|Winwood is unreasonably excited over nothing.|
This feels like the 20th time I've said this, but in another 12 hours of Fate explorations, all I've manage to accomplish is an improvement of my maps. Specifically, I finished mapping the ocean and all the islands, and I identified the boundaries of the inner "Forbidden Zone" in the northwest quadrant. Having found no more clues as to the final three Moonwand pieces during this process, I've capitulated and looked at the hints that Zardas provided. They're cryptic enough that I still have to do most of the work. That's a good thing.
|Most of my current map, with the water portion complete. I softened the color of the mountains, too.|
The process of using overhead maps to identify islands, sailing there, getting off the boat, mapping them, and getting back on the boat got so boring that I don't know why I put up with it. Perhaps the most annoying part of this process involved searching for treasure. The searching process involves stopping on each square, selecting a character, and choosing "Action" and then "Dig." If nothing comes up, you have to repeat it with "Action" and "Search," since some treasures are buried and others are just hidden (although, often, "hidden in the dirt," which makes me wonder what the game thinks "digging" is). With the attendant pauses, it's just long enough to be irksome. You don't want to do it on every square. Fortunately, the game puts treasures in obvious places sometimes, like the only square with a tree, or at the end of a passage leading into a mountain range.
For the others, you just have to search random squares. The accumulation of my experience leads me to the hypothesis that every island has one and only one hidden or buried treasure. When I took the time to search every square, I always found one, but I never found more than one.
Maybe a third of them were useful. I found a number of potions and wands that provide one-time upgrades to statistics, or an extra spell slot. It was rarer that I found weapons or armor better than what I already had. Some of the finds were a bit mystifying, frankly. Someone went out of his way to bury the "Xantashoes" below on an island in the middle of nowhere. They're no better than footwear you find in random combats, and certainly not better than what the characters are already wearing by this point in the game. I spent a lot of time immediately dropping things right after finding them.
The remainder of the 12 hours was spent feeling out the boundaries of the inner Forbidden Zone. I was hoping that the zone was in the middle of the northwest quadrant, which would have allowed me to finish my perimeter map. But alas, it actually creates a square jutting out of the final mountain pass.
|The Forbidden Zone, jutting out at a 90-degree angle, prevents me from tying these last bits of mountain together.|
The boundary is a bit insidious. There's no in-game warning that you've crossed it. Once you cross it, all the party members die with the next step that they take, even if you turn around and try to head back out. At one point, I accidentally saved the game right after I crossed it and had no choice but to reload a save from a couple hours earlier.
|Crossing the boundary causes your party members to instantly die.|
While I was marching around the area, I tried to use the city of Mernoc as a point of rest. Boy, was that a mistake. Fate is extremely bi-polar when it comes to combat difficulty. Out in the wilderness, I barely have to pay attention to combat, even when I'm attacked by dozens of things called "lich demons." I just spam my greater melee weapon attacks and they all eventually die. I haven't had a character die from an outdoor combat--or even get poisoned or diseased--since at least 80 hours ago.
Inside Mernoc, on the other hand, I found combat demoralizingly hard. The choked and narrow streets were crowded with creatures that I simply couldn't kill. Bane giants. Some insect-like things called "ingols," particularly the tougher "bog ingols." Like the dracs I fought in the dungeon of Valvice, they never seem to die from hit point loss, no matter how many rounds go by. You have to get them with a critical hit or something. I've taken to calling these creatures NUKEs, or "nigh-unkillable enemies," and a big part of my upcoming posting on spells is testing which ones do anything to NUKEs. In the case of the ingols, they seemed to resist almost every spell. I resorted to fleeing and "praying" away most of my fights (a strategy that works about 2/3 of the time now), but in the congested city, it was only one step before I encountered another one. For some reason, "Invisibility" didn't work to get me past them (and "Time Stop," I noted, didn't work in combat).
|I thought I was doing well, but parties like this were undefeatable.|
I eventually did find an inn, which operated like a regular inn. It amuses me that some of these cities manage to keep regular inns, taverns, and shops operating while thousands of immortal beasts maraud just outside the door. I eventually gave up and fled the city after mapping only a small part of it. I never found an open tavern. I had to cast "Rejuvenate" six times to deal with the hunger and thirst.
As I explored, I became curious about the game's method of assigning names to NPCs. I rarely bother to ask their names unless I'm looking for a specific NPC--otherwise, I just cut the chit-chat and bribe them--but for some reason I started to ask and log the results. It's clear that the game draws from a pool of valid names and doesn't just make them up with some kind of random generator. A lot of them are very simple normal names (e.g., George, Maria, Leonard, Gordon); some are odd to me but maybe not to German players (e.g., Ulrich, Alberich, Theoderich). A few hearken to famous historical or literary figures (e.g., Magellan, Excalibur, Melmoth). A final set won't come up with any listings if you Google them (except this page), but they seem hand-crafted (e.g., Otrewoody, Ozzakon).
|Marian Barbarian. Isn't that a song?|
I had logged about 40 names before I saw a repeat, but even then, repeats were rare until I passed 100. My best guess is there are around 300-400 names in the pool. The game divides them by sex but not by class; "George" came up as a fighter, conjurer, and wander priest for instance.
I was also curious when the game assigns the name. I took save states just before asking the NPC's name and always got the same result, so it isn't randomized at the point of asking. (Before anyone offers that the game might use a pre-generated set of random seeds, it doesn't seem to do this for any other aspect of gameplay, so I doubt it does it for names.) I also tried asking one NPC his name, then reloading the save state, dismissing him, and asking the next NPC, and I didn't get the same name. This means that the game isn't pulling from a pre-ordered list. My best guess, then, is that the game generates the NPC's name when it adds him to the map in the first place. Since most sentient "monsters" can occasionally be engaged in dialogue, it must do this for every NPC or monster on the map, the majority of which you'll never meet. That's almost eerie.
Miscellaneous notes on Fate:
- I keep forgetting where I've left my ships, so I keep going back to Valvice to buy new ones. I think I've bought five at this point. I hope all that money doesn't become important later.
- I haven't talked a lot about the interface since the first posting, but it remains the worst part of the game You either have to click accurately (and be careful not to accidentally double-click) on very small words, or you have to use the number keys to select the menu options in order, but they're un-numbered on the screen. You can memorize a few common combinations, but I otherwise spent a lot of time counting.
- I've amassed a collection of around 50 Holy Scrolls. These artifacts completely destroy the enemy party without having to fight. Unless the game nerfs them in the final dungeons (the way it does witht he "Time Stop" and "Invisibility" spells in Mernoc), I might find I have an easy time.
- At one point on an island, I found a hidden treasure and the game told me that it was a "glowing sphere." It didn't appear in my inventory, and I have no idea what it was or did.
- I find a lot of potions of sobriety, which would be nice to have in real life. The funny thing about them is that drunkenness is a condition that you bring on yourself, by imbibing too much in the taverns. Since there are alternatives to liquor (every tavern has milk, juice, water, and soda), no advantages to being drunk, and significant disadvantages (e.g., characters refuse to act in combat), the whole drunkenness/sobriety mechanic, including the potions, is just silly.
- I'm having occasional success with "Dupe" in combat. It basically works like an instantly-fatal backstab, and it takes out NUKEs when successful (maybe 1/5 of the time). Still not much luck with "Grope," though.
Aside from needing to find the other Moonwand pieces, I've also been neglecting character development. Winwood has something like 32 improvement slots. I need to sit down with my list of guilds and map out a strategy. I'm desperately hoping this will alleviate some of the issues I had in Mernoc. The visit to the city unnerved me a bit, frankly; I thought my party was getting absurdly over-leveled from all my random wanderigs. It turns out I can't even make it down a random city street.
Coming up: I guess I owe it to Arnaud to try to make something of Fer & Flamme before wrapping it up.
Time so far: 213 hours