Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Timequest - 1361 BC Survey

Written by Reiko

Temporal Corps Private Journal #4: "I dodge another attempt on my life, view the sunrise on the summer solstice, talk to two different kinds of philosophers, and meet King Tut. Another exciting day in the life of a time agent! I’m acquiring quite a lot of loose ends at this point."

I jump to Mexico in 1361 BC and immediately find a Olmec Indian trying to kill me for taking or getting rid of Quetzlcoatl. "What have you done with the feathered god?" he cries. That implies that Vettenmyer actually stole an idol itself and put it somewhere else. No wonder the guy in 44 BC was waiting for it to return. So I guess I have to find a Quetzlcoatl from another time and bring it back to this time, or find the one that Vettenmyer took.

There’s a hint here that I should know something the Olmec doesn’t.

If I hang around more than a minute, the Olmec knocks me unconscious, puts me in a cookpot, and then lets me contemplate my fate for a few minutes after I wake up while he sharpens his knife. They're cannibals, after all. Not a nice way to go. Too bad there's no obvious way to arrive a few minutes later. Time doesn't advance while in the interkron.

Moving on, I jump to Rome in 1361 BC. The sewer location is just a clean stream with a muskrat sipping the water, because of course there's no city yet, as this is long before Rome proper. But the Academy location is a meadow with a philosopher sitting on a log. The philosopher doesn't have much to say, though, and I don't see any items here.

Should I know who this philosopher is?

In Dover, I appear in the same shed as later on (presumably rebuilt between now and then). Here it's the time of chieftains and druids. The chalk cliff's trail leads all the way down to the shore in this time, where I find a large conch shell. The interface indicates there's an exit to the south from here, but that's into the water, and the response only says, "Persons with a strong death wish are urged not to play this game, as it could be hazardous to their health." Okay then.

That’s a beautiful shell, don’t you think?

Back outside the tavern, I take the road west that doesn't exist in 44 BC, and "after several hours of walking" I reach Stonehenge. It also says that "night falls" which is interesting as it was after 8:00 pm when I started, and now it's 5:30 am, which basically means I walked all night and it's nearly dawn. I think that would make even less sense if I had dinked around in Dover for a few hours before setting out.

I can sit on the sighting stone at Stonehenge, but I don't see anything obvious to do. Yet I wait for a few turns, and my patience pays off as I'm given a description of the sunrise. It seems I've done the right thing, as the rays of the rising sun blind me for a moment, and then an old druid appears and approves of my sunrise vigil, even though it was mostly by accident. So it would have been a problem if I'd wandered around Dover much longer, as I would have missed the sunrise on the summer solstice. I got five points for this. Plus a clue!

I stand witness to the summer solstice, and get to meet a druid.

The druid says there will be a solar eclipse on the other side of the ocean at one hour after midday. I should be able to use that somehow to impress the Olmec Indians and restore the Quetzlcoatl myth, if I can stay alive long enough to advance the clock that far. The druid is dismissive of those who do not study the sun and moon and are frightened by superstitious nonsense, which I agree with, but in this case it might work in my favor. I can see that a lot of this game is going to involve being in the right place at the right time.

For the record, there was no eclipse of any kind around June 21, 1361 BC. I checked the database, and the closest is a partial solar eclipse focused on Asia on July 26th. There were two total lunar eclipses that year, in February and August, and two other partial solar eclipses, but basically this scenario is a fabrication. I know when the game was made, it was probably a lot harder to look up eclipse timings, but there were a number of historically significant eclipses already known that they could have used. I'm getting the impression that I'm not likely to learn anything useful about history from this game except through my own research.

I return to the shed and move on to Cairo in 1361. I appear in the same tomb as in 44 BC, and the Avenue of the Dead looks very similar, but instead of the time of Cleopatra, it's the time of Nefertiti...and Tut? The historical summary says, “From the Mediterranean to the first cataract of the Nile, the kingdom of Egypt has already been united for almost two thousand years. The great pyramid at Giza is over a thousand years old, and the country is still reeling from the new religion embraced by Akhenaton and his queen, Nefertiti.” Wikipedia says Nefertiti was born around 1371 BC, so that would put her only around 10 years old here...that’s awfully young for a queen, even for Egypt.

I walk north and east to the shore of the river, where a girl and a boy are playing. I somehow know that the boy will be King Tut, and the girl is royal too, but not named. Suddenly a cradle with a nearly newborn baby appears. I enter the water, retrieve the cradle, and give it to the girl, receiving five points.

Cute exchange, but the timing is completely wrong for Moses.

Okay, let's pause. This scenario doesn't make any sense at all. This is clearly supposed to be baby Moses, but the timing makes no sense. The presence of Tut doesn't fit at all, as he supposedly lived 1341-1323, so not even born for twenty more years at this point. The timing of Moses himself isn't well agreed upon, but from what I've read, it's much more likely that he was born around 1530 BC for an Exodus 80 years later around 1450 BC. Also, Exodus 2:2 specifically says that Moses was hidden for three months before his mother put him in the cradle on the river, not just a few days. Pharaoh's daughter found him when she went to wash in the river, not just playing with another royal child. And Moses's sister Miriam followed him and got their mother as a wet nurse for the Pharaoh's daughter. There's no sign of her in this scenario.

Some scholars think the Exodus happened around 1250 BC, which would put the birth of Moses closer to 1330 BC, or during the lifetime of Tut, but Tut and the other pharaohs that would have lived during the life of Moses don't match the patterns of the other textual evidence we have about Moses and the Exodus. So even if you think Moses and Tut were contemporaries, the year isn't right, and it doesn't make sense that they were contemporaries anyway. I won't belabor this any further, but if you're interested in this sort of thing, here's a link with more information on the chronology of the life of Moses:

Anyway, after the unnamed royal girl runs off with the baby who is supposedly Moses, Tut sticks around and asks to play Pharaoh and says I should give him a royal gift. I don't have anything suitable yet, so I'll have to come back later.

Tut looks more like a priest or monk than a royal child in this shot.

In Baghdad/Babylon in 1361 BC, the cave is identical to how it is in 44 BC (minus the creepy message) and the caravan and the village of Baghdad are also the same. The city of Babylon is at its height rather than in ruins, though. The Hanging Gardens are beautifully designed, except that when I go up to the roof and look down at the courtyard, I can see that the vines have been grown in a pattern that reads "Zeke is Number One!" In English! Another creepy message from our favorite psycho time traveller, which gives me another point for finding it. I bet one of those is going to be the "last lousy point".

How long did Vettenmyer have to spend here to grow the vines like this?

The Tower of Babel on the other side of the Ishtar Square requires a password for entry. I don't know if this is something I should be able to find or not. I try saying a few things, but the only response is, "Okay, you've said it. Now what?" It would be helpful to know if I'm supposed to be able to enter the tower, but other than that I'm not asking for any help yet.

Status and score so far.

Next time we'll finish surveying the locations in this time by visiting Peking.

Session Time: 1 hours 0 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s 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've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. It's interesting to see what the manual says:

    "Some parts of the game are almost true, or could have been true - or are at least plausible. For example, the Old Testament does not record the name of the pharaoh whose daughter pulled Moses from the Nile. Accepted chronologies, however, put the year of the Exodus at around 1290 BC and state that Moses was around 80 years old at the time. Working backwards, I conclude that he was born sometime between 1360 and 1370 BC. King Tut was nine years old at the start of his reign in 1361 BC, so it doesn't seem unreasonable to put Tut and his sister in the scene where Moses and his cradle come floating down the river."

    The year 1361 BC is something that appears as the coronation year of Tutankhamen in several places, when googling (in some books also). I wonder, if this is a case of game following an earlier, outdated piece of egyptology - it is over two decades old, after all.

    "Speaking of 1361 BC, while there was an eclipse that year (the first in recorded
    history), purists will note that it took place in China rather than Mexico, and that
    it was a lunar rather than solar eclipse."

    Well, he's definitely admitting that detail was wrong ;) Probably he just wanted to use the Convenient Eclipse trope, in which the hero is just about to be sacrificed by Incas, Aztecs, Mayas or whatever Native American tribe the creator of film, TV episode, comic book etc. concocted, except he happens to know just today an eclipse will occur. Cliche done to death, these days.

    There's also one other historical error the manual points out:

    "All the buildings in the game had actually been erected by the time you see
    them, except the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Tower of Babel. These
    you visit in 1361 BC, even though Nebuchadnezzar didn't build them until
    around 600 BC. "

  2. Definitely outdated Egyptology, and definitely the Convenient Eclipse trope.

    Good catch on the Hanging Gardens. I didn't even think about the fact that that wouldn't have existed for hundreds of years yet at that point.

    I read the mission briefings online, but I only briefly skimmed through the manual since most of it was about game setup. I just reread the one I found online and didn't see the paragraphs you mentioned. So I found another source for the manual. Apparently the one I originally referred to was cut off at page 40, so it didn't include the author's notes at the end, or anything after the sample transcript. Those notes are pretty interesting. I guess I should stop complaining about the historical inaccuracies so much since many of them were intentional in service to gameplay. But feel free to keep pointing out in the comments ones I miss!

  3. So why exactly are the Olmecs cannibals?

    I should have a lot to say about the Exodus timetable, and I suppose I do, but I will save that for my own blog another day. Just... can't even start.

    1. Probably because Olmecs were speculated to engage in human sacrifices (as do all ancient Meso-American civilizations).

  4. Well, I am under the impression that the consensus is that there is no actual evidence of the Exodus ever happenning. And it is difficult to imagine an 80 year old man (a 2nd millenium BC 80 year old man, not a current 80 year old man, which surely is not the same) leading the people through the desert.

    1. Biblical longevity is a consistent trope in the early histories, especially in Genesis and in the early portion of Exodus. I wrote about this on my blog a while back:

      When I wrote that, I stopped at Abraham, but there is some evidence that longer lifespans continued for a while because some of Moses's ancestors lived a strangely long about of time when you look at how many generations there was between Joseph's time and Moses's time, versus how many years are said to have passed. I don't recall the details immediately.

      That doesn't mean that I agree with the historicity of the account, but it goes some way of explaining that.

      On a more historical footing, I think there is some evidence that while there may have been a migration of some peoples from Egypt, the census counts in the various books are quite exaggerated. It's also likely that the immigrant tribes mixed with existing tribes to form the hodgepodge of related tribes that we see starting in the book of "Judges". But that question gets complex quickly and I can't do it justice here.

    2. That's true. Abraham, Solomon, Adam, Moses... All the holy men lived beyond centuries. The only holy men who did not, were branded as martyrs.

    3. I am familiar with the longevity in the Old Testament, I just don't swallow it.

    4. I am fairly certain we'll never find out whether Moses was a real live character or not - it's unlikely there's a grave with his name somewhere.

      I do like the idea that the story of Exodus might have something to do with the decline of the Egyptian worship of Aten - probably the first attested case of monotheism in history. Aten was briefly set up as the only and official god by the pharaoh Akhenaten (father of king Tut), but after his death, Egypt quickly reverted to more traditional polytheism. It would make sense that the followers of the Aten would have been persecuted afterwards and some of them might have migrated to modern Israel - and this might have evolved later into the story of Exodus.

  5. Google suggests walking from Dover to Stonehenge would take about 51 hours... but this isn't the first game to shrink the distances between landmarks, and it surely won't be the last!

    1. Yep, the author's notes in the manual mentions shrinking distances too. Dover to Stonehenge, Peking to the Great Wall, etc. All to make the story possible.

    2. Wasn't Stonehenge just outside London airport in Zak Mccracken?

    3. @Illmari: Yes, and it had a huge fence around it, with an armed guard!

  6. I'm a huge fan of time travel stories and games but this game in particular seems quite difficult gameplay-wise. I hate games that have the story progress by needing you to stand at one place at a particular time without any clue about it, I always feel like I'm missing something...

    1. This could be avoided if the times/places you need to be at for certain puzzles were made more clear. Although this could be a way of extending the length of the game, making you visit every location at every timezone...

  7. Just as a broad suggestion given I was recently reading up a 'bad puzzle solutions' thing and Space Quest 2 was listed - have you tried 'swim south' instead of just 'south' in the instance where it talks about your death wish? (I am of course referring to 'dive' not working unless you 'hold breath' first).


    Motherfriggin' King's Quest reboot is out, yo!

    1. And Steam have at the same time taken the old King's Quest games off the store - why, I have no idea. Surely they would sell more of them if this new one is popular, and even the advertising this game gets might have gotten some curious or nostalgic people to buy the old games.

      I'm also not a fan of calling the series of 5 episodes "King's Quest: The Complete Collection" - when I first saw that I thought it was a deal with buying all the old games plus this one.

    2. I saw the trailer for it, and I wasn't impressed... I hope it's better than it looks!

  9. All this talk about Time Agents makes me think of Doctor Who...mostly the ones who get mentioned in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" as being hypercompetent but who never actually show up. Not so much the sexy but corrupt ones from the Torchwood era.

  10. It would be nice to get some historical games that educate instead of propogating myths.