Saturday, 30 September 2017

Lure of the Temptress - Twist Away the Gates of Steel

by Alex



So I got the Weregate open.

I’ll bet you’re wondering, “How did this happen?” Well, today’s your lucky day. We’ll get to that. But first, in order to understand the process and what to make of it in the grand Adventure Gamer tradition, let’s go back to my last post on Lure of the Temptress. Remember when I said that I enjoyed the game’s approach to puzzles?

. . . I actually find myself enjoying Lure of the Temptress’ approach to puzzles. My earlier complaints notwithstanding (and it looks like I’m not the only one experiencing pathfinding issues, though this seems to be more of an issue related to the ScummVM emulator), now that I have more time with the game under my belt, understand the interface and what the developers were trying to do . . . I kind of like it.”

I need to qualify this statement: While I enjoy the game’s approach to puzzles, I cannot say I particularly enjoy the puzzles themselves.

Let me explain.
Take a game like Quest for Glory I. After about ten minutes of interacting with the game world, the player is presented with an array of quests, of things to do:
  • Find out what happened to the Baron’s daughter
  • Find out what happened to the Baron’s son
  • Kill or capture the Brigand Leader
  • Kill or capture the Brigand Warlock
  • Find the Healer’s missing ring
  • Find spell components for the healer
  • Find out why the stableman is such a jerk
And these are quests you discover within the first few screens. Better still, the player has agency, the ability to actively go and accomplish these quests. There are things that our nameless hero does himself to get that ring, find that Baronet, capture that Brigand Leader . . . and he can do them in nearly any order. Most adventure titles, graphical and text, are structured in this way, and this is one of the things, in my opinion, that makes the genre so popular.

By contrast, Diermot feels like a passive hero at best. There is the overarching quest (get rid of the Temptress), but each individual step is presented in a, thus far, entirely linear fashion which Diermot accomplishes by talking to person A who tells him to go to person B and talk to him or give him object X in order to unlock the next fetch and/or talk quest in the chain. Which is too bad, because there are a bunch of intriguing things about Turnvale that excited me at first blush to explore the game world (What’s up with that monastery? The weird gate? The Town Hall? The Castle? Where’s the missing apothecary? Why are these buildings boarded up? What’s the deal with the goat?!). So yeah, there is a relatively expansive and interesting setting. There’s just not much to do in it.

Until you talk to the proper person, that is.

Keep all of this in mind as you read the chain of events that brought Diermot, Ratpouch, and Goewin to the now-open Weregate.



We left off with Mallin giving Diermot a book to deliver to Morkus over at the Magpie. This allows Diermot to ask the citizens of Turnvale if the book means anything to them. I can also ask people what they think I should do about Selena. Apparently, the book means something to Ratpouch: It’s the Book of Gethryn. Gethryn was apparently an ancient monk who has not been mentioned once in the game or the documentation, and the book contains his teachings and wisdom.

I got some pretty entertaining answers about it, though I wasted a few groat asking useless Gereint the bartender at the Severed Arms for help. The jerk will only talk to you if you buy something from him, and he never offers anything of value. What a guy, right?


To be fair, it is pretty dumb of Diermot, an outsider, to boldly proclaim his plans to
overthrow the sorceress who rules the town he is in to anyone who will listen.

Some facts about the book from Turnvale’s varied and ridiculous populace:
  • Luthern: Can’t read.
  • Catriona: The Book of Gethryn is evil, and will curse all those who speak its blasphemous syllables. But, by her own admission, she could be wrong.
  • Ultar: The barbarian has read it and bemoans that it is “All talk, no action.” And yet, Diermot can’t ask him for a translation . . .
  • Gereint: Expresses annoyed wonder at how Diermot got the book, then quickly states he doesn’t know anything about it, or what it means.
  • Edwina: It looks like a religious book to her. She doesn’t like religion, relying on frog sacrifice instead of prayer to ensure a good harvest. I’ll . . . I’ll stick with the prayer, thanks.
  • Ewan: The shopkeeper identifies the Book of Gethryn as “a little-known collection of handy tips on home improvements.” I identify him as an idiot.

Everybody in this game talks nonsense . . .
  • Grub: The old man gets cranky, complaining that he’s a freelance mystic and not a linguist. You know, as an aside, every single person involved in this so-called resistance to Selena is utterly useless. Except for Ratpouch. Maybe I should just save him and leave this town.
  • Goewin: Doesn’t know the language it’s written in, but sees a symbol that represents dragons. FINALLY! SOMEONE USEFUL!
  • Nellie: Can’t read.
  • Gwyn: The binding is made of human skin, the writing is intelligible, there are no pictures . . .
  • Morkus: Lastly, the guy I’m supposed to give the book to . . . just gets mad at Diermot every time he offers it.


However, once the book was in Diermot’s possession, something changed! That’s right! All of a sudden a notice appeared on the monastery on Blackfriar’s Row. It reads:

“REWARD! A unique hand-crafted terracotta statuette depicting the Temptation of Gethryn will be given to the person returning the book stolen from this house. Apply within.”


Holy cow a quest! It would’ve been more interesting if this had been on the monastery the whole time, creating getting the statue as an objective in the players’ mind, but I digress. The hell with Morkus. I’m giving the book to the monks!


If I can just make it to the damned monastery . . . LOOK AT THIS SCREENSHOT! One-two-three-four-FIVE NPCS BUMPING INTO EACH OTHER AND SPOUTING STUPID DIALOGUE! Virtual Theater can be an Actual Nightmare sometimes.

Seeing the notice also brings up the option for Diermot to ask people about the monks. About the only useful things Diermot gleans are that:
  • They are called the Brotherhood of Gethryn;
  • They have taken a vow never to meddle in the ways of ordinary men,
  • They have “strange beliefs,” such as the world being round;
  • They are said to be wise; and
  • They don’t really speak to the townsfolk, something I can attest is true as the only conversations I’ve been able to have with them are inside of their monastery.
In any event, I experience yet another mild annoyance created by the Virtual Theater mechanic: I go to the monastery and am greeted with this:



I suppose I could wander around town to find a monk, but given that (a) I’ve been hitherto able to speak with them only within the monastery, and (b) I had to wade through five ping-ponging NPCs to make it into the monastery, I decide to just stand and wait.

Eventually the monks come in. And they are more than happy to see have their book back.

The first brother I talk to is named Whelk.


Not quite . . .

Whelk gives Diermot the statuette for his honesty, making me wonder if I missed something in trying to give the book to Morkus . . . or if it was just another red herring, the game seemingly offering multiple quest paths or solutions, but really railroading the player into one.

Yeah, I’m going to go with the latter.

The statuette, according to the in-game description, is a “grotesque” depiction of a “vaguely human-shaped” figure “with limbs of different lengths twisted at impossible angles” with a “hideously ugly and contorted” face. Times like this make me wish that the game’s inventory provided a little picture of each item. Alas.

Statuette in hand, Diermot now has the option to ask Brother Whelk about the strange scent in the air.




I admit it: I laughed.

It turns out Diermot was referring to the smell of incense, not flatus, that pervades the monastery. This was, after all, conveyed in the description upon using the “Look” command from the main menu.

“Oh, that! It’s something Brother Toby brought back from his visit to the barbarians. I still burn it occasionally, for medicinal purposes of course. Here, take some!”

Whelk then gives Diermot a sprig of some dried plant. It’s a good thing I know an apothecary. Maybe I can show this to Goewin and figure out its use. The only other interesting thing Brother Whelk has to say is, in response to Diermot’s question of what to do about Selena, is to find the “Dragon in the caves” which would help defeat the Skorl. Of course, Brother Whelk has no idea how to open the gates to the cave, nor does he mention where the damn caves are. I’m assuming he means the Weregate, since there’s a vaguely dragon-like shape sketched on its doors . . . and that process of elimination leads me to the conclusion that there’s no other place it could be.


Yeah, it’s kind of dragon-esque.

Thanks for the pep talk, bro.

The other monk about town happens to wander in as I’m speaking with Brother Whelk. He just so happens to be the Brother Toby that Brother Whelk alluded to just a few paragraphs up. Brother Toby also suggests that Diermot find the dragon to help defeat Selena. You know, trying to tame a dragon with nothing but a knife, some broken glass, and a sprig of incense doesn’t seem like the best idea, guys.

Ah! But Brother Toby has some—get this—useful information! I should have figured that, of all the dopes wandering around Turnvale like headless monkeys, leave it to the monks to actually have some wisdom:

“If you are brave enough, seek the Dragon. You will need to cast a spell to charm him. The spell is an infusion of three herbs: Houndstooth, Cowbane and Elecampane. When you wake the dragon, use the infusion quickly! They are bad-tempered creatures at the best of times.”

Another fetch quest. Oh boy. This one seems like it might actually require Diermot to go do something other than talk to people, right? Like go and search for the ingredients to this potion like when the hero in the aforementioned Quest for Glory I has to find the components for the healer’s dispel potion in order to—

Wait a minute. Goewin is an apothecary, so she’ll probably have the herbs in stock. I’ll just go and . . . talk to her.

I ask Brother Toby where the ingredients can be found:


You and me both, Brother. You and me both.

Anyway, now Diermot can ask people how to get to the dragon. The only useful people are Ultar, who tells Diermot that he has to get past the “Devil-pig-man” who lives in the cave by bashing him in the head where he has no armor, and Grub, who tells Diermot that he needs a sword and should wait for the monster to come to him.


Is . . . is this the Devil-pig-man?

Ultar, Ultar of all people, is also the one who tells Diermot how to open the Weregate: Talk to the gargoyles and call them by their names: Fengael and Hammawen. I think figuring out that I need to call them by name, but having a separate quest to learn the names could have been fun. Instead, I just interrogate everyone in Turnvale until I get the answer. That’s what Lure of the Temptress has been like, actually: a detective game. And we’ve already covered games like that here on The Adventure Gamer.

So there are two things Diermot should have before attempting to find the dragon: A sword and the potion. I look in vain for a sword, even though Diermot is friends with a blacksmith who has a damn sword hanging on the wall of his forge. And as Luthern is supposed to be Diermot’s friend who wants to help him get rid of Selena and the Skorl, you’d think he’d give the sword to Diermot, right? But no. No. Diermot cannot even ask about the sword. I can almost guarantee that some event will have to happen before I can even bring the topic up to Luthern.


Come on, game. Throw me a bone.

Whatever. The potion should be easier. After needing to select the correct combination of herbs for Goewin (thank goodness for screencaps), I get this bit of news:



Is that . . . does this mean that Diermot has an actual, honest-to-goodness quest here? A puzzle? Hallelujah and happy days! There’s something to do that doesn’t involve talking to people and showing them various inventory objects, right? Right? Please tell me I’m right.

The weird thing, though, and once again a place where I see Lure of the Temptress drop the storytelling ball, is that Diermot can’t tell Goewin about Wulf’s fate, that he talked to Wulf—Goewin’s friend—and give her some kind of closure. Also, doing so could have served as a hint to the player, with Goewin saying something like, “The only other place you can find Cowbane is . . .” and point Diermot in the right direction. Instead, Wulf’s death is treated as a great big whatever, although at least we get an answer to what was in Wulf’s pouch (I do have to point out that I am glad that the game decided not to make not getting the herb from Wulf’s pouch a mandatory puzzle, the failure of which to do so resulting in a dead man walking scenario. That would have been much more of a Sierra move).

Anyway, I have to find some Cowbane. I ask Goewin if there is a substitute, but she says no. I show her the sprig Brother Whelk gave me, and Goewin identifies it as lavender and stichwort, of no use to her in making the anti-dragon potion. But it gives me an idea: I’ll show this sprig to everyone!

Wouldn’t you know it, crazy old Catriona is helpful! I show her the sprig and she says it’s kind of like Cowbane, which they have growing in the garden outside of the forge. She goes the next step, telling Diermot that it’s the blue plant. Fantastic! Somehow I didn’t get any screenshots of this conversation, but here’s a picture of the outside of the forge:



You can see the blue plants near the garden wall. The weird thing was that when I first exited the forge after getting this information, the blue plant didn’t show up as “Cowbane” when I put the curser over it, but when I exited the screen and reentered, it did. A minor point, but it makes me wonder if it’s an emulator issue of if it was an issue with the game itself.

It doesn’t matter, because now I can get the potion from Goewin. In classic adventure game fashion, she tells Diermot to “come back later.”



“Later” consisted of just wandering around talking to random people until the potion was ready. Off to the Weregate! I go and Diermot now has the option to talk to the gargoyles, which I do. The gargoyles tell Diermot that they’ll only open the door for a women. When asked how Ultar got in, Fengael and Hammawen reveal that Ultar might have an interesting side hobby:



This makes me wonder if there’ll be another quest to disguise Diermot and put together a drag disguise a la Leisure Suit Larry 2, or if I have to go back to Taidgh’s apparatus and drink more of the potion which made Diermot look like Selena. But then, thanks to Virtual Theater, who should wander into the screen but Goewin. With a heavy heart, I realize that the answer to this puzzle is probably just to ask her to say the gargoyles’ names.


Yup.

I do appreciate Goewin’s help, and as a bonus she wants to come along with Diermot and Ratpouch. I’m hoping that this will lead to more unique puzzles using the game’s mechanic of telling NPCs to perform certain tasks, but I have my doubts. I also don’t have a sword. So we’ll see how this goes. I hope the puzzling gets more interesting, I really do, because I feel like Lure of the Temptress has the potential to be a great adventure game right buried just under its surface. Now, it just feels like a mediocre one. But I’ll save my judgment for the end.


I wish . . .

Into the caves!

Inventory: Broken glass, knife, tinderbox, flask of water, diary, statue, potion, sprig, 4 groats

Session Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 4 hours, 55 minutes

8 comments:

  1. The linearity of this game is indeed annoying. There really is no sense of satisfying pacing when all you get is tiny fetch quests one after another instead of bigger goals with subgoals. Virtual Theatre also sounds groundbreaking on paper, but just makes everything a big hassle, making it even worse than this:

    https://storage.googleapis.com/media.tiltingatpixels.com/tilting/Final_Fantasy_13_Hallway_Again.jpg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laukku,

      Despite a few puzzles that make good use of the ability to give NPCs commands, I am very disappointed with this game so far. It has all of the elements of a solid adventure game. The execution is just sorely lacking.

      Delete
  2. Wandering around until the person who has the info I need and I happen to end up in the same place - I'm starting to see why I rated the game so poorly.

    Here's hoping the game does have something special in store later on.

    P.S. I love the picture with the sword :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. That picture about sums up my feelings about this game's approach to puzzles.

      And now I'm stuck.

      Delete
  3. Hey guys I am putting out a call for help:

    I cannot get into the castle. I've Sbyybjrq gur Fxbey cngeby nebhaq but have not been able to do anything. Any tips greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm not familiar with the game, but pulling from a walkthrough so you don't have to consult one yourself and see inadvertent additional spoilers:

    1. Lbh qba'g arrq gb sbyybj gur fhfcvpvbhf Fxbey nebhaq; lbh arrq gb jnvg bhgfvqr n cnegvphyne cynpr fb lbh pna bofreir jung unccraf nsgre gurl tb va.
    2. Fcrpvsvpnyyl, n cynpr jurer gur Fxbey pna unir n pung jvgu nabgure vaqvivqhny.
    3. Va gur znexrgcynpr.
    4. Rjna'f fubc. Jnvg bhgfvqr sbe gur Fxbey gb tb va.
    5. Gura ybbx guebhtu gur jvaqbj naq yvfgra gb gurve ragver pbairefngvba.
    6. Nsgrejneqf, tb va naq xrrc gnyxvat gb Rjna lbhefrys.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks friend! That was just enough of a nudge in the right direction. I was on the right track but missed that one crucial piece. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete