The Warrior and the Stranger
Libertas begins with a cinematic from above. My ragged character, a few other people, and three horse-drawn wagons traveling down a dirt road that weaves through grassy hills. I assume I’m guarding the caravan, as the game doesn’t force feed new players any unnecessary backstory. What you become in Libertas is what the developers want you to focus on.
Soon, the Yishi come bounding down a hill top from the West, swords and bows shaking in their clawed hands as they screech. I watch the carnage unfold. Men sprout arrows from their chest, and I take a blow to the head, unable to take control of myself in the cut-scene. I lose every time, and the Yishi’s take me hostage. My vision fades to black, then my view returns to the point of view of my own body again. I’m pulled across the plains in the back of the wagon as my vision flickers in and out as if to simulate fleeting consciousness. And finally, I wake up in a cavern, the clanging sound of the steel gate shutting behind me.
I’m greeted by the familiar old natural stone cell walls. The light misting of red splotches of blood tells me the Yishi are either into impressionism painting or someone died here. Moldy straw and loose stones are sprinkled about the floor.
I walk to the corner and kick over a few rocks to find my ticket out of here.
Someone has filed this bone to a point. Perhaps you could use it to escape.
Before I use it to open the cell door, I take one last look at my equipment in my inventory.
(LV. 1) Stinky Leather Helm: +1 ARM
(LV. 1) Tattered Tunic: +1 ARM
(LV. 1) Soiled Breeches: +1 ARM
(Lv. 1) Sack-cloth Shoes: +1 ARM
(LV. 1) Rusty Short Sword: +1 DMG
(LV. 1) Dented Buckler: +1 ARM
Inserting the bone pick into the cell lock pops the door ajar without much resistance. It slowly creaks open without me touching it, and just before I take a step outside towards the torches down the tunnel, I hear a strange humming noise coming from behind me that grows into a sound like the buzzing of a hundred bees.
I’m taken by surprise when, from head to toe, a woman materialize in front of me. Her hair is black and her eyes such a deep purple I’m reminded of an amethyst. The edges of her grey robes are burned and fraying holes reveal her knees, while the pendant at her neck is made from strands of dried grass tied into a loop.
She doesn’t even seem to notice me as she focuses somewhere ahead of her. I assume she’s looking at her inventory. With a bit of focus, her statistics appear in front of my eyes.
LV. 1 Summoner
(LV. 1) Burned Robes: +1 MR
(LV. 1) Tattered Sandals: +1 ARM
(LV. 1) Handwoven Ward: +1 MR
(LV. 1) Cracked Seeing Orb: +3 DAM
Holy crap! And I thought the Ranger had low HP. I suppose it’s because her fortitude is so low, but what’s even more interesting is how her statistics increase by ten points right in front of my eyes. Her intelligence and her wisdom stop at 25, while her fortitude goes up by two.
“Hey,” I say, stepping forward. “How are you doing that?”
She twitches in a jolt of surprise, her violet eyes settling on me in shock. Apparently she really didn’t notice me standing just outside the jail cell. Quickly, she regains her composure, and I can’t help but feel slightly unsettled under her piercing gaze. “Doing what?” she asks.
“Making your statistics go up.”
Her eyes widen. A small smirk lifts a corner of her mouth. “You don’t know how to spend your attribute points? You start off with some to spend.”
“Oh,” I say as I look away, feeling stupid and feeble already. “I didn’t know that.”
She puts her hands to her sides and shifts her weight onto one leg. “Well, you start off with two points. One is from being level 1 in your class, and the second is earned because you’re in your first two hours of playtime. Once you hit the next two hours you gain another point, even if you haven’t leveled your character through combat. The ideas is that it’s hard to stay alive in Libertas, so the longer you survive the more points you get and the stronger your character is. Something tells me you already know that guild-less death means re-incarnation.” A full-on grin stretches across her face.
I nod, feeling my cheeks flush. I can’t tell if she’s looking condescending or not, but it’s nice to finally get some answers. “And what does that roman numeral two next to your name mean?”
“This my second play through. I reached level 50 and decided to re-incarnate. Cheeses, are you new to Libertas or what?”
I scratch my neck. “Well, yeah, I’m new, but why would you want to start over? It seems like a waste.”
I can tell I’m testing her patience, as she’s barely able to restrain herself from rolling her eyes. “Because every time you hit fifty and re-incarnate you start a new cycle and get to roll 10 of your ability points over into your next character. The players that are really, really good are on their fifth or sixth play-through, so they start out with a huge advantage. Libertas is all about the slow climb, but when you get around a few times nothing can stop you.”
Trying to make a joke, I say, “This is actually my fourth time in the tutorial. So you could say I’m clearly something of an expert.” I immediately regret the words that came out of my mouth and cringe, preparing for some kind of punishment. The part of my brain that processes thoughts into audible words is broken and has a tendency of embarrassing me.
Rin laughs, shakes her head, and sighs. She starts to walk past me into into the tunnel and says, “Well, I’m at a bit of a hurry. So no time to train you up greeny.”She pauses for a moment, then turns back to face me with narrow eyes. “You know what? You can help me get out of here, but I’m not going to carry you through it. Don’t slow me down. I have to get to Cutter’s Clearing, and then Birch Castle as soon as I can.”
Rin focuses in front of her and her eyes light up she pulls up her HUD. After a few pokes in the air, a picture of a letter appears in the bottom left corner of my vision. I poke it.
HP = CL +9 x (0.6 FORT)
Damage = CL + STR + Weapon Mod + Status/Weakness - Armor
Armor = (.4 ARM Mod) + (.4 DEX)
Magic Resistance = (.2 MR Mod) + (.1 WIS x .1 INT)
Speed = 20% DEX
“Those are the main formulas for the warrior class,” she says. “It would do you well to save those for later and try to learn something from them. Half of this game is trying to manipulate the systems in it, but we don’t have the time for that right now. I’m leaving.” She turns away, heading down the tunnel at a break-neck pace and leaving me in the dust.
Even though I don’t know much about her, and maybe I shouldn’t be making this assumption so soon after meeting her, but it seems to me that Rin is a bit prissy. Maybe rude, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now. She said she was in a hurry, and it’s clear she wasn’t joking. I only hope she’ll be able to get me out of here.
Without much of a choice, I follow her and the trail of scattered torches down the weaving tunnel. The first chamber opens up into a big room full of spires of stone, both from the ceiling and the ground. Some of them even connect, making a giant natural hour-glass shape.A small ravine that’s maybe twenty feet deep cuts the room and half. There are rat-people staged on the other side, and a few more that weave up and down the paths in the side of the mini-canyon like robots with predictable paths.
Even though I know they can’t see perfectly in the dark, they have still caught me every single time I try to get across the makeshift bridge of rotting lumber, so I’m curious what Rin will do. She takes almost the exact opposite approach as I did and heads for the left cavern wall. We brace our backs against the wet stone, and shimmy our way until we’re over the ravine that closes off into a tunnel beneath us. She waits for a Yishi below us to pass, then drops into the chasm.
I want to shout out and ask her what she’s doing, but I can’t give up our stealth, so I assume we can make it and jump down after her. The stone floor rushes up to me and I land with bent knees, filling my legs with a bit of numbness, but the fall doesn’t take any of my HP. Behind the Yishi’s backs, we weave between barrels and boulders, managing to sneak past them without any setbacks. When it feels like we are a safe distance away, I put a hand on Rin’s shoulder. “How did you know we could make it past all them?”
She puts her finger on her lips to quiet me. “I’ve done this before, remember? Besides, there’s more than one way out of here. But in this next room we will have to fight. There’s no way around it.”
I nod, trying to seem more okay with it than I really am. I guess this will be a good chance to try out my sword. Excitement starts to grip me.
We follow the tunnel for a few more minutes until it opens into another large chamber. An underwater stream trickles down the middle of the field of rock formations, and I realize that I’ve been in this room before. In fact, just to the right of me is the exit of a tunnel I died at once. This place is a maze.
Rin points across the room at the tunnel opening that’s surrounded by Yishi and torches. “That tunnel leads to the surface. There’s only two of them, but you’ll have to take the lead and keep their attention focused on you. I can’t take many hits with my 36 HP, so if you haven’t already, spend your points on fortitude. And keep your voice down until we’re engaged, we want to start the fight on our terms, not theirs.”
“Okay,” I say at a whisper as I bring up my statistics page. Next to my class, I can see a “(+2)” and realize that must identify my two points to spend. I dump them into fortitude, like Rin suggested, and watch my HP jump up.
“Wow,” I say out loud. “That helps. I have almost twice as much as I did with the Ranger.”
Rin tenses in frustration like she’s about to hit me, fists balled. “I told you to keep it down. Now, get in front and go engage those Yishi.”
I raise my hands and apologize. She’s doing me a huge favor by helping me get through this, so I need to pay attention and listen to everything she says. I don’t know how anyone could do this by them self or without previous experience. But I do as Rin says and draw my sword before taking off at a light jog, eyes locked onto the closest monster.
(LV. 1) Yishi Sentry
These stinky creatures are a little meatier than their nest-mates. Mmmm.
By the time I jump over the stepping stones in the stream, I’m already feeling a bit of fatigue in my legs, and I think about how crazy realistic it is, and how well this game simulates physical activity.
When we reach the outer edge of the torch light, I pause and consider asking Rin how I should go about engaging them, but I’m afraid I’ll irritate her further and decide to just wing it. I take a few deep breaths to pump myself up and go for it, yelling as I charge.
The Yishis’ gaze darts up towards me and they make squeaking noises as they draw their weapons. But before I can even get in striking range, a pulsating red ball of light whizzes past me and crashes into its chest.
Rin hits the Yishi Sentry for 15 damage!
The rat’s health bar appears above its head, and I watch it drop to 50% in that one blow. Invigorated, I step up in front of the one that Rin hit and swing my sword at it. While at first it’s strange to feel resistance against my sword arm, I follow through and a red gash appears across its chest.
You hit the Yishi Sentry for 11 damage!
Wow. Right off the bat Rin is dealing more damage than I am. I figure it must have to do with the extra ability points she says she rolled over from her character’s previous life. Before I mull over it too much, the Yishi lets out a screech and charges me. Its upper and lower incisors chatter in anger as its sword whistles in the air, but I raise my left hand and manage to deflect it with my buckler. Vibration and a dull ache shoots up my arm, but my HP stays the same. The rat wastes no time at swinging for me again. This time, I’m not so lucky, and the creature slashes my sword arm.
The Yishi Sentry hits you for 9 damage! 99/108 HP remaining!
Oof. It hurts, but I’m nowhere near out of the game yet! I retaliate with another slash across the rat creature’s chest and a message appears on my HUD as it falls to the ground.
You hit the Yishi Sentry for 12 damage!
You have defeated the Yishi Sentry and gained 250 experience points!
You find 7 gold!
I want to jump up and cheer, but a sharp pain erupting in my side makes me groan instead. Twisting my body, I can see an arrow is sticking out of my me.
The Yishi Scavenger hits you for 11 damage! 88/108 HP remaining!
I curse, then shift on my feet and make a run for cover behind a boulder. The last rat has put some distance between us, and I can’t tell where it is shooting from in the darkness of the cave so close to the torch. Rin dashes over to me. “What are you doing?” she asks. “Go get it before it calls in reinforcements!”
“I-I don’t know where it is!” I say, panting.
She shoves me. “Then go find it! I don’t want to deal with more of them. You still have more than double my HP. You’ll be fine. Trust me.”
Something about her pushing me out into the open irritates me, and I wonder if she’s just going to try to make a break for the surface and leave me to keep the rat-folk busy. I can tell by the hard-ass look on her face that she’s not here to have fun. She plays this game for the rush of it. The realness of it. To master and command it. Maybe she even takes it just as seriously as her real life. Something tells me she’s not one to walk away from a fight.
All I can do is nod and head out into the darkness. Weaving side to side as I search, I flinch when arrows strike the stones next to me and use my hearing to locate the creature huddled against the wall of the cavern. It hisses at me and tosses its bow to the side, drawing the dagger at its belt.
(LV. 1) Yishi Scavenger
Scrappy little critters with greedy paws.
“Found it!” I yell. I rush towards it, sword arm swinging hard and fast. All I want is to finish this last creature and get out of this damned cave, so taking it out as quickly as possible sounds like the right plan, but not before it manages a quick slice on my arm.
You hit the Yishi Scavenger for 12 Damage!
The Yishi Scavenger hits you for 7 Damage! 81/108 HP remaining!
A red bolt flies out of nowhere, slamming the rat in the side of its head and toppling it over.
Rin hits the Yishi Scavenger for 16 Damage!
Rin has defeated the Yishi Scavenger! You gained 250 experience points!
You find 13 gold!
I glance at Rin, who only nods at me then turns towards the tunnel I assume is the exit. Without another word, I follow her into the tunnel. The ground angles upward, and we don’t run into any more of the Yishi, thankfully. Before too long, I step out of the mouth of the cave and sunlight cascades down upon me. It takes my eyes a second or two to adjust to the surface, but when things come clear, I see that we’re standing on the edge of a forest and grassy plains stretch out before me. It looks like it’s in the middle of the morning, or the afternoon. I hear instrumental music play in my ears and:
You complete the quest “Escape!” Reward: 500 experience points!
Congratulations! You have reached level 2! 1 attribute point has been added to your pool!
“Hey,” I say, smiling. “I leveled!”
Rin shrugs it off. “You’ve got a lot more to go.”
Suddenly, I feel dejected, like the progress I’ve made isn’t squat, and Rin must see it. She rubs her arms and says, “Look, I’m sorry if it seems like I was—am—a jerk, but I’ve got a lot to do, very little patience, and you are greener than a pit viper.”
“It’s whatever,” I lie, feigning forgiveness. “I’m just glad to be out of there.”
She looks me over once. “If you’d like, you can tag along to Cutter’s Cry with me. It’s a small settlement about a half a days walk south from here. Then you can decide what you want to do next.”
I wonder if I really want to associate with this girl. She did insult me, make me upset, shove me, even, but it’s also not like I have anywhere else to go. I don’t know anyone else to ‘play’ with, so I consider it for a minute longer before saying, “Sure.”