Friday, January 3, 2014

Long Live the Queen: An inability to do the obvious. (Spoilers)

This will be in three sections
Assassination Related Things

Assassination Related Things

You have an evil Aunt.  By marriage.  She showed up out of nowhere, no one even knows where she came from, claiming to be next in line for the neighboring duchy.  There was no proof.  Your mother, the Queen, offered a solution to the problem of, "Well maybe she is, maybe she isn't, maybe civil war."  She appointed her brother Duke of the place and then married her brother off to evil aunt.  Which is how she became evil aunt.

This... wasn't necessarily the best idea, although it did produce your cousins who seem nice.  Certainly the only one with a speaking role is.

The problem, of course, is that it means that evil aunt is married to the person next in line for the throne and the mother of the person in line after that.  If she kills you, then your uncle (her husband) she can rule the kingdom.

So there's a decent chance she'll spend a large portion of the game trying to kill you.  There are a couple of ways out of it, one of them is for you to unknowingly appoint pure evil to a position in your court, another is to point out that you can tell she's hiding something from you at which point she'll try to brain-death you.  If you are able to resist the magic rebounds back on her and she dies.  We'll get to that because it has its own inability to do the obvious problems but for now let's talk about trying to kill you.

It starts with a snake.  There's no cure for the snakebite but a temporary immunity can be built up by ingesting watered down toxins or some such.  The implication is that evil aunt has been having her daughter do that without her knowledge.  Thus she can release a deadly snake into the place she knows you and her daughter will be playing without risking her daughter.

There are many different ways this can play out.  One of them has the daughter, Charlotte, use special magical powers to save you because Charlotte is totally innocent and not at all in on the assassination plot.

If this happens you'll eventually realize that Charlotte having magical powers could mean certain things (because having magic without being a Lumen is basically unheard of but you do too, so when you talk about your thing it makes you think of hers) and send for her so you can talk to her.

This will bring about assassination attempt two.  If you can decipher the only clue you know the assassin came through evil-aunt's domain.  Which leads you to suspect your uncle.

Now you can ignore this, correctly guessing he'd never try to have you killed, or you can publicly accuse him.  You cannot, say, ask him to do an internal investigation.  But that's not the obvious thing I want to talk about with respect to this.  The important thing here is that there was a plot to kill you and you know where it came from.  (Well, there can be a plot to kill you, depending on previous choices, and you can know where it came from, based on skills. )

That's important from the, "Very obvious things to do that you can't do," perspective because during week 23 you can hire a spy.  What would be a good job to immediately set the spy on?  Going to that place and trying to find out who is trying to kill you and also, equally importantly, who is not trying to kill you.

But you can't use a spy to track down what's going on with assassinations, except when you can.

Before we get to that there's another assassination attempt, but it's made to look like random bandits and the only way that we know it's an assassination attempt is that if evil aunt is no longer trying to kill you at this point it doesn't happen.  Of course if your agent has been in your evil aunt's domain then maybe she could have worked it out.

Unless I'm forgetting something the next time your evil aunt tries to kill you is with poisoned chocolates.

If you've got the right skills you can see signs on several fronts that there's something very fishy going on, but rather than being able to decide to test the chocolates somehow, or to have them destroyed, even with all the signs pointing to, "This is probably a death trap," your only options are to eat them or to set them aside for later.

If you've got the necessary skill in medicine: poison to survive eating a chocolate then that's probably the optimum route because otherwise some hapless chocolate thief will die from them the next week thus alerting you to the poison.  Death is a steep price for chocolate theft.

Now remember how you're not allowed to so much as consider having your spy investigate the earlier attempt on your life?  Well this one totally does get investigated by the spy.  You don't even have to tell her to start, and when she reports her initial findings there isn't a conversation choice, you totally send her to find out more.

So spies don't investigate assassination attempts except when they do.  Interesting that.

Also discovering the assassination attempt when it happens or one week after the fact has no effect on how long it takes to deliver her initial findings.

The reason that it's here is that the most sensible thing would be to let you go to to the spy and tell her to look into it.  Yes, she does it anyway, I don't care.  It's the reasonable option.  Also, just in terms of game mechanics, unless there's a reason (the ship I needed to interview crew on wasn't back until [whenever]) having a one week head start in knowing to investigate should yield a one week heat start in getting the results.

What happens after she delivers her results has more problems which will be discussed in the Lumen section.


Lumen Related Things

It is possible to detect that the priestess is a Lumen.  It is not possible to bring that up in private with the priestess.  Instead your only option is to out her to your Magic mentor.  This isn't a problem as your magic mentor already knows but:
  1. Talking about this person's secret with them is an obvious thing to do when you don't know who they want knowing about it.
  2. You don't actually know that you'll be outing her when you choose to talk to magic mentor that day.

I said I'd come back to to what happens if your aunt's magic rebounds on her and kills her.

You do nothing.  You do not go to your mentor in magic and talk about it.  You don't hit the books and find about about magical duels and if there could be any lingering effects.  You do nothing.

[added] This when you were specifically taught that there can be dangerous negative effects from events like the one that just happened.  Does this cause you to jump into action to learn more about those dangerous things?  No. [/added]

Then, after doing nothing for a week, someone dies.  He is killed by a shadow monster.

At this point you can choose to talk to your mentor.  The conversation makes clear that this is the first time she's heard that your aunt was a Lumen.  This is the first time she's heard about the unplanned death struggle.  If she'd known sooner she probably could have stopped the evil shadow monster before it killed anyone.


Later on you can learn that a condemned man is a Lumen.  You can confront him, you can order his execution be carried out without letting him know you know what he is, you can order him imprisoned, again without letting him know, or you can pardon him based on his bullshit claim that demons made him do it when the only magic on him is his own.

What you can't do is talk to your magical mentor about it.

If you confronted him you just had another duel, you might want to ask her to check for shadow monsters.  (Based on the lack of them I think she does it anyway, but you don't know that will happen. [added] Or it could be because he was less powerful than your aunt and you only got the bad things warning for the more powerful duel knowledge. [/added])  Also you might want to talk about suddenly being in possession of a "This can make people magic" crystal right away rather than waiting a week.  (More than a week actually since the opportunity to talk only comes on weekends.  So one week plus however many days between the event and the first time the game could have let you talk about it.)

If you ordered him executed you might want to talk to your mentor about how to contain him until the deed is done.  You can't and so he uses magic to escape causing a general sense of fear and paranoia.

If you ordered him imprisoned you might want to ask your magical teacher if that will work.  You can't and so he stages a successful jailbreak.  Not good.

The most obvious thing to do after encountering a magical person who is a murderer is to talk to your Magic Teacher, as soon as possible.  You can't. 


And then your country is invaded by sea.

As it turns out if you can get three or more Lumens working together you can use magic to stop the invasion.  This is not the best idea as that much magic has consequences and such.  Specifically it will unleash the Kraken and if you've watched either Clash of the Titans movie you know that that is not a good thing.

But the choice you are given is... interesting.  Either you can call upon the deep dark magic (separate from The Deep Magic (TM)) or you can leave all the other magic users at home.

You can't say, "Well I'd rather not dabble with powers beyond imagination but I could really use some extra magical support, especially since the invading king is magic himself."

That's kind of an obvious option, driven home even more when, if you go with the fleet, are magic, and lose, it will specifically state that part of the problem is that, however much your magic helps you, you're just one person.



The enemy king wants to duel you so he can take your magic crystal off your dead body.  (Once bonded to a person it stays until death.)  You point out that it wouldn't work for him (crystals are attuned to the personality of the wielder) to which he responds that the resonance of a crystal can be changed.

This goes against what you previously knew and is important because at this point you might have access to one or two crystals previously owned by evil people and the only way you know of to use them would be to find someone impressionable (the crystal would prefer evil-like-the-previous-owner but will take impressionable) and then carefully raise them to be not evil which, since the crystal will be bonded to them, will redeem the crystal in the process.

If enemy king can, as a not-so-impressionable not-at-all-like-you adult make use of your crystal then when he says that resonances can be changed he means something entirely different than what you know about.

So if you turn him not evil, which can be done, the most obvious thing to do next is to ask him about that whole changing of resonance thing.  You don't, you can't.

In the event that you never realize your aunt is evil and give her a court position the fact that you don't means that attempts to give your totally not evil cousin a crystal fail because the resonance of totally-not-evil is somewhat different from murderously-evil.


If your spy went out, your spy comes back having deciphered your aunt's secret journals and learned that your aunt is totes evil.  She plans to kill you and her husband making her daughter future queen and herself regent.  Yay.

Elsewhere I've talked about the lack of internal consistency with the options you have here.  If you trust the spy, or events back in week three allowed you to test the spy and find out she was telling the truth, you'll be given the option of who to execute and/or who to banish.

That those are your only options is problematic, but I've (hopefully, writing out of order here), covered that.

Here's the problem.  Your aunt has magic.  Sending people off to get your aunt is like sending them after evil-Gandalf.  So Saruman I guess.

Regular soldiers are not up to this task.

Even if we accept the game saying that these are your only options, the obvious thing to do would be to send at least one of your own wizards Lumen with whomever you send out.  It should be an option.  Your weekend talk, "Listen, my aunt is evil and trying to kill me.  Repeatedly.  But she's also magic so I don't know if the people I'm sending can handle her.  Would you please go with them to make sure things don't get out of hand?"

Can you do that?  No.  Do you know what happens?  Things get the fuck out of hand.

Which is why, in spite of all logic saying that investigation and whatnot is the way to go, the best way to deal with the situation is to have high detect and resist magic at the royal ball and have your aunt get blown up as the magic she tried to unload on you rebounds onto her and overloads.


Invasion Related Things

Run and Hide is a perfectly viable strategy.

When the invasion comes an obvious option would be to NOT meet the enemy head on.

First, at sea no one has home-field advantage.  If you let them onto your soil then, yes, morale will take a hit and property damage will be unavoidable, but you at least have knowledge of the terrain on your side.  Plus by not engaging their navy you still have your navy intact.

You can use it to get supplies for yourself, disrupt their supplies, whatever.  Options are open.  Including temporarily disbanding the navy so the naval forces can aid with the war on land.

Second, when they make landfall, which in the game only happens when you've lost the naval battle, your troops automatically try to hold them off as long as possible.

Wait.  What?

Nova is not Athens, the port is not fortified.  All evidence is that your troops are fighting largely in the open.  If the enemy is making for the capital evacuate everything between the capital and where the enemy landed, pull all of your troops together, and make your stand at the fucking castle.  You know: the building designed to repel an invading army.  That's what castles are for.

It's possible to win the naval battle, barely.  But really all of the military decisions in the invasion, in spite of the fact that Elodie can be a fucking military genius at this point, seem to automatically be, "Let's overextend ourselves and see how that works out."

The one time you get a chance to make a smart decision is if Elodie is a military genius, with the fleet, and the fleet looses.  She gives the order to bravely run away when it becomes clear to her that they can't win.  Well before they would have bravely run away without her, thus saving many lives.

Everything about the invasion says pull back.  Get to your fortifications and make your stand there.

It's the obvious thing to do.  You, obviously, can't do it.  The game doesn't let you.  And so your soldiers die needlessly.


There was never supposed to be a third, but you know what?  Third, historically do you know when the best time to attack an army invading by sea is?  When they're landing.  This has a long history.  You know if you've ever heard the word "marathon".

When they're landing they're occupied with things other than fighting, where you don't need to be.  Given simple hydrodynamics if they're coming out of the sea and you're on the land YOU HAVE THE HIGH GROUND.

Once their troops are mixed with yours at the landing site their ships can't fire at your troops without hitting their own but you can fire at their ships with impunity.

If you also have a navy, you can pull it in behind their ships so that you have them surrounded.  They have to fight on two sides, none of your forces need to fight on more than one.

Waiting until the enemy is trying to land is a sort of obvious response to the invasion.

What do we know about obvious things?  You can't do them.




  1. Not being able to attack the army when it was landing isn't really a problem. It's just something I threw in. Not being able to run and hide, big problem.

    Under one set of circumstances Elodie even proves that she knows the value of retreat. So she knows it can be a good idea, she's willing to act on it, just not when you might want her to. Only when the game says to.

  2. Elodie with high strategy should have gotten more of a chance to shine! Also, you point out a big problem with this kind of game, something I know from game-making experience myself; YOU FORGET WHAT YOU WERE WRITING.

    The spy may be a latecomer to the game, an unintended character who throws the rest of the plot to hell. It's important, in story-driven games with choices, to repeatedly make sure the whole thing makes sense from start to finish- else, we get situations where your spy is a bit of a coin-toss on usefulness.

    1. Elodie with high strategy should have gotten more of a chance to shine!



      The spy may be a latecomer to the game, an unintended character who throws the rest of the plot to hell.

      That's certainly possible, when you add one thing if you want it not to throw everything to hell you have to think over how that interacts with every single other thing and also how it changes how those things interact with each other and it all gets very complicated very fast.

  3. Nobody thought it was possible to win an opposed amphibious assault until WWII... because the technology meant that it wasn't possible.

    (Oh, and you remove or burn all the food between coast and capital. That's not just a low-tech solution.)

  4. I think part of the problem here is a limited size -- maybe not in terms of installed space, since it's clear that most story choices don't involve additional graphical assets and the space for text is trivial, but perhaps in terms of developer time. The devs have to choose which options not to write. I don't know what their priorities are...

    1. I think that how much time the developers were willing to spend on things was probably an issue, but there are some things that would take hardly any time which also didn't get done, so I think that not thinking things through all the way was probably a bigger issue.