I want to talk about fighting. No funny animals. No testicular adornments. No Matt Berry impersonations. Just good old-fashioned murder.
I’ve been concerned for some time now that I’m no good at fighting. In fairness, I have slaughtered my way across three and a half islands full of assorted nasties, but a delicate ballet of swordplay it was not. I spent most of the time either rolling about the floor like a piratical woodlouse or desperately swigging grog to numb the pain of my many, many injuries. To have a fight in this world – presuming you’ve not specialised in guns or magic – involves the power of three.
Stab once, twice, thrice in quick, rhythmic fashion – with no wild sword-swinging either side of or in between that, and you’ll deal out successively more damage. Try to stab without this rhythm, or face an enemy that moves quicker than you do, and you’ll just get stabbed back.
Oh God, I don’t know. I’m trying to describe it but I have only partial mastery of it. That’s the problem. Usually I’m either frantically woodlousing out of range while waiting for my health to recover, or knocked on my bum by a foe that seems able to instantly interrupt my every attack. This is as true of a bloody chicken as it is a giant spider or a titanic Shadow Lord. I’ve killed a couple of Shadow Lords, but I still tend to get a hiding from chickens. I still have to down quantities of rum that even Hemingway would balk at to survive. The run would ease the pain. The rum will always ease the pain.
So, yes, I have a booze problem. In an average fight, I drink a bath tub’s worth of the stuff. I also depend on Bones’ sporadic voodoo healing powers. There has to be another way.
Clearly there is another way, but I mean one that doesn’t involve me spending all my gold Glory on improving sword skills and toughness. I need to spend it on lockpicking and pick-pocketing and lying and monkey-training. If only I could get my monkey involved, actually. It could steal my enemies’ swords from their hands, leaving me to give them a sound hiding. Oh, monkey. If only.
My swordfighting imposter syndrome is coming to a head because I’ve ventured into the heart of Shadow territory. This isn’t poultry-bothering anymore: this is serious fighting against serious enemies, with swords and spells and a bunch of well-hard mates waiting just around the corner. Whole lotta grog, in other words. Some of these things hit incredibly hard, or fire spells that immediately siphon half my blood. I’ll admit it: I’m scared. This is hardcore.
Bones is my salvation. Oh, did I mention I’d found him again? God only knows where the mad bastard had wandered up to, but when I went back to visit my ship he was hanging around like a half-naked Super Hans. He’s pretty handy with a sword, and seems to spend far less time on his arse than I do, but he does have a terrible habit of getting lost. I’m prone to taking shortcuts – climbing over rocks, jumping off precipices – but for all his swivel-eyed lunacy, Bones will always seek the long way round instead.
All too often, I’m engaged in pitched battle (by which I mean ‘two bats or chickens’, as any time I have to face more than one enemy on my own, I’m in a world of pain) on my own because he’s wandering cheerfully down the scenic route, and I’m praying for him to turn up and distract one of my attackers before it’s too late (i.e. before I’ve drunk all my rum).
Combat is stressful and messy, basically. It’s more of a rolling bar fight than a heroic crusade. I enjoy the desperation and uncertainty of it to some degree, and feel proud when I emerge alive from a fight that almost certainly should have killed me. Still, I’m haunted by the fear that I’m doing it wrong. As a professional
games journalist pirate adventurer, surely that could never be the case? Surely?
I hope to redress the balance by learning some spells. I’m currently on Magic Island, but the mages won’t even talk to me until I’ve killed the local Shadow Lord. Fortunately, and improbably, I have now killed the local Shadow Lord, and only I had to drink enough rum to fuel the Cuban economy for a decade to do it. Those beardy buggers had damned well better be up for a chat now.
Oh, also I encountered an NPC called Walker who was being harassed by goblins. Sounds like a metaphor for something. I just can’t put my finger on what.