Strange Journey Part 10: The Eggs

Just after we attempt to navigate the Vanishing Point to Horologium, we are shown – for once – a clear vision in which the Three Figures reveal what exactly it is they want. This is the longest and most consequential cutscene since the very beginning, in which everything was wrapped in mystery.

I’m sure it’s become obvious by now, but this post will have spoilers for some endgame content of Strange Journey. Delve with diligence.

The Three Figures show us a vision of the world they want to bring into being; an ordered world, in which humans endlessly (and mindlessly) sing the praises of The Lord, who brings unity to all. There is no conflict, there is no discord – there is only The Lord and His followers, in blissful harmony. This is their hope for the Schwarzwelt – that it will destroy what there is of humankind and replace it with only the faithful.

As an out-of-context complaint – why didn’t they say this earlier? I see no reason why they couldn’t have said this just after Eridanus, when they had our attention and showed us the futility of humankind’s attempts to destroy the Schwarzwelt from without. Perhaps Zelenin would not have been as easy to convince without seeing Jimenez’ fate and the blatantly evil ways of Jack’s Squad – but honestly, I think if Zelenin had been asked after Eridanus, she probably would’ve still gone full angel-mode.

Louisa Ferre pops into being once more, and unsurprisingly offers an alternative – a passionate, chaotic world in which each person follows their base instincts; might makes right, and those without power die or follow. A bloody world, to be sure, but one in which humans are honest to their passions rather than painting a veneer of civility over our bestial nature.

Upon seeing these visions, the crew is justifiably concerned – are these the goals we have been pushing towards? Zelenin shows up and says she will fight for the first vision – God’s World of Order. She manages to convince many (unnamed) members of the crew that harmony is the ultimate virtue and they follow her, ship or no. Jimenez likewise turns up and says his goal is the World of Chaos. He appeals to those who believe civilization has been holding us back as individuals, and many (again unnamed) crew follow him.

Although the remaining crew is understandably concerned about losing so many of their fellows, they weren’t persuaded by either Zelenin’s or Jimenez’ arguments. They look to you for guidance, and you haven’t yet chosen. As you enter Horologium, you see a volcanic, blasted world – the crew speculates it is like Earth in its early days. You find and ride an elevator to B9F, where you see Gore. He reveals that he has been scouting Mem Aleph and believes that defeating her will be the crew’s ultimate goal – assuming that you, like him, disagree with subordinating humanity to God or forcing them into a demonic, brutal world.

In this case, we do – after a brief discussion with Gore, we are asked to pick a side. First, will we host a demon within our body? Um, nope. Will we sing God’s praises eternally? Nope. Gore reveals that he has a plan already in mind for how to destroy the Schwarzwelt – we’ll need a nuclear warhead and four Cosmic Eggs, which would be used to create the new world. He beams the plan into Arthur, and then gives you the last remnant of his power so that you can see and defeat Mem Aleph when the time comes.

Tough Decision? Not really.

While having a choice (usually a ternary choice) is kind of a series staple for Shin Megami Tensei, there isn’t really a great standard for how fleshed-out these choices are. In Strange Journey, to its credit, you at least get a vague idea of what will happen from the little talk as you enter Horologium. In Shin Megami Tensei IV, you literally see the (potential) futures created in siding with either Law or Chaos, and they’re disturbingly similar – although I honestly remember little of the reasoning behind either faction, since they were buried beneath multiple layers of increasingly weird details. More recently having played Shin Megami Tensei V where the choice is practically “which of these idealogue morons had the better argument in two minutes, or should you side with another idealogue moron who tried to kill you twice with no explanation”, I have to admit Strange Journey did the best I’ve seen of the SMT series (barring Devil Survivor, which has non-traditional paths anyway).

Caveat: I haven’t played enough Nocturne, and while I have access to the elusive iOS SMT1 port, I find it alternates between boring and brutal and haven’t gotten far in there either.

But even within Strange Journey, which has a great gradual buildup of its chaos/law representatives, the choice seems stark. You can submit yourself to an ultimate brain-scrubbing in the name of peace – or, I guess, be a lieutenant brain-scrubber – or you can “deliver” humanity from things like structure and civilization (removing all inhibitions and letting people regress into non-society). Neither sounds even remotely like a great idea, even in the context of humanity as-is making terrible decisions. Especially given the proof you have that the “best and brightest” can overcome the horrors of the Schwarzwelt – you have open possibilities vs. effectively closing all possibilities, forever.

So, piecing together what’s going on in general, it appears that the Schwarzwelt comes along once humanity has made enough of a mess of things. Mem Aleph itself (herself?) is demonic, so left to its own devices the Schwarzwelt will establish demonic rule, or recreate the Earth according to some primal principle (which then, theoretically, could give rise to another human civilization). It would seem angelic forces have enough influence or power in the Schwarzwelt to aid humans – after all, the Three Wise Men gave demon summoning powers and the ability to see/converse with demons to humanity, once it entered the Schwarzwelt. So the default outcome when the Schwarzwelt appears is that Chaos wins, but by combining forces Law can at least give humans a fighting chance and a choice between the three. Although it’s a little interesting that the later implication is that demons (or a demon-aligned supernatural entity) created the Earth and humanity, and humanity “straying from its purpose” is its gradual separation from Chaos, i.e. the creation of civilization.

Anyway, in this play-through we are rejecting both mindless God-praising and a return of humanity to brutishness. So, what better way to prove the potential of humanity than stealing the very means of creation and then detonating a nuke in the middle of the Schwarzwelt?

I’m going to skim over most of the Cosmic Eggs – frankly, they’re boring although the dungeons had more dialogue NPCs than most. Each cosmic egg is surrounded by a faction of angels or demons who (at least in the neutral path) decry your betrayal of their faction. The eggs are present in each the first four (demon-ruled) sections of the Schwarzwelt. One of them is conveniently and surprisingly in the same place as the nuclear warhead, in Carina, but Zelenin beat you to it. After a brief exchange, she decides she is willing to fight you for the future of humanity.

The fight against Zelenin is one of the tougher fights so far, but surprisingly she is alone and there is only one phase to it. I don’t recall much in the way of dialogue; at this point she’s pretty well convinced of her path. After you have defeated her, Mastema shows up. There’s a warning that sounds like an impending boss fight, but suddenly he stops, notes to himself that he will live forever but you will not, and says he will try another time. Surprisingly rational for an ideologue, although it’s frustrating after so much back and forth with him.

Bad news once you get back with the Cosmic Eggs and the nuclear warhead, though – it turns out that the elevator down to Horologium B9F, where you would find (and fight) Mem Aleph, gets broken – again – by a particularly nasty and annoying demon. You’ll have to find a way down there the old-fashioned way.

As mentioned before – and is mentioned explicitly in-game – Horologium looks like the early phases of Earth’s creation. Volcanic, but (with a Demonica) traversible terrain. Hidden walls, phase shift zones, and invisible paths are all over the place. It’s not quite as annoying as Eridanus once you unlock Visualizer C, which allows you to see the invisible paths – although, by then, you have already traversed them.

Once Visualizer C is in-hand, you can easily finish up the Womb of Grief, an added set of dungeons in SJ Redux. In Redux, completing the sections of Womb of Grief isn’t necessary as you go, but it is necessary to complete it before wrapping up Horologium to access new endings. Completing sections of the Womb of Grief also unlock incredibly helpful sub-apps like being able to see where teleporters go on the map, reducing or increasing enemy encounters, seeing “search” doors without pointing at them, and so on. I doubt I would’ve gotten this far without those.

The plot of Womb of Grief is relatively brief – at least at this point. I’ve largely ignored it in these write-ups up until now. Demeter rescued you back in Bootes, and asked you to gather the “Fruit” fragment held by a strong demon in each section of the WoG. Most of them are held by demons that talk vaguely about things humanity did wrong. In the third (maybe fourth – I don’t recall exactly) section, Alex beats you to defeating the demon and gets that “Fruit” fragment before you.

To recap what happened with Alex – she appeared out of nowhere and attempted to murder you. She also appears to be hunting Jimenez and Zelenin. Later in the Womb of Grief, you get the opportunity to prove to Alex that you can listen to her and discuss her situation (rather than be a target to be killed). This largely happens outside dialogue by defeating her in combat, or rescuing her from defeat at the hands of others. In the latter case, you get an ominous warning from Zeus about Demeter – implying that her objective may not align with your own.

Anyway, completing the Womb of Grief results in receiving the last piece of “Fruit”, which you can choose to give to Demeter or not.

In the interest of individual article length, I’ll leave things there and we’ll pick up next time with the final parts of Horologium and the additional Redux content.

Time elapsed: ~45h.

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