Sunday, 5 July 2015

Timequest - Tombs and Temples (Peking)

Written by Reiko

Temporal Corps Private Journal #5: “I spend some time learning to meditate in the presence of the dead, which apparently qualifies me to become the patron of an entire Chinese monastic order. That entitles me to...a firework. After that, I nearly get killed (again), find more creepy messages in places they shouldn’t be, and watch the sad failure of faith."

Ilmari informed me last time about material that I hadn’t seen in the manual. Apparently the copy on the “goodolddays” site was incomplete, lacking the last several pages with the author’s notes. So I found a complete version on the Museum of Adventure Game History instead:

History of China in 1361 BC.

I move on to Peking to finish the survey of 1361 BC locations. The shrine looks nearly identical to its later counterpart, but when I arrive at the gate to the city, there's a Shang dynasty imperial funeral procession heading toward the burial ground. I am invited to join the mourners who are going to be buried with their dead emperor. This doesn't sound like much fun, but apparently "the secret of escape is written on the tablets within." If I stand around and wait, the tomb is only sealed at 12:30, but whenever I step inside, the tomb is immediately sealed behind me. No turning back, here.

I get ten points just for entering the tomb, and immediately the mourners start passing around poison so they can kill themselves to be with their emperor. Naturally I don't want to participate in that part of it, so I just pass the basin on when it's handed to me. Nobody else cares; they all drink and immediately are dead. I'm the only one left alive in here, so now I can examine everything to my heart's content.

The basin that held the poison is now empty, but it might be useful, so I take it. There's a grotesque statue with an emerald in its navel. And there are four tablets with curious riddle-poems written on them. They're supposed to contain the secret of escape, but the only escape I see so far is death, which is unacceptable for my mission. The statue's mouth is a gaping hole, which suggests that if I give it the right thing, I'll get the emerald and/or a means of escape. I notice a bench in front of the statue, and when I sit on it, the emerald begins to glow. But I can't reach the statue from the bench.

Riddle-poems of the Shang dynasty. I’m trying to meditate with the room full of dead and this grotesque statue staring at me.

I noticed that I can pour the basin into the hole in the statue, so I restored and tried pouring the rest of the poison into it instead of passing it on right away. This does not seem to have done anything, though. It doesn't even keep the rest of the mourners from killing themselves, somehow. Are they licking the basin to get some of the poison, or something? It's described as empty, and yet eventually if I don't give it to them, they take it from me and die anyway.

I remember that something happened when I waited in the right place at Stonehenge, so I try sitting on the bench again and waiting a few times. I think I'm onto something, as I get a few messages about squirming impatiently and not following the fourth tablet's instruction to "do without doing". Finally, I pause to think for a minute, and suddenly, without my entering any command at the command line, I'm told I fall into a state of meditation, which is then interrupted by a hidden pipe filling the bowl with water.

Apparently, I have “done without doing” by entering no accident.

The third tablet suggests water as part of the solution: "The softest of stuff in the world / Penetrates quickly the hardest." So this is exactly what I needed. I take the basin and pour the water into the statue's mouth, which both releases the emerald and shifts the statue away from the wall to reveal a hidden exit. The basin shatters in the process, but I probably don't need it anymore. For meditating to get the water, using it to reveal the exit, and acquiring the emerald, I get a total of 45 more points. Now we're getting somewhere! I step through the exit and slide through a tunnel that deposits me out at the Sacred Way again, outside the tomb.

This was quite the ride!

I do have to say that this mechanism of having something happen after a pause without a command entered is almost like breaking the fourth wall in the context of a text adventure, especially one from this era. In modern text adventures, text animation and timed events are easier to program, so they are more often seen, even if they're not necessarily common. But at this point, this kind of real-time interaction in a text adventure would have been shockingly unorthodox, especially as a required puzzle solution. Just another indication of how Legend's games are a hybrid of text and graphical adventures. Also, while I hadn’t remembered the solution, this puzzle was the main thing I remembered from when I’d played the game before.

This concludes our initial survey of the 1361 BC locations. We're doing well in Peking, though, so let's move on to 452 AD here. The shrine and gates don't look much different, but this time there's a priest in the marketplace soliciting donations for a temple to be built there in the future. So I give him the emerald from the emperor's tomb, for five points. Now I have to go on to 800 AD to see what the temple looks like that they've built. I first save and restore back to an earlier point just to see what it looks like without having encountered the priest, to see what kind of difference I've made.

The temple before I meddle...I mean, interfere...I mean...oh nevermind, that’s exactly what I did.

Either way, the Buddhist temple is there in 800 AD, so before I helped the priest, someone else must have at some point. Initially the Buddha holds a sapphire, there's a portrait on the wall of nobody familiar, and the priest blocks me from entering the sanctuary. After I help the priest, the Buddha holds the emerald I gave him, the portrait resembles me, and the priest allows me to enter the sanctuary, thinking that I'm the reincarnation of their founder. I get ten points for entering the sanctuary, and five points for taking one of their firework masks.

Fireworks are the big thing in China in this age, apparently.

It also occurs to me that this is quite the intervention just to get a firework mask. I'm now the founder of a whole Buddhist temple, even if nobody there will understand why or what really happened. It's very much a puzzle for the sake of a puzzle.

Let's skip the mission in Rome for now and check the other locations in 452 AD. In Dover, I step out into the shed and am nearly decapitated by a youth with a sword. Who promptly tries to kill me. He seems to think I'm Vettenmyer shapeshifted or something, and mentions that the runes on his "holy sword" have been changed. I glance at the sword and see another message in modern English: "Eternity will pass before you figure out a tenth of all this." I'm guessing there's not much else to see here other than picking up a point for finding Vettenmyer's creepy message.

The sword looks like it’s glowing. Any connection to Arthur and Excalibur, or is this just random?

In Mexico, the temple in Teotihuacan is larger and nicer. I haven't fixed the myth yet, so cannibal armies have been wreaking havoc on their enemies, according to the murals in here. An exit leads into a maze. It's a very straightforward maze, really. All exits are reversible; there are no death traps or anything; and there are even dusty footprints to show the right way to go. I mapped the whole thing anyway, but the footprints lead straight from the entrance to the closet at the heart of the temple, where I find a graffiti message on the wall: "As for teenagers, I think they should banished [sic] from the academy." I wonder if that's a crack at my character being too young to be effective. Regardless, another point for me.

This was an easy maze to map.

Cairo is very run-down in 452 AD, with the empire's focus on Alexandria. At the royal compound, which is in ruins, there's a loose carving with another message: "Saying you're not stupid is like saying thirteen isn't an unlucky number." Another time, another point. I'm sensing a trend here. Nothing else here as far as I can tell.

Baghdad in 452 AD looks nearly identical to 44 BC, and the ruins of Babylon look very similar also. Instead of a broken bowl, there's a fragile jug with a message stamped on it: "Risk is just a leaven to make your interest rise." I'm certainly interested in stopping Vettenmyer. I try to get the jug, but it crumbles, which I think is just as well. I'd erase all of the messages if I could. No extra points for it, just the one point for finding the message.

Finally, Rome in 452 AD holds the scenario of Attila the Hun threatening the city. The sewer looks the same, but the city looks deserted with people hiding from the threat of war. The circus is closed by order of Pope Leo, and a new exit from the main street is available that leads to the Vatican, in front of St. Peter's Basilica. From there I can either go inside or take the road to Ravenna to visit Attila's encampment.

The Basilica will undoubtedly be useful in later times, but there's nothing much there at the moment. I discover when I get to the camp and get yanked into Attila's tent that Pope Leo is already there to talk to Attila also. (On a restore, I find that if I wait at the Vatican first, Pope Leo comes out and asks if I'm there to accompany him, at which point I can travel with him to the camp instead of ahead of him. Oddly enough, the text says the road takes several hours to traverse, yet only a minute elapses on the clock.)

How Leo convinced Attila in the first place, nobody knows, but his performance here isn’t too promising.

The barbarian leader, who has already amassed quite a lot of treasure from his European conquests, demands either a worthwhile payment or a miracle in order to be dissuaded from attacking Rome. According to the mission details: “According to Intel-Ops, Attila was afraid of the legendary power of the Christian god. It is believed that Vettenmyer has convinced Attila that the god of the Romans is actually weak and will be unable to stop the Hun invasion.“ I doubt I can scrape up enough cash to be noticed (I tried offering him the emerald, but I'm sure that's a drop in the bucket compared to what he wants), but a miracle might be possible, especially when I notice that he's wearing a gold bracelet with a time transponder on it. Vettenmyer must have given it to him. Whether he knows anything about what it is or not is doubtful.

Attila’s final ultimatum. Nice alliteration.

I don't know yet how to manufacture a miracle that he'll believe, but I hang around anyway just to see what happens. Attila returns to his tent after three hours with his horde packed up and ready to attack. He waits a few minutes, but when he doesn't get what he wants, he rampages off toward Rome. Like the assassination attempt on Caesar, failure to restore history is indicated by a buzz of the wristlet and then the interkron throws me into an alternate future instead of returning properly.

Consequences of failing this mission in 452 AD Rome.

I'm thinking the firework mask might help me with setting up a miracle for Attila, as it's described as having western features that make it look like an Old Testament patriarch. I still need some way to light it, though. Maybe I can get a lighter from one of the more modern time periods. Next time, on to 800 AD and the Mexico mission.

Status and score so far.

Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 0 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. God, there's so much wrong in the world history depicted here that it makes Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego looks like a fully legit historical simulation in comparison.

    1. Are you speaking about the Chinese stuff? I'd sure like to know more, since I am not that well acquainted with the Chinese history.

      The Attila thing at least was another exaggeration:

      1) Rome was sacked couple of times, so one more group of barbarians would probably have made no difference.

      2) And even if Huns would have caused the collapse of the Western Christian civilization, I am pretty sure Byzantians or Arabs or etc. could have picked up from there, and the environment of Colosseum wouldn't be populated by mere cavemen.

    2. And we usually forget that barbarians sacked Rome primarily for the PR impact. By the time they were doing this, the Roman capital (i.e. where the emperor lived, not necessarily the Senate) was elsewhere.

    3. Yeah, the outcomes of the failed missions are seriously exaggerated.

    4. @Ilmari - Yes, the Chinese stuff. During the Shang Dynasty, Peking (modern day Beijing) wasn't even under their rule. Prior to the Qin Dynasty, the entirety of the Middle Kingdoms (old name for China) was ruled by several different emperors/warlords. Shang was just one of them, rivaled by the Yin Dynasty supporters.

      You can see the below link and laugh while playing TimeQuest.

      Also, why would Cairo be run-down? The city became an important religious stronghold for the Coptics during AD 400s.

      Baghdad was not yet founded and still under Sasanian rule who were having a war with the Armenians during that period. Uneventful is not a word I will describe it during AD 452.

  2. Strange. The blog ate my previous comment.

    Just saying that while I think the history here is impossibly bad, at least you seem to be enjoying the experience!

    1. It does that occasionally. Some persistent bug in Blogger.

      I really like that the game does take advantage of time travel puzzles, where what do you in one time zone has an effect in another time zone (even if it means convoluted puzzles, like funding a temple, just to get some fireworks from it in the future).

    2. Yes! This is something that I really missed about Space Quest IV, one big black mark on an otherwise pretty impressive game.

    3. Yes, I'm liking the game so far, terrible history and logic aside. I do like seeing the effects down through time. There's more of that coming, fortunately, although some of the puzzles seem to be more along the lines of "pick up random item from location A and use it in location B".

  3. I love the adventure game logic. "Well, they just all poisoned themselves with this. However, I might need to pick stuff up later.. yeah, I should definitely take the poisoned basin. Ooh, maybe if I wait they'll decompose and I can use one of their skulls as a mug..."

  4. Nice piece of riddle to not writing anything in the tomb being the correct solution - except I am pretty sure that you can also use the command MEDITATE to acheive the same effect.

    I never noticed this when I played it myself, but I wonder why both the Olmec in the last post and the Arthur-wannabe in this post seem to think you are Vettenmeyer. Are you perhaps related (or different temporal versions of the same person)? Or does the time machine make every passenger look identical?

    1. Oh, I didn't try MEDITATE, good idea.

      That's a great question, and I hope we get an answer at some point. I don't get the impression that the time machine changes the appearance of the traveler (like the jumpsuit in Journeyman Project does), as it stays in one location while I wander around. I highly doubt Vettenmyer is a future version of the PC, too. But some relation between the two would be an interesting answer.

    2. I believe the time machine make every passenger look identical.

      For one thing, the Chinese live burials of the royalty's aides are just that: aides & close family members only. You can't just walk up to the line and join in the queue without being recognized as a trespasser or, worse, a tomb raider. You'd probably get speared to death even before you could see what the heck was going on.

    3. Yeah, that's one of the most immersion-breaking aspects of the game for me, the way I can walk into any situation and be accepted as a contemp (to use Connie Willis's term) and even someone who has some connection to the people involved. This is subtle technomagic indeed if I can recognize myself in a portrait of the founder of a Chinese temple

  5. Getting yourself immortalized as the founder of a temple, the knight who thinks he recognizes you...I think Vettenmyer may be your Tyler Durden.

  6. While being there worst game currently being played through, I've got to say, I think I'm enjoying it's posts the most. I think part of it is Rekio's writing, but also it isn't another Space Quest or Lesiure Suit Larry game. It is something new and different. Plus it generates cool discussion.

    1. I'm not really sure it's that much worse than the other games - except when it comes to graphics, perhaps.

    2. Really? Reiko has been pointing out a lot of logic and plot-hole issues, which I feel is less forgivable in this then LSL or Space Quest. Plus perpetuating so many historical myths.

    3. I think LSL 5 will have quite similar rating as Timequest, although the individual category scores will obviously be different.

    4. Hasn't Larry 5 been reviewed and rated already?

    5. Yes, but Canageek is still reading these old posts and I think he hasn't gotten to Larry 5 yet.