I guess this is the only Hadean Lands thread we have? From the time loop thread I would have thought it had a bit more activity back in the day :)
I picked this up a couple of years ago, played for maybe 3-4 hours (enough to see the core conceits and see 80% of the map), and then got stuck with no visible avenues for progress at all. (And it felt like if I had to use a walkthrough that early on, this wouldn’t be my game). The recommendations in that other thread made me pick the game up again, but with the decision that if I really, really got stuck I’d find a walkthrough.
Despite remembering nothing from the previous playthrough, it too me maybe an hour to get to the same place again. And then I consulted a walkthrough, and found that the next step was totally unfair in that it required the use of an item with no prompt in basically every room in the game. (Using the oculus on a room; sometimes you would get a text prompt about a glimmer but it was not reliable. It just had to be done in every room.). And then I felt complelled to repeat that with other items. Sure, I built this lodestone to use in one specific room for a specific purpose, but it could theoretically find useful things elsewhere, and the game has clearly told me that it’s expecting me to waste my time like that.
Then the next time I got stuck, it was due to a parser bug. (It was obvious you needed to cut out a piece of the coral to adapt the fungicide formula, but it just could not be interacted with usefully. And the paper stuck under the coral did not get disambiguated properly by the parser, so it looked inaccessible. But if you manually disambiguated it, it’d do the exact thing I wanted of breaking off a piece of coral).
And the third time I got stuck, it was due to the only way to make progress being to do something the game had taught you would never work. (Doing the Great Marriage ritual for the first time without knowing the Draconic formula. A incomplete ritual is never supposed to do anything, but here you just need to do the initial steps and then the ritual just magically completes without the binding.)
And at that point I’d just totally lost faith in the game, and started referring to the walkthrough after being stuck for 15 minutes. A lot of those turned out to be totally solvable puzzles that would have been quite rewarding to figure out. So it was a bit of a bummer to be deprived of those. But on the other hand, there were enough bullshit puzzles where the environment changed in a persistent way between loops in an extremely subtle way (like, one word change in a room description), sometimes inconsistently, that there is just no way I could have avoided this. (Like the dragon that controls access to the rooms. I activated the dragon, expected it to open up the fractures, but the first couple of fractures I checked showed no change so I thought I’d misunderstood what it would do. But of course you were supposed to go to every single one of the 15 to find the two that actually changed. Fuck. You.)
Anyway, as an alchemy game this was top notch. Trying to figure out how to substitute / adjust the formulas was great fun. (Though I’m a bit bummed out that the hour I spent trying to make the Aura Imitation with Jade work with Ivory instead were wasted, despite it feeling like a clearly signposted alchemy puzzle rather than the jade you need is in a room that silently became accessible). Likewise trying to figure out how to actually use the outputs of the alchemy to solve the puzzles worked really well most of the time.
As a time loop experience it’s quite interesting. The way it allows you to shortcut things you already know how to do, by doing them on your behalf, is just brilliant. The carefully orchestrated clockwork plan for the final loop is the kind of thing I hoped Outer Wilds would do. Not sure how I feel about how heavily the latter half of the game relied on making effects persistent across loops, rather than just carrying effects over. The thing I really felt was missing from this aspect was having any kind of concept of time within each iteration. Nothing is acting on the world but you, so there’s none of the figuring out what will happen and when, and how to take advantage of it. But maybe that would have been impossible to fit in with the automation of things you already know how to do.
Overall, it is a tough game to recommend due to how heavy it is on low-value “repeat the same action everywhere, and always recheck everything for any changes” intfic bullshit.