Category: Cortica River


But their treasure wasn’t gold. It was knowledge. Knowledge was their treasure. — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

6/3

Cortica River—My indifference to the Cortica River part of the game is well-documented (i.e., repetitive and  boring), but lately that’s were some of the most interesting things have been discovered.

I was on a routine salvage hunt a couple of weeks ago when, after finding the Diamond Telescope, I decided to amble downstream with the  multi-sensor to see what else I could pick up. Scanning the Cortica riverbottom turns out to be some fun, as it’s often a challenge to reach through a thicket of roots or electric eels to get at your glittering prize. At one point I picked up an unassuming canonball and took it home. Polished off, it proved to be a crystal skull, and while it didn’t glow, buzz, read my mind or turn into a super-magnet, it drew a respectable 10,000 Pelagos on the collector’s market.

The next discovery began a few days later, when I awoke from a nap and passed Jean-Eric on the way to the beach. “Perfect timing,” he muttered, folding his newspaper. You can always tell something’s up when Cappy’s been reading the paper.

“It says here a monster’s been sighted in the Cortica River. Witnesses say the creature is pitch black, is seen only on rainy days when the river is running fast. Something about a gigantic black thing. You should check it out.”

For various reasons, I didn’t get around to looking for it until last night. Rain was pelting the river, as it usually is, and you can see the little rings made by the raindrops from under the water—a nice effect. Heading upstream, I kept stopping to announce that I thought something was watching me, then I turn around and nothing’s there. It’s all very ominous—is there some new maneater or Creature from the Black Lagoon I’m going to meet up with? 

My path eventually takes me to Queen Lake. Suddenly…rising from the depths…a black form takes shape…and materializes into…a big fat manatee. Oh Cortica, once again you disappoint me! Mama Cortica, so we’re told, is a benevolent spirit on the river, saving capsized fishermen, uniting young lovers, and frying up cassava cakes for all the children. Very nice, but what was all that about a big black monster? Who reported that story, Don Knotts?

Mama Cortica

Yes, the Cortica River is a queer place, but I’ve saved the best and queerest for last. I was taking a woman named Lisa on a trip to see the Piraibo catfish at the mouth of the temple. Bored, I decided to investigate a rumor that there was a secret hole in the riverbank. This isn’t part of the story, but apparently a glitch in the game programming that was reported by several witnesses on the GameFaqs message board.  In first-person view, you swim up to the left of Spirit Falls, just where there’s a clump of vines growing in the corner. Then you surface, turn to the left, and there it should be—a rent in the space-time continuum. I’d attempted this trick several times in the past, but hadn’t had any success. I was beginning to think this was an anomaly on only some people’s games, but tonight there it was—a jarring, jagged hole in the screen, and through it I see…OH GOD! IT’S FULL OF STARS!

A rabbit hole in the riverbank.

Not exactly, but an endless stretch of open water under a clear Amazonian sky. Dive again and you’re faced with the riverbank, but here’s the cool part—you can penetrate through the wall into the open water on the other side! Swim in any direction, it seems to go on forever and is impossibly deep. Turn around to look back, and below and above the water you see paradoxical vistas of twisted pixellation, semitransparent walls, and cutaway sections of the river.

Looking back on the rabbit hole (arrow)

Hello, Dali!

It’s like an out-of-the-body experience. I can see Lisa staring uncomprehendingly at the empty space where I used to be. Jean-Eric frantically shouts that I’ve lost my partner, but I don’t care—I’m free! I’m transcendent! I’m outside the game looking in.

The riverbank and the 'other side'; Lisa left behind.

After a few minutes of this I pierce the wall again and return to the game, then disappear through the portal once more to see if it still works. It does, and I can reenter the game through King Amaru’s Aqueduct, or I imagine, through any point I choose.

X-ray view of King Amaru's Aqueduct

There’s really no point in looking for fish and treasure now, so I drag us home to develop the pictures I took on the other side. Lisa is sorely pissed that I left her behind; she reads me the riot act and leaves in a snit with no tip. She’s right—I’ve violated my principle of always satisfying the customer—but honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’ve just passed into the twilight zone, and saw that it was awesome.

The Cortica River has just become a lot more interesting.

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Terra Incognita

5/15

Cortica River—Today I got a salvage request for the Medieval Staff, and what do you know, it’s been located within that unexplored region of the Cortica River. Now I’ve got the perfect excuse to recruit an Amazon River dolphin and take a peak at the new world. We go immediately to the river, but as usual in this game, there are some conditions that must be met. First, I have to bring a female dolphin partner with me. I’d been randomly assigning male or female names to my dolphins without considering the gender (monstrous parenting, that), but helpfully Jean-Eric reminds me that Pinky Tuscadero is indeed a female and can accompany me. Now that I’ve got Pinky, we head up King Amaru’s canal into the courtyard of the Twilight Temple, where I see a pink dolphin standing out from the rest. Jean-Eric informs me that I’ve got to approach the dolphin on Pinky’s back. I look for my Pinky, but my wingman’s nowhere to be found. I have to retreat back down the canal to find her lollygagging at the entrance. Meanwhile, J-E is yelling in my head that I need my partner, need my partner! Alright, I’ve got my partner and ride her into the courtyard, now what? We have to chase the river dolphin while she and Pinky get acquainted. Basically, I have to keep her in my line of sight, but if we lose her, J-E helpfully tells us when we’re getting closer. This goes on for several head-spinning minutes until Pinky and the dolphin are completely simpatico, after which I’m introduced as a really cool friend.  We dance, and without much thought, I name her Dora.

Dora, the Explorer

Now that she’s on the team, it’s time to enlist her help clearing that dam. After we clear it, I take a reflective moment before breaching the threshold. 

This is it—weeks of waiting and hard work have led to this day, and I’m finally going to see this final, completely new region of the Endless Ocean. I wonder, did Cortez feel this way, gaining at last the peak in Darien from which his eyes would behold the limitless Pacific for the first time? Resolutely, I press through, the gap widening around me to reveal…

Queen Lake

Eh, not much. Queen Lake, so it’s called, is basically a murky brown watering hole. Its sole inhabitants are some indolent manatees mindlessly grazing on hydrilla near the surface. Aside from the Medieval Staff, there is no limitless treasure, no sunken ruins. As I leave, I notice a few tambaqui that weren’t there before, so there’s that. Maybe by removing an obstacle, Dora and I have invited in a new community of fish. This at least will make it worth visiting in the future. Until then, I guess you can call me disappointed.  

4/22

Gatama Atoll—In honor or Earth Day, I’ve been concentrating on healing the most critical (purple and red) fish as I go about my business. Frankly, I’m exhausted. I haven’t used the pulsar as anything but a defensive weapon since the “Help Me” quest ended abruptly, and even then I used it mainly on large fish and mammals. It’s quite a different thing when you swim up to a coral head to pulse a cloud of tangs. The screen turns into a kaleidoscope of ill fish with targets around their necks, clamoring to be healed. Remember that scene in Jesus Christ Superstar where Ted Neeley is healing lepers and they start to surround him and he like, totally freaks? It’s like that. Not that I’m comparing myself to the Man from Galilee—I’m just sayin’, it’s hard to be a miracle worker. And what makes it tougher is that, as the fish you’re pulsing get better, they also get friskier and try to dart away from you. Sometimes you have to chase them around the reef, like a mom with a spoonful of cough medicine after her suddenly “all better” children.  

Anyway, I pulsed about 150 fish today and received a 3,300-Pelago bonus from the Conservation Society. I also managed to get in a little treasure hunting. FF came in with his unidentified map scrap. Once again, my technique of redrawing the map on a piece of paper paid off, and I located the Golden Shield Treasure almost immediately. FF handed us 12,500 P at the dock,  then just left—no name-calling, no snarks, nothing.  GG’s heartbroken.

Next I took a  guy named Gabriel on a quick guided tour to Twilight Temple. Disappointingly, the giant catfish has shed her golden scales and King Gigide was nowhere to be seen. While we were there, I pulsed some more fish, then whipped out the multisensor for a little last-minute treasuring. Lucky I did, as I turned up the Incan Treasure, worth 12,000 P.

All told, I made off with a cool 30,000 P tonight. Not bad considering I wasn’t even trying.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, Disney’s Oceans opens in theatres today. I’m working on convincing my son to get over his nature-documentary fears to join me this weekend. Here’s a link: http://disney.go.com/disneynature/oceans/

 4/10

Cortica River, noon—This weekend my family and I went to the Jacksonville Zoo, which has a pretty nice exhibit of South American fauna, including giant otters and arapaima, so for once I was in the mood for exploring the Amazon. Fortunate timing, as I once again have a backlog of tasks awaiting me. Nineball Larry, Jr. is along with me, so I put him in the “diver’s seat” (a bad joke I’ll bet you don’t get to use every day). We started upstream to avoid the piranhas and right away, under Spirit Falls, the giant piraiba catfish at the mouth of the temple swims right up to us and takes the “servant’s ring,” which I wasn’t even aware I had. It then proceeds to turn into gold and becomes a legendary, the Gold Eater. He’s eaten so much gold on the river bottom, see, that he turns gold—he just needed that one ring to put him over the edge.

Gold Eater

We move forward, exploring the temple and taking many pictures (my son’s a perfectionist when it comes to the camera), when we see, emerging from the temple, a gleaming white caiman. It’s another legendary—King Gigide, who was first mentioned in that Zahhab Region find a while back. Apparently encountering the Gold Eater unlocked the cabinet that imprisoned the King. The multisensor yields a bagload of loot, and we return to the boat.

King Gigide

It’s raining torrents, and I remember that there’s something we’d find in the mangrove beds if we searched in the rain. Sure enough, we pull up the Dark Statue. While we’re in the area, we stop to watch the giant otters, which are not as cute or animated as their real-life counterparts. I ask Jr. to take a photo of the western sandbank, one of Jean-Eric’s requests. We head back for Nineball Island after a momentous visit.

The Dark Statue is worth 12,000 P, but the big find is a stone statue of a golem worth 13,000 P. How did the Golem of Prague wind up in an Amazonian River tributary? Must have something to do with Nazi fugitives smuggling and perverting Rabbi Loew’s clay factotum to build an army of sedimentary super-men and reclaim the lost glory of the Reich in the jungles of South America. The game literature isn’t clear on this, but I’ve got new material for some awesome Indiana Jones fan fiction.

Return to the Amazon

Feeding piranhas---like snack time at the daycare center.

3/27

Cortica River, noon–I admit I don’t care much for the Amazon River. The water is brown and muddy, the fish ugly and dangerous. True, it’s got a nifty temple, but even that lacks the ghostly grandeur of Valka Castle or the Chamber of the Gods. It’s not a place I would choose to visit just for fun. But when I saw all the requests and treasure rumors stacking up in my t0-do list, I knew I couldn’t just ignore it. So I took a tour request to upper Cortica in the hopes of getting as much business done as possible. Elena is my client, and she wants to see a red-tailed chalceus, whatever that is. We start upstream just outside the temple, so thank God no piranhas, no caimans, no electric eels. There are hundreds of chalceus (chalceii?) just inside the temple—mission accomplished. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything else on my list, and going back to the boat sends us all the way back to Nineball Island.

Elena with Red-Tailed Chalceus

After collecting my pay from Elena, I doggedly return to the Amazon, this time with the full crew. The conservation society asked to find and pulse five nonnative fish on the river.  They won’t say anything other than that they’re big, so we’ll have to do a little searching to find out which ones don’t belong. Fortunately, the Atlantic Tarpon clearly look like out-of-towners, so they’re easy to spot. However, it takes pacifying piranhas, conquering caimans, and eluding eels to get them all.

Along the way, I find the place in the river that’s blocked by fallen trees. There seems to be a sizable chunk of unmapped territory beyond it, and so I go back to get Pha to clear it. Wouldn’t you know it—Pha doesn’t have the strength to move the logs because he’s a saltwater creature. What we need is a freshwater river dolphin. They’ve got plenty in the temple, but I haven’t befriended one yet—that will probably take more dolphin shows, more dealings with Finley, etc. And so Pha and I are left peering through the branches at a world just out of our grasp. Back at the boat, it’s raining buckets. Ah, let’s just get out of this godforsaken place!