This past week I finally completed all fifty of Fay’s Puzzles in Shiren the Wanderer. These puzzles are prefabricated single floor dungeons that serve as something of an introduction to the more advanced rules and techniques in the game. They start off fairly simple and then get quite difficult. For example, the first puzzle teaches you that arrows can shoot diagonally across entryways, while later ones have you juggling different scrolls and staves against multiple monsters, eating meats to temporarily transform, and trying to figure out the exact path required to make it towards the exit. I had been getting my ass kicked on the one titled “Shopping Battle” until I realized that I didn’t need to steal from the merchant… I could just lure the Thief monsters in to the shop, slaughter them using the Mastersword that’s for sale, put the sword down and pick up the gitans they dropped, then buy a sleep scroll and use it on the monsters by the exit. The title led me to believe that the solution involved making use of the various offensive (and expensive) items available in the shop to defeat the merchant, who is ridiculously overpowered (and also says “thank you!” and “come again!” with every swing).
Anyway, I cleared all of Mr. Fay’s puzzles and am awarded with a “Huzzah!” and three Blank Scrolls. Pretty nice. Blank Scrolls let you inscribe the name of any other scroll on them, then when they’re read that take the effect of that scroll. They will certainly come in handy. Fay said that he’d get to work on a doozy of a puzzle for next time I’m in town. Which, as it turned out, was about ten minutes later because I stupidly forgot to bring a riceball on my next climb up Table Mountain and starved to death on the seventh floor. When I stopped by to see what Fay’s been up to, he’s in a panic. Apparently he dug too deep while trying to create his next puzzle and ended up with a single massive labyrinth. And, of course, I have to option to explore it. He gives me the usual jazz of losing all items and money upon entering, then I’m greeted by the ominous display of “1 Final Puzzle.”
And, holy shit, this thing is brutal. What I didn’t initially realize is that, because the entrance to the dungeon is located in Canyon Hamlet (which resets your experience whenever you enter it), you pretty much have no choice but to start from level one. You could do things like eating a stash of Herbs of Strength you have in your warehouse or something before entering, but they honestly won’t make that much of a difference beyond the first few floors. And unlike Table Mountain, the enemies in this dungeon get vicious fast. I haven’t made it further than the eighth floor after twenty or so attempts just because the difficulty ramps up so quickly.
Part of this is because the identity of everything is scrambled in the dungeon. Not just staves and jars like in the rest of the game, I mean everything. The only item that’s not is the trusty riceball, because you start the dungeon with one in your inventory. Herbs are now named by color and scrolls after arbitrary animals. Not too much of a big deal, right? Well, the Final Puzzle includes more than just beneficial scrolls and herbs. There are now herbs that may decrease your fullness, cause you to fall asleep, or even reset your level to one. Sometimes the Donkey Scroll you read won’t be a Power Up Scroll or a Scroll of Light, instead it might be a Scroll of Silence or a Scroll of Explosion. Guess what a Scroll of Explosion does? Go on, guess. I’ll give you a hint: when you read it you fucking explode. Granted, it does do a lot of damage to anything adjacent to you, but you most likely will not be around to take advantage of that.
Evil Soldiers are also a problem. See, when Evil Soldiers are defeated they become Dead Soldiers, which run away from you whenever you get near them. If a Dead Soldier sees another enemy (even another Dead Soldier), it will ‘leap’ into it… allowing it to level up. On Table Mountain this isn’t much of a problem because whenever I’ve encountered Evil Soldiers the only other monsters on the floor have been Rice Changers and Field Bandits. They’re pretty weak, and even if they manage to overpower me I’ve probably got a staff or an herb stashed away that I can use to my advantage. Not so in the Final Puzzle. Here there are Ironheads and Floor Dragons to worry about leveling up, and that’s just on the fifth floor. Combine that with the fact that using anything in my inventory without having it identified first may cause me an embarrassing death and most floors end up being a mad dash for the exit.
Here are a few embarrassing deaths, by the way.
- While reading scrolls and eating herbs just to get them identified, one turned out to be a Monster Scroll, which turns the current room into a monster house. The next one was a Sleeping Herb, which causes the player to fall asleep.
- Fending off a couple Pit Mamels at the start of the first floor, then turning around and tripping over a stumble trap before I could recover my health. Yes, that’s right… I fell on my face and died.
- Accidentally broke a jar in a shop. I didn’t have enough gitans to pay for it, so the merchant beat the living shit out of me.
- Fell into a monster house and read the only scroll I had, hoping it would be a Blastwave Scroll or something. It was a Scroll of Haste, which made all the enemies in the room much more efficient killing machines.
- Threw a Pale Herb at a Floor Dragon. It turned out to be a Kingy Seed, which causes the target to go into a blind rage, murdering anything around it. The Floor Dragon killed the three Bowboys adjacent to it, leveled up into an Earth Dragon, then took me out like the garbage.
So, right now I’m terrified of this dungeon. But I used to be scared of Table Mountain when I first attempted it and now I can tackle it pretty easily. I just need more experience with it, figuring out the various tricks and tactics I need to survive for more than eight floors.
One neat trick I’ve stumbled across: it’s possible to ‘farm’ Fay’s Final Puzzle for items that can be useful for tackling Table Mountain and the Tainted Path. You see, once most of the post game dungeons are opened the option to adventure while waiting to be rescued opens up. Normally if you fall and send out a rescue request you’re stuck at the menu screen waiting for someone to save your sorry ass. When you adventure while waiting, you start in your warehouse and can choose to explore any of the dungeons. There are a few limitations, however: you can’t save, you can’t go past the highest floor you’ve reached in that dungeon, and you can’t go past the floor you died on. If you try, the game just boots you back to the warehouse… with your inventory intact. So, if I were to attempt the Final Puzzle, die on the third floor, and adventure while waiting to be rescued… every time I reached the second floor exit I’d be kicked back to the warehouse with all the items I picked up prior to that, free to store anything valuable before trying again. I haven’t really exploited it much, but I did score some sweet armbands and a Kingy Seed that I threw at some little kid in a village. He totally killed all the other villagers. It was awesome.