After the Siege of Rube Goldberg, I find myself standing in a courtyard so massive I can’t hold more than a quarter of it in my view distance. My first order of business is to establish a precise and accurate survey of the area’s operative features, which is as follows:
- To the north is a gate I can’t open.
- To the west is a gate I can’t open.
- To the east is a gate I can’t open.
- Near the north gate are three drums. Hitting one of the drums triggers a fuzzy drumbeat, but besides that has no obvious effect. (“Congratulations! You found the easter egg! We corrupted all your save data!”)
- In the middle of the room is an elevator that leads up to two buttons, which make encouraging grindy noises when I press them. Like the drumbeat, this may have updated my doors situation. It’s not like I can see them to look.
- The remaining six million square feet of of the room are filled by unstoppable, deranged misanthropes. Actually, everything in this game is, but I’m currently referring to the daedra.
The good news is that the lizards can be apprised of the situation RE: I’ve killed a big bad hunt man with my rad sick spell spear, and will in consequence devote their resources to killing the other eighteen thousand enemies in the room. An epic battle ensues, two factions flailing and roaring like starving lions; if only they could free themselves from the level geometry, I imagine we’d see some real bloodshed.
For thirty posts I’ve implied that Battlespire isn’t a good game because it’s riddled with bugs and awkward engine design and questionable mechanical conceits. I’d like to take all that back. Battlespire sucks because I can’t use this goddamn tank.
Some combination of drums, buttons, and heads I’ve pounded has granted me access to the north courtyard. Standing before the gate is a Daedra Lord.
He calls out to me issue a respectful challenge, lamenting as he does that our causes forbid a peaceful resolution. We are both of us slaves to destinies larger than ourselves. I have no choice but to face him, and he has no choice, no choice at all, but to unleash six energy blasts at point-blank range and accidentally fry himself.
So what the hell is going on with this firing-spells-at-point-blank-range craze that’s sweeping the Spire, anyway? I’d say the vast majority of the time an enemy targets me with a spell it just lands at his feet, harmless even if I wasn’t immune to spell effects. I’d have to guess this comes back to the patented non-Euclidean Bethesda jankometry that defines this dimension; either that, or they, too, are eager to be finished with Battlespire.
Once he’s dead, I’m through those double doors to the keep structure. Inside I find what looks like a massive elevator room tucked into the corner of the level. It’s not just a lift, mind; it’s an actual four-walls-and-a-ceiling elevator. I’m guessing this was trickier to pull off, but it lends a nice touch of variety and class to what turns out to be the stronghold of a very influential figure. A neat little detail.
Also, if you accidentally send it up or down while you’re not on it it’ll never come back and you can’t finish the game.
Just like a real elevator!
Assuming you successfully embark and disembark, you’ll be greeted by one of the most complex characters in the game. He’s a thirty-eight-year old human mortal named Greg Stamos, hailing from the fantastic dimension of Cary, North Carolina. From 1992 to 1996 he ran a game store called the Ork Tooth Tavern, which was for some reason referred to as the Orc Tooth Tavern on the tax forms and licensing, obliging him to order (and never install) new signage when the fire department complained. The spot was notorious for its full-bodied must and temperamental electricals, including air conditioning that sputtered when temperatures cruised over 85 during the summer and speakers that strained to share the best of the 70s through walkie-talkie-grade speakers. Most days he could be found holding court behind his paint-stained counter, lean-but-sweaty arms folded, one eye on his television, sharing with his most trusted customers his imported anime picks, celebrity crush/obsessions, and distant, muttered, apparently halfhearted yet fiercely treasured racism. Greg ran old-school D&D from behind his counter, TV still on, customers still filtering in and out and wondering if they should interrupt proceedings to try to buy their pack of Wonder Woman playing cards. The players were generally the ones most absorbed; Greg’s trademark DMing style broke down to a loop of “You guys [see/hear/are getting attacked by] [a really big monster/a hot gnome girl/another door].” His players were rarely challenged, mechanically or emotionally, but showed up twice a week anyway and didn’t seek out any other campaigns. When Greg’s car broke down on his trip back from the coastal plains, it was one of his players who showed up to give him a lift. After Hurricane Fran damaged Greg’s premises, it came out he didn’t have General Liability insurance to cover his merchandise–about six thousand dollars worth of convention-grade board games and sixty cents worth of backdated comic books. His last-ditch “play Magic and eat Little Caesars” fundraiser failed to raise enough to cover the Little Caesars. He’s since gotten into technical support full-time. For unknown reasons, he is referred to by the game as “Imago Storm” and incorrectly identified as a daedric mastermind.
We’ll get to what Greg wants next week. But first, just in case you really wanted to know what the political state of the Battlespire is, here’s a helpful synopsis.
Even allegedly smart people can make life-changing blunders that seem very, very obvious in retrospect.
Mass Effect Retrospective
A novel-sized analysis of the Mass Effect series that explains where it all went wrong. Spoiler: It was long before the ending.
A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
A look at the main Borderlands games. What works, what doesn't, and where the series can go from here.
DM of the Rings
Both a celebration and an evisceration of tabletop roleplaying games, by twisting the Lord of the Rings films into a D&D game.