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MotW: In-Depth Playthrough

  • Volrath
  • 06/05/2015 03:50 PM
Hey all,

Not much to report on the MotW Remake at this point. I still think about it quite often but we've both been fairly busy with our "real jobs" and we're waiting on certain tools before we start for realz. In the meantime, Super Solest fan NeverSilent has started a playthrough of the original game while taking detailed notes.

We started this already, but since the Solest forums have been retired, I decided we should continue it here. He'll be along to post his impressions after a session of the game and anyone who wants to weigh in can join us in the comments for this blog entry.

Peace bros!


Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
That Torin battler is pretty great, but it doesn't seem to match the character presented in the game that well. He looks a little psychotic, while I remember Torin being kind of meek and nebbishy.

I have to admit it took me a few seconds to remember who Torin was though.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
I had not planned to take this long until continuing this playthrough. Sorry for that. At least, I made some good progress and finished up the Monastery.

Sacred River Monastery, Part 3:
- Unlike some of the quizzes in other parts of the game, this test in the history class at least makes logical sense. In addition, answering the question correctly gives the player an advantage, but is not required to continue the game, which is a plus. You picked up this strategy of optional quizzes again in Guardia, which I think is generally a good way to go about it. That's not to say having to apply knowledge of lore in dungeons etc. is a bad think, but it can be done in ways other than quizzes. For example, those poems you have to finish in the Tower of the Sun feel rather out of place, no matter how well they work from a gameplay perspective.
- The dramatic irony during this training sequence with Evrind is almost tangible. I've always really liked how you handled his characterisation and development throughout the story. Again, I just wish you had made this training scene playable.
- Is there any good reason why Kovak chose to have Sparrow eliminate Torin instead of help him escape from the prison? I don't exactly remember what the reasoning behind that move was.
- You mentioned earlier that Barry wasn't fully aware of how far Kovak is willing to go for the sake of maintaining his business. But I think that after this scene at the latest, he should have started asking himself some questions. The fact that he stays in the room during this scene, and just accepts that his boss apparently has given orders to have someone murdered, strongly suggests that Barry has fully adopted Kovak's ruthless world views by now, which makes his later turnaround seem rather unlikely.
- I really like how the "history lesson" in Zala's house manages to inform the player about background lore while at the same time foreshadowing and explaining things that will become relevant later. Also, I would absolutely read a history book written by Stoic.
- How is it possible that Stoic and Baron did not notice Evrind enter the Tower of the Sun even though they were both keeping watch the entire time? Had he been waiting inside there for this whole time, or how else would that work?
- After all those story sections in the monastery, this action sequence against Sparrow is a very welcome change of pace. It really brings the suspense up, and reminds players how high the stakes are, especially in the face of the danger of losing all previously made progress.
- It's very ironic to see how Sparrow displays this fatalistic philosophy towards Equipment King and the way reality supposedly works, only to then brag about his own abilities and claim that "anything can be done." The disconnect between those attitudes is striking, even though Sparrow obviously managed to convince himself he is not doing anything wrong.
- It would be nice if Shroud's newly acquired Counter Attack skill were more useful in this fight against Sparrow. Unfortunately, his numerous magical attacks and Vanish ability kind of undermine it.
- I think it's a bit silly how Cade is saved by a conveniently placed ledge after this cutscene. You could just have him drop into a lake, a bush or tree, onto a larger platform or something similar.
- All in all, I still think this is one of the parts of the game that really shows the strength of the game's writing and is composed very well from a storytelling perspective. Unfortunately, it falls a bit flat on the gameplay side, and while that is not such a huge problem at this advanced stage in the game, I think there are enough opportunities where you could involve the player even more by letting them do more things actively themselves.

Boreal is waiting, and we will soon be able to welcome a new ally in our team. Also, we're getting closer to one of my favourite dungeons in the entire game. I'm looking forward to it!
I found the Sacred River Monastery interesting, but oddly paced. It takes up so much time I consider it a dungeon itself.

However, the boss fight in-between the school segments was done really well, I really love the music choice for it (No Education), and how they used it for other boss fights against high-ranking members of the hand. Too bad we can't hear it in the remake.
Man I haven't heard that song in years. Thanks for reminding me seacliff.

Good observations NS. While a lot of ppl enjoy that section of the game for the characterization of Cade, Gabriell and Evrind and expansion of the lore I think it goes on for too long. It almost feels like you're playing a different game at that point. It was hard to work gameplay sections into that area although you had some good ideas.

I also like the Boreal section and think it's much better paced. The Ice Temple was a fun dungeon to make.
The Monastery could have supported its own game and indeed a variation on the concept was the premise of Legacy...a game I still hope to make someday although who the hell knows when. Thoughts on more specific points:

-I believe Kovak's rationale was that if Torin escaped, the guards would be searching for him and would be compelled to investigate the arson incident further, which could potentially be traced back to Kovak. Killing him means that even though there are questions about his death, the case of the arson is basically closed.
-I actually forgot Barry was in that scene. I'm not sure he even has any lines. He probably should have been kept out of that discussion.
-Sparrow (and the person under the hood) are very pessimistic about the possibility of meaningful change in the world (this actually provides a clue to Sparrow's identity if you pay attention to a conversation in Arc IV). When it comes to Sparrow's own abilities, however, that's a different matter.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Hey everyone. I'm sorry I still haven't posted the next installment of this playthrough. Truth is, I started up the game multiple times and tried to continue, but every time I was just completely unable to concentrate on it and couldn't think of anything interesting to say. So instead of just trying to push through it without actually enjoying it or even knowing what I'm doing and starting to write up utter nonsense, I'd rather take a short break until I recover from this writer's block. I hope that next week I'll be good to go again. Again, I apologize for the delay and hope you're not too disappointed.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
The combined power of illness and an overload of university work forced me to take a much longer break than I had originally anticipated. But now I'm back! Let's not waste any more time and jump right back into it.

Back to Port Arianna:
- I'm slightly irritated by the vague manner in which Stoic keeps talking about Boreal: He never explicitly mentions who or what is there that could help the heroes until they arrive, and even when talking to Zala he never refers to Dasani and Lily by their names. It's not wrong to try and keep information hidden from the player to make them curious or create suspense, but the way it's done here is just too obvious and unrealistic, even when taking Stoic's backstory into account.
- The boss battle against Evrind is good, but it also feels a bit anticlimactic considering how much weight this clash has in the light of everything that happened previously. Evrind's Counter-Attack skill forces the player to try some unusual strategies, but other than that the fight doesn't bring anything new to the table. The two bodyguards are not very interesting enemies and their most significant role seems to be as meatshields and healers, while most of Evrind's own skills just seem to deal damage. Don't get me wrong, the battle isn't bad, but I think it would be better if Evrind's dynamic fighting style we've seen earlier in the monastery were more visible and effective.
- Also, I wonder how Ketsu manages to find Evrind lying there somewhere on the road. Is this a coincidence or has he been following the events from a distance for some reason?
- The character dynamics during the interactions between Solik and Ketsu is fantastic. Seeing these two people work together despite the fact that they have almost directly opposite ideologies creates some really strong tension (and produces memorable quotes like this).
- It's interesting that the player is first introduced to the concept of psychic/telepathic abilities through Cari rather than Laurel. It immediately emphasises the more creepy aspects of this type of magic, which will later be found to not be absent in Laurel's case either.
- I like how sometimes, Cade goes a little far with his ideas of justice, such as in this scene. It shows well that at this point, his agenda is not always as idealistic as he likes to believe.
- I still wonder how an intellectual like Pilc came to join the Toutens. Did people elsewhere not take him seriously because he is not human? This could make for a really interesting story, now that I think about it.

- Boreal is a fantastic town with great NPCs and all its little hidden secrets (and thankfully it is much less huge now than in Stoic's time). I used to feel like exploring the town dragged on for much too long. But replaying the game I realise now that this is not actually the case - in fact, Boreal is small compared to most other towns - and that it's probably the long way around outside the walls that gave me this impression. The unfortunate fact that I don't like the slow and melancholic sound of the music in Boreal must have contributed to this false idea as well.
- An actual problem of Boreal and all other snow-covered maps is that it makes the white text in the (semi-transparent) dialogue boxes hard to read.
- On the right side of town, there is a secret area where Finley can duel another gunner, but the game doesn't explain how this minigame works or even what is about to happen. It's not hard to figure out, so it wouldn't be a real problem, but I remember that later in the game there are other opportunities to have a duel, and there you actually get a tutorial. I guess this duel in Boreal was added in at a later point, and you forgot to include the tutorial here? I do however like the fact that through duels like These as well as the confrontation with the Ember Mages, the player learns quickly that Finley is not the only gun user in the world, and that his weaponry isn't as exclusive as it appears to be at first.
- How did Grinfrak manage to get to Boreal anyway? With his temper, I'd be surprised if any ship had taken him on. Or is there a way over land too?
- The battle against Grinfrak is actually surprisingly fun, considering he's not a very complicated enemy to fight. Having a big hulking opponent who is simply very tough and deals extremely high damage can apparently work very well as a concept, too. Shroud's Counter Attack is also quite useful here.
- Dasani might just be one of my favourite background characters in the whole game. Not just because of her opinions and actions, but also because of the way she is introduced and portrayed. If she had been an active character in the plot, just as in Clean Slate, she would probably have come across as too perfect or even "overpowered," but as a now dead historic figure she has a different but powerful effect on both characters and players. The distance created by the retrospection allows the image of Dasani to work as a symbol of Inspiration for other characters, but also leaves room for doubts and uncertainties, which become especially important after Ketsu's transformation. Still, the instances where she expresses her world views are, in my opinion, some of the most memorable pieces of dialogue in the entire story.
- I've always been a huge fan of the cinematic cutscenes in Master of the Wind, and this one about Cade and Auburn is among the best ones. Even if you end up cutting a lot of dialogue or making more of the (back)story optional, I hope you'll still manage to present the most important scenes in ways as well-composed as you do here, leaving a lasting impression on the player.

It's almost time for the Ice Dungeon!
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.

Confirmed: Cade is a socialist.
Cade is totally a BernieBro. Good thing he's not on Facebook, I already have enough of my friends turning that into the Sanders Campaign Headquarters. I mean, I'm probably gonna vote for the guy but jeez....anyway, back on topic.

-Ketsu was keeping an eye on Evrind ever since he arrived there following Dican's death.
-Solik was always one of the most fun characters to write. I kind of want him and Pilc to go on Jeopardy against one another.
-Grinfrak could probably keep his obnoxious behavior in check long enough to board a ship...maybe. And there actually is an underground tunnel that goes from Boreal to the mainland (it was used in Clean Slate).
-Thematically, Dasani is one of the most important characters, although for some people she doesn't seem to do enough to convince them that we're not just hating on religion blindly.
-That Cade and Auburn scene took a LONG time. Glad it holds up.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
I've got something cool for you!

The Ice Temple:
- I really like Laurel as an addition to the group, both in terms of story and gameplay. Her abilities as a telepath are the basis for all kinds of interesting and funny interactions, especially with Finley. In battle, she forms a great dynamic with Shroud, so that both of them can alternate between their roles as magical damage dealers and healers/supporters depending on the situation. I do however think that Laurel's mind-reading should also be reflected much more prominently in her combat abilities, since it is such an important part of her personality. Also, unlike in Finley's case, the player doesn't get to learn much about her character before she joins the group, which makes it harder to empathise with her at this stage of the game. Just a little more exposition would already help a lot. For example, she could be accompanying Lily when she talks to Stoic at Dasani's grave, or play a larger role in protecting Boreal from Grinfrak or the Ember Mages.
- I always wondered what this sparkling area in the middle of the icy cave was supposed to be, and kept trying to reach and interact with it. Apparently I have been conditioned by RPGs to subconsciously think anything conspicuous must automatically be relevant as well.
- I really like how even before entering the dungeon proper, there's already a puzzle and a hidden secret in that puzzle being presented to the player. It sets the tone for the whole dungeon without being too difficult an obstacle or too repetitive.
- I can absolutely share Laurel's enthusiasm about the Ice Temple. It's one of the most aesthetically pleasing areas in the game, has fantastic music and a strong theme. In fact, the structure of this dungeon immediately reminded me of the Legend of Zelda games when I first played it. I also really like the mirroring walls and how you used them as puzzle elements, although some more things could probably have been done with this. The downsides of the aesthetics of this dungeon are that, again, the light colours make white text hard to read, and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish objects and to see exactly how a room is laid out, particularly when it comes to differences in height.
- There's so many good puzzles in this place! Especially the one where you reflect the flames using the mirrors is one of my favourites. It is a little goofy how the flame patiently waits for the player to arrive when it moved to another map, though.
- I like the little Donkey Kong homage you set up here with the Yeti. It's a bit random, but as it's optional that is not a huge issue.
- It occured to me now that the left half of the Ice Temple is mostly centered around logic puzzles (except for the Yeti), while the right half focuses mainly on reflex-based gameplay. While I am happy with either of them, I think it would have improved the dungeon as a whole if the areas on the right offered a more varied experience. The only challenge not based on timing in this part is repeatedly falling through the ice at the right spots to get optional treasure. And since we've already seen this in Fort Drake before, that is not very exciting. The high encounter rate also really drags this part down.
- Taking the Bull Rush minigame to the next level here is a very nice idea. I especially like how his own success and Finley's praise afterwards make Stoic acknowledge the contributions of the Baron as well. It's not an essential scene, but it does show again that like Finley, Stoic is not entirely free of certain tendencies towards self-admiration either.
- Shroud just acquired his Harmattan Winds spell, which is probably one of his best combat abilities. Especially since Laurel has no way of healing multiple people at once yet, Shroud's group-affecting skills still make him invaluable as a non-offensive team member.
- Even after having completed it multiple times by now, I still thoroughly enjoy playing through the Ice Temple. I do think that in order to improve the experience, it will need some additional ontent, also in order to make up for the time currently consumed by the random encounters. In addition, a bit more could be done to present Laurel's personality to the player, although admittedly there's already a good amount of characterisation going on here. But as a whole, I think the Ice Temple is easily one of the best and most atmospheric dungeons in the entire game, and, with some improvements, it can serve as a role model for what a perfect version of Master of the Wind should play like.

Unfortunately, I won't be at home for most of what remains of December. Still, as soon as I'm back, I'm going to pick this playthrough right back up again. Until then!
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Happy New Year, bros! I'm back on track again.

I also saw the new Solest Website, and it looks pretty good already. Although I probably will occasionally miss the place where I originally adopted this nickname...

Anyway, back to Master of the Wind. What I managed to play actually wasn't such a large portion of the game this time, but apparently I just felt like I had a lot to say about it. Oh well.

The Frozen Volcano:
- Just as a general statement: I really like the concept of this particular setting, just because it's such a strange mix of the two opposing states of heat and cold. The almost absurd nature of this place alone makes it interesting already. I do think that a lot of original mechanics as well as some background info about the workings of the elements could find a place here when exploring the possibilities of the setting a little more thoroughly.
- At first I wanted to make a comment on how Laurel can't possibly inform the others that the Ember Mages's hideout is just a little further ahead, since she's never been to this place before. But then I remembered: Psychic. In a way, having someone like that in the party is very convenient from a storytelling perspective.
- It's a bit unfortunate that the main "gimmick" of the ice volcano is the shooting and jumping on the huge icicles. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun mechanic for a while and requires some thinking ahead when it comes to the larger icicles, but after a few times it becomes a little repetitive. And that would probably be especially true for players who aren't fond of or good at reflex-based minigames such as Finley's shooting. Some more variation in things to do in this area would do this part of the game good. Also, I never quite understood why the player has to shoot the ends of the icicles instead of the base, since the goal is to get them to fall off.
- What I find weird about the battles against the Ember Mages guarding the switches is not so much that their battler graphics don't match their character sprites - that's an understandable resource constraint. But before engaging them, on the map it looks like they are just one single person each, and heroes talk to them that way as well, but on the battle screen there suddenly are three of them for each fight. That just seems odd, especially since usually the amount of story-battle enemies match in and out of combat. In addition, for some reason the Ember Mages's normal attack animation suggests a punch, despite the fact that they are clearly carrying blades.
- I remember when the first time I saw the piece of dialogue that comes up when examining the knocked out Ember Mages, it blew my mind. Seeing characters make a joke relating to something that happened earlier during the game and then actually refer to it an inside joke in front of their companion who wasn't there at the time, that's something I haven't seen in a lot of games before. It's silly, maybe, but apart from the fact that it's really funny it also helps bring the game's world to life so much more by showing that the heroes themselves remember and think and talk about their previous adventures like real people could. Possibly one of my favourite non-essential pieces of dialogue in the whole game.
- I like the idea of Chard as being a sort of antithesis to the Baron in the morally dubious area. The tension between them is especially interesting as it gets Finley to think about the possible consequences of the misuse of the guns he loves so much. Although Chard does reappear later, and in a very significant way too, I think that giving him a little more screentime for characterisation at this point would enhance the impression, though.

Auburn and the Broken Bridge:
- Let me start off by saying that purely from a gameplay perspective, I very much like this puzzle section. It's a fun spin on the block pushing puzzle formula, and provides an opportunity to get Auburn in the spotlight and have her show off some of her fire abilities. Yet, looking at it as a whole, I must admit this part of the game seems rather strange and a bit out of place to me. First off, there is the outright bizarre bit about the random encounter monsters disappearing as soon as the puzzle begins, and then returning once it is over, which Auburn even points out herself. Then, the slow and more thoughtful nature of the puzzle itself as well as the cheerful music in the background really don't seem to match well with the urgency of Auburn's situation. Perhaps I'm just overinterpreting things at this point, but I find the game is making the suspension of disbelief unusually hard for me in this specific case.
- Another question I've been meaning to ask for a long time now: Is it actually intentional that when the ice block slides a longer way, Auburn can catch up to it and block its path by moving in its way? Since this allows the player to cheat on some of the puzzles, I wonder whether that was meant to be just another possible solution or not.

We'll take care of Goma and rescue the princess Tanisa next time, it seems. Until then!
-Ice Temple is good times. It's really massive too, I'm not surprised it took you two sessions to get through it.
-That patch of light is from the hole in the cave ceiling, I think.
-If I recall correctly, ArtBane was never particularly happy with any of the shooting puzzles so I think in any remake, they would be very different.
-At some point while testing the end of Arc III, we realized we should give people a chance for Auburn to level up in case the player isn't able to beat Goma at her current state. However, random encounters would have made the ice block puzzle miserable, so we didn't want that. We probably could have come up with something better to manage that, but that arc had already been held up for a long time and we really wanted it out.
-I can't remember if being able to stop the ice block with your body was intentional or not. Either way, I think it's just another element of strategy and doesn't ruin the puzzle.
Being able to interrupt the ice block is speedrun strats.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Hey! I've been quiet for a long while now, again. I know, and I'm sorry. I just wasn't able to divide my time and attention between this and working on exams and term papers. Now that that's over, I have more time to spare again.

I've made it to the end of Arc III by now, but before I post any more feedback, I wanted to ask something first: Is anyone still interested in me continuing this playthrough at this point? I have gotten the impression that you're currently not able to work on the planned remake of Master of the Wind at all, and while I do enjoy replaying this game and giving feedback on the experience, it's also very time-consuming.
I'll be perfectly happy to keep going if you like me to. I just wanted to make sure that in doing this, I'm still in some way being helpful or at least entertaining, and not just being a bother at this point - especially considering the very irregular schedule I've employed while working on this so far.
It's up to you. I still enjoy reading them and commenting on them. It's basically the only reason I check RMN periodically. I don't mind the irregular schedule.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Fantastic, thank you! In that case, I'll get right back to it as soon as I can. Expect the next installment within a few days.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Here we go again! It's the end of Arc III, welcome to Arc IV!

Goma Goes Down:
- The fight against Goma is, unfortunately, rather uninteresting. Since both combatants are resistant to fire, and Goma doesn't use any unusual strategies or attacks, the whole battle is just a long exchange of blows until one of the two goes down. In fact, spamming the auto-attack is the most efficient way to win here. There's a lot of wasted potential in this fight, since the challenge for Auburn of having to best her own former mentor could have made for some very interesting mechanics. The way it works now causes their confrontation to lose much of its dramatic impact, especially considering that it's the last battle of Arc III. (Also, as a minor issue, this is another instance where a battler graphic doesn't match the other images of a character at all.)
- I do however like how the resolution of this scene not only gives the player more information on Auburn's background, but also very clearly shows that Auburn and Tanisa weren't necessarily the purely "good" side in this conflict.

Back to Port Arianna:
- I think it's nice that after having finished an adventure together, the characters actually sit down together to assess their successes and discuss future plans. It's just a simple exchange, but these scenes really help to make their development as persons and as a team visible. Especially the fact that the others begin to more and more accept Finley for what he is, while he learns to be a at least little less self-centered and obnoxious, allows for some scenes that are both humorous and touching, in a way.
- Arc III ends with one of my favourite plot twists ever. When I first played Master of the Wind and saw where Gabriella was going in this scene, I could already feel what was going to happen next. I'm a real fan of the enormous dramatic irony of this scene, and I think a stronger emphasis on its impact would mean an improvement to the game as a whole. Gabriella's already powerful character arc (and all its implications concerning prejudices and elitism) could be even more effective and immediate if the player had more chances to play as her and follow her personal development over the course of the game.

Arc IV:

- "Your vision should return to you soon." Was that a Star Wars reference I just witnessed? I never noticed that before.
- I probably already said earlier that Andau is not only one of the very few interesting and convincing vampire characters I know, but also one of my favourite anti-heroes of all time. No matter how evil, cynical and obsessed with corruption and revenge he might be, the fact that he can still explain and almost justify his views gives the player a great alternative perspective on Solest and its societies. Especially his statements about the irony of vampires not actually being mindless monsters but still being treated as such are powerful in this context, even though Andau clearly fails to see he has also done a lot to provoke such hostility himself.

Port Arianna:
- Speaking of perspective, Stoic's half-serious suggestion to create enchanted water that only hurts humans perfectly fits the atmosphere established in the scene before, even though it's a humorous conversation on the surface.
- Bubba is another one of those characters that leave the impression that you only decided to give them a larger role in the game's plot at a late stage in development. I do think he's a cool character, although less interesting than the rest of the playable cast, to be honest. Especially since during the first three Arcs, he always just seemed like a semi-important NPC, Bubba's being in the active party later always felt a little strange to me. Personally, I think that he would work better as a supporting character who is important for some story parts, helpful advice and puzzles, but not as an actual party member in combat. Alternatively, you could try to present him in a more interesting way earlier on and show his personal struggles in a deeper and more fleshed-out manner, so that he actually feels less out of place in the active party. But either way, I at least think it would be important to more clearly define Bubba's role in the game for the player to see.
- I'm a little confused: How come Laurel is unable to recognise Pilc's real form or read his thoughts when he appears in in Port Arianna in disguise? Then again, I wouldn't put it past him to have had some sort of mental training against psychics or something similar, since Pilc is amazing.

The next stop in our travels will be Rellenia, the city of slightly undemocratic elves and extremely well-designed sewers. Until then!
-I've always enjoyed the Arc III twist ending too. Wish I could have come up with more like it.
-Bubba was indeed promoted to playable character almost on a whim, we just thought it would be fun and it was. Starting a game with that in mind would make his early appearances much more deliberate.
-Laurel hadn't yet seen transformative magic in action so she didn't understand the new type of pyschic impulses she was feeling during that conversation.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Ugh, I'm terrible at this. I really need to set up a better and more regular schedule for this playthrough, otherwise it's going to be 2020 before I've finished Arc VII.

Though, at least I did manage to play a pretty decent amount this time. I got an entire dungeon done in one sitting.

- The NPCs in this city are much more funny and interesting than I remember them. In my memory, Rellenia was always a bit of a boring place except for the story-relevant conversations, but it seems I misremembered.
- Though, to be honest that fruit-related sidequest is too silly even for my tastes. Is there some sort of inside joke going on here, maybe?
- Look at that. Here's one of those occasions again where Finley brings up a good point when he criticises the concept of monarchy in Rellenia. It's especially telling that Shroud and Laurel don't immediately agree with him.
- Maybe it's just because of my German background, but despite some criticism the conversation with King Bane has received, I never thought the graveyard scene in Rellenia was somehow exaggerated or unrealistic. In fact, I think it's very powerful, not just because of the visual impression, but also because of Laurel's and Finley's very honest dialogue.
- The fact that King Bane does not react angrily to the heroes' bickering and Stoic's colourful threats at his table is a little strange, but may still make sense considering he respects them and doesn't insist on formalities a lot. But how come, again, that Laurel doesn't immediately see through him and find out that he is in fact himself a practitioner of dark magic and necromancy?

Solik's Hideout:
- The design and layout of this dungeon is really good, in my opinion. There's enough secrets to discover that it doesn't feel too linear, but you don't get lost very quickly either. The balance between puzzles, exploration and combat is also generally very good. The placement of treasure chests in between other boxes and junk requires you to pay good attention, and I've always liked the encounter system. Although in practice, it's not too different from the usual encounter rate, the enemies coming out of visible doors that you pass makes it feel much more immediate and controlled. Also, the random rats running past you occasionally are a nice additional touch.
- The headhunting for the three skulls is a simple, yet very enjoyable minigame. But I think unfortunately it doesn't work as well for players unfamiliar with RPG Maker's workings, due to the way the program handles collision detection: The skulls' and rats' hitboxes are much larger than they appear to be based on the size of their character graphics. I do appreciate the fact that you implemented an easy mode for struggling players, though. That's an approach you should keep in mind when trying to address the problems some people had with the more puzzle- and minigame-heavy parts of the game.
- On the other hand, I feel like the head-swapping minigame right afterwards is not only a bit too ridiculous to begin with, it's also not placed too well right after those rat mazes. I think you could come up with a better way to integrate this game into the dungeon's flow, if you didn't want to scrap it completely. The puns however definitely need to stay in there.
- You did a really good job with the golem. The mechanic is extremely versatile and fun to experiment with, and you managed to build a lot of interesting gameplay around it. Especially the coloured wall puzzle room is designed so well it keeps offering new challenges every time you try to get through it. And despite the golem mechanic's complexity, it's not even hard to use due to the easily comprehensible HUD you added to it. I'd say that this is the dungeon where you explored the main "gimmick" to its fullest. The only small issue would be the weird graphical glitches the golem shows when walking next to walls, which is a problem of the engine and its priority mechanic and not something you could have done a lot about.
- The final puzzle of this dungeon where you have to mess around with the huge metal ball is one of those cases where a small design flaw can completely throw a player off - at least, that's what happened to me the first time I went through it. I had gotten to the idea that you need to put the ball on top of the golem to transport it to the other side. But I kept attempting to do it like this, from above, so to speak. And since you probably never even thought a player might do that, it didn't work, leaving me confused and at a loss for what to do for a long time. Only after wandering through the whole dungeon for about half an hour I managed to figure out my solution had been correct, but the game just wanted me to do it in a different way. That's something that shouldn't happen, I think.
- The writing in Solik's dialogue is so incredibly on point. Despite the fact that he is obviously a villain, he's so intelligent and convinced of his own views that it's incredibly hard to argue against what he says. One of the main reasons why I've always liked Master of the Wind so much is that the heroes' enemies are perfectly able (or at least think they are) to justify and explain their actions and beliefs, showing that they think of themselves as the "good guys" just as much as the heroes, if not more so. Solik is the perfect example of that attitude, and he only gets better as the game goes on.

I'm sure I could have made more comments on Solik's dungeon, but almost all of it is so good that I couldn't really think of much else to point out. I definitely feel like gameplay-wise, the late Arc III and most of Arc IV contain a lot of the high points of the game. And we haven't even gotten to Artagel yet, another one of my favourites. That's the next goal, so I'll see you then!
That's a good observation about the golem-metal ball puzzle. I'm sure there was some technical reason I didn't allow it at the time. Back then, I was mostly coding stuff with events and everything was barely held together. Brute forcing with events! I don't think the skeleton stuff at the beginning of the dungeon works too well but I still am fond of the golem puzzles. I'm pretty sure that was influenced by a dungeon in Twilight Princess where you used a statue to solve puzzles.