Minecraft (Hexxit) – The Curse of the Albatross – Chapter 1

The last thing I clearly remember was the dead bird in my hands and the salt-sea smell of its blood.

I know, with a certainty, that I shot it.

I do not know how much time passed.

I think I recall the vengeful shriek (of its mother? Or was it something else?) as giant talons closed around me and all consciousness was lost in a rush of cold wind and vertigo.

I don’t remember my name or where I was.

I wake up in a field.

1-waking

I could have sworn I saw the shadow of giant wings fly through that distant pass, just before I fully awoke.

Somehow, I know that I have to follow it. Find it.

What happens after, I don’t know.

Am I hunting it or seeking forgiveness?

I don’t remember.

But I do know I can’t climb up to and hope to survive through that pass without tools and without being prepared for anything.

I turn around to get my bearings and nearly jump out of my skin.

2-strangehouse

A strange house is behind me.

Who lives here? Did I know this place once upon a time?

“Hello?” I call out, as I cautiously creep through the front door, almost expecting some manner of enchantment to befall me – a wizard or a witch who hates visitors to their abode, or for the entire house to be a trap.

3-groundfloor

I pick up a fallen torch and hold it up carefully.

There’s nothing on the ground floor, except for what looks to be some stabling.

4-secondfloor

The second floor is equally deserted.

I could shelter here, I think, assuming nothing strange happens in the middle of the night.

It’s not looking like I have too many options regardless, given the position of the sun and my pressing need for tools over building a temporary shelter.

5-alligator

While out gathering wood to work on a workbench, I come across a potentially dangerous animal and pause, caught in a dilemma.

Killing an albatross (I think) is what got me into this situation in the first place. Do I let it go on its way?

Then again, it’s an alligator, in the river right next to where I’m about to hole up for the night, and it probably has no qualms about eating me when it’s hungry.

I’m already here. It’s not like things could get any worse.

I swiftly set down my workbench and put together a wooden sword, not much more than a club, really. It was already hurt, I may as well put it out of its misery.

I strip the corpse of some meat and scales.

6-sunset

Before long, it’s sunset, and I return to the house with a haul of wood and some coconuts.

It takes me a while to figure out how to hack them open.

I start work on a tool crafting area, chopping wood planks to build work tables for parts and patterns, and whittling them down further into more refined tools.

tinkerconstruct

In the middle of the night, an insistent screeching from the window makes me look up, right into the beady red eyes of a giant black spider scrabbling away at the walls, trying to get in.

It can’t fit, but I don’t want it hovering around outside making that racket. I grab my new wooden broadsword and pound down the stairs to kill it.

Just as I’m cleaning spider ichor from my new blade and turning back inside, I freeze.

7-eyesinthedarkafterspider

In the distance, I think I see strange glowing purple eyes.

Then they’re gone.

The next two days pass by uneventfully.

I explore and get my bearings a little more.

I gather what I can from the land around.

8-thegap

I get a closer look at the gap I plan to cross, and decide I definitely need to be better equipped.

I attempt exploration of a nearby cave to find that it extends deep into the earth. It’s rich with ores, though.

On the third day, I realize that I am hungry.

That there is a gnawing pit of starvation in my stomach that cannot be sated, no matter what I eat.

The coconut meat is tasteless. The scraps of alligator meat are like cardboard. The barley bread I tried to bake feel like rocks in my belly.

There is a sense of overwhelming wrongness and a strange foreboding.

9-starvation

It’s night now, and I’m feeling weaker than before.

There’s nothing left to eat. The rest of my crops haven’t grown yet.

I hear the moan of a zombie at the door, and I think, what the hell, it’s not going to get an easy meal. I have the strength for one last fight.

I grab my sword.

It is a tense battle, me keenly aware that one good hit would end me.

I kill it.

Panting, trying to catch my breath and not faint from the overwhelming hunger, I almost can’t believe my fortune.

The sun is rising…

Then its brother comes around the corner.

10-zombie

Death is incredibly painful, but it’s a short, sharp, intense burst.

Mercifully, before the zombie starts chewing, I black out…

…and then I wake up.

11-waking

What the-?

WHY AM I NOT DEAD?

It’s not until I stagger over to the lake and look down at my reflection, that I realize there is indeed an albatross’ curse.

12-whatami

I have to cross that gap.

The days blur together as I try to get supplied up for the journey.

One night frightened me though.

I arrived home to find a visitor.

13-visitor

It looked at me and said nothing.

I looked at it, sword raised defensively, and we froze in a terrible tableau of locked stares.

It screamed. A silent awful scream. There was no sound, but it was the scream of a damned soul.

Shaken, I looked away.

Then it vanished.

Sword at the ready, I raced all around the house to find no trace of it.

14-nothingintherain

I dashed outside, ignoring the rain coming down in sheets, to circle the house, all the while expecting an attack from behind.

It was gone.

I don’t know what in the world it was.

Did it come in to shelter itself from the rain?

Was it the original occupant of the house?

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

A hopeful sign today.

14-albatross-small

I saw a small albatross.

Certainly not as big as the one that grabbed me.

And smaller too than the one I shot.

I didn’t shoot this one, of course.

I followed it at a respectful distance until it flew off towards the horizon.

15-lastdirection

It headed a little left of the gap that I was planning to cross.

At least I know where I need to be going now.

(The recent spurt of Everquest Next Landmark blogger posts have left me with a curious longing for a good, creative sandbox world where I can have a real adventure AND build stuff.

Except that I don’t pay for stuff in alpha, and tales of people grinding to unlock tools and asking for refunds as they run out of stuff to do/see while everything is temporary have only solidified my decision to check it out only when it’s in a more finished state.

Vanilla Minecraft though has always had a boring sort of narrative to my unimaginative self. Appear somewhere, hide from zombies, tech up, make farms, aim to become more self-sustaining, mine for ages looking for ore to get to the next tier, figure out what to do with the immense amounts of cobblestone generated in the meantime, eventually find diamonds, make a Nether portal, and get bored somewhere in the midst of exploring the Nether and never get to The End.

I tried a few custom survival maps – getting shipwrecked and have to survive on an island, etc. and while they started off fun, things always got boring once I got food sources stabilized and ended up in the endless mineshafts looking for ore routine. Custom building objectives don’t really cut it for me, since I mostly build square and rectangular basic objects and get baffled by instructions like build a two-story house, or anything more complex than that.

I’ve always wanted to try the industrial Tekkit/Technic packs, but so far have wussed out at the thought of having to learn additional sci-fi or automated machine complexity.

Surfing around their website though, revealed the Hexxit pack, which sounded like a more interesting fantasy adventure variant of Minecraft and slightly more manageable to learn.

Well, not really, but damn, is it fun.

I’m not sure how I’ve gotten along this far without being able to cut down trees at their base (TreeCapitator), or with a really neat map (Map Writer.)

The biomes seem quite a bit more varied, and there’s a ton more items and objects that smooth out some of the kinks of Vanilla Minecraft. Cotton as a source of string, fer example, or a use for zombie flesh by being able to convert it into leather.

Re-watching Pirates of the Carribean sealed the deal by giving me an idea for a roleplaying narrative that both made sense and should help smooth over some of the places where I tend to get bored – namely, being obsessively careful about not starving and not dying and ending up camping in one spot indefinitely, being safe as doornails.

An undead curse means that one can die and always come back to life.

I don’t have to worry about being forever self-sustaining with food, because hey, undead curse, suffering and starving is part of the deal.

A Wandering Jew sort of trope will hopefully get me to hoof it more across the world, rather than being very satisfied and comfortable where I am, thank ye.

And doubly hopefully, Hexxit will provide enough of an -interesting- world to explore, over plain ol’ Vanilla.

If anyone is interested in their own attempt, feel free to download Hexxit.

You can probably even recreate my map by using the same seed – which, unimaginatively enough, is “The Curse of the Albatross” without the quotes.)

Where I Attain the Opportunity to Demonstrate Immoderate Verbosity (Bookworm Adventures Deluxe)

This was the game that sat on my shoulder like a devilish imp, prompting me to finally pick up the entire Popcap bundle during a seasonal sale, despite already having played Plants Vs Zombies, the main popular anchor of a pack stuffed with a lot of other cheaper, cheesier, mainstream-y casual games.

After playing the demo, I just couldn’t get over how goddamn FUN it was.

And how much I wanted to keep playing until I completed the game.

In Bookworm Adventures Deluxe, you guide the main protagonist Lex the Bookworm on his epic quest to save the day and rescue the girl.

If you can get over the cartoony graphics and initial cheesiness, you’ll find that they hide a pretty exciting hybrid between an RPG and Boggle.

Yes, all game mechanics become more fun when we put an RPG wrapper around it. (We can talk about Puzzle Quest (bejeweled+RPG) and Defenders Quest (tower defence+RPG) another time, cos I have those games too.)

It’s crazy, but it works. You make words out of the letters on the grid given to you, and the longer your word, the more damage your excessive grandiloquence does to your opponent.

Given how fond I am of playing with vocabulary, this is a match made in heaven.

And the game is anything but easy.

It starts off simple, and you can get away with making three or four letter words to swiftly beat up the initial opponents, who clock in at about 3-4 hearts. In the earlier chapters, your amusement may derive more from seeing what non-kid-like words the game’s dictionary will let you get away with.

No, the F word doesn’t work. Oh well. Sex does!

Or how long a word you can spell.

Or how ironically appropriate the word is.

Then the complexity ramps up. You win treasures that act as weapons and armor, each with their own altering mechanic. The Bow of Zyx above gives bonus damage to words using the letters X, Y and Z. A Hammer of Hephaestus obtained in a much later chapter ramps up your damage, especially if you spell metal-related words, such as iron, bronze, melt, etc.

Some equipment offers you partial or full protection from special attacks that the more advanced monsters do, such as stunning you for a turn or three while they get free attacks on you, or adding poison or debuffing your strength and so on.

(Really, we’re spelling words here, what is this talk about debuffs and status effects! That’s the RPG component at work…)

You’re limited to bringing only three treasures with you, so choose wisely for what you’ll face. Helpfully, the game will tell you beforehand what special attacks the next chapter’s enemies are fond of using, so it does involve strategy, rather than boiling down to a trial-and-error guessing game.

And yes, there are Boss Battles at the end of every chapter.

Before long, the amount of hearts the enemies have is… staggering, to say the least.

Though it doesn’t stop me from… see above.

Some monsters have the ability to destroy tiles for several turns, making them useless in terms of contributing damage. You can choose to use them up quickly and cycle in new tiles, or just leave them be and work around them. Later, enemies may even Infect certain tiles, and those can spread to adjacent tiles, encouraging the strategy of using them up as quickly as possible.

And then you get the Gem Tiles. By spelling longer words of five letters or more, you get bonus gemmed letter tiles that, when used, give -your- attacks special status effects, such as freezing the enemy for a turn, or adding poison, or debuffing the amount of damage the enemy does (very important!), in addition to buffing your total damage.

Adding to the increased sophistication is the special three-letter word immunity certain bosses sport. Yep, those simple words don’t work no more. No more “Yes” “Sit” Bat” and so on. Four or more letters to do damage, and frankly, if you stick to four letters, you’ll probably get very beat up and use lots of healing potions in the process.

Death is not excessively punishing. You lose all your accumulated potions. If you want more, then you play a few minigames that may win you some bonus potions. And you continue from where you left off.

The setting for the first book was well-chosen, the trials of Ancient Greece, so you face fairly recognizable enemies and tropes (like venturing to the Underworld, a seven-headed hydra, etc.) Being a wordy sort of game, you may also stumbled across sly puns and a easter egg or two.

*cough* *cough* If you can’t recognize the reference, we must really talk about Interactive Fiction in subsequent posts in the future. (Prolixity on purpose.)

The final boss at the end of chapter 10 is no pushover. She was the cause of my first death, and the amount of hearts she has… well, it SCROLLS down as you go through the rows and rows.

I wanted to ask if she was “jilted” but I lacked an E. Close enough. She didn’t take kindly to the inquiry.

All the previously mentioned mechanics are in full play here. You can see the status effects on both of us. The first green tile is a gem that heals me for two hearts when used. The second is an infected tile I was getting rid of as soon as possible. Using the letter Y boosts my damage, thanks to the bow I’m carrying. Look at the amount of specials she has, sheesh.

Challenge level: Not exactly a kid’s game. A smart, brainy one, maybe.

Lemme tell you, any kid who plays this game, I will have tremendous respect for. It is fiendish in how hard it pushes your vocabulary to the limit.

The ten chapters took me a Herculean three hours of rewardingly fun mental effort in a marathon sitting, and I was all ready to claim the girl as my prize after whomping Medusa.

… And then they tell me, you’re only -just- done with Book 1.

There is a Book 2. (No, no, not the sequel Bookworm Adventures Deluxe 2, though there is one. But as in, in this singular game, Bookworm Adventures Deluxe, there is not just ten chapters of Book 1, there is also a Book 2, and presumably ten more chapters?!)

And I checked the main title screen and sure enough, some other feature only unlocks after you’ve completed Book 3.

TWO MORE BOOKS in this one game? Are you telling me it gets EVEN harder from here on up? And that I have another SIX hours to go?

I decidedly to mercifully end the marathon before my back killed me, but wow, I was impressed. It’s going to last me some time yet.

Book 2: Arabian Nights, here we come.