Monday, January 4, 2016

Savage Empire: Team Efforts

Welcome to 2016, folks! Let's kick things off with a little Savage Empire, shall we?

Neither, actually...
Last time, I'd reunited our little ragtag group from Earth after finding Jimmy Rafkin among the Disquiqui. But it occurred to me that I hadn't quite managed to bring the entire troop back together just yet. Triolo's presence was a reminder of that. Though he claimed not to know the name of Iolo, he did admit that it struck a chord somewhere within him nonetheless, and he bore more than a striking resemblance to the bowyer from Britannia. Shamino's name seemed vaguely familiar to him as well, though he insisted it was instead Shamuru, the name of a warrior with the Barako tribe, to the north of the Kurak village. I had seen to the safety of the two I had inadvertently brought with me from Earth, but if Iolo had a counterpart of sorts here in Eodon, it only seemed fitting to see if other friends of mine in Britannia did as well.

So it was off to the northern reaches of the valley that I set my sights, intending to stop by the Yolaru tribe on the way in order to figure out what their chieftain might require of me in order to join the alliance of tribes against the Myrmidex. Along the way, I took some time to play around with the system a little more. I remembered being able to get meat from killed animals with my knife, and further experimentation along the road revealed that I was able to get feathers from parrots in much the same way. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'm liking the ways that Savage Empire has ramped up the interactivity and its uses within the Ultima VI engine. Being able to actually find what you would expect off the remains of the fauna of Eodon is a nice touch.

I should probably stop trying to explore at night.
...and speaking of the fauna, I had a brush on the way back from the Disquiqui village that could have ended rather better. While chasing after parrots, I bumped into a serpent woman, who promptly attacked. It wasn't long before I realized I was in a bit over my head, but by that point I wasn't in much of a position to beat a hasty retreat, and once again Eodon's creatures got the better of me. Once again I found myself coming to in Intanya's hut, and that... well, turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. Sure, it was a blow to the pride (and a few other things), but at least it meant I was closer to the Yolaru, saving me the walk. Which brings up something I don't think I got around to mentioning when it came to Ultima VI - death penalties. I'll admit it's a bit more frustrating to experience a 'party wipe' when the Avatar is struck down in combat, regardless of how many of his companions are still up and kicking when it happens, than it was in Ultimas IV and V. But then again, the punishment isn't particularly debilitating, either. It's a quick transition to revival, the penalties aren't excessively dire past some experience points (at least as far as I've noticed), and then off you go once more. It's nice that the game doesn't necessitate a reload when such a circumstance arises. Granted, I often do anyway, but in this case, it presented what I considered a reasonable tradeoff - it wasn't the ideal way for me to get back to this part of the valley, but it happened, albeit at a bit of a cost, and so I took it for what it was. It's less of an interruption to the flow of gameplay, and makes for a couple interesting choices here and there.

Anyway, I thanked Intanya once more for his aid, and went on my way, following the trails in the valley back to the Yolaru tribe. It didn't take long for me to track down Apaton once more to discuss the idea of uniting the tribes, and he told me that what he sought in exchange for an alliance was weaponry. More specifically, ten of the swords that the Nahuatla made - their last weaponsmith perished in a Myrmidex attack, and the Nahuatla were known as makers of fine swords. Bringing him ten of their finest craftsmanship would both demonstrate a service to the Yolaru and better arm them for when the time came to march against the Myrmidex. I was already a tenth of the way there, too. I figured that when I made my attempts to oust the usurper in the Nahuatla city, I was likely to pick up a fair few weapons in the process, so I agreed, bid Apaton farewell, and turned my attentions to the north.

Like a certain other companion of mine...
The trek to the Barako tribe was a long one, across high and unstable bridges and past the territory of a particularly grumpy sabertooth. We managed to strike it down, but I was beginning to feel the very strong need for some proper team-building exercises. Neither Rafkin nor Jimmy seemed much suited for the heat of battle, though Jimmy probably could be with time and experience, and Triolo was more inclined toward the bow than any other sort of weaponry. This meant Aric was the only one on the front lines, and with only a shield for protection, fights could take turns for the dire pretty quickly. I was glad I'd made tracking down Shamuru a priority - we needed all the help that we could get.

He wasn't too difficult to find, either, hanging out just outside the Barako village. He told me a similar story to Triolo's, waking up in the valley without memories of his life before it, and taken in by one of the native tribes of Eodon. He quite eagerly joined our little troop of adventurers, and after taking note of the bow he carried, meaning yet another member who'd keep his distance in a fight, he was more than willing to pass his leather armor, a rarity as far as my adventures thus far had turned up, to the sole front line fighter of the group.

I see you up there.
We then spent some time chatting with the rest of the tribe. They spoke of other strangers in the vicinity, an older man named Topuru who always spoke of rocks and kept himself in seclusion on an island to the west, and a young man in the northeast of the valley who they said called himself 'Frit-azz.' They also remarked he was dressed in attire suggesting that he too was from outside the valley. We also learned of their rivalry with the Pindiro tribe to the east, and suggested that there were problems concerning Halisa, the daughter of Halawa, their chieftain, though nobody was willing to expound further on the matter, instead directing me to speak with the chieftain herself. Halawa was indeed distracted, and revealed that her daughter, future chieftain of their tribe, had been captured by a large ape, who carried her off to a high ledge near the river to the north of the village. As imagined, rescuing her was the deed she wanted done before she would consent to an alliance with the other tribes of the valley, though it was a deed that would need doing regardless of what reward came from it. I spent some time seeking out the ape in question and did indeed find him on a high ledge to the west of the source of the river near the tribe, but there was no visible way to reach him from where I was standing. I would need to consider my approach and hope that Halisa would be able to manage in the meantime - Halawa was worried that the ape would dash her daughter to pieces on the rocks below, and I saw no evidence of such yet, so that was, at least, promising.

While I was in the area, I paid a visit to the Barako's rivals, the Pindiro. And there I saw yet another rather familiar face, in the form of the warrior Dokray, more than a little reminiscent of the paladin Dupre back in Britannia. He too wanted to see the tribes of Eodon united against the Myrmidex, and here I had a decision to make - whether to bring him along or not.

You see, I'd run into the party limit.

I should hope so, all things considered.
This was the first time I'd run up against the party limit that I hadn't already planned around a bit during my playthrough of the series - I did some party juggling in Ultima V, but that was something I was already prepared for. I'd thought the party limit in Savage Empire was six, not including those who automatically joined, and Dokray's refusal to join my group on account of already having enough came as a surprise. And also left me with a bit of a dilemma - who to leave behind? I've chosen my party members (at least since the first game that allowed me to do so, Ultima V) based more on story and thematic reasons than solely for function in the party, and the fact that I can without seriously crippling myself is one of the things I like about the series - even Katrina in Ultima IV can turn out to be quite the powerhouse, she just takes a while and a bit more work to get there. I've made mention of the fact I don't feel right not taking along Iolo, Shamino, and Dupre if I can help it, and the same goes for their analogues in Savage Empire, but it didn't feel right leaving either Rafkin or Jimmy behind either - I had brought them with me, after all. Ultimately, it was with reluctance that I told Shamuru to catch up with us later so we could bring Dokray along. I couldn't leave behind my companions from Earth, we were a team, we'd come here together and we'd stick together until we found a way back home. Triolo was the only shaman among us and thereby the only practitioner of the valley's form of magic, and all three of them were more well suited to fighting from a distance than flinging themselves into a melee. Dokray was a heavy hitter, though, at least moreso than Shamuru the hunter, so I decided to give Aric some support on the front lines and take Dupre's doppelganger along with us.

My thoughts exactly, Jimmy-ol'-pal.
There wasn't a whole lot to learn from the other Pindiro. They mentioned getting the paddles for their rafts from the Disquiqui, and that we should make sure to have at least four steering when making use of one. Kunawo, the tribe shaman, took a moment to heal us up, then offered to exchange one of each of the offerings necessary for Triolo's shamanic magic for five flax fibers, which we hadn't yet obtained any of, but it was something worth noting if Triolo ever started running low. The Pindiro chieftain Inara talked of a stranger in a cave to the west along the cliff face, who fought only with his fists. More to the point, she saw the wisdom of uniting the tribes and appeared tired of the squabbles between tribes, agreeing to an alliance immediately upon bringing the possibility up. Encouraged by her willingness, we bid her farewell and went on our way - back to the Barako tribe, because I suddenly remembered something about what we'd been told there.

Because I kind of need it.
I'd been so focused on getting my bearings in the valley, getting a solid group together and finding supplies, that I'd nearly forgotten that I still had to figure out exactly where the Urali tribe were located, and by extension, Aiela. What use was preparing myself to rescue her if I had no idea where to find her, after all? And her tribemates had made mention of one who might know where to find them, none other than this Topuru that the Barako had mentioned. They'd said he had sequestered himself on an island to the west, and so after finding a raft and four paddles on the lake's shores, we paddled over the water, passing by a rather large (and thankfully friendly) plant-eating dinosaur, and found Topuru himself, who was... a little odd in the head, to put it mildly. We caught him just as he drifting off for a nap, and so had to wait for him to wake up before we could talk to him. And when we did, it was... confusing, to say the least. We did, however, manage to get his story out of him after a little conversation. He was the Urali's former shaman, banished from the tribe when he lost his mind - literally, apparently. He told us the tale of how it happened, his hunger for knowledge and the challenges he issued to other shamans to gain it. During a challenge with Balakai, shaman of the Barrab, Topuru apparently had his mind magically removed and placed into a stone, which was still in Balakai's possession. If I could reclaim Topuru's mind, he would tell me where the Urali was.

An odd tale, to be sure, but the only lead I had. I resolved to pay a visit to the Barrab - and perhaps hunt for the remains of Rafkin's lab, as I'd likely have to pass by the area to find them.


I don't have a whole lot more to say beyond my further progress, save that I'm appreciating the differences in the design for the various tribes. Not so much as far as locale goes, and not quite to the extent of the cities of Britannia, but each tribe does have a unique sort of aesthetic to their character portraits, from the abundance of flowers and feathers the Disquiqui display to the clothing of the Barako (if memory serves, they're also the only tribe where the men have beards that I've met thus far). It does a lot toward ensuring that each tribe does feel distinct, and thus making the potential hardships in uniting them all against a common foe that much more believable. There's some nice touches there.

I've poked around the north and the central area of the valley - now it's time to head south and see what I can find there, before following up on all the loose threads I'm gathering. Onward!

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