DROD: The Second Sky

It’s been nearly a year since I decided to give the first four DROD games a quick play-through in preparation for tackling the fifth. Let’s get on with it, shall we? Forth into the unknown!

But not into the expected unknown. Given the title The Second Sky, I thought that we’d be exploring the world that Beethro finds past Lowest Point at the end of The City Beneath, but that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, we get a time skip of at least a month. Beethro is a wanted criminal in the Empire now, but has formed an alliance with a previously-unseen character named First Chemist. Together, they have a plan to save the surface-dwellers that involves “Truth Vessels”, vat-grown people who are incapable of saying anything false — although they can only speak and understand a goofy-sounding language called “true speech”. Beethro has learned this language. So, quite a lot has happened offscreen, and it’s revealed to the player as part of the “story so far” summary, in exactly the same format as the familiar stuff from the previous games: a series of brief cutscene fragments with expository voice-overs between them, like clips in a trailer, with no division between the old stuff and the new.

To be honest, I suspect that the unfamiliar portions come from the “Smitemaster’s Selection” expansions, which I haven’t (yet) played. If so, this is the first time the Selections have had crucial relevance to the main titles. But I kind of like the the idea of a fake “Previously On” sequence that mixes in items that weren’t actually previously on.

I’m only a few levels into the game proper at this point. We start with a whirlwind reintroduction to the basic game elements. Just as I observed when playing Gunthro and the Epic Blunder, what exactly constitutes the basics varies from game to game. Things that were unfamiliar to Beethro a couple of games ago, such as adders and pressure plates, he now treats as common knowledge. He does comment on not yet being used to the idea of force arrows that can be turned on and off, but that’s because that’s something new to this game.

I’ve gotten just far enough to see the first really major new game element: the Gentryii. These are essentially droddified versions of the Chain Chomps from Mario: indestructible animated metal balls with sharp teeth, products of hubris in a bygone age, chained to the walls of a dungeon and sealed away when they couldn’t be killed. The chains snake around from tile to tile in a way that makes them seem at first like a new variety of Serpent, but they’re really very different from serpents mechanically. Serpents move at right angles, trailing their bodies behind them, like in the classic Snake game. Gentryii chains can lie diagonally, and they’re (usually) fixed at one end, so that the tension of the Gentryii pulling at the other end can straighten out convolutions. This makes it difficult to get them usefully stuck. Yes, you can avoid getting killed by a Gentryii by just staying beyond the chain’s reach, but sometimes they’re positioned right where you need to go, like guard dogs, with the chain preventing them from leaving their post. Part of the trick here is that the chain itself acts as an obstacle. Beethro can’t cross it, but neither can the Gentryii.

In fact, if I’m not mistaken, the Gentryii chain is the only sort of obstacle I’ve seen that can’t be crossed diagonally. Usually, if two diagonally adjacent tiles are both empty, you can move from one to the other, even if the two tiles neighboring them are solid walls. Even the gaze of an Evil Eye or an Aumtlich can be crossed without triggering when it’s on a slant. But a Gentryii chain is impermeable. You can still stab monsters through it, though.

More tomorrow. I’ll probably have something to say about the characters.

1 Comment so far

  1. Jacob on 3 Dec 2017

    As you suspect, the missing story can be found in a Smitemaster’s Selection called Finding the First Truth.
    You don’t miss a huge amount though if you only watch the “Previously On” cutscene in TSS, but you may wish to seek out the hold to play yourself, or watch a Let’s Play (e.g. the final cutscene leading up to TSS can be found at around 25 mins here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUOu_bzvtPM )

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