The Second Sky: Time Mastery

Another level of those Braid-style cooperate-with-your-past-self puzzles. Let me say a little more about how this mechanism affects and is affected by DROD.

This type of puzzle is fundamentally about executing a plan without being able to see its effects. In the simplest cases, you go forth from the temporal split point and do things that will benefit you after you rewind, like standing on pressure plates to open doors for your future self to go through, taking care to anticipate how long you’ll need to stand on each plate. But your future self can do things that affect your past self, too. Suppose there’s a pressure plate that opens a door, and on the other side of that door there’s an orb that releases a dungeon roach near the pressure plate. If it kills your past self standing on the plate, you die. So your past self has to be prepared to deal with that roach, even though it can only play back a repeat of recorded actions. When you set out from the temporal split point the first time, you wave your sword in the air in the place where you know the roach will be. The actions will remain the same, but circumstances will change their meaning. This is a rich ground for puzzles.

Now, roaches are simple and predictable, and easy to plan for. But there are monsters that run on subtler and more complicated algorithms, like serpents and goblins and soldiers. My usual approach when fighting these things is to take it a turn at a time and undo a lot. I don’t have a perfect model of their behavior in my head, so I have to keep correcting my course. Temporal split tokens can make this habit unworkable. You can’t take things a turn at a time when you have to do everything in advance. Thus, puzzles using temporal split tokens have the potential to require complete mastery of the game’s increasingly complex systems in a way that other puzzles don’t.

Mercifully, the game so far hasn’t much explored this potential. I’ve seen one puzzle that pits you against future goblins, but that was in a secret room, which means it’s allowed to be unusually hard.

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