Friday, January 26, 2024

It's Not An Exploit If No-one Sees You Do It

As I mentioned last time I posted about Palworld, I'm doing my best to avoid not only spoilers but guides, walkthroughs, How To videos and just about anything that would be informative, save me time and make playing the game more efficient. With eight million copies sold (!) I'm absolutely certain the early game, at least, must already be subject to min-maxing, ideal strats and tactics, something I'll no doubt be very glad about at some point in the future, when I hit the inevitable skill wall. 

I did expect to run full-face into it on the first dungeon boss, a fight which, I now realize, represents the Tutorial's final exam. Beat that boss and you prove you've learned all you need to go it alone.

As must be obvious to anyone who's been here a while, I am not at my best with Boss fights. I neither like them nor am I good at them. If there's a way around them I will happily take it. That said, I do usually find some way through to the other side, if going through is the only option. The only game I can remember actually giving up on because I literally could not beat a gate-keeping boss was The Secret World, the end of whose storyline I have still never reached.

That, however, was a fight close to the end of the content that came with the original TSW. This was going to be the very first such fight in Palworld, an introduction to the concept. How hard could it be?

That sounds like a set-up, doesn't it? I'm either going to tell a story about how easy it turned out to be or spin a tale of woe about how unfairly tough it was. Well, I might have, if I hadn't have found a trick to it. As it turns out, I don't really know how easy or hard the fight would be if you did it properly because I didn't have to do much at all.

Oh yeah? So why are we looking at picture of my character standing outside the entrance to the instance, looking at the bag of gear with all her stuff in that drops when you die? I suppose I'd better tell the whole story...

I was playing Palworld last night and thinking about the post I'd written earlier in the day, where I said I'd been to the Rayne Syndicate Tower but hadn't gone inside. The more I thought about it, the dafter that seemed. What kind of explorer would I be if I didn't even take a look? What did I think was going to happen in there, anyway? Why would I automatically assume it would be too difficult for me to handle? It's part of the Tutorial, ffs! I'm not that bad at video games! Am I?

Only one way to find out. I ported over and went in. It was meant to be a fact finding mission, not a serious attempt, so I didn't change my team or kit myself out with consumables or make any preparations at all. I know the Tutorial rubric told me to "make sure your Pals and equipment are in tip-top condition" but that was just the equivalent of an "Enter at Your Own Risk" sign, surely.

The instance is timed. You get ten minutes to beat the Boss. About three minutes after I went in, I was back at my base in my starting gear.

Ah, but I'd learned a lot. I learned that the fight was nothing whatsoever like I'd imagined it would be, for a start. I've never played Pokemon but I've read plenty about it. When I saw people saying these instances were Palworld's equivalent of Pokemon Gyms, I imagined something along the lines of Pet Battles in World of Warcraft. I thought I'd be picking my Pals and sending them in to battle for me. I didn't expect to be doing the fighting myself.

The instance opens with a dramatic cut-scene, rather like the entrance of a Championship boxing match. In come Zoe and Grizzbolt. I don't know what I expected but it wasn't them. They're neither of them my idea of the leader of a bandit gang.

I also wasn't expecting to be thrown straight into a completely normal boss fight. It felt almost exactly like something out of Guild Wars 2 or EverQuest II or some other MMORPG that isn't even a sequel. Zoe and Grizzbolt chased me about, trying to kill me; I beat on them with my baseball bat, trying to kill them. There was no subtlety involved.

Unfortunately for me, they had 30,000 HP and I didn't. It was pretty obvious to me I didn't have either the DPS to beat them down or the armor class, defence or player skill to withstand their attacks. It was frenetic and chaotic and I was never going to win - but it didn't feel entirely hopeless. 

I had enough time to see that the pillars in the room blocked their ranged attacks and that they had a lot of trouble getting to me when I hid behind one. I had Foxparks out and he was doing good damage, a lot more than I was, but he was getting the worst of the attacks, too. By the time I died he was already out of commission, which is how I came to learn that when your Pal is down, ten minutes in the Palbox sets him on his feet again.

I was too impatient to wait ten minutes. I took the revive at my base, put Sparky in the box, took another Pal out and ported back. I was worried my gear would be in the instance under Grizzbolt but it was safely outside so I got dressed and went back to try again.

It went better the second time but it still didn't go well. I kept out of the way and concentrated on watching what Z&G were doing. I cycled through various Pals to see who did the most damage. None of them did enough. 

A couple of times, though, Zoe and Grizz seemed to get completely stuck on the opposite side of the pillar I was hiding behind. I waited to see if they'd get loose but they didn't. My Pals kept attacking but even with free shots they were never going to do enough damage in the time. I tried coming round the side to get some free hits in myself but that set the evil pair free, so I had to dodge back into cover again.

With about three minutes left on the clock and Zoe and Grizz once again stuck to the pillar, I gave up hope of beating them and pulled out my last Pal for a comedy finish. It was lazy, useless old Cativa, the slacker I was complaining about yesterday. 

OMG! I will never complain about him again! He turned out to be an absolute monster in combat. Okay, granted he was getting a free run with Z&G unable to respond, but he was doing ten times the damage of any of the others. 

As he repeatedly blasted them with his special attack, then charged in and pummeled them with his paws, that giant health-pool sprung a huge leak. I watched, first in surprise and then in delight, as the possibility of victory shifted from a glimmer of a chance to a racing certainty. Cat didn't even need the full three minutes. There were more than thirty seconds left on the timer when Zoe and Grizzbolt went down and I and all my Pals dinged.

We'd done it. Okay, we'd exploited a glitch in pathing to beat an opponent who couldn't fight back but so what? Take the win!

Apart from a huge chunk of xp, the main reward was five Ancient Technology points, giving first access to some powerful, craftable artifacts. There didn't seem to be a loot chest so it seemed like time to leave.

What happened next was weird. I exited the dungeon to find myself on top of the tower. There's a portal statue up there that you can only get to by beating the boss. Or by flying up there under your own power, I guess, but I don't have a flying mount yet so that's not an option. 

There's a fantastic view and it makes for a superb starting point for a glide. As soon as I make a parachute - or the gloves that let me use Celaray as a glider - I'm going back there to give it a try. 

With the first boss down, the Tutorial comes to an end. I no longer have anything on my on-screen To Do list. I don't have a To-Do list. Although there is still a very clear progression path along the Tech Tree and there's a separate set of Missions relating to Base Building, it feels like now there's an awful lot of sand and very little box. 

As for Zoe and Grizz, having crossed them off my list I did some googling to see how other people were handling the fight. I saw plenty of guides and suggestions but none of them were even close to the way I did it. Everyone says to use Earth Pals and kite. Some of them recommend getting to Level 15 before even trying.

Lucky I didn't know about that strat before I went in. I'd probably still be in there now.

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