The Best Way To Beat A Dungeon

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Eugeo strikes

We’ve seen the set up a million times (usually in fantasy). The protagonist has fought their way to the bad guy’s lair only to find an elaborate dungeon, maze, puzzle, or tower between them and the bad guy (who is conveniently just sitting in one spot waiting for the hero to arrive). However, it turns out even writers can get sick of this set-up and so then go about finding ways to break their own device by giving the team a bypass or a way to simply not play the established game. The question is, does this actually make for an enjoyable story to watch?

I first really encountered this set-up from a children’s story I read with my mother when I was really young (no idea when I heard it the first time because it was one of those kids books with a cassette that you could read along to). Anyway, the story was based around the myth of the Minotaur in a Labyrinth in Crete where Theseus had to kill it but then he wouldn’t be able to get out of the maze (clearly he’d never learned just to keep left). Anyway, some girl fell in love with him for reasons that weren’t ever made clear and she gave him some string (what an incredibly innovative idea) and so he left a path to follow to escape.

Bell fights the Minotaur.
Okay, this one is Bell fighting a Minotaur in DanMachi, but still, cool.

Even as a kid I kind of wondered why there was a maze, who stuck the Minotaur in it and why didn’t it just sit at the doorway and eat everyone who entered, and why they didn’t just collapse the roof on its head to defeat it. Okay, even as a kid I was really cynical and liked things to make sense and there was just too much about the story that didn’t. Admittedly, I never questioned whether or not a Minotaur could exist as that was just part and parcel of a story having fantastic creatures in it. I still haven’t given up on my dream of owning a miniature dragon so if you ever come across one, let me know.

A little bit after this I came into contact with the movie Labyrinth and there’s a particular scene with Sarah that drove me absolutely crazy even as a child. She’s frustrated because she can’t find any corners or openings in the labyrinth, has a bit of a hissy fit and slides down a wall, where a worm talks to her and points out there’s an opening just across from her. At first she denies this then she attempts to walk through it. The worm directs her not to go the direction she is going and she just says ‘okay’ and walks the other way. Now, immediately after that the worm points out if she’d kept going the way she had been she’d have gone straight to the castle, which is where she wanted to go. Why she didn’t ask why she shouldn’t go that direction is a question that will never be answered.

Sarah talks with the Worm

Except, maybe it was.

Early last year I watched the anime Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody and the main character finds himself facing a tower with dangers all the way as he goes to rescue a kidnapped companion. After a limited amount of time dealing with the levels he finds a passageway that leads to a dryad who, in exchange for a kiss, more or less jumps him half-way up the tower.

Death March To The Parallel World Rhapsody Episode 8 Dryad

Which is more or less what would have happened with Sarah if she’d just gone the first path.

However, then what is left to do?

Satou in Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody more or less just walks through the tower with little challenge, has a few fights at the top and saves the day. And that is kind of exemplary of every quest Satou ends up on. He’s either too over powered for there to be a challenge, or he goes around the challenge in the first place. While it might seem like a clever idea what it made for was a fairly boring viewing experience.

Almost like replaying a game where you can use your character after they’ve already beaten the game. They are now so over powered early levels seem ridiculously easy and without challenge. Worse when you use a glitch in the game. Baldur’s Gate 2 had one particularly glitch you could take real advantage of. If you saved your character at the end with all their cool equipment and levels and spells, and then started a new game with that character, but paused the game before the first screen came up, went into your inventory, you could drop all your existing equipment, and start the game. Once the intro sequence was over you could just pick it all up and play on. Trust me when I point out it was pretty boring and about the only thing it was good for was a speed run because why would you bother opening a single box or crate in the first level?

And I’m pretty sure that glitch doesn’t work on the Steam version and I know my old CD versions of the game are no longer compatible with my system so I guess that one is done.

So, does that mean the best way to beat a dungeon is to actually beat the dungeon?

Sword Art Online - Aincrad

Yes and no. It really depends on the variety of things for the characters to face in the dungeon and whether they grow or learn from the experience. Will crossing through the dungeon cost them anything or will anyone get hurt? Will relationships be tested? Will equipment be lost or found? There’s a lot of good narrative reasons to make your characters fight their way through the dungeon.

And if you aren’t going to use any of them, then the question would be, why bother writing a dungeon, maze or tower into your story in the first place? Just have your villain meet the hero and call it a day.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 13

But the reason this came up at this point in time is because of Sword Art Online Alicization. Now we know they like their towers in SAO. The Aincrad Arc is essentially a tower climb that gets interrupted early because the villain is exposed before they reach the top. However, episode 13 sets up a story where Kirito and Eugeo are going to have to get to the Administrator’s room and wouldn’t you know it, it’s at the top of the tower which is probably 100 floors up. I’m hoping they either bypass the levels or they find something worth fighting on their way up otherwise this is an incredibly pointless plot conceit. And why couldn’t the tower be fifty levels instead of 100?

Anyway, I’ll turn this over to you. What anime or story do you think used a dungeon-tower-maze the best? Who had the best way getting through a dungeon?

Or, use one of my product affiliate links.
Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu. Pouch
Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu. Pouch

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Baldur’s Gate 2 Update

I only recently did a post about what I was playing recently but this weekend (while trying to unwind and de-stress) I had a novel experience.

If you’ve never played Baldur’s Gate then you probably don’t know that in the game you assemble a party as you wander about and you can change party members as you go (though to be honest once I pick a team I pretty much stick with them – mostly because I get attached and also because I like how their stories play out). Yes, as you meander about your missions certain events trigger dialogue between either yourself and your party members or between different party members and depending on a few factors (whether you are good, neutral or evil, your current reputation status, and whether you reply correctly or callously to their dialogue) the stories will go in different directions.

As a teen, I always played a chaotic good character. It meant I mostly had a good reputation but could sometimes just take the violent is better approach to the whole situation as long as morally I had the high ground. That meant I tended to choose characters for my party that were either good or neutral to varying degrees.

As an adult, and wanting more of a challenge from a game I’ve played many times through, I decided to see if I could maintain a neutral status throughout the game and have been picking both good and evil characters for my party. This resulted in a few unexpected and never seen before developments.

Firstly, I had a character leave my party. He just upped and left when we got to the end of his storyline. That’s never happened to me before as usually my character ends up in a semi-romance with the guy and he follows me around the entire country-side. But no, he has a little temper tantrum and storms off the screen and suddenly my character can’t move because she’s carrying literally his entire inventory (including a shield that he is the only one who can use and you can’t even sell the thing).

I’d always strived to placate party members before when tensions arose and I’d never actually had the experience of a party member deserting. Being ditched by an NPC actually kind of hurts, as ridiculous as that might sound.

The second thing that happened was two of my party members got into a fight and one of them literally killed the other before turning and politely asking if I wanted to continue travelling together. Um…

One of my party members was just turned into pixellated chunks of debris on the ground of the dungeon I was exploring and the person responsible wants to know if we are going to continue travelling together. And here’s the thing. I could have said no. But then I was going to be two party members short and stuck in a dungeon. As it is, I’m going to have to very carefully back-track and recruit someone new who hopefully won’t try to kill the rest of my party before I can progress.

So while I’m finding the difficulty of Baldur’s Gate nowhere near what I remember having managed to even kill the Shadow Dragon without particular difficulty, it turns out that not being a goody-two-shoes or worrying about my party composition does actually hinder progress quite significantly. I can’t wait to see what happens as I progress the story with the rest of the crazy loons I’ve recruited into the party this time.


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Karandi James.

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What I’m Playing: Baldur’s Gate II: Shadow’s of Amn

I haven’t done a gaming post for awhile and that’s mostly because I restarted Baldur’s Gate II. This was one of my favourite games when I was in highschool and I literally dropped hundreds of hours into playing it. The worse thing was that after several upgrades to my computer system my original game discs were no longer compatible and I had to put aside the very large manual that had come with the game and finally move on. Thank you to enhanced editions and now I am back to this game and to be honest I have had it sitting on the computer for awhile but I started playing it again recently because of how stressed I’ve been. There’s something very comforting about revisiting an old favourite game.

That isn’t to say it is all smooth sailing. Mostly because I am much better at games now then I was then and to be honest even on a higher difficulty setting than I ever played it on back when, I’m kind of breezing through most quests. My character is a thief/mage half-elf and this is kind of my default, don’t make me decide, character. I have played through as a cleric, shaman, and various specialty mage types but I’ve never taken on a warrior character. I’m also pretty boring in that I’ve only played as a human or half-elf. Sure there’s other options but I enjoy my game.

I did actually create a warrior character this time and have him in my party. He’s kind of boring but a pretty effective tank. He’s backed by a cleric in most fights and then I’ve got various spell casters of various types (both priest and mage) backing them from a distance (okay, I don’t like close combat and that would be why I tend to suck at these games). Still, there’s something immensely satisfying about ensuring your warriors are protected from fire and then just lobbing in fire balls until all the enemies go poof.

ShadowsofAmn2

I’ve been avoiding the main storyline so even though I raised my 20000 gold ages ago, I have been back to pay for the information about where Imoen was taken. Instead I’m pretty much exploring everything and doing any side quest I can. I’ve saved the keep from the trolls, and fought off the druids who were sending animals into Trademeet (yeah, I like that Trademeet raise a statue of you as thanks), protected the wild mages from the Red Wizards (kind of – there may have been a few additional casualties) and currently I’m running a branch of the thieves guild. Still plenty to do and while I don’t really have a lot of free time, an hour of this really leaves me feeling quite calm and content.

I am however looking forward to unleashing some more powerful magic spells once I level my character up enough. The other thing I want to test is whether they ever fixed the glitch in the game that allows you to keep your equipment if you start a new game with an imported character provided you pause the game after the first scream and drop everything on the ground. That was always kind of fun to start the game with some decent equipment.

So that is what I’m playing. I’m going to finish smashing my way through the graveyard and then I might hit the Umar Hills and see what trouble I can stir up there.


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If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

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Karandi James.

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