Come to think of it, why did Qualstio think it would be a good idea to do a recruitment drive so late in the day? Most people are going to be at home, even before the six people limit makes the whole thing pointless.

Dehl: “In fact, we’ve not come across anything terribly dangerous while serving the city.”
Qualstio: “Yeah, well, not here, anyway.”
Dehl: “Hmm? What does that mean, Qualstio?”
Qualstio: “Oh sure, Wadassia is all flowers and sunshine, if you wanna stay put. Worst thing they gotta worry about here is the widespread starvation, ehh heheh.”

Really, why is Dehl friends with this guy? He seems to make a habit of belittling the city Dehl loves so much, you’d think that’d get on his nerves.

Dehl: “That’s not funny. We should be concerned with the lives of the people here.”
Qualstio: “W-well, sure, of course. But I mean, look at Nal. And even Fortifel!”
Dehl: “Look…at them? I’ve never visited either.”
Fero: “What of Do’Ssha and Kir’Ssha? Surely you know of the conflict… the Blackening…”

Huh. I’m starting to wonder if Wadassia is supposed to be a metaphor for America. Anti-monarchy (and anti-government if I’m right about why the guards are underfunded), fertile farmland, and apparently very well-off. Also, built on the backs of slaves. Characters from the outside criticize it for thinking its own problems are so important, and apparently even the looming threat of famine is small potatoes compared to what the rest of the world is struggling through. All we need now is a reveal that they’re exploiting other countries for their natural resources and we’re set. (And come to think of it, they are supplying Kir’Ssha…)

Dehl confesses that he’s never left Wadassia. Qualstio proclaims that they should go international then, because You’ll change your tune in a hurry once ya see what I mean. Heheh. What is that chuckle doing there is Qualstio supposed to look evil or something.

Dehl turns away and declares that he plans to resign leadership to Qualstio, because I’ve a feeling I shall feel nothing but regret if I continue to follow alongside this route. Aw, don’t be like that. You’ll feel plenty of things besides regret! The repetition makes me cringe a little, though.

Qualstio walks up to him and is suddenly possessed by the ghost of his alternate reality self: “Aww, c’mon, don’t gimme that. I didn’t mean to spook ya. It’s just… Don’t ya wanna change things? I mean, those places could use a hand too, right?”

Yeah so as I’ve said before, Qualstio’s characterization is a mess.

This is inconsistent with how he’s acted so far (thrill-seeking psycho), but is consistent with his later characterization as a more moral, responsible antihero type. I think that this section may have been written before Qualstio’s character and the overall story was fully crystallized in the developer’s mind. I’ve done a lot of double-takes when reading some of the dialogue in this section, because I’m so used to a different Qualstio.

Lines like this must have been added or revised later, to try and make early Qualstio more consistent with later Qualstio, but it seems the developer must have missed some bits. This problem is pretty endemic to chapter 1 as a whole.

You were always talkin’ about ‘making up for something.’

Wow, Dehl never told him? And Qualstio never asked or figured it out? He was right there, he should have been able to put the pieces together by now. Obviously this is necessary to preserve the mystery, but like so many other things, it really puts a strain on the claim they’re supposed to be close friends.

Dehl seems partially convinced by this; he seems to agree to continue helping the guild for now, but is rather noncommittal about international projects.

Qualstio: “Great! Me an’ the fuzzball here

…Is this a racial slur? Somehow I can’t imagine fih’jik taking kindly to such an epithet. Fero doesn’t seem bothered by it, but he’s acted like an emotionless robot so far, so that’s not a good indicator of anything.

are gonna scout the district once more. Wanna come?”
Dehl: “Not tonight. I’ve things I must think upon. Best of luck to you both, however.”

He walks off. Fero notes that the recruitment drive is fruitless; no one’s around.

Qualstio: “Yeah I know.

I suppose this was just an excuse to run into Dehl, then. It would explain why they were hanging out near his house. Why’d he drag Fero into it, though? Plausible deniability? Surely he could just talk to Dehl directly if he wanted?

It seems like everybody wants to be a hero around here nowadays.”

And this…directly contradicts the previous reason of there being a call-to-arms. What are you doing, game.

Fero: “Do you?”
Qualstio: “I dunno yet. That’s some mighty big shoes to fill, you know.”

…Huh.

Is that an artifact of the old script, or part of the revision? If the latter, that’s interesting, because he pretty clearly endeavors to become a hero by the end of the game, I think. When does he change his mind, I wonder? Or was it not a conscious decision, and he was just swept up along with everyone else?

The scene ends here. Tomorrow, I fight a mini boss battle!

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