You may remember that last week I was heading upstairs to fight the level’s main antagonist. I left off without saying how it went, so let me set your anxieties at ease: everything went successfully. It was a white-knuckle struggle where every move counted, and at one point I was sure I wasn’t going to make it, but with grit and determination I successfully managed to climb that stairwell without getting stuck in the geometry.
So now that we’re past the hard part, let’s deal with Sugar Pie Herne Bun over here.
I really am going to have to deal with this guy. When I climbed up the hatch to the walltop it told me my trapdoor’s stuck itself, and the only way down is currently underneath his cloven ass-kicker feet. Besides, he’s got the last key I need to get off the level.
Unavoidable combat? Check.
Still can’t save my game? Check.
Guess that means it’s time to lotion up.
Fun fact: I still don’t know what most of my potions do. It’s not like a roguelike; they don’t have names like “Frog Smelling Puce Bubbling Syrup Brew.” They’ve all got perfectly recognizable fantasy chowder names, like “Potion of Shield” or “Potion of Etherealness.” The bother is that they don’t come with actual instructions; I don’t know what the specific benefits of Shield are, or how long it lasts, or whether drinking multiple potions stacks, or any other critical intel. This introduces a fascinating metagame where I only deploy resources when…
You know what, short version: I drink no fewer than seven different potions. And then I approach him, skip through his conversation, stab him once and oh huh he’s dead. I guess…okay.
That wasn’t the epic confrontation I absolutely wasn’t hoping for. So now that all my dreams have come true, I suppose I’ll take that key off his hands? And now I’m…done?
No sense getting cocky, mind. I may have all the keys, but there’s still a packed courtyard full of daedra between me and the exit, and I regret to report that I’m still fabulously easy to kill. I’m just full to bursting with thin, sensitive blood over here. That’s assuming I get down the stairs, which are almost certainly full of monsters, on the other side of this hatch that…
Nope. Definitely won’t open. It’s not even locked, it’s just straight-up not responding to my keypresses. A daedra’s rolling down the ramparts to harass me, so I don’t have all day, but there’s only so many different ways I can pester a door before it ought to open or let me down gently. So that means, what?
I hate to suggest this, but I’m pretty sure it’s glitching out. Which leaves me here, sixty feet away from the end of this level, on top of a wall that has no way down.
Well–there’s always one way.
Not knowing what else to do, and after considerable deliberation, I take a few steps back and launch myself off the wall to the courtyard below.
I plummet three stories, but just before I’ve hit the ground I zip into the inventory screen and down a Potion of Slow Fall. I know, not mentioning I have that seems like I’m milking artificial tension, but let me be clear: this potion family is not something I get to use very often. I’m not sure how it works, when you should drink it, or whether it will function properly. And indeed, I am surprised to find myself floating downwards very slowly, and not merely imploding, as I drift gently into a clotting mass of daedra.
As always, I hit the ground running. With this dumbass Savior’s Hide shit on, I’m not nearly fast enough–barely fast enough to keep ahead of the bozo patrol if I use the old running-forward-while-strafing trick, which makes it hard to get through the courtyard precisely. Any second I could hear a whoosh and see three quarters of my health fly off, assuming I saw anything at all but a blood graphic and a loading screen. But not to worry, because those up ahead are the cathedral doors. My hands are sweating now. I’m swearing merrily, three new obscenities per second. I am about to become one of the few people to ever bother to beat this terrible, awful…
You need six keys to open this gate.
Which I have.
Six. Six keys.
I picked them all up. I’ve been picking up these keys so long I’m going to reincarnate as a bellhop, and I know I have them all, so why don’t you tell me just what the fuck bullshit glitch is it this time? What ass-numbing undocumented dogshit did I just step in? What feckless idiot fuckhead programmer couldn’t track the fact that I distinctly, clearly, and really most extremely picked up all six–
OH MY GOD I ONLY PICKED UP FIVE KEYS.
Where’s the other–where didn’t I go–I went through the waterfall, didn’t I? Herne, I took his key off his corpse–didn’t I? I better have, because I can’t get back up there! Hang on, hang on, get a grip–there’s no need to panic–cry, yes, but panic? That probably won’t help–
I run. I just pick a direction and run. And the daedra are coming for me, and I turn to run the other way, and now the whole pack’s caught up, and they’re shaving my health like it’s a gyro cone–I’m down to my last potions–I don’t even recognize this area of the map, I don’t even know how to get out of here–I’m stuck, I can’t move, I’m stuck, oh god I’m stuck.
I pause, pace, sit back down.
I drink about a dozen potions.
I try running in the opposite direction of the big wall I was standing next to. This actually works out pretty well.
Twenty minutes of hunting later, I find the key I’d missed the first time through.
Five minutes after that, I’m cruising back up the highlands like a runaway motorcycle. My shitty Savior’s Hide is mothballed away in a nested bag, my slicked-out Speed gear is all set up. I am breathing properly. I’m at full health, I’m armed, I’ve got every key, and I ain’t braking for daedra. The pack can’t do anything to stop me cruising through the front gate.
After I’m through the front gate, I’ve got one more pointless collection of geometric hazards to navigate. My teeth are clenched the whole time, along with other regions–but I’ll spare you.
I make it.
I can honestly say, Bethesda, that I have never in my life been happier to finish a level of a videogame.
NEXT WEEK: …THE ARISTOCRATS!
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