Ruts vs. Battlespire CH27: Fly the Deadly Skies

By Rutskarn
on Sep 21, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

I’m sitting on a bubble, dear reader–a glossy film of nervous perspiration stretched around two solid hours’ worth of gameplay. It’s taken weeks of trial and error to achieve a bubble this bloated, and I know all too well how little trial or error it’ll take to burst it again. Now’s my chance to really screw things up. In the words of Samwise Gamgee, if I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been.

Only–it’s not a step. I’m leaping onto a glitchy-looking uneven platform to try to figure out how to use a completely novel and almost certainly unstable vehicle while dodging unkillable monsters who can take me down in one second. Which, and I don’t mean to be rude, makes the whole backpacking-through-fantasy-New-Zealand thing seem a bit candyass.

There may be a day when the courage of Cahmel fails! Oh, wow, look at the time waaAAAYAAGGH
There may be a day when the courage of Cahmel fails! Oh, wow, look at the time waaAAAYAAGGH

At its absolute safest and most straightforward, jumping in this game is like operating a catapult. Not wanting to risk a more dynamic jump, I just winch up and launch myself toward the platform. To my delight, I do not lodge myself in the level geometry. I have an instant to celebrate my victory before the daedra snap out of their ragged patrols and beeline for me. And wouldn’t you know it? There’s nothing on the pier to snag them on. With seconds to live, I slam against the side of the balloon and spam the “use” key.

Nothing happens. The daedra are upon me. Swing–miss–

I slam the inventory key and pop four different potions. I get up from my chair, pace a few times. I wipe off my palms. I call my mother.

I sit back down.

The daedra rake a quarter of my health away. I zip backwards and catch myself just as I’m about to slip into the water, wait for them to step away from the balloon, and juke feverishly past to get one more crack at the balloon–

Nothing gives–except about half my health.

There–there’s some kind of opening in the basket. I dance around the narrow lip of the pier and scramble into the breach, and…uh, nothing’s happening…shit. The hounds of the hunt are roaring toward the entrance–I have nowhere to run. I spam “use.” Nothing happens.

I turn my back on the monsters for one second to try to “use” the basket–

My view jerks. One second I’m at one vantage point, the next I’m at a subtly different one. I have to hope I’m controlling this thing–now, uh–monsters snarlhow the fuck would I fly this thing?

Jump?  Fireball bursting. No, jump doesn’t work…

Swim Upwards?

The ground ratchets away.

Don`t you understand, the power was in you all along! You just had to say, `There`s no engine like Gamebryo...there`s no engine like Gamebryo...`
Don't you understand, the power was in you all along! You just had to say, 'There's no engine like Gamebryo...there's no engine like Gamebryo...'

Once I’m decisively out of groping distance, I pause the game and lift my hands off the keyboard. Why? Well, they say that if you’re ever stranded in uncharted territory–say, because your plane’s plowed blazing and screaming into a mountainside–the first thing you ought to do is build a fire. Not for any obvious reasons, but because taking the time to do something tedious and mechanical like get a fire going wrenches you out of panic mode and into a thoughtful, deliberate frame of mind. It’s good advice to keep in mind if you’re ever involved in a serious disaster, such as Battlespire.

So I check some e-mails before I settle back down and try to figure out how to pilot what I suspect is my next play-stopping undocumented clusterglitch.

Thus ensues a jerky aerial ballet for an audience of no-one. Just for shits and giggles I try out the vehicle movement controls that have in modern times become standard for this sort of thing. They’re actually just close enough to make things really confusing.

For the record, the Battlespire balloon’s controls are surprisingly banal; the movement keys pilot you forward, backward, or sideways relative to whatever direction you’re mouselooking, same as usual, and up-and-down movement is regulated by the swim-up-and-down keys. The more disorienting part is that the balloon’s basket doesn’t turn with respect to your orientation; the opening is always facing south, no matter which way you’re flying. Given the age and limits of the engine, that’s only reasonable.

One minor concern is that I don’t know where or even how I’m going to get off of this thing. But I’ll fly over that bridge when I come to it.

The reason I need a balloon–in theory, anyway–is that the rest of the stuff I need is in the north castle, which is inconsiderately built on top of a giant rocky spire. The battlements are massive and ornate and probably look really cool. That’s about all I can say. At any given time I can only see a sliver of the nearest fraction of the walls through the mist, and I hesitate to the bring the balloon any further–as interested as I am in seeing the castle, I have no interest in being the castle. I’ve been made masonry for less stupid ideas than slapping my outsized vehicle against a building’s unpolished unseen angular geometry. I mean, so far I’ve been inside two boats, and both of them are stuck in a pier right now. If there’s one lamppost in this entire videogame I promise I’m going to wrap this thing around it.

I bob around looking for a good place to disembark. It’s tricky–not only is every inch of my destination a daedra campground, I can’t seem to land the damn balloon. Once I get a few meters from the ground the balloon seems to stop, and I’m afraid to push it any further for fear of provoking an eternal layover. Also, I’m not at all sure how I’ll actually get out of this balloon. Do I just need to hit the use key again? If so, what’s going to happen when I do? Will I teleport out of the balloon? Will I have to walk? I can’t just walk off if I’m above the ground–the game thoughtfully rebuffs you away from ledges, which means you’ve got to jump off, the most needlessly finnicky and gratuitously dangerous thing you can do in this entire videogame. Basically, crash landing this thing might just be the most appealing option.

I eventually pull up alongside the ledge around the castle walls, cross my fingers, and hit use. That seems to have been the correct step one; I’ve now detached from the center of the balloon. Fingers still firmly twisted, I leap from the basket, miraculously land on the ledge instead of inside the wall, slam the run key, and leave my welcome wagon swinging at me like Scooby Doo villains. So far, so good.

Well, fun balloon trip’s over. Now for the hard parts.

...you`re yes and you`re no, you`re in and you`re out, you`re up and you`re down....
...you're yes and you're no, you're in and you're out, you're up and you're down....

NEXT WEEK: STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE

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201737 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Profugo Barbatus says:

    I tried to think of something clever to say, but there’s nothing. This game is just a level of special I can’t really work my head around.

    Godspeed Cahmel. May the geometry be ever in your favor.

  2. Dragmire says:

    “The reason I need a balloon–in theory, anyway–is that the rest of the stuff I need is in the north castle, which is inconsiderately built on top of a giant rocky spire.”

    Which is a perfect place for battles too.

  3. Gag Runner says:

    NEXT WEEK: STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE

    Challenge accepted

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait,the castle is built on top of a spire,and theres battles waiting for you there?Are you just now reaching the titular battlespire?

    • swenson says:

      I would make an Xzibit joke here about putting battlespires in your Battlespire so you can battle on a spire while you’re in a Battlespire, but that meme is so ten years ago.

      (ironically saying you’re not going to do something while proceeding to do exactly that thing, however, is totally acceptable)

      • Ramsus says:

        By the standards of five years ago. =P

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        (ironically saying you’re not going to do something while proceeding to do exactly that thing, however, is totally acceptable)

        To me,doing it straight is much preferable than “subverting it” just for the sake of subverting it(which is akin to being a meme hipster).

  5. James says:

    That can’t be right. Swim up was the answer? Wha- I just… Every post about this game is just insanity.

    • shpelley says:

      I dunno, it actually seems like it’d make SOME sense. Swimming is the other mechanic that would basically be about “full” 3d movement, it makes (some) sense to make it consistent.

      EDIT: Please note that this isn’t an endorsement for this awful, uncontrollable glitch-fest of a game.

    • Raygereio says:

      Rutskarn just presented in a way to make it funny. But there’s nothing weird or even that silly about it. Mechanically flying is the exact as swimming in the engine. So it’s makes pefect sense to have the same control scheme for both.
      It’s no different then when a game uses the Jump & Crouch keys for the Swim Up & Down and/or Fly Up & Down actions.

      I think the actual keybindings are called something like “Float up/Down”

      • WJS says:

        I’d say that it’s very different from using the jump/crouch buttons, seeing as how you’re not using the jump/crouch buttons. Why not, anyway? It’s been standard for ages now that underwater or flying these should be up/down buttons, obviously as with so many other things Battlespire predates this. But who thought it was a good idea to use up two of your precious keybindings for a situation you can never get into at the same time as needing to jump/crouch.

  6. shpelley says:

    “I have no interest in being the castle.”

    What about the Spire? I’m sure you want to be in-spired.

  7. MrG says:

    Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a rocky spire, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em.

    • Matt Downie says:

      It fell off the spire.

      So I built a second one.

      That one fell off the spire.

      So I built a third one!
      That one burned down, got infested by Daedra, and then fell off the spire.

      But the fourth one stayed up!

      • Exasperation says:

        I think you mean “But the fourth one started to fall down, then got stuck in the spire’s level geometry, and remained twitching back and forth between 5 degrees and 10 degrees off of vertical.”

      • Armagrodden says:

        And then the fourth one fell through the insane angles of the game’s geometry until it ended up as an outpost in the war against the daedra in the future, which is also the past.

        So I built a fifth one!

        And it’s Cahmel’s last, best hope to get out of this blasted game.

  8. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Got to admit, I was on the edge of my seat reading this part, holding my breath (well, until I needed to breathe in anyway) until you landed.

  9. Majikkani_Hand says:

    I am horrified to learn that the balloon was not the end of the level. You know, before this no-save zone, I was tempted to acquire and play Battlespire, but…I think the game has finally surpassed even my very liberal allowance for twisted.

    • Sunshine says:

      So, at risk of breaching the no-politics rule, I see that you’re a twisted liberal!

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      See, I was actually feeling a similar temptation. After all I’m nearing the end of going through the Might and Magic series, I don’t mind archaic graphics and I consider myself relatively resistant to old time non-streamlined mechanics. This is definitely clunky but it can’t really be that bad, right?

      And then a let’s play series I follow did a bit of Battlespire recently… seeing the actual gameplay footage immediately got rid of the desire to play it in a way that nothing Skarn said did. When I’m done with M&M there are plenty of new games that are tailor made to scratch that itch (I have Grimrock 2 sitting in my backlog).

  10. Xaos says:

    You’ve been leading up to a chapter called “Stop me if you’ve heard this one” for FIVE articles, just to not deliver?

    BOOOO!!!

  11. Xaos says:

    (With seconds to live, I slam against the side of the balloon and spam the “use” key…..

    I slam the inventory key and pop four different potions. I get up from my chair, pace a few times. I wipe off my palms. I call my mother.

    I sit back down……

    Don’t you understand, the power was in you all along! You just had to say, ‘There’s no engine like Gamebryo…there’s no engine like Gamebryo…’)

    Oh my god. Its like an inspirational touchy-feely family-friendly adventure movie from the 80s! XD

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