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Honestly? I always kinda dislike it when a thing starts with "so here's what happened so many years in the past it mostly shouldn't even matter" but maybe that's just me.

However! In a rare move, this is actually relevant basically immediately. Not in 20 hours. Not in weird niche datalog stuff. Right off the bat.

Also, this looks kinda cool.

All dialogue and description is up on the top-screen by the way. That makes the text specifically here kinda hard to read sometimes.

There was an era of tremendous prosperity and great glory, brought about the power of the "Magicite", a stone created by highly-developed alchemy.

The legendary civilization said to have been destroyed in a single night... Edenbar.

By absorbing the forces of nature, such as 'fire', 'water', 'earth' and 'air', the "Magicite" that sustained the Edenbar civiliation was able to exert massive influence at will, a tainted power that trespassed on God's domain.

The people, acting out of self-interest, abused the power without any consideration of the effect that it would have on the world.

As a result, the balance of the natural world crumbled. Having gone too far, the civilisation was left with no other path than to its ruin.

And, in the present day...

By decree of the Archduke Kucellbull, every knight in the duchy had arrived in that small, decorative room.

The room was strangely quiet, as if their nerves had barred the sound.

The knight, sworn to serve their country, couldn't help but feel uneasy about the summons, which they had no right to refuse.

They were trying to avoid the gaze of...

The Archduke inspected the assembly, and gave a single cough as if to their attention, before opening his mouth...

The ruins are said to date back to the civilisation of Edenbar, believed to have been destroyed over one thousand years ago...
The archaeologists sent there to investigate were... wiped out.

The abrupt announcement stirred up the room...

The voice of a single knight cut through the noise.

Hrmh. It appears the ruins that were discovered, still aren't dead.

That's kind of a clunky and weird way of putting it, but needless to say these ruins are A Video Game Dungeon. Just means that stuff in them still works despite being, uh, ruined.

...Not dead?
Even now, one thousand years since it's construction, the terrifying traps laid throughout the ruins continue to work. That is to say...
Perhaps from the many years of neglect, the interior seems to have turned into a den of monsters.

The room fell into a clamour for the second time...

The men began to question the Archduke.

So, the reason we were summoned is...?
Although the archaeologists are knowledgeable about the ancient civilization, they have no way of fighting back against the monsters.

I see. As you wish, Your Highness.

So, uh, it's not immediately obvious until we get to the... I dunno, fourth scene in a row here, but Ren is the main character. Yeah. It seems like the kinda game where you'd get to make your own player character or something, but nope. The white haired pretty boy. Sure, okay, this IS an otome game alright.

'Course I'm gonna make a scene. An unknown ruin where traps and monsters await... As a man, you can't help but be lured in!
Yeah. I guess you're right.

Just to make it really obvious that Ren is the protagonist, he gets multiple distinct portraits immediately. Other people technically do too, but they're more minor with regards to eyeline, eyebrows etc. that are easy to miss.

Hah? Your apathy is as plain as ever. Aren't you excited? Doesn't this make your heart start to pound?
Don't misunderstand, Veres. This isn't a game. It's work.
Psht. That hard-headedness of yours never changes...
You there! Pipe down!
Ehe... S-sorry.

Until then, see to it that you make your preparations.
Yes, sire!

With the Archduke's speech over, the knights that had gathered round began to file out of the audience chamber.

Y-yeah. ...Ancient ruins, huh...?

A gleeful smile spread across Veres' face, as if he was having a runaway daydream.

Ronixis, commander of the Duchy Knights, approached the two men.

Oh, C-Captain! Forgive me!
...Enough. More importantly, the Archduke wishes to speak. The two of you should stay behind.
Huh!? "The two of you..." As in, US?
Do you see me talking to anyone else?
For real!?
If it's not about the ruins then... there's something else?
I wonder. I haven't heard anything.
Anyway, make sure you show some respct, else I'll be the one taking the blame for it!
Got it.
We know, we know, Captain. Let's go, Ren.
...I'm not feeling reassured.

So, this is technically now a new cutscene. It's all one long scene in practice, but there's an option to skip cutscenes. Just to get out of this room you need to use it three times.

I was not kidding when I said this game opens with 20 minutes of cutscenes.

We heard that you had something to tell us?
Mmm. The truth is, I'd like you to go on ahead to the ruins, as an advance party.
...An advance party?

The two of you are still young, but I have heard from Ronixis that your strength comes guaranteed.
Your words are too kind.
You humble yourself. Will you do it?
Of course, sire.
Excellent. ...There is just one more thing.
What now?

Even though he wa puzzled by the Archduke's sudden question, Ren opened his mouth and quietly started to speak.

Ah, I see that Ren has read the opening text crawl as well. Convenient that.

It's a legend that has been passed down for generations, correct?
It's true that there are those who will insist that it does not exist, and yet there can be no doubt that it was real.
What's more, there's a chance that the stone is resting within the ancient ruins, still intact.
So we are...?
As the advance party, the two of you shall creep into the ruins, assess the situation, and ascertain whether or not the 'Magicite' exists.

There is no need to let anyone else know about this. Understood?
...For what purpose would the stone be used?
You need not worry about such things. Just focus on completing you mission.

Suddenly, I am worrying about that exact thing.

As you wish, Your Highness. As soon as we find the mysterious stone, we will bring [it] straight back to you.

Start by paying a visit to the guild in Liruka.
If you let them know that, you're there to inspect the ruins by royal decree, they will see to your needs.
Sire! Then, we shall be on our way.
Hrmh. I hope you will return with good news.

No duh. I was stood right next to you.
So, we'll be going to the ruins first. This oughta be fun.
Psht. You really are a dull guy, ya know?
Still... "Magicite", eh? I always thought it was just a myth.
But... It's still bugging me. If the Archduke gets his hands on some, what's he planning to do with it?
He just told us not to worry. Whatever he wants to use it for is none of our business.
Don't go all apathetic on me now. I mean, what if the Magicite is--

The two men turned around to look at whoever had interrupted them.

Her girlish, pretty face had a slightly solemn expression...

My my, Lady Elza. How do you do?
Don't play stupid. ...I overheard you talking before.
Before...? Ah, about us going on ahead to investigate the ruins?
Yes, that.
So, you came rushing to congratulate us on being appointed as the advance party?

That's not it! ...I'm worried.
I have a bad feeling... Like, something's going to happen to the two of you...
Anyways! Please rest assured, Lady Elza.
Once we've finished our mission, we'll be sure to come back in one piece.
...Yes, you're right. Yeah. It'll be okay, won't it?
Ah... I should be getting back soon.
Yeah. We'd better be going soon too...
Right. Well, we'll be off then, Elza.
Yes... But please, be careful.

This is the best chance we have for a full shot of Liruka. Most of the time, it's gonna be obscured or only able to see half of it or so.

It was a beautiful village, lush with greenery, and a gentle sea breeze that occasionally swept over the lands.

It has character, don't you think? Alright, we should stop at the guild first.
"Character"? I guess that's one way to put it... Still, this is a village of wine growers. Liruka Wine is known to those in the know...

That's a wee bit of a tautological statement though, ain't it?

...H-hey! Wait a sec! Don't leave me behind!

It seemed to have become a base for those who were exploring the ruins, as it was packed full despite being located in a small village.

So, anyone else getting Etrian Odyssey vibes? A guild that is also a pub in a small town located right outside a game-focus dungeon that people are often delving into... Seems awful similar. Kinda cool with that.

With four circular tables and a row of counters, the small room was bustling night and day.

People laughing and drinking... Those stood around quietly...

The adventurers were enjoying passing the time, when the groan of the door opening sounded the arrival of new visitors.

The first person to speak was a beautiful woman, stood over the counter.

Whooooa! That lady is crazy gorgeous, right...?
We're after Liruka Village's Guild, is this the right place?
...Oi, so you're actually starting to ignore me now?
I haven't seen your faces around here before. Judging by those outfits, I'd guess you're from the capital?

Likewise, I'm Veres, a knight of the dukedom. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Oh, it's you? I'd heard the news, but I wasn't expecting you to be so young.
Heh heh. We get that a lot.

...By the way, where are these ancient ruins that were uncovered?
They were discovered several months ago, in a forest to the east of the village, but...
From the tales I've heard from the treasure hunters who went in before, it seems like it's quite the dangerous place, you know?
Don't worry about that! We might not look the part, but we are knights.
A fair point. Well then, could you write your names on these papers?

As she spoke, Charnet pulled two pieces of paper out of a drawer in the counter, and handed them to the men.

Our names?

Yes, this is getting very Etrian Odyssey. The only difference is we don't get generic party members to mould to suit our whims.

Even though you're here by order of the Archduke, there are no exceptions. If you're going to enter the ruins, register with the guild.
Seriously... We're gonna join the treasure hunters?

Hesitating, Veres gave a sideways glance at Ren, who had already finished writing his name.

It's fine, so get writing.
Ack! You didn't even give it a second thought, did you!? You sure work fast...

Names signed, they handed their papers back to Charnet.

By registering with a guild, you can receive a variety of benefits to help you with your adventure. For instance...

Charnet, producing piles of paperwork out of nowhere, threw them down onto the countertop with a heavy thud.

These are...?
Requests that the guild has received about the ruins.
People who have registered with the guild can accept these requests by paying a small contract fee.

It might even lead to developments in your investigation... This could prove to be key to your mission.
Err, no... This and that seem like two different things.
Well, don't be so hard-nosed, you might as well try accepting one for now. Right?

Ren and Veres exchanged glances, staring at the mountain of requests piled in front of them.

Not really a subtle lie that. Just admit if you don't want to do the paperwork, jeez.

...Another matter? That's the first I've heard of it.
It's a really important mission! So, this is where we'll have to part ways. I'll leave this place to you.
I'm counting on you, buddy!

With those parting words, Veres left the guild in a flash.

Left all alone, Charnet stared at Ren with a daring smile.

Ren reluctantly picked up one of the request papers.

For the most part, the quests and such we get here are how we'll best be able to measure our progress. Almost all of them are optional. This one isn't.

We can view additional quest details which are just previews of the rewards we'll get for doing them. The only thing that stands out (right now) is that the $300 we saw before is how much we have to pay to accept the quest. It's weird but generally less annoying than it sounds.

Then, with perfect timing, the other visitor left, and Charnet returned to check over the piece of paper.

Perfect. Looks like that didn't give you any trouble.
Now, all you have to do is fulfil the conditions, and then come back here. Piece of cake, right?

I know I referred to it as being sort of Etrian Odyssey like before, but that's just in general concept. Even then, that comes from old tabletop RPG modules. Megadungeons have been around forever. In practice, the way we progress via quests, and then the main gameplay loop we'll see shortly, is honestly much more akin to Monster Hunter. Just without the rad giant monsters and cool weapon gimmicks.

I figured as much. ...Don't treat me like a kid.
Oh? Did I hit a nerve?
Hehehe. Sorry, sorry.
Ah, right. Almost forgot! This is for you, since you're new here.

No, we don't get to draw the map ourselves.

Anyway, as you walk around the ruins, you can finish it yourself.
And, there's also a guide published by the guild aimed at helping new treasure hunters get started.
You've got to look out for yourself. Make sure you have a read through it so you don't end up regretting it later in floods of tears.

Eh, we really don't need to. It's just 3 bulletpoints and isn't worth worrying about.

As with anything, you need to have a firm grasp of the basics, right?
Especially when it comes to suspicious men who look more like kids, wouldn't-you-say?
Well then, time for you [to] head off to the ruins and complete that request.
Yeah, I'll have it done in no time.

Peeling himself away from the counter, Ren waved to Charnet and quickly made his way out of the guild.

So, Etria Kamura Liruka is our main hub as we were basically told before. We can't do much here right now, and even afterwards we're relatively limited. Still, let's get this tutorial quest out of the way.

That's better. So, we won't be spending too much time here just yet. We'll explore as much as we can though.

Ren's facing to the right on entry so we'll head that way first. There's a conspicuous pile of giant rocks here...

...and more importantly an adorable slime friend just past them. I'm going to deal with this the most heroic way I can:

Sitting by the rocks and throwing many of Ren's Infinite Knives at them. We have a sword, sure, but we also have throwing knives as our subweapon. We can get other kinds of knives later but our default set have infinite ammo. The others do not (asterisk).

Also unfun RPG mechanics: accuracy! Ren starts with 85 Accuracy which I am pretty sure is a flat percentage. 15% of the time his attacks just... miss. This is as fun as it sounds.

So, here's the rub: Green Gel here is naturally the weakest enemy in the ruins. It hit us for ~25 damage a pop. We do not have a dodge button or a block button or anything like that. We have 400 HP as our current max and that's not changing for a little while. Enemy damage scales up very quickly. For the most part it's still not too hard to avoid getting hit... sometimes...

Oh yeah, despite the whole Metroidvania thing and RPG-ish mechanics in play there's two conspicuous gaps. Enemies do not directly drop money and we cannot gain levels. There's no EXP, so we can't slowly get stronger and raise our survivability that way.

Instead, things give us crafting materials. We don't level up, we just make new weapons and armour accessories.

The conspicuous pile of rocks can be interacted with to give us some as well. We can only harvest stuff from rocks once right now, though. And to be absolutely clear that is not per pile of rocks. That is once, period, during our time spent in the ruins. We can do it again if we leave and come back though.

There's two other types of harvest points we can interact with in trees and tall grass. How does this all grow down here? Don't worry about it.

Mostly I'll just be glossing over harvest stuff right now but this is dang lucky. Gonna need a few of these for later. Worry more about this sorta thing when we're past the tutorial stages though.

Anyway, just past the Gel to the right we hit an immediate deadend. Can't do anything about this cracked pillar.

Heading to the left is all we can do then. There's another Gel thataway.

About a dozen knives (including misses) and a well-timed swing of our tiny basic sword takes care of this one at least. Despite doing almost twice as much damage as the knives, this early on I prefer using the subweapon. That won't last very long but this sword is just utter garbage.

Regardless, we've killed our two gels so we can leave and move on. But there's still a bit more to the lef--

--Oh. Yeah, we can't leave the first room until we complete this quest.

Back to the Guild we go, then! Since we're on a quest, we cannot accept another one. Only one at a time. Can't quit this one either because it's plot required and also we literally have no money so we'd be softlocked if we could.

So we'll just hand in a completed report or something.

Well then, I'll give you your reward and the thank you letter you received. Here, take these.

Like Charnet mentioned, we get two things from finising quests. A letter from the client that we can only ever read here is a cute touch, gotta admit.

We can also see a more exact breakdown of our rewards. Mint and Sage are just crafting materials. We can get them from the grass by the ruins entrance. Suppli-Extract heals a whopping 50HP (we want to save these for later) and Ethanol cures poison. We shouldn't need that for a bit, but we'll see...

Having finished his first quest, Ren looked at the rewards he'd earned with a satisfied smile.

Charnet approached him from behind the counter.

As for what's next, you could continue doing quests, or, you could just do your own thing in the ruins. You're free to do as you like!
And, now that I've tested your skills, I'll leave this key for the ruins in your care.

If you can't get any further without ths key, Veres won't be able to investigate...
Don't worry. I gave one to your friend earlier.
You just missed each other.
I see.

You'll be needing their help for the road ahead, and you might be able to ask them for advice about your mission too.
The Blacksmith and Item Shop, huh...? Alright. I'll pay them a visit later.
Well, good luck with your investigation. I'll be cheering you on from behind.

And with that, Charnet went back to the other person she was helping.

Ren looked at his rewards again.

...This isn't so bad, I guess.

The treasure slumbering in the ancient ruins... The band of monsters ready to attack...

We'll head to our two new locales... later. They both start with a cutscene each, naturally. We've also got the ruins to properly check out and explore.

There's a lot still ahead of us. Let's get to it!