To contrast with last week’s post about a dungeon that I absolutely hated (and which ended with Galuf’s death, which I suppose explains why it’s meant to be so frustrating; make the player angry at the mechanics of the game then hit them with a sad plot point to up the emotional resonance), I reached a dungeon today that was actually really pleasant to play through. It was also strangely Egyptian themed, which makes no sense at all, but sometimes you just have to roll with this stuff in a kitchen sink style fantasy game.
The setup is this: after finally getting through the Great Forest, the party discovers that they’ve found the place where the four Crystals of Galuf’s world are located, and X-Death tricks them into breaking the seal on these Crystals. Galuf dies saving his granddaughter Krile, who shows up to distract X-Death at just the right moment, but one of the Crystals is still destroyed in the process. After storming X-Death’s stronghold, the party learns that X-Death has been working to break the Crystals so he can merge the two worlds into one, like they originally were a thousand years ago. X-Death succeeds despite the party’s best efforts, and the two worlds recombine, unlocking the power of the Void, which is what X-Death has been after this whole time. Everyone wakes up back in Reina’s home of Tycoon Castle, and she and Faris stay behind there to rule after learning that their father has died. Bartz and Krile (Krile gets all of Galuf’s learned abilities after his death, so she’s basically the same character with a few minor stat tweaks) leave to try to stop X-Death on their own. After being reunited with Faris following an encounter with an antlion (Final Fantasy games love antlions), the now trio run across the turtle sage Gill, who explains some stuff about seals and glyphs and a whole bunch of other macguffin type stuff that’s just meant to give the player a reason to go do stuff around the world. The first mandatory stop is a pyramid (!) in the middle of a big desert.
What I like most about this dungeon is the fact that while it does have some tricky monster fights, they entire location is designed like a series of puzzles. There are terrain traps to navigate, and lots of loot to seek out, but nothing feels especially malicious towards the player (the closest you get to this feeling is a series of encounters with enemies called Mechheads which operate like minibosses, but are easy enough to handle if you just set up a Lancer in your party and have them Jump every round; the Mechheads waste their turn using an attack that just cancels the Jump without doing any damage, leaving the rest of your party free to beat them up at leisure). Most of the puzzles are also located in rooms that omit random encounters so that you don’t spend extra time fighting off monsters when you’re trying to concentrate; this is a small thing, but it’s an incredible relief in comparison with other dungeons. This is also the only dungeon that has to be completed with only three characters, so perhaps the difficulty is eased back a little bit to make up for the lack of a fourth party member.
The Egyptian theme is a little bewildering; several traps involve rooms filling with Asps to attack you while you stumble around looking for the switch to open the exit, and there’s more than one sarcophagus doorway that requires your party to fight through a horde of mummies; no explanation is given for why these mummies are here, or what any of this has to do with the story at hand. This area also doubles as the requisite undead dungeon (most of the enemies found inside are damaged by healing magic), which is usually a fun area to traverse, though a little thematically boring (it’s usually built around the idea of a graveyard or some haunted locale). I’m guessing that setting the dungeon in a pyramid was originally intended as just a way to have a change of pace from the usual undead theme. Still, it’s a really odd choice, and I can’t help feeling like it’s very out of place with the flavor of the rest of the game world.
Nonetheless, the pyramid was a remarkably good contrast with the Great Forest. It’s too bad that once I finished it the game shifts into its ending stage where everything is open for exploration and you can stumble into the final dungeon by accident.
Which I did.