Saturday 28 June 2014

Game 44: Altered Destiny - The Seen Cannot be Unseen

P.J. Barrett Journal Entry 5: "I had further success today, finding the Indella bird up in the terraces, and then convincing Lantra to hand over her pouches of crystals. Sadly, I still haven't been able to catch that damn bird, and after making my way down through the underground trying to reach JonQuah, I've been unable to solve a riddle that seems very important. I know it has something to do with all these circles, but what exactly?! Hey, there seems to be a path leading to the east. Maybe I can just...what was that!? Aaaaaggghhhh.........."

I hope it was worth the effort I put into getting this thing.

The previous Altered Destiny gameplay post finished with me getting my hands on the jewelled arrow that the prince had used to take down a Yula. This was not the end of my journey into the canyons however, as there were still some pathways out of the “Canyon Fork” that I needed to check out. Before I could do that though, there was a more pressing problem to deal with. I’d left all of my stuff in front of the bones, since I hadn’t been able to cross the web while holding them. Now I wanted to pick them back up, but the inventory limitations meant I was going to have to leave two things behind. I had a look through the items, trying to figure out what I likely wouldn’t need again. The most likely candidate was the scroll, since I’d already read it and had screenshots to boot. I hadn’t used the arrow, the leaf, the Kleeg or the bottle of pigment yet, so I certainly wasn’t going to get rid of one of them. I also knew the purpose of the bowl, and figured losing the golden tube would undoubtedly end in tears. That left the axe and the sword, both of which I could have used to gain access to the Pool of Light. The game made it clear time and time again that hitting people with weapons was not a worthy option, so it seemed reasonably safe to assume keeping one would be enough (I hadn’t actually gone to see JonQuah through the Pool of Light yet in this save game).

I still can't believe that I'm only allowed to carry seven items!

With that decision made, I left the scroll and the axe on the ground and made my way back through the canyons to the fork. I put the slime in the now empty bowl and then looked at my options. I’d already taken the second of the three paths to the north, so now I took the third, which wound around to the right of screen. I reappeared in the “Canyon Depths”, only now I was on the right hand path rather than the left. I could now follow this path to the north or off to the east, but I’ll cut to the chase and say that both led to dead ends in "Canyon Heights". I made my way back to the fork and took the Left Hand Path (any metalheads here?). This one took me right up to the plant-like thing I’d been able to see earlier in the “Canyon Heights”. I wasn't able to get past it, but it did look like there was a tunnel leading away behind it. Any interaction I attempted resulted in the same old “You should acquaint yourself with herbal lore so you can recognize it” message. If it turns out that I need to know what the plant is to be able to pick it up or move it, I’ll be very pissed indeed. That’s just stupid! For now, I was going to have to go back the way I came, ending my trip to the canyons, and more importantly, completing my exploration phase of Daltere! I’d kind of been dreading this moment, since it meant I was going to have to knuckle down and try to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do next.

It's not like I can ask people about it, cause I don't know what it is!

So what did I know?! 1. I needed to find the Jewel of Light. The jewel would likely be found in a castle that I hadn’t uncovered yet. 2. Humans, called Longas, once inhabited Daltere, but were killed off after their prince killed a Yula with the Jewelled Arrow that I now possessed. The arrow head is made from a red jewel, which was one of the jewels needed to enter the castle. 3. Vindah can perform a divination for me, but only once I bring him an Indella bird from “the woods”. The only thing I knew about the bird was that it could be attracted to pretty colours. Vindah warned me about natural springs in the woods too, but I eventually figured out that he was talking about the Hoppas, which were creatures in the shape of springs. So the bird should be in the woods to the west of the crossroads. 4. JonQuah wanted me to cross the expanse of clamchop jaws, but gave me no idea how I might achieve that. The message on the stones nearby had read “Growth bridges the gap, seeding the path, crystallizing our differences.” Even when in the form of a tree, I could not figure out how to get to JonQuah. 5. Lantra has two pouches of crystals, but I couldn’t figure out how to get them from her. The parser suggested I just needed to be in the right spot to do so, but all of my attempts had failed. 6. There was an artefact next to Howler Lake, but any attempts to get close to it resulted in P.J. being killed by a Howler.

I thought this was a mini-quest that would lead to information I needed to solve the main quest, but it's turned out to be a right pain in the ass!

While looking over all of the above, I noticed something very interesting! The message on the stones I'd seen in the caves made specific mention of seeds and crystals: “seeding the path, crystallizing our differences”. Surely the crystals that Lantra had in her possession could be used to bridge the gap to JonQuah!!! This was a revelation alright, but I still didn’t know how to get the crystals. I spent another fifteen minutes trying to get the damn things off Lantra, but it was clear that standing in the right place wasn’t the solution. The biggest problem was that Lantra didn’t seem to have an issue that needed solving. If I was required to give her something in return for the crystals, she simply wasn’t telling me what it was. Frustrated, I looked for another lead. The game had pretty much started with Vindah requesting the Indella bird so he could divine something for me. Should I be looking for the bird in the woods? I felt like the bottle of pigment might play a role since the bird was attracted to pretty colours, so made my way back to the woods to have another shot. I’d seen absolutely no sign of the Indella bird during my previous visit to the woods, and specifically looking for it on each screen had resulted in “I don’t see the Indella bird here”. I wandered from screen to screen again, trying to find something that I might be able to interact with. It still seemed strange to me that I couldn’t even open the bottle of pigment, as I really wasn’t sure how I might be able to use it anyway.

"Seeding"..."Crystallizing"...can't be a coincidence right?

I typed “look up”, thinking that I might be able to see the bird above one of the screens. All I got was “You see the underside of the terrace over your head.” Eventually I arrived at the “Eastern Woods”, where the Hoppa had previously pollinated me, kicking off a transformation into a tree creature. The description of that screen made a point of mentioning the vines running up the back wall. I realised that I’d only tried to climb them after being pollinated last time I was there, and the result hadn’t been a definite no (I was just told that I couldn’t do it in my current condition). I tried to climb the vines now: “You’re not close enough.” Well that was promising, but my experience trying to get Lantra’s pouches had taught me not to get too excited. I couldn’t walk far along the wall without being accosted by the Hoppa, so I moved one screen to the left, hoping the vine wall would continue. It did, and typing “climb vines” caused P.J. to start scaling them! (3 points) A short climb later and I found myself on a screen called “Terrace, West Edge”. I was above the woods, and very confident that I would find the bird I needed up there somewhere. I could already see a little green creature, but looking at it revealed it to be something called a snert. “The Snert is a timid but curious creature who makes his home in the high terraces of the woods.” I walked past it to the south, and there in “A Terrace Clearing” was the Indella Bird, just sitting there in its nest!!!!

How close does one need to be to climb something?!

Ohhh...that close!!!

Hey little fella. You seen a bird around here?

The moment of my near triumph.

Finally I was getting somewhere! The only remaining challenge was to figure out how to get the bird, and looking at it revealed that the task might not be as simple as picking it up. “It’s an elusive, slippery kind of bird, as birds go, attracted by strong smells and bright colors.” I already knew about the attraction to colours, but the strong smells bit was new. I tried picking the bird up, but was told that there was “No way you could hold it in your hands.” I tried showing it the pigment, and even dropping it, but the bird wouldn’t react in any way. Not sure what to do, I decided to check out the remainder of the terrace, hoping I might find something that would help. There was a large tree on the screen to the right, and resting on the ground there was a small shell. I tried to pick it up, but once again I was going to have to drop something else first. I have to say that there’s nothing more infuriating than an item limit in an adventure game where everything you can pick up likely plays an important role! I dropped the Kleeg, only because it was very easy to see on the ground if and when I returned for it. I picked up the shell (5 points), only to find that it wasn’t the sort of shell I’d been expecting: “It’s a hollow seed shell that dropped from one of the vines. There’s nothing in the seed shell.”

I'll trade you a dead Kleeg for this here shell. Fair?

For some reason holding an empty shell made me wonder whether I could put water in it, so I tried. “Don’t be a fraidy-cat. Go ahead and get wet first.” Huh!? Was this actually going to work? I walked into the water and then tried filling the shell again. It worked! (2 points) So now I had some water in a shell, but I couldn’t see how that might help me to get the bird. Now, this is where I have an admission to make. Way back when I was fighting the parser trying to get the two pouches off Lantra, out of desperation I opened up the manual to see if any of the verbs in the list might trigger an idea. They didn’t, but at the very end of the manual, as there often is in Sierra games, I scanned my eyes over the short walkthrough that teaches the player how to play the very first section of the game. Obviously I’d past that long ago, so didn’t for a second think that I would spoil anything for myself. A word jumped off the page at me, and I’m afraid there was no way that I could simply unsee it. That word was “CAGE”. This is exactly what the manual says: “Try giving a command to a character other than P.J. To do this, type in the character’s name, followed by a comma, then the command. Example: “ALNAR, MAKE A CAGE”. Now I’d thought it was weird at the time, but perhaps it was just an example and didn’t mean anything literal. After all, there was no reason in the world to ask Alnar to make me a cage. But I wasn’t so sure.

Perhaps they figured out how hard this puzzle was, so left a blatant hint for desperate players.

I couldn’t ignore this thought, so saved my game and restored back to the crossroads. Instead of going to the woods, I waited for a large floater and grabbed hold of it. (2 points) I’d always assumed that I’d be able to hitch a ride back up to the floating islands on a large floater, but was still pretty happy when it worked. As soon as I arrived, I entered Alnar’s workshop and tried to find a reason why the average player might think that he could make a cage. I asked Alnar about the Indella bird, and his response gave me a solid clue: “A cage might help you catch him, though why you would want to catch a bird is beyond me.” I typed “ask about cage”, and the response was “It could be useful for some small animals.” I thought about what I might have done next had I not seen the spoiler, and typed “ask alnar to make cage”. The parser didn’t understand me! I typed “ask for cage” and got “I don’t think that Alnar has the cage”. I figure by now I would have walked away from Alnar, either forgetting about the cage or looking for it elsewhere, but I of course had another command to try. I typed “alnar, make a cage”, and he responded with “We don’t imprison animals here. I will make a small one for you though, warrior.” A few moments later there was a bright yellow cage sitting on the bench, which I eagerly tried to pick up. “You’ll have to drop something first.” Shaking my fist and cursing this damn game, I wandered outside and dropped my sword, returning to pick up the cage (2 points).

Up, up and away!

Bloody parser.

If you don't ask the exact right questions in Altered Destiny, you won't get far.

This success felt hollow due to the way it was achieved, and I still wasn’t sure it would help me to actually catch the Indella bird. I made my way back to the bird and typed “drop cage”. P.J. wandered over to the centre of the screen and placed the cage on the ground. (3 points) Suddenly the bird took off, swinging its tail feathers in a helicopter motion. It flew around the screen before landing right near the cage. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, praying that it would walk into the cage, but the thing just wandered back and forth past it. I was able to walk right up to the bird now, but despite my many attempts, wasn’t able to figure out how to get it into the cage. I figured I needed to put something in the cage that was either brightly coloured or strong in scent, but every time I tried putting anything in there the parser responded with “This is an old-fashioned trap.” Damn it! I felt like I was so close to opening the game up, but still couldn’t take the vital step I needed! I spent some time going over all my screenshots, looking desperately for something that might trigger a solution. While looking at the Lantra section, I noticed something she’d said about the crystals that sparked a glimmer of hope. “They must be planted out of sunlight for them to germinate, and I grow them to fruition with the help of water and light.” Could it be that giving Lantra the shell filled with water would result in me getting my hands on the pouches? I had nothing to lose, so raced off to try.

If only I had something this bird wanted to eat! (Yes, I tried catching the scrollworms in the Order, but without success.)

How hard can it be? It's standing right next to me!

On arriving at Lantra’s cavern, I typed “give shell to lantra”, and it actually frickin’ worked!!!! “Thank you for your kindness. Now I can tend to these crystals.” (7 points) Lantra sprinkled water over the crystals, and then rewarded me for my help. “Thank you for helping me grow my crystals. In exchange for the water, I give you these." Finally I was able to collect the two pouches of crystals, which meant I might now be able to reach JonQuah in the Caves of Death. I have to say that this puzzle was a bit unfair, because Lantra never made it clear that she needed the water. I was thrilled to have solved it though, but my good mood was tarnished by the fact I was going to have to drop something again if I wanted to pick up both pouches. I figured the jewelled arrow probably wouldn’t be needed until much later in the game, so left it next to Lantra. It was time to go back through the Pool of Light, but I had to go via the floating island to pick up the sword I’d left there, swapping it for the Kleeg. I made my way back to the woods, allowed the Hoppa to pollinate me, then used the sword to avoid aRRaRRa and jump into the pool. Once in the underground caves, it was time to test out my theory. I threw the crystals from the large pouch while standing before the crowd of clamchops. As I’d hoped they would, they spread out over the gap and formed a bridge for me to cross! (5 points)

If you'd told me you didn't have any water, I would have got you some ages ago!


I really thought I was going to need assistance to get to this point.

I walked across, and as I stepped on the platform that JonQuah had been floating above, it descended downwards like a lift. It passed through a tube, and typing “look” revealed there were “some strange markings” on the walls. I looked at them, and found the following riddle: “Old fools love dancing, and kicking their legs. The large ones stand up with the aid of a peg. The smallest are happy with four double chins, but the midsized liked no one and committed vile sins.” (4 points) This didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but its importance soon became clear. I was soon standing on a “Floating Floor”, with JonQuah once again beckoning me forward from the other side of the room. Trying to follow him to the right of screen resulted in a heavy tile falling from above and crushing me! It was then that I noticed the markings on the tiles and realised there were three different sized circles on them. Clearly the riddle held the key to following JonQuah without getting crushed, but despite spending twenty minutes trying to avoid the mid-sized markings, stepping on all the small ones, and every other combination I could think of, I simply couldn’t find a solution. I’m getting a bit sick of Altered Destiny now, so rather than waste another hour trying to figure out the solution to this puzzle and the Indella bird one, I’m putting in an official Request for Assistance. Obviously if the solution to one of these puzzles leads to the solution to the other, please don’t give both away. *sigh* I’m afraid the parser in this game is leaving me little choice but to get spoilers, as I just don’t trust it anymore.

Every underground lair needs a descending platform.

I'm so glad I read this. It made everything so much clearer.

Man, this JonQuah guy loves taunting me! To think I'm here to help him!

This was the 37th time that I was crushed by the platform. I think it was my favourite!

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I have made a request for assistance. Thanks!


  1. Bird
    Hint 1: Lbh unq gur evtug vqrn sebz gur fgneg.
    Hint 2: Gur oveq jbhyq fher tb sbe gung cvtzrag, naq lbh unir n pntr abj...

    I'm kinda stuck on the path thing myself. I feel like there's something I've missed somewhere, and my motivation to backtrack and find it is almost zilch.

    1. "That would be tough to manage in its present state."

      No matter whether I'm holding the cage or it's on the ground, I can't bait it with the pigment. If I type "open cage" I'm told that it's already open. If I try to open the pigment I'm told that I would spill it everywhere.


    2. qebc gur pntr svefg, gura "frg genc"
      abj lbh pna "onvg genc" be "hfr cvtzrag"

      Worst. Parser. Ever.

    3. Oh god, you're right. I'd managed to bluff it out with 'set cage', I think, but I am willing to admit that this parser is so horrid that I'm barely capable of remembering that I've even played as I go forwards.

    4. Agreed. Used the disc as a frisbee more than a decade ago because I never got to finish the game even though I was sure I was on the right track.

  2. Trickster's rant about inventory limits makes me wonder how he'll react to the Kyrandia series.

    1. I never found the limit too strenuous for the first two games (haven't played the third).

  3. Path
    Hint 1: gur nafjre nf fhfcrpgrq vf va gur jnyy evqqyr
    Hint 2: nibvq gur anfgl gvyrf jvgu gjb pvepyrf
    Spoiler: evtug gjvpr, qbja gjvpr, evtug gjvpr, hc gjvpr, evtug gjvpr

  4. I'll be honest, games where you have to spend many paragraphs just detailing the plot as you progress tend to alienate me. I find myself checking out; it's akin to watching someone read a book and give you a summary of every page. It's difficult for me to share in the discoveries you are experiencing. That said, I do still read these posts, even if I tend to immediately forget all the developments in the game by the end of the post.

    I want to complement this game, though, for having really stunning art direction/illustrations. Catches my eye with every picture shown!

    1. Part of what makes it harder to read (and has been bugging me ever since I noticed it) is that Trickster seems to divide his text into paragraphs based on even length instead of subject. Often he begins to discuss a new thing within a paragraph (which is a big no-no) or begins a new paragraph when still talking about the same thing. Making all paragraphs about the same length also makes it hard to tell them from each other at a glance, and the end result is that all the text melts into a hard-to-read mess.

    2. Playing through the game with (or at least, around) him, I can sorta relate. The plot of this game is very difficult to follow, and kinda has more than a little bit of a 'we'll just make a whole bunch of alien stuff and it'll pretty much sort itself out even though there's no particular linking point between one and the next'. Ironically, the plot is really the main thing the game has going for it. (Everything about this game has a 'just do whatever you think you should, and maybe it'll turn up okay' sorta feel, and I kinda have this worrisome thought that it's a large part to do with the parser just making it too difficult for them to work out how to piece their wordings together so that you could immerse in story.)

      This sorta matches up with Les Manley v Les Manley 2, actually, as while the game is still odious in several ways.. well, at least you can just run through conversations and actually read them without having to wildly guess at what the game wants you to talk about - I spent easily the first twenty minutes of Altered Destiny typing 'look at thing. people. person. alien. floating thing. bug. thing.' until eventually I learned that the small, soft-toy looking things bobbing across my screen were 'floaters', for instance.

      TL;DR? This game fries even the best of brains. Feel thankful he hasn't started talking about the laptop he plays it on whispering to him at night to kill (insert fake alien name here, because THAT'S WHAT EVERYTHING IN THIS GAME IS OH GOD PLEASE.)

      P.S? I beat it, thanks to directly copying off Ashley's list up top here.But in the end, I didn't win. It beat me. I am a hollow shell of a man.

    3. I don't get that criticism, Joseph. Don't all of Trick's posts detail the games' plot as he goes through them? You may be referring to something more specific and I'm missing it.

      Or, it could be you mean something like what happened to me with Neuromancer, which was a very plot & dialog heavy game, and as such very hard for me to follow. In that case, I'd argue it's a very different experience for those who are playing along or know the game well, as they might be fonder of the detailed approach.

      Incidentally, I gave up on this game. I decided its frustration index was too high. Kudos to all that soldiered on uphill -- you've really earned your stripes!

    4. I think the problem is that Trix is describing his experience (which is harder to relate because he had chosen ALL the wrong paths in an open environment before hitting the right one) and not about the plot that possibly caused the confusion.

      Adding to that, the alien nature of the game itself. Having to understand it, let alone describing it, is a freaking nightmare. You can beat the game and STILL have questions about WTF had just went on.

    5. That is true also. I think there are several things happening - one is your point, that the experience is being described, and if by accident or design the experience is labyrinthine or tedious in any way, that gets communicated. Second is that some games (like this one) have required an unusually high level of summary and description - and the gameplay doesn't seem fun or interesting enough to serve as an effective backbone. Third is Charles' point, that for some games a simultaneous playthrough is really required to get full enjoyment out of the reviews.

      I think maybe my quandary boils down to this: I'm not sure whether I prefer a game summary or a descriptive game walkthrough. I suppose it's game by game. But I am definitely sensing resistance inside myself to reading the walkthrough approaches when we get to games like this one.

  5. Hey, I just noticed that Gold Rush is apparently coming to Steam in over two weeks:

    1. Nice find.

      Looks like it's in part promoting a new remake of the game

    2. Hmm... I'd have preferred an open-world approach. Like, making it into Gold Digging Arizona or GDA.

      You can do tons of mining/trading/injun-hunting minigames, hanging out with your fat cuz, date pilgrim chicks, race on your 4-horsepowered wagon, beat up old prospectors and steal their gold. Shit like that works, man.