Friday, 18 November 2016

Star Trek - Walk Like an Aztec

Written by Joe Pranevich

Klingons!

It’s time for more Star Trek! Last week, we defeated the con artist Harry Mudd and arranged a reunion between him and his erstwhile wife as a parting gift. It was a fun mini-adventure even if it had some bugs and plot hiccups. At this point, all of our adventures have been standalone and that is fine, but I was hoping for some connecting thread or hints of an overarching plot. Thus far, the only recurring element has been the Elasi pirates, a group created for this game. We have a few episodes left so we’ll see what happens.

This episode breaks the mold by starting with a Captain’s Log rather than a message from an admiral. Federation intelligence is concerned about a military buildup near Hrakkour, a system on the edge of Klingon space. The Klingons are searching for a renegade, but we do not know what he did to deserve such a search party. Sensors have detected a faint trail leading to Zamphor in the Digifal system on the Federation side of the border and we are ordered to investigate. If we do not discover what happened and de-escalate the situation, there could be war.

A lot of episodes start this way...

On arriving in the Digifal system, a warbird led by Commander Taraz warps into the system. He let’s us know that he is chasing a genocidal criminal into the system and I should let them continue their business. We get some dialog options, but they all boil down to rude ways to ask them to leave immediately. I pick the one that seems most diplomatic but he doesn’t like it one bit. Within seconds, he’s attacking and I’m dead even before I get my shields up. So much for being relatively nice. On the next pass, I try another option that waves the Organian Peace Treaty in his face. It’s still pretty rude, but perhaps Klingons like that because he backs off. He gives us twelve hours to find the criminal before he changes his mind about being nice. I get the option to agree but ask him to leave, but he doesn’t like that and I’m space debris again. On my third attempt I just agree to do it without trying to ask anything else of him. He flies off and I’m able to orbit the planet.

Holy heck! I managed to get out of combat for once. Were there dialog options I could have chosen in any of the other episodes to get out of the fight? Combat is by far my least favorite part of this game so this is good news. We beam down and begin the “adventure” portion of the episode.

Sybok? Sorry… er… I thought you were someone else...

We do not have to hunt for the criminal: we beam down and he greets us in flowing white robes. He claims to be Quetzecoatl, the misspelled god of the Aztecs, and we get some choices in how we greet him in return. I take the formal approach and ask him if he is aware that the Klingons are looking for him. He seems pleased by this, claiming that his missions do not usually produce results so quickly. I accuse him of jeopardizing the peace between the Federation and the Klingons but he disagrees; he is there to promote peace. We don’t believe him. I have Kirk ask him why, if he loves peace so much, would he name himself after one of Earth’s bloodiest gods. He seems shocked by this accusation and transports us all to the bottom of a pit.

Aztec-Space-Jesus?

Once we regain control, I talk to everyone and explore the trap. Spock thinks we can climb the vines to get out, but the tricorders say they are not strong enough. A snake on the ground initially scares me, but a scan says that it’s not dangerous to humans. Even so, we can’t pick it up without it slithering off into a hole. I try stunning it with a phaser but all of our weapons have been disabled. I pixel-hunt the screen to find something else to do and discover a sticky resin on the wall, a pile of rocks, and the hole the snake hid in. Of those, only the rocks seem to be useful as I can throw them at other vines just out of reach to cause them to fall down. Once we have a thicker set of vines to climb up, we escape the pit. Now what?

Is he attacking us with a macuahuitl?

After passing through featureless jungle for a bit, we emerge into a clearing. An Aztec warrior demands to test us in Quetzecoatl’s ways, but I am uncertain how to start the test. He won’t even talk to us. McCoy confirms that he’s human but Spock claims that he is too large to nerve pinch. What do to? When talking to Dr. McCoy, he drops a David and Goliath reference. Is that a hint? I don’t have a sling, but I throw my rocks at him until he is knocked unconscious. I ask McCoy to check on him and he chews me out, claiming that I picked a “thoughtless” approach. But… it was your idea! Did I miss a better solution?

The warrior drops a “knife”, but I am going to just pretend that it is a macuahuitl. The macuahuitl, or Aztec sword, is an obsidian-bladed weapon that the Aztecs fought the Spaniards with. They were incredibly sharp, capable even of cutting off the head of a Spanish horse in motion. Unfortunately, they dulled extremely quickly and so were less useful than European-style swords over a period of time. I’ll be on the lookout for horses.

Is Friar Tuck going to show up?

Past even more featureless jungle, we arrive at a log bridge crossing a stream. On my first trip across, a monster jumps out and kills my redshirt so I restore. With the creature underwater, the knife isn’t much use and there are very few ways that I can interact with it. I return to the featureless jungle and featureless pixel-hunt, but do not find anything new that way. On my way back, I discover that I can cut off up the leaves of a bush at the bank of the river using the knife. If I throw the leaves in the water, the monster runs away! It seems biologically unlikely that the monster’s regular stomping grounds would be inches away from a planet that could poison it, but what do I know? I cross the bridge and briefly pass a dilithium mine and pocket some crystals before continuing on.

And you look like you want to disco.

The end of the path leads to a conference room in a cave. Quetzecoatl congratulates us for solving his puzzles. We get some more dialog options, but I stay diplomatic. Quetzecoatl asks whether what we said was true about the Aztecs and I blame it on human nature, that people will naturally twist good messages to evil ends. He seems unhappy and claims that he doesn’t want to be all-powerful anymore. He asks if humans are good at medicine and I agree so he proposes that we cut out a special gland that gives him his powers. We agree to do that, hoping that if the Klingons no longer see him as a threat, they may no longer attack. Kirk orders a beam-out and all five of us are soon on the Enterprise. Is the episode over already?

A different Klingon!

Just as Kirk settles back into his chair, three more Klingon warbirds arrive, this time led by Admiral Kenka. He wants to put Quetzecoatl on trial. We tell him that he’s being operated on, but they do not seem to care. Kenka reveals that Quetzecoatl did not directly destroy the Klingon colony, but rather spread the social contagion of “peace” there. To contain the “disease”, Admiral Kenka liquidated the whole population himself, including his own family. I tell him that he is responsible for what happened there, not Quetzecoatl. Our conversation is interrupted by a Federation admiral. Star Fleet has contacted the Organians and confirmed that Quetzecoatl should be subject to Klingon laws given the nature of the crime. On the bright side, we’re allowed to defend him. I love a good Star Trek trial episode! We warp to Hrakkour and beam down to the Klingon courthouse.

Criminal Court is now in session…

The trial is over before it even begins. Admiral Vlict (wasn’t he Kenka a minute ago? It’s supposed to be the same guy) just wants to execute Quetzecoatl and be done with it. We get some dialog options so I tell him that I have a surprise for him and that we demand a full trial. Kirk is, he claims, a warrior based on how many times he’s fought Klingons hand-to-hand and ship-to-ship. As such, he has a right to a warrior’s trial. Vlict reluctantly agrees, but only if I take a test to prove my worthiness: the Test of Life. Why does everyone just want to test us?

Ensign Bennie and the Jets?

We are taken to a mining installation somewhere on the planet. A nearby door is guarded by lightning; Spock believes it is actually alive. He recommends using a metal projectile to render it harmless. I do not have much metal but there are rocks and wooden poles around. I discover that if I shoot the rocks and dip the pole in the molten metal, I can create a primitive… stick with metal on the end. I throw it at the lightning and it disappears. Spock comforts us that it isn’t dead, just sleeping for a few days.

With the lightning down, we still have a locked door to contend with. Spock claims it requires a combination but his tricorder doesn’t have enough processing power to extract it. I scan it anyway. A few unsuccessful minutes later, I also realize that we can hail the Enterprise and talk to Uhura. She is able to have the ship do the heavy processing and discovers not one, but two separate codes embedded into the door. Should they give us both. I agree and we open the door… but are transported somewhere else entirely.

This is a triumph! I’m making a note here: huge success.

Our new room contains three objects: a container with three slots; a table with nine pill-shaped objects colored red, green, and blue; and a yellow portal. We can’t come back the way we came because the portal is not “primed for neural link”. I expect I’ll have to prime it by solving the puzzle.

I grab three colors at random and arrange them in the system as red/green/blue. A message comes on about the “Light of War” and tells me that emergency protocols have been engaged. That doesn’t sound friendly. I switch the red and blue to get a message from the “Light of Travel”, then pop in the green at the top for the “Light of Knowledge”. That one lets me know that the first crystal corresponds to the type of light we will use, but I worked that out already. Should I pick war, travel, or knowledge? Since this is Star Trek, I choose “knowledge” and start rotating through different combinations. Most didn’t work, but green/red/red scanned nearby vessels and all green summoned a disembodied voice, Bialbi. He tells us that we have to put the crystals in the correct order and that the “integrator” is now active. What is that?

Just to check, I try the yellow portal but it isn’t a portal. Instead, Bialbi scans my brain and tells us that the situation will be “resolved”. He (it?) transports the Klingon admiral into the room and tells him that he is being judged guilty and the punishment is death. I have Kirk step in to his defense (how ironic!) and he agrees to spare Quetzecoatl. Bialbi is not satisfied because his crimes are far larger than a single life, but he accepts Kirk’s request for clemency. Instead, he says that the Klingons must leave and never return to the planet on pain of death. He seems to like Kirk, but we have to let him down gently as this planet is still in Klingon space; we won’t be able to visit. With the mission completed, we beam out.

This episode forgoes much of the usual banter. Spock says that everything worked out for the best, but Kirk is somber and reminds him just how many Klingons lost their lives over this. An admiral raises us and gives us our score: 85% and two commendation points. We have to be able to do better than that!

So you’re saying I sucked?

I replay the scenario from scratch and concentrate on passing the Aztec warrior without conking him on the head with rocks. The trick turns out to be the snake that I could not pick up before. Every time I get close to it, it flees into its hole. Using the rocks, I can also fill the hole and leave the snake with nowhere to go. With that done, we can pick him up and deliver him to the Aztec warrior. He seems impressed, but says that only by shedding blood can we pass. I think I’m supposed to believe that means I have to fight, but I use the snake on Kirk instead. The warrior is impressed with our self-sacrifice, gives us his knife, and lets us pass. I replay the rest just as before and this time I received 100% and 4 commendation points. What a difference a non-violent solution makes!

I love that this episode broke the mold: We could talk our way out of combat. We had adventures on two planets with a shipboard sequence in between. I almost wonder if this was intended as a “two-parter” with the shipboard sequence in the middle intended to be the start of the second part. You can see how that could work, but there’s not enough content for that in the finished product. The plot was derivative, even compared to the other episodes, even if the execution was good. We just saw an ancient race re-emerging in episode one! I look forward to see how the next episode builds on this.


Star Trek Trivia

  • The correct spelling of the Aztec god in English is “Quetzalcoatl”; this episode consistently misspelled it. On the bright side, at least he didn’t change names halfway through. 
  • The animated series episode, “How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth”, also features an alien claiming to be Quetzalcoatl. I do not know how to reconcile this game with that episode. 
  • Gods-are-aliens is a common trope in Star Trek. Kirk met Apollo in “Who Mourns for Adonais” and will meet the god of Sha-Ka-Re in Star Trek V. Picard will deal with the “devil” in “The Devil’s Due” on TNG. Deep Space Nine will base much of their series on the tension between Bajoran spirituality and the Federation’s atheism. 
  • As discussed in episode one, the Organian Peace Treaty was established in “Errand of Mercy” and is one of the few serialized details in the original series. 
  • After Kirk demonstrates his proficiency at throwing rocks, Lt. Stragey comments that no one plays baseball anymore. This game predates the debut of Deep Space Nine, but the lack of baseball was a recurring plot point in that series. 
  • Ships in Star Trek run on Dilithium crystals, a rare material that could not be replicated. Several episodes centered on the Federation finding new sources of dilithium. 
  • Klingons generally do not use naval titles; a similar rank to “Admiral” would be “General”. The TNG episode “Loud as a Whisper” revealed that peacemakers like Quetzalcoatl were virtually unknown in the empire. 

Sounds vaguely biblical… again?

Next episode: “The Old Devil Moon”


Mini-Request for Assistance

As this was being readied for posting, I ran into a problem: a space battle two episodes from now is proving to be more than I can handle. I may have to leave this game as “Lost!” if I don’t find a way to survive the attack. Those of you that have played this before, do you have any hints or pointers that I can use to deal with this sequence? If I get stuck here, how much of the game will I miss? I hate to think that I’d leave a anything incomplete, but this combat may be too rough for me. I’m going to keep working on it but thanks for your help!

Time played: 2 hr 25 min
Total time: 13 hr 15 min

11 comments:

  1. Yeah, I knew that combat was coming. Good luck - I never finished this game either because of that battle.

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  2. This episode is interesting because you can actually skip most of it. In the jungle part, if you do something that would be fatal, Quetzecoatl will resurrect you (!) in his chamber, skipping the rest of the jungle puzzles and moving you on to the trial. During the trial, you can just surrender Quetzecoatl to the Klingon's judgment, which skips the whole section with the lightning monster and the crystals. On my first try, I did both skips, and ended up with something like 27% completion and zero commendation points for the episode :P

    Other comments:
    - when Quetz first showed up, I thought I was looking at Elvis.
    - you can get a game over if you choose three War crystals, as the Enterprise is destroyed as collateral damage along with the Klingons
    - Vlict and Kenka are both names for the same Klingon, refer to your screenshot ;)

    I haven't quite finished Mission 7 yet; if I'm able to get through the Mission 8 space combat that I gather is coming, I'll see if I can send you a save file (though you might have to be satisfied with my lower scores).

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    1. OK, I finished the game! Had to look up how to finish Mission 7, because it's buggy/glitchy/poorly designed. Why did I think there was an eighth mission? Apparently it's just seven.

      I have a savegame during the final battle, with my ship in good condition and with a good position relative to the last enemy, if anyone wants it, let me know. There's really not anything left to the game after the last battle though, so it'd probably be easier just to watch the end of a Let's Play.

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  3. I really enjoyed this episode, the mix of both a supernatural entity, an alien planet and a trial! What more could you possibly ask for?

    I'm totally stuck on episode 7 btw, I've tried reading hints but I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. It seems the CDROM version has an extended episode and I know what I should do, but not how I can actually do it. Any help is appreciated!

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    Replies
    1. Yea, but it was just so fast in switching between all those classic Trek genres. And this is the third episode that has the "discover ancient race" trope just in this game. It FELT like this could have been expanded into two parts and done very well. What we had was very rushed.

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    2. Let me know where you're stuck, and I'll drop some clues for you. It's possible to deadman yourself in mission 7; hopefully you have at least one save from earlier in the misson. :/

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  4. Since I didn't see you mention it I thought I'd note that there's another way to open the door that results in it leading somewhere entirely different.

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    1. That is, the door by the lightning creature.

      As for the battle you mention, I never got past it myself. It is the end of the game, though. From what I remember of a Let's Play I watched, there's just the standard end-of-mission commendation stuff.

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    2. Can you rot13 the other method for opening the door by the lightning creature? I felt like I exhausted the options for that area pretty thoroughly and couldn't come up with another solution.

      I'm also curious what the deal is with Uhura and multiple codes for the door.

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    3. It's been long enough since I played the game myself that I don't remember very well, but I believe vg eryngrf gb gur zhygvcyr pbqrf sbe gur qbbe.

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  5. I always liked trials in games (Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights 2 are some I can recall enjoying immensely) and was excited to do one in this game, only to be disappointed when there was no trial gameplay.

    I got 100% and 4 commendations on this one - the first time I've beaten you - though you reloaded and equalled my score.

    One thing I think I did differently was get the snake to bite redshirt instead of Kirk - being bitten by unknown alien creatures in in the redshirt job description.

    You can also get rid of the swamp monster by sending redshirt across the log first. The monster eats him, then goes elsewhere to digest.

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