|The developer got cute on Level 1. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I would have thought the game was called something like Schicksal: Toren der Morgendämmerung in its original German version.|
(If you need a little refresher after all this time: In Fate, you play a guy named Winwood who has been magically transported from the real world into this fantasy kingdom, starting near the city of Larvin. He is being hunted for reasons unknown by a wizard named Thardan. Thardan's associate, Miras Athran, has sabotaged the "Cavetrain" that connects Larvin with the outside world so that Winwood can't leave the area. The first quest is to find and defeat Athran and restore the operation of the Cavetrain.)
Still, that's the big news: I solved the damned Cavetrain quest after mapping seven--yes, seven, not eight--dungeon levels, plus Larvin itself, plus the starting outdoor area. So far, the game has used around 40,000 coordinate squares and around 25,000 actual mapped squares (e.g., not empty space). That makes it already twice as large as the entirety of Might & Magic, three times as large as Pool of Radiance, and over six times as large as Wizardry. And judging by a quick scan of online maps, I've experienced at most 20% of the total game world so far. You have to give the developer points for ambition.
As we closed last time, I was about to start replaying a big chunk of the game so I could be better equipped to take on Miras Athran. Specifically, I needed to find and resurrect a dead girl with no combat experience to satisfy the part of the quest where "an innocent being without any hate in mind" can pierce Athran's "aura of evil." As we discussed in the comments, I guess you can do this by recruiting any new party member, keeping them out of combat, and using various magic options to de-age them below 18 or 15 or whatever, but the easier way is to retrieve the bones of a dead teenager and have them raised.
As I suspected, this replay--even running around to collect all the treasures I'd picked up in my previous explorations--didn't take very long, since the long part of exploring is making the maps in the first place. I suppose the only drawback is that I ended up earning less experience, as I wasn't exploring every corner and fighting all the monsters the way I had before.
The re-exploration turned out to be beneficial in one way: on the way to retrieve the girl, I stopped by an encounter that I had marked "unsolved" on my map. It involved a rope going up to some kind of panel on the ceiling. I'm not sure why I couldn't figure it out before, but this time I just had someone climb the rope and press a button on the panel. This caused a hatch to open below the party and dump them on a previously-unexplored area of Level 2.
I'm not sure what was going on in this new area. As I entered, a message warned, "This is the death spiral: Prepare to die!" There was indeed a small spiral, emerging into a large open area with a bunch of doors off of it. "The ground and walls are covered with blood," the game said ominously. In the rooms off the main area were no less than four fountains of full healing. It seemed like the game was setting us up for some kind of epic conflict, but the monsters in the area were few and not all that hard. Messages alerted me to "dig in Gord's chamber!" so when I finally got to an area labeled such, I dug and found a nice suit of armor. I also found Gord's Axe and Gord's Helmet, which were superior to what I already had.
When I got out of this area, I went back to the section of Larvin where I could find the dead girl. I can only assume I saw the monsters wandering around the first time I visited, concluded there was nothing to see here, and left. This is a reminder to step on every square.
|You have to admire the game for doing its best to ensure every enemy is depicted.|
The battle preceding the recovery of the bones had 17 enemies, 6 of them spellcasters, and it started them all at 8 yards away. This was a perfect time to use one of the pieces of miscellaneous equipment I'd found but haven't talked about: a "warpipe" that emits damaging smoke and affects every creature in the enemy groups (unless they resist). The resulting damage isn't usually enough to kill the creatures in the dungeons, but it generally kills surface enemies in one hit, and it's a great way to deal with the spellcasters-starting-at-a-distance issue. Each warpipe is good for maybe 10 uses, and I had three of them at the time.
Once they were dead, the game informed me that I had found a dead girl. At first, I tried to revive her a nontraditional way (which, as we'll see, turned out to be not all that stupid):
|The developer thought of everything.|
When that didn't work, I took her to the chapel and paid to have her resurrected. I had to reluctantly split Dichara, my banshee, off into her own party. More on Dichara in a bit.
The resulting NPC, Marina, is a 13-year-old Level 1 Pheyd "nymph" with only 3 strength, 6 stamina, 9 skill, and 12 hit points. To have her prevail against Miras Athran, I would have to keep her alive and out of combat (the moment she strikes a blow, she is no longer "innocent," apparently).
|No word on why such a large party felt it necessary to kill and then protect the bones of a 13-year-old.|
As we walked away from the resurrection, she had a few lines of dialogue, which NPCs sometimes do. She expressed gratitude and said she has "special abilities" that would help us out. I guess we'll see. She does come with a selection of nymph spells, including better healing spells than I already had plus "Youth," which I'm guessing reverts magical aging.
|Is one of those special abilities going home to your mother? Because that's what you really ought to be doing.|
Keeping her alive wasn't as hard as I thought. Enemies tended not to target her for whatever reason. The hardest part was not accidentally having her attack in combat. I had to reload a couple of times because my fingers were faster than my eyes. As we went down the various levels, she gained a couple of levels just from the ancillary experience that every party member gets whether they act or not.
Eventually, we made it back to the hole in the wall that I recounted in the previous post. I assumed we needed Marina for this mission, but when I told her to "Enter," she replied that she was too scared. We had found a "valor" potion nearby, and I reasoned that it must be for this purpose, so I had her drink it, and sure enough she scrambled on in. One way you could look at that is a defenseless 13-year-old girl was afraid to enter a dark hole alone in a dungeon full of monsters, so we drugged her until she complied.
|That is, in fact, almost a certainty.|
After that, we waited for a while. When she didn't come back out, we wandered around the dungeon and killed monsters. Even though she wasn't with the party, the game kept noting that she was leveling up, which was encouraging. We kept going back to the hole to no avail.
The only thing that I could imagine Marina could accomplish was finding a way to activate an inactive teleport field--it was literally the only possible way out of the area. So I kept bring my party back to the field. Eventually, bereft of anything else to do, I had them sleep.
Surprisingly, the game switched me over to Dichara while everyone else slept. There didn't seem to be any way to return to the original party as long as they were asleep, and 8 hours of game time is about an hour of real time, so I didn't want to just wander around. I had also left Dichara in an unfortunate position, in a section of town inaccessible from anywhere else except by dungeon, and she didn't have any lanterns or light spells. Eventually, I navigated her through the dungeon level by the map alone and brought her to the southeast isle. She met Mulradin again--who didn't have anything new to say--and convinced a huntress named Nadine to join her little sub-party. Eventually, I had her check into an inn on the island and go to sleep so the game would return me to my previous party.
|The jilted Dichara starts forming a rival band.|
When the other crew woke up, the teleporter was still inoperable, but by this time I had succumbed to spoilers and discovered that I had the right idea; I just needed to wait longer. I left the game running and let time pass while I checked my e-mail and did a few other things, and I actually heard a "bling!" sound when the teleporter came online. That was pretty cool.
The teleporter took us to a new succession of areas. Marina didn't show up on the other side. The game seemed determined to really use a good portion of the coordinates on Level 7, and it took a few hours to map. There was a very annoying section of one-way walls and doors. But eventually, we made it to the final area, and we found a hole in the wall identical to the one in which we had lost Marina. In short order, Marina came crawling out. She explained that she found herself in a large cave system and eventually discovered a switch that activated the teleporter.
On the way to Miras Athran, there was another one of those copy-protection maps, and it was a little unfair. The map depicts a 2 x 3 chamber with a one-way door on the south end. Just past the one-way door, there's a door leading to a single 1 x 1 room to the east. The problem is, you don't know that you're in the right area until you've already passed through the one-way door, at which point you can't return. I had to reload because the game makes it clear that if you don't search and pull the switches the moment you arrive, you're hosed.
Miras Athran was in a single 1 x 1 cell in a very unintuitive location, but a couple of messages--including my witch noting a "dreadful sphere of hate!"--had alerted me to his probable presence. When my party entered, everyone but Marina died immediately. But somehow, her pure aura pierced his hate bubble and managed to instantly kill him.
|Who knew innocence could hurt so much?|
The game then gave me a note that the "shade ghosts"--the beings that power the Cavetrain--"followed their master to his demise!" That can't be good. I think I would have been in a walking dead scenario if I'd continued.
I figured (correctly) that Marina needed to be holding the Staff of Gathalak. I reloaded, gave it to her, and tried again, and sure enough, the ghosts were all "sucked up" by the staff.
So far, so good, but 6 of my 7 party members, including Winwood, were now dead, and the game wouldn't let me move with that many corpses. (Picture a 13-year-old girl trying to drag 6 armored bodies down a dungeon hallway; you can't fault the game for realism.) After exploring the options a few times, it turns out that Marina--perhaps any nymph--has a kiss that can revive dead party members.
|Just remember she's 13 before you make any jokes. You know who I'm talking to.|
Sounds good, but those party members revived with only 1 in every attribute, and in any event Marina balked at kissing any more people after she'd resurrected three. I don't know if there's a maximum on the number of times she can use the power or if it was a race thing. Either way, I was still stuck.
|It's nice of you to offer some hope, but I'm pretty sure they're just dead.|
The solution has probably occurred to you already, but it took embarrassingly long to occur to me: split off Marina into her own party before going into to confront Athran. This, again, seems a little dubious ethically, but it worked just fine. Getting out of the dungeon involved using the Staff of Gathalak in a room labeled "Chamber of Gathalak."
The whole "shade ghost" thing, I should note, was kind of silly. They played a minor role in the quest, and I never encountered the "mongards" at all. Athran might has well have just been standing next to a big "on/off" switch for the Cavetrain.
Emerging into the sunlight, I was disappointed to discover that no one acknowledged our victory. I returned to royal isle and explored around, but there seemed no place to meet the king. Tinius, head of the Royal Mage's Guild, was nowhere to be found. I thought there was supposed to be a reward! And who's going to give me permission to enter the Altarian Vaults or whatever? Maybe I'll just enter without permission.
But sure enough, the two Cavetrain stations are now open for business, offering to take me to the rest of the cities in the gameworld. Finally, I can figure out how this whole "guild" business works and start upgrading these characters. I don't quite understand yet why some guilds are better than others, but I guess I have to revisit every guild in Larvin first to note what types of deals they offer.
|The Cavetrain station seems to be run by a rat selling "rat soup."|
The tie to the subtitle is in the fact that, in the course of solving the Cavetrain quest, I amassed over 1.3 million "piaster" and need to find a way to spend it. I assume the guilds will help. Yes, it's a lame explanation for the subtitle. I couldn't think of anything that began with "G" that had anything to do with solving a quest or splitting the party. I've been messing the whole thing up. "F" should have been "Finishing the Cavetrain" or "Finally!" That would have left "G" for "Guilds," which is probably going to be the topic of the next post. Now I'm stuck with "H" for the next one, and what about character development or exploring the rest of the world begins with "H"? At least I can get back on track with "I" for "Inventory."
- A lot of spellcasters have spells that make characters tired, hungry, or thirsty. After combat, I have to spend some time getting everyone back on the same sleep and meal schedule. These conditions can't possibly be enough to make a difference in combat, so these spellcasters are just being jackasses. "You may defeat me, but at least I'll inconvenience you afterwards," is what they're saying.
- Marina made it to Level 10 before the quest was over. My other characters are Level 16-19.
- Looking at my notes, I see that one NPC told me that "a magical axe is hidden in the secret Benth chamber in the catacombs." I see where that is, on Level 3, but I didn't put two-and-two together while I was there. How neat is that axe?
As I ponder continuing the game, I'm left with two dilemmas:
1. Should I keep Marina? She's weak, but her charisma and dexterity are the best in the party, and her spells and abilities might come in useful. On the other hand, she seems destined to be a burden in combat.
2. Should I keep the other party? As the game gets huge, it might be useful to have one party able to travel to places the other party can't. (Having a second party would have prevented the "walking dead" issue that required me to replay a few hours of the game, among other things.) Oddly, everyone in all parties gets experience from kills made by any party, but that experience of course is diluted among more members. I also vaguely like the idea of having more potential character classes, and more characters to equip with the weapons and armor I'm finding.
On the other hand, two parties means more people to manage logistically. Characters in the non-active parties still get tired, hungry, and thirsty while waiting around, so you have to switch to them occasionally and take care of their needs. It's also a little annoying that I can't have Party 1 go to sleep without automatically switching to Party 2 and then either have them go to sleep or adventure around until Party 1 wakes up.
But whatever I do, I have to recognize that it's a unique approach to an RPG. The game allows for up to 4 parties and 28 party members, a definite RPG first.
The Cavetrain quest along was long enough to sustain an entire game, and if I'd just been using the guilds in Larvin, I would have enjoyed 18 levels of pretty solid character development. If I stopped now, Fate would be my 10th longest-played game and would probably rank in the top 10 or 15 on the GIMLET. Alas, it seems determined to wear out its welcome with the size of the game world, as it almost did in the size of the catacombs. I can't promise I'll play to the end, but I'll play at least a little farther.
Time so far: 67 hours