From The Adventure Gamer

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #4: “Telepath helmets are apparently a bad idea. Good thing I had that neural wave blocker we found. All’s well that ends well, except we still haven’t found Louis Wu and Chmeee. But the Patriarch is neutralized and that’s a good day’s work. I just had to nearly die to do it.”

I guess the Kzin are a big deal around here.

We’re on the trail of the last stasis box, which is hidden in a palace in a city on the Ringworld copy of Earth. Using the flycycles, we land in a secluded area where a ragged alien (not Kzinti or human) slave is washing clothes. The slave won’t talk to us and seems completely terrified, especially of Seeker. We move on and almost immediately encounter a proud Kzinti riding in a hand-cart pulled by a slave who looks human. Seeker wants to talk to the Kzinti himself, but Quinn requests to handle the situation.

Seeker hopes this guy is only talking to Quinn.

Quinn manages to emulate a human slave and get quite a lot of information from the Kzinti by pretending to speak for his “master,” meaning Seeker, claiming that Seeker has lost his voice and cannot speak. The Kzinti noble reveals the news that a telepath wearing a silver crown is demanding abasement from the local Kzinti nobility and also dishonorably winning any “duel of honor” challenges by causing irrational fear in his opponents. The Kzinti noble calls him a Patriarch – is this the same Patriarch from earlier that started the whole plot? I’d be surprised if it wasn’t, but I’m really not sure why he’s here.

Quinn and Seeker return to the flycycles, where Seeker decides to return to the lander and let Quinn do his thing again. Without Seeker around, I can talk to the slave, who knows very little. He’ll also be able to continue emulating a slave in order to infiltrate the palace. I take a clean but ragged outfit from the slave’s pile, although it doesn’t appear in my inventory. Quinn automatically changes into it before moving back onto the road toward the city.

The castle looms ominously in the distance.

As I move along the road, I encounter stakes, one of which still has bones hanging from it, complete with a vulture to peck at them. Well, that’s gruesome. The castle itself looks ominous in only the sort of way that a medieval-style castle can. I press forward and present myself at the front doors as a slave.

I haven’t seen you before either. What kind of alien are you?

The guards send me off to the slave overseer, who tells me to serve the Patriarch at his dining table. He also mentions that they’ve been running short on slaves because the Patriarch has little patience and keeps killing them. I also collect a bit of clean straw from the floor before I go, although I don’t know what that might be for yet.

I suppose if Kzin are like tigers, humans are like monkeys. Sort of.

I don’t know where I’m going, so I wander around a bit before I find the dining hall, also discovering the Patriarch’s personal quarters in the process. Once I find him, I watch the Patriarch eat for a minute before he demands more wine. Another slave appears immediately to pour the wine but manages to spill it, stammering apologies. The Patriarch kills him, saying the wine was only an annoyance, but the fear is intolerable. In the process, he stains his tunic with blood. He angrily tears it off and shouts again for more wine. I don’t have wine, but I go ahead and click on the tunic, which causes Quinn to smoothly offer to fetch him a fresh tunic. The Patriarch is pleased by this and agrees. With the tunic in inventory, I head back to his quarters.

The guard at the door will stop me if I just try to walk in, but I show him the tunic and then he allows me through. The bedroom holds little other than a huge purple bed. The room beyond is a large closet with clothes, towels, and other supplies. I collect an appropriate tunic and also poke around to see if the box is in here somewhere. I find that there’s definitely a hidden compartment beyond one wall panel, but I have no idea how to open it.

What could the bed’s top layer be made of that it burns briefly and then goes out?

I can also take a lit candle from a heavy candelabra in the bedroom. Oddly enough, I can use it to set a temporary fire in the bed, but trying it on any other random place gives me a message about indiscriminate fires attracting too much attention.

Wall art in every hallway.

The furnishings in the palace are all generally described as big and overdone, typical of Kzinti styles. Carvings and statues and wall art all over the place. It makes it hard to know what’s important, but I noticed that the bedroom contains sword carvings on its pillars that are described as especially sharp and detailed. There has to be some sword connection somewhere else in the palace, but so far I haven’t seen anything.

So I continue to play along and take the fresh tunic back to the Patriarch. But when I show it to him, he doesn’t take it; instead, he wants to see another one. Well, okay, I find that I can now pick up two more tunics from his closet when I go back there. But this running around and fetching doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.

Since stunning has often been Quinn’s fallback strategy so far, I try stunning the guard at the private quarters, but this time nothing happens. Amusingly, the guard only asks, “Why are you showing me that?” You’d think a Kzinti guard would be a little more alarmed at the idea of an armed slave. More likely he has no idea what it is. That does sort of beg the question of where I’m concealing all the things I’m carrying, especially the suspiciously high-tech ones like the stunner and the stasis negator. I’m also now managing to carry four tunics and a lit candle. Oh well, this is typical for adventure games.

The Patriarch continues not to choose a tunic no matter what I offer him, so I give up on that and go back to his bedroom. I realize that I’d overlooked a hint when I’d set fire to the bed: the flame went out because it wasn’t hot enough. I try putting the straw on the bed and setting fire to that. That did the trick…but oops, I ran into a fatal error. Trying the same thing again worked the second time, though. I’m not quite sure what I managed to accomplish, but I still haven’t found a way into the secret compartment.

The compartment wasn’t even locked, just hidden.

I poke around the closet some more and finally manage to notice a detailed warrior carved into a pillar on one side, with one arrow from his quiver pointing at an odd angle. I pull on it, and there, finally, is the trigger for that compartment. Inside I find a scimitar and a straight sword. All the pillars in the bedroom were decorated with straight swords, so I try using that one on the nearest pillar. It’s a perfect fit: part of the pillar slides open to reveal another hidden compartment, this one holding the silver helmet. I snag it and go.

Now you smell it?

Now I see what the fire is for. When I leave, Quinn moves automatically out of the way and watches while the guard sniffs the air, realizes he smells smoke, and dashes into the bedroom to deal with the fire, leaving the area unguarded for me to just walk out with the goods. (The guard really should have noticed sooner though, given that I started the fire first, wandered around some more, finally discovered the hidden catch, and swiped the goods. Adventure game timing FTW!)

Even the balconies are decorated with carvings.

I go directly over to the balcony at the far end of the room and call Seeker with the scanner, which is also a comm unit. Seeker says he’ll bring the flycycles to the courtyard. Quinn doesn’t want to go through the palace again, so he just climbs down from the balcony and they escape.

Back in the lander, the team discusses how useless the helmet seems to be, and they decide to go back to the canyon area to release the stasis on the crashed ship there. We receive our obligatory check-in from Hindmost. This time they tell him about the stasis control device and the plans to go back to the ship, and this satisfies the Puppeteer for now.

This pattern doesn’t quite work…

…but this one does.

When we get back to the canyon, I use the stasis control device on the ship, and it becomes accessible. There’s some discussion of just how ancient the ship is and what civilization could have made it, possibly the Tnuctipun. At any rate, I open the access panel, which gives me a rather unique sort of puzzle: six tiles with designs that have to fit together in a particular sequence. I poke at it for a few minutes, but it doesn’t take me too long to determine where the tiles have to go to make a consistent pattern: arrows in the corners have to fit together, for instance.

The ancient alien is badly injured.

When the ship opens, immediately we find an alien inside that’s still alive, but badly injured. He babbles for a minute before the translator kicks in and we understand that we need to secure an antimatter device that’s malfunctioning. I can see it in the doorway, some kind of device with loose wiring spitting sparks. I can’t do anything with it directly, so on a whim I try putting the helmet on his head, which I guess helps with his head wound? At any rate, we can now help him out of the ship, and he gives me some kind of magnetic key to open the access panel for the device.

I fight with the interface for a minute, trying to get back into the zoomed-in view of the ship interior. When we helped the alien out of the ship, it zoomed back out to the main view, but then everyone was still standing right around the hatch, so I had a hard time clicking in the right place to look inside again. Then I still wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I clicked around for a little while before I figured out where the panel was that I had to use the magnetic key on.

The antimatter is contained. Really.

Eventually I found it and opened it to reveal a very hot sphere. I still couldn’t do anything with it directly, but I’d already figured out that I needed to put just the device in stasis, so I used the stasis box on it, which solved the sparking.

I try to talk to the alien at this point, but he still says I need to contain the antimatter. I thought I’d done that, but I go back into the ship view and find that I can now take the stasis box with the antimatter inside, and also a pair of some kind of devices from slots near the wires that had been sparking, although I have no idea what those are.

The alien calls himself Tnuctipun, so apparently that’s what he is. And he wants our ship.

Now the alien is satisfied, and starts talking about installing technology into our ship to make its hyperdrive timeless. Seeker and Miranda seem completely willing to do whatever the alien wants, even when he says they must remain here to guard his ship while he takes ours, which is of course the last thing we want.

Clearly that helmet is a bad influence on not just the alien. I’m not sure why Quinn seems to be resisting the influence, but he’s also still got some kind of neural wave nullifier. I use that on the alien so I can take the helmet off him. He slumps down, again in mortal danger. Seeker and Miranda suggest we’d better just put the alien back and put the ship back under stasis for now. The ancient alien may have valuable information, so we can’t let him die, but Miranda can’t stabilize him either. I seem to have pulled everything useful out of the ship for now, so I push the alien back in and Quinn automatically turns the stasis field back on.

Quinn volunteers for what ought to be a suicide mission.

Back on the lander, the team discusses the plan. We still need to stop the Destroyer from attacking the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds, so Quinn comes up with an idea. We can use the unstable antimatter device we put in stasis to destroy the Destroyer if we send it over on the lander. The Destroyer will use its weapons on the lander, which will destroy it, and then the stasis field can be deactivated. When the antimatter destabilizes, it should take out the ship too. Only one problem: someone has to pilot the lander over to the Destroyer, and the rest of the team will wait in the Lance at a safe distance.

I don’t understand why the lander can’t be piloted remotely, but the plot apparently requires that Quinn do this. He volunteers, in fact, and everyone else wonders if he has any way to escape. He just smiles and says he has a hunch about the mysterious devices we just took from the alien ship.

This surely can’t end well…

…since Quinn fails to survive a lander that’s vaporized by lasers, of course.

We get a short cut-scene where the Kzinti give orders to destroy the lander with main lasers, as expected. I regain control again as the lander slowly approaches the Destroyer. If I do nothing, the lander is destroyed, but Quinn is lost and the plan fails. Again, I don’t know why someone else couldn’t deactivate the stasis field on the antimatter device even if Quinn doesn’t make it, but apparently Quinn has to do it.

To win, all I have to do is open inventory and use the alien devices before the lander is blown up. It doesn’t seem to matter where on the screen I use them. This time, Quinn materializes back on the main ship just after the lander is destroyed. Somehow the alien devices teleported him back, so then he can trigger the stasis field. We watch as the antimatter makes a huge explosion, larger than Miranda had expected.

I can’t imagine the explosion being so bright or large that it would be visible to both sides of multiple planets.

Then Hindmost appears on-screen to chew us out again. He’s unhappy because the explosion was so huge that it scared a lot of the Puppeteer population, and he says they were never in danger anyway, which may or may not be true. And he wants his stuff, the stasis items. But this time, Quinn flat-out refuses to give him anything. The team agrees that they’re done with threats and refuse to even talk to the Puppeteer any further.

Once they cut the connection, everyone agrees that they’d better go back to the Ringworld. They still haven’t found Louis Wu and Chmeee, and they have an intriguing alien ship to investigate, if they can keep the remaining crewmember alive.

“Consider the end.”

The final cut-scene is just a conversation between Hindmost and his aide, revealing that they know the team is going back to Ringworld, but they can find them whenever they want. Seems like they still think they’re pulling the strings.

And that’s the end of the game. Obviously we’ll need a sequel to wrap up all the loose ends, but we won’t see that until 1994’s Return to Ringworld. But we still have the final rating of this installment to go. And for those who like reading carefully, there will be CAPs for the first person to report what word is misspelled in one of my screenshots in this post. I guess the game needed a little more proofreading.

Number of people stunned by Quinn: 0 (not for lack of trying); 5 total
Number of actions taken by Quinn other than stunning: 23 (including getting 8 items: the slave clothing, the straw, the tunic, the sword, the helmet, the magnetic key, the antimatter, and the alien device); 61 total
[Note that several actions in the last section are optional, like taking extra tunics and showing them to the Patriarch; I didn’t count these.]
Number of conversational choices: 0; 9 total
Number of deaths: 1 (failing to trigger the alien device at the end); 3 total
Number of alien species encountered: 3 (the slave, the slave overseer, and the ancient alien in the stasis ship); 9 total

Session Time: 2 hrs 10 min
Total Time: 6 hrs 50 min

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