If my posts about Hadean Lands make frequent mention of getting stuck, it’s because it’s a very sticky game. In fact, I’ve been stuck in it for more than a week now. One of the most useful techniques I know for getting unstuck in an adventure game is to just review everything: items in your inventory that you haven’t used yet, obstacles you know of, any other rooms or resources that you don’t yet understand the point of. Often there’s something right in front of your face that you just haven’t been thinking about. This sort of review might not help in graphic adventures when your only problem is that you failed to notice a notspot… but then again, sometimes it does! Sometimes just understanding your situation better helps you to realize where there should be a hotspot.
So, let’s review my situation live on this blog. Taking inventory is a trickier matter here than it would be in a more conventional adventure, and besides, there’s nothing in here like the classical one-to-one mapping between puzzles and tools to solve them. A chip of granite might be required in a ritual that requires granite, but it can also be used in a ritual that just requires stone, or even placed on a ritual bound’s gestalt shelf to establish an Earthy influence. Little is to be learned from most objects. The real inventory here is knowledge, so let’s examine that.
According to the in-game “rituals” command, I know four rituals that I haven’t managed to perform yet, even in variation. First, there’s the Dragon Fulcrum Inscription, which will be important to getting any use out of the marcher’s Dragons, but which can only be performed at a ritual bound of metallic quicksilver. Ritual bounds are the places where you perform most alchemy (except for certain liquid preparations that instead require a retort). There’s a great many of them all over the place, some with particular properties that enable certain rituals or prevent others. I haven’t found one made of metallic quicksilver yet, but I know of two bounds that I haven’t reached yet — bounds are important enough that they’re marked on the in-game map.
Secondly, there’s Riesenzweig’s Inscription, which allows you to imitate another person’s aura, which would let me get through a certain security door. I’m missing several of the ingredients for this, but I actually have another ritual that does exactly the same thing, so I probably won’t need this version until things start getting trickier in the large scale. The main problem is that it involves creating a token and touching it to the person you want to imitate, and all the other people in the ship are behind “fractures” where I can’t reach them.
Third is Electrum Phlogistication, which I’ve mentioned before: it requires more platinum than I have (or, alternately, a way of creating a catalytic environment without platinum), and it would allow me to create a second piece of Elemental Fire. But I don’t have an immediate use for this.
And finally, there’s the Great Marriage. I can almost do this — all I need is to learn a certain formula to invoke. (Recall that formulas are how the game forces you to gain information before acting on it.) It’s vague what it does, though. The game is very specifically vague about it.
In addition, there’s one ritual (and, I’m surprised to learn, only one) that I’ve successfully performed but haven’t gotten any practical use out of: the Glass Permeability Inscription. Basically, this lets you walk through windows. And there are a couple of windows I’d like to walk though. The problem is that they have hard vacuum on the other side. The game kind of teases the player about this, too. First I thought the breath-holding potion would let me out there, but no, apparently holding your breath in a vacuum just makes it worse. Then there was the dressing room by the exoscaphe — surely they keep spacesuits in there! And they do, but the helmets are missing, and besides, the player character isn’t trained in how to use a spacesuit.
In addition to rituals and formulas, the in-game journal automatically records “facts” — things found on papers or remembered from lectures or discovered in the course of your explorations that are useful to solving puzzles. (I probably should have looked here first!) The earliest one that I haven’t found any use for is a note on the Recursive Metaphor Technique: “…the form or structure of a thing may be joined to the spirit or essence… But to apply it recursively, parsing the structure and spirit of the spirit itself, requires the utmost care…” This is curious enough that I think it’s going to be useful, but I don’t yet know how. There’s a ghost story about another marcher, a lecture on how the laws of natural science may vary with “currents of aither flow between certain stars” — this all seems to be hinting at an explanation of the ship’s current condition. A description of how to do emergency repairs to a Dragon using one of those fulcrums I can’t make. And then there are four fragments concerning vibrations and echoes in the medium where the soul resides. These four fragments are sure to be important, because each was found alongside one of the four Dragons. And yet, they’re so abstruse and theoretical! Most the facts in the journal are things of immediate practical importance: the combination to a safe, a reminder to always use the Hermetic Sealing when using the chymic retort, a list of associations between musical pitches and metals… well, okay, that’s kind of theoretical too, but at least it deals with matter. All this stuff about soul echoes seems like endgame material, which I’m not ready to process yet.
Now, as for obstacles. The “doors” command lists twelve things I haven’t opened yet. Four of them are blocked by fractures, which I suppose means there’s a way to get rid of fractures, a possibility I hadn’t really considered before discovering the “doors” command. It probably involves repairing Syndesis, the Dragon responsible for maintaining the ship’s spatial coherence. Interestingly, two of the doors are ones that I’ve gotten to the other side of by other means. I suppose their presence on the list means I’ll need to open them anyway, probably to conserve the ritual components I’d consume by not opening them — and the only component I can see that’s consumed in this way is a pinecone. So pinecones are important! Finally I’ve learned something.
Of the other “doors”, three involve gravitational anomalies, which falls under the purview of the dragon Baros. Three have vacuum on the other side, which, now that I’m thinking of this all in terms of what Dragons can fix them, I recognize as the responsibility of Pneuma, who lives in a maze. One is the aura-keyed security door that I mentioned before. And the last is the door to the Tertiary Alchemy Lab, which is simply locked. That door is made of pine, so it seems like getting through it must involve the pinecone somehow. There’s an obvious variation on a ritual for this that doesn’t quite make sense and in fact doesn’t work. And, unfortunately, until I can do something about the fractures, I still need to use the pinecone to reach the Tertiary Alchemy Lab door in the first place.
So if I read things correctly, and if I’m not just missing something, I can’t repair Dragons with what I have, and the only door I can open without repairing a Dragon is the aura-locked one. Which means I need to find a way to imitate the aura of someone I can’t touch. Is this what all that soul-echo business was about? I doubt it, but I’m still stumped for other ideas.
Mind you, there are obstacles that aren’t in the “doors” list. Like those permeable windows. There’s also a cave in the cellar, described as “a maze of claustrophobic cracks”, where you can go in any direction but you just wind up where you started. I have a ritual for finding the center of a maze, but it doesn’t work there, because I’m starting at the center. If I could find a way to invert that ritual, maybe I could get somewhere. The room containing Syndesis has a bunch of “patina-dulled” metal pylons. Could I remove the tarnish from them? Maybe, if I could get there without using up the pinecone.
So, there’s my state. I think I know the shape of my stuckage a little better, but I’m still stuck. I guess the next step is to just go back in and go over the environment with a fine-toothed comb and a Resonant Oculus, looking for things I’ve missed or forgotten about.