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Pixel Courage 14

I was plagued by indecision, looking at the SKILLS TREE. I’d already bought THORN PUNCH and MILD EP REGEN, and those were working well for me.

That’d been two levels ago, though. That meant an extra skill point and ability point that needed to get placed. But where?

I wondered about the VINE branch on the SKILLS TREE. I wasn’t all that interested in VINE SMACK, but I also wanted to have a well-balanced character. Diversity allowed for more options in a fight. The more options you had, the better.

At the same time, it seemed like a shitty power.

The problem plagued my mind as I walked down the streets of the city. I wasn’t really looking where I was going; the city whizzed past, while the SKILLS TREE presented its puzzle to me.

At a certain point, there is such a thing as paralysis by analysis.

My gut said to get VINE SMACK. I stared at it for a few moments, then used my skill point to buy the power.

A few glances later, the ABILITIES CHART appeared before my eyes.

Strength and Durability were at 3. Charisma was 0, Wit was 1, and Agility was 8.

Didn’t have to think too hard about that one. Wit and Charisma were bullshit, while my Agility was more than sufficient for whatever this game had to throw at me at this level.

The real choice was between Durability and Strength. Since Durability required 3 Abilities Points to move up, I went with Strength.

So that left me with 4 Strength, 3 Durability, 0 Charisma, 1 Wit, and 8 Agility.

The gatehouse leading out of the city came within view. Realized I didn’t even know the name of the city, so a few eye movements brought me to the game map.

CHARON, the city was called. Nice name.

It seemed like the gate was always open, which was odd. Two dwarves stood at the sides of the gatehouse, and there were always people flooding in and out.

If the city ever got attacked, they could close the gate pretty quickly. And with PCs constantly walking in and out of the Charon, there would be someone there to defend in case monsters tried charging through the city.

Of course, they probably aren’t programmed to charge into the city. The realization made me embarrassed. This wasn’t a real city we were talking about.

I walked through the gate and out into the sickly plains. Yellow grass crunched in my boot. Ran my palm against the pommel of my sword.

Time to grind.

Before getting into the thick of things, it was best to get a lay of the land. About fifteen or twenty minutes passed, as I walked along the span of the wall.

There were all sorts of monsters getting into skirmishes. A lot of it was PC v. NPC, but there were some cases of NPC v. NPC.

It seemed that the most common monsters were Zebdas. They looked a lot like giant crabs, with eight legs keeping them grounded while their two claws were constantly snapping in the air. Their shells were a swirling mix of purple-green.

I hadn’t fought these monsters before — they weren’t in the Alpha or Beta tests.

You would see small groups of Zebdas smacking their hands against the wall, or just sitting around waiting for someone to attack. There was such a futility to it — they were never going to break in, and there was no purpose to them just standing there.

Or rather, the purpose seemed absurd: the whole reason for them to exist was so that they could be defeated.

The NPC v. NPC battles were even worse.

After staring at an NPC for a couple seconds, their name would appear above their head. The Zebdas were called Zebdas, simply enough.

And they were being fought by guys the game called, “Thorn Guards.”

Knowing the lore probably would’ve helped explain who the Thorn Guards. They had on green and gold tunics. Most of them wore at least some chainmail protection, and they carried either swords or spears. Presumably they were members of the Thorn Kingdom.

At the end of the day, it’s not like their story really mattered. Either they were on my side and would help take down the Zebdas, or I would have to take them down, too.

Sometimes games tried to make things really complicated. But a lot of the best ones follow simple rules: point and shoot, fight, survive.

All you needed to do was beat the enemy until they were defeated. That’s what made games fun.

I stood about twenty feet from a skirmish that was going on. One Thorn Guard was wielding his spear, keeping back two of the Zebdas with it. One would move in for a second, and he would ward it off with the spear. Eventually the other one would try for an opening, only to step back when the Thorn Guard redirected the spear in its direction.

For five minutes I watched the tableaux. It reminded me of a long gif — the same actions, over and over again, each time as if being performed for the first time.

I unsheathed my sword, moving closer.

Yellow sand crunched beneath my feet. The blue sky above the Thorn Kingdom stopped right at the edge of the wall, contrasting sharply with the yellow sky outside of the wall. My hand wasn’t sweating, despite how how it was; the game’s tactility was good, but it couldn’t capture everything.

I raised my sword in the air, moving closer.

At this point I was maybe ten feet away from the Thorn Guards and the Zebdas. That was close enough in their range for them to take notice of me. They were still wary of each other, but they were looking over at me.

“Will you help me get through this perilous situation, brave adventurer?” The Thorn Guard asked.

That threw me off. NPCs weren’t supposed to talk to you while you grinded. They were just supposed to get killed.

“Sure,” I said.

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