Since my last post on Antares more than a month ago, all I've accomplished is the exploration of one dungeon--though as we'll see, it appears to be a pivotal moment in the game.
Before I recount my brief adventures, let's recap the plot: my crew of 5 are the only survivors of the Earth spaceship Auriga, which was shot down on the planet Kyrion while trying to figure out what happened to a previous expedition, the Hope. We soon found the Hope's survivors scattered in cave-like dwellings in the area of the planet called Lauree. The small human population is sterile and has no way to leave the planet. We received some intelligence on the alien races. The Vunoren are the iron-fisted rulers of the planet. Two other races, the Umbeken and the Questonaten, serve under the Vunoren and may be fomenting rebellion against them.
I left the opening area via a dungeon called Eriankeller, which connected to a long, linear dungeon called Philgoel-Tunnel. This latter one emerged in a new city, called Nomiris. An exhaustive exploration of Nomiris revealed two more dungeons branching off of it--Sakral and Tiefencastel--as well as a transport hub where I couldn't do anything because I lacked a PIN.
In this session, I explored Sakral, a six-level dungeon. Three of the levels were 5 x 5 squares, but two were larger, more complex diamond shapes.
|The 5 levels of Sakral. I just realized there's probably a secret door that I missed in the upper-right of the last one. Damn.|
Before I described what happened there, let me explain why exploring dungeons is a logistical nightmare and why I have to force myself to get started with every new session. The first set of difficulties are in-game. As you explore, you have to keep constant attention to a few things: your fatigue level, your hunger level, and your supply of lamps. Of these, hunger is the least perilous, because you can bring some food to cook and there's a good chance that you'll find some food on slain enemies.
Lighting is a little more annoying. Each character only has 6 inventory slots, and 4-5 of them are taken up by weapons, armor, and special items. I might only have 3 or 4 empty slots, total, among my party members at any given time, and a six-level dungeon easily consumes 3-4 halogen lamps.
Fatigue is the worst. It slowly drains for every character except the android and does not last 6 dungeon levels. Inevitably, the characters need to sleep. Unlike most games, you can't just bed down for 8 hours of rest and wake up refreshed. Instead, you sleep in real time, as you explore or stand still. Since there's no place safe from enemy attacks, this is a risky thing to do in a dungeon--but inevitable since this particular dungeon had a one-way door on the third level.
|The game warns me that, "From here, there is no turning back!"|
The internal logistics, which might just be "challenging" in a satisfying way by themselves, are complicated by external ones. To play the game, I have to have five windows open at all times: the game itself, my Excel map book, the Word document to which I copied the translation you all did, Google Translate for the small bits of text that weren't translated in the big document, and a notepad for taking notes for the blog entry. This is all tough to arrange on a single laptop screen, so I've been saving Antares for when I'm home with my second monitor, which is almost never.
While the game is tile-based, it's not turn-based. Hunger increases, fatigue increases, lamp life decreases, and enemies can attack while standing still. This makes it difficult to take notes, review translations, and add to the map during game time. Yes, there is technically a "pause" function, but the emulator captures the mouse, and anything you do to get it to release the mouse also unpauses the game. I have to remember to move to a different window, then click on the emulator window header (if I click in the middle of the screen, it re-captures the mouse), then hit the "P" key to pause.
Finally, the dungeons feature a lot of small messages in various squares, most of which weren't translated in the commenter document (that's not a criticism; I appreciate all the help you offered). This means I have to type them myself into Google Translate. Of course, while I'm doing that, there's a chance that a random encounter can appear and override the message, forcing me to fight the encounter, win, leave the square, and re-enter to get the message again. This cycle might repeat 3 or 4 times before I finish translating.
|I could easily get attacked 5 times while trying to translate this drivel about needing to exercise the mind.|
Overall, you can see why it's been tough to prioritize the game. At least one thing is a bit easier: commenter Anym was correct that the scroll bar to the right of the message window controls the text speed. This has been a god-send.
|"Once again, you enter the empty, bare rooms of an underground labyrinth. You try to find something positive in that, but most of you are only human...." It's like the game can sense my ennui.|
As for Sakral, on Level 3, I encountered the skeleton of a dead inhabitant of Kyrion, chained to the wall. The encounter noted that I found a small steel plate on his wrist that said "KOMC40." I guessed immediately what this was for--more in a bit.
Most of the important stuff was to be found on the final level, where a series of squares brought me face to face with the same Projektion that helped me in the first dungeon. The projection asked me three questions in different squares. In general, they seemed to be tests of the game's lore. For instance, the first was: "Once, she was Kyrion's most important city, but she fell victim to a Vunorian act. She was destroyed, utterly. Only a ruin tells of its former glory." Now, there's some back story here that I didn't know, but overall, I guessed correctly that the answer is LAUREE, the opening, trench-filled map.
The second question, "What does everything on Kyrion revolve around?," was even easier. The answer is the star for which the game is named: ANTARES.
|This was a freebie.|
It was the third one that stumped me: "They exist as particles--if not in this, then surely another dimension. They have a name--if not in another, then surely in this dimension." At first, I thought the answer must be SCHEMEN, the game's name for those ethereal party members that don't seem to have any physical form. (It translates as "specter.") Alas, that was not it.
|Tell me this doesn't seem to fit perfectly.|
After trying a few more options, I fear I couldn't help caving in. The translator of this section had put the correct answers in ROT-13 after the text, and it turned out that the answer was TACHYONEN, or "tachyons." Now, I understand what tachyons are, or are supposed to be, but I don't know if this was a straight riddle (if so, a difficult one) or whether I was supposed to find the answer in-game. The translated document doesn't mention tachyonen anywhere else, so I suppose it's the former.
Whatever the case, after I answered the three riddles correction, the projection (which the game seems to call a "she") congratulated me:
Congratulations, you have proven that you're intelligent enough to persist in more dangerous areas. I think that together we could succeed in breaking the dominance of the Vunorians. I possess the knowledge, you possess strength and stamina. And please, don't fret too much about my appearance. I cannot and don't want to divulge my real identity yet. This is safest for me and you as well, rest assured! As a sign of trust I will help you onwards: Travel to Akrillon and seek out an Umbeke named Ranishtar. He counts himself among the most tenacious opponents of the Vunorians and their eons-old friendship with the Umbekes. If you manage to earn his trust and survive long enough, he'll be a great help. But first you'll have to reach him. That he is still alive is proof enough that he's a force to be reckoned with, and a sign that his Questonates will confront you with serious challenges.
|The helpful projection moves the quest forward.|
As for traveling onward to Akrillon, the path was as I suspected: When I returned to the surface, I re-visited the transport hub and typed KOMC40 when prompted for my PIN. I then got the ability to travel to three new locations: Akrillon, Remoria, or Sistar City. I still have Tiefencastel to explore in Nomiris, though.
|Entering the PIN.|
A few notes:
- There are dozens of odd items found at the end of combats and in stores. Although I've translated some of them several times, I keep forgetting what they are and what they do: megaphon, tokero, poisodan, isolierband, krach-bonbon, marmorbuddha, schutzanzug, refraktor, and so forth. To figure out what they do, you have to ask a technically-skilled character, whose answer of course must be translated and is often somewhat cryptic. Because of these issues, and because of very limited inventory space, I'm probably not getting all the use out of the game's items that I could be.
|A megaphone does mass psychic damage in combat. I'm not sure what the other two items are.|
- As I discussed before, the types of weapons you can carry are limited by your physischer kampf skill. My first two characters are currently brandishing Walther PPKs, which never run out of ammo.
|My lead character's current inventory. I'm not 100% sure what any of the first three items are for.|
- Sakral had a lot of secret areas that, in Wizardry tradition, could be entered by walking through a wall. I don't remember any such secret areas in the previous dungeons; I should probably return and check.
- Nomiris has no items for sale that heal physical or mental damage. I either need to find the items on slain enemies, wait a long time, or trek all the way back to Lauree if I want to get my party to full health.
|Although apparently, according to this message, there will be healing available in Remoria.|
- Combat is extremely variable in difficulty, but in general not overly deadly. I've lost more characters to traps than to battles. When a character dies, I've just been reloading rather than make my way all the way back to the beginning of the game and resurrect him in the landing craft.
- My characters are up to Level 8. I don't really know what leveling does for you. Neither statistics nor skills seem to increase. I suppose maximum health must increase, but you don't see that numerically.
|I haven't otherwise included a combat shot in this posting, so here's one.|
I remain a bit confused and lost as I play the game, much as I often am when visiting a foreign country. In this case, I haven't been able to determine if my confusion is related to the foreignness of the game, or if the game is just a bit inept. I'd really love to see a native speaker's account of the game and to see whether you have the same issues I do with inventory and the abruptness of the storytelling. Can I persuade any of you to fire it up?
Time so far: 17 hours
Reload count: 23