Quondam: Irreversible Damage   5 comments

Since last time, I had managed to apply the mysterious message in a sandwich (see details in the comments) to break into a demonic restraurant:

You are in the kitchen of Beelzebub’s restaurant, full of imps preparing revolting food. The smell of sulfur and roast flesh catch at your throat.
A roast ox is turning on a spit.
A goblin is coming, the light gleaming off its many eyes and claws!
A ring is set in the floor.

Unfortunately, I spent many fruitless hours afterwards with no progress at all, and I decided it was time to break open the hints. In the commercial version, they were provided with the game itself as an envelope meant to be broken open in time of emergency.

It’s time.

Immediately I found my “stopping point” puzzle; it was Yet Another Visualization Problem, but I don’t blame myself here because the text suggests contradictory things.

You are lost in a trackless forest.
A little bird sings nearby.

You grab the bird, but it expires and you drop its remains.

Being able to grab the bird suggests that is literally “nearby” enough that one can reach out and grab it, not that it is perched a few trees over or anything like that. Consequently, it never occurred to me I could do this:

You struggle through briars you thought impassable to get to the bird which then flies to another branch.

You struggle through briars you thought impassable to get to the bird which then flies to another branch.

The bird finally flutters off.
You are on the shore of a wild sea surrounded by forest. There is a misty isle out to sea, which seems to move as you watch it.
An antique brooch lies here!

Compare: the bird is close by and far away at the same time. It’s like the adventure game version of a continuity mistake in a movie.

I’m going to be somewhat forgiving because solving this puzzle is followed by a section which I found breathtaking, enough so that I’m going to give a spoiler warning — this is likely the best part of the game.

Let’s pause with another horror vacui picture. This is the Sarcofago Grande Ludovisi.

I fortunately had my broken blade and my hilt with me (from the “reject sword” gag):

You strum – what else – ‘The minstrel boy’.
The waters carry you off to a strange isle in an eternal twilight. You lose track of time watching its helpful craftsmen.
They mend the sword for you.
You are on the strange timeless isle.

Escape required my “half of a ticket marked ‘Faery'”. Quick question here: is half a ticket normal for transport that uses tickets? Is this some sort of reference? Is it something like “one way is half the ticket, going back again is the other half”?

A swarm of creatures take the ticket.
There is a Ching! and they carry you back to the beach which has changed subtly. You feel weak, your hands wrinkle and your hair turns white. You have been long on the isle and are paying back the time!
You’re on the shore.

It occurred to me briefly that this was permanent — that you were meant to play the rest of the game as a very aged person — but this always happened on the next turn:

You decay to bones.
Your life is over.

However, you may remember I had an elixir which seemed to be a “shrinking potion”. Not really; that was just a side effect of the true nature:

You drink the elixir. Its youth spell balances your ageing and your health returns.

Aha! The “shrinking” was getting younger, and “vanishing” was simply due to going into negative years.

However, this didn’t turn back the flow of time. This is permanent time travel, on the order of something like 100 years.

Consequently, all parts of the map visited so far changed. The spider web with many small spiders turns into having three large spiders (which you can evade to grab some bones in the center of the web). The knight that has been blocking your way is … still blocking your way.

You’re on a path between two banks. An aged knight in gleaming armour is ready to contest the way.

Think about all the obstacles in generic fantasy worlds you’ve seen, where something / someone is guarding a single room. When you leave, do they still guard that room? Even after 100 years?

You slosh the water at the knight, whose armour immediately goes rusty! His movements get slower.

The rusty armour slows the knight and you slip past him.
You are in a forest clearing.
There is a large climbable tree here.
An elderly dragon puffs smoke rings here.

The “large climbable tree” was previously a “sapling” planted before the magical isle visit occurred.

Note that if you’ve had items lying around, they’ve all disappeared. The way to protect them is to “deposit” them in a bank. There happens to be a bank right where the knight is “You’re on a path between two banks.” (Beware of puns!)

The key is now in your account.

You can get them back again in a “branch office” of the bank in a branch of the tree. (Groan.)

The branch office mentions interest, which suggests if I deposit a treasure before the time travel it might yield some more riches. The only treasure I have to deposit is a “platinum medal” which I can only get I’ve already bribed the knight (meaning I can’t return to the knight’s location until later), so I’m not sure how I would make a deposit yet.

Anyway, as usual, still stuck. The aged dragon is fortunately now easy to get by, but I don’t know what to do in the part beyond:

You are standing in a forest glade, full of trees except for a road south. There is a small cave nearby, boarded up, with a sign saying ‘Emergency only’.
There is a red and white striped pole standing vertically here.

You are perched on a pole (and look VERY silly)!

Let me backtrack to my moment of thinking the unnatural aging was irreversible damage. That’s not a common thing in any game of any genre. In general, games seem to be deeply uncomfortable with permanent consequences that affect the physical aspects of the main character(s). Choices can have major plot effects and change the actions of other characters, sure, but with the exception of certain roguelikes (like UnReal World and Darkest Dungeon) every injury seems to have a cure potion around the next corner. Characters might be killed off, but never disabled. This is curious when you consider the amount of danger and trauma a typical video game character goes through.


Posted September 22, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Quondam: Irreversible Damage

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  1. Very well done. I mentioned a couple of posts back about needing to break open the hints myself. Learning to “FOLLOW BIRD” was exactly where I needed them as well.

    According to the hints, an alternate way to preserve your items during the timeskip – instead of depositing them in the bank – is to leave them in the cave beyond the fire illusion. The description of that cave when you enter calls it something like a “cave that time forgot.” As is often the case in Quondam, that’s meant quite literally.

    For the benefit of those not playing along: The cave-and-pole puzzle is particularly inscrutable (even by Quondam standards) because the cave, and boards, simply shrug off EVERY effort to interact with them. Any command along the lines of GO CAVE, GET BOARDS, PULL BOARDS, PRY BOARDS, KNOCK… indeed, *any* command addressing the cave or boards at all… simply produces no response. It’s almost like the cave and boards are non-interactive scenery. And yet the cave also seems to be the only way forward to progress.

    I had to take a hint here as well. Weirdly though, this is the one puzzle where the Q&A format of the hints drops the ball. There’s no question “how do I get into the boarded-up cave?” or anything remotely like that. The only way to find the answer in the hints is to read the answers for what seems to be a *different* question, but is actually related to this puzzle… ah, but the rub is that if you realize they’re connected, then you’ve already solved the puzzle. Consequently, I wound up reading hints for a bunch of questions in an effort to find a clue to this one, and spoiled myself more than I meant to in the process.

    So you don’t suffer the same fate: If decide to consult the hints, the relevant question is *before* the “I die when passing the dragon after ageing” question. Not after it.

  2. Re the Faery/ferry ticket torn in half, I have a vague sense that that might have been common in the UK when actual paper tickets for public transport were ubiquitous — sort of like the ticket in following photo, although it’s for a train, not a ferry:


    • I’m sure that’s it.

      Little did I know trivia about early 80: British transport would’ve helped with my adventure gaming. (I spent a fair amount of time trying to “restore” the ticket.)

  3. Btw, the stripy pole is a (typically tenuous) clue. The solution is a bit meta though.

  4. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery does something like this where the character gets more and more decrepit as the game progresses. Also, um, I never finished Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery because I found the final chase too hard and awkward to navigate. (Also my old computer got stressed out so much that it couldn’t really run it.)

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