Thea The Awakening: An Introduction

Started by FarAway Sooner, January 03, 2017, 11:35:04 PM

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FarAway Sooner

"You know, us Dwarves, we've got a good head for that enchantment shit, so I figure she ain't gonna bedazzle me or anything, and you know, I think we'll get along just fine."

--anonymous Dwarven smith, in the process of negotiating with our war party for services

(this is indicative of the kind of clever and enjoyable writing that one finds throughout the game.  It's an unusual mix of dark and whimsical, but it works nicely.  And it's enjoyable finding a lower-budget game that has top-notch writing!  Thought I'd share it here for amusement value...)

The war party has spent another 3 or 4 days roaming about, clearing out Spider infestations to the north and gathering Spider Silk.  We still don't have any String or Vine sources nearby, so I figure getting a good stash of Spider Silk is bound to help when it comes time to craft some nice Light Armor for one of the less beefy villagers.  They start making their way back to the village, partly because they are low on food but also because it's about time to share their loot with the other villagers. 

Along the way, we've picked up some more Cane and a little more Wood, plus Felislava has built her first Smithy.  I sorely wanted to craft it from Stone, as Smithy's apparently have a "Crafting Bonus" that not only makes your Craftsmen more productive, but also increases their chances of crafting a "superior item".  Sadly, while I know there is some Quartz in a mine to the north, I have no way of gathering it.  And the 19 blocks of Granite I have are 6 too few to incorporate into my Smithy design.  So I have a Smithy made of wood, to keep the rain off my workbench wrought with Gold nails.

FarAway Sooner

In the next day, my hunting party returns to the village, just as Falibor and Luto wrap up their second Cane & Mushroom gathering expedition (the first one, you may recall, was aborted on the first effort when they encountered a Witch and 5 Giant Rats nearby).  They all return to the village and another joyous feast occurs around the campfire.  They gather, swapping stories and loot while the Hunting Party looks on in mute appreciation at the newly built Smithy and Pasture.

The most common joke seems to be the Mushroom Quest.  Each time, nearby intruders have aborted the mushroom gathering just before a patch has been found.  The Villagers look forward to the day when they may actually eat Mushroom soup.  In the meantime, it seems to be a source of good humor.

Several decisions are made.  First, it is decided that the hunting party will explore to the West.  It seems that Theodore showed up on the edge of town the day before last.  Felislava and Nowo were the only two present, but he insisted on speaking to both of them to make sure his words weren't garbled.  He told them of the Gods and The Cosmic Tree, and of a number of other things that concerned them.  He suggested a location to the West where they might find a clue to help them better understand their past and their present.  With that, he had picked up a piece of cabbage and turned, taking a large bite out of it as he walked away.

As always, he seemed to disappear five steps after first walking out of sight.  It is a damnable trick, if he can ever teach it to any my people.

So the hunting party heads West, both to look for this clue and to see if they can't help out one or two other parties whom they've met in recent days.

The second decision that is made to let both Lutoslav and Sulirad stay in town.  This will shrink the size of the hunting party from six to five, but they are better equipped now than they were on their first missions.  Three of the five now have shields and swords or hammers, while the fourth (Helena) still has her sharp Iron Pike.  All have better weapons.

With baskets of their own, Luto and Sulirad can genuinely help him to gather supplies now.  And the presence of two well-armed body guards in a foraging party means that they can range much further abroad and will not have to retreat at the first sign of intruders. 

That leads to two more related questions.  What knowledge do we unlock next?  And where do we send our foraging party  next? 

Ostrogniev pulls out a map he has made of our travels, and they begin to discuss the needs of the village...

FarAway Sooner

Gathering more food is tempting.  It would take only a short march west, and they could finally gather Luto's mushrooms while they also harvest yet more Cane.  However, Felislava has woven a number of baskets, and it's unclear what else they could use the Cane for at the moment.  It could be used in building a second pasture to raise more sheep and perhaps procure a second cow.  But wood could also be used there, and it's not clear that the Cane would make for a better Pasture.

It would also be easy to head East to gather some Fruit and Wood.  The village still has a fair amount of wood, but they use Wood at a prodigious rate.  Still, food and fuel are two things the village already has some supply of.  Additional Food types yield benefits, but they are a luxury and not a necessity at this point.

Felislava puts in a suggestion that they might be able to travel southwest and find some Coal and Fruit.  The Coal, like Wood, is a fuel, but Felislava points out that when she or Ostro use it in any smithing, it often increases the quality of the finished product and it significantly saves Wood.  She explains that the improved quality seems due to the higher temperature of a coal fire.  Ostro nods and the others look thoughtfully into the fire.

The conversation then turns to where they should direct their research appetites.  String is in short supply, and seems frequently used in the armor that Feli and Ostro are learning to craft.  Learning to harvest better substitutes for string--either Spider Silk or Vines--would go a long way towards improving the armor of the villagers. And Spider Silk supply sources lie much closer than String or Vine.  Such armor would particularly benefit the weaker villagers, who don't have the strength to wear armor made of Bones or Cured Darkwood.  Of course, the villagers seem to have a modest--if not abundant--supply of Silk from numerous rampaging bands of spiders a few days march to the north...

Better weapons would be nice, but they have no ready source of Iron that they have found yet, and all that is left are the remaining bricks of Gold that Theodore gave them.  So learning how to craft better weapons would be relatively useless without the materials to make them.  The same thing could be said of tougher leathers and armor.  Tougher hides have been identified in several places and efforts could be made to learn to use either Thick Furs or the Scaled Leather found on large Snakes.  But again, the question arises:  Is better armor the top priority? 

Ostro points out that the villagers do not know how to harvest any construction resources besides wood, and heads nod thoughtfully around the table.  There is an abandoned rock quarry to the NW one-and-a-half days march, and some very promising Clay pits were identified two-and-a-half days march to the North.  The decision is made to learn how to harvest Quartz to the NW.  Perhaps with that, they can start to build more permanent structures--and also eliminate the seemingly unending shortage of Wood!

The decision is made, then.  They will head Northwest, stop to pick Luto's Mushrooms for a day or two, and then continue North to see if they can Gather some quartz to make for a more permanent second pasture.

FarAway Sooner

The first new villager has arrived!  Navoya came walking in to the village this afternoon.  She was another pretty woman, slimmer of build than Felislava but with arms corded with whiplike muscle.  A heavy hammer sat upon her back, but she carried no other weapons.

She looked appraisingly at the Pasture nearby, then turned to face Felislava and Nowo, who stood together in the center of the clearing.  "I heard a report of you all from a band of wandering Goblins I met on the road.  Heard that you each carry an emblem of the Sun around your neck, and I wondered if you had anything to do with what we've all been seeing up in the sky these last few weeks?"

Nowo and Felislava glanced at each other quickly, and Felislava responded.  "We haven't brought back the sun.  But we do worship Svarog, and we hope that our sun's return has something to do with him.  Would you be interested in sitting down to a fireside meal with us, and we will tell you of our god?"

The conversation proceeded from there.  While her Gathering skills are very limited, it will be nice to have one more body guard around when the war party is away.  She will make a welcome addition to our village.

The hunting party also reached a location that Theodore had recommended they search. [NO spoilers below!]

(I thought I'd include this as another example of the good writing that one finds in the stories here.  The details above do a nice job of building tension, without jumping straight into the "Kill 4 Giant Rats in my basement" quest.)

Sir Slash

So give. What's the scroll say? Is this Theodore's dead father or something? Or maybe it's Alvin or Symond?  ;D
"Take a look at that". Sgt. Wilkerson-- CMBN. His last words after spotting a German tank on the other side of a hedgerow.

FarAway Sooner

Sir Slash, I was trying to avoid spoilers but you've connected too many dots.  Turns out Alvin killed The Cosmic Tree.  He sang it to death, doing a cover of the famous Arthur Brown single.

Sir Slash

"Take a look at that". Sgt. Wilkerson-- CMBN. His last words after spotting a German tank on the other side of a hedgerow.

FarAway Sooner

It has been 38 days since the Sun first rose in the sky above my village.  We have added another newcomer to our village, a Hunter by the name of Mihu.  He continues to mutter something under his breath about "Hunting down that thrice damned Chipmunk who killed the Cosmic Tree", but his bow is handy in a fight and the rest of the villagers humor him.

Felislava continues her work on a Scaled Coat, made from the skins of numerous Warp Snakes whom our hunting party has slain over the last few weeks.  Our foraging expedition has returned, bearing with them a generous supply of Quartz.  Felislava talks of using that stone to fashion a more permanent, fire-proof Smithy.  Ostro's skill as a smith and his persuasive tongue ultimately convince her that a second Pasture will be better for the village.  What is needed most at this point is more Gatherers, to feed the hungry mouths that come into the village and to begin harvesting more of the higher-quality resources that the villagers finally know how to use.

Besides, the new pasture will use the larger stone columns to pen in larger animals.  This will provide more meat for the village than the first pasture.  Ostro has surveyed the land around the village, and they all know that there is not room for more than ten buildings.  At some point, the first Pasture and the first Smithy might need to be torn down.  But that won't be for months, at the least.

The hunting party continue to range abroad, hunting creatures that might threaten the village and continuing to gather clues about whatever happened to the Cosmic Tree.  They have started to run across resources not seen in the village in 100 years.  Milosh can identify them all, but even he swears that he thought some of those items were just folk legends and not real things.

As the weeks have passed, I have felt a quickening in my being.  I am still a pale shadow of what I once was, but I can now appear to my people as an actual image, flickering in their dreams.  My own powers are growing, although I know not what form they will take.  The future remains uncertain, but it is good to be regaining even a tiny share of the powers that were mine.

I was a God once.

FarAway Sooner

And that concludes my AAR!

I've had fun writing it and hope some of you have enjoyed it.  As I typed this up, I've realized a few things:

1)  The game does a better job than I'd remembered of confronting you with hard trade-offs at every turn.  Had I been playing this at a higher difficulty level, my hunting party would have faced many tougher encounters.  When your players start to take serious injuries, and sometimes even incur critical wounds, you begin to face even more trade-off decisions.

2)  In some sense, this is a 4x game.  However, the "exponential growth" problem associated with most 4x titles is nicely managed by the fact that it is villagers--rather than buildings--that gather resources (as well as produce things).  Even after building 2 pastures (1 using Quartz rather than the more primitive Wood), I'm only getting enough meat to feed 3 villagers each day.

3)  From a technology standpoint, I enjoy the fact that you have "fog of war" around your tech tree (e.g., if you can research something, you know what it will do for you, but you have little idea what new avenues for research it opens up).  There are a lot of little touches that really do make you feel a sense of scarcity in this game.

4)  I'm not really sure what happens if you are too cautious with your players.  I suppose my Village could be attacked by wandering monsters, but I didn't see it happen while I was playing.  It is awful easy to get some (or all) of your hunting party killed off, but as long as you avoid that, I'm not sure if it's possible to lose.  Guess I need to play some more to find out!

Overall, this is a really delightful title.  It's primarily a 4x game that's gotten away from a lot of the stale conventions that make so many 4x games feel a bit monotonous more than 25 years after Sid Meiers first released Civilization.  The injection of an RPG component in the 4x mechanics makes it all the more appealing!

The devs just did a lot of little things right.  The incremental advancements (e.g., building a Pasture out of Quartz rather than Wood) give this game a "One More Turn" feel that is really compelling.  The ability to play as multiple different Gods (most of whom you have to Unlock) and the fact that each village has its own random resource map make seem to offer some replay value as well.

On that note, I'm off to play Day 36!!


Thank you, FarAwaySooner.  I had played this for awhile upon it's release, but quickly hit a point where my poor understanding of how different stat's applied to different challenges kept me from continuing.  Your AAR has prompted me to retry the game; I not quite gotten to the point that stalled me before, but I am enjoying what I have experienced thus far.


FarAway Sooner

I'd talked about this back on one of the earlier pages, and belatedly put a disclaimer in at the beginning.  What I really wanted to do was try to convey some of the unusual but interesting mechanics of the game as well as the fact that this really is a PRIMITIVE city builder!

The Challenge and Crafting mechanics are both very interesting, but neither one lends itself to dramatic telling without 4 or 5 screen shots apiece and that was just getting too tedious for what is a 45-second decision process in the game.  So much of this game is about atmosphere and story line, and I was quickly getting to the point where I could only say, "Continuing on the main quest, my characters had two more Fight challenges, one Sickness challenge, and one particularly tough Social challenge" without throwing in Spoilers Galore! 

Of course, you could always play the game yourself and see how it ends...    :bd:

FarAway Sooner

So, I thought I'd come back to provide a few more high lights and a few findings about the game.  Everything I learned encouraged me to play more!

1) I got cocky.  The turn after I stopped writing, I got myself into a hairy battle where my two newest villagers, Mihu and Nahaya, along with wise old Milosh, got themselves into a battle that they could not win.  All three died.

2) I survived 141 turns/days before resigning.  The difficulty of wandering monsters, etc., definitely gets harder as you play more.

3) I got several more villagers and many more children.  Some, including a Changeling Witch, went on to become total bad-asses.  Sadly, I once again got cocky and took on a 4-Skull challenge with only my strongest 6 adventurers.  I was soundly defeated, and 3 of them (3 of my 4 most seasoned fighters) all died.

4) I also belatedly learned that your technology research is powered somewhat by external events, but much more by discovering and completing new crafting recipes.  That makes sense, actually:  You recover lost old arts by using them.  You can find an "optimal build path" (i.e., crafting recipes that get you the highest performance for the most easily obtained recipes), but the variety of non-cooking recipes that you discover has a bearing on your end-of-game Victory Points (which help to grant your God levels from game to game, meaning a good try puts you in a better position to win next time).

This game is MUCH deeper than I thought.  Far groggier, too!  It's the Sleeper of 2016, I honestly think.