Hadean Lands: Dragons

The premise of Hadean Lands, the pretext for its puzzles, is one of adventure games’ oldest, pioneered by the likes of Planetfall. You could call it the Systems Repair story. You find yourself in a spaceship, or a space station, or a remote high-tech laboratory, or a submarine, or some other such enclosed and mechanical environment. The machines that support this artificial environment have gone catastrophically wrong, and for some reason you’re the only one around to repair and reactivate it all. The main thing that separates HL from the bulk of these stories is that it’s more up-front about all the technology being made-up.

It takes a good long time to get to the point of even contemplating repairing stuff in HL, though. I’ve spent most of my time in the game so far just trying to unlock various doors and cabinets, in order to gain access to more stuff to unlock doors and cabinets with. (I recently discovered that the game even has a special command, “doors”, to keep track of the doors and cabinets you haven’t opened yet.) But ultimate goals start asserting themselves once you finally stand in front of one of the ship’s Dragons.

The text of the game makes mention of Dragons in several places before you actually get to see one, letting the player assume that the word is literal, that there are actual scaly beasts harnessed to the ship’s systems. But, as the player character’s inner voice keeps reminding us, this is not a fantasy world, this is a world of Modern Alchemical Science. “Dragon” is just a term of art for a kind of complicated alchemical pattern, like a self-animating mandala. The ship has four of them. I know where they all are, but I’ve seen only one of them. It’s visibly wrong, anemic, virtually inactive. I have no idea how to make it right. So I guess I’ll keep on opening doors and cabinets until I do.

Finding the Dragon threw my plans for something of a loop. Basically all of the the rituals that I know but haven’t yet completed have a single prerequisite in common: Elemental Fire, which can be produced by a simple recipe involving phlogisticated gold, camphrost vapor, and a splint of burning blackwood (a fictional wood that burns at a very high temperature). Camphrost and blackwood are easy to acquire, but it took me a long time to find phlogisticated gold, due to mistakenly thinking that I didn’t have the item required to unlock a cabinet when I actually did. With that in hand, I finally had everything I needed to unlock the rest of the game — or so I thought, until I actually tried lighting the blackwood and discovered it to be stubbornly resistant, even when tossed in a kiln used for melting metals. Well, if it burns very hot, it probably needs a very hot flame to ignite it, right? And I figured that the hottest flames on the ship had to be the fiery breath of the ship’s powerful fire-breathing dragons. Well, no such luck.

1 Comment so far

  1. Jonathan on 4 Jan 2015

    I’m a little bit farther along, and I wasn’t happy with the solution to the burning blackwood. It makes a certain kind of sense, but it also seems to conflict with my intuition about physical properties. (Perhaps there are other solutions than the one I found).

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