Hadean Lands: Learning the Alternatives

Unstuck again and on something of a roll. I seem to be nearing the end: I have the functions of all the dragons restored, and the Doors command lists only three items, one of which I don’t expect to be resolved until the very end.

At this late stage, there’s a strong pattern emerging: I’m being repeatedly required to do things I’ve done before in different ways. It reminds me a bit of what I once called the close-the-door-behind-you puzzle. This is a puzzle found repeatedly in the Myst games. In it, you first gain access to a room through a door that can only be opened and closed from the outside (usually because it’s a button-operated sliding door), but something in that room opens up another passage to it, directly or indirectly. The puzzle, then, is to realize that there’s some advantage to be had from entering the room while the initial door is closed — say, there’s a clue written on the back of the door or something.

The late puzzles in Hadean Lands are kind of like that, except with alchemy instead of doors. You learn a ritual that gives you access to an area that directly or indirectly leads to gaining a different way of producing the same effect without consuming the same ingredients. For example, there are those two Aura Imitation rituals I mentioned before: one uses Elemental Water and one doesn’t. This is a big deal because the main reason you need an Aura Imitation ritual is to access a place where you need to do a ritual that requires Elemental Water, and you won’t be able to do it if you used up your Elemental Water getting there. But that same place contains a paper giving a formula you’ll need in order to get all the ingredients of the version of Aura Imitation that doesn’t use Elemental Water, so you have to go there at least once with the wrong ritual before you can do it with the right one.

Or consider another case: leaving the ship. The first time you do this, you can’t leave through the airlock, because it’s powered by one of the nonfunctional dragons. So you leave through a window, using the Glass Permeability ritual. Outside the ship, you can find some mercury, which is essential for making a dragon fulcrum, which you can use to get the airlock working again. In this case, you’re ultimately not substituting a ritual for an equivalent ritual, you’re producing a way to do without Glass Permeability entirely, freeing up all its ingredients for other uses.

I’m at the point where I’ve been considering making charts of all the rituals that consume ingredients so that I can see exactly what the contingencies are. I understand that the author wrote specialized software tools to verify that the game was completable and that the player couldn’t skip stuff. I haven’t really found it necessary yet, though. I’m still doing most things by indicating my intentions and letting the game take care of the details — just telling it to go through that airlock and watching it automatically brew the potion that lets me survive in vacuum, for example. When it gets stuck because I already used an ingredient in another ritual, that’s when I start looking at alternatives. One thing that’s worth noting here: when the game’s automator has a goal that can be met in multiple ways, it chooses the method most recently used. So once I go through that airlock instead of the window, the game remembers that and does it the same way the next time I tell it to go fetch the mercury. Thus, I can build up a set of correct choices piecemeal.

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