It’s been quite a long time in the Vile Peaks, but there’s more yet to come. Vanille and Sazh are still making their way through, and they pause to talk about the Purge. They go over the theme of public hysteria, with Vanille commenting that people don’t know what they’re afraid of, while Sazh remarks that the older people get, the more scared they become.
From here, we have an actual bit of optional content that can be missed. There are a bunch of areas you cannot reach, and in the location afterwards you find a bunch of switches that open the route ahead. However, if you head back into the previous area, you’ll find that the switches also activated the buttons there as well, giving access to some extra treasure chests. It’s not world-breaking gameplay, but hey, it breaks up the forward momentum at least a little.
After that, they decide to have some rest, Vanille makes it awkward, and then it’s time to head over to Snow, who’s currently being taken on board a giant spaceship. He has a brief exchange with Fang where she tells him to behave, but he won’t make any promises. He’s shackled and still being treated as a prisoner, so I suppose nobody’s yet decided to fill him in on the fact that they want to be friends.
Once Snow’s been brought onto the Lindblum, he’s introduced to the brigadier general of the fleet, Cid Raines. The conversation’s another odd one, as far as I’m concerned. Cid says he has a few questions for Snow. As Serah’s crystal is brought past, Cid wonders about whether Serah fulfilled her Focus, and then makes sure to call her a “tainted” Pulse l’Cie. When Snow challenges Cid about the Purge, Cid dismisses it as the Sanctum’s methods, before revealing that the Sanctum plans a public execution once they’ve captured the l’Cie.
This information makes Snow angry enough that he tries to attack Cid, but Fang takes him down. Cid states that the Sanctum is already tracking down the other l’Cie, and when Snow claims they’ll never catch them, Cid replies that he’ll need Snow’s help, and then he just walks away.
This scene is fine up-front, as Cid seems to be acting in an antagonistic manner because he’s a representative of the Sanctum, even if his responses are a bit evasive. However, when looking back on it after playing the rest of the story, Cid’s treatment of Snow up to this point seems to be aimlessly belligerent.
While Cid does have darker purposes in mind, his role at this stage of the story is to recruit Snow into his would-be rebellion, but he just makes the situation strained by constantly withholding information. True, Snow is unlikely to believe him if he says “oh, I want to help you and your friends, please tell me where they are”, but saying “the Sanctum wants to execute them, tell me where they are” is a fair bit worse. The depiction of the Cavalry in these sequences just feels like clumsy misdirection by the writer to fool the viewer, rather than being how they’d actually try to recruit Snow into their band.
What I’d expect would be for Cid and Fang to lay out the situation – that the Sanctum’s Purge sits poorly with the Cavalry, and that they’re seeking a way to defy the Sanctum. To that end, they want Snow’s help, along with the other l’Cie. Perhaps they’d need to do or show something to encourage Snow that they’re not lying, even if they still feel the need to keep him bound until they can be certain they have his allegiance.
Instead, Cid has Snow treated roughly, says he has questions for Snow but asks none, insults Snow’s lost fiancée, makes threatening references to executing the other l’Cie, states enigmatically that they’ll need Snow’s help to capture them, and then waltzes off-screen. None of this really seems to suit his purposes, it just makes him look like a villain.
Next we have a flashback to Day 7, where Serah’s apparently just dumped Snow. Given that Snow tends to be portrayed as rash and pig-headed, he deals with the situation here pretty well. He calmly states how much Serah means to him, and then presses her on what her actual reason for the break-up could be. Serah’s not hard to convince, and she shows him her l’Cie brand.
This prompts Snow to fall to his knees, and Serah runs off. It seems that at least some time passes while Snow stays there on his knees, and then he springs into action, charging onto the beach in search of her. I like this section a fair bit – it’s finally a bit of minor exploration, with some characters you can actually choose to speak to, and with no battles to interrupt. You can easily bypass the whole thing by talking to a couple of people, but I think it’s a nice little stop-gap where you can run around and get an idea of the world before everything went bad.
Actually, the main thing I really liked about this part, when I was playing it for this article, was when I noticed the letters above the café/restaurant and tried to translate them into English. When I succeeded at that, I started to translate other signs around the beach, until I’d finally managed to work out 20/26 letters of the Alphabet. Here’s some of my scribbles (probably not entirely accurate, I should warn you):
Anyway, I wasted around half an hour or more doing that. I think it’s a good example of why a more varied world is important to include in an RPG. People can find plenty of silly ways to spend time in games, if there’s more than just a plain corridor to explore, and they’ll often be the things that players remember after time has passed.
Back in the storyline, you can chat with members of NORA, who serve a more important function of giving you some background information. Gadot tells Snow about spotting a couple of girls in “weird clothes” around the Vestige, and Yuj refers to the Euride Gorge incident again.
Snow then catches up with Serah and declares that he’ll do all he can to help her. Serah protests, but Snow is adamant that he’ll support her, and that things will turn out well. He’s aware that the legend says those who complete their Focus are turned to crystal, but since it says they’ll gain eternal life, he’s confident that this means Serah won’t die.
I find that Snow tends to be at his best when he’s talking to Serah, though perhaps not so much when he’s talking about her. He’s reasonable and calm when he’s speaking with her, whereas he’s impassioned and reckless when she’s not around to keep him in check. When it comes to talking to other people, such as Lightning, he has a habit of saying the wrong thing, though in Lightning’s case I think a lot of that comes down to her own faults. They both have a habit of attacking people who don’t agree with them, after all.
And pow, that’s it – Chapter 4 is done, and we’ll never have to visit the Vile Peaks ever again! (Unless you play the sequel)