Enderal first time, impressions

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- We wake up on the other side of a pile of rubble, Tealor, Sha’Rim and I. Their models are spattered with blood, looking pretty cool. Jespar is nowhere to be seen.
Tealor tries to soothe me that we’ll look for him on the way to the Pyrean Beacon, but I get the feeling it’s mostly a sop to my feelings. Tealor’s a rock; the only part he cares about is that we’re down one of our four-man party, I think.
I’m not sweating it, though. I’m pretty sure Jespar is on the same immortality train as Calia and I. I’d be pretty damn surprised if he died offscreen like a mook (poor Natara).

- The ruins are largely empty save for dozens of the carbon-black human figures, almost all looking or running forward in the same direction I’m going. It gives a weird feeling of being dragged forward to your destination, like you’re a salmon swimming in a school of fish.
Whoever on staff was responsible for cute skeleton placement is getting to flex his design muscles here, I bet.
For example, I appreciate the one guy who, when the world was ending, said ‘Fuck it, Imma have a seat.’

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- The ruins are empty except for the black figures, one Conjured Guardian and approximately three Mad Rats. The ghost-like guardian, sure, no big deal. But what the hell have the rats been subsisting on down here all this time?
I guess SureAI just wanted to get us to flex our trigger finger now and then, to remind us during this cutscene-and-walking segment that we were playing a video game instead of a movie, but still. Why rats?

- The lighting is weirdly good, considering we're in the ruins underneath the Undercity which is underneath Ark. The purple braziers are a given (although I wonder where the crystal that has always plagued Pyrean ruins until now got to), but also there's a lot of light streaming down through cracks in the walls and ceiling.

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I'm wondering how far the City of a Thousand Floods extends. Are we under Ark at all anymore?

- This close, it’s not just me getting the visions. Everyone does.
That’s inexplicable, but neat. Something something approaching the endgame, something something Cycle, something something the time-space dimensions are thin, I guess?

- So we wander on down to a Beacon, identical to ours save for the ravages of age. And Tealor tells me I need to induce myself into having a vision here, and somehow that’ll provide the connection to the High One for us to do our thing. I’m kind of just going along with things, now.
Also I feel like he’s maybe not 100% sure how being the Prophetess works, but that’s fair I guess. Neither do I.
So I wander around the room for a minute, point-and-click adventure style, clicking on discarded helmets and interesting bits of crystal that provoke bits and pieces of visions. Mostly just reiterating how eerily similar the Cycle is to the one that came before it. They had a Coarek, and a Natara who let him into the city, and a female voice who has more than a bit of a Tealor vibe to her.

And off we go! Tealor directs Sha’Rim to use the Word of the Dead, now that I’ve got the right Echo.
There is a scream, not endless, but fading in and out of existence, intercut by a woman weeping, or maybe laughing. A heartbeat begins to sound, slow at first, before getting louder and louder.
And then… well.

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Kansas, it ain’t.
The High Ones are apparently weird red stuff all the way down. It is pretty interesting that we've taken on a similar ghostly red glow to the way the High Ones appear.
Also it sort of looks like Tealor has black hair again, like he reverted to a younger self, but I think that's just the weird lighting.

- Tealor orders Sha’Rim forward to try and collect the High One’s consciousness in the Word, but Sha’Rim has decided it’s time to get some character growth up ins.
The thrust of his question is: ‘Do you regret it?’
The thing with his son. I am suddenly reminded that Sha’Rim, as with all the other Nehrimese mages, was a follower of Narathzul first. And that Sha’Rim, as the last living member of that order, might have something to say about that at last. I can’t say he didn’t pick his moment, standing on the cusp of triumph or defeat for all Enderal and going ‘Now let’s talk about our feelings, Arantheal.’
Sha’Rim is of the opinion that that Arantheal doesn’t regret. That it was agitation at being reminded of his failures, not true regret or anger, that colored that exchange with the High One in front of the temple.

- That’s a pretty strong and subtle point about Tealor’s character.
Anger at the High Ones for throwing his failures in his face, absolutely. But regret… yeah, I think Sha’Rim’s right on that. Tealor feels like the kind of guy to regret a lot about everything that happened, but regret at the result, at the fallout his choices had, rather than regret at ever having made the choice in the first place.
For a guy who recognizes he’s made as many mistakes as he has, Tealor doesn’t tend to doubt himself much. Equal parts virtue and vice.
Okay, Sha’Rim, where are you going with this in the end? I feel like this is the prelude to a betrayal, but I’m not sure if there’s room for vengeance here, at the end of the world.

- Of course, turns out there’s always time for vengeance.
Sha’Rim was the one who hired those mercenaries to set fire to Lishari’s research, and then he killed her when she caught on. He’s been working against us from the start, and even before then.
Huh. The man’s a better actor than I thought, that’s for sure; he seemed genuinely distraught back then.
I thought this was about Narathzul, but it’s not: it’s about Tealor, and his fuck-up in Qyra that led to the civil war. Apparently, Sha’Rim was one of the very few survivors of that first purge, when the farmers were whipped into a rebellion and Young Tealor commanded them to be put down; his wife and daughter weren’t so lucky.
Why Sha’Rim brought his wife and daughter to an open revolt against the tyrannical god-kings, I have no idea. Presumably there’s at least a little more to this story than I’m getting.
The point is, Sha’Rim has been trying to sabotage Tealor all this time and has been mostly failing at it, Wile E. Coyote style, thanks to yours truly.

- Now this bit is clever. Tealor straight up asks why the hell Sha’Rim is doing this when Coarek would be killing Tealor within the day. Why kill the whole goddamn world just to kill a guy who’s going to die anyway?
Sha’Rim though… he thinks, doesn’t it taste sweetest this way?

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Tealor wants to be a martyr. Tealor Arantheal, savior of the world. What a nice ring to it.
But, uh oh, look who’s here right at the very end to spoke his wheel at the cusp of his great triumph against the High Ones? Fucking Sha’Rim.
He could have exploded Arantheal in his sleep years ago if he just wanted to kill the man, probably. Sha’Rim is stupidly strong; he’s been holding off the Nehrimese invasion by himself for weeks.
But no, Sha’Rim doesn’t want Tealor to die. He wants him to hurt.
You kind of have to admire spite like that.

- So Sha’Rim does… something or other. Merges with the Numinos, or wakes it up, or… something. He vanishes in an explosion of energy, the red of the High Ones with a touch of the green lightning of Sha’Rim’s Entropy magic, and we get kicked back out into the waking world.

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Sha'Rim's corpse on the right manages to look amazingly smug, somehow.

Oh, also, Sha’Rim is possessed by the High Ones. Just now? All this time? Hard to say.

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What’s easy to see is that this High One is one of the sassy ones. Some High Ones just have such a good time fucking with the mortals. Lots of good sneers and smirks and such in the conversation ahead.
We must make this guy’s millennium.

- Arantheal reckons he’s not out of this race yet, though. See, we’re doomed. Sha’Rim won… up to a point. We have no Numinos, so we can’t aim the Beacon. What we can still do, though, is turn it on.
That’s going to basically nuke Enderal. But Tealor reckons that’s a risk he’s willing to take.
He believes – hopes – that there are other people out there like us. Somewhere, on some other continent-nation, there’s somebody who can figure this High One thing out.
He thinks there’s a reason the High Ones sent Coarek here, that if he gets to the Beacon he can somehow steer it into the ending he/the High Ones want, and birth a new High One. But if Coarek and the Beacon and everything else are wiped off the map, maybe the High Ones won’t be able to complete the Cleansing on their own, and we buy the rest of the world time to get its shit together.

- I’m feeling not so good about this course of action, of course, but I’m still mostly dead and Tealor has no time to drag me to the surface with him. He needs to get to the Beacon and activate it before Coarek punches through our guards up topside. It's a cause worth dying for, but Tealor is sounding just a little too eager, you know?
I have a couple of conversation options, the ‘Go on, Tealor, you can do it!’ or the ‘Are you fucking nuts?’ option, neither of which quite fit what I’m thinking. Which is that he's basing a lot of his reasoning on guesswork and hope, and he came up with this plan in about 30 seconds while being heckled by Sha'Rim's corpse. But Tealor doesn’t really care what I think, anyway. Tealor has a plan.
We? We are gonna be heroes, Tealor assures me.

All aboard the Martyr Express, I guess.


The Takeaway:
I do feel like this would have more punch if we knew more about Sha’Rim prior to this. If we'd previously talked about his family, or life in Qyra, or something that would make us go, ‘Ohhh’ in hindsight. Instead, most of his conversation options around the Sun Temple were questions about how various disciplines of magic works.
I mean if this was Archmage Lexil pulling this betrayal, I’d be feeling it more. But it’s still good stuff.

Tealor’s character pivot was even better. Because I still like him, even if it’s starting to look like we’re going to have to duke it out over the Beacon. The character traits that made him such an unflinching badass in the face of the Red Madness, the Reapers showing up and the end of the world are the same ones that are causing all his problems now.
... Well, not that I think Sha'Rim would have stopped his 15+ year revenge plot if Tealor had seemed more sensitive and regretful, but you never know.

That edge of martyrdom that was in Tealor's heroic speech up in the Temple has broken open and revealed itself to be just as much vice as virtue too. It’s kind of like a depressed person thinking suicidal thoughts about how the world would be better off without them. When you can’t see any other way out, then dying well doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe people will think well of you, afterwards. Is it a legacy thing, I wonder? Or is he so sure it’s the right thing that he's getting tunnel vision? Or is it just that in this floundering Order dedicated to a God-king that no longer exists, with all his old friends and lovers turned traitor or dead, you might as well go out with a bang, saving the world?
What a Hero, they’ll say of us after we die saving the world. Tealor almost can’t wait.
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Just curious, do you plan to continue or amend your analysis after Forgotten Stories comes out, since apparently it will require a new game ab initio?
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Your thoughts and characterisations are very spot-on, is all I will say. Very interesting reads, as always! Would love to see / read your take on the Forgotten Stories. :)
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06.02.2019 17:28badgesareus hat geschrieben:
Just curious, do you plan to continue or amend your analysis after Forgotten Stories comes out, since apparently it will require a new game ab initio?
Gosh, I dunno. Its taken me like a year and a half to get to this point!

I'd probably want to take a break after I finish this, but when it comes out is gonna be the best time to play it alongside everybody...
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Ah, so glad to see you've been updating again (I think I read through the entire thread months ago, hadn't seen the newer posts)! Great thread :D
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when it comes out is gonna be the best time to play it alongside everybody...
Yeah, join the rest of us delta testers. [Delta testers are those of us who discover bugs by trying to do things that the devs, the beta testers, and no one in their right mind, would ever think of trying.]
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- When I jump back into it, the loading screen helpfully informs me that gamblers that win at the card table only take a portion of their winnings home with them.
SureAI is sure that anyone who loses at the gambling table is going to follow the winner home and beat them to death in an alley, and is warning them that they will only get part of their lost money back.
That’s kind of awesome.

But now, buckle in, children. We’ve got some heavy exposition to work through.

- So Tealor leaves and I fall over and presumably die again, only to wake up to the Veiled Woman doing her hoodoo.
She informs me that it all begins with dreams, which is clear as mud, but about par for the course with her.
She throws up a portal, and in the process of heading to it there’s some visions – well, auditory hallucinations – that make it pretty clear that last time with female Tealor is exactly the same as this time. They headed down here, they were betrayed, and female Tealor resolved to set off the Beacon without the Numinos.
Looks like we’re doomed, probably. Ah, well.

- At first I think the portal takes me to the surface, or perhaps to the Great White North, since it appears to be cold enough for snow.

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- And in the depths of the earth I run into this.

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And I thought Horst was a big fella.

- The giant centurion talks, too.

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It’s a good thing his voice has something of the quality of melting chocolate – possibly the best voice talent in a game packed with it, or at least the most attractive voice – because this is a looooong conversation and you can’t skip any of it.
He’s kind of our Star Kid, to go back to the kinda unavoidable Mass Effect comparison. He’s here at the end to exposit all over the place and wrap up any loose threads.
Well, most loose threads. Still no word on what the hell the Aged Man was about.

- And he’s the Black Guardian. God damn it.
I wonder if he sometimes passes the time in between the endless aeons with mindless howling in the depths, or what. It kind of sounds like he was asleep, but then he also claims that with the “Eye” (his equivalent to my Echo, so he's also an Emissary I guess?) he can see all things on the surface and he certainly knows enough about what’s going on to have been watching all along. Well, he says it's more of a 'seeing schemes and feeling emotions' thing rather than sight, but whatever. Close enough for government work.
Back in the day, he was planning to hide from his cycle’s Cleansing and be a glorious golden god-king for the next, to protect them from the High Ones.
Basically, this is last cycle’s Yerai, or possibly their Pahtira? Well, not last cycle. Many, many, maaaany cycles ago, perhaps the very first cycle. So if it’s been 50,000 years since the Pyreans, and he claims there’s been 1,000 cycles... he’s been down here for in the ballpark of 50 million years.
How he’s not mad as a bag of clams by now, I have no idea.

- I can't remember, do normal centurions have the Guardian's bitchin' 3-4 inch long goat? It makes him look all old and distinguished and stuff.

- He’s shocked I’m here. Apparently, the Prophet always dies after the Emperor leaves her.
He knows of the Veiled Woman, but as far as he’s concerned she doesn’t even have a mind, so he has no idea why she would be helping out this time.
I really wish I could probe him for more information on the Veiled Woman, but along with the Aged Man she’s the other big hole in his block of exposition.
Anybody who can hold up a conversation like she did after Jespar bit the dust and during Calia’s backstory certainly isn’t mindless. But he talks about her, the brief amount he does, like a force of nature rather than a person.
I suppose it’s more realistic that even the giant robot that’s been watching everything all along can be wrong. It marks him as an unreliable narrator, and that you should at least take even his version of events with a grain of salt.

- The Prophetess seems weirdly shocked when the Black Guardian explains that she’s dead. Like… people told you you were dead, and you saw your own corpse. What did you think happened?
The actual news here is that the Black Guardian claims that the Emissaries are all dead people – which he calls Fleshless – that the High Ones turned into projections indistinguishable from other people. The Prophetess died in the ocean, obviously. Tealor died in prison. Coarek probably died during the rebellion or something. I wonder how many other Emissaries – and therefore undead – are kicking around? I never got a list or anything…
This doesn’t seem to be a ‘High One puppet’ situation, more of a ‘jumpstart the corpse and watch it go’ thing. They don't appear to control us from the inside out, it's more of a top-down kind of thing where they poke at us from above until we do what they want.
And this isn’t a Veiled Woman versus High One setting like I half expected, but rather the High Ones orchestrating both sides from the beginning.

- There's an actual cutscene right around here, except that my computer can only barely chug its way through it; I get audio but no video, and if I touch the keyboard during the cutscene Enderal crashes.
So it goes.
Skipping ahead...

- See, the Black Guardian has noticed that the High Ones don’t have any powers at all, besides kickstarting Emissaries and talking to people. Uh, and the Red Madness I guess. And raising the dead as Lost Ones, and there was that thing with Rynaeus where the High Ones portaled in an Oorbaya or something. And they’re behind the dreams, of course. And then just outside the temple, when they summoned like 20 wraiths and a ghost-dragon to bully us.
So really, that’s a lot of powers.
But they don’t have much in the way of physical powers. You’ll never see the High Ones throwing down, themselves. There will be no High One boss battle.
And they can’t start the Cleansing. The Beacon will either deliver salvation or doom, and it has to be activated by human hands. Tealor Arantheal works just as well as Coarek for their purposes. The second someone turns on the Beacon with all the Black Stones but no Numinos, the Cleansing begins and the world dies again.
The Black Guardian sees this whole thing, the High Ones and the Beacon and the Cleansing and so on, as a sort of trial from some ineffable higher power. Which, I guess? The rules for this thing with the Beacon and the High Ones feels too artificial to just be a natural part of the world. If the world reset every 50,000 years and the High Ones were just some aethereal parasites sponging off the process somehow, that’d be one thing. But the Beacon itself coming pre-built and the whole ‘save the world / destroy the world’ dichotomy feels too structured.
And a little bit rigged. This is some Mortal Kombat-style Earth Realm/Outworld tournament stuff, here. Except Shao Khan won 1,000 times to our 0. And our Raiden is completely inscrutable and possibly non-sentient.

- Which, by the way: Tealor was under the impression that turning on the Beacon was effectively a nuke, but the Black Guardian explains that what actually happens is a light begins to shine from the Beacon, the sky will open up in response, and everyone on the planet will begin to burn from the inside out.
Which is way more metal.

- We can’t ask about the Aged Man or the Veiled One, but we can ask about the Ancient Starlings, or the 'Yalam-Rashai' as they were known back in the day.
Although the Black Guardian cautions that their floating city is at the very outermost edge of what he can perceive, so he doesn’t know everything.
He knows that they survived their cycle in the same way he did; by refusing to play. He turned into a robot; they tore their city out of the ground and flung it into the sky, and protected it from the Cleansing, somehow.
For a time, their city was the light of civilization; the greatest and most enlightened and the most advanced humankind has ever been.
But then the societal rot set in and they started getting overpopulated, so they started setting strict birth limits and mind wiping and exiling anyone who committed crimes back down to the world below. As you do.
That’s where our Starlings come from, of course. Their drive to return to the stars is a kind of race memory of what they lost.
And the Black Guardian doesn’t know why the Ancient Starlings died, either. Way to blueball me right at the end of the story, man. The ending is the best part!

- Also, the Black Guardian’s plan is to put me back in the ball and send me up to the Starling City. The escape pods can do that, apparently; he has seen the Ancient Starlings use them that way.
So I think my headcanon of the Ancient Starlings hitting up Riverville on beer runs is true!

- So yeah, it looks like we’re coming to a binary choice. Let’s take it piece by piece, shall we?

- The Black Guardian’s recommendation is that I flee to the Star City, to survive and live an ageless and endless life until human life returns in the next cycle, and then guide them into being a better people, who will not fall prey to the machinations of the High Ones by dint of being morally superior.
This is a load of bollocks, frankly. I have zero faith that I could take the selfishness and greed out of a human civilization, no matter how many centuries I had to plan it out. Trying to create a world of nothing but altruism is a foolish dream.
On the upside, this means I would survive the Cleansing. I'm in favor of that.
On the downside, this means I would survive the Cleansing to live for 30,000+ years alone in a crumbling sky-city, alone except for occasionally murderous robots.
He says he’d contact me once I got there, so maybe I wouldn’t be totally forever-alone.
Except that he also finishes the conversation by requesting I throw this lever and kill him because he’s tired of an endless vigil with no hope of change.
I’m not sure if that’s a screw-up on SureAI’s part, or if the Black Guardian has gone a little screwy all alone down here for 50 million years after all. Could go either way.

- The other option is to run on up there and break the Beacon.
Tealor has activated the bloody thing, but it’ll still take a little while to start burning people from the inside out, and me one of the last of all.
I’d die. I think maybe Enderal would die too? Maybe just the city, since the Black Guardian is sure this plan would kill Coarek too. And he’s of the opinion that what humanity needs is a knowledgeable immortal looking down from on high to guide them more than a few previous years before the High Ones start whispering in the ears of Kileans or Qyrans or whoever, to swerve back around and take another crack at this Cleansing thing.
Of course, this is also the guy who tried to become the Enlightened Golden God-Robo, so of course he would think that.
Uh, but just going by my own personal experience here, yeah, this would probably spell doom for humanity too. There’s always going to be a Coarek out there willing to do horrible things for the promise of some vague ascension, or whatever other lever the High Ones need to use. That’s just humanity for you.
The High Ones are 1,000 to 0 on this plan working.

- Oh, but maybe I’m not going to have to worry about any of this, because when I flip the switch I start to get sucked into the robot and the Black Guardian wants my body. And not in the fun way.
Yeah, that’s a thing.
Today has just been one thing after another.


The Takeaway:
The simple fact that they needed some rando to show up and fill in the gaps in the plot all in one exposition dump is something of a hammer, writing-wise. Nothing’s perfect, though, and this joker is leagues above some other examples I could name from AAA titles.
This isn’t some villain expositing about his master plan; the Black Guardian is a victim of the cycle as much as I am. I don’t hate him, even as he tricked me into the robot. I’d do the same to him in a heartbeat. That’s just how humanity rolls. This ‘ha haaaa, now I will be the immortal god-king of humanity!’ nonsense at the 11th hour is just playing into the same themes this game has been working with for ages. This is Sigil Leader Jorek and Natara and Sha’Rim all over again.
Though he’s been present for many events in ‘history’ he’s still fallible. Because he’s fallible, it’s no big deal if he can’t answer the innumerable questions a player might want to ask and the writer can’t anticipate (‘What was up with that Living Temple, seriously’ or ‘But what about Natara tho’). Although he still does a better job of answering pertinent questions than Mass Effect’s Star Kid ever did.
And unlike Star Kid, we don’t have infinite power at our fingertips only to boil it down into simple choices; we might be a lich and a giant robot, but we have limited choices because we still only have the limited power of humans.
He was properly foreshadowed as a part of the world, too, which is pretty nice. I even said last week that I was probably going to end up having to fight a Black Guardian, and boy if it isn’t looking like that’s going to be true. I even kind of like that he’s a giant robot, because that’s established as a thing people can do in this setting. Yerai was maybe smarter than the Guardian, even, since he made a much smaller robot but at least that one has working legs. This isn’t really coming out of left field at all.
Zuletzt geändert von dyslexicfaser am 12.02.2019 06:45, insgesamt 1-mal geändert.
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So after all the long hours to get to the Black Guardian, expecting all mysteries such as the veiled woman and the aged man to be revealed, basically you get "who's on first, what's on second." [anyone who doesn't get this, just google it.]
because this is a looooong conversation and you can’t skip any of it.
This is one thing that really annoyed me, as I tend to do multiple playthroughs. I listened to the whole 40 -minute speil the first time, but I didn't want to sit through it over and over again on successive playthroughs. Painful!
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12.02.2019 06:38badgesareus hat geschrieben:
So after all the long hours to get to the Black Guardian, expecting all mysteries such as the veiled woman and the aged man to be revealed, basically you get "who's on first, what's on second." [anyone who doesn't get this, just google it.]
because this is a looooong conversation and you can’t skip any of it.
This is one thing that really annoyed me, as I tend to do multiple playthroughs. I listened to the whole 40 -minute speil the first time, but I didn't want to sit through it over and over again on successive playthroughs. Painful!
Call me whatever :-D but this long conversation with the Black Guardian is one of my favorite and most awaited segments in a videogame, when I start a playthrough. One of the aspects I most enjoyed in Enderal's writing is the fact that every character exposes the story from their intended point of view, their agenda. Nobody tells the truth. The bards sing propaganda songs, Tealor only tells you what you need to know, and he wants you to know, to ensure you do what he wants and the Black Guardian tells you what he can "sense" limitedly and soothes you with answers you'd like to hear to make sure you press that switch, etc.

So in that sense, it does not fall into the same trope as Star Kid.

And dyslexic: this conversation already unveiled who the aged man is :-)
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12.02.2019 08:23Ragnarok hat geschrieben:
Call me whatever :-D but this long conversation with the Black Guardian is one of my favorite and most awaited segments in a videogame, when I start a playthrough. One of the aspects I most enjoyed in Enderal's writing is the fact that every character exposes the story from their intended point of view, their agenda. Nobody tells the truth. The bards sing propaganda songs, Tealor only tells you what you need to know, and he wants you to know, to ensure you do what he wants and the Black Guardian tells you what he can "sense" limitedly and soothes you with answers you'd like to hear to make sure you press that switch, etc.

So in that sense, it does not fall into the same trope as Star Kid.
Honestly, 'Better than Star Kid' is selling Enderal short, because that was one of the biggest endgame bungles of recent years. And endings are hard to do right to begin with.

I figure I'll come back and talk about the game as a whole once I'm done, that'll definitely include the ending.
And dyslexic: this conversation already unveiled who the aged man is :-)
???

Is he supposed to be the asshole over-god who set up this trial thing to begin with?? He always struck me as a little too human for that, with his girlfriend stuck under glass and stuff. Just rez your waifu as a Fleshless if the High Ones work for you, man, jeez.
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