Enderal impressions (part 2)

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dyslexicfaser
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Not sure what happened for the last Enderal forum to be archived, but let's move on! To the end.

Part 1 of this Let's Play sort of thing is located here: https://forum.sureai.net/viewtopic.php?f=140&t=12376
[+] index
part 1, in archived Forum
MQ up to "A New Beginning"
Riverville
"The Voice from the Water" and "Bad Vibrations"
MQ "The Void" 1
MQ "The Void" 2
MQ "The Void" 3, off to Ark
MQ "First Steps" and "The Sole Place"
MQ "Taming the Waves"
MQ "Part of Something Momentous, Part I" and "Divide and Conquer"
MQ "Part of Something Momentous, Part II"
exploring
CQ "Every Day Like the Last, Part II", more exploring, MQ "Part of Something Momentous, Part II"
MQ "The Word of the Dead" 1
MQ "The Word of the Dead" 2
Ark
"The Brotherhood of the Kor"
MQ "Deus Ex Machina", CQ "Two Souls, Part II"
even more exploring
The Crypt
MQ "Into the Deep" 1
MQ "Into the Deep" 2, exploring
MQ "Into the Deep" 3, exploring
MQ "Into the Deep" 4
MQs "Into the Deep" 5 and "The Lion's Den" 1
MQ "The Lion's Den" 2
more exploring
MQ "Part of Something Momentous, Part IV"
MQ "Black Light, Part I" 1
"Apotheosis, Part I"
that's not the way to Agnod
"Apotheosis, Part I"
MQ "Black Light, Part I" 2
MQ "Angel" 1
MQ "Angel" 2
MQ "Angel" 3
MQ "All the Dead Souls" 1
MQ "All the Dead Souls" 2, some exploring
MQ "All the Dead Souls" 3
MQ "All the Dead Souls" 4
CQs "Two Souls, Part IV", "Every Day Like the Last, Part IV"
MQ "A Song in the Silence" 1
MQ "A Song in the Silence" 2
MQ "Black Light, Part II" 1
MQ "Black Light, Part II" 2
MQ "Black Light, Part III"
MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part I" 1, exploring
MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part I" 2
MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part I" 3
MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part I" 4, CQs "Two Souls, Part V", "Every Day Like the Last, Part V"
CQ "Every Day Like the Last, Part V" (again), MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part II"
MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part III" 1
MQ "Forgotten Homeland, Part III" 2, exploring
MQ "For the Greater Good" 1, CQ "Every Day Like the Last, Part VI"
exploring, "A Touching Effigy" 1
"A Touching Effigy" 2
MQ "For the Greater Good" 2
MQ "The Shards of Order, Part I"
MQ "The Shards of Order, Part II" 1
MQ "The Shards of Order, Part II" 2
MQ "Fleshless" 1

part 2, this thread
MQ "Fleshless" 2, Ending
The Takeaway: Endings 1
The Takeaway: Endings 2
The Wrap-up
- The Black Guardian’s plan is interrupted by Jespar showing up at the narratively appropriate time like a Big Damn Hero and doing… something. It sounds like he threw something that connected with a great crash, but damned if I know what it was.
Maybe his dagger, because when we get to the boss fight he’s got a fuck-off big rune axe instead of his usual loadout.
Whatever it was, I stop being tied to a post by robot magicks and leg it over to my hero.

- What follows is the most video game-y boss of the entire game. The Black Guardian spawns ‘flesh constructs’ out of vats, which look a fair bit like Falmer from Skyrim, but darker. I think their loincloths are reinforced by ringmail, which is an interesting aesthetic for the Guardian to settle on.
Like, chainmail bikinis? Literally.

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They aren’t even a speed bump for me at level 60-some, dying in one hit, but I’m more wondering about the implications. How exactly did you make these things, man?
He couldn’t have gathered them from fallen adventure-seekers, since he’s tied up himself. Plus, I needed a Veiled Woman portal to even find this place. I’d guess they were some artificial homunculus-type creatures he created when he had working arms, servants to enact his will? The line he gives when they pop out is ‘I have had enough time to practice!’ which seems to support that he’s been working on this for a while.
Except if he had these things, why didn’t he send them up to the surface ever? Maybe he didn’t want to clue the High Ones in to his semi-survival.

- So there are waves of flesh constructs – including an occasional glowing explode-y one that might kill you in one hit if you stab ‘em, since that’s what it did to me. Jespar warns you to shoot them or run away, but that was a liiiittle too late on my first run through the fight.
The waves of flesh constructs are interspersed with bashing on the Guardian’s generators a bit, conveniently located nearby. Sometimes the Guardian launches fire or drops a bunch of exploding runes. Rinse and repeat two or three times.

- The Black Guardian has a few lines here and there about him being the worthy one, which are pretty standard, but he also seems really angry that I’m refusing to work together with him. He would have kept his word, he claims.
Which just reinforces the idea that the Guardian went loopy at some point, because I was on board with working with him until he betrayed me.
I think… I think he forgot. Or is misremembering what happened five minutes ago. He thinks that I was refusing to work together because I didn’t want to get in the giant robot while he piloted my body around like a meat puppet.
That’s not how teamwork works, I’m pretty sure.

- So eventually something explodes in the Guardian. It almost looks like a second, smaller dwarf centurion helmet popping out of the Black Guardian’s giant one? And then it falls into the abyss. It’s kind of weird, considering the Guardian already had one of those watery stasis chambers that contained the Aged Man’s lover lodged in its chest, which I assumed held his old body.

- Whatever. We win, apparently!
Except our only choices are still ‘blow up the Beacon, dying in the process’ or ‘take it to the skies, my boo.’ Jespar can feel the burning of the Cleansing begin even underground, and briefly glows from within with a Lichtenstein-y tracery of white light. You can talk to him for a bit, and he notes that in his opinion, the winning play is to flee. Though he acknowledges that may just be his love for you talking, not wanting to see you sacrifice yourself. He knows he wouldn’t live to see the new world anyway.
Aw. Also, you never know, man! You already got resurrected once.
I played through both endings, so I’ll go through them one at a time, but both of them begin by the Prophetess making her way back to the Sun Temple.
If you choose to blow yourself up to save the world, then Jespar says he has a back way out and hopes to make it to Qyra to start telling people about what’s happening. Telling the story. The prophet to the Prophetess, so to speak. Jespar and the Prophetess share a tender kiss backlit by mushroom-light before moving on.

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If you choose to escape, you still have to go find the pods and get them ready.

- The Sun Temple gates appear to have been broken and re-barricaded with debris that is now on fire, and the courtyard is scattered with corpses.
Some of the corpses aren’t corpses but curl inwards, fetal position, shaking and shuddering in silence, Lichtenstein figures sketched across them.

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As you watch, white ghostly figures begin to separate from the bodies; their souls being drawn up towards the rift in the sky. It’s cool, but it’s disappointing nobody seems to be talking if you click on them. Most of them are too far gone, I suppose.
It’s weirdly quiet. Only you, walking among the dying and the dead.
Scouring the battlefield, first you spot Commander Eren and the cultist-looking guy Sammael, who look like they managed a double-kill. Considering Sammael tore my soul out last time I ran into him, I have to congratulate our more recent, not-particularly-badass commander for managing that one.
Archmage Lexil is next, <delirious muttering> like someone in the grip of a nightmare or fever. But he doesn’t have any real lines. Shame.

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Goodbye, Fancy Elf.
Taranor Coarek is down at the center of the courtyard, not far from where Tealor Arantheal made his speech. Strangely, one of the corpses nearby appears to have been stripped of its clothes? Not sure what that’s about. It’s pretty disappointing that Coarek isn’t still awake, I’d be really interested in hearing what he has to say. Is he feeling betrayed? Does he blame it all on Tealor? Does he think his reward is still coming?
No Natara, so I guess that plot thread was snipped earlier, after all. Weird.

- Calia is further along, and still lucid. Considering Coarek the Emissary is down but Calia is not, I’m thinking it’s not being ‘Fleshless’ that’s protecting me, but something the Veiled Woman did.
From her I learn that at the eleventh hour Tealor showed up, claimed Sha’Rim and the Prophetess were killed by the High Ones – not technically wrong – and that he found the Numinos, and turned on the machine. Of course, he was working on the wrong data; he was expecting a kaboom, and he got a wet fizzle as he did the High Ones’ job for them.
Paladin to the last, she seems to be keeping the faith. Not in the Order, though. In me.
I tell her that there is still hope, and in a quiet, fading voice, she says something like, ‘Oh, good. I knew I could count on you, Sa’Ira. It’s what you do.’
Right in the heart. Ow.
Now, in the ending where I am blowing this popscicle stand and heading to the moon, I am pretty goddamn upset that I can’t pick the girl up and put her in the pod. I mean, Jespar has to make it up here to get in his own pod, she’s still responding, so what’s stopping me? Except the game.
I know there’s only so many branches the ending could realistically take, but this is an obvious one that people are going to want to do.

- As I travel up to the highest point of the Temple, where we stuck the Beacon, I can see the souls floating up from the city below towards the rift in the sky. It’s a hell of an image, made even eerier by how the Prophetess is just fine.

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A ‘dull pain’, she calls it, but there’s no staggering or HP loss or fuzzy screens like when I’m having a vision. You seem fine. Like a city struck by plague, with one healthy survivor.
Nothing like a nice big helping of survivor’s guilt to kick off the next Cycle.

- Tealor is laying within the metal arms of the Beacon, clearly having fallen almost immediately. He seems to be hallucinating me as his dead Lightborn god-wife. ‘Indra,’ he says. ‘See? I led them to the light. I, alone.’
Just like the ominous loading screen. … Yeah, buddy. Yeah, you sure did.
It’s probably the High Ones fucking with him again, but whatever, I guess they can have their fun. There’s a conversation option to browbeat him for fucking up at the end, but what’s the point? It’d be like kicking a dog.
… Who left me to die down in the City of a Thousand Floods, admittedly, but his heart was in the right place. He wasn’t a saint, but who is?
Except maybe Calia. Shame about her. Damn shame.

- So if you’re onboard with Team Martyr, you smash the Black Stones powering the Beacon, and everything goes white.
You just nuked Enderal, just like Tealor hoped to do. The Cleansing is averted (minus, possibly, some stray souls here and there), but the High Ones are still out there.
You get sent back to the same old dream, about your childhood house. Except instead of dread, I was super ready to go kick Dad’s head clean off
Unfortunately the door to the house is locked, even if the light is on inside. Kind of a missed opportunity here, for a little High One gloating right at the end.
There are four tombstones out front; one of them is presumably yours. Clicking on them activates the ending, and you get Jespar doing a voice-over as the camera slowly pans up and the sky slowly fades to white-out.
Jespar made it out in time, somehow or other, and spread the word to all the other nations. He tells the story of Enderal, of your story.

- The Azeraleans (isn’t that where the Witch Hunters from the painting sidequest hail from? I suddenly have mixed feelings) are building their own Beacon, he says (how, tho?), except they know how it works now. The ironic trick of getting the fleshbags to pull the apocalypse lever themselves isn’t going to work, at least.
The High Ones can probably still build up a Coarek to come over and take it, but it feels like a positive direction.
For all Coarek’s talk of rationalist enlightenment, he was in the end a cultist to a being he didn’t understand. You don’t need a giant machine god watching over you, either, although I wouldn’t necessarily turn one down if he wasn’t 50 million years past the service warranty.
People shining the light of truth and knowledge into the dark corners where the High Ones live? That’s how you really move humanity forward.
The end credits seem to agree with me, set to a fairly peppy, adventure-y jam.

- For the ‘escape to the moon’ ending, I need only head into the Chroniclum, past a library I never realized was there and the corpse of a named librarian I’ve never spoken to, to arm the pods.
It’s as simple as throwing Jespar in one pod, hitting a button, hopping in the second one and closing the door.
You can see a few souls drift by the green glass window before acceleration pastes you to the top of the escape pod. Which… I’m not sure that’s how acceleration works, but what am I, a scientist?
The Cleansing will go ahead as planned, minus only two quiet souls. I doubt they’ll miss us, Prophetess or no.

- In the dream, Jespar is sitting and waiting for you at the childhood home. He vanishes into white light, only for another Jespar to appear, and another, leading you back down the path from whence you came.

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I guess you could see this as a kind of metaphor for Jespar’s love leading you away from the tombstone ending that comes of sacrificing yourself? Feels a bit weak, but I can’t imagine what else it would be.

- I wake up in the Star City, and wander out to find Jespar with his legs dangling over the clouded abyss. I join him, and together watch the sunset as the world below burns.

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The Star City is beautiful, lushly overgrown, and a duck that has never known fear of a human nests near to where we sit. The sunset sets the sky and the sea of clouds alight. But all the same, there’s a much more melancholy feeling here, a sort of ‘What do we do now?’
The end credits begins on a beautiful, serene, faintly sad note… and then soon turns back into the jaunty adventure tune of the other ending. … Odd.


The Takeaway (except not):
So, apologies for the pause in the middle of the ending! Life, you know how it goes.
I’m going to digest the endings a bit and then take a crack at an extra-long Takeaway on the subject as its own post. Generally, the endings left me with a feeling of ‘This is good, but’, and I’d like to explore that a bit, give some of my own ideas for how this could have or should have gone.
After that, I’m thinking maybe a retrospective post for the game as a whole, and then I’ll be done!
Zuletzt geändert von dyslexicfaser am 07.03.2019 01:10, insgesamt 1-mal geändert.
badgesareus
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Glad you found your way over to the FS forum, I was hoping you would. I guess you couldn't take Calia because the escape pods only hold 1 person each. It might have been an interesting twist, Jespar & Calia both escape in the pods and you are left to... do what?
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We chose to lock the previous forum as Enderal FS is a different beast and it was thus easier to keep the two game versions separated.

As always, interesting thoughts and insights. You are not the only one to wish we could have saved Calia - considering her background, her resisting would make sense. But, I guess the choice just truly hits home when you can't save both.
dyslexicfaser
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06.03.2019 08:45badgesareus hat geschrieben:
Glad you found your way over to the FS forum, I was hoping you would. I guess you couldn't take Calia because the escape pods only hold 1 person each. It might have been an interesting twist, Jespar & Calia both escape in the pods and you are left to... do what?
The 'break the Beacon' ending, I guess.

As for room concerns, there's only one chair in each pod but honestly as soon as that baby reaches max cruising speed you're glued up against the ceiling anyway. And having Calia in there would be a lot softer than the hard metal structure of the pod if you're bouncing off stuff in transit.
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The Takeaway: Endings (1)

I’ve been trying to find a way to divvy up how I want this to go, and it’s been hard finding a system I’m happy with. There are things in the ending that are the culmination of 40+ hour long mysteries or character arcs that the game has been building throughout most of its runtime, and things that only pop up now in the ending(s) as a plot twist. And then there’s stuff like the Black Guardian who is kinda both. There were things that I think worked and things I think didn’t, and things that worked but I was kind of hoping would go some other way. The best way I’ve come up with is to try and follow the flow of the endings themselves, but along the way to pick out each main mystery, character and set-piece of the ending and run through what I think about it. This will probably necessitate some jumping around, so we’ll see how well I stick that landing. I thought about color-coding things green and red and blue to indicate how well it worked for me, but honestly I feel like everything has pros and cons to it so that didn’t work out.

Well, I say ‘the ending’ but I think I’ll start at the tail end of For the Greater Good, work my way through Shards of Order I and II, Fleshless, and then the actual endings of Catharsis and Brave New World. And maybe the new ending, A Story From Spring, if I can find it on youtube.

This is gonna get long. Strap in.

For the Greater Good involves attending a bunch of funerals, the last round-up of companion talks, and then the High Ones possessing a bunch of Keepers as a ‘everything is fucked’ prologue to learning about Natara’s betrayal. I want to stress that individually and as a means of setting the stage for the endgame, all of this stuff is good. Even if I’m baffled as to how Calia managed to survive getting bounced around a metal ball falling from the sky only to pop out on landing and bash her head on a rock, the companion work is as on-point as it always is. Even if I think they missed a step by not making her an Initiate we actually know, like Elia, the possessed Keeper bit does a good job in making you care about this no-name initiate in the 30 seconds she gets. Because she’s a fan of the Prophetess, she likes us and so it’s hard not to like her back. Then the possession. It works well. The dialogue is smart, voice acting is good. That uneasy sinking feeling sitting in your gut like a lead weight, that’s a good feeling.

The problematic bit here is Natara deciding, “Hey, you know, Jorek had a pretty good idea with this ‘betray the city to Coarek’ plan, let’s do that again.” It’s excusable as a desperate woman grasping at straws to see hope where there is none, but she literally saw how this went down the other week with Jorek. Maybe she wasn’t there in person when Coarek explained how he intended to crucify every single person from Ark that he could catch, but presumably someone mentioned it to her at some point? And last time there were these Nehrimese infiltrators stabbing commoners in the marketplace, it was a bad scene. I have more sympathy for Jorek, who up until that point had only seen the Nehrimese and Arantheal locked in a bloodless religious argument. But that ship kinda sailed. Into our harbor, to start murdering us to death.

I feel like things needed to be more desperate for her allying with Coarek to seem like a good idea. With Sha’Rim being able to throw up impregnable entropy barriers and the general setting ability of teleportation means that I’ve been popping in and out of the city a dozen times to go about my business. You can’t really see the Nehrimese army camped outside, either. That’s a problem for making the player feel the city’s dire straits.

I’m thinking there should have been more background conversation showing this being a problem. The farms are outside the city, maybe the Order worried about food stores running low or the Nehrimese burning them. Maybe the city is facing parchment storages for their lucicrously-convenient teleport scrolls. Needing to pay the Rhalata to smuggle food and contraband in and out through Undercity tunnels, and that being unsustainable. That last one would pull double duty by planting the thought of Undercity tunnels in our head, to come up later when we need to find the City of a Thousand Floods. Show Tealor ignoring these factors, knowing that one way or another this is all over in a couple of weeks anyway, but have Natara take them seriously and come up with plans to stave off the mundane problems. Tealor and Natara have an explosive argument in-game with a similar theme, but I’d like to see that fissure splintering more. Maybe have sidequests helping Natara with her quartermaster problems, which would pull double-duty with getting us to sympathize with Disapproving Order Mom more.

Well, all that aside, the real problem was some random (extremely well voice acted) Keeper stumbling back through the gates and explaining the plot. Either give us enough of a warning (one of her rogue Keepers having a change of heart, say) to come down off the mountain and see Natara let Coarek into the city, or let it be Natara who drags herself back to report her fuck-up and beg for absolution. Her going out off-screen isn’t the end a complex, angry, contrary bitch like Natara should have gone. Of course, Coarek ended up getting much the same treatment as his victim here, which I guess you could see as justice, but that doesn’t really help the feeling like this could be so much cooler.

A question with the benefit of hindsight: Just how constrained are the High Ones? They don’t need to break the Beacon to win, which might have been tricky with just a few possessed humans, but literally the only thing they need is for someone to turn on the Beacon and it’s off to Disneyland. They can’t do it. Possessed humans can’t do it. Only a certified, 100% organic human can turn on the machine. I figured at the time that they were just goofing around, and maybe they are, but it feels like they’re bound by the Cycle to repeat themselves too. How else would things be happening so very similarly every time?

Shards of Order I involves the four-man squad (Tealor, Sha’Rim, Jespar and the Prophetess) heading down through the secret Order tunnels (that have never been mentioned before now, but I suppose, why would they be?) into the Undercity, and heading on to the City of a Thousand Floods. I appreciate again how Tealor’s speech puts his martyr complex in plain language, and Jespar is hanging around afterwards to draw the player’s attention to it with big red warning signs. I wonder if Calia would be more down for Team Martyr, if I’d picked her as my love interest?

A question with the benefit of hindsight: The whole goddamn Cycle apparently hinges on Tealor choosing Sha’Rim for his team. On the one hand, Sha’Rim makes perfect sense for a dream team, being a master Entropist and probably some other stuff too. On the other hand, Lexil is the one with the actual ‘Archmage’ title, and Commander Eren is apparently a bad enough dude (ette?) to murder Coarek’s heavy, Sammael. Heck, Calia is up and around now, if not up to full strength. Any of those three would have been a logical draft pick too. If it was Lexil there at the end, he would’ve said ‘Yes sir, Mister Arantheal’ and popped on over to Word of Dead that High One ASAP. I don’t think this was a bad way for things to go, it was the most dramatically impactful way for it to shake out after all. It’s just funny that Sha’Rim and the High Ones are both hinging his (and therefore, their) whole plan on getting chosen for this one job.

There’s basically no reason for the possessed Keeper we run into in the basement except to build up the sense of unease. He does a good job of pushing the eerie atmosphere, but it does remind us: why was Tealor not more concerned about the Beacon when any Keeper seems able to be possessed at will? At the time, we still thought the High Ones were trying to destroy the Beacon. I’m going to go ahead and fill in this hypothetical pothole myself and hypothesize that was why Calia was found at the base of the stairs leading up to the Beacon, during the ending. While we were the strike team, she was the defender. It doesn’t exactly fit, unless Tealor for some reason knew about the Beast when we never told him, but it kinda fits. In retrospect, the mission reports for her must have been pretty crazy. There was that time she killed an entire mage mercenary company by herself, and all.

I would not have wanted Tealor’s job. S’all I’m saying.

Shards of Order II involves getting to the City of a Thousand Floods. One noteworthy bit here is the High One’s ghostly puppet show recreation of Arantheal’s old shame, sending off his child over his God-king-wife’s protests. It’s a bit of an exposition dump, as so much of Enderal’s endgame is, but not an egregious one. You could even say this is an excellent exposition dump. We get to see the scene in ghostly red, and there’s in-character reasons for the High One to be dragging Tealor right now. I mean, amusement, of course, because the High Ones are all a huge bunch of 4th dimensional cunts. But also, the more I think about it the more I think the Black Guardian has to be right about this being a trial. I’m not sure if Tealor passed or failed, or even if this is a pass/fail type of trial. It feels like this could be picking at his weaknesses for funsies. But with the benefit of hindsight and the Guardian’s guess…

As a side-note, Young Tealor certainly seems to have gotten his way here and sent Baby Narathzul off with a handmaid, all the better for poetic irony (if you’re a High One, I mean) when his son murdered his life’s work and also his wife. Indra must be kind of a wimp of a Lightborn, to let her man talk to her like this. I also wonder how common arrangements like this were with the Lightborn. I mean, they’re still human (-ish), why wouldn’t they marry or have a hundred concubines, whatever floats their boat? This is pretty great from a world-building perspective, and I love that I still love that I’m getting world-building this late in the game, if that makes sense.

Then there’s the High Ones suddenly summoning in a couple dozen horned red axe-wraiths. Are these High Ones? Are they just ghosts? I have my doubts about how well this gels with the Black Guardian’s later assertion that the High Ones can only tempt and trick, not end the world themselves. And it feels weird that they never do this before or since. It’s a cool fight, but it feels like SureAI is stretching the lore of the game to fit in a fun fight? If I needed to come up with a reason for it to fit with what came before, I’d say this is probably also part of some trial, and the High Ones can’t do this whenever they feel like it. Because otherwise they could have just tossed wraiths at the city until they won, because these guys are hard and there’s only like a hundred Order members. Heck, the ghost-dragon alone could probably burn Ark to the ground.

A question with the benefit of hindsight: These carbon-black figures in the Pyrean capital were a great choice to build atmosphere. Now that we know the Pyrean Beacon is located in the temple at the heart of the city, it means they are literally running to their doom. Great parallel with what we’ve been doing all game. That said… why are they all standing up? In the endings we see that all our pals are doing a lot of huddling in the fetal position. Maybe the Pyrean Beacon works quicker than our version? But also, if these statues survived 50,000 years from their time to ours… why haven’t we seen them in other Pyrean locations around the world? The whole world got Cleansed, after all. I can’t remember if we saw them in the Living Temple, but really anywhere with lots of crystals was supposed to be a Pyrean site, right? No statue-people there. Maybe they turn into crystal… except these guys didn’t. Maybe they’re a power source, maybe they’re the red wraiths somehow, maybe… I can’t quite figure it out.

This whole segment contains some things that are never really explained. What is the Numinos doing sleeping here? Is the Numinos the High One formed by the Pyreans, and it’s still forming 50,000 years later? What I reeaally wanted here is to interface with the Numinos myself, and get some answers straight from the tap. It’s possible this would just dilute Sha’Rim’s betrayal with a bunch of unnecessary lore stuff, but I really think you could make it work if the Prophetess and Sha’Rim went into the Numinos together. Or heck, what about all three amigos? You could get some answers from the nascent High One, you could see some of Sha’Rim’s memories and see Arantheal slowly come to the realization of what’s driving Sha’Rim rather than him announcing ‘haha, I’m betraying you now and here’s why.’ This would by necessity balloon out the quest with a bunch of new assets and cells, but it has the potential to be amazing. We’re all here for the character drama, right? It’s not just me? Just plug me in and feed that complex character backstory straight into my veins, please and thank you.

A question with the benefit of hindsight: Sha’Rim here mentions that he was behind Lishari’s death. On the one hand; of course he is, damn. His timing on that was ridiculous, showing up as soon as I saw the cooling body on the bed. It explains what she wanted to talk about. It’s possible him being an old lover was a dodge of his own, but it would explain why she was naked in bed when she died. Except why would she have slept with him if she was about to finger him? Maybe she didn’t know who the traitor was, exactly, and trusted the wrong guy? Oh, also: if he’s really talking to his wife Naea all the time – and as a master necromancer, why would he be? – then does she just… like to watch? Awkward.

And, kind of getting away from the ending more and more here but... I do feel like getting a sidequest to help Commander Eren look for the murderer would have been lovely. Lishari’s death felt swept under the rug, which was weird. The Order could give two shits about Narathzul’s followers, but I personally wanted nothing more than to investigate at the time. A little quest to look into things would draw out the ‘get rekt scrub’ revelation at the end here if you looked into it and decided he was in the clear, only to be wrong all this time. Plus it would flesh out Eren, which is only a plus. She kind of showed up halfway through the story, and I never quite knew what her deal was.

Shards of Order II ends with the last appearance of the Veiled Woman. She started the game by seeing you dead. I believe it’s claimed that she’s responsible for the Fleshless/Emissaries, which include at least the Prophetess, Tealor, Coarek, Jespar and Calia, and maybe some secondary characters too. Lexil survived when his master came down with fleshmaggots; Sha’Rim survived a purge. That seems suspect, to say the least. Probably not Constantine and Lishari, more’s the pity. She ends up saving your life again, here at the end. She’s so important, and we know so little about her. Her powers, her purpose, her motivations.

Honestly though, while my first thought on running through this part was ‘But what about the Aged Man and Veiled Woman, tho’ and wanting to know everything about her, I’ve come around to appreciating her. Enderal has a lot in common with cosmic horror-style weird fiction, a la the Lovecraft mythos. In cosmic horror, half the time everything is going wrong because someone learned knowledge Man Was Not Meant To Know, and Enderal has that vibe. In those stories, you almost never get to know what the hell is going on or why.

I don’t think the problem with the Veiled Woman is her being a deus ex machina, or not ever understanding what the hell she’s doing and why. We don’t know how the High Ones eat humanity to reproduce or how humanity comes back, either. The problem is that the Black Guardian draws attention to her during his monologue and offers a tasty snippet of information that is at odds with what we’ve observed of her during the game. That she’s a function of the universe, not a person. She doesn’t think, or feel, or anything so human is that. Like the blind idiot god Azathoth at the center of the universe in the Lovecraft mythos, the Black Guardian would have you believe the Veiled Woman sits at the center of the story but is a mere background element with no plans of her own. Except we know that the game is changing, because the Veiled Woman is doing something different than has ever happened before. It makes us anticipate gaining something like an answer, which we are then denied. You can’t ask the Black Guardian about her after that non-answer. You can’t ask the Veiled Woman. It’s just offered up and then ignored, and that feels bad.

I’m also not crazy about her popping up and shoving the Prophetess through a portal to the Black Guardian. You have to walk a fine line about player agency, or players start to feel like their character is getting pushed from place to place with no will of her own. They start to wonder why the Veiled Woman isn’t just cutting out the middle man and saving the world directly instead of through you. The portal itself is also pretty confusing; where does it take you? There’s icicles in this tunnel. Are you still under Ark? How did Jespar find you? How did you get back to the secret tunnel after the boss fight during the ending?

If I was going to fix this problem, I think I’d cut the Veiled Woman out of this section entirely, except with the Black Guardian. My suggestion: what if instead of finding random gewgaws to trigger the Numinos vision, you were finding parts of the Black Guardian who had of course seen the Pyreans’ fall as it has everything else through the centuries. Its power helps trigger your own, though you do not know it yet. The Black Guardian was known to the Pyreans as the God of Death, wouldn’t they want his blessing in their last desperate hour? But maybe their well-meaning symbol damaged him, made him lesser, and it was only by putting it back together that he returned to himself. You could be his savior, in a way, even as he explains the cycle.

You could first see the giant Centurion strapped to a cliffside on the way in through the City of a Thousand Floods. The High Ones could reference it and sneer about it when debating with Tealor, maybe, something about a grand tribute to man’s hubris. The Guardian would be unmoving, dreaming of the lands above through the Eye or hiding from the sight of the High Ones. It is only in the hour of the High Ones’ triumph, with the world soon to unravel again, that he dares to wake and speak. If he were more accessible, it might explain how he made his flesh constructs, bit by bit over millions of years, only able to work and practice when the High Ones were diverted. The rest of the time, he dreamed and watched and waited. Or maybe returning his stolen pieces to him would reawaken the ability. The words of the Guardian could wake you, and you drag yourself back up through the city to find him, following his voice. He’s amazed at your resilience, since no Prophet has ever survived the Ruler leaving before. You could spitball ideas with him as you make the journey, including a random hypothesis that the Veiled Woman is making new moves, which she shouldn’t be able to do. You could have a little discussion about it, even if it just ends with the Guardian confident this is something else at play but you feeling resolute about God putting Her finger on the scales of your life again.

This would let the player feel like a badass instead of a pawn, even if you probably still are that other thing. It wouldn’t just drag the Veiled Woman up to give you a kick in the ass through a deus ex machina portal, but leave her at a step removed. It would explain how Jespar – trapped in the City of a Thousand Floods after the wraith-dragon brought down the temple façade – managed to show up in time to save you. It would help break up the half-hour-long discussion during the Fleshless quest and give players a little something to do with their hands.

It’s a thought, anyway.


This feels super long already, probably because it’s trying for a more in-depth analysis than I usually do for this Let’s Play, so I’ll chop it off here and make it a two-parter with Fleshless and the endings next time.
badgesareus
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One other sort of NPC I wonder about is the woman in the water in the Aged Man's "basement." She's being patient for him to do -- what? One mystery that hasn't received much discussion.

Maybe you should use the term pseudo-exposition dump, as we don't really get a lot of satisfying info, especially from the Black Guardian (which I assume is covered in your next post). I like exposition dumps to answer questions, not raise more of them.

Well, it's clear you've given this a lot of thought and analysis, Bravo!
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Excellent review and dissertation on the plot! Thank you very much for this!

Allow me a few comments on some of the topics you touched upon:

Natara - Although not explicitly explained, I think Natara had a Sha'Rim moment when going down that foolish betrayal path. She loved Tealor, but the Tealor she loved, she realized, has died in Nehrim. That was a fool, a shadow of the man she once adored, enamoured with his own saviour complex. She couldn't help herself but wish he would fall, so that, possibly, she'd be there to pick him up again, be relevant in his life again and bring back the great Tealor. This is how I read that.

100% human to start the beacon - I disagree because Tealor is not 100% human, he is a fleshless manifestation of pure will, so I would correct this and say that the beacon needs to be lit with 100% voluntary will - just like a vampire, in the general lore, needs to be voluntarily invited in. This fits in with the idea that the High Ones can only manipulate, trigger and use emotions that are the voluntary will of humans and fleshless.

Narathzul being discarded - Note that Narathzul is a sort of roundabout Moses archetype, being saved by a maid (in this story given to her care) and then later turning against what his stepfather (father in this story) the Pharaoh. Narathzul organized the magically gifted and rebelled against the Lightborn in the same manner that Moses brought all the plagues to the Pharaoh and Egypt. That is the motif I identify here, which doesn't even originate there.
With Tealor playing the role of the Emperor, he is the Pharaoh and he is being still plagued by his son's attacks, even as he thinks he is setting things straight - he isn't, he simply wants to be the ultimate saviour: "I alone guided them to the light".
Sha'Rim's betrayal is no different; Tealor's overconfidence in his destiny led him to never distrust a former enemy and to even include him in the most pivotal of missions.
So he is defeated, but by his own delusions of grandeur. In truth Tealor wanted to be a Lightborn without actually having to be one. He wanted to be Malphas without having to be a super master magician.

Petrified statues only at temple - During that Pyrean memory flashback segment we get to see the annihilation of people that later Coarek did in his own cycle. All the survivors that were near the beacon were either in or around the temple at that time. I always thought that all other temples, being places of worship so detested by the Coarek-fleshless role, were the primary targets for the slaughter.
As to the slow vs fast beacon, there was a forum discussion in which the prevalent conclusion was that since one of the black stones was half depleted to "give life" to Calia, that it hadn't enough power to make the beacon flash instantly. The first time I played it, I honestly thought that I was moving normally and that time had slowed down around the Prophet, but I since realized the most possible explanation would be the depleted black stone.

Aged Man loved one - The Aged Man is the previous Pyrean Prophet, who chose to leave to the floating city of the Starlings and then came down to restart civilization. His dead woman lover is the Calia of the cycle we play. His whole mansion and his being itself stops manifesting when he gives the word of the dead to the next cycle Prophet, as his pure will has fulfilled his part and the illusion disappears. That is why he carved those wooden statues so similar to the Pyrean petrified.
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Ragnarok, I disagree with your analogy of Narathzul to Moses. Moses only wanted to free his people, not destroy the Pharoah and the entire Egyptian belief system. Narathzul had a personal vendetta against the Lightborn, and I don't think his primary motivation was to liberate the people of Vyn from the rule of the Lightborn, that was just a rationalization for his actions.
I don't know if you played through Nehrim, but young Narathzul wanted to join the Paladin Order, like his foster father. In his test, he defeated another candidate, Baffor. Baffor and his buddies didn't think the Paladins should allow a "hybrid" like Narathzul into the order, they ganged up on him, and Baffor started to carve into Narathzul's forehead. Then his foster mother, Miriam, did something that cracked Baffor's skull, killing him. She was tried as a witch and burned at the stake. Because the Lightborn did not intervene to save Miriam, Narathzul concluded that they did not represent justice, only their own power, and was therefore driven to destroy the Lightborn in vengeance. So liberating the people from the rule of the Lightborn was not his primary objective, it was just a consequence of his destroying the Lightborn.
The Aged Man is the previous Pyrean Prophet
I would also disagree with this. The Aged Man described himself as an Observer, who had observed many iterations of the Cycle, so he couldn't have been the Pyrean's prophet as he is outside the cycles, not a part of one.

Cycles Enderal deals with the Cycles of the High Ones and cleansing. Nehrim dealt with the cycles of fate and predestination. I've always felt that the creators of Vyn and their 4 mods were heavily influenced by Wagner's Ring cycle.
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Debatable that the Moses character did not want to destroy Pharaoh, but I get your point.

As to the Aged Man being an observer, the only observer in the world of Vyn is the Black Guardian. The Aged Man shows all signs of being a fleshless that is linked to the past (due to his nostalgia towards his dead lover) and, therefore, would seem likely to be the previous Prophet. I don't remember for sure, but was there any line in the game that shows the Aged Man as having witnessed several cycles?
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What he says depends on which conversation options you select when talking to him. The Aged Man said "I'm an Observer...a fleshless eye." Now, if you (the Prophet) survive by your choice at the end, it is to guide the next civilization, not just to observe it, so I would argue that his statement that he is an observer indicates that he is not guiding the present civilization of Vyn, merely observing it.
Also, at the Aged Man's house, one option is to ask "So what do you do, observe the Cycle?" To which he replies "Amongst other things, the Cycle." Since this indicates he observes more than the Cycle, it would seem to place him outside of it.
In the Wiki, it states that the Aged Man "has lived through many iterations of the cycle." I don't know exactly what is the basis for this statement, but I assume there is one otherwise it might have been challenged.
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