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Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:48 am
by EmperorJeramyu
Wow, this may be one of the longer stretches of time I've seen this place dead. I guess that's to be expected, but I somehow noticed it anyway. And now I'm the one breaking the silence? What the fuck?

Anyway, I'm taking a huge chunk of time off from work this month, and I decided to dedicate a lot of that time to going through my old RPG Maker game collection and replaying some of the ones that have stuck in my mind all these years as good or significant. Of course, The Way is on the top of that list.

This might be a little serendipitous, and I know being anything other than a constant asshole is kind of out of character for me these day, but forgive me for waxing a little nostalgic here. I really only started to think about this when anticipating delving back into the series for a while, but I never really realized just what a big part of my life The Way (and yes, its community) has been up to this point. The possibly pathetic nature of that statement doesn't escape me, but I think everyone has some sort of persistent piece of media, a person or event, or even a philosophy that they discover is really a central aspect to their formative years. I imagine for a lot of adolescent nerds last decade, games like WoW or CS filled that kind of role for them, so in that sense I'm glad I got into something a little more unique.

I got into The Way more or less at the start of my teenage years, and the buzz and activity generated by E6's release more or less faded out as I exited those years. That's six of the most impactful and developmental years of my life with The Way as one the centerpieces. And what I said before about things that can be central aspects to our lives- The Way embodies it all: a piece of media (natch), a person (community in this case), event (episode releases, chat parties, etc), and philosophy (again, natch). I can trace so much of who I am now from all of these things it's a bit mind-boggling: my rather ravenous desire for good solid stories that can still venture into the abstract, my desire to be able write those kind of stories and games, my fascination with being able to peer deep into the mind of visionary auteurs, and countless other ideas that I'm probably not even conscious of.

And I know there's other people who've more or less had the same timeline in this community as me. Am I completely crazy or does anyone else feel like this? I'm just curious. Now I know some of the few people around here got into the games (or just the community even) around E4-E6, and while I'm not trying to sound (TOO) holier-than-thou about it, I really feel like having been there since E1 kind of gives one a unique experience. I'll get to what I've been observing from my play-through in a bit, but one of the more pertinent and unexpectedly surprising things I've discovered is that not only did I grow up with The Way, it also grew up with me.

Anyway, I can definitely track my social development as entirely from this community as well. Want to know something even scarier than that? Five goddamn years later (and this is probably going to make Strayed gag (he's very used to it)). I still consider this to be my "home community". I think this might be because as an antisocial bastard I've always found it difficult to integrate into a new community (it's much easier if, say... you're there from very early on), but really, I think the rather traditional "online community" concept (main site with important news, insular forums, zany chatroom, crotchety yet well established regulars) is kind of dead. Possibly because of this whole social networking shit blurring everything together, or maybe due to there being just too many goddamn people on the internet these days.

Regardless, I'm still kind of in awe of just how important this one little series of games has been to my life. I've actually kept track of three... I wont say "happiest", but rather most... glorious moments in my life, and still at the top of that list is alpha testing E5 months before the beta, on a cold, snowy December night. Seeing that final revelation, and "to be continued" just as the clock passed 2 AM. I don't really have any point to make about this, just thought I'd share.

Uh, wow. I did not mean to type my entire manifesto there. Actually fuck it, I was planning on doing it at some point anyway. I was originally just going to post my thoughts as I went through each episode, so I guess I'll get around to that now.

Episode 1 -

You know, I've always been kind of at terms with the fact that a lot of people bash on The Way because Episode 1 is kind of sloppy. Call it Early Installment Weirdness or whatever, but yeeeaahhh... Episode 1 really hasn't aged well. It's kind of buggy, the pacing is kind of all over the place and occasionally nonexistent. But hell, Lun started this right in 2000. The games I started right in 2000 were about 15 minutes long and arbitrarily leveled the entire party to level 50 when I decided to put the final boss in. If Episode 1 was the first thing I created in RM2K, I'd be a much less lazy, much more inspired person than I am now.

The interesting thing is, looking at all these flaws has made me think about why I was instantly hooked by E1 back in the day. It's kind of shameful to admit, but I know main reason I grabbed it off of rpg2knet was the screenshots of the 3D rendered backgrounds. It's pretty much taken for granted that the 3D renders set it apart from pretty much any other game out there (especially at the time), but I've always felt like they made the world of the game a lot... bigger.

Suddenly hills are not just blocky bumps whose edges are determined by what tiles they are, they're huge and stretch the land up and about, in ways that could never be shown in the constraints of tile based chipsets. The characters seem small and primitive next to the world of giant, twisting terrain around them. They can allow for wide and sweeping panoramas filled with an even bigger sky. They allow for different perspectives, which is simply impossible with chipsets. In the opening shot where we first see Rhue, he stands in on a rock in a valley, we understand that valley is huge, and that it extends into the background. In a chipset, everything that's as many pixels high as a character is exactly as tall as them. In a setting that's all about being vast and endless, and on a quest that's about searching those lands, being able to establish the perspective of Rhue being a mere wanderer in a large and sprawling land that maybe goes on forever is an act of downright cinematic atmosphere that other RPG Maker games just don't have.

The idea of endlessness itself was the other big thing that drew me in. I've never really liked the idea of the story of a character I like just being wrapped up nicely and ending. I like the possibility of continuing adventures, of a world where there's always something new, and somewhere new to explore. In that way, The Way (at least conceptually) is basically the embodiment of endless adventures. There's always further to go, there's always something new, characters can always have new journeys and new interactions. I guess it speaks to the relative obscurity of RPG Maker games that there aren't more fanfics or even fangames set in the universe of The Way. It's tailor-made for such a thing. I even titled my own fanfic "Eternal Horizon" after the idea that the world can quite literally stretch on forever (Lun once told me during a chat party that he thought that was a better name than "The Way", and at the risk of sounding even more aggrandizing, I kind of do too).

Also this is like, reality shattering levels of lame, but I've always considered life to be kind of the same thing, an endless road full of secrets undiscovered. Some of us explore this world by sitting at a computer 16 hours a day. Some of those those undiscovered secrets are new kinds of porn. But in the end, it's still life.

...I should get that on a bumper sticker.

So yeah, vast endlessness with infinite possibilities are my all-time favorite setting/narrative devices, and The Way nails them perfectly. That's probably the reason the world of The Way clings in my mind so tightly whenever I try and write anything.

Other thoughts:

  • Some of the 2.0 changes aren't exactly integrated properly. Oops.
  • I think it was kind of deduced that the Phantom Slasher kills people who distract Rhue from his journey. But looking back on some of these earlier episodes, that doesn't really seem to consistently be the case. I mean, it kills the three random schmucks from the opening cut scene who weren't impeding Rhue at all. I know it also kills people who are "impure" or whatever, but it's still weird that it kills those people (notice how faith in The Purpose doesn't seem to matter) in the beginning, but never tries to kill Strata, Traziun, Kloe, Cetsa, the entire popular of Lide, or a bunch of people who legitimately sidetrack or antagonize Rhue.
  • Catching Dippy is still as much of a bitch as I remember it.
  • "Bloodlife" and all that jazz end up being way less important than they seem like they're going to be.
  • Christ, the fight with the headhunter is a brutal crapshoot. I had to fight him four times before he just didn't instantly wipe out a party member in the first two turns.
  • In retrospect, there's no way this headhunter can be Midian. But then why was he looking for Jeruh?
  • When I talk about pacing problems, I'm talking about things like Rhue deciding he's going to go meet the race judge and get him wasted enough to somehow possibly randomly be named a replacement for no particular reason.
  • I know there were a couple of theories about this, but I'm pretty sure Slade's remark to Strata is just Slade mistaking him for Kygar.
  • The part where you have to force your way through 3 "Brian" clones is still as ridiculous as ever.
  • Jumping the river isn't as much of a bitch as I remember.
  • I know Rhue has kind of a reputation as an asshole protagonist, but I never realized just how much of a dick Traziun is. "Oh there's a guy over there who's the helpless prey for a big monster? Well, sucks to be him. But now we know to be on the lookout."
  • Did Gaius legit get caught and mauled by the Fligg? When he joins in E5 with all those badass powers, I always interpreted it as him holding back in the early episodes (same with Traziun, and there seems to be actual evidence for that). I guess he could've been "leveling up" so to speak throughout the entire series, but isn't he supposed to be Teztel/Kalmar/Ronald McDonald's new "perfect blade" or whatever? I guess he could've been purposely waiting for Rhue, but judging from his dialogue when the party splits at Lide, it was just a coincidence.
  • I never realized 2.0 removed the blind maze entirely. Good riddance.
  • Lyrra surprising Rhue by running out from behind an object in the foreground literally only makes sense from the player's perspective. Maybe I've been playing too many indie games recently, but part of me wants to brush this off as some weird fourth-wall breaking mindscrew, which I think it's not.
  • "Percellius"... I JUST caught that. Wow.
  • "But I can't love you... I'm sorry!!!" "No problem." is still hilarious.

Episode 2 -

After Episode 1 came out, I started keeping a fairly close eye on Lun's site for news about new episodes. Even back then I kind of understood that nobody ever finished what they started in the RPG Maker community, but The Way was just too fascinating to not pay attention to. I started posting on the old EZ Board and when the call for beta testers for E2 went out, I jumped on board and the rest is history.

Speaking of which, I actually have a filled out copy of the form Lun sent us to fill out after we finished E2. Here's a transcript:

1. What was your favorite part of Episode 2?
The part where Rhue knocks the sword off the cliff under the mayor’s house.

2.What part sticks out in your memory the most? (same as 1?)
Same.

3. Did you run into any trouble spots?
(Didn't know where to go, couldn't get past certain part, an enemy was too difficult, etc.)
Cetsa and Kygar were really hard. I had to tone down their stats a bit. Also, 1 on 1s with Spestas with Rhue alone are near impossible. The mini game with the cannon was tricky too, but I’d keep it that way.
(Either I was clinically retarded back then or the Spestas were really toned down, since they're downright trivial in 2.0)

4. Who is your favorite character so far? (Playable or non playable)
(Gaius, Traziun, Rhue, Cetsa, Kloe, Alan, Other. If other, try to name them)
Slade : )
(Slade hadn't been named at that point.)

5. Why are they your favorite?
People who wear black are cool. That and his faceset is nicely done.
(Boy, I sure was a teenager back then.)

6. Did you help the Guided or the Settlers on the Marna Stretch?
(if you didn't do this side quest leave blank)
Settlers.

7. How did you get past the beast in the pass (on the Marna Stetch)?
Blinded him. Then killed him.

8. Were you aware that there was more than one way to get past the beast?
Yup. I tore apart the game in RM2K after finishing it the first time.

9. Were there too few enemies to fight?
Some enemies in E2Map17 respawned, so no.

10. Was there any humorous moment/s Episode 2 that stick in your mind? If so, briefly describe it/them. (I'm very familiar with game, so you don't have to go into much detail)
Rhue’s conversation’s with that one little kid. And that one conversation with Kloe.

11. At the end of the Episode 2, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. What are one or more things that you are interested in finding out?
(example: What is killing everybody? What was Kloe like as a child? etc.)
Basically everything.
(Well said.)

12. How do you expect Rhue to get out of his predicament at the end of Episode 2?
Be rescued by someone. Or bust out.

13. Was Episode 2 more fun than Episode 1?
Oh yea!

14. The Way can be confusing, is there anything in the story that you found
puzzling or seemed contradictory?
Uh, how many shadow people are there? I’m getting them all mixed up…
(It's still pretty ridiculous just how many people are shadows at some point. Also Scatha is shadow in broad daylight at one point which is kind of absurd. Again, I'm just going to pretend it was some weird fourth-wall breaking.)

15. In Episode 2, chipsets were used much more extensively to create more highly explorable and interactive environments. The huge area after Lide is an example. Would you prefer smaller environments?
Maybe ones with less trees!

16. Would you have preferred a form that you could have filled out online?
(Yes, No, Doesn't matter to me)
Whatever works. An online form is leakable, so this is probably better. Besides this is like “officialicious” so… eheh…

17. Do you have any other comments? (put them here)
There isn’t a full recovery after the Cesta/Rygar fight. Love the series. Prolly my favorite along with Legion Saga… Keep up the good work man! I have a char and face set of me for any use at:
http://jeramyu.homestead.com/files/JeramyuStuff.zip
(Legion Saga? Randomly trying to shove a character set and face set on Lun? God I was a little shit.)

I've always held that this is where the series really starts to get good. It's better than Episode 1 for sure, and still overall better than Episode 3 (I'll get to that in a bit...), but Episode 2 still hasn't aged nearly as well as I thought it has. The pacing still kind of throws you all over the place, and the plunge has the same crapshoot problems regular combat had.

  • Maybe it's my steadily increasing hatred for anime and it's terrible writing and one-dimensional characters, but Lyrra comes across as absolutely batshit insane. But then I realized, that's probably the whole point (well, maybe not in those exact words, but close enough).
  • Again, it took me three tries to win against Nomi just due to sheer luck. The obvious point (and most frequent criticism) is that it's just a game of rock paper scissors, but that's not really what I find to be the problem, more on that in a sec...
  • The Good, The Bad, The Ugly theme used for Lide is one of the more inspired music choices. Really sells the atmosphere
  • Alan holds up pretty well, despite his obvious gimmick. I actually tied on the plunge with him, first time that's happened.
  • When you think about it, Rhue knows a very random variety of information about The Way. He doesn't know what mending is, does know what citadels are called, doesn't know about the upper way, does know about the reaches, somehow doesn't know what the plunge is... etc. I guess it kind of makes sense given his... condition, and yeah there's some audience surrogate stuff going on there too, but meh... more fourth wall fuckery, I claim.
  • I appreciate how the Barrucha remained basically untouchable for four episodes.
  • Some of the hidden stuff like the Ray of Light blade art is like... really really hidden. I'm pretty sure I found it first time through by virtue of my meticulous exploration obsession, but I wonder how missing out on potentially a lot of neat stuff affects someone's experience.
  • I kind of like the Barrucha cave as a dungeon, but man, I just realized just how many caves there are in The Way. Along side "Forrest" and "Building" it makes up most of the dungeon areas in the whole series. I know in a series largely based around plausible natural and man-made structures it's hard to think of unique dungeon locations, but still...
  • The plunge against Parris is really a doozy.

Which brings me to The Plunge. One of the more common complaints from people who stopped after E1 is that the plunge is superfluous and childishly simple. Now the obvious counterpoint, and the one that I've always used is that yeah, E1 doesn't have any real plunges. It starts becoming a real mechanic later on, and the rock paper-scissors element isn't nearly as important as picking blade arts, links, and managing FP. And while that's true sort of starting in E3 and pretty solidified by E4, the fact is the early plunges in E2 are mostly total crapshoots, and the problem doesn't lie so much with the rock-paper-scissors aspect of it as it does the suspect math of the plunge itself. Of course the math doesn't change between episodes, but in later episodes the number of notch items and importance of blade arts kind of cover up the issue, though not entirely.

Now you've probably had at least once experience like this: You pick a Drop Slash risk attack, the enemy picks a Cross Slash risk attack, yet you both end up doing the same or close to the same amount of damage to each other. Now this has always struck me as odd, and even though the math has always been available (remember The Wanderer's Guide Book? It's a thing), only after two years of D&D experience can I fully grasp what the problem is: the fucking dice, man. Dice rolls are used to determine base damage, which opens up a big can of worms. Your plunge score doesn't determine how much damage you do as much as how much damage you CAN do, which are very different things. In D&D dice rolls determine if you hit, and how much damage you do. As such, it's possible to run a party through an identical set of encounters and get wildly different results all depending on the dice (and yeah, there are ways to shift probability in your favor, but it's all just that: probability. Anyone who's played D&D long enough knows the guy who just can't hit no matter what).

Fortunately in the plunge, you don't need to worry about hitting (and yes, I'm aware hitting in regular combat does rely on percentages to some extent, but in regular combat you can also heal, use skills that are guaranteed to work, or defend), but the dice do control damage (strangely enough, most damage rolls in D&D have some sort of solid modifier added to them to allow for a minimum damage that's more than just the number of dice), which means the damage can fluctuate wildly within a range, as opposed to just being calculated from some sort of attack - defense score, an approach that can have its problems, sure, but also an approach that doesn't make the game look like it's breaking its own rules. Yes, picking the right attack and doing risk attacks can do an extra percentage of damage, but at low levels those numbers are so low that the dice rolls can completely nullify them. Combine this with a low HP pool and you end up with some very random, occasionally lopsided battles. Like I said, later on, the abundance of blade arts and higher stats tend to even things slightly, but ironically enough, when the damage potential starts getting really high, and the percentages start to really equate to a lot of damage, it can lead to some plunges that are very lopsided for an entirely different reason.

So yeah, this is why early plunges are difficult and feature numbers that seem to contradict the mechanics, and later plunges seem to end in step 4 injuries like half the time. There is a sweet spot in the middle though, and I've found it to be the Rosmar plunge. That's it.

Or maybe my luck is fucking crazy and nobody else has had any experiences like that.

  • We still never get to know what that blade art Traziun used on Kygar was. I like to think it was his own personal one.
  • What was that hidden switch in the sword in Ballar's place supposed to do?
  • Cetsa and Kygar seem to have had issues with Scatha before. ...Where exactly would they have bumped heads before? Out of all the characters whose childhoods are connected, I don't think Cetsa and Scatha are two of them. It sounds she was constantly sabotaging them or something. How? Why?
  • What were the prevailing theories on why Rhue smashed the other sword into the pit? It's always one of those things that kind of lent credence to the idea that Shadow Swords and Illuminati were separate things, but that can't be it, can it?
  • I kind of liked Marna stretch back in the day, but man, even with the map it's still confusing as fuck.
  • I wonder how many people missed the nova stone? I couldn't imagine playing the rest of the series without it.
  • I rather like the Settler-Guided subplot. The Guided are made to look like total shit skids, even though they're unquestionably the better of the two groups.
  • On that note, as much of a fuss has been made about The Way's alleged links to Christianity, organized religion sure isn't portrayed very well.
  • I like how Paradans are always portrayed as giant spineless pussies.
  • I also like how one of the dialogue trees in talking to the suicidal guy is attempting to scare him with how gruesome of a death he'll experience.
  • The Turnway cannon game isn't THAT hard once you get used to it, but 30 kills is still a pretty lofty fucking goal.
  • It really does bother me how the entire plot hinges on Rhue not being able to ask a five second question to Cetsa, it's more annoying in E3 than it is here, but still.

Episode 3 -

I've always held E3 as my least favorite episode. While now I don't think there's really any way for it to be worse than E1, I also felt like I was being a bit unfair to it as well. After all, aside from E5, it's really the only Episode that I ever really got a sense of what it'd be like to wander The Way. It's an episode all about exploring that endless unknown. That being said, playing through it again really only reaffirmed my problems with it. So why do I like it so much more in E5 than in E3? Well, I'll have to get farther before I can fully answer that, but I digress...

  • Right before Slade busts in to get Rhue, the text "Hello, my dear." appears from an unknown speaker. Huh?
  • So how DID Rhue's sword get shoved through that guy's helmet? Doesn't the phantom slasher have its own sword? Why would it pick it up and randomly stab it into some guy instead of bringing it to him like in E5?
  • The pathetic look Slade gives Rhue after his "Now I'm ready for anything." line is like my second favorite moment in the series.
  • For some reason, I still like the Water Cave. Maybe it's because the diving was so well done.
  • Slade beating the shit out of Alan is one of the more tense moments this episode. I like it.
  • Now I remember why I didn't like this episode so much... the game really pulls the fucking drag chute here with the endless canyon maps. The chipset sucks, the maps are boring, there's too many enemies and not enough notch stones, blegh. I feel like such an asshole going on about this, but I've always wanted to articulate just what I didn't like about this. Who knows, maybe I'll devolve into fanboy drool for E4-E6 in penance. But while I'm at it...

It breaks my heart to say this, but the run-of-the-mill combat in The Way really isn't that good. Now don't get me wrong, I do like the Notch system, and the Sword/Aura/Flow system quite a bit. Sure, they have their idiosyncrasies (mostly pacing issues), but for the most part it's a slick system that almost entire eschews grinding (hell, finding out how to grind in E2 is actually kind of an easter egg), and beats the piss out of a standard store or item crafting weapon and armor system (even if armor pieces are exactly what Flows are...).

The problem is that combat is just boring. Now I'm not trying to grief ol' Lun here. Nobody in this history of ever has ever made RM2k's default battle system even remotely fun. In fact The Way has one of the better battle system mods out there. Maybe things will change come E6, but baring a few exceptions in E1, I beat every single non-boss encounter just by mashing enter over and over again, no exceptions. X Life is an interesting concept, and it does work in certain contexts, but in standard encounters it never charges enough to let you do anything useful, and even if it did none of the standard encounters require it anyway. The fact that you recover to full after every battle means there's no incentive to do anything other than bash your way through every encounter as quickly and carelessly as possible The problem with this system is that in order to have any point to normal battles (beyond rewards), every encounter needs to have capability to wipe the entire party (if it doesn't, then why bother?), at which point it would blur so close to being a boss battle that it'd make every encounter exhausting. Though as broken as this is, having no after battle recovery would make things even worse without completely re balancing the entire game.

And it must be said, the notch/aura pacing issues do occasionally rear their ugly heads. I can recall a few instances of plundering an area of all its notch stones and then running all the way back to the beginning to fight all the monsters, and subsequently encounters becoming 50% pointless when I had absorbed all the notch stones. Having to rely on a zillion notch stones being passed out to make combat more worth slogging through is a bit of a precarious gameplay element. And while thanks to some good loot distribution design from Lun, I think it's usually way less of a problem than it could be, but still, E3's long stretches of monsters make it stand out a lot more. Also, getting some Oneness patterns to use just after I had gotten some level 3 flows made me kind of sad. Also whenever you get new sword auras having to downgrade to an aura with less attack just doesn't feel very fun, even if it makes up for it after just a few levels.

All right, enough nitpicking.

Despite all my bitching, the X-Life and Aura systems work superbly with boss battles. You need to be strategic in saving X Life, knowing when to expend your limited healing, and when it's worth it to have a character draw for a turn. If you're having trouble with a battle you can switch around sword auras/flows to find a more effective combination with better skills and resistances (though if you're like me, you really only stick with 1 sword aura per tier... at least until the phrase "Tri-Ultra" comes into play).

  • Jed's screams of "Arghhh" and "The pain" are kind of hammy. I still like this scene though, and it's worth noting that even this early Rhue doesn't really seem to have too much trouble doing something as violent a coup de grace to a dying man.
  • Yeah, Lyrra's pretty batshit insane.
  • As much as I bitch about the canyon areas, I actually like the whole pits sequence. It's has a very oppressive, foreboding atmosphere.
  • Is it Traziun who Scatha encounters off screen? I think so.
  • Rhue devolves into screaming at the Shadow Man very quickly. Also I got a fluke Step 4 against him. Damage Threshold is one of those stats that never seems to be in quite the right place, and is the reason why later plunges also have balance issues. Cranking it way the hell up can have some broken effects, as we'll see in E5.
  • Speaking of screaming, if I had a time machine, one of the first things I would do is go back and time and teach Lun to only use one of the same punctuation mark at a time on the end of a sentence.
  • "Lands! You're kidding!" "No. It sucked." is another one of my favorite exchanges.
  • I never realized just how often the game does the whole "pan to Phantom Slasher close behind" thing. Why do we really need to know it's at the Green Rocks?
  • Despite being prettier than the canyons by orders of magnitude, Green Rocks is still another dull monster slog.
  • So let me get this straight. The Blood Lyn have a series of large military academies where 15-16 year old co-eds are split up into opposing soccer teams and compete with each other. After a year each person is teamed up with a person of the opposite gender from an opposing team and they're auctioned off. And nobody has written fanfiction about this?
  • I'm probably forgetting something big, but why exactly are they so welcoming of Traziun as a former Blood Lyn? I mean he is... because he ran away. Shouldn't they all be trying to kill him on sight? This seems to be an actual plot point, but there's really never any hints why this is the case.
  • Rhue's obsession with seeing Kloe's execution is kind of fascinating. I think it's pretty obvious he didn't intent to save her. Again, it's interesting how he doesn't seem have too much trouble watching acquaintances die.
  • What is Traziun's plan? What did he hope to accomplish at Matalan? Thinking about it, maybe he intended to infiltrate the Black Fortress the same way he did in E5, except at Matalan instead.
  • Kloe refers to "The Black Lyn", who then appears and (next episode) senses Traziun. So is the Black Lyn actually Kalmar? Is it one of the Blana Sera? Is Kalmar a Blana Sera?
  • Yes, The Blana Sera are one of my favorite unexplained mysteries.

Phew, that's all I've played so far, and it's only going to get... uh... thicker from here. Also it's like 6 AM and I've been writing this for like 5 hours. I proofread it once and found like 800 mistakes, so there's probably a shitload more I dunno. Fuck.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:10 pm
by EmperorJeramyu
Wow that was long, rambling, and mostly incoherent. Also I should be taken to court for the war crimes I committed against the parenthesis.

Anyway, before I move on to E4, a few more points (mostly theory stuff) I remembered that were previously lost in my sleep-deprived mind:

  • When Gaius says "Duty calls." before leaving in E2, it took me this many playthroughs to run with the implications that he had to go off to take a massive shit. ...But really, what did he go off to do?
  • Speaking of Gaius, I know he's supposed to be an enigmatic motherfucker, but now that I think about it (and maybe this will change), but he actually has such a sparse presence in the actual game that it really leaves some huge holes to be filled. When does he go from regarding meeting Rhue as an odd coincidence to suddenly knowing the whole deal with the Phantom Slasher, and deciding to do something about it? It kind of comes out of nowhere when you think about it.
  • I'm not actually complaining about not having enough Gaius. In fact, I think it's kind of a big virtue how The Way never gives us too much of anything. We never get TOO much Traziun, or TOO much Slade, just enough to keep things interesting. The whole Phantom "missing painting piece" in E6 is kind of about this, but whereas that's more about leaving mysteries for the player to fill in, the much more potent effect it has is increasing the impact of what we DO learn. Would the Traziun section in E5 have as much impact or be as memorable if Traziun had been in the party for the entire series? Personally, I don't think so.

This is a larger point I wanted to wait to make, but there seems to be pretty strong evidence that that rolling mists either don't exist, or are a very very small barrier, or not mists at all. There are more than a couple occasions where its inarguable that characters travel backwards along The Way, which kind of seems like it would be complete nonsense. We never actually see anyone do it, either. Furthermore, more than a couple characters seem to have some sort of geographical awareness on what kind of terrain, cities, or settlements are further along The Way. There could be signs (which people would've had to go backwards to make), for sure, but Traziun's remark about the group being "in the back country of The Way" shows that he has a grasp of the entire structure of The Way.

I'm serious, I think that line is either the biggest plothole in the story, or a huge part of a mystery we've never even noticed. How does The Way have a back country? We know maps exist, if The Way does loop (and it's pretty much assured it does), wouldn't someone eventually notice terrain exactly like in their old maps? Why would people bother making large settlements like Estrana unless they were pretty confident that the mists didn't exist, or were hundreds of years behind? Why exactly do people wander forward down The Way? If it were purely superstition or tradition as opposed to some sort of force moving them, you'd think people would catch on eventually. If people stayed put long enough, would someone invent airplanes and blow the lid off the whole thing?

Okay, that's a bit silly, but still, there does seem to be some sort of force that keeps people wandering (another possibility is that The Way is billions of miles long, but there's more than ample evidence against that), and I think one of the sort of untouched implications of the Burning of Janwen is that exact thing. Yeah I know punishing people for settling was sort of the actual in game reason the Guided gave for it (I think), but most people seem to focus on the Lord Below/Venge stuff. So maybe there is some sort of conspiracy/entity that keeps people moving by destroying settlements, (somehow) maps, and anything that's not placed there by "forerunners". Hell, maybe it even changes some of the geography itself, which doesn't make perfect sense, but is still a bit plausible.

So then why is Janwen the only record of that sort of thing happening? What about all the other settlements, or even the Blood Lyn battlegrounds? Obviously they have to be wiped off the map too at some point or else people are going to wonder just what the fuck forerunners are doing building entire towns too. So do people just arbitrarily pack up and leave after some point? That doesn't seem like it would happen. Do they get swallowed up into the mists and destroyed at some point? If The Way really is short enough to almost entirely circumnavigate in one or two lifetimes, the mists must move pretty damn slow to allow for settlements such as Estrana to build up. In that case, people could probably see the mists coming and out travel them, but then why are they treated as so mythic if people could reasonably expect to see them and escape? If the mists are that slow, wouldn't more people catch up to them wandering forward? Or are the mists invisible and just cause people to instantly drop dead and settlements to vaporize? I guess in that case the burning of Janwen was just a flashy coincidence, which explains why people remember it a lot more, I suppose. What do the Guided have to do with all of this? They're clearly involved. What do they gain from it? Are they just assholes?

How does Traziun know how far off the mists are?! What does he mean "backcountry of The Way"!?

Sigh.

  • So from the conversation with the headhunter on Marna, it's clear Midian was the dominant aura when "Rhue" was hunting Jeruh. Was there ever any clear indication when or if Rhue killed Midian? I forget. Also who is the headhunter waiting for on the bridge? For some reason it seems like it should be important.
  • This is skipping way ahead, but how did Jeruh "lose" the Phantom Slasher? That seems kind of important. Did the sword absorb Midian before or after Rhue got it? I'm guessing after, seeing as how it was the dominant personality. Did Rhue previously posses the PS before Jeruh as well, or was he just The Mimic before that? Was he one of the catatonic guys Jeruh got the sword from? I remember a few crackpot theories that they were Kava and Kura. Kava was clearly absorbed by the sword at some point, and there seems to be the implication that Rhue was at one point Kura, but the story of Kava Kura seems like it would have to be at least more than a few decades old. Or is it all some sort of vague metaphor for... something?
  • Given that Gaius was also hunting Jeruh, and Midian was apparently affiliated with headhunters, I guess it's reasonable to assume Jeruh had some kind of bounty on him, which would explain why the hunter in E1 was looking for him.
  • Actually, are headhunters an actual organization, or just a bunch of people with the same occupation that all dress the same? You'd think the uniforms would be a dead giveaway to their targets.
  • Lactars really get old quick.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 10:36 pm
by EmperorJeramyu
Episode 4 -

All right. Here's where I finally do my penance for bitching about the previous episodes. E4 is where it gets good, real good. The pacing is better, the writing is better, the attention to detail that I think is one of Lun's trademarks really shows, and there's some excellent use of cinematography to pull no punches when it comes to delivering the emotional moments. E4 is when one of the bigger population booms of this community occurred, and it's not hard to see why. I imagine plenty of people had been following the series up until then, but E4 is where a lot of people realized just how deep and phenomenal The Way is, and wanted to be a part of the fan conversation.

Episode 1 was rough around the edges and showed some legitimate potential with a great hook. Episode 2 proved that Lun could improve and deliver a great follow up, and Episode 3 solidified the series as something big and deep that wasn't going away any time soon. Episode 4 is the first time we witness a kind of culmination of the series improving and growing grander and grander (Yes, I know Lun worked on the Episodes out of order, but they were still released and order, and he definitely revised as he got better and got more feedback, just look at all the chopped up stuff in E6 for evidence). It has its missteps, to be sure, and some of the problems from the previous episodes are still there (*cough* combat), but the difference is the pacing deliberately moves cautiously and always provides the proper context and excitement for each scenario.

And yeah, there's some sort of irony with The Way really getting good when it stops depicting actual wandering and almost entirely takes place in a city.

  • I immediately noticed the writing improving right off the bat with the new additions to Kloe's execution monologue. They inject a lot more emotion and reveal a lot more about the character.
  • Despite being another monster-overrun patch of trees, I still kind of like the opening forest. The music and the weather create a nice atmosphere.
  • I might need to take back my words a bit. I managed to Step 4 every plunge in this episode in 3 or fewer passes. I still think it's a bit better balanced though. And it occurs to me that maybe Lun was in fact accounting for people who didn't find every single notch item. And maybe my constant problem with never having enough notch items is due to Lun accounting for people who missed that first nova stone.
  • Despite that, the distribution of notch items is still way better in this episode.
  • I really like the Blood Lyn escape minigame. I never remember having too much trouble with it ever, but it is harder than I remember. Is it actually possible to hit the dodge-y guys before they get at least a hit in?
  • I also remember thinking it was neat way of showing how much stronger the characters had grown by having them be able to casually fire off hadoukens. Of course there's something in there to be asked about why they can't do that to EVERY enemy, but blegh. I'm trying not to go there.
  • I suddenly realized that I'm so nitpicky about RPG Maker games from years of scrutinizing Strayed's game under an electron microscope.
  • After E4's release, I remember seeing quite a few games do the "slow pan over a big city" thing. Except most of them were like a fourth the size of Estrana and butt ugly. Estrana is damn near a work of art as far as chipset based RPG cities go.
  • Verdana does a little hop when Traziun walks up to her. Hmmm.
  • The whole "beat up the blue scarves"... minigame, I guess, after the dance comes from a bit out of nowhere. Actually, the dancing kind of comes out of nowhere too.
  • Kloe really gets the raw end of the deal with creepy perverts hitting on her, doesn't she.
  • The whole mine scenario is a perfect example of the game turning yet another cave slog into something tense, with a creepy atmosphere and deliberate pace. You know, between this kind of scenario, and from what I remember of Crestfallen Inception: Act II, I think Lun is better at horror then he probably realizes.
  • Ok, so the Arastotzi can't be recognized by uniform... except 90% of them wear the same uniform in broad daylight.
  • The Shadow Lord raid is another scenario saved from being another building/cave romp by some actual pacing and story advancement sprinkled throughout it. It drags on a bit long, but at least there's an interesting payoff.
  • How the hell did Red Zero/Lexus/Cetsa ever survive so long with their near useless fighting style?
  • The Slade/Patura stuff is still pretty squicky, which I guess is the point.
  • I always take pleasure of Step 4-ing the second qualifier guy before Lexus can give her largely useless advice.
  • The under the casino dungeon is kind of bleh, but at least it's short.
  • This occurred to me back in E2, but it's amazing how much small bit dialogue and totally miss-able conversations have far reaching implications that make the plot that much deeper. Just think about how much our understanding of the phantom slasher is changed by Traziun's rather casual mention that he remembers something like the PS's massacre happening a long time ago.
  • I've never found the Sacrifa-Lilah thread among one of the more interesting plots in the game, but I did notice how it kind of parallel's Rhue's own descent into crossing-the-line-ville that his love brings him into.
  • So why did Tetzel order that Estrana was an exception?
  • "End of The Way" is probably my favorite original composition used in the game. It adds so much tension and dread to any scene it's over. Like the build up Lexus's death. Speaking of which...

I was a bit worried the Lexus death scene was so dramatic that it wouldn't hold up, and even seem kind of hammy, but it's still remarkably well done. I think I've figured out why, and why the entire Lexus relationship doesn't seem as hamfisted and rushed as it probably should. To explain, I'm going to draw a comparison to Professional Wrestling. There's no turning back, folks.

So pro wrestling is pretty staged, right? Obviously the action is, but so are the story lines, as ludicrous as they are. Writers and executives think up story, and the wrestlers act out their part and hit each other with folding chairs. We all know this. But being sort of a performance art that didn't develop under some big national organization with all the power, the inner workings of the wrestling business are often very political, even moreso than every real major sport out there. It's full of egotism (kind of prevalent in a business where success is defined by having the most people pay attention to you), double crossing, backstabbing, etc. Some times these politics show through in the writing (executives and performers have a much more hands-on interaction with the writing in wrestling than movies or regular TV), and sometimes the writing manages to escalate things even further. So if wrestler A and wrestler B hate each other back stage, and are in a storyline where they're supposed to hate each other in the ring, you can bet that's going to make their stage rivalry that much more palpable.

It's a universally accepted fact that storylines are better, more intense, and more believable in wrestling when they're grounded in real life. Of course, the same is true to varying degrees in all forms of media. Would something like Grave of the Fireflies be nearly as potent if it wasn't created by someone who almost literally lived out the plot of the movie? Probably not. And yes, it isn't always the case that all good things come from a personal spark. Not everything that comes from the heart will instantly be resonating and powerful (see: any poetry written by anyone in high school). Likewise, Jurassic Park is still pretty good even if Spielberg probably doesn't have a very personal connection dinosaurs in his life. Gaming in particular seems to fall into the latter category for the most part (though the rise in indie games is certainly creating a lot of the former), probably due to game development being a pretty laborious process, and games themselves still being seen as mostly for kids. A survivor of a tragedy could probably raise more money and people to help them make a movie about the experience than they could to make a game about it.

But I guess I should get to the point on why the character of and story surrounding Lexus just seem to work so well. It all works so well because it feels like it came from a real place. From the coding hunts in the game files we know that Lexus was a real person Lun knew, and seemed to have some very weighty feelings about. I can't point to anything one thing in particular, but I've always found the tender scenes with Lexus in E4 and E6 mostly devoid of the overwrought nature that I tend to find in such scenes. And keep in mind, I'm physically and mentally allergic to tenderness. These scenes just seem handled differently, with a touch less exposition, and a lot more going on between the characters that's not stated, but still possible to pick up on. Not bad for characters on a 320x240 easel. I think that's the power of expression coming from something real. It can be transformed beyond whatever constraints its put into.

I think the same thing is pretty much true of Kloe (who I've realized is my favorite female character) too. From the code hunts we knew she was originally intended as a much less consequential character, but Lun grew to enjoy writing her, and developed a certain fondness for her. And I find it really comes through in pretty much every scene with her, starting in E3. The thing is, even without the code hunts spelling out the connection for us, I think Kloe and Lexus tell us more about Lun than all the code comments or author-tract spewing Phantom ever could.

  • On a similar note, I never realized just how much the expressive face sets add to the emotion of the game. I was going to complain about how I only really now started noticing The Way has some issues reaching FF8 levels of ellipses spewing, but adding a expressive face along side it can totally change the dynamic of a scene.
  • I might have to eat my words a bit. I managed to Step 4 Rosmar in one pass. But it was after he beat me once in a very close plunge. Like I said, damage threshold has its issues. I know Lun probably wanted to differentiate the plunge from regular combat, and I know basing the plunge on dice rolls very easily accomplishes that goal, but still. Sometimes what works, works.
  • The unguided are still my favorite group in Estrana.
  • I wanted to remark on each episode's cliffhanger ending before, so here it goes: E1's is simple but good, E2's isn't nearly as tense, but "I need my sword..." is pretty golden line to go out on. E3's is about something that literally only comes up in the last 10 minutes of the episode, but the atmosphere really sells it well. E4's is one of the best, and drove me insane the first time I reached it. You really do want to beat the snot out of Strata, and prove that the hype about him is wrong. And E5's is, well... I think most people who played it back in the day would agree, pretty legendary, but it's hard for me to be objective about it.

Finally, on to E5 next...

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:34 am
by EmperorJeramyu
Episode 5 -

Yep, still my favorite, and after thinking so hard about the previous episodes, it's been pretty easy to figure out why. "Everyone Must Bleed" is a pretty good title, but it might as well be called "The Way Episode 5: Shit Gets Real", because there's never a dull moment this episode. It kind of answers my question on why I liked all the wandering in this episode more than in E3: each area is rather short, and though there are quite a few, they're always punctuated well with plot bits, cutaways to B-stories, and generally set the context for each following part better. There are more 3D rendered background maps, the pace is pretty fast (this episode was shorter than I remembered...), and there's a lot of tension in the air.

  • I never noticed how Traziun's dialogue at the start pretty much confirms Kalmar is one of the Blana Sera.
  • The "fixed" plunge against Strata really demonstrates the problem the plunge can have in the later episodes. It's not really "fixed" by his high Plunge stat and powerful blade arts so much as it is by his overblown HP and Damage Threshold of freaking 80. Not even the Pharaphalyn has a DT that high. Some of the shadow lyn do, but they're more... puzzle bosses, which make excellent use of the plunge mechanics but I'll get to that later. In the rematch against him, all of his other core stats are actually higher aside from HP. He'd still be beatable only by virtue of his lowered HP, sure, but it still shows Lun was conscious of how the possibility of a fluke step 4 is always present. Every single Strata rematch I've had has always ended in a step 4 one way or the other. Jabbo's FAQ calls his stats "unbalanced". I say DT is kind of a faulty system.
  • That being said, it is really freaking hard to last 6 rounds. I think my record is 7, but that was in the beta.
  • I just noticed how much more tense not being able to see what number your actual HP is at makes the plunge when you're in the red.
  • Also the link system is kind of useless until you get those %s up, which probably explains why this episode throws a zillion cross/lunge/drop stones at you.
  • What exactly did Traziun "show" Strata during the final pass of their plunge? I don't think there have ever been any theories about that. Did he suddenly take Strata down to like 1 HP in such a way that Strata KNEW Traziun could've beaten him (I've always thought it's pretty clear Strata understood that), but didn't, thereby showing Strata the idea of humility or mercy, a concept Traziun says he "knows all too well"?
  • Rhue bitching out out the paradan is still kind of awesome.
  • I don't really have any particular thoughts on the stoning of Lilah or the destruction of Estrana. Well, other than "epic". Not the stoning so much, but definitely the destruction. Also random snake attack.
  • To everyone who said the 3D rendered maps could never be as interactive as chipset maps, I offer you Laodicea and a vintage 2002 shut the fuck up.
  • It really is amazing just how subtle Rhue's slide in to Machiavellian ends-justify-the-means extremism is. Him threatening to just outright kill Cetsa really seems surprisingly reasonable when you consider all the shit he's gone through. And you got to witness all of it, too.
  • The same thing goes for just how deluded he gets about Serena.
  • I take it back, Slade is actually probably the most well-balanced plunge in the game, though he does have ridiculous DT of 45 (again, more than in the rematch in E6). I've still managed to step 4 him before, but it felt like an actual fluke, and not something that was just inevitable.
  • And the subsequent plunge against the shadow guy is almost impossibly easy. But you know what? I think it's intentional. There's no way Lun didn't punch in his stats not knowing how much easier than Slade he is. The question is: who is it? Is it the shadow of a young Slade? Is it Slade's aura? If so, is the Phantom Slasher entity the aura of the Phantom Slasher sword?
  • The Carsavoran is HARD. I kind of like it, but prone is cheap as hell.
  • Kalmar has a really grandiose way of speaking. I dig it.
  • Yeah, Kalmar is the Black Lyn. Can't believe I forgot that.
  • Also if any of you cocksuckers still want to argue that "Aubuta" is anything other than a random curse worse, I'm still game.
  • I don't care if it's entirely due to the sheer spectacle, Traziun blasting away a dozen Blood Lyn is still my favorite scene in the entire series. And like I said before, this scene is so much memorable because of the restraint Lun showed. We never see ANYTHING quite like this before, or after.
  • Also, when this scene didn't get the "Best Cutscene" (or moment or whatever) Misao award is when I finally, FINALLY came to my senses and fully stopped giving a shit about those stupid awards. I'm pretty sure it went to Laxius Power again. Fucking Laxius Power. Goddamn it.
  • On a really tangential note, there's a chat log of involving a lot of RPG maker bigwigs voting on various games for some "Special Comitee Misao Awards", and they're pretty complementary towards The Way, so I guess there's that. The awards and chat log are on this page (check the bottom for the log). It's kind of an interesting read, but it seems sanctimonious as hell to me.
  • I totally just realized that Traziun's hallucination is from his sword absorbing Kalmar. Kalmar even says that's exactly what's going to happen.
  • Is the black fortress on the upper way? We know from Matalan in E3 that the Blana Sera have to actually travel places, but it seems like they don't do it along the regular way. And yeah, the fortress in on top of a big mountain, but if the upper way was a... conventionally physical place, I think people would find the idea of it less preposterous with giant mountains everywhere. It make more sense for it to be some kind of pseudo... spiritual... warp zone or something.
  • I like how no one ever acknowledges that Rhue suddenly manifested the ability to jump out of a pit and slaughter dozens of Blood Lyn, including a Dark Lyn, and then completely lost those powers.
  • If there's one misstep the story has this episode, it's the whole "Book of Eve/Book of Sermeot" is kind of weird and from out of nowhere, and just as quickly gets forgotten. Though Dirk's remark that "Tetzel has the type of power that reaches all across The Way" is kind of interesting. Even the Blana Sera have to travel. Though the idea that The Way is something that can have something "all across" it is kind of strange.

I hate to go off on this again, but how does Dirk have first hand knowledge of terrain that's FURTHER ahead on The Way? It's clear that the "end" of the way isn't really that far ahead of Estrana, which has to have been there for years. So how did no one reach the end before that? Did Tetzel murder them all, and "sanction" Estrana because it distracted people and slowed them down? Again, Estrana has to have existed for years, and the "end" can't be any more than a few weeks past it, so that's some fucking cover-up going on there. If there are mists at the end of The Way, they must move really damn slow. Yet they appear to have moved recently from what Gaius says in that one cave near the end. Or do the mists advance only when people reach them? But then why doesn't Tetzel just keep pushing forward instead of bothering with Estrana or mountain strongholds? Is he getting too old for this shit?

Or are there really no mists and the end of the way is just wherever Tetzel says it is? I don't want to rehash what I said before, but in that case what reason do people have for wandering? Was The Purpose invented by the Guided/Tetzel/Gary Busey to give people some sort of sense of... uh... purpose and to keep them moving forward in near technological stagnancy? That's a really big asshole kind of thing to do. Is Tetzel wiping out settlements he comes upon to give the illusion that there are mists at the back of The Way too? He must have a really foolproof way of doing that. Maybe he could like, write people's names in his books or whatever, but that doesn't explain the settlements. Or maybe once everyone had fled Janwen he immediately somehow paved it over and started Estrana? But we know there are other big settlements too, how would all of those be covered up without a hitch? Even if Tetzel/whoever leads the guided can kill with impunity, you'd think someone would've managed to sneak away a post-it note somewhere saying what's going on. How does Dirk know how many people there are estimated to be on The Way!? Is he Tetzel!? Dammit!

  • The Flist is also HARD.
  • I completely forgot the Guided fortress was even a dungeon, wow.
  • ...And the Hornjaw and Payutac are complete pushovers.
  • Again, when did Gaius figure out how screwed up Rhue was?
  • How affiliated with the Blood Lyn is Gaius at this point? We know he's somehow connected to the guided rebellion, and the guided and Blood Lyn are definitely enemies, but he doesn't ever move against Traziun (well, up until the Lexus ending, maybe), or really even acknowledge their mutual past.
  • What exactly makes a "perfect blade"? Gaius and Traziun both seem to have some power over shadow swords (though in Traziun's case it seemed to be a special exception with the PS), did Kalmar actually do weird aura experiments on them, or just try and instill them with some stiff morality and super training? If Kalmar was okay with his wife's death, why didn't he do it himself before? If he had any interest in retaining Traziun, why didn't he deny it more?
  • What exactly is the criteria for being judged as "bad" in Gaius's eyes? Sacrifa digging into the pits seems to be bad, but Traziun running around with a shadow sword seems to be fine.
  • For that matter, what is the criteria for being "bad' in the eyes of the Phantom Slasher? Who defines that criteria? How do swords have absolute moralities? Is it something to do with its own aura, or the auras it absorbs? Not being able to hit people who want to destroy it (Gaius) seems like a pretty big security hole. Is the same property that makes Gaius immune to the PS the same that makes Traziun able to destroy it? Is the PS okay with Traziun because it knows he'll help Rhue? Does it shatter in regret because Traziun is "innocent" (possibly why it can't hit Gaius), or because Traziun is Rhue's... best friend, I guess? Why do neither the PS or Gaius ever kill Strata?
  • Actually, the PS and Gaius being on opposing sides despite having the same absolute morality is kind of clever. Kalmar also seems to think he's "purifying" The Way. Hmmm...
  • I remember complaining about this in my first beta report, but the geography confuses me a bit here. Rhue and co. pass by Slade who has somehow wandered onto the cliff just outside the Guided fortress, then hours later Rhue passes by the bottom of the same cliff, which Cetsa arrives at despite having left the Blana Sera temple at about the same time? Then despite the fact that Strata and Lyrra ran ahead of Cetsa (who Rhue runs into), he gets to the guided camp before them? I guess Slade could've drifted down the river or something after jumping off, and I guess the mountain path could've been a really indirect detour, but then how did Slade get up on the mountain so quickly? Did he actually go through the fortress too?
  • I swore there was supposed to be an actual trick to the forest maze...
  • How does Slade mortally wound Cetsa with his sword while lying on his back?
  • I've always thought Slade had the most tragic death in the series, but upon replay, Lyrra's is pretty damn depressing

E6 next. Typing out my thoughts on everything for that is going to be fuuun.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:00 pm
by EmperorJeramyu
Episode 6 -

You know, I was going to start off talking about how cerebral and psychological E6 is, but while playing through it, something else struck me: E6 has a shitload of really good gameplay. For an RPG Maker game, hell, for a game in general, E6 is just really damn good. There's tons of content (more than most "complete" RPG Maker games), lots of variety, lots of minigames, and dozens upon dozens of secrets to discover. I was ready to be all emotionally intense while playing E6, but it was like being punched in the face right when I realized just how much fun I was having. So kudos to Lun for making E6 not just a real mindbender, but overall a great game in general.

Now, on to the juicy stuff.

It doesn't take a genius to see that E6 is pretty different from the other episodes. Not just structurally, either. Yes, it all takes place in the same basic location (though E4 did for the most part as well), yes the story really doesn't advance forward until the very end. No, the biggest change is how conceptually, emotionally, and (at the risk of sounding super pretentious) metaphysically different it is from its predecessors. In Lun's interview with Play magazine, the interviewer describes the change very well:
Kyle B. Stiff wrote:You were breaking from cliche all The Way through, the game-making scene people loved it, then you ended the tale in such a way that completely divided the community. I have the feeling that people wanted something "epic," they wanted to see evil rulers toppled and rightful rulers put in place, but instead they got this deeply personal ending. You know, the ending reminded me of someone dealing with a personal encounter with senseless violence, like surviving a school shooting or something like that.

I find that describes why E6 is so different than the rest: it's deeply personal.

Let's analyze Lun's responses a bit more, because it'll probably give you more closure than E6 ever will.
Lun wrote:Concerning your thought about the deeply personal ending:

Everybody experiences tragedy in their life, and E6 was created during one such trying time for me. I think that some parts definitely reflect this, and the game is better for it

This is basically the point I was trying to make talking about Lexus in E4. A creator's personal and emotional connection to a work can transform it. But instead of just one character or event, E6 is an entire game that reflects the creator's emotions. And while I don't necessarily feel that "tragedy" is an emotion that permeates heavily throughout E6 (E5 takes the cake for that), everything in E6 feels a lot more... detached I'd say, even if the main quest is fairly straightforward. Certainly a lot of the optional material explores ideas outside of "characters in a story participate in a sequence of events", but stepping back and perceiving the episode as whole, it's not so much telling a story about feelings, as it is telling a variety of feelings using a story.
Lun wrote: It seemed to me that a lot of the people who thought the end of Episode 6 was pretty good were somewhat casual players. It felt like regulars, people who had spent considerable time on my website discussing and debating various theories for a year or more, had already figured out roughly what was to transpire and so most of them did not get the same thrill a casual player would; they merely got confirmation on some of their theories. Unfortunately, Episode 6 was the last game, and they quickly realized that all their other painstakingly mapped out theories concerning other mysteries (that a casual player may not have even considered important) would not be confirmed or denied in the same manner. When you put so much effort into something, you want a return on it. You want to know if you are wrong or if you're right. You want to understand. That's how I am, so I can sympathize with players who might have felt disappointed or even angry at the end of Episode 6.

Here's where we get to the "controversial" nature of E6, and I say something controversial: If you're one of those "I'M STILL WAITING FOR E7" "Why don't we ever learn the truth behind X is!?" people, you are completely missing the point. Lun may sympathize with you, but I don't. Idiot.
Lun wrote:Also, before a person blasts The Way for leaving some issues unresolved, it might be good to understand one of the dilemmas I faced. When you create a world like The Way, it can be very difficult to filter out certain parts of it without compromising the world itself. If you refuse to expose players to certain objects or ideas because you know you will probably not be able to fully explore them, your world loses something. As a creator, you want to show off your world in all its glory, so sometimes you allow in certain things that never reach their full potential, that is, things that are never fully realized or explained even though they contribute to the realization of the world itself. In The Way, the Citadels might be one example.

Lun created a huge and complicated world for us, and wanted to show us as much as possible; obviously because he took the time to think it all up (what's the point if no one sees it?), but also because some of it has a place, even potentially a very small space in the story. He wanted to have everything in, but he wasn't necessarily able to explain it all fully. Some of this is due to time. Some of this is due to running out of effort.

Mr. Stiff gives a potentially additional reason, and different take on the omissions in general:
Kyle B. Stiff wrote:You mention the existence of the Citadels, these great monoliths of mystery. Of course we all wanted to get into one of them, but I think it showed great restraint on your part when you kept the player away from them; otherwise we're going to have this deflated feeling of, "Oh... so that's what they were." Or the everpresent, moving fog that covers the beginning and end of The Way, which keeps wanderers on the move and makes settling down seem like a perversion. What is it? No explanation is given. I can't help but think that a less skilled storyteller would have created a world of mystery at the beginning and destroyed it at the end; it's natural to give the crowd what they think they want, rather than what they really want. At the risk of sounding arrogant, do you think that what the player perceived as being short-changed might actually be them short-changing you as a storyteller?

Lun gives a very polite answer to this, but fuck you I'm not polite.

I think the Phantom subplot is almost entirely about this. He thinks his painting is a masterpiece, even with a piece missing, while stupid plebeian Rhue can't understand why, and wants to fill it in just so the picture is complete. And while there are reasons this storytelling idea is used, most commonly "whatever the audience can come up with is sure to be more interesting", I don't think that's the case here. I'm going to hazard a guess at Lun's feelings here, but the reason why the he prefers the unfinished painting on a more philosophical level is that what CAN BE is more beautiful than what IS. If the painting is finished, it is a finite quantity, it can be consumed and forgotten about. With just a piece missing, it is more. It can become more. More can become a part of it. Some people find that wondrous and beautiful. Some do not.

Even if you don't agree with the philosophy I garbled above, or even with keeping things perpetually unknown as a good storytelling device, at least understand where it's coming from, and for fuck's sake, understand you need to stop asking for more, and more answers.

Yes, I know at least 75% of the sentences I've written have ended in question marks. But there's a difference in my intent. I'm asking questions, but not asking for answers, if that makes any sense. Even if they're insanely bitchy and make plot hole accusations, they're an appreciation of the restraint Lun showed, and an appreciation for the answers he didn't just let us have.

Going back a bit, there's another more technical reason we don't necessarily learn everything:
Lun wrote:I think you are correct in the feeling that most people wanted something more epic. Many surely felt that the game shouldn't have ended where it did. So maybe an explanation is warranted...

Rhue's story is the central story of the game. Yes, I know the game is not called "The Rhue" (which would be silly), but that's the fact of the matter. And if you think about it, you realize that players get to experience the entirety of his existence. They are there right after his "birth" at the beginning of Episode 1 (though most are not aware of this) and they are there for his "death" (the realization of his true nature) in Episode 6. To put it more plainly, as soon as the truth about Jeruh and Serena is realized, "Rhue" dies, even as the newly enlightened persona continues living. So in my view it is very natural that the game should start and end where it does. There is birth, then life, then death.

Referring to certain things being left unknown, Lun also says:
Lun wrote:This concept applies to a few of the characters as well. Yes, they had a part to play in Rhue's saga, but sometimes their story extended well beyond "Rhue" into the future, the past, or both directions. I suppose my feeling was that certain details shouldn't be forced. So I decided to leave further exploration to later works that I hoped (and still hope) to create.

One such work exists even now. After the RM2K series was finished I went on to write a second story based in The Way universe. It amounts to what would probably be a 160 page graphic novel. Unfortunately, some parts of the story might not make much sense without knowledge gained through the six episodes of the RM2K series. On the whole, however, I think it is probably easier to follow than Rhue's saga.

It really is a shame none of these later works never materialized, even if they wouldn't reveal anything we wanted to know. But yes, the reality of the series of games called "The Way" is that they are about "Rhue". They quite literally start with his birth, and end with his death. Everything else is just seasoning, or incidental to the story of Rhue.

Beyond the actual character focus of the story though, The Way was never just about a series of events being revealed. It has what fancy-pants writing people like to call a "theme".
Lun wrote:Rhue's character is largely about the obsessive pursuit of an unattainable ideal. In his specific case, the ideal is the girl he loved long ago. [...] By the end of the game, Serena, the ideal love, Rhue's supposed soul mate, is vanquished, and Rhue is confronted by the Phantom Slasher who tells him that people aren't perfect and that no matter what they do they will fail him in some way. Rhue accepts this and tells the Phantom Slasher that he doesn't care. He just wants someone who will keep trying, and that he will keep trying too. The most obvious interpretation is that he wants someone who will choose to love him and continue working at it with him despite various challenges.

All in all, player's reactions vary wildly: [...]

Some of these reactions probably relate to his other themes and levels of meaning. After all, hidden in the midst of his quest for Serena there is an existential quest of sorts.

I didn't want to paste the entire interview in here, but if you read it, you'll also see how Lun has a very personal connection to the theme as well, which is probably why I find it comes across so well. Also the "end of the game" dialogue he references only occurs in the Reaches ending. Hmmm.

Let's return to what makes E6 so different. Going back a bit, of E6's setting, Lun says:
Lun wrote: The stage, Dream Estrana, is a complex, interconnected wonderland of secrets and mysteries. In fact, the amount of optional material is probably greater than the material encountered along the direct route to the end. So if you just play through the game along the logical route, you will miss out on a whole lot as many players did.

Calling it a "complex, interconnected wonderland of secrets and mysteries" is a bit of a understatement. Not because it's really that complex or has that many secrets, but because the scope of those two words don't capture just how cerebral the entire nature of Dream Estrana is. Mr. Stiff refers to the entire setting of The Way as "...like a fantasy world penned by Jodorowsky or David Lynch". If you're familiar with either of those two film makers (I've only seen a bit of Lynch's work, but enough to see what the guy's deal is), you'll probably agree with me that Dream Estrana (and certainly the entire Way) isn't quite THAT trippy, or the events THAT hard to follow, but there is an important similarity. In both Lynch's movies, and in Dream Estrana, the rules of reality, and even the rules of storytelling, are slightly different.

Nobody in Dream Estrana ever questions it. People just "somehow ended up here" and continued living. Nobody seems to concerned it's in a perpetual state of rot, or surrounded by a giant red void. Hell, Sacrifa himself was the one who blew up the city and then left. Yet he's back in Dream Estrana, researching. Not researching how he got there, or what the hell is going on, mind you. He and Lyrra have been in Dream Estrana for "years". Everybody's forgotten about wandering, because they can't leave. They don't question it, that's just how the place is. The radical shift to this kind of setting and characters account for a huge part of E6's decidedly otherworldly atmosphere.

All that being said, I'm prepared to talk about some of the problems I have with E6. While the dreamlike atmosphere is nice, I've always felt like it was also covering up to some extent a rather rushed ending to Rhue's story. I remember plenty of rumors about how many episodes Lun had planned, everywhere from 7 to 17. Regardless of whether or not they were true, it's pretty indisputable that Lun was very exhausted with the games by the time he got around to fitting E6 together. Hell, there were signs he was tired of it during E5. He had been working on the series nonstop for about 5 years. RM2K was getting old, and its limitations got even more restraining the more experience Lun got with it. The fans were waiting, expecting something head-explodingly awesome. Lun's buckling under this pressure is manifested pretty directly in some parts of the game, but also indirectly as well. Though E6 is very complex, assets of it were reused from E4, and parts of it were completed years earlier. Despite this, I'm pretty sure the gap between E5 and E6 might have been the longest (though the long beta didn't help) between any two episodes. Time was running short. And trust me, I'm not blaming Lun for running out of steam. He's done more than I ever will, and done it better than I'll ever do anything. I'm just making an observation.

Playing through each episode back-to-back, and having a better understanding of the whole story makes the ending feel a bit more natural, but playing it for the first time I felt like the ending revelations came basically out of nowhere. Not the revelations themselves, but the fact that there WERE so many revelations. In the previous five episodes, the idea of something strange going on with Rhue's identity only came up sporadically, and was always quickly shelved by his quest for Serena, his chasing Cetsa, or whatever other current subplot was happening. And yeah, the ending does wrap up his identity and Serena together, but at that point Gaius's revelation (which was really the only thing that prompted me to think Rhue's identity was was more than just a C-plot) is about 10 hours old, and there's no reason to believe "The Truth" in the Phantom's Blade will necessarily resolve that AND Serena so quickly. It just kind of seems like it was all hurriedly squished in there so Rhue's story could be done. I guess it adds replay value if you need to play the games over to understand how the story flows, but I'm not sure that's a virtue.

...Or was it some sneaky trick by Lun to get people to join the forums? Hmm.

The other problem I have is with the "complex, interconnected wonderland of secrets and mysteries". While it's nice to reward people for digging in deep, and I find it even ballsy how Lun hid so many juicy, context-changing plot details in the hidden material, a part of me thinks there's a combination of TOO much being hid, and what's being hid being TOO hidden. And while optional stuff like the Arena and Twisted Forest can be found by even the most rudimentary prompts or exploration, things like the Phantom side quest and finding Lexus are so obfuscated, any "casual" RPG player is only going to stumble upon them accidentally by getting lost. Hell, even I had to go into the game files to see you had to press enter to swim down to get the Star Key. And it's not like these are just curious little extras to discover. The Lexus sidequest opens up owning a house, the CoJ sidequests, and an entirely new ending. The Phantom quest gives you like 500 notch items. While it's nice to see Sorya can do some of the Lexus stuff, and is much easier to get, it still relies on her being in Dream Estrana in the first place.

All right, enough complaining. On to the bullet points. I actually took notes while playing, and came out with about 4 pages worth. So here we go.

  • Let's get this out the way: Fuck you, The Girl is Serena.
  • Of course the first question that comes to mind is why Rhue never asks for her name, she never tells Rhue her name, and nobody else calls her by name. This could be one of those "storytelling rule differences" I mentioned above, but might there be an actual reason? Does Rhue truly know in his heart that's her, but just refuses to recognize that fact?
  • Somewhere, someone might actually call out Lun for being lazy by reusing a bunch of stuff from E4. But I think trying to reuse something so complicated is probably even a bit more of a hassle than creating something new.
  • The Janwen era Arm of Estrana is called The "Phantom's" Blade. Hmmm.
  • Sacrifa is in Altair Manor. Altair, is of course, a star. What else do we know that's named after stars? Hmmmmmmm.
  • Sacrifa says Tetzel did in fact, create the the End of the Way. He was told circulate the rumors of the Phantom Slasher to "delay the masses". So he could destroy what was "ahead" on The Way? ...So that they couldn't learn "the truth", that The Way is cyclical? Why? Is he just an asshole that wants to control people? Sacrifa also says the purpose "may" have been invented by him also. Is that another way of controlling them to move forward? Why does he want people to wander forward if they're going to be able to catch up to him and figure it out? Is this... as Traziun said something that had happened before, a long time ago? Is Tetzel's power "that reaches all across The Way" that he can lap people?
  • The play is another very personal part, I think. At least Lun seemed to have focused a lot of effort into it. At times he seems to use it as a metaphor for The Way as a series of games. Fitting.
  • I hate Butterfly, but the piano rendition used in the the play is just sublime.
  • The dinner party and courtroom scenes are still great.
  • There are a lot of randomly named characters in E6.
  • Jabbo should be nominated for sainthood for the walkthrough. The Twisted forest would be a nightmare without it.

Here's my final word on combat. I think E6 does a good job of giving every encounter its own identity. Depending on your party's setup and experience, they can either be pretty deadly or pose little danger. The problem with this happening in E6 is that it's also the grindiest episode by a long shot, even if you don't go out of your way to find every last notch item. That being said, if you're going to go for the reaches ending, you pretty much need to get every notch stone you can (which I now realize is probably the point in giving out so many in the optional material; you certainly don't need them for Arctura and the PS), and probably grind out a few different sword aura to max level. If you want Tri-Ultra, that's about 360 battles (going from Jabbo's FAQ) using the AR Catalyst with the enemies giving the best AR. No matter how strong you are it still takes a while to get through even regular encounters, so even at 1 minute per battle that's still 6 hours of grinding. You can probably almost beat the entire game in that time. So yeah, nice effort, bad timing.

  • For anyone who thought my Pro Wrestling metaphor was retarded: The Grand Casino Arena is a complete a total shout out to Pro Wrestling. I recall there even being a reference to Pro Wrestling in a book somewhere in Inception: Act 2.

And here's my final word on plunge mechanics. I do like the link system, but having it draw from FP is kind of a mistake. Risk attacks already draw from it, and while I know you can't do both at once (which I find annoying, but it's probably intentional), finishers are just too nice to waste time on not getting. The occasional risk attack is fine, but link attacks can just draw so much away from your FP they're almost not worth using (even with good Fenshu/Venshu luck). I'd have put them on an increasing cool down, maybe. They're also pretty useless when going for step 4s, since at high level the % bonus from a risk attack is almost always higher than what you can get from a blade art, especially if your opponent does a risk attack too (that being said, I don't know if the bonuses for crits/finishers/blade arts is applied before or after the risk % bonus off the top of my head).

All this means link attacks are kind of useless in getting the arena bonuses (which are very important, powerful Blade Arts) since those pretty much require getting step 4s every single time. Hell, in some cases you HAVE to get Step 4s. The first guy does explicitly. The second guy has 150 HP, and 3 turn limit, meaning you'd have to do about 50 damage each pass. But his DT is 19, so that's a Step 4 anyway. For the third opponent, a Step 4 is only 3 damage higher than you'd have to do each turn anyway, which is pretty much the story for the rest of the opponents, except sort of Kavax and Exmus. In my experience you're never going to consistently be able to do enough damage with each pass to get the bonuses without at least accidentally over killing them anyway. There's very very little possibility of getting a finisher in so few passes, so really, you're always better off doing risk attacks and restarting until the opponent is on the losing end and you get a crit or a really good blade art.

  • While I'm on the plunge, I always thought the Blade Art panels looked sweet.
  • Using a custom entrance theme really lends itself for abuse. I realize you can technically replace ANY song, but I had Rhue come out to this, and it was glorious.
  • Apparently E6 puts in multiple nova stones if you've missed any. That's nice. Too bad one of them is in Lexus's tomb.
  • Using heart stones as currency is kind of clumsy. I guess there's a metaphor there since most of the time they're used to buy stuff for Lexus or Sorya, but still...

So here's the story of the Charlatans of Justice. Basically, some time during E6's development, one of the Badass 5 (Porter, Iteroth, Excell, Exiled, and myself) thought it would be cool for us to have a cameo in E6. I'm pretty sure it was Excell who actually asked it of Lun, who then asked us to give him a script. So we got together and assembled the most rancid, awful, horrible script for a cameo you've ever seen. I'm not going to post it, but I will say that I had to email Lun a recording of a fart sound effect I made myself. Fortunately Lun had the common, but good sense to completely disregard it and make up his own thing for us, which was a lot funnier and probably a lot more flattering too. And of course, the quests are awesome. I love my "drunk with power" line, the little wanted cards, and the dialogue with Porter once everyone is at the bar.

  • That being said, the Interrogation minigame is pretty difficult if you can't figure out how it works.
  • Also I just noticed Lun FINALLY fixed "bad ass".
  • Moving on to the Phantom sidequest... just what is the deal with Gallagher?
  • What did the Phantom mean "There is only one person in this entire city that you ever really knew"?
  • What "very important event" took place at the black shoals? We know the reaches ending has a scene there... Black Shoals is also a real location as well (a park/lake in Georgia), as well as a... stock market ecosystem.
  • While The Phantom is kind of presumed to be the really obvious author avatar of Lun in The Way, I think there might be a better one. Specifically the "M 2 O Man". His opening dialogue states he's tired. He discuses reactions to The Play (again, seemingly analogous to The Way as a series) with Rhue. He talks about looking out the window and seeing something that made him happy, but the longer he stayed the more miserable he became, until he couldn't look any more. Is the other boy in the room Fwacho? There's a desk on the side of the room full of plans and discarded papers. Hmmm.
  • I always felt bad you could never show Celestria you got the suit back, I think.
  • The switch to start the Sorya... dance, is called "Event 2006". Classy. And yeah, it looks like Lexus was also planned for this scene too.
  • Also despite all the ridiculous stat boosts they can get, I never used Lexus or Sorya.
  • There are fragments of code that suggests if your "Rhue points" are low enough, you could do something additional at Nadia's. I would've loved to see that.
  • Traziun's mom states that the Shadow Swords are actually "picky" about their victims. So does Kalmar engineer Gaius to do his bidding but not be an "agreeable" victim to the PS?
  • She also says Shadow Swords make their wielders immortal. We know Rhue has "been around for a long time", so did he have the PS before, or is the Mimic immortal as well?
  • How did Kalmar bypass the "aura overload" thing?
  • The mine puzzle is really annoying.
  • The Janwen origins stuff from the guy in the pits makes a very strong case for the whole Illuminati vs. Shadow Swords, Purpose vs. Lord Below thing as a very literal Good vs. Evil story. But so are a lot of fairy tales. Does taking a non mortal-absolutist interpretation of the swords/parties involved really make the story implausible? Is the Lord Below "evil" or does he just represent one set of arbitrary principles? How does substituting Tetzel for The Purpose in this conflict change our perception?
  • Were the auras of all the Illuminati in that conflict absorbed by a shadow sword? We do fight something called "Arctura", a plausible name for an Illuminati (sort of- more on this in a bit).
  • What is the significance of 1 Illuminati not being brought to Janwen?
  • As much as I bitched about the plunge system constantly, the secret shadow lyn fights make excellent use of it, and really show its versatility.
  • My record for damage in 1 pass this playthrough was 101. I think my all time high is 107 (high enough to step 4 every opponent except 1 shadow lyn).
  • So what exactly is the thing that's supposed to distinguish the Pharaphalyn? Abstract monologues?
  • My rematch with Kavax was pretty epic. I replaced the midi music with a wav of the actual song, which really set the mood. In the actual plunge itself I used pretty much every mechanic in the system (risks, links, healing, slot plugging, crits), and finished it off in the red with a risk attack finisher.
  • ...And then I won the plunge against Saiteh by triggering perfect Venshus 4 passes in a row and pulling off a critical Pharaphalyn finisher for the insta-win.
  • Gharon is really, really hard. Yes I know Rhue can solo him, but damn it still took me 5 tries to win normally. It wasn't even Tri-Ultra spam that did it either, it was Midian with his freaking Blade 7 while Rhue and Sacrifa did the revive and heal dance while Slade died over and over.
  • The final regular combat boss in the game is Arctura. Arctura isn't the name of an actual star, but "Arcturus" is. Sorya has a little speech about letter changing in names that I keep finding strangely relevant.
  • The catatonic man Jeruh got the sword from likely ended up that way from the sword aura overloading, so it couldn't have been Rhue, could it?
  • How many aura are needed for this overload? Apparently all of Estrana wasn't enough, or does Rhue's unique properties protect him from it somehow?
  • Why do only certain auras take over Rhue when the sword gets a kill?
  • Was the Phantom Slasher lying when it said it gave Rhue the capability to have memories? He seems to do just fine after it's destroyed. Or did wielding the PS fundamentally change something about him?
  • The Phantom Slasher plunge really needs its own music.
  • While I'm at it, apart from Lun's original music, the music used throughout the series has been... spotty, at best. This is probably the single thing I am most picky about in RPG Maker games. Some really memorable stuff, but mostly meh to ugly midis that get pounded into a glitch piano mess by RM2K's buggyness. That's why I opted to substitute each track I could find with a wav of the actual version (assuming it was better than the midi), and everything else with high-quality soundfont conversions.
  • When Gaius says "What a waste" in the Lexus ending, is he referring to Rhue or Traziun? He turns to Traziun before he thinks it...
  • Why is Cetsa's body not there in the Lexus ending?
  • It really is a huge honor to be in the credits of this episode. The CoJ stuff too.

Let's go into the endings in a bit more detail.

Lexus Ending -

I decided to do this one first because despite being the "happy" ending, it's actually kind of in a middle ground between the other two on a different level. Where the Reaches ending is very abstract, and the normal ending is very real, the Lexus ending tends to blur the line a bit. This ending has been traditionally seen as a kind of escapist ending, and with a phrase like "... a quiet corner, outside the roar of the world." it's hard to disagree. There have been (angry) arguments against this before, but I have a bit more nuanced take. It's impossible to deny the fact that Rhue does escape from the world to a far off place, but the idea that he's using this as a way to escape from his problems, or the whole "being the phantom slasher" issue at hand isn't quite true. In fact, this is the only ending where Rhue takes command of his destiny away from others and forges his own path. I hate to use map names for arguments, but the version of the "end" where he flies away is titled "Defiance of Gaius". In this ending, Rhue is beholden to no one. Not Gaius, not Jeruh, not Tetzel. His love for Lexus is the one thing he developed separate from all of them, and it's his ticket to escape from the past.

So yeah, still a happy ending. A VERY happy ending, in fact.

Normal Ending -

I can't really think up too much to say about this one. It used to be my favorite by virtue of the fact that Rhue's journey continues ("The Beginning" indeed), but now that I have some understanding of the merits of the other endings, I'm just sort of ambivalent about this one. I like the idea of Rhue and Kloe being together, and I think it's interesting how if Rhue loses to the Phantom Slasher, he doesn't step away from Ghost Horror at the end, but other than that, there's not much to say. There are a few questions that might have some interesting answers, though. Would Gaius have destroyed the Phantom Slasher without harming Rhue? Would he have actually destroyed it? In that case did Traziun sacrifice himself not only to have revenge on the sword, but to also save Rhue? This ending also seemingly has a deleted scene between Gaius and Strata. I wonder what they would have to say to each other? Sometimes the only thing more interesting than what characters interact in a story is what characters DON'T interact. More on this in a bit.

Reaches Ending -

I think this is my new favorite ending. Not because it's really dark or weird, but because it has some great writing, great cinematography, and some interesting insights into the characters. I'm still curious as to why the Phantom Slasher is the one who "casts" everyone into the Reaches (If you turn off the event and just walk to the next screen, there's just a cliff above the Reaches that Rhue throws himself off of). The descent monologue is great, and the momentary spottings of the Phantom Slasher as he quietly follows Rhue and destroys the women who try and distract him is inspired cinematography. Notice how Kloe doesn't show up there. I guess she'll only walk alongside Rhue if he breaks free from his muddy past . One by one we see how Slade, Gaius, and Traziun had to deny their feelings (who is Traziun talking about?). Rhue confronts the Phantom. "Some try!" "All fail." is my favorite exchange of dialogue in the whole series. And in the end, all that's left is a single splotch of blood. Again, in his interview, when Lun refers to "the end of the game", he references dialogue in this ending. Interesting.

Conclusion -

This playthrough really didn't go the way I expected it to go. I expected to just have a quaint little time, playing through the games, making a few notes of interesting thoughts, and ending with a feeling of quasi-spiritual nostalgia. Some very different things happened. I didn't realize just how tough it would be to push through some parts of the early episodes. I didn't expect to ask so many questions I assumed I already knew the answers to. I didn't expect to find so many layers of deeper meaning. Not in the story, but in the act of the game's creation itself. And more than anything, I didn't expect to spend probably a combined 30 hours total typing about it. I didn't really get my quasi-spiritual nostalgia either. I found a few moments very emotional, such as Lyrra's death and the M 2 O room, but overall I experienced a lot less feelings, and gained a lot more understanding than I was expecting. The sad truth is, the first time I played through all The Way, I was too young and stupid to really take the emotion it was giving me, but now that I'm older, I've had the series in my mind long enough I don't get the same jolt I would playing it for the first time. In a way, I had my own little journey that didn't end up where I thought it would. To wit:
Kyle B. Stiff wrote:I've sometimes thought of The Way as a redemption story for Rhue, but that's tricky too because it's not obvious that there's any light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that Rhue descends. We're culturally prepared for someone like Cecil of Final Fantasy IV who starts out as a Dark Knight but later emerges as a Paladin, whereas it would be disconcerting if Cecil confronted his mirror-self and found only more and more darkness along with understanding.

Above all else though, I feel like I didn't experience The Way so much as I did experienced one man's attempt at creating something called The Way. The story gave me plenty of pause to think, but more than that I found myself thinking about the process of writing, designing, imbuing emotion, and all the blood sweat and tears that went into a man taking an idea from his mind and showing it to the world. What an odd and peculiar thing that it would be channeled through a piece of dated, buggy, poorly translated Japanese software and yet somehow still let me experience that process. Or maybe the unconventional medium is what made it work. Who knows.

I don't know when I'll play The Way start to finish again. It maybe be a few years, it may be never. Playing it certainly makes me feel horribly inadequate in my writing and game designing abilities, that's for sure. I kind of feel as if I've thought everything I possibly can about the series though. But then again, I probably thought that last time too. I do really hope this isn't the last we see of The Way. Even if it's in a different time, with different characters, there's still plenty of wandering to be done. And new material will definitely give me more to think about as well. It's win-win.

Bonus -

For my E5 write-up, I was going to have an aside about just how bizarre and long the series of events leading up Cetsa's death (?) are. I got about two paragraphs in before I realized I was just explaining the entire plot of the series. I decided to make a chart about it instead, which didn't prove to be any easier, but I kept going just to see how ridiculous the finished product would be. So here's my flowchart/infograph/whatever that tries to track the major characters of The Way, the events that happen to them, and how they relate to each other. So to everyone who just scrolled down the bottom of all the WORDS WORDS WORDS, here's a pretty picture. Enjoy.

Image
(Click me!)

No, it's not perfect. I'm pretty sure I failed to follow the system I made for it at least a couple times, and there are probably a few outright mistakes. Yes, it includes a bunch of theoretical stuff. No, the time is not to scale, but everything should still be in the right order. Yes, it follows the normal ending. Yes, I am insane.


But that's probably pretty obvious at this point.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:32 am
by Sage Of The Wise
Well I just spent a good portion of night reading all that. I have about 100 comments on everything said. I'm actually going to have to devote another night to writing it all. In the mean time two quick things that come to mind.

First, I've always thought this, and it seems to be a continuing theme of your posts as well, but Step 4 injuries were one of the biggest mistakes in the game. It adds so little and messes up too much. The injury system in general is awesome, just not step 4. Malefact just recently finished the grand tournament in ep6 and step 4'd every opponent on turn 1, including Kavax and Exmus, without even trying. Its just silly.

Second, there was mention of Twisted Forest Madness, and it reminded me I made a map of the forest. I'm not sure if I ever posted it here. So here.

Much more substantial post tomorrow.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:31 pm
by Sage Of The Wise
I think I first heard of the game sometime after EP3 came out. I was probably like 13. (Jesus that seems odd in retrospect. I've graduated college and have a job now, how am I still here?) Most likely from gaming world. Where ever it was had an absolutely atrocious description of the game that turned me off of it. Something that just emphasized that it took place in a 'lovely Mediterranean climate' or something. So yeah wasn't interested. At some point people started making a big huff about EP4 and I was thinking whoever made the games should really stop milking whatever series he had going and make an original game. Then at some point EP5 came out and I put on my best 'are you shitting me face' and kept scrolling. Its worth noting at this point I just kind of assumed each episode was a new random tacked on sequel, because well, look at the community. (Also, seriously, fuck Legion Saga). But then like a week later I was bored enough so I figured I might as well go through the motions.

I don't actually remember my opinion of EP1 the first time through. Clearly it wasn't so negative that I decided to stop. Definitely was impressed by the graphics and custom systems in the game, clearly much more effort was put into this 2 hour game than most of rm2k's catalog combined. Also there must have been some moment of realization when it ended so suddenly and it became clear that the series was one game, just split into episodes. Again, this might seem obvious in retrospect, but you should also know by now to never trust anything anyone ever names their rpg maker game. I couldn't tell you either exactly when I became hooked. Probably during episode 2. I can tell you now in retrospect the exact moment I think the game gets good. Gauis's 'Duty Calls' monologue in EP2. Not that the game is bad before that. But that's the first moment the game reveals that things aren't as they appear. That there will be complexity to the plot. This could be something special.

That's always been what I want most out of a game, a good complex story. And its gotten so ridiculously hard to find these days. Partially this probably because my standards have risen. Every time a story gets me with a new twist, anything else that ever has or will have thought of the same idea won't seem as original. But then again, I read what I find to be great books much much more often then great games. Or at least one that I think is great in some part because of the story. And while books are good and all (ok huuuge understatement but I'm making a point), a game can mix visuals, audio, and interaction into the mix in a way plain text obviously can't (Barring an incredibly acute case of Synesthesia). Off the top of my head the only game that truly blew my mind story wise in years has been Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors, and that was a fucking visual novel basically, talk about cheating. Before that, probably Killer7. I've really started rambling, but my point is, The Way falls right in to this category. Hell, The Way arguably leads this category.

Anyway I no longer know where I'm going with this so I'm just going to start commenting on everything Jera wrote until I get off topic again.

You know, I've always been kind of at terms with the fact that a lot of people bash on The Way because Episode 1 is kind of sloppy. Call it Early Installment Weirdness or whatever, but yeeeaahhh... Episode 1 really hasn't aged well. It's kind of buggy, the pacing is kind of all over the place and occasionally nonexistent.

All your criticisms of EP1 are valid, but they don't seem to really matter. I think its because while rather flawed, the game doesn't waste your time enough for it to matter. While an 8-10 hour game with these flaws would be a problem. But EP1 you play through in 1 or 2 sittings, it kinda just works. By the time you've realized the problems with it you've already hit EP2 and it doesn't matter.

I think it was kind of deduced that the Phantom Slasher kills people who distract Rhue from his journey. But looking back on some of these earlier episodes, that doesn't really seem to consistently be the case. I mean, it kills the three random schmucks from the opening cut scene who weren't impeding Rhue at all. I know it also kills people who are "impure" or whatever, but it's still weird that it kills those people (notice how faith in The Purpose doesn't seem to matter) in the beginning, but never tries to kill Strata, Traziun, Kloe, Cetsa, the entire popular of Lide, or a bunch of people who legitimately sidetrack or antagonize Rhue.


Yeah its all... really confusing. I'm not sure. The man at least kind of discouraged Rhue from moving on, but I don't really have a great idea. I'm just pulling this out of my ass here, but the best I can think of is that the sword is trying to manipulate Rhue into going to as many places as he can, so the sword can 'judge' as many people as he can. This would explain why it doesn't go after every person who sidetracks him, because a sidetrack is just an opportunity to go new places. Its the ones that might cause him to stop moving on. Specifically the women. Because the sword has clearly decided this Serena thing is the best thing it can exploit to keep Rhue moving. Every girl is a chance for Rhue to give up and be with someone else. Now obviously there's flaws in this, but this is what I've got (welcome to the theme of todays post). This does explain why it doesn't kill Cetsa certainly, whatever the swords goals were, they were almost certainly greatly helped by Cetsa leading Rhue on his swath of destruction through half the land to find her. Other people like Traziun the sword probably can't kill. An obvious huge hole in this is Lexus, though I thought up something for this. Estrana is a huge town. The sword actually had a reason to stay in one place for awhile, it had a lot of ground to cover. Lexus kept Rhue busy. Then Rhue killed her before the sword had to force its hand. Or hell, maybe it did.

In retrospect, there's no way this headhunter can be Midian. But then why was he looking for Jeruh?

I have to imagine Midian (or more likely Rhue as Midian) put a bounty on Jeruh. Later we get another bounty hunter that personally met Rhue as Midian before and knew he was hunting for Jeruh. Seems pretty likely.

I know there were a couple of theories about this, but I'm pretty sure Slade's remark to Strata is just Slade mistaking him for Kygar.

Either that or Strata is the guy who ruined Scatha's life. I'm still not sure on either point. It really depends a lot on everyone's age to determine if its plausible, and we don't get that. My main problem with Slade just thinking he was Kygar would be that if Slade thought that was Kygar he probably would have just tried to capture him then and there so he could find out where Cetsa was. Though what I now kind of think might have happened was that Lun had something more in mind for that scene back when he released EP1, but by EP2 changed his mind and through in that scene with Rhue mistaking Kygar for Strata as a way to explain.

Did Gaius legit get caught and mauled by the Fligg? When he joins in E5 with all those badass powers, I always interpreted it as him holding back in the early episodes (same with Traziun, and there seems to be actual evidence for that). I guess he could've been "leveling up" so to speak throughout the entire series, but isn't he supposed to be Teztel/Kalmar/Ronald McDonald's new "perfect blade" or whatever? I guess he could've been purposely waiting for Rhue, but judging from his dialogue when the party splits at Lide, it was just a coincidence.

Yeah I've got nothing on this one at all. Gaius is an enigma as far as his motivations for Rhue go.

I never realized 2.0 removed the blind maze entirely. Good riddance.

I always thought that was a bug actually due to the addition of no puzzle mode., like it was supposed to only skip when puzzles where off but he forgot to add the switch. I restored it in my copy.

Percellius"... I JUST caught that. Wow.

Ok I still haven't caught it. What?

I've always held that this is where the series really starts to get good. It's better than Episode 1 for sure, and still overall better than Episode 3 (I'll get to that in a bit...), but Episode 2 still hasn't aged nearly as well as I thought it has.

I actually really like 2. Its probably my second favorite after 4. Also I'm ignoring 6 from my rankings because to this day I have no idea where to place it.

Again, it took me three tries to win against Nomi just due to sheer luck.

Thats odd actually... I don't think I've ever lost to Nomi. And I've probably done that like 10 or so times.

Some of the hidden stuff like the Ray of Light blade art is like... really really hidden. I'm pretty sure I found it first time through by virtue of my meticulous exploration obsession, but I wonder how missing out on potentially a lot of neat stuff affects someone's experience.

I'm pretty sure the first time through the game, I made it to EP5 with only 2 blade arts. It was sad.

What was that hidden switch in the sword in Ballar's place supposed to do?

It opens the door to Baller's room... except that its already open when you get there. Probably in an early version of the game you snuck around his house for some reason or another before he's killed.

What were the prevailing theories on why Rhue smashed the other sword into the pit? It's always one of those things that kind of lent credence to the idea that Shadow Swords and Illuminati were separate things, but that can't be it, can it?

I don't think it means that at all. I think of it this way, evil doesn't like other evil. The shadow swords are not a united force of evil, but however many conflicting forces of evil (also evil is a strong word, but thats another topic.)

I've always held E3 as my least favorite episode. While now I don't think there's really any way for it to be worse than E1, I also felt like I was being a bit unfair to it as well.

I have the exact same feelings. I can never decide whether I should rate 3 higher or 1 higher because of it.

Right before Slade busts in to get Rhue, the text "Hello, my dear." appears from an unknown speaker. Huh?

He was expecting to find Cetsa. Or really... I guess he knew he would find Rhue, but was pretending he thought it was Cetsa so he could pretend he was her boyfriend so Rhue would be more likely to take him to her? Or maybe he did just expect to find Cetsa and was planning on being patronizing from the word go.

So how DID Rhue's sword get shoved through that guy's helmet? Doesn't the phantom slasher have its own sword? Why would it pick it up and randomly stab it into some guy instead of bringing it to him like in E5?

I'd have to re look through all the PS's interactions. But does the PS have a separate sword? I would imagine no unless proven otherwise.

I'm probably forgetting something big, but why exactly are they so welcoming of Traziun as a former Blood Lyn? I mean he is... because he ran away. Shouldn't they all be trying to kill him on sight? This seems to be an actual plot point, but there's really never any hints why this is the case.

There's clearly some basic world building we're missing here. They know he's a former Blood Lyn (they do right? Is it possible they just think he's a blood lyn actually doing whatever his duty is? I'd have to go back and see the wording), though clearly they don't think he's a run away. When exactly are they freed from being blood lyn? Most of my real frustrating questions actually come from world building stuff, because its stuff we don't know, but likely any person in The Way could answer. Not that this is exactly one of my pressing questions in particular, but its under the same umbrella. I'll talk more on that later.

What is Traziun's plan? What did he hope to accomplish at Matalan? Thinking about it, maybe he intended to infiltrate the Black Fortress the same way he did in E5, except at Matalan instead.

I don't think he was expecting his father to show up at Matalan. I think he really was just passing through. Ironically I can only assume he's on his way to his dad (he has Night Reaper by now) but he wasn't prepared for him to show up as he did and fled instead of going for it then. I also wouldn't be surprised to learn he's not actually carrying Night Reaper with him. You'd think Rhue would have a bad reaction if Traziun was wielding it, and at the very end of EP6 Traziun specifically doesn't bring it with him for his final scene.

Ok enough for now. I'll post more later.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:59 pm
by EmperorJeramyu
Thanks for replying. I figured if anyone was going to, I hoped it would be you. I don't want to have to prompt you for responses to my responses when you aren't finished yet, but I'd thought I'd share my thoughts a bit.

I think the game gets good. Gauis's 'Duty Calls' monologue in EP2. Not that the game is bad before that. But that's the first moment the game reveals that things aren't as they appear. That there will be complexity to the plot. This could be something special.

I'd agree that's a big turning point for the series, yeah.

Yeah its all... really confusing. I'm not sure. The man at least kind of discouraged Rhue from moving on, but I don't really have a great idea. I'm just pulling this out of my ass here, but the best I can think of is that the sword is trying to manipulate Rhue into going to as many places as he can, so the sword can 'judge' as many people as he can. This would explain why it doesn't go after every person who sidetracks him, because a sidetrack is just an opportunity to go new places. Its the ones that might cause him to stop moving on. Specifically the women. Because the sword has clearly decided this Serena thing is the best thing it can exploit to keep Rhue moving. Every girl is a chance for Rhue to give up and be with someone else. Now obviously there's flaws in this, but this is what I've got (welcome to the theme of todays post). This does explain why it doesn't kill Cetsa certainly, whatever the swords goals were, they were almost certainly greatly helped by Cetsa leading Rhue on his swath of destruction through half the land to find her. Other people like Traziun the sword probably can't kill. An obvious huge hole in this is Lexus, though I thought up something for this. Estrana is a huge town. The sword actually had a reason to stay in one place for awhile, it had a lot of ground to cover. Lexus kept Rhue busy. Then Rhue killed her before the sword had to force its hand. Or hell, maybe it did.

I guess that's plausible, but yeah it's the kind of thing that would require the PS's modus operandi to be so complex it's not even worth trying to figure out.

I have to imagine Midian (or more likely Rhue as Midian) put a bounty on Jeruh. Later we get another bounty hunter that personally met Rhue as Midian before and knew he was hunting for Jeruh. Seems pretty likely.

Yeah, that's what I decided too. That's the hazard that came with writing these things as I went along.

Either that or Strata is the guy who ruined Scatha's life. I'm still not sure on either point. It really depends a lot on everyone's age to determine if its plausible, and we don't get that. My main problem with Slade just thinking he was Kygar would be that if Slade thought that was Kygar he probably would have just tried to capture him then and there so he could find out where Cetsa was. Though what I now kind of think might have happened was that Lun had something more in mind for that scene back when he released EP1, but by EP2 changed his mind and through in that scene with Rhue mistaking Kygar for Strata as a way to explain.

I recall hearing that theory before but I'm not too hot on it. In the first vision we see, Chasta appears to be a teenager or adolescent (at least not old enough to have a "child" sprite) while Serena is still a child. That would mean Strata would have to be at least in his mid-late 20s (I'm going to say 10 years is the lowest amount of time that could've passed between the Landorin Massacre and the the start of the series) when he first encounters Rhue. Possible, I suppose, but I've always interpreted Strata as being on the younger side. He certainly acts like a teenager. That would make him closer to Lyrra's age too.

Random crackpot theory: The guy was Traziun, and Chasta is who he was talking about in the Reaches ending. Would certainly make their possible reunion in the pits a bit more poetic.

Ok I still haven't caught it. What?

Percellius is the name of the player character in Crestfallen Inception: Act 2. Lyrra's comment that it was a stupid name was a very well-deserved poke Lun made at him self (it is a pretty bad name for a protagonist).

I actually really like 2. Its probably my second favorite after 4. Also I'm ignoring 6 from my rankings because to this day I have no idea where to place it.

I rank them as such, least favorite to most favorite: E1 -> E3 -> E2 -> E4 -> E5. I've always held off on putting E6 in there as well since it is so different, but at gunpoint I'd put it between E4 and E5. Even with all the neat stuff going on in it, it's hard to go wrong with E5's shock and awe, plot, and wandering.

Thats odd actually... I don't think I've ever lost to Nomi. And I've probably done that like 10 or so times.

In retrospect I think I had pretty poor luck with the plunge this entire playthrough, since not even I usually have trouble with that one. Parris always gave me trouble though, and the one time I plunged the guy on Marna stretch without getting any of the notch items it was hell. I think my points still stand, though.

It opens the door to Baller's room... except that its already open when you get there. Probably in an early version of the game you snuck around his house for some reason or another before he's killed.

Ah, that's right, but I am seriously trying to remember if that was in the beta, and I don't think it was in even back then.

I don't think it means that at all. I think of it this way, evil doesn't like other evil. The shadow swords are not a united force of evil, but however many conflicting forces of evil (also evil is a strong word, but thats another topic.)

Yeah, this made way more sense the further into the story I played. Like I said, I wrote most of it in order and didn't go back to edit anything out.

He was expecting to find Cetsa. Or really... I guess he knew he would find Rhue, but was pretending he thought it was Cetsa so he could pretend he was her boyfriend so Rhue would be more likely to take him to her? Or maybe he did just expect to find Cetsa and was planning on being patronizing from the word go.

That makes sense.

I'd have to re look through all the PS's interactions. But does the PS have a separate sword? I would imagine no unless proven otherwise.

Now you've got me thinking about it too. I'm trying to think if there's any time the PS killed where he couldn't have plausibly gotten Rhue's sword and done so undetected. The sketchiest by far is probably the 3 wanderers at the beginning of E1, since Rhue's "Daybreak, at last..." remark heavily implies he traveled nonstop all night. Still doesn't explain why it didn't just give Rhue back his sword or break him out in E3 like it does in E5.

There's clearly some basic world building we're missing here. They know he's a former Blood Lyn (they do right? Is it possible they just think he's a blood lyn actually doing whatever his duty is? I'd have to go back and see the wording), though clearly they don't think he's a run away. When exactly are they freed from being blood lyn? Most of my real frustrating questions actually come from world building stuff, because its stuff we don't know, but likely any person in The Way could answer. Not that this is exactly one of my pressing questions in particular, but its under the same umbrella. I'll talk more on that later.

It doesn't seem like they're ever "freed" from being Blood Lyn, but rather its up to their buyers or whoever that decide when their assignments are completed, and then either that's that or the Blana Sera decide that they're free from their duties.

I don't think he was expecting his father to show up at Matalan. I think he really was just passing through. Ironically I can only assume he's on his way to his dad (he has Night Reaper by now) but he wasn't prepared for him to show up as he did and fled instead of going for it then. I also wouldn't be surprised to learn he's not actually carrying Night Reaper with him. You'd think Rhue would have a bad reaction if Traziun was wielding it, and at the very end of EP6 Traziun specifically doesn't bring it with him for his final scene.

Maybe, but he seems to be aware it is a possibility. When Rhue comes up with his crazy plan and runs off, Traziun does think "This may complicate my plan... But, I don't think he'll be able to sense me..." after all. And for what it's worth, the "throne" that Traziun stands before to teleport to the Black Fortress is literally a copy of the one Kloe stands before to be teleported to Blana Sera land.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:39 am
by Sage Of The Wise
Ah, I had forgotten that Traziun actually mentions having plans in Matalan. I guess he probably had plans similar to what he eventually did in EP5.

My rankings for the episodes would be 1->3->5->2->4, with 6 showing up anywhere from right after 3 to after 4. I also really hesitantly place 1 and 3 where they are as opposed to flipped, for reasons mentioned before. Just sitting on their own, 3 is better, which is I guess what wins out in the end. But 3 is just naturally held to a higher standard that it doesn't meet as well as 1 meets its lower standard, if that makes sense. 5 also was a bit lower for me mainly because that's when battles became a huge chore for me, the first 1-2 times through at least, and that bias stuck.

Also yeah, Strata probably can't be old enough, I think most of the theories weight comes from the fanbase's desire for Strata to be more connected to the web that is every other character's past. That and how appropriate Scatha's eventual conversation with Lyrra would become. He's really just there out of happenstance, and that makes him unique in his own right. Though as a downside it made it pretty much impossible for Lun to incorporate him into EP6. I remember back in beta (at least I think this is no longer the case) that he just runs in at some point in the ending, see's all the crazy shit happening, and just slowly backs away back off screen. Rather silly (which I'm sure is why its probably gone) but rather representative of his place in the series.

Remembered another thing about my first play of EP1, I was really impressed with the intro. Its actually kind of cheesy to look at these days, but from a technical aspect its really impressive, specifically the zoom in on the mountain to Rhue, followed by the Title. It wouldn't be til years later I'd be re impressed by it when I had a computer capable of running rm2k games without fairly consistent split second pauses, and realized the music was queued up to that scene as well.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:11 am
by EmperorJeramyu
Speaking of timing title text up to the music, I had to do the same thing for my Eternal Horizon fan game. I somehow got it right on my first try too. So I guess here's an excuse to finally post probably the only Way fan game anyone ever really tried to make:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/wzqc5v
(Gameplay pretty much ends when you get to the cliffs section)

Obviously the writing has not aged well, but for a fanfic I wrote 5 years ago it's not nearly as cringe inducing as I thought it would be.

I pretty much tried to mimic everything about The Way right down to the music and 3D rendered backgrounds. It's a pretty simple technique once you figure it out, but I found Bryce 3D kind of a bitch to model in detail with. Lun's work, especially stuff from the later episodes are works of art as far as I'm concerned. From a technical standpoint I know how to do pretty much anything in RM2k3, but obviously theory and putting things in to practice are two different things.

Still, there is so a game based upon being a blood lyn in training.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 8:03 am
by Debacle
I'm feeling almost forced to play through The Way right now, after reading this and seeing how much I still care for this story (hell, I'm on this forum!)
This idea that Traziun could be Scatha's lover is something I never considered and will be something to watch for any evidence.

So, what I can talk right now is about the whole mysteries deal. From the author standpoint, there are two types of information - what he created and knows; and what he didn't fleshed out/decided yet. I'll assume the majority of them (not TV writers) know where they're going before publishing the definitive story. From this, all we get to know boils down to how much the author want us to.

In the realm of not very clear information, The Way has this blurred line between guessing and deducing. I remember reading somewhere, by Lun or fwacho, that many 'mysteries' could be solved with the clues given in the game, the only problem is we don't quite know which questions can be answered and which belong to another story. Sometimes we're fed too many ideas only to be left hanging - like the Dirk/Scatha/Tetzel plot.
I guess the reason I can't quite go with the "left for your imagination" route is that I know the answer exists and is just being refused to be given by one reason or another - in that same sort of parallel to choosing the fantasy in Dream Estrana over the reality of the material world.

Now back to the story, one thing I really wanted to know is whether the Phantom Slasher is any sort of sword projected solid shadow being or it uses Rhue's body, if we consider everytime we see them separate, it's the sword manipulating Rhue's memories.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:19 am
by Sage Of The Wise
It has to be a manifestation in some cases at least. Best example: It breaks him out of jail in EP5. Rhue likely didn't break himself out of jail, but his sword was just sitting outside the cell. I've considered that maybe the PS has gotten more freedom over time. Maybe just as a slow process, maybe because of the Jopaga incident specifically. If not the case, it certainly starts taking more overt action by the end of the series.

The problem with saying that many mysteries can be 'solved' with clues in the game is you have no idea if you've solved it or not. Case in point, Traziun's mystery love obscurely mentioned in one ending? If I had to choose someone, I'd say Verdanna. But really they are just two mysteries that could be answers to each other, there's really no other reason to put them together. And there's the problem. If it really was Verdanna, then we've solved the mystery. But how would we ever know?

On a side note, Traziun/Verdanna is just the right blend of crackpot yet possible that if it is true Lun is probably sitting somewhere baffled to hell as to how anyone actually figured it out.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:54 pm
by Sage Of The Wise
Right so where was I.

Episode 4. I love this episode. I think there's something I really like about spending so much time exploring a city. Honestly I'm not even sure, but I loved EP2 which does the same thing to a lesser extent. I should probably go play Dragon Age 2 at some point.

I might need to take back my words a bit. I managed to Step 4 every plunge in this episode in 3 or fewer passes. I still think it's a bit better balanced though. And it occurs to me that maybe Lun was in fact accounting for people who didn't find every single notch item. And maybe my constant problem with never having enough notch items is due to Lun accounting for people who missed that first nova stone.


This is the major flaw of the notch system. People can't catch up. By the time you start making the later episodes you have to account for 2 completely different levels of player. A weaker player can't grind up, even if the enemies are infinite. Honestly I'm not sure what the solution is, because I do really like the notch system otherwise. Some games might deal with this by scaling the enemy to the player, but that always makes the very act of character progression seem a bit pointless. Then there's scaling to the player but with upper and lower bounds, that can work better. But all of this would be a huge bitch to code in a rm2k game anyway. I guess you could just keep dumping the bare minimum of notch items on bad players to keep them at some minimum proficiency. And there's a few places in the game where it kind of does this.

The whole "beat up the blue scarves"... minigame, I guess, after the dance comes from a bit out of nowhere. Actually, the dancing kind of comes out of nowhere too.

I always found the dancing game odd because there's no reward for it.

How the hell did Red Zero/Lexus/Cetsa ever survive so long with their near useless fighting style?

Yeah I don't get it, is the fighting style inherently based of Rhue? How does that possibly make any sense?

I've never found the Sacrifa-Lilah thread among one of the more interesting plots in the game, but I did notice how it kind of parallel's Rhue's own descent into crossing-the-line-ville that his love brings him into.

I really like it. Can't think of a good reason why though. Its just sad. Its probably because I really like seeing actual complex understandable villainy. Now really labeling Sacrifa a villain is pretty silly to begin with, but that's the entire point. Also I enjoy how expertly it comes together to save Rhue from his suicide mission in EP5 without seeming like a complete Ass Pull.

So why did Tetzel order that Estrana was an exception?

Hmm... you know I haven't really thought about that. But I guess it was to encourage people not to keep moving on and finding... well whatever he didn't want people to find in what we are calling The End of The Way. Though that also has the problem because it means there's a population of 1000's living a few days off from whatever your great secret is.

"End of The Way" is probably my favorite original composition used in the game. It adds so much tension and dread to any scene it's over. Like the build up Lexus's death. Speaking of which...

Mine is either A Time and Place or Strata's Theme.

I never noticed how Traziun's dialogue at the start pretty much confirms Kalmar is one of the Blana Sera.

Which dialogue was this again?

What exactly did Traziun "show" Strata during the final pass of their plunge? I don't think there have ever been any theories about that. Did he suddenly take Strata down to like 1 HP in such a way that Strata KNEW Traziun could've beaten him (I've always thought it's pretty clear Strata understood that), but didn't, thereby showing Strata the idea of humility or mercy, a concept Traziun says he "knows all too well"?

I think what he showed him was just the act of losing on purpose. It must have been completely obvious to Strata. Strata is the kind of guy who could never fathom why you would ever want to lose anything, such a foreign concept clearly shocks him a bit.

I don't really have any particular thoughts on the stoning of Lilah or the destruction of Estrana. Well, other than "epic". Not the stoning so much, but definitely the destruction. Also random snake attack.

The hat animation is so well done. Such an incredibly simple thing, but it really stands out.

It really is amazing just how subtle Rhue's slide in to Machiavellian ends-justify-the-means extremism is. Him threatening to just outright kill Cetsa really seems surprisingly reasonable when you consider all the shit he's gone through. And you got to witness all of it, too.

Particularly because the player probably wants to do it long before Rhue does, Rhue sliding deeper into extremism can really be just him catching up to the player.

And the subsequent plunge against the shadow guy is almost impossibly easy. But you know what? I think it's intentional. There's no way Lun didn't punch in his stats not knowing how much easier than Slade he is. The question is: who is it? Is it the shadow of a young Slade? Is it Slade's aura? If so, is the Phantom Slasher entity the aura of the Phantom Slasher sword?

There's likely some story reason why the shadow guy is so easy, but mechanically, its simply so anyone can beat him. Its part of the notch item problem I mentioned earlier. Lun's solution plunge wise was simply to make every plunge either easy enough for anyone to beat, or ok to lose. Slade can be hard because losing still advances the story. Can't lose to random shadow dude, so he's real easy. Its a pretty good solution all things considered. Non optimal players can there share of wins, while the optimal ones can still have a challenge in a game not known for its side quests (yet). There are better solutions I'm sure, but they would likely require major work.

Also if any of you cocksuckers still want to argue that "Aubuta" is anything other than a random curse worse, I'm still game.

Well I'd argue that its a curse word with meaning. Every curse word in the series has some historical explanation, honestly it would be weirder if Aubuta didn't. Of course we have no way of knowing what it is in reference to.

I don't care if it's entirely due to the sheer spectacle, Traziun blasting away a dozen Blood Lyn is still my favorite scene in the entire series. And like I said before, this scene is so much memorable because of the restraint Lun showed. We never see ANYTHING quite like this before, or after.

Same. Best scene ever. Though in pure coolness, The Defiance of Gaius scene is up there as well.

On a really tangential note, there's a chat log of involving a lot of RPG maker bigwigs voting on various games for some "Special Comitee Misao Awards", and they're pretty complementary towards The Way, so I guess there's that. The awards and chat log are on this page (check the bottom for the log). It's kind of an interesting read, but it seems sanctimonious as hell to me.

Speaking of which, did iishenron ever officially give up on Queen's Court, or is he out there somewhere still pretending it'll be done some day? (Maybe it can be released in tandem with The Lines End.)

Is the black fortress on the upper way? We know from Matalan in E3 that the Blana Sera have to actually travel places, but it seems like they don't do it along the regular way. And yeah, the fortress in on top of a big mountain, but if the upper way was a... conventionally physical place, I think people would find the idea of it less preposterous with giant mountains everywhere. It make more sense for it to be some kind of pseudo... spiritual... warp zone or something.

Well, strictly speaking, if it is the upper way, it doesn't necessarily have to be just the top of mountains. It could be pseudo spiritual mountains, that live in the same land as the pseudo spiritual watery area Kloe was sentenced in back in E3.

If there's one misstep the story has this episode, it's the whole "Book of Eve/Book of Sermeot" is kind of weird and from out of nowhere, and just as quickly gets forgotten. Though Dirk's remark that "Tetzel has the type of power that reaches all across The Way" is kind of interesting. Even the Blana Sera have to travel. Though the idea that The Way is something that can have something "all across" it is kind of strange.

You know, it never really seemed that out of no where to me. I mean yeah, I guess it is, strictly speaking, but I was totally willing to buy it. Or well, the situation itself, the books were suspicious as fuck and its there lack of mention after this that really is noticeable and just doesn't sit right.

Ok we're starting to get into territory where I'm likely to rant on for pages on the geography of The Way, which could take forever, and A Memory of Light just came out today so I'm going to devote my time to that instead. More later I guess.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 8:19 pm
by EmperorJeramyu
Which dialogue was this again?

Right after you lose to Strata. "Well, I'll tell you straight up. The Blood Lyn are after me because the Blana Sera and myself have personal issues with one another. [...] Actually, it goes way beyond personal."

Speaking of which, did iishenron ever officially give up on Queen's Court, or is he out there somewhere still pretending it'll be done some day? (Maybe it can be released in tandem with The Lines End.)

The last update to his website is in 2009, so probably not. Just add it to the list of great things that never were, alongside Line's End.

Re: Replaying The Way

PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:58 am
by Debacle
Made it to the Marna Stretch and the few observations I might add are:

At the end of the intro of episode 1, the camera stays over a giant - compared to Rhue's size - skull formation under the stream.
I never figured out how does it relate to anything in the game, might be just a random 'cool' detail.

A stupid thing, but it was just now that I noticed the people at the credits were the ones looking for Rhue after the Dippy steal and occasional killing. And there's Dirk.

It's hard to tell how much Traziun knows about what is going on with Rhue or at least that he has a Shadow Sword. Out of nowhere he seems really interested in Rhue and right after Rhue mentioning Serena, he asks "So, where did you get this fine sword?". Although there are hints he could know, most of the dialogue sells him as clueless as everyone else about the situation.

What is Scatha's part on the Night Reaper issue? She's after the sword or after Cetsa?

Another thing that wasn't very clear for me was who killed that guys you find after plunge against Rosmar.
You find the bodies, then you think it was the PS. Soon after, you find someone tried to bury the bodies but had to run, so it wasn't the PS.
Then you find Gaius fell on a bridge trap by someone else, but he could be lying and we know Gaius kill criminals he senses.
Then we find a bunch of Blue Scarves, which would explain everything else if someone later didn't comment on how the Blue Scarves don't kill people, they just beat wanderers up and rob stuff.

Lastly, Gaius very old and not accurate map at Marna dialogue sort of sells the idea that The Way is a loop and has been being traveled many times (enough for geographical change).