The Watchmaker: Nearing the End

I’ve reached the endgame. Darrel descends into the labyrinth underneath the castle where the pendulum device is stored, while Victoria keeps watch outside. I mentioned before that the game really regards Darrel as the hero, but this is the first part where it really forces the issue. There have been other tasks that only one character or the other could perform, but not entire areas that only one character could enter.

I said before that the single-character tasks seemed to be gender-linked more than profession-linked — Darrel’s superior upper-body strength, Victoria’s ability to get the shy maid talking — but this hasn’t continued to be the case. Victoria can read Latin and make convincing legal threats. Darrel can talk to people about the occult. (For the most part, he doesn’t actually say anything about the occult that Victoria couldn’t, but the mere fact that he’s available keeps Victoria from trying.) There was one bit where the difference in capabilities struck me as nonsensical, and caused me to get stuck: I was clearly supposed to sprinkle some blood on a rose to fake an omen that the superstitious Jude had been reading about, but only Darrel could do this. I knew exactly what to do, but had no idea why Victoria was refusing to do it. I had to hit the walkthrough to resolve that one, and also consult the manual to find out how to transfer items between characters, something I had previously done only inadvertently. It turns out you can shuttle items between them even when they’re in different rooms, as if by radio. A welcome if unrealistic convenience.

So yes, the walkthrough continues to be an important part of playing this game, and I don’t recommend playing without one. I was, however, pleased to find that in my latest flurry of activity, I was able to solve unaided several puzzles of the sort that I probably would have called unfair if I hadn’t been able to solve them. It’s as if I have enough data by now to be able to guess what the author is thinking, at least some of the time.

One thing that the walkthrough really makes me notice is the way that time substitutes for score. Time only advances in response to player actions, and the amount it advances varies from action to action, so the walkthrough notes this with both the amount and a running total, like “(5:45, +15 mins)”, exactly as if the minutes were points. I guess it’s appropriate for a game so clock-themed, but it also runs a little counter to expectation. This is a game with a deadline. The world ends at midnight unless you succeed in your mission, supposedly. I’m still suspicious about this, mind — now that I’ve had a second look at the backstory, the Knights of the Apocalypse really seem to think that their little ritual will just end the reign of the immortals, not the world. Regardless, time advancing means time running out. It should be experienced as a bad thing. But it’s instead experienced as a good thing because it means you’re making progress, kind of like how the player came to look forward to the destruction of the crystals you were supposed to be protecting in Final Fantasy V and similar.

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