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A member registered Jun 25, 2017

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Yeah, souls games have a slow ramp up for me until I get more interesting weapons, and I definitely find myself agreeing with you Nanoff. I've done two bosses beyond the tutorial and while they did have mini dungeons from the bonfire as a real level rather than open terrain, it was short and no real variety in the enemies in it. I think that's just a fact of them being early level stuff before you have options over the starting gear and a club, but it's still a downside.

Also, even on low settings my computer occasionally struggles to react, which is a huge problem when it does that consistently on the same boss attack, making it much harder to dodge. 😮‍💨 Really hoping that's not a theme here, tho maybe I just need a driver update.

Yeah, thankfully Nanoff talks about his plan here to do a restoration job on the other character's sprites to help with the resolution scaling disparity, which won't require him to do them all over again. It's just the artist's curse, as you evolve your stuff in something where you can make iterative changes like a VN, you end up with little quality changes here and there that you have to let lie.

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As someone who liked Kota but did not call him one of my favorite characters, I have to say this build to explore his sidequest was very well done and definitely makes me like and respect his character more. While it was never very subtle why he 'meddles' with you and Asterion's burgeoning feelings for each other, doing his route very much fleshes out the experience you get when chatting soulmates with him during the main story when he's drunk, and it works very well. All of the peeling back of Kota's layers and guard really does pay off with the extra scene at the end of chapter 17, and you really feel the character growth from him and feel great with how you and the rest of the staff come together for him once he's ready to open up and accept help.
I've only done one playthrough of it so far, but I'm definitely interested in changing up the other guests and pressing Kota for his take to see what he has to say. I'm too nice to push boundaries even though the MC can tell Kota's already caught on and flipped the script on us before we even began, so I can't wait to see more of his unimpressed face as we push our luck too far.

I really appreciate the effort you all put in to make the 'hangout routes' feel like full main story content this way, as opposed to the much more static current hangout with Luke. I especially love the execution of the chapter 17 scene between the panning between Kota and the rest of the staff - certainly the only way to really have all of the characters be on screen and have it not feel too busy, and then Luke breaking Kota's melancholic thoughts and dimmed background by actually moving up to him was a great touch. Likewise with the playing of Kota's theme(s) at proper times and whatnot.

Also, the Hinterlands 'shortcut' is extremely well executed! Not just the fact that it's there, but the framing device as a conversation with P and the MC is top notch. I feel like all I do is fawn over y'all in these posts, but again I'll say it, the way you play with the medium and keep things more in character with how you handle the player is just such a wonderful experience that blows everything else out of the water. Kudos again.

I think it made great sense! Thank you for putting in the time for the detailed answer.

This is awesome insight into the MC! It's amazing that you're encouraging the player to live up to the MC's standards rather than just hoping the player sees themself reflected in him, and it pays off as being super engaging. Coupled with how you play with the VN medium and choices in it, it really does pull the player to really engage with the content and do the detective work as well, since the MC is there waiting to reward them for doing it. Damn, you glorious bastards. That's why this project is something special.

Thanks for the detailed response! I think your first point really does nail it and why Minotaur Hotel has been so engaging: it's not just the writing or the art or the music to put the player in a certain mindset, but even the timing of getting to choose something, no matter if it's a big choice or not, drives home certain mindsets and themes.

I had already been thinking about the times you get a choice on screen when it's the only one option and how that makes the player feel more engaged by actively getting to select it anyway, but even that is just a surface level interaction with the medium compared to something like after the kiss with Asterion: telling the player they have 3 options to stay in the moment and 1 to back away from it sets up their expectations that they get to enjoy the tender scene 3 more times before it ends. Yet when they think the moment has to be over because they've seen the 3 options and that's what renpy said they get, one more choice appears to reward and delight you because clearly the player wants to bask in the moment more, so why shouldn't they be able to? Renpy (and VN expectations) as a medium are a tool that can also be played with to drive home the themes and important messages, and it feels like so many VNs just let it be a delivery mechanism. Kudos to y'all for going above and beyond, it definitely shows.

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There are some choices that don't seem to have a gameplay impact, but have you establish elements of your MC's personality. Specifically, I'm referring to the prologue's "science can't explain the supernatural/science will be able to explain anything with enough data" choice and when talking with Greta, choosing between "I want to fulfill the hotels mission/I want to advance technology and society/I want money lmao". Those seem like pretty big choices for how the MC approaches the world that's left up to the player, yet I haven't seen an impact. Was there a plan to have the MC present a different personality based on these choices that has fallen to the wayside in favor of the 6 backgrounds being the main split? 

And I guess I'm the same vein, just how do you guys handle writing the MC? You touched on this in the build 0.4 Q&A that they have a kinda specific, almost _Chad_ personality, but how do you decide when the player picks a choice versus the MC just handling as part of their innate personality? 

And how do you adjust for the fact that renpy's easy rollback has someone picking a choice in a dialogue branch, reading the response, then rolling back to pick every other choice in turn? Obviously you disable that at some important points, but, like, do you factor in that the player does the rollback to your writing process and style and intentionally plan for it?

I guess in short, I think you have done one of the best jobs writing a 'blank'/no character sprite MC that I've ever seen, so how do you do it? Would you consider a devlog on it? 

Based on what we know right now, I actually agree 100% with your list here on the backgrounds. They don't need perfect parity (like I think Art still can get an extra point of relationship with Asterion that others can't and that's fine), but I think it shows that Math and Humanities are lagging a bit so far (and Speedrunner is its own thing, but that's kinda the point anyway so whatever).

I did have the Speedrunner event fire by having I think Luke and Khenbish out exploring and it was nice having extra mats, but I then didn't have enough tech stat accruing in R&D to use them anyway, so it wasn't very exciting - not having Luke sitting in R&D being a nerd all day means your tech growth is way slow. Coupled with how the story goes with not being able to trick Argos locking you from the choice of recruiting him over P later (I think), I'm still fine putting it a tier below Math and Humanities who at least don't cause this. 

Of course, as you said, this is all min-max optimizing, play what you like for your first playthrough! Expect probably speedrunner, save that for >2 like the devs recommen. :P

I love that we're talking about this at all, makes for a healthier relationship than your normal VN where the MC is not just playing boyfriend but also playing therapist the whole time. Feels right in place with the effort of the MC to deal with the power difference so we can have a relationship with Asterion.

Mmm, the logic about it being a mythical is sound, especially if you want to use this character to dive into magic or if they have magic powers that could be helpful here - specifically, we already have the Tapir God and tapir are tied to eating dreams/nightmares, so a tapir therapist could make a lot of sense, perhaps? We know there's more Hinterlands content coming, if there's a tapir character there (Matias, the book author, is hinted to be one I think) they could be related to the therapist as some story beats.

But I will say that I also appreciate the idea that a 'normal' human could handle these issues, too. Sort of a 'therapy doesn't need mythical people or magic to be helpful' message. And the idea of it being a human tickles me a bit, haha, contrasting that they have to adjust to the mythicals existing and weird things they do/can do, but at the end of the day trauma is trauma and they're in their element helping these people through it, no matter what they look like - they don't need an extraordinary background to help people, even Asterion and all the crap he's had to deal with.

If you didn't want to just do a human though, you could go for a Baymax style character from Big Hero 6: some sort of robotic helper/AI that was designed for physical therapy but has become some-what sentient and wants to do mental health, and moves into an upgraded clinic after an R&D project. Then there can be a chain of projects to improve it that make more sense as R&D compared to like, needing to make 'better and better offices' for them as the project(s). 

Even with that robot idea though, I agree with Foeg_lug on the placement of the content, the right way to have it is probably just having it be a base thing that gets kicked off in the main story so it's always something that's going on and can be referenced in conversations, but the MC can spend time during the day sitting in as support for Asterion during some harder sessions. This way it's not that Asterion won't get help if you don't schedule it, but that you can experience some of that story - people love supporting the moo so I'm sure they will - and maybe the end result of the chain can just be something simple like improving one of Asterion's stats by 1 and a crete themed outfit. It's not super flashy, but that's kinda the point, you're not magically solving all of his problems, just there to show support for some sessions and he pays you back with something kinda personal from his past that he made for you.

I know you're talking about pom poms or something like christmas ornaments, but my brain went "balls... like... trucknutz?" and now I can't stop picturing that, Asterion passed out on the couch and Luke hanging a pair of them on each horn. 🤣

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The Constitution prevents any (uninvited) god that's not the Overseer from entering:

 With the exception of the Overseer, the gods of Olympus, their associates, Lady Hestia and Lord Hades are hereby forbidden from entering the Labyrinth without express invitation from the Master of the Realm.

Only if Clement (or a previous master) invited Athena in would it work, and I thought the woman Clement met was already in the Hotel... Heck, I think Athena would've been pretty unhappy with Asterion being locked up and not 'actually tortured' again, too, she would've rather wound Clement around her finger to return to the old ways.

Though I will say, in the Ruthless route we do learn about the 3 other 'minor' gods who are involved in our story and contributed their blood to the creation of the Realm, because one of them outright shows up. How did the realm allow them in if the Constitution should've kept them out? Even if they aren't the main 12 gods/Hades/Hestia, they're still a god of Olympus, no? Maybe they never left the realm in the first place? I don't think Nemesis or her sisters would be banished to the Realm for any reason, but that's another way in maybe.

I mean, one of the dev team also wrote the very NSFW Orc Breeding stories, this may not be out of the question... :thinking_hermes:

Mind, I'd be a little surprised since it seems like the devs have toned down the horny from the original idea of the story, but who knows.

Oh yeah, if you or anyone else finds quotes in the game about ravens/crows/any birds working for Athena to influence the past Masters, drop 'em here for sure!

You posit an interesting link with the vultures we see with Nikos and the 'trio of observers', especially since I did mention that the Narrator did just directly talk to the player before the vultures are seen... I feel like we would be seeing more of said vultures in the Ruthless route, though, and the only time I can think of might be when something lands on the roof of the Hotel right in the beginning of chapter 1 when Luke and Kota are plotting to ditch the Hotel? I suppose there is also space for the observer that appears to Nikos in Ruthless chapter 2 being in the form of one of these vultures, and Nikos would not describe them as such, knowing they are instead a god come to answer his pleas... so maybe this holds more water than meets the eye.

And no worries, it didn't take until my second playthrough that I stopped and said "Wait, vultures? How is there wildlife?", haha.

Ah, I vaguely remembered we had more info on the night with Phroneos somewhere, thanks for bringing it up and quoting it here for us, ChronicQuery!

Super interesting find on the link there, I honestly wouldn't put it past the dev team to go that far with something being called a star and meaning a pattern that tends to appear on vultures, lol. It's also very poetic, Asterion is just a poetic person and would think that way, and stars are already a theme between Luke's interests and Asterion's name. And THEN there's the fact that, when Nikos sees them, "his eyes are filled with both puzzlement and a distant familiarity", so if they really are griffon vultures and are seen in Crete, it makes sense why Nikos would  recognize them since he's from there, too.

Yo that point on these bird sightings being around the confession or divulging of relationships would be fire if you guessed right on that! If the Master does not call out Nikos right away when presented the option (they can pretend that Argos is from the depths of the Labyrinth until he starts slithering away, then call him by name of Dominikos and lead to a more "Oh so you understand the role is fake but we're still playing it, then I'll keep my secrets to play the role out" encounter/aftermath in the Hotel in Chapter 18), there are no signs of the vultures, so I think you're on to something.

On the sacrifice, one has to wonder if its status as a sacred bird being sacrificed for a hero who went to Elysium meant it was not a taboo, or if it did indeed negatively affect (some of) the gods' opinion of Asterion. Was the fact they never saw each other again a punishment to Asterion, potentially from the gods? I don't think Pheroneos said anything bad about Asterion for hunting the bird (there's space to read the quote as Pheroneos turning heel and calling him 'Monster' instead of something nice, but why would he help with the fire for the sacrifice, then?), else I don't think Asterion would think of him so fondly... so I think calling him 'Brother' could be it, and could be a big enough breach to his job to get him pulled from the Labyrinth guard duty even if the gods weren't mad at Asterion... 
Well unless it was supposed to be a confession of love, which would have the same problem of potentially getting him pulled from guard duty for. Asterion drinks to Khenbish's question in the drinking game about kissing after a physical activity and claims it's just kissing siblings on the cheek after play fighting... but kissing Pheroneos after hunting together with him is still on the table òwó (for the record, I think it's unlikely, but had to throw it out there, haha).

No dual tagging system, so I just want to be very clear this thread will be discussing spoilers as we investigate the mysterious bird(s) of Minotaur Hotel. (Not you Luke, you're not that mysterious)

While they have never drawn much attention, there have been multiple sightings of birds in the realm that raise a few questions once you consider the rules for spawned animals (and plants). On our third meeting with Argos, he teaches us how hostile spawned life is to Asterion; the instant they notice Asterion('s pelt), they immediately launch to assault it. He claims, "This, too, is the Labyrinth's nature. [...] a master, long ago, put in place a contract to forbid animal and plant life from being summoned above the valley." In turn, there is basically nothing left alive in the valley beyond monsters and the occasional plant, if I'm recalling correctly. We never otherwise really hear about wildlife (call me out if you remember otherwise!)...

Until this interaction in Chapter 17, if the Master uncovers the truth about the Argoi, confronts Nikos, but then forgives him. After Nikos makes his big gesture to kill the role of Argos and the Narrator praises our brand of justice, we get these lines:

Your eyes are pulled upwards, to the shadow of a vulture flying high in the otherwise-empty sky. It cries out once, twice, until from beyond the cliff comes a second shadow. The pair comes together to circle over you. Together they let out one final wail, and then fly towards the hotel and beyond sight. Just like you, Nikos gazes at the two birds; but his eyes are filled with both puzzlement and a distant familiarity. His hand almost rises upward, as though trying to reach out, but gives up as the both of you realize how late it's getting.

Now, Nikos is not wearing the Asterion pelt at this point in time, so the vultures would not be compelled to divebomb him if they were spawned by the Labyrinth/Realm, but we also have another scene with a white vulture that does see Asterion and does not attack. In the Chapter 18 climax, just before the camera shifts to follow the events inside the hotel, Asterion is outside and musing over his thoughts when he spots one flying in the sky:

He breathes in, and looks up to stars. And there, up above, do his eyes deceive him? A white vulture? Just like when he was young, during that night with Phroneos when they --

He's interrupted by Oscar's approach, so we don't learn much more about Asterion's thoughts on the vulture, but what we do hear (and even just its presence at all) says a lot - he was not attacked by said white vulture despite being very visible. Whatever this vulture is, it is not something spawned by the Labyrinth. I think it's safe to say the same for the two vultures that the Master and Nikos see down in the valley.

So then, who's vultures are these? I think it's not hard to say they're related to one of the gods, Asterion definitely sees it as some sort of divine sign in his youth, but we still don't know the full story of what happened with Phroneos. Was death close after, and these birds are related to Hades? Vultures are scavenger birds that eat carrion rather than make their own kill. Or there's always ties with Artemis and birds and hunting, or Athena tied to owls but might be too unsubtle so she's been snooping with a less conspicuous bird - after all, only Hermes is allowed in the realm as the Overseer. What do y'all think, bird friend or bird foe?

Me and the Boys about to play a drinking game

Followed by its' cursed alternative:

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Hmmm, maybe the answer to this one lies in the middle of that list? Asterion is the one smelling you and he finds saltwater (but no sunlight, leftover from our interaction and blessing from Poseidon?), crocus (makes saffron), and 'decaying petals of deflowered poppies'. THEN gets the smell of the pungent oil and the coppery taste, and finally your human smell. I'm not sure why we smell like crocus and poppies, but of note are the histories/ties of those two flowers:

  • Crocus has two mentioned myths on wikipedia, the more relevant one is this: he was a companion to Hermes that was accidentally killed by said god in a discus accident, and in his grief, he turned his corpse into the crocus flower. (Of note, this is a very similar myth to Apollo and Hyacinth, but Apollo hasn't been very central to anything yet). - Maybe this is Hermes' 'scent' and our brushes with him has it lingering on us? Dangit I feel like I need to playthrough yet again and focus on every smell that gets mentioned, lol.
  • Poppies are heavily associated with sleep and death, said to be created by Demeter so she could get some damn shut eye. They're common offerings to the dead, so their scent might make Asterion think of death and even specifically his death. (They're also heavily associated with Hypnos, god of sleep, and Morpheus, god of dreams, but neither of those two have been mentioned in the novel, so I think we can rule them out for now)

So, I think the smell of poppies makes him think back to his death, leading to the oil smell and coppery taste. You're right about Charon's payment, but since we know it was a gold coin and that gold doesn't taste coppery, I think it was just the blood welling 'up' from the wound as Asterion lay dying - final moments and whatnot. The bitter, burnt oil smell may be from the profaned shrine there in the labyrinth, then? It seems like a dark, cloying scent that might be used to describe defilement, which we know the shrine had been.

Wait hang on, this is right about when the achievement called 'The Tale of Asterion and Theseus' fires, right? With its' description of "Rewrite the story of Asterion and his executioner"... I think we just accidentally did a biiiiiiiiiig recursion breaking ritual where we took Asterion's story and changed it: Man chases minotaur through a labyrinth (literally what just happened in the Deep Labyrinth), man catches minotaur, they fight (note the fight's beginning is when Asterion's birthmark 'first' appears), man someone wins (huh, turns out Asterion can win if you try to double down on strength, like a fool)... but then the man never slays the hybrid (well, until later chapters when we take him to bed, wink). Asterion's story is supposed to have him decapitated, so the ring of fire starts closing in on his neck, but the MC's gentle touch breaks the recursion and rewrite's Asterion's story.

He had been seen as a coward for letting himself be killed without a fight, but this time he does fight (playfully though it was) and that's right when his birthmark reappears. Even though they argued to the judges that it was not a shameful act but instead a holy sacrifice to the gods, now it's not even a shameful act: he fought, we won, and we did not kill Asterion. One of the reasons the gods shoved Asterion in this realm might've just been erased by our actions, hence all the weirdness. 

EDIT: Just adding some extra evidence, when you catch Asterion in the deep labyrinth chase and hug, he "lets out a grunt - liberating, redeeming, as though a lock had come undone in his throat." 

EDIT 2, THE REVENGE: Oh and the god that gave the Roman coin that translates things? Very likely Hermes, which can also explain the smell of crocus in the area since that was one of the offerings to the fire when updating the translation magic. AND that's not even highlighting the actual ritual that occurred down there: a fire, a sacrifice, a story (the hotel's origins), unveiled truths (why Asterion will still call you Master and King); all things Oscar teaches us when he's narrating his ritual for Pedro. Sure they were intended for the translation magic, but that might not stop them from mattering here, we 100% just did some sort of accidental ritual, likely to restoke Asterion's divinity that, as Robert said, had been bled dry from him.

It's funny that you mention this; back in build v0.3, you could access a special 'dev room' with messages from the devs and a prototype version of the clothes selector for Asterion called Build-a-Moo if you named yourself Anon. The old man will have a small reaction to your unusual name (which actually still persists in this build), but the room is no longer accessible. As far as I know, that's the only Easter egg out there for the PC's name.

While we're on the subject though, I should mention that Chapter 15 also has a spot where you type in a name to someone's phone, and they do have various reactions based on what you put. I'm not sure I'd call them Easter eggs to be honest, as they're less about meta things and more focused on what the character might actually respond with if you put that name in their phone, but some have bigger reactions and responses than others.

Listen, as someone who is also gradually discovering his love for the beefy boarman-with-shirts-that-show-treasure-trail type, you don't have to stop.

Yeah man, no problem. I didn't think I needed to call it out but to be clear, these endings are fully crafted experiences with all the polish you get reading the rest of the VN: the text boxes advancing in certain cadences to mimic speech, the sprites moving and changing expression, the chilling music selection, etc. It's not just torture porn with reused asset soup, there's a tragedy here getting told that probably lands a lot harder than people are used to since I don't think we really seek them out in popular culture anymore, and because you're not just reading it but getting to experience it with art, music, text, and a degree of participation. It's a powerful experience.

1) Yeah, I kind-of wanted to get ahead of someone positing a time loop theory since I felt my summary implied it more than actually going through the route does. Glad I could spark the idea for the name, though, go for it! It was already a cool touch that the young man matches your background and pushes back on accepting the deed if you did as well, so that's why I thought it was intentional, haha. It did add to the experience for sure, so I think it's worth it if you can slap it in without too much hassle.

2) That's a good point! I was running a little on fumes by the time I was writing up the last ending summary and spoilers section, so I didn't think to point it out. If the forums had a better way to hide spoiler images in some sort of expander box, I'd snag a screenshot and put it in the spoiler post. 

3) Oh no, I totally did not pick up on that! I 100% thought there really was Kota and Luke in the lounge because I assumed they would've waited at least a day for the Master and Asterion to return, I just thought it was a stylistic choice to not show their sprites or their words to Asterion because he's already given up and pulled into himself and his own head. Definitely fucked that they didn't, but with no Master and no one with the deed willed to them, it's possible the realm itself threw everyone else out before Asterion made it back... at least, that's what I'm going to tell myself.

4) Oh man, I'm learning all sorts of stuff here! It's easy to assume that the mythical snake people created from these gods would only ever worship them, so I am very interested to learn more from him back on the 'main' route, I just jumped the gun on calling him Catholic, then. Sorry Nikos, lol. 
Also, as you can tell, I definitely never heard about that theoretical link for John the Baptist and Hermes/Mercury, very interesting! I'm still gonna shitpost and call it a crossover, though, even if it's both canon and canon

5) Oh yes, I was totally remiss not mentioning the phenomenal credits song done by Jake, and having the lyrics start sooner in the credits was a great and powerful choice - I heard this song a lot while summarizing the endings, and it still puts a lump in my throat because it's that powerful at evoking emotion and capstoning an ending to Minotaur Hotel, especially since there are the different versions. I know I called out which characters (Asterion and/or Nikos) appear as a drawing on the background of the credits, that's also what instruments you hear during that ending, if anyone couldn't guess.

I think it really says something how many people, myself included, turned around their opinion/desire to see the Ruthless route to completion once the truths in Chapter 18 (and sooner, for Argos) came to light. You all crafted such amazing twists with a fascinating story & character in Argos/Nikos that I re-engaged with content I had even said in the past that I was going to avoid. That content, in turn, is so good that I took a week to put together these summaries so more people could experience them! I think that's the highest praise I can give for this stuff, and the best way I can say thank you all for not just writing, but creating the whole experience. So, you're welcome, but also thank you.

Spoilers: Full spoilers from Ending: As You Are, I Once Was

This is another ending looking at the theme of things being a cycle, but I think it's very important to note that this (in my opinion) is probably just 'recursion' and not some stuff where the Master time-travels back to the beginning of the game and is that exact old man. While a neat idea, things don't line up with the deed reverting to the 'old man' (even further spoilers: Poseidon) on Clément's death, and there have been no other signs of time-travel powers or gods of time being invoked at all in the story, even in this route. It's a good way to show that the Master has cursed themselves, even if they did not die from their hubris with the poisoned elixir, but I really think that's a far as we should read into it... of course, let me know if you disagree!

Let me know if you named yourself with a different letter/name and thus got the old man at the end here to use that letter... It's a great touch if true and would've been a bit of extra legwork from the devs for an easter egg, though I really wonder what names get plucked for rarer characters or even symbols lol.

Also, the speedrunner response to meeting another speedrunner is as great as you'd expect: the old man looks down on the young man because they speedrun a stupid game, calling them a "Cringe ass nae nae bitch" (or something really close to that).

Full spoilers from Ending: Dust and Silence alternate of As You Are, I Once Was

Also one of the better ending results, the Master is not dead of the poison, but they are completely irrelevant once the boys are gone, which is its own just reward. This one actually has some spoilers I glossed over during Nemesis' chat flashback with Nikos, he goes into more detail about Jean-Marie being artifacts and information from Joseph the Merciful, whom Nikos clearly reveres as though he is a saint. Then, when talking about the Overseer, Hermes, Nikos makes some really interesting lore claims:

A holy duty, Goddess, Given, no less, by a God of old. Mama and Bampas... and the priest back at the village, too... they all told me He, the one I should not mention ((Hermes)), even knew the Christ. They said He was John the Baptist. That is had always been Him. That's why I did it, Goddess. I was told it was the right thing to do. Blessed.

So uhhhh, in this universe Hermes was a very famous preacher and figure in Catholic mythology. It starts hinting how Nikos and the snakes are so favored by the Olympic gods yet say Catholic prayers and the like. I think we should, maybe in the old theory thread or in a fresh one, inspect the way P looks at and uses the Ave Maria & Holy Mary invocations so much, yet was created by Hera in light of these (because the term is hilarious) crossovers.

Also, I suspect the hard cut after Nikos asks what the Afterlife is like is because Nemesis actually does tell him, but could get in sooooooo much trouble for it that she blocks it from our view or I guess her memory. Nowhere else in the game have we had a cut this hard, so it really sticks out as intentional. I suppose it could be because she's pissed he asks, too, but I dunno, I like to hope she'd give him this reward for his devotion to her VENGEANCE ways.

Spoilers: Full spoilers from Ending: Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel

Ah Asterion... a true tragedy, us as the audience knowing what you're missing by not turning around and look for the Foreman like you do when pissed off at the Master in the Dust and Silence version. No real spoilers were expunged from this ending.

Full spoilers from Ending: Dust and Silence alternate of Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel

This one is probably the best ending out of all 6 Ruthless route endings, mostly because it seems to end the best for our boys and the Master gets done in by his hubris... well, I concede Snekboi is not in a great state physically, though, compared to the last Dust and Silence on the next post. There are no real new spoilers to discuss in this one either, that isn't already covered better elsewhere, like the Overseer being Hermes. 

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The hard part for me is the dissonance pre-the Ruthless route's start after Chapter 12. The Ruthless Master's actions versus the rest of the narrative still going on before the story forks - recruiting Kota or Luke, the other times you're chatting with Asterion about starting up the Hotel and not being the worst etc. Once the route begins after Chapter 12, it is a lot easier to separate the character the Master has become from me as the Player/MC and the choices I'm picking to see the content. It's still tough seeing a very traumatized person not only be denied the help and therapy they need to deal with their trauma, but instead getting new trauma heaped on to them, but once you're in the Ruthless chapters, the Master is more of their own character with their own hubris that they need to get foisted by like any good tragedy. In fact, I'd say these chapters are a great tragedy that really has punch because you're in some control over what type/details of the tragedy you see. 

I do think this helps underscore a point the devs made about the Ruthless route before it was done: it does make doing the right thing more impactful to do because you can actively chose the wrong thing to do to someone like Asterion. The tough part is how much a VN wants you to self-insert to the story, so it feels much more personal not just choosing to do evil things, but hearing the dark thoughts in Asterion's head and actions behind closed doors that an abuser would never see as a consequence of their actions. It's really important to note just how much they wrote the MC to very intentionally not do anything that would abuse his power over Asterion beyond the ruthless content and maybe trying to send him out naked or just in his underwear. The main route MC talks with Kota about this because of the power dynamic, and the only reason our relationship with Asterion can work is that Asterion knows we're never actually ordering him to do something, even when we say "refer to us by name, not as Master" - he knows it's never truly an order, just colloquialism. 

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Spoilers: Full spoilers from Ending: Shackled

Woof, if any of the endings are about continuing themes established in the rest of Minotaur Hotel, it's this one: The redeemer takes on the shackles of those they have freed. Pretty accurate way to say this one ended up.

As mentioned before, we're given the identity of the realm's godly Overseer, the only god allowed access to the realm: Hermes. The big information we learn from him in this ending is that he has definitely set up the role of Foreman to turn into what it has: he is 'too busy' to actually oversee the realm (so the realms can conveniently go against the god's (Athena's) wishes) but the humans were getting 'too soft'. Thus he is forced to set up the role of Argos, but picks these big, flamboyant schemers that learned to try and be the villain so the Master can learn to maybe not be a dick. He needs his plausible deniability though, and he is mentioned to be the god of plots and schemes, so setting up this convoluted mess with the express intent that it (eventually) benefits Asterion is very in character. And as I mentioned before, it makes it a little more fucked up what Hermes is pulling in the Chapter 18 climax, throwing away his pawn of Argos/Nikos like that.

I think there's room for debate that Asterion might have intentionally doomed Nikos to literally take his shackles and punishment when he lashes out in anger in this ending just before he takes the Gift's freedom. It's impossible to know if the pelt would've hunted Nikos down anyway, had Asterion not said what he did at the end to Nikos, as the Dust and Silence alternate has them peace out before the pelt comes around.

Not really a spoiler from this route per se, but P finds it so funny that the cursed minotaur snake calls itself Argos, because P stands for Panoptes and he and his people 'should have' been the real Argos in a way.

Full spoilers from Ending: Dust and Silence alternate of Shackled

If Shackled is about taking on the shackles of the one they have redeemed no matter why or how you did it, this Dust and Silence alternate is the deliberate breaking of it through accepting it. Nikos is not just shackled by the realm as a punishment, but he instead calls this responsibility and joins Asterion through to his freedom to try and nurse his mental health back. Otherwise, no new revelations here I think.

Spoilers: Full spoilers from Chapter 3, pre-endings

Surprise, there aren't any! I had to give this one its own post because of character limits in posts though, even though this part isn't very impactful besides giving the player a different (and meaner, ya big jerk) way to get on the Dust and Silence track.

You're welcome! It is really impactful and explores the overall themes of Minotaur Hotel in big important ways, which is why I wanted to do it justice and write up a very detailed summary of its content so more people could learn about it. Hopefully by skipping the worst of the traumatic bits, rewriting it to mostly never be 2nd person (I found it felt a lot worse to see "You order Asterion to follow you" rather than "The Master orders Asterion to follow."), and using 'The Master' to refer to the player instead of our more common 'MC' designator, it helps provide distance that this is exploring the tragedy of the Ruthless route, rather than being something the player has chosen to do.

Spoilers: Full spoilers from Chapter 2

Uh, there are a lot of these, since as I said, this chapter has some of the most meat on its bones. I'll try to list them in order, and we can split into further threads to discuss more if needed.

The Narrator is revealed to be Nemesis, one of the triad goddesses of justice. Argos prayed to each of the twelve, plus Hestia and Hades, before praying to the Eyrenies, 'those winged spirits of vengeance'; then finally this triad of goddesses: Dike, Themis, and Nemesis. She is called the Tilter of Scales and is a goddess focused more on vengeance and retribution, especially to those who suffer from hubris and arrogance before the gods. Thus her very brutal plan for Argos makes a lot of sense: in his own way, Argos and the whole Argoi role is its own form of hubris, and Argos must prove himself in trials to redeem himself and be worthy of her help. Vengeance is also a very brutal form of justice, and can easily spiral into cycles of its own, which definitely fits the themes of Minotaur Hotel.
Also, she often (only?) refers to Argos/Nikos as Orestes, in case you see that name thrown around.

Argos' Overseer, in case you didn't figure it out from Chapter 18, is Hermes. Which has really sad implications for Argos, since Hermes tries to get Argos killed in the favor of speeding up Hermes' plot(s) during the Chapter 18 climax. Protecc the Snek.

The godmade shrine that Nemesis directs Argos to is Poseidon's: It is a large body of water that was supposed to be saltwater, which would make it fall within Poseidon's powers of the Sea. However, the realm cannot generate salt in large quantities, so the shrine is incomplete and cannot grant the hidden Gift. This is where the artifact that Nemesis gave to Argos comes into play, though it isn't exactly clear yet what it is. Here's the text from the game:

He unwraps the artifact we gifted to him from the cloth that swaddles it, freeing that hunk of cursed rock from its hiding place. Dark as obsidian. Dark as the still waters stretching out within that underground cavern. Dark as the ichor which runs in the god's veins. It was no easy matter to steal it away form its origin deep within the bedrock of the realm. But by our contract with this usurper was that single shard granted.

With the conversation we had over in the spoiler thread about the importance of blood and Ichor in the game's mysteries (link here), I suspect it might be the actual drop of Poseidon's Ichor that was spilled to make the realm - thus it is one of a kind, as dark as Ichor (because it is Ichor), and it explains how it specifically allows the shrine to be completed.

While I didn't hide that much of it from the summary, I did gloss over a little bit of the ritual and Nemesis' explanation about it and Asterion's cairn shrine: 

Perhaps [Asterion] thought one of the old goddesses of his Minoan ancestors would grant the mercy refused to him by the Olympians. Uncountable are the years since libations were made at this little makeshift altar. First the ancient Masters refused the bull his private worship, and then Joseph the Merciful made it forbidden - along with all other rites to the "pagan" gods. Now, whatever power once lingered within it has long flickered out like an untended flame. But the prisoner's faith remains to this day, and a belief so ancient and wholehearted is no trifling matter. If you stir these cold ashes with your unshakeable belief, Orestes, something may manifest within this forgotten husk. It will be just like ancient times, before humanity grew too great; a single worshipper praying in a time of exceptional need so a god may be born.

And indeed, the ritual creates a new god, as when the speak (in caps), they are called Nameless Goddess and do not have a textbox decorator pattern like other spoken roles. (Oh and by the way, Nemesis never has one either, can make it a little hard to tell when she's talking, just musing, or narrating)

The power that Nemesis channels through the Gift into Argos to magic timeskip the pit digging is her own. I don't know if that means she doesn't have a godmade shrine here to channel through or otherwise write rules for the realm in, or if Poseidon's Gift is just that good a conduit, but I left out that it's her direct power she's flowing through Argos in some way.

What's left.... I think just that it's a little blink-and-you'll-miss-it that Argos/Nikos and his family are some flavor of Catholic, since they specifically say grace before they eat. That comes into more detail/hints both later in one of the endings, and in Chapter 18 if the MC figures out that Argos is the same Dominikos that claimed to be a preacher and befriended Asterion via text. I assume we'll learn a bit more on how that all works later in the story if we hangout with Nikos as a staff member.

Spoilers: Full spoilers from Chapter 1

The only really expunged spoiler from the summary is some of the information about what appears on the roof to Luke and Kota. However, we are not given a clear answer or description of what it is. I have 2 guesses, but first I'm going to exactly quote what the game says. For context, Kota has just called out "If there's anyone there, then show yourself...!"

It can be seen, prowling like a starved beast just out of sight. It can be heard, thrumming in the air like the fading voice of a lyre's plucked string. It can be felt, smelled, tasted. Like the chill of ice and the warmth of fire sinking into one's bones in turn. Like the sour stench of rot masked by floral perfume - crocus and asphodel. Like the coppery sting of blood mixed with the burning sweetness of wine. The Labyrinth leaves its mark on everything.

I have two guesses: either this is similar to whatever smell the Master gets in the finale of Chapter 18 when P and 'Jean' are acting crazy (thus may be the influence of another God) and thus what landed on the roof is the agent of that God that also caused Chapter 18 (I have to make a different spoiler thread about birds, we've had a few come up in the story that didn't immediately attack Asterion (normal birds should) and I think this is thus a bird since it landed on the roof and all) OR it could possibly be the Narrator, Nemesis showing herself to those two. Mostly the asphodel smell makes me think it may not be as evil as my first theory, since they're so tied to Hades, but why we don't get to see more about this creature if it were Nemesis, I don't know.

Spoilers: A Summary of the Ruthless Route (Ending: "As You Are, I Once Was")

In the As You Are, I Once Was ending, the Master has decided that there must be some sort of trick to Argo's scheme, and refuses to push Asterion into the pit until he grills Argos for more information. In turn, Argos pressures the Master to hurry up and act, that there is no trick. The player gets presented with some options to express doubt on, but no matter what you pick, Argos gets ticked off, cuts off the Master, and demands he just do his job already and punish the prisoner. This gets the Master to push back harder about getting his questions answered first, and Argos gets in his face over it, trying to loom over the Master and demand no more questions or games. As the Master lashes out to push Argos back, he accidentally strikes the Elixir in Argos' hand, sending it tumbling down to the ground. It shatters on the hard ground, liquid quickly absorbed by the arid, dusty ground. Despite Argos' best efforts to salvage even a single drop, it is of no use on this cursed ground.

Once Argos gets over his initial shock, he alights in rage and lunges for the Master's throat, but is forced to pull up short due to the laws and rules protecting the Master of the Labyrinth. Unable to lay a hand on the Master, Argos shrinks away and screams at him, how the Master has no idea what he's just done, what toil and hardship he has just ruined by his careless actions. Argos' lamentations quickly turn inward, how cursed he is that all his sacrifices are in vain. He obliquely calls out to the Narrator, who still does not respond or interject, and Argos' words turn into sobbed mourning over his lost plot.

But the Master has no interest in waiting for the snake to calm down, and demands his own answers for all of this. He twists Argos' words about sacrifices around on him, saying how clearly the Master has sacrificed the most just trying to deal with the snake's plots and schemes. Getting angrier and angrier, the Master says maybe he should throw Argos down into this pit instead, and starts working himself up more when Asterion cries out "Enough! Enough!" and interrupts the Master with his own meltdown and angry outbursts over the whole situation.

Once Asterion has calmed down somewhat, the Master drops Agros (on the ground, though he has a fleeting thought about using the pit instead) and calls over to Asterion, who is at first unresponsive. The Master walks over to Asterion and starts to reach for his shoulder, but Asterion wrenches away from his touch, eyes opening in a fury of his own. After the week of withdrawal into himself, Asterion is finally lucid once more, and he is fucking pissed. This Master has been crueler by far than all of the others, yet he still pulls back at the last second of sacrifice, and Asterion demands to know why. The player can pick from a few options about Asterion's usefulness or not trusting Argos, but the response doesn't seem to matter, as no matter what you say, Asterion simply doesn't care anymore. He's completely numbed himself up to this cruel Master and his cruel games and is done with any pretense or thoughts otherwise. 

Asterion suggests you both simply head back to the Hotel and starts walking off without the Master, when Argos calls out to him to wait, calling him by name for the first time. He rushes over to Asterion and grab on to his forearm, trying to explain that there's another way out of this, that Argos can provide freedom for him. Immediately, the Master takes offense and almost slaps Argos, but barely remembers at the last moment that the contract for the Mirror of Hestia would be breached, returning it to the snake and leaving the Hotel's hearth cold. Instead, he pulls Argos' hand off of Asterion and shoves the snake away, telling him to fuck off and never show his face again. To drive it home, the Master adds an order to Asterion that if he ever sees Argos again here in the valley, to not interact and immediately let the Master know. New orders in place, the Master and Asterion head for the Hotel, leaving the lamenting snake in their dust.

Since there is no poisoned elixir to consume the Master's thoughts and actions on the way back to the Hotel, the Narrator is left guessing what they are thinking: What will they do about the guests and the revolt back at the Hotel? Expel them, or have their words finally penetrated the Master's hardened heart? What does the Master regret, the suffering of Asterion at their hands, or that they have nothing to show for today's endeavor? Perhaps the Master's lack of time? If the snake had spoken true and the Master had more time, what wonders would the Master have done and old heroes' civilizations would have been restored in the world through the power of this realm? And what of the gods, would the Master's pious worship have eventually summoned the Olympians to recognize their efforts? 

All of this matters not without time, so the Narrator moves on to their own plea for the Master: "Regardless, what has been done cannot be undone. You have made your choices. And so look forward, Master. [...] Rule our land, you know you have the power. But rule the land of the living, not a wasteland! Do you hear our pleading, O Master {player name}? Do our words reach your heart - whatever pale and withered remnant yet dwells within you? If they do, and if you would take the advice of these humble observers, then hear us and hear us well. {the screen fades to black} You do wrong when you take good men for bad, bad men for good. A true friend thrown aside - why, life itself is not more precious! In time, you will know this well. For time and time alone will show the just man, though scoundrels are discovered in a day." End of chapter 3.

The epilogue chapter for this route is very different from the other ones, and does not feature P or Storm at all. It starts with some familiar text: "You don't remember much about that night." - the starting text for the game. Though it follows up with "Then again, you don't remember much of anything anymore." The Master has since left the Hotel behind, something having been extinguished inside of them on that day out in the valley. Asterion served as he had to, seen but not heard, and with a lingering animosity that made the Master never actually converse with him again. As demanded, Argos was never heard from again. And though the hearth never went out, no guests ever came to the Hotel, leaving just the Master and "the rotting fruit of [his] labor, to enjoy [his] kingdom of solitude and silence." Eventually, the Master could not take it and left for the outside world once more, but no hearth would ever warm him, no bed would ever let him rest, and no one would ever welcome him in to their place. They wander, "homeless, friendless, and forsaken." 

Suddenly, we find ourselves with a familiar background and, again, some familiar text: "Eventually, you found yourself in a bus station." Where before this bus station was a confusing respite that started their journey, here nothing can penetrate the aura of desolation that wraps itself around the forsaken Master. He slips into the cafe and pours himself a cup of coffee, checking the clock to see its time: 3AM. The Master is on his last legs, but he can tell he is close - "to redemption perhaps, if [he] deserved it, but to an ending either way." 

The Master is so caught up in his memories (and hallucinations of those memories here in the cafe) that he almost missed the young man standing in the doorway of the cafe. After a moment to rattle those thoughts back into place, he gestures the young man to come and join him, pouring a cup of coffee for the newcomer. They make small talk and the young man tells the old man his name, but just as before, the old man has a hard time grabbing it: "He tells you his name is John - or is it Justin? Does it even start with a J?" ((I named my Ruthless run character with a J so I don't know if they do this for every letter of the alphabet or not, haha)) The familiar chat and questions continue, though from the other perspective now. When asked about their background, the young man's matches the Master's, and the old, forsaken Master is finally satisfied about the character of this young man. He pulls out a certain old piece of paper and tries to pass it to the young man. In the plea this time, though, the Master adds: "It... he needs a purpose, though. Be good. Take care of him."

As the Master was, the young man is skeptical and the old man must plead his case, thinking "Maybe this youngster will be the redeemer that was promised so long ago. Maybe he'll be worse than you were. But maybe, just maybe, he'll do better. […] This is your last chance to do it right." We fade to black as the old Master says: "Just... take the deed." 

END "As You Are, I Once Was"

Ending: Dust and Silence alternate to As You Are, I Once Was

This ending splits from the above right after the Master picks an answer to Asterion's question to why they pulled up short of sacrificing him. Rather than deciding to numb himself entirely to this even crueler Master and continue serving him, Asterion has had enough and pushes back, taking control of the situation (while Argos watches incredulously from the background): "Then begone with you." Incredulous, the Master can only respond "Excuse me?", and in turn Asterion draws himself up, as tall and proud as he can manage, staring the Master down with contempt. "I said begone with you. Go." He even gestures for the Master to get out of his sight; as though he the master and the Master the servant. "I'm tired, Master... no, {player name}. I'm tired of this farce. So go on back to your Hotel. You're welcome to it. I will remain here, in the valley."

Angered, the Master tries invoking Asterions' oath of servitude, summarizing it as 'The Prisoner Asterion pledges loyalty and servitude to the Labyrinth's Master.' However, the Master is wrong on the terms of the oath, which Asterion is happy to correct him on: "And I think that you are forgetting the terms of that oath. 'The Prisoner will carry the burden of servitude, but shall not suffer the Labyrinth's wrath within the Hotel's territory.' " He gives a wry smile. "What do I have to fear of the Labyrinth's wrath? I'd rather suffer a thousand deaths at the hands of its monsters than spend one moment more under your thumb."

Offended, the Master stares Asterion and the quivering Argos down and angrily tries calling Asterion's bluff. "Fine then. Stay out here, see if I care. You and that liar can play all the games you want together. I've got a hotel to run." He turns on his heel and stalks away, eyes locked on to the Hotel and thinking "There's still so much to do, And your time to do it is already running out." as we fade to black.

We shift to a new scene and a music change - a flashback to just last night. The Narrator is talking to Argos, who is huddled in his home and getting ready to sleep, hoping to get to dream once more of home, of a mother's kindness and a father's advice. All of his wounds feel fresh: his vitality ebbs in his chest from the ritual, as does the scar on his side from it, to say nothing of the ghost of his eye and the emptiness it left behind. For a seemingly final time, the Narrator asks "Is your soul prepared to see this through?", and, no matter his circumstances, Argos replies "Yes, [Narrator]. Whatever may come." Argos closes his eyes.

... but merciful sleep does not come. Feeling for him, the Narrator decides to chat with Argos, "so that at least his mind could enjoy a period of grace." The Narrator decides to ask what is really motivating him to take this 'unblessed' path, as all Argoi before him - even his admired grandfather - had to tolerate violent masters before. 

At first, Argos parrots some of the words he said the first time he made contact with the Narrator, words of vengeance which drew the Narrator here to make a pact, but the Narrator pries deeper: "but why you of all Argoi? What changed that now one of your lineage, you, had the hubris to rise above your station?"

After a pause and a shift in position, Nikos finally responds with his own voice and thoughts. "I was told it was the right thing to do." 

He explains how he was raised on the old tales of heroes and monsters, including how Cadmus and his wife Harmonia became snakes in their old age but remembered humanity, and thus had no venom, this creating his race of snake people. "We are one with humanity," he says, "but apart. Touched by Python's distant chaos."

He pauses, then continues "Those tales, aren't they beautiful? Any my Papouli was part of one himself. The old Master Jean-Marie, who the prisoner cherished so much... He was just as rotten as his brother Clément." Nikos claims that only through the tempting at his Papouli's hands as the role of Argos that Jean-Marie learned better: "It was only then that he became the figure the minotaur remembers and loves. That, he told me, was the role of the Argos. To play the trickster and lead, through subterfuge, the human Master to what's right. A holy duty, [Narrator]. Given, no less, by a God of old. [...] That's why I did it, [Narrator]. I was told it was the right thing to do. Blessed.  I believed it.   I didn't do it for honor or glory, but because I thought it was right.  For my Papouli, too."

Then, Niko's demeniour sours. "Then this man comes, {player name}. It's not right. By all that's holy, it's not right." Here, the Narrator responds: 'But it's what the Olympians' sentence demands.' After a pause, Nikos replies "But my pact now is with [you, Narrator]." 'How regretful it is that you were born of Cadmus' lineage, Dominikos. You would have made a fine [addition to] my ranks.'

After a pause, Nikos finds himself bold enough to ask if he may ask the Narrator a question, which she allows. "What is the Underworld like?" 

Suddenly, we hard cut to black and the next scene, music stopping instantly.

The next scene focuses on Asterion, who is trying to control his breathing... the righteous fury that had him spite the Master is starting to ebb to questions and concerns over life now in the valley. His breathing routine is stopped by Argos, who calls out to him by name. When Asterion turns to glare at Argos, the snake quickly holds up his hands to shield himself from the minotaur, calling out "Wait! Just... listen to me." Assuming he just wants to speak of his torture, the reinvigorated Asterion taunts Argos about the pit, but Argos in turn says "No, I... I don't want to torture you. Look, I know you don't have any reason to trust me. But just listen and hear me out. If you don't like what I have to say, then... I swear by the name of [Overseer's true name that Argos has danced around until now] that I'll never trouble you again."

Either sensing some sort of truth or seeing no other alternative, Asterion sits down a few paces away from the snake and allows him to continue, so continue Argos does. He starts with the events of the past week: the plot Argos had against the Master and the trials and ordeals undertaken, all for the sake of bringing this meeting to pass. That leads into the revelation of the realm's 'supplanted purpose; the conspiracy which dates back to the Labyrinth's very founding': The hidden Gift, the efforts of the Overseer and the Argoi - including giving his real name of Dominikos - the testing of the Master's character in hopes of finding a good person to be the redeemer... everything. And in this ending, Asterion absorbs all of these truths silently, but not as harshly as some of the other endings.

It is late afternoon when Nikos is done speaking, and after a little time for Asterion to reflect, Argos asks what's next, with freedom finally within reach. Ever hopeful, no matter how many times it has been yanked away, Asterion decides he wants to see this Gift. Nikos agrees... "on one condition." Immediately, Asterion's guard goes up, ready for this all to have been a trick, when Nikos explains "Please, Asterion... Prince Asterion of Crete... Take me with you. {Asterion's sprite is stunned while Nikos' starts shaking} The one who set me to my task must know of my treason by now. If I stay here, or try to return home after everything I've done, surely I'll be made to face [their] retribution."

Asterion looks over the trembling Nikos, scared and alone, and he finds even his numbed heart melting at the sight. He recognizes this could still all be a deception... 'But for the moment, Asterion chooses to believe. After all, he has nothing lest to lose. "...Very well. But if you're lying to me, then not even the binding of the Labyrinth will prevent me from making sure you regret it." Relieved, Nikos promises that he understands, and leads Asterion over the hill from where our perspective stays. After a few moments, a bright light flashes and blinks out, leaving only a faint glimmer to pierce the darkness. Like the other Dust and Silence endings, the Hotel's hearth flickers out everyone gone... except, this time, for the Master. However, "And as for the Master, his mandate rendered moot, surely he too shall soon follow." The Narrator then quips, "Now at last, the curtain falls upon our role in this matter as well. There is no more of this tale to tell. End the trouble here, please, just where they left it." End of chapter 3.

((I'm at character limit for this post, look to the other Dust and Silence epilogues for this ending, as it is the same))

END: "Dust and Silence" alternate to "As You Are, I Once Was", Argos and Asterion are drawn in the background of the credits, playing their instruments.

Spoilers: A Summary of the Ruthless Route (Ending: Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel)

In the Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel ending, the Master has decided that he will trick Argos to get the elixir instead of doing as he asks. He tries a very basic trick that Argos immediately sees through, which get the two to share a laugh before the Master entreats Argos to join him in throwing Asterion down into the pit. Eager to move on, Argos sets down the elixir and accepts: on the count of three, they will both push Asterion down. However, on three, the Master tries to instead knock Asterion down onto Argos, pinning him down and getting enough time to run over and snatch the elixir. However, Argos is far more frail than the Master expected, and he tips into the pit instead. The Effigy makes quick work of its new prey, and the Master turns to Asterion, shrugging off the death of the snake and saying "There. That's one problem taken care of. [...] You're welcome for that, by the way." Asterion gapes at the master as he retrieves the elixir, cradling it in his arms. Eventually though, the Master decides they must start walking back and orders the stunned Asterion to follow. After a long pause, Asterion complies, saying how the Master's actions this day have totally numbed over Asterion's own heart.

On the walk back to the Hotel, the Master decides he cannot wait any longer to have the extended lifespan, and starts drinking the poisoned elixir. Immediately, he starts dying from the poison, keeling over in pain. He cries out for Asterion to help him, but Asterion states he cannot, this pain and reward is for the Master alone: there is nothing he can do, for the Master has left him with nothing as well. As he lies dying, the Master may either curse out the bull, the hotel, and the whole Labyrinth (to which Asterion masterfully responds "The feeling is mutual.") or try to apologize, which will at least earn a little comforting touch from Asterion as the Master passes.

Forlorn, Asterion muses on how his sentence continues, and starts mechanically walking back to the Hotel. Maybe one day he will come back to bury the bleached bones of the Master and the Foreman, but for now his work continues.

Arriving back at the cave, Asterion finds no sign of Luke or Kota. Likewise when he heads up the stairs to the lobby, no signs of life, which starts distressing him until he finds everyone in the lounge. They are still there, but the hearth has gone out, and Asterion apologizes for the delay. We don't hear words from or see sprites of anyone but Asterion at this point, though, who apologizes for keeping everyone waiting. "{Player name}? He is... Circumstances have forced him to step down as Master. Until the new one arrives, I shall act as your host. [...] Rest? But... there is so much yet to be done. Hah... perhaps you are right. Ah, no, friends... lead me away..." End of chapter 3.

In the epilogue chapter for this route, P and Storm finally enter the hotel, but it's run down and appears empty. They start looking for clues and find scribbled notes and crossed out poetry that are closer to ravings than understandable prose. Suddenly, Storm hears movement down the hall, and they set out to investigate. It's coming from inside the cold room in the lounge, and when they approach, they hear a voice counting inventory of what's inside. When they call out, the voice responds and comes out into the light: It is Asterion, apologizing for not being at the desk to greet the new guests. However, he is not all there, eyes distant and unfocused as they chat. Asterion again apologizes for his sorry state, but P is just happy to have finally found the minotaur and his hotel, so he tries to placate Asterion and assure him it's alright. 

However, P then starts rapid-firing out questions for Asterion, which quickly overwhelms him. Asterion roars out "Enough!" before quickly wrapping his hands over his mouth and immediately apologizing... until his apologies turn into accusations, that P and Storm are more torturers from the Labyrinth, they will peck him apart with questions and mock him with his own form. Asterion draws himself up in rage again before suddenly deflating in on himself. Again, he starts apologizing and he starts berating himself for speaking to guests like this, his words turning into an indecipherable mess.

Seeing the distressed minotaur, P collects himself, silently reassures Storm, and kneels down to speak soothingly to Asterion. He apologizes in turn and says they can go sit and chat out at the bar over a drink, he has just a few questions, and will ask them more gently this time. Storm steps forward to mention that he has questions of his own, which P concedes. The two help Asterion up and he calms himself, promising to answer what he can. But first, "But first, I... I suppose introductions are in order. {The screen fades to black} My name is Asterion, and I am this hotel's Keeper."

END "Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel", Asterion is drawn in the background of the credits, playing his lyre.

Ending: Dust and Silence alternate to Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel

This ending splits from the above after knocking Argos into the pit. After grabbing the elixir, the Master orders the stunned Asterion to follow him back to the Hotel. This time, however, Asterion has had enough, and pushes himself against the order, calling out "I look at you, and all I see is Clément's sneering face. No. Even he, cruel man, was far better than you. [...] Our guests... my friends... the moment they grew inconvenient, you tossed them aside like nothing. Even the Foreman, your partner, proved to be just another of your victims in the end. And for what, Master? What mad visions have spurred you to this? Was it the Labyrinth which carved out your heart, of has it always been empty? Ah, miserable! That is the only word I have for you now. That is the only word I can ever have."

Naturally, this pisses off the Master, filling him with the same rage he felt when Kota and Luke tried standing up to him. He plays the 'How dare you say that, after everything I've done for you' card, ending it with its followup 'fine, I don't need you, stay out here and rot then'. While Asterion's face wavers for a moment, he doubles down, saying "I'd rather suffer a thousand deaths at the hands of the Labyrinth's monsters than spend one moment more under your thumb." Furious, the Master lets him have just that and stalks away toward the Hotel.

As before, en route to the Hotel, the Master cannot resist the siren call of the elixir and its extended life any longer. He unstoppers the vial and starts to drink, quickly succumbing to the poison now coursing through his veins. As in the Shackled ending, the Narrator speaks to the Master as he dies, calling him out for his actions, hubris, and waste of precious gifts. We fade to black.

The scene turns back to Asterion, who is reeling from the pain of the poison as well - as always, he feels the last moments of the Master's life. He looks out to where the former Master stormed off, and ingrained manners force him to call out "... Farewell. Rest in peace..." But before he can stop himself, he also spits out "And good riddance.", a small defiance against the might of the realm's lord he hasn't indulged in ages. 

He forces the rage to cool, however, as he starts to prepare himself for the walk back through the Hotel. How long must he wait for the next Master? Who will they even be? How many more times can he take this cycle? The only comfort he can give himself is that he will not have to worry about the trapped Effigy anymore. Or Argos.

...Or Argos? After some pondering, Asterion can't help but wonder if the Foreman can actually die, or even be destroyed until another manifests from the valley's bowels? And perhaps, if the Foreman can be vanquished, even temporarily, could the other things lurking here be as well? With a morbid curiosity, Asterion walks back to peer down into the pit. Down there he sees only a trail of blood, but no snake. Said bloodtrail leads into a small tunnel in the pit he hadn't noticed at first, some sort of escape passage from the pit. Curious, Asterion walks above where he suspects the tunnel leads, looking for its exit. 

And sure enough, on the other side, he finds a very bloodied Argos panting for breath, trying to rifle through his pack despite a dislocated should and rather messed up arm. Despite their shared history, Asterion cannot help but feel some pity for the Foreman's terrible shape, and he calls out to him. The minotaur's voice startles Argos, and causes him to fumble the first-aid kit he was trying to pull out of his pack. Argos hisses in pain and basically flops to the ground, letting out a hoarse and mirthless laugh, Asterion getting to "see the torturer fall victim to his own machinations." When Asterion does not rise to that bait, Argos decides to change tactics, and asks instead about the Master. "Gone. He... he's dead. [...] You poisoned him." A smirk from Argos. "I did." "...Why?" 

This 'Why?' adds to the pile of 'Why?'s in Asterion's life, and thinking on them, on all of these senseless and confusing problems, he starts to draw himself up in a rage. Eager to not get struck by the minotaur's rage, Argos is quick to promise answers after tending to his wounds. Seeing him struggle, however, spurns Asterion to step forward and offer to help patch the Foreman up. True to his word, Asterion helps clean and bind the worst of Argos' wounds, along with popping his shoulder back into its socket, feeling a "brief and quickly-suppressed stab of satisfaction at Argos' scream of agony." Even with their history, he cannot bear to leave anyone to die who could be saved.

Wounds tended, Asterion bids that Argos begin talking and telling him the answers he promised. Unsure where to begin, Argos decides to start with his real name, Dominikos, and the history of the Argoi. They are mortals, hailing from a little village in Crete, called to be Foremen by one of the Gods (the Overseer) because the Masters had grown soft and an "old duty" forced the God to send someone in. However, this role was to be a charade, known by no one other than the Argos and his Overseer. "One Argos for each Master." 

From there Nikos explains how his grandfather was Jean-Marie's and Clément's Argos, and how he was raised on the stories, tragedies really, of this Labyrinth. (This part is really powerful, so I'm going to present it in full)

> "I spent my whole life dreaming of... of this." The snake looks at his own hands, feels the emptiness of his eye socket and the seeping exhaustion. "This, none of this was supposed to happen. This Master was supposed to be a good man, that's what I was told. I thought he'd be just like Jean-Marie. That's what we all believed, me and - and Bampàs, and Mamà." The tears fall before he can notice them. "But it's not... that's not what happened." His fingernails dig into his scales, leaving war-red gashes. "It's all my fault. I pushed him to send you out because that's what I was supposed to do. It's what I was told to do. I thought it'd be just like the old stories, with the hero outsmarting the monster. I'm an actor, goddamnit! I had to play the role of Oedipus in a theatre to be accepted for this job... I didn't expect {Player name} to do any of those things to you. I - I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Nikos goes on to explain that he felt too guilty over his actions to continue, so he called for help from every God of every legend until the Narrator answered. With their insight and their help, he was able to uncover and retrieve the Gift, which he pulls out from his bag and shows to the shocked Asterion, telling him it will finally grant him freedom from the Labyrinth, the masters, the cycles, everything. Asterion starts to reach for the light of the Gift, but pauses at the last moment to ask a question. "And what of you? What will happen to you once I leave this place?"

Nikos pauses, before answering that his boss, the godly Overseer, must know of his treasonous actions by now. If he does not die from his new wounds from the Effigy, he will only make it back to face the Overseer's retribution. He tries to set his face in a stony indifference, but now that he knows to look, Asterion sees through him. Argos may act indifferent to his fate, but Dominikos is terrified beyond words. Determined, Asterion draws himself up, and proposes a different idea to Nikos: "You will leave this place with me. You will accompany me to wherever that [Gift] leads. And if you are truly sorry, you will spend every day for the rest of your life atoning for what you've done." 

With a surprised smile, Nikos accepts: "...Very well. I will do as you command, your majesty. It's only just, after all." Together, the two take hold of the light in the Gift, and in a flash of light, vanish from the valley. The Hotel's hearth flickers out: everyone is gone, and the Labyrinth, the Narrator quips, "is well and truly forsaken. Now at last, the curtain falls upon our role in this matter as well. There is no more of this tale to tell. End the trouble here, please, just where they left it." End of chapter 3.

The epilogue for all 3 Dust and Silence endings is the same (hence the ending's name despite the 3 routes to arrive): Storm and P enter the abandoned Hotel and begin investigating. This time, after finding and reading the same abandoned note of poetry, they hear a voice drifting down the hall. The two prepare themselves and advance into the lounge, where a man drink alone at the bar: It is the godly Overseer, here to clean things up and shut the whole realm down now that it is abandoned. But first, he sulks: the minotaur may be free and he may have finally gotten a redeemer, but the Overseer's original plots and plans lie in ruins, and he's going to be bitched out by "the brat" for who knows how long for the realm ending up like this on his watch as Overseer. It takes a moment of P calling out to the man to be noticed, and at first the man seems extremely angered to see P specifically. Still, P pushes on to ask some questions, which calms the Overseer down and he answers them derisively: Sure, this was the Minotaur's Hotel, but everyone's gone and it's time for this place to go too. The Overseer stands up to leave and P tries to push back and demand answers for the new questions the Overseer's flippant words are creating. This angers the Overseer and they have an intense staredown until the Overseer shakes off his anger instead of acting on it. Sighing, the Overseer walks past the two and tells them to just forget about all of this, they're too late and anything they wanted here is gone. With one last taunting exchange, the Hotel suddenly blinks out of existence around P and Storm, leaving the pair standing outside of P's car in the middle of the desert road. The Hotel is gone, the valley is gone, his inheritance... it's all gone. Sure enough, P flares his tailfeathers and confirms that the visions he used to see 'in his dreams' are gone too, and he cries out in anger and frustration.

After letting him rage for a while, Storm asks 'what now?', to which P responds that he just doesn't know. Storm fidgets and then asks about their deal, because they did find that hotel, right? P stares him down a little bit then shrugs. "I guess we'll have to figure that out, too, kid." The two load back up into the car and start driving, minds whirling over what to do next. We fade to black, and end with P's narration: "There is no 'Minotaur's Hotel'. There is no inheritance. There is no satisfaction of an answer to the questions which still linger in his mind and burn like vinegar on his tongue. There is only the peacock, the bull, and the vast emptiness of the wasteland surrounding them."

END: "Dust and Silence" alternate to "Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel", Argos and Asterion are drawn in the background of the credits, playing their instruments.

Spoilers: A Summary of the Ruthless Route (Ending: Shackled)

In the Shackled ending, the Master pushes Asterion into the pit, and is given the Elixir by Argos. Argos pads both of their egos and the Master takes one final gaze into Argos' eye to check for any deception. Finding none, he leaves amicably, telling Argos to reach out next time he has something to show, as "this might be the start of a long and fruitful partnership." In turn, Argos smirks and bids the master farewell. On the way back to the Hotel, as the Master ponders what he will do about Luke and Kota, he finds he simply cannot waste any more time without the power of extended life. The Master drinks the elixir, poison and all, which quickly starts shutting his body down. The Narrator appears in the Master's last moments to speak about hubris and what the Master threw away, as the poison sets in and the Master takes his last breath. 

The scene shifts to a final flashback: Nikos breathing on a stage, pulling himself out of his role of Oedipus at the auditions to join the trials to become the next Argos Panoptes. The godly Overseer applauds, clearly impressed with Nikos' talent. When the Overseer questions Nikos for his motivation to be Argos, Nikos reveals that he is the grandson of the previous one, raised on its stories. After confirming with the Overseer that the Argos may take on a sort of 'mandate's mission' (the Overseer is too busy to check up on the Argos after their time as the Foreman starts, he says, so he likes the idea of them having a mission communicated up front), Nikos declares that his will not allow Clement's actions to happen again, and that he even looks up to the minotaur for doing all he can to help others who are lost, despite being damned himself. 

This, in turn, makes the godly Overseer laugh. He claims this is a very hopeful interpretation of what an Argos is supposed to do, which Argos counters is the natural trajectory of their role: "Humanity changed, and so did we too change from torturers to, shall we say, teachers. [...] I wish to reveal the new master's character, and instruct him to become the shining example humanity deserves." 

Intriegued, the Overseer challenges Nikos with a possibility, what would he do if the new Master is not a good person, and turns to the old ways of running the labyrinth? Nikos, however, refuses to believe such a thing will happen: "He shall not. Humanity is great, and time has made its heart boundless and kind. This new master... I'm sure he'll be good." The Overseer calls him overly optimistic, but that he does not disapprove. Impressed with all that he has said, the Overseer grants Nikos his blessing to participate in the Trials. Nikos is overjoyed and takes a deep breath in...

And Argos breathes out, the flashback over. After cursing out the now dead Master, he tries to strike up conversation with the Narrator, only to be met with silence - their pact is done, and now it is up to Argos to finish his work. He descends to the pit, skirting around the Effigy which pays him little mind. That changes when Argos swipes the extremely injured Asterion out from under its nose, but the secret tunnel is too narrow for it, and it is left behind to rage without its prisoner.

Once pulled to safety, an exhausted Argos pulls out his last bottle of healing wine and begins using it to tend to Asterion. During this, he finally lets go of the role of Argos, and goes back to thinking of himself as Dominikos. As he muses, the wine heals Asterion back up into consciousness, and Nikos lamely asks if he is alright. Asterion is extremely confused, and asks why Argos saved him, watching him wearily for the slightest reason to flee - after all, he knows nothing but the role of Argos the Foreman. In turn, Nikos bids him to finish the wine and listen to what he has to say, as he is so weak that Asterion could overpower him if needed. Asterion agrees to this, and Nikos tells his tale, starting with the past week and growing into explaining things like the Gift, the lineage of Argoi as the Foreman, and what was supposed to happen if the master was a good person. These truths are little comfort for Asterion with all he's been through. Feeling ashamed for the way his role, too, has brough suffering to Asterion, Nikos cannot think of anything else to say or comfort Asterion, and so he says nothing at all, leaving Asterion to rage and grieve alone. 

We cut to the nighttime, Asterion worn out and silently processing all that he has learned. Nikos asks what he plans to do next, if Asterion will take the freedom the Gift offers, but Asterion is torn; He doesn't want to leave the guests behind. Nikos, in turn, points out that the mirror will soon revert to his possession and the guests will be forced out anyway. Unkindly, he asks "So will you keep tying your happiness to theirs? Will you stay here, shackled to your Hotel, while their lives continue on?" Asterion snaps at him for his words, but they hit home. After processing the situation and despite the pain it causes, Asterion finally choses to be selfish and to accept the Gift and take his freedom. Still, he is frustrated with the snake and quips "Alright, you win. At the very last, you win. And may you be damned for it. Good riddance to this Labyrinth. Good riddance to the Hotel, to {player name}... And to you, False Foreman." 

Chastised, Nikos presents the gift to Asterion, who reaches forward to accept it. However, he pauses at the last moment to ask one final question of Nikos: Asterion bids him speak of their homeland, Crete, which Nikos waxes poetically on. It is as beautiful as ever, and that their "homeland's legacy is humanity's". It brings Asterion some peace, but then in a flash of light, he touches the Gift and is gone, the light inside it taken as well.

Left behind in the valley, Nikos hides the empty shell of the Gift at the roots of a nearby tree, mentally preparing himself for his trek to his home from the labrynth. He will get to see his parents once more, but he must also face the retribution that awaits from his Overseer, once they learn of this treason. However, his musings are interrupted by a terrible howling. The pelt, thought gone and sacrificed, has taken to life of its own, and it pounces on Nikos before he can react, smothering him beneath its bulk. The Narrator finally speaks once more, "Now, redeemer, the shackles of the prisoner drag you to the depths. [...] count no man happy until he dies, free from pain at last." The chapter ends.

In the epilogue chapter for this route, P and Storm finally enter the hotel, but it's run down and appears empty. They start looking for clues and find scribbled notes and crossed out poetry that are closer to ravings than understanable prose. Suddenly, Storm hears movement down the hall, and they set out to investigate. It's coming from inside the cold room in the lounge, and when they step in to communicate with what's there, they pull back in surprise. Inside is an emaciated half-snake, half-bull creature: Nikos, having been fused with the pelt that attacked him in the valley and turned into this. After overcoming the shock of seeing each other, Nikos lets out a dusty laugh and answers P's initial questions: There is no one else, and no longer a minotaur that can make diamonds appear from his hands. There is only him, all the guests having fled at his presence. "And now here I am, a wretched monster, shackled forevermore within this realm of damnation. Crowned, as you can see, as proud reward for my love of justice." P advances with more questions and has a hearty laugh of his own when the pitiful creature introduces itself as Argos and promises to share his story. We fade to black with P saying, "Alright then Argos... Tell me everything."

END "Shackled", Argos is drawn in the background of the credits, playing a trumpet.

Spoilers: Dust and Silence alternate ending of Shackled

This ending is mostly the same up until Argos feeds Asterion the healing wine - the only real difference being what the Narrator taunts the Master on during their death. In this Dust and Silence alternate, Asterion's spirit is so broken that he barely responds or reacts to Argos' presence instead of fearing and being soothed into hearing the truths Nikos has to share. Nikos is unable to get any reaction out of him, and knows it is his fault: the trick to get the Master separated from Asterion was too harsh, too cruel on top of this ending's harsher Master, and it is his fault that Asterion's mind has left. Nikos knows he must provide justice by caring for the minotaur until he returns to himself, and to join him through the mysterious light of the Gift to Asterion's freedom. At first, he thinks of this as taking on the shackle of the prisoner... but then steels himself and determines that this is no shackle at all. "This is no mere role. It is responsibility, chosen instead of granted." He joins hands with Asterion and embraces the gift, both disappearing in a flash of light. The Hotel's hearth flickers out: everyone is gone, and the Labyrinth, the Narrator quips, "is well and truly forsaken. Now at last, the curtain falls upon our role in this matter as well. There is no more of this tale to tell. End the trouble here, please, just where they left it." End of chapter 3.

The epilogue for all 3 Dust and Silence endings is the same (hence the ending's name despite the 3 routes to arrive): Storm and P enter the abandoned Hotel and begin investigating. This time, after finding and reading the same abandoned note of poetry, they hear a voice drifting down the hall. The two prepare themselves and advance into the lounge, where a man drink alone at the bar: It is the godly Overseer, here to clean things up and shut the whole realm down now that it is abandoned. But first, he sulks: the minotaur may be free and he may have finally gotten a redeemer, but the Overseer's original plots and plans lie in ruins, and he's going to be bitched out by "the brat" for who knows how long for the realm ending up like this on his watch as Overseer. It takes a moment of P calling out to the man to be noticed, and at first the man seems extremely angered to see P specifically. Still, P pushes on to ask some questions, which calms the Overseer down and he answers them derisively: Sure, this was the Minotaur's Hotel, but everyone's gone and it's time for this place to go too. The Overseer stands up to leave and P tries to push back and demand answers for the new questions the Overseer's flippant words are creating. This angers the Overseer and they have an intense staredown until the Overseer shakes off his anger instead of acting on it. Sighing, the Overseer walks past the two and tells them to just forget about all of this, they're too late and anything they wanted here is gone. With one last taunting exchange, the Hotel suddenly blinks out of existence around P and Storm, leaving the pair standing outside of P's car in the middle of the desert road. The Hotel is gone, the valley is gone, his inheritance... it's all gone. Sure enough, P flares his tailfeathers and confirms that the visions he used to see 'in his dreams' are gone too, and he cries out in anger and frustration.

After letting him rage for a while, Storm asks 'what now?', to which P responds that he just doesn't know. Storm fidgets and then asks about their deal, because they did find that hotel, right? P stares him down a little bit then shrugs. "I guess we'll have to figure that out, too, kid." The two load back up into the car and start driving, minds whirling over what to do next. We fade to black, and end with P's narration: "There is no 'Minotaur's Hotel'. There is no inheritance. There is no satisfaction of an answer to the questions which still linger in his mind and burn like vinegar on his tongue. There is only the peacock, the bull, and the vast emptiness of the wasteland surrounding them."

END Dust and Silence alternate version of Shackled, Argos and Asterion are drawn in the background of the credits, playing their instruments.

Spoilers: A Summary of the Ruthless Route (Chapter 3, pre-endings) 

Chapter 3 returns our focus to the cruel Master's perspective, who is opening the door to Asterion's quarters, darkness pouring out from within. Asterion  sits inside, sunken into himself, when the Master orders him to rise. They are going out to the valley together today. Silently, Asterion follows, and the player is given a (final) chance to modify Asterion's clothes. After doing so, the Master pats Asterion on the shoulder, and he flinches away. This presents the final major choice to the player: "Punish him." or "Be firm, but fair." The former will also lock you into the Dust and Silence 'alternate' version of your ending, while the latter will not. No matter your choice though, you head out of your quarters, Asterion in tow. 

Before heading all the way out, the Master decides to check in on the reception to see how the hotel is doing. There he finds Kota, Luke, and a small gathering of the last guests left in the hotel. Luke and Kota approach and try to 'Good Cop, Bad Cop' the Master into stopping his abuse of the hotel and of Asterion, but he again brushes them off and tells them to mind their own business. The Master questions the loyalty and oath of whichever is the lounge manager, and tells everyone that they should just leave if they don't like how he's running things. 

Here, the story forks a bit if you are locked into a Dust and Silence ending from being a harsh Master in this route. If you are, Luke and Kota make a more aggressive stand after some additional goading from the harsh and cruel Master, getting ready to resort to violence until Asterion forces himself into their way. This, in turn, enrages the Master, who screams at them to get out, and the realm shifts to instantly expel them. The enraged Master continues his tantrum, also willing the hotel to throw out all the remaining guests, too. Paying little attention to Asterion's reaction, the Master orders him follow down the stairs and out to the valley.

On the other endings that aren't Dust and Silence, the Master does not goad Luke and Kota, and in turn they demand to join you on this trip to the valley to protect Asterion rather than escalate the situation. Being less harsh in these routes, the Master will tolerate them to come to the valley entrance, but no further. They are only meeting with the Foreman, so it "will not be long". They agree, and follow the Master down, stopping at the mouth of the cave as was agreed upon.

Either way, you meet up with Argos at the statue of Athena, who taunts Asterion before leading you onward to the pit containing the Effigy. The Master voices his suspicions about trusting Argos, who flashes the elixir and swears he is speaking only the truth. And no matter what Argos says by now, the Master has already made his choice (see the end of Ruthless 1). The story fully splits into one of three endings, though each has a Dust and Silence 'alternate' ending. Each one will get their own post below, and as a reminder, the options were "Agree to the snake's plan." (Ending: Shackled), "Deceive the deceiver." (Ending: Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel), or "Make no promises." (Ending: As You Are, I Once Was).

Spoilers: A Summary of the Ruthless Route (Chapter 2)

Ruthless chapter 2 starts with the words "One week earlier" and has a PoV switch to a character praying out to any of the Gods who will listen; a character who has been calling out for the entire evening and into the night to any god who would answer his pleas. It is Argos, living in moderate conditions if his first contract trick was not caught by the Master, or a base cave if he was (he did not have the powers to summon things until yesterday in that case - This split of how good he is at summoning/how often he remembers to summon things continues through this whole route and is a nice touch). And Argos is praying to the gods to come and serve justice upon the Master for his wrongs against them! He has been praying to each god in turn, and finally ends up calling out to one that answers. Not only has this god heard his pleas and responded to him, it is this god who is revealed to have been our Narrator all along! They are one of the 17 gods who provided the power to create this realm, and they have appeared before Argos to question his motives, but also to provide a way forward to justice against the Master. A path that this god cautions will not be without its own price - Argos has sworn an oath as the Foreman of the Labyrinth, which he would be breaking to see justice done. The role is to bring torture to the prisoner; it is the hubris of the Argoi to try and push the Master to do good by being so cartoonishly evil. Argos is the rebel digging for loopholes in this land's principles and laws, and not all of the gods are displeased at the Master's actions so far... yet "the wishes of the gods are many, [Argos], and there may be a place for your breed of justice." The Narrator will help Argos through this costly act, but on one condition: That Argos' Overseer must not be informed about any of this. Said price makes Argos pause, but he decides to accept anyway. In return, he secures the Narrator's guidance and a one-of-a-kind artifact that will be key to achieving his new goal.

In the morning, Argos sets out through the valley to a very hidden place mentioned to him by the Narrator. He skirts by some monsters and eventually starts reciting some lines to himself to focus his thoughts and distract from the exertion of the journey. These lines eventually prompt a flashback to his youth: He is Nikos (Dominikos), slowly waking up (at his mother's calls) for an important day after spending all night rehearsing his lines. Today is his big audition, and if Nikos can perform well enough, he might be chosen to participate in the Trials. He might get a chance to play the role of Argos Panoptes. His Mamà has made his favorite food for breakfast, and his Bampàs asks for a sneak preview of his audition, to which Nikos eagerly accepts. His parents dote on him, claiming that he'll make his Papouli proud, wishing that he was here to see this day. In turn, Nikos prepares himself to act out a monologue from Oedipus, getting ready to "Put on the costume. Speak the lines. Perform the role, and let the role become truth." He then delivers his lines excellently, and his parents continue to dote on him, until Nikos wakes out of the flashback to be Argos once more, nearly at his destination.

Said destination is a hidden cleft in one of the cliffs in the valley. He squeezes through to eventually find a shine to one of the gods hidden away deep inside the cliffside. While shocked to see this, he and the Narrator reflect how Argos' boss directed him to hint about the existence of these godmade shrines, which he did in the second meeting with the Master. This shrine holds a powerful Gift for Asterion, one that would provide him freedom from this realm, if they can retrieve it. However, the shrine is incomplete due to the way the realm cannot generate certain substances. This is what the artifact given by the Narrator to Argos is for, but it alone is not enough, the Gift is only supposed to be revealed to Asterion. However, Argos finds a loophole and is able to sacrifice the Asterion pelt he wears, giving up the heirloom and symbol of the Argoi and his Papouli. In return, the shrine gifts Argos with a glass sphere swirling with light, the key to Asterion's freedom if they can get it to him.

Once Argos leaves the hidden shrine, he is immediately attacked by the Effigy as it is seemingly trying to ram its way through the rock toward the sacrificed pelt. In Argos' panic and haste to get out of the way, the Effigy clips him and gores out his left eye. Pained and reeling, he limps away as the Effigy continues smashing at the rockface hiding the shrine, ignoring the snake entirely. He dresses his wound and, after a moment to collect himself, forces himself onward, asking the Narrator what's next in their plan. They respond that the Master must be tempted by some task that will separate the jailer from the prisoner, that Argos may deliver the Gift. However, the Narrator again cautions that it will come with great sacrifice to Argos if he truly wishes to continue. Argos hesitates, but thinks on how broken Asterion looked, how vile the Master has acted, and how his own actions pushed the Master to commit terrible things from playing the role of Argos too well. This steels his resolve and he commits once more to bring justice "no matter what". The scene fades out.

We rejoin Argos at the shrine plateau for Zeus and Athena (where Argos directs you for exploration day 2 to get the wine), a blade, a vial, and a bottle of Asterion's healing wine in hand after stashing the Gift back at his home. Rather than the statues, Argos actually stands in front of the cairn Asterion placed near the beginning of his sentence, whatever power it may have had long gone since its abandonment. However, the Narrator believes a ritual here may be enough to summon the one thing the Master may be baited with: an elixir of extended life. Not immortality, but something to stretch out his lifespan beyond a normal mortal's means. However, it will cost a sacrifice of time to create, one that Argos will have to pay. The Narrator questions Argos' commitment to this path, which he affirms before starting the ritual. 

During the ritual, Argos out in prayer for an ancient goddess to come and answer his pleas for justice. When one responds and bids him speak, Argos explains how the Master is a defilement on the world, thumbing his nose at the gods and torturing Asterion, the cairn's old caretaker. He bids for an elixir of time to lure the man out to face divine justice. In return, the goddess responds, "AN EXCHANGE    TIME FOR TIME    LIFE FOR LIFE    BLOOD FOR BLOOD". Accepting, Argos drives the blade into his side to make a large gash, and fills the vial half-full with his blood, placing it on the altar as his offering. In return, the goddess wills Argos' wound closed, and transforms the vial of blood into the elixir of extended life, then bids him to go. 

Exhausted, the snake returns home and stashes the elixir with the Gift and the last bottle of healing wine that he knows of, and passes out into a dreamless sleep. In the morning, he heads to a specific tree in the valley to harvest its sap. It is a virulent poison, one exceedingly deadly for any who drink it. Argos carefully mixes this sap into the elixir, which has a presence overpowering enough to hide the poison inside. Next, he heads to where he will build a great pit, one that will hold the Effigy for the cruel Master to cast Asterion in to, but with a hidden tunnel that Argos may ferry Asterion away in secret. However, after his sacrifice of time, Argos is now easily exhausted and barely makes any progress. Frustrated, he asks how he will accomplish this when the Narrator again speaks up: using the Gift as a catalyst, another source of power could be channeled through Argos if he so wishes. Having no other options, he accepts, and returns the next morning with the Gift in hand. The Narrator warns that this will be unpleasant, then channels the power through the Gift into Argos. In an instant, day becomes night and Argos suddenly hunches over in pain and fatigue, yet the pit is suddenly one fathom deeper than before. It exacts a painful toll on Argos to be a conduit like this, but he commits to his work and they repeat this process over the next few days, each evening finding him exhausted and damaged as he wakes up from the work that was channeled through him.

Eventually, the pit is complete, secret tunnel and all. Next, Argos carries the Gift with him to find the Effigy. As he goes, the Gift's light pacifies and stupefies the monsters that he passes, until he finds the Effigy. Though at first he is concerned it won't work, the Gift's light also pacifies the Effigy, and it follows Argos, transfixed by its light. He tricks it to falling down into the pit, lamenting how the Gift's light was not enough before to save his eye from its fate, but soldiers on regardless. This work finally complete, he returns to his home to finally rest for a time.

Argos dreams this night, picking the flashback back up from where it stopped before, Nikos having just performed for his parents before breakfast. Nikos questions about trying to replicate his Papouli's approach to the Argos role, asking if it is the right way to go about it. His parents are convinced that it is: this time, the Fates will pick a kind and virtuous Master that the Argos can mold into being an exemplar of humanity, and Nikos can "Play the villain to make him into a hero." With breakfast ready, they ask Nikos to say grace before they eat, which he does. 

As the family eats their breakfast, his mother and father continuing to give tips to Nikos about keeping the role on the stage natural and believable. 'What does Argoes want?', they posit, and Nikos replies "Argos wants, first and foremost, to fulfill the will of the Gods. [...] Argos will want to test [the Master's] character exhaustively, to make sure they're worthy of the role and responsibility they've been given. [...] But he will want to never lie, nor bring about harm himself. All that he does is in service to the Master, the Labyrinth, and the Gods." His parents are proud of his reply and reaffirm that Nikos will do wonderfully. Nikos closes his eyes...

And Argos opens his. For the first time since taking the role, he is homesick, missing the life he left behind for this demanding work and what it has turned into. He must soldier on, however, and he steels not just his resolve, but fully immerses himself in the role of Argos. He must feel the truth of Argos' every word and deed. "Put on the costume. Speak the lines. Perform the role, and let the role become truth." Then, with a little bit of ending narration from our Narrator, Chapter 2 comes to a close.

Spoilers: A Summary of the Ruthless Route (Chapter 1)

Hey everyone! As I put above in big bold heading, I'm going to summarize and spoil the Ruthless Route here in a series of posts. Reading about Asterion's trauma here in this route is very difficult and not for everyone, so I wanted to break down its events and revelations for anyone who wishes to know the details on what happens in these chapters without reading it themselves. To be honest, I wish chapter 2 was more accessible, as it has the most interesting lore and is not nearly as dark and depressing since Asterion is not shown at all. If this summary intrigues you, you may wish to find a Let's Play video of this part and see all of its writing in full.

For the each chapter up to the story branching in chapter 3 and each ending 'pair', I'm going to make a fresh post in this thread that is split into two halves: the first will give the summary of the route and will feature as few spoilers as possible to tell its story well, while its first reply (and assumedly, other user's replies) will have a warning but otherwise be full spoilers. If you want to know what happens without learning tidbits and knowledge that might otherwise be revealed on the 'Romantic' route later, only read the 'top' level replies for these summaries - it is simply me guessing, however, so no promises that I can keep all surprises relatively secret.

These replies to the summaries, meanwhile, will go into much greater detail of the more mysterious events. I'll try to mention all of the spoilers I had hidden in the summary and other new information we learn in this route that might be relevant later - important facts and truths we learn to uncover the mysteries of the game - but it's also a good space to have those interested talk about a specific chapter or ending. 

Also, I say ending 'pair' because there are 6 endings to the route, but only 4 epilogues: there is a major choice at the end of chapter 1 that has three options and leads the story in three different ways, but the Master's actions along the way determine if you get the 'regular' version of that ending, or the _Dust and Silence_ 'alternate' version.

The Ruthless Master Chapter 1 General Summary:

While you could argue the Ruthless Route starts as early as Chapter 3, sending Asterion out to the valley, it doesn't doesn't diverge from the events of the main route until the end of Chapter 12, Asterion's concert, so that's where we'll begin. A week has passed since the concert, and Luke and Kota meet up on the hotel roof to discuss how much everything has gone to shit. The Master has been sending Asterion out to the valley on the daily, and Asterion comes back chewed up, glassy eyed, and nearly catatonic every time, withdrawing into himself more and more. Guests are leaving and no new ones come in to replace them, and any attempts to raise concerns up to the gradually manic and contemptuous Master get brushed off, as he has locked himself away in his office, separating himself from the hotel. Luke and Kota agree it's time to abandon ship, but they want to convince Asterion to leave with them, willing to go through the Master if they have to. As they agree on this conclusion, however, something suddenly feels wrong and they no longer feel alone on the roof. They call out, but we cut away before we see what it is.

We shift to the Master, who has become obsessed with the labyrinth, its secrets, and powers of the gods that must be out there. Asterion's sentence is to be a sacrifice, so what's a little more for him to sacrifice? "Sending the minotaur out is right by the gods, edifying for humanity, and profitable for you. What is the pain of one for the benefit of all?" The Master hasn't even needed any prompting from Argos to do this, so the sudden ringing of Argos' flute wakes them from their haze and pulls them outside. Athena's statue seems to smile brightly at the Master, but the snake at her feet has seen much better days: Argos weakly slithers out from behind the statue, bloodied, filthy, coughing, and with gauze and dressing wrapped around his missing left eye, though none of his struggles look fresh. Here the player gets the first choice on the route that can have consequences: "You look like shit." or "Are you alright?". The former locks you into the Dust and Silence version of your ending (chosen later), the latter does not. 

Argos tells the Master he has been performing "great works" while the Master has locked himself away, leading to his current injured state. To that end, he pitches an idea: automate Asterion's sentence and suffering so the gods are forever pleased and the Master has more time to do other things. He has trapped a monster (the Effigy) in a pit to the north, and shoving Asterion into said pit would be a nice, final act of worship for the Master to perform. To tempt the Master for this plan, he has an offer: "an elixir made from the God's own ichor, which is said to expand the lifespan of any who consume it." As this is coming from Argos, the Master is suspicious and calls him out, but Argos swears up and down that this is true, and that he cannot drink the elixir, as his life is already tied to the labyrinth. The player is then presented with the major choice of the route. Three choices, each choosing your eventual ending  that will either play out 'normally' or have the Dust and Silence 'alternate' version: "Agree to the snake's plan." (Ending: Shackled), "Deceive the deceiver." (Ending: Welcome to the Minotaur Hotel), or "Make no promises." (Ending: As You Are, I Once Was). Whichever you pick, the Master leaves to go get Asterion, and the first chapter closes.

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It's definitely a team effort here, I wouldn't've started looking down this path without what you've already posited! 

Interesting idea about having Asterion be able to add his own addition to the constitution, I think a fully divine Asterion would be able to do that, yes. If we follow the theory that Asterion's birthmark coming back is a sign of his rekindling divinity because he believes in himself, I think he can build up to have this effect, and it explains why even if he understands the obsidian and bedrock, he has never done it before because it wouldn't work for his 'blasphemous blood'.
Speaking of said blasphemous blood, there may be a loophole here in this 2nd quote if he fully ascends to divinity somehow: pure divine ichor clearly can't be blasphemous, right? I'm not sure how we break where it calls out his name, but at least here's an idea that can handle the latter half of that sentence that would prevent him from leaving. 

Mmm, good point on how it specifically says rhyton. With what we know right now, the threadcutter is either Labrys, which we have the axe head of in storage (Where's the rest? What's it shaped like?), or Asterion himself, yes... maybe in a less morbid way it's the rest of Labrys or just one of his horns snapped off and since regrown? googles 'bull rhyton' Yikes, or maybe not.
Still, whatever the rhyton is, I'd agree that if Asterion can muster up more ichor than human blood and add it to the rhyton, he should be able to affect the realm in some way, and possibly amend the constitution at minimum. 

EDIT: Oh forgot the point you had on that one ruthless ending. I think it's just further reinforcing the theme of recursion, and it's also highlighting that the pelt still counts as Asterion in some ways for the realm's constitution. That's also the only ending where there's someone around for the pelt to graft on to with no Asterion around, so it might not be tied to Asterion's subconscioud but instead the laws of the realm just in general... or like, whatever the eff is going on with pelts in this game, lol, the Tapir God's nearly did the same to P.

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Ya know... I remember back in the builds before this one, there were a lot of people posting about how hot Argos was and how much they wanted more of him, to date him, etc. Gifs of petting and proteccing the snake boi. I was wondering if those people were just like... not actually reading the content and considering any of the implications of this psycho torturer or what, but now I just have to ask, were any of those sockpuppets or shitposts by you guys as the devs or anyone else in the know? I didn't want to stir shit but I wanted to how the heck people were stanning this mustache twirlingly evil snake that is literally wearing Asterion's pelt as a trophy, like are y'all that horny?

The route is tough but tells a good story, thanks goodness for the perspective shift and revelations that come in Ruthless 2, would've just been too hard without it. Heck, it was still hard to read, even knowing the MC at this point sealed his fate and is going to not have a happy ending for his actions because we still see Asterion's suffering in full. 

I plan on writing up a more detailed summary of the route for those who don't want to walk it themselves. Are there any parts you guys as the Devs (Nanoff and MinoAnon, since I haven't seen Awoo, Kangarube, or Nemo around, unless all of y'all sharing the main account in which case hi) would prefer to not be spelled out in such a summary because you'd like it to be a surprise later in the game for anyone who doesn't go down this route? Obviously that can't stop anyone else from dropping those deets, but still figured I'd ask, since everyone has been a little gunshy on the full details of the spoilers to this route so far.

Excellent investigating, ChronicQuery! I think you're really on to something. 

With what you've put forward, I think the person who helps Argos on the ruthless route directly has our answer about the Bedrock and 'Obsidian': (Some spoilers expunged since it's a little out of scope for our topic at hand 😉)

On the night of [this realm's] creation [the gods] offered [their] ichor as ink for its constitution. First a droplet from each of the twelve atop Olympus, who cast their votes in the hybrid's trial. Then five more from those denied a say in the matter [...] Each drop carrying the echoing will of its god, mixed together to write the realm's legal bedrock.

While it's easy to assume the ink for the constitution is literal ink for the Primordal Contract we find, its description outright says otherwise:

In truth, these pieces of parchment are merely a copy. The original Constitution of the Labyrinth does not exist in paper and, in fact, was never meant to be read by mortals. Its original format is beyond human understanding, and even today lies hidden from sight.

I think the obsidian at the bedrock (our ruthless route friend deliberately says bedrock above) is the mixed together blood of the gods, and its interior contains the real constitution which also powers the realm. It is, after all, the literal bedrock the realm is built on.

To further back this up, also in the ruthless route, a certain location will not work because it does not have salt, as salt is one of the forbidden substances to be generated by the realm. The friend gives Argos "a powerful artifact, the only one of its kind within this realm", and at the location, the friend says "That artifact I gave you shall be a sufficient substitute." Here's what happens when Argos uses the artifact:

He unwraps the artifact [...] from the cloth that swaddles it, freeing that hunk of cursed rock from its hiding place. Dark as obsidian. Dark as the still waters stretching out within that underground cavern. Dark as the ichor which runs in the gods' veins. It was no easy matter to steal it away from its origin deep within the bedrock of the realm.

I suspect it's a specific god's drop of blood, pulled from the obsidian in the bedrock, and it even gets compared to divine ichor because I think it is divine ichor. 

If all of this is is true, it explains why Asterion doesn't want us poking around: he still wasn't sure if he could fully trust us back then, and it's just not safe to mess with if it's the literal magic stuff that's keeping this realm together. Heck, if it's supposed to be beyond human understanding, it might hurt our brains to try and observe it, so Asterion is also keeping us safe by just covering it up as 'unclean obsidian' that we should just leave alone.

It might also explain why the MC can hear the bedrock grinding more than Asterion when we go down to visit it the first time, this artifact , no matter what it is, might be trying to make itself known from in the crystals, now that we know it's hidden in there from the ruthless route. It would be a great place for a different Chekov's gun to come into play if this artifact is dangerous to access or remove, but that's not really tied to this topic of blood so we'll let it lie for now.

Right on, glad to hear we'll have more time to chew on current revelations for a bit. 👍

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Certainly! With the work you all put in and the enjoyment I get out of playing, it only feels fair to repay it by engaging with you all here.

1) Yeah, I think it's a fair point that none of these three choice characters really get to shine yet. I picked Khenbish in my first run and was a little sad he didn't get to do a whole lot, but the homecooked meal was a super nice touch! And Themba is similar, but because he knew Asterion and provides insight that affects some dialogue later when thinking about P's grandfather, he feels more integrated even if he has the least scenes (No homecooked meal or second PoV chapter like Wolf). Oh and that reminds me that the artifacts you can find for the front desk/way you summon one as the Art background to get your 2nd choice in the list are genius. I felt it looked empty until you find one (or two), and it adds a lot getting to permanently see them as part of the background! Kudos on finding fun ways to showcase choices there (same with the restaurant screens).

Have you all considered how many days the player is going to get during the VN? Or well, it doesn't matter the exact number of days but rather how many things you want the player to see through to completion in a single playthrough in general. The MC has nearly infinite time, but the VN and main plot doesn't: you've mentioned multiple times that the player will not have enough time to do everything and learn everyone's stories/do everyone's sidequests in a single playthrough, which leans in to making the big choices matter more since more people will see all sides of them. I think that's a fair and important approach to take that leverages the VN medium, but maybe you're going to find you need to squeeze in more actions in a day to hit this number of completed things you're planning on having the player hit in an given run?
Looking at this build, you have I think 12 days to work with, with your options increasing over time. Luke's hangouts have 5 days (IIRC), Robert takes 4 to recruit, Asterion's project is infamously a 9 day affair that starts 3 days in, and that's not counting wanting to cook with Khenbish or manage assets with Themba to see how it works, get the flavor of them working, etc. If we give 5 hangout days for the other 5 staff members you can recruit in this build and count 1 day for seeing how Khenbish and Themba each work, that puts us at 45 days worth of content (and don't forget that it's about completion, so it's in chunks of 5, or basically 9 for Robert since you have to recruit him first). While part of the point is to have a lot of options, this many may already limit how many other things can pop up to take the MC's time - we already know of 3 new staff members for next build (even if only Leaders can get all 3), and there's still the Hydra we have concept art for and one other character hinted at in this build that could be staff, too (a certain book author that keeps popping up). 
Also, there is an opportunity cost letting a character be idle for the day instead of contributing to R&D or Exploration. We might see this more when there's a larger 'Tech tree' ready in R&D.

You all know what feels right with the number of things you want the player to complete in a run versus the number of days you have in the plot, but if you're feeling squeezed and think your average player will do 2, maybe 3 full playthroughs and worry the content would take 5 or 6 to see 'most' of it, perhaps you could move Hangouts to their own timeslot in the day? Maybe call it 'Grabbing lunch' with a character? Keep the opportunity cost of making them have an idle day off, but now I can grab lunch with Luke and start recruiting Robert on the same day. It frees up a lot more time for the MC, so you need to give them extra little things to burn their 'active' part of the day on or have slice-of-life events pop up that take this 'active' time away, but it doesn't feel too bad as the player to 'lose' a day since I'm still progressing with my staff during lunch time. This also ties into point 2, making the hangout with Luke (and others) feels a little more dynamic: chatting over lunch certainly feels relatively peaceful and a good place to just have a lot of conversation rather than movement if that's easier.

EDIT: Of course, this is more to plan for, more content to write, etc. Just wanted to throw out the idea since you've already mentioned having a hard time fitting certain things in that you wanted, sometimes things just have to be cut and stay on the cutting room floor.

3) Oh yeah, I know how finnicky moving around code and order of operations like that can be when you already wrote it one way, haha. Even moving up the selection would help I think, and if the system doesn't get shuffled around, I think you can still get a win if you just write the text a little differently to flow with what can't really change a lot.

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Just dropped off my second survey response now that I've done everything in the build, so I wanted to bump this thread up to elaborate on some of the feedback I couldn't expand on in there.

First off, I just wanted to say it was, once again, an incredible experience. Minotaur Hotel is really a mastercraft in the VN space. Not only is it well written and drawn, it takes a lot of work to set the text pace to match the character's speaking cadence, to set the sprite animations to fit the scene and the text, to get the right music and timed sound effects for the scene, to pick when choices appear on screen and to properly write them to convey what's being chosen, to make a unique scrolling animation for each the major characters (including using it for an amazing Big Reveal), the secrets and small cascading choices that have these small fun effects... really to just put this level of polish in. You all work very, very hard to fully leverage this medium, and it glows for it. This is what makes Minotaur Hotel truly feel alive, and it's no small task to do so. My sincerest thank you to the whole team for all the really hard work you put in to make this piece shine.

And all of that praise is without even touching the writing! It continues to be top notch, the characters continue to feel alive, the tension rises and falls well, the mysteries layered on mysteries are fascinating, and as a player I was actually rewarded for figuring things out. It's a hard line to walk, but it's walked with aplomb.
And I know you all were worried about the Hinterlands arc (less so after the devlog it seems), and it can feel a little sudden to start (yes, having Storm be our PoV character helped a lot), but players quickly see the parallels between the story being told there and back in the hotel. I truly came to love the real down-to-earth shift it provided, and think it really enriches the experience. Not only does it flesh out the world and the real aftereffects of things like Clement's actions, I think it expertly reinforces the themes you want to convey. And it has 2nd best boy, Storm! Well done.

And while I'm still slinging praise, great job once more with the art, Nanoff. The new cg's are excellent: P and Storm in the car stands out, especially since it fit so well narratively while being a genius way to cut down on needing extra assets. The zoom in shots with Asterion, both brushing his back (that wonderful tongue sticking out sprite!) and getting to truly be face-to-face with him felt special because of the extra work you put in on them, and they really enhance the experience. In addition, I still have old builds kicking around, and I know it was a lot of work to redo the sprites as you have (even if they had to be done from a technical perspective for future customoo-zation), but I think the little touch ups you added are great. Great work.

To stop myself from being here all night just singing your praises though, I should switch to the parts I wanted to expand on and maybe spark some conversations about, eh? 

  1. I tried out runs with all three characters you can ask Jean to find for the hotel, and I was pretty confused about Wolf and why he didn't get to have any sort of special ability like Khenbish's cooking or Themba's financing. At least, it didn't call it out if he had one, I'm not sure if he maybe can mitigate danger in the way the speedrunner background can? Perhaps you could add that or make his danger stat a -1 or -2 to make him a more meaningful choice? To be honest, I already found him weakest of the three (his intro drags to emphasize stuff we already know about wolves in my opinion), and this lack of ability didn't help.
  2. I like the start of the side-routes, getting to know our staff more, but I was kind-of disappointed that Luke mostly just stands there and infodumps his story at you. Since we have more of a rapport with Luke to start from, why aren't we chatting over drinks, or while walking around to stretch our legs? This is the flipside of all the polish that goes into the rest of the vn, just standing around and hearing from a sprite of Like doesn't feel as engaging without the movement, or the extra slice-of-life factor of getting interrupted by the Cobalts to help with something. Instead it feels like we're arbitrarily getting one conversation topic done in the chain, then stopping for the day so you have to spend more time tomorrow because time is a resource in the game. I know this means extra work on fleshing these out, but it didn't feel as rewarding as Asterion's Project, or talking to Robert (not counting how much better recruiting an extra hand is at this point in time), so I didn't do it in my 'main' runs.
  3. I found the process of earning things through R&D kind of odd. I understand gameplay-wise why we spend our accumulated points as though it was a shop, even if it would narratively make more sense to pick a project up front that gets points placed into it, but it's unintuitive to me that spending points only pops after you hear back from your R&D team during their report rather than, say, spending them while at your desk. I know you wrote extra variations of the scene based on who was assigned in R&D that day, which is a nice touch, but it felt clunky that this is the flow, waiting for the choice to pop up in a normal renpy button that doesn't list their price, either. Making yet another whole new interface is extra work, so even if you keep the purchase screen to the midday report, please add the cost to that choice because it's not a secret when it's listed at your desk.

Those are the three things I have for now. I encourage anyone to respond with their thoughts, especially since I'm trying to also propose solutions with my feedback, haha.

Thanks again for all the hard work you all put into this game for us.

Ehhhhhh, you're taking someone that is very obviously traumatized right now and heaping more problems on top of it. Deliberately causing a panic attack with your ordering him to come join you to eat is really shitty and kinda evil in my mind. And you're taking the one good thing Asterion had, the hotel, and turning it into its own form or torture with how closely you interact with him in all the commanding, ruthless ways. 
If there wasn't a narrator and we didn't hear into Asterion's thoughts, it's easier to dull the empathy and just play the mustache-twirling villain MC to see the content. But that's exactly the point the VN is making in the normal route, that you're doing basic human empathy to Asterion and he thinks you hang the moon because of it. 

I don't disagree that it tells a fascinating tragedy if you go down it, and it shows a lot of things that couldn't be told if the master of the hotel was good, but it was still really rough and I'd say evil, personally.