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Ruts vs. Battlespire CH22: Touching the Hand is Optional

By Rutskarn
on Wednesday Aug 17, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play


It’s safe to say that playing Battlespire demands my full attention. When my deadlines and lukewarm professional reputation depend on figuring out why my god damn longsword won’t equip, and the documentation to assist me is a nakedly speculatory shrug of a wiki article written by third parties–who are the only other people to have played the game, very possibly the only people to have enjoyed it–I end up needing the kind of laser-focused attention that in a less wasted life might build navies or cure eczema. Battlespire, in short, is not a game to play with a movie on in the background.

Which makes it an interesting, probably even unique experience among dungeon crawlers. There’s not much going on at the surface level–watch me go through this level and you’ll see me swimming around, killing any daedra obstinate enough to block my way, chugging potions, and searching for little levers, just like in a hundred other little RPGs nobody remembers. I’d say it even aspires to be the average door-to-door fightfest. But when any number of factors from jumping to walking to standing overly still could mean getting stuck or taking inexplicable damage, every section is pregnant with the worst kind of tension. So it’s nice to have the occasional riddle or challenge break things up–it’s nice to know that broadly speaking, being baffled or fascinated is the intended effect.

Somewhere in my hunt for levers and a purpose, I come across a reasonably friendly Daedra Seducer in a tunnel who lets me know I’ve got a puzzle coming my way. Evidently the thungimmy I need is protected by a four-letter password spelled out on four small multiple-choice keypads. Quite the difficult code to crack if one doesn’t know the daedric alphabet. Which, you know what the daedra call the daedric alphabet? They call it “the alphabet.” I’m not totally seeing the wisdom of this security measure.

Then again, maybe the stewards of this realm foresaw that–as opposed to any immortal being who rates at least a second-grade reading level–they’d want to keep out the occasional illiterate mortal who stumbles in, drunk and figuratively if not currently literally pantsless. In this situation, the password being a short daedric word puzzle makes a kind of sense. The only thing you’d need to do to keep out puny interlopers is refrain from spelling out said password in giant, glowing, floating characters–

–if at all possible. Now, I got to be honest. Firing from the hip strictly as an interior decorator, this room is not justifying its use of space. If we knock out the mysterious plinth and floating four-letter word I bet we can get an exercise bike in here.

There’s something missing from that screenshot, something I didn’t manage to snap a pic of in time. There used to be a big stone hand reaching up behind that text. When I went up to examine the password and take a screenshot, the stone hand vanished into nothingness. This is probably something deliberately done and just confusing, because if this game was set up so that things could accidentally vanish for no reason I genuinely believe it’d be happening all the time.

The helpful puzzle-foreshadowing Daedric Seducer also leaves me a study guide to translate the runes with. So if you’ve been wondering how to write “dusk” in the daedric alphabet, man, did your wish ever come true. You spell it like this:

“Dusk” is a pretty lurid password, even for a daedra, but clearly somebody was proud of it. For one thing, it’s the password to a vital security system. For another thing, it’s another password to another vital security system, right after the other one. It’s also framed as the answer to a riddle:

A bad play? A basement? Curtains?
A bad play? A basement? Curtains?

Is this some reverse psychology shit? You enter in a password, you get asked a riddle–no way do you think the answer to the riddle is the password you just put in. A less cynical adventurer would probably be poised for hours, mouth half-open, racking the brain for a tricky alternate answer that wasn’t totally insipid. “Old age? Death? Dawn? …could it be dawn? But surely it could ALSO be dusk. Dusk would have to at least be a valid answer! …or IS there an answer? Is the password something totally random? Is this riddle a ploy? How deep in the lion’s throat am I?” Thankfully, I’m far too broken to overthink it.

Not long after, I find the lady I’ve been searching for. Her name is Jaciel Morgen. For her sins, she’s the daedric mistress of this realm.

So this is apparently high fashion in the Shade Perilous? Way to make me feel awkward for NOT being half-undressed. I'm getting serious whiplash here.
So this is apparently high fashion in the Shade Perilous? Way to make me feel awkward for NOT being half-undressed. I'm getting serious whiplash here.

Turns out something’s happened to her emotionally. She’s not the springy bundle of joy you’d expect from the administrator of a place called the Shade Perilous. Instead she’s depressed, nihilistic, contemptuous, and uncooperative. She’s useless to me as long as she’s in this mood. Thankfully, I know just the thing to cheer her up. Now, I bag on Bethesda for failing to include obvious and intuitive courses of action all the time, but happily that’s not the case here. The game lets you take the obvious measure of turning her servant into a really sad dead dagger that’s so sad and dead Jaciel stops being depressed. I know that’s a bit of a cliche these days, but there’s a reason the classics are the classics.

Hey, me too! That's crazy. We should hang out some time.
Hey, me too! That's crazy. We should hang out some time.

And now…there’s really no more stalling. Much as I’d like to hang out with The Stranger and her new dagger BFF, a far more sinister destiny awaits. Because this is it. This is the big one. I’m about to step into the belly of the most outrageous, spine-tingling, game-ruining glitch yet.

Time to enter the No Scum Zone.


The title this week paraphrases one of my favorite deadpan lines from the UESP’s walkthrough so far.

Comments (25)

  1. Sigilis says:

    While reading that walkthrough, I began thinking about optional things.

    Looking into the eyes is optional.
    Feeling the warmth on your skin is optional.
    Stealing a kiss is optional.
    Touching the hand is optional.

    There are no consequences.

    Making love to a spider daedra was, of course, mandatory.

  2. sofawall says:

    Looking through the list of bugs in Battlespire, one in particular caught my eye. When certain items don’t appear unless you open a chest from the right direction, and even then only sometimes, you know you have a gem of a game on your hands.

    Perhaps my favourite part of the description of the bug is “Does not break the game, they do appear sooner or later”

  3. Da Mage says:

    I guess Battlespire just turned….open world….

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So thats how bethesdas hand holding looked back in the day.

  5. MichaelGC says:

    I'd say it even aspires to be the average door-to-door fightfest.
    [Emphasis in the sodding original]

    I hope there’s someone in the vicinity of I think LA County CA who could pursue the author and endeavour to aim at him the swift knee-to-the-groin this pun hankers for.

  6. Zak McKracken says:

    I… I struggle to comprehend. You turned the lady’s friend into a knife, and that cheered her up? Is that a figure of speech which I don’t get, or is this really just some random subject, verb, object combination which make zero sense under any circumstances?
    Is that a dialogue option?

    I’m so confused right now!

    • MichaelGC says:

      That’s right, yes.

      Wait, that wasn’t helpful at all, was it? Sorry about that.

      A more down-to-Earth and less safe-fer-work explanation here. Given that it is in ranged-attack striking-distance of making sense, I suspect it is mostly fabricated by someone prepared to sacrifice accuracy for sanity.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        That is … wow, just wow. So her girlfriend agrees to let you kill her so that the shock of loss brings her out of depression … I don’t think that’s really how it works but…

        *shakes head, a lot*

        • IFS says:

          Well the Daedra are supposed to be immortal, inhuman, beings for whom death is merely an inconvenience. In some ways this is the most alien Bethesda has ever managed to write them.

        • silver Harloe says:

          A common misconception about depression is that you feel sad. Most sufferers of depression like myself know that what you actually feel is numb, unaffected by things in a positive or negative way.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Of course every case is different, and I definitely can’t be telling you how to deal with your problem, so if your experience contradicts my understanding, I’m happy to have my beliefs updated.

            My experiences with clinical depression are second and third hand but I know at least one person who definitely was pushed way further into it by bad news. Way further… I suppose that bad news might be able to bring someone out of lethargy but I find it hard to believe that this would be a long-term solution.
            What does seem to help in the cases I know about is slowly and tediously working through problems and finding a more constructive perspective on life.

            That’s definitely not what the game is doing. Now, since it was written at a time when knowledge about depression was a lot less widespread than today, I’d expect it to suggest cheering the person up in some way (very naive), or somehow tackling the thing which made her depressed in the first place (somewhat less so), but not shocking her out of it by suicide…

  7. MichaelGC says:

    I like how whenever you search for specific Battlespirology online, these very posts are always in the top three results! XD

  8. James says:

    Is that last screenshot for real?

    I can’t. I just…. What tormented hell is this? None of this makes sense and it’s still going.

  9. Profugo Barbatus says:

    No Scum Zone? My god, did the save system break?

  10. psivamp says:

    This game hates you. It hates everyone.

    The walkthrough for this level runs out of alphabet characters detailing the places you have to go.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      “Rutksarn! So think, think about the longsword, Rutksarn! Remember the pain? Remember the many caverns in which you felt the pain? Now, now, don’t check a wiki, it’s only pain. Tsk, tsk, tsk… Just remember the pain, Rutksarn, and think about how to end it, Rutksarn, to survive here in the center of my beating heart, my hungry belly, my tightened bowels.”

      It is uncanny how well AM quotes work for this game.

  11. MelTorefas says:

    That last screenshot reminds me of playing EverQuest on a dialup modem back in the late 90s. Except a bit lower res.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Look at these screenshots, then at screenshots of Morrowind and you can see what happened to 3D graphics in just 5 years. Crazy!

      Then compare something from this year to something from 2011. I suppose that is what maturing technology looks like.

      • Anthony says:

        In the early 2000’s there was a bit of a revolution in graphics technology. They introduced the GPU and shaders. That’s the big difference than early 3D bitmaps-over-polygons and later pseudo-realistic 3D. Everything since then has mostly been refinements of those concepts.

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