Gemcraft: Grey Trees

I’m still playing Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows. Because the game isn’t strictly ordered, there are still multiple levels I haven’t beat — in particular, the “Vision” levels, optional strategy-puzzle challenges where you don’t have access to the skills and XP you’ve accumulated. Without the option of just bludgeoning a level to submission with superior force, the game can actually be pretty challenging.

But also, if I finish all those, there are still the Achievements. There’s a lot of them. Do I want to achieve them all? I don’t know. Maybe. It depends on how many are left after I’ve completed all the levels. But there’s one particular achievement that I definitely want to try for, and that’s because it’s a riddle. Its name is “Grey Trees” and its description, where most of the game’s Achievements give you explicit instructions on how to get it, is simply “11331791”.

Some possible leads: I’ve seen some grey trees in a level or two; there was one level in particular where all the trees were grey. The in-game Achievements page can be filtered by various keywords, such as “Gem” or “Enhancement spell” or “Destroy”, and the only keyword for Grey Trees is “Click”. Most levels display gameplay tips while they’re loading; a few instead show a row of gem shapes. Since the shape of a gem indicates its “grade”, this is a way of representing a sequence of numbers. And every one of the levels with the gem shapes also contains a mysterious compass embedded in the ground, which rotates to point in a new direction every time you click on it. The direction of the compass has no obvious effect, but the game considers them important enough that compass levels are marked with a special icon on the map screen.

I’m assuming that I’ll have to turn the compasses to some particular direction, but what? I’ll have to do some experiments, find out if the gem shapes vary from level to level and if changing the compass direction changes them. And once I get everything into the right orientation, what then? Is that the only step needed? Will it open up some extra-secret level? I don’t know.

It all reminds me of the special post-Mastery levels in the later DROD games. But DROD was already a puzzle game; adding in additional secret puzzles was far from unexpected. But then, neither is it incongruous here. It may not match the gameplay, but it fits right in with the fiction, a story of wizards facing uncertainty, fighting a shadowy foe who outsmarts them at every turn.

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