Solitaire Storytelling: A Requiem for Horizon Prophecy Online: The Final Four

I’ve spent years adventuring through the mysterious, whimsical, dangerous lands of HORIZON PROPHECY ONLINE, a science fantasy MMORPG that peaked at about 161,000 concurrent players. The game always had a scope and reach too ambitious for its budget, but now, with daily player counts in the hundreds, the studio has announced that they’re shutting down HPO for good. With four hours to go before the servers are switched off, I decided to create a new toon and go through the starting area one last time, as a final farewell to the world I’ve given so much of my time.

Prologue

I haven’t actually logged into HPO for a couple years, now. I mean, when I was playing regularly it was usually an every night affair, all-nighters on the weekends. After the divorce, we moved around a lot, so high school wasn’t much for making friends in person, you know? HPO was almost a home, some place to make new friends and maybe keep in touch with the few I’d managed to make IRL before the most recent move.

Then I moved out, and nightly became every other night, and the all-nighters were for studying, and then it was weekly, and then… I moved on, I guess.

It has this weird blend of magic and gods and tech that I’ve never quite seen anywhere else, either. I’m going to play a Godslinger this time, a class I never actually tried before. Edgy teenage me liked Hellbooters and Warzerkers a bit much, I think. With all the perks you could earn. I think this will be the first toon I’ve actually leveled up since my first one. Let’s go with the… yeah, sci-fi cowboy priest look. Young looking, maybe roughly the age I was when I started playing. Dark skin, shaved head, couple of scars – I think he’s seen some stuff. I wonder what the Trick Shot and Holy Light abilities are like. Oh, cool, I got the Memory of Ëtris as my starting trinket! It’s this “glimmering mote of distant, intangible beauty that somehow seems familiar,” I think I remember it triggering extra lore and backstory cutscenes.

Alright, let’s see what the start of… Marn Soral’s story looks like.

Hour 1: Valley

They changed the loading screen to look just the way it did on launch — concept art of the shining capital city of Sovereign, built around the crashed starship Horizon. A single line replaces the usual loading screen tips:

Thank you for fulfilling our prophecy — The HPO Dev Team

The intro cinematic shows Marn coming across a powerful artifact in a cyberbeast lair – one you end up trying to actually clear, like, twenty levels into the game, I think. Guess I won’t be getting the chance this time.

The artifact implants a Spark of Eternity in  my  mind, overwhelming Marn with unintelligible visions that knock me unconscious. I wake up in an herbalist’s hut in the serene Valley of Arunë. The Kind Herbalist tells me that the Spark of Eternity has dealt me a grievous psychic wound, resulting in partial amnesia and a frayed aura. She recommends that I explore the Valley while I reacclimate and recover my memories, and gives Marn a tech weapon to speed me on my way,

Darn, there’s like nobody else logged in. A couple of AFK names on the server list, I think I caught a glimpse of a Skipknock heading around the corner just as I got control back, but it’s almost barren. Yeah, it’s the tutorial area, but that made it a pretty chill spot to just hang out and trade messages and items back in the day.

Well, nothing for it, let’s start a quest! How about… right, there’s a Wandering Mender!  “Cleansing the Shrine.” Alright, so, Godsbeen shrines are these places where one of the gods walked the earth, but of course this one is infected by a demonic incursion, and the Mender’s asking me to clear it out. So it’s asking which of the gods walked there, and it lets me pick from a list, and that changes the shrine’s instance. Let’s see, Nemain, goddess of war. Oh, cool, the holy symbol Marn has turned into one of Nemain! Guess I’m one of her Godslingers. Neat!

Pretty close, it should be easy to get there.

Cleansing the Shrine

A couple of storm generators have gone haywire near a bustling crossroads. Well, bustling with NPCs, anyways. There used to be a steady stream of player characters through the place, from veterans taking out a new toon to complete newbies. It’s kind of sad. Like a store with no customers. Storms will keeping doing damage until they’re disabled, so time to put this EMP Pistol to good use. I’m rusty, though, it’s actually kind of challenging to get the timing right. Still, I get through and make it to Nemain’s Godsbeen Shrine. Couple demons on the front steps, but I need to move further in.

Wow, they’re thicker in here than I remember. And there’s text I never saw before, about Nemain being a pawn. Well, Marn’s not going to take that going down, let’s try some Holy Light!

Damn, won the fight, but lost my EMP Pistol in the process – now I’m just down to my basic hand cannon. I’ve clear out the area, but I’m not finding the source. There’s a nearby arcane sanctum that may have the right clues. I remember that’s where Technavites go to unlock their first unique magical abilities. This time out it’s full of technopirates, but they’re no match for a Godslinger! They were the ones who had opened the portal, so the demonic incursion has been stopped. I got an angelic weapon, a Blessed Blunderbuss. Looks a little… clunky, really, but hard to argue with the bonus damage it’ll do to demons. Plus, I’ve leveled up!


As I’m traveling around, there’s a lot that’s familiar, but in kind of a weird way. They changed things in the Valley over the years as the player base peaked and it was full of more veteran players with new toons than new players, trying to keep things interesting for us. They’ve reset the Valley to its original design, so it’s like somehow getting to visit a house before it was renovated, even after living in the renovated version for years. The Tomb of Arunë is still there in the distance, though…

The Bones of Arunë

The Kind Herbalist mentions it when you first meet her: Arunë, who was already a distant legend by the time the Horizon crashed into what is now Sovereign. Arunë was buried in the Valley, and their tomb still recognizes would-be heroes who come to pay their respects. If you can make it past the tomb’s wizardroid guardians, Arunë’s spirit will reward you with a weapon from their own time. I already lost one weapon, so I definitely want to to expand my armory a bit.

It’s at the other end of the valley, though, and part of the challenge is just getting there without getting worn away by all the mobs. There’s an entire monster nest that the newbie runs into and the veteran goes around. I don’t have any trouble, and I’m at the Tomb with barely a subtraction from my hit points. I push right past the guardians and open the tomb – I ding, I get an ancient runic weapon that doesn’t have a spot of rust on it, and Arunë’s spirit offers me some guidance.

Oh, oh wow. There’s a new box of text – turns out Arunë was the name for someone’s old TTRPG character, a friend of one of the developers, who’d passed away. Now this version of Arunë is thanking me for having kept their memory alive through the game, and to remember them when the Prophecy is done being told.

Damn.


I’m down to three hours now, so I’d better be heading out of the Valley. Ah, there’s this one quest I’m going to miss, though! This Wide-Eyed Waif who asks you to find her doll. It was a surprisingly challenging one, took you all over the Valley, but if you complete it she promises to become a bard and sing your praises. She showed back up in the first expansion as a companion NPC years and ‘years’ later, it was this awesome callback, I remember it had some of the funniest dialogue trees in the whole game. Nelaeryn, that’s the name they ended up giving her.

Kinda feel like I just missed the last chance to rendezvous with a friend.

Hour 2: Roads

Once you leave the Valley you’re on the Regent’s Roads, a wide-open zone with many smaller towns and villages to explore. Many twisting paths branch off from the Whylord’s Highway which bisects the region, all of them leading to adventure. In the world chat, a game moderator is writing haikus about the greyed-out names in the server list. An automated message pops up in the middle of one:

[System] 3 hours until server maintenance

“Maintenance”. It almost sounds naïve, like a child who doesn’t understand why their pet is gone. A twinge of nostalgia — can I have nostalgia for something that isn’t gone yet? — tugs at my brow.

At the same time, the Spark of Eternity flares in Marn’s mind. I clutch my head, the sky flashing with pink lightning. Horizon, whispers the Spark. Cross the Horizon. More visions fill the screen, with glimpses of the crashed starship and the strange artifact I found now visible in the chaos. The visions fade, a final crackle of pink lightning crossing my eyes. I steel myself and set out on the Whyway. It’s a long road to Sovereign, and I’m running out of time.


Let’s Log Out For A Bit

A Requiem For Horizon Prophecy Online: The Final Four is “a tabletop roleplaying game and adventure for one player. Your favorite MMO, Horizon Prophecy Online, is shutting down its servers for good, and with just four hours to go, you decide to hop back in with a new character and replay the starting area. What will you discover (or rediscover) about the game before it disappears? What will you discover about yourself?”

Written by Jonas Tintenseher, ARFHPO:TFF (let’s just call it Requiem going forward) was originally designed for the Dying MMO Jam on itch and claims inspiration from Grey Moon Rising, which itself draws from numerous sources such as Ironsworn and Ask The Stars. It can be played as a journaling game, as I’m obviously doing here, but Requiem  could also be played purely in the theatre of  the mind aside from tracking things on the character sheet. The argument could be made that theatre of the mind is even more thematically appropriate as – like HPO itself – your playthrough of Requiem will only meaningfully live on in your memory.

Getting started is simple. You answer a few questions in the Prologue to set the scene, and then make a character. You start with a Class which grants you two Abilities,  a starting item in the form of a trinket, and Level 1. The mechanical side of gameplay consists of Quests. As part of these quests you perform basic moves: Engage Danger to face enemies and obstacles, Venture Forth to move to a distant location or objective, and Corpse Run to get back to your body and its gear after you die. These basic moves consist of rolling d6s, by default one for each Level you have with additional coming from Abilities, Items, and other advantages with some dice subtracted by how dangerous or complicated a segment is. 6s are the best result, with a range in the middle being merely okay and the lowest range costing you either a life or some gear.

Successfully completing basic moves nets Quest Dice, which are accumulated and rolled after every basic move; 5 or less means the quest is ongoing and you’ll need to make another basic move, while 6 sees you complete the Quest, level up, and gain an item. Said items can be weapons, generally useful trinkets, or powerful artifacts that are also either tech, magic, runic, or angelic, which may grant additional d6s on the roll if faced with appropriate challenges.

Narratively speaking you are always asking questions. Each quest has several, such as which god visited the shrine in the Valley, or why an item is so important to an NPC. There are also some general ones about the enemies you face, the items you acquire, and the sights you see, as well as some about the area that you’re spending an Hour in, Speaking of the Hour, how each one progresses is slightly different; Hour 1 had three quests available and ended when I completed two, but the remaining hours will be structured differently and become much more urgent.

HPO is mechanically simple and narratively rich; once you get the hang of pick quest – basic move – quest move – repeat the game falls into a good rhythm, and there’s an endless supply of prompts and questions and new material to work with. If anything, if you’re doing the journaling thing you may have more prompts than you need or have the energy for – the player here doesn’t comment on everything, and I’m telling myself that’s because they simply don’t think to. The basic moves are only listed in Hour 1, and the oracles that help you randomly generate threats, locations, and revelations are before that, which led to me doing a lot of flipping about, so I’d recommend you print out or PDF those pages separately. Speaking of basic moves, you’ll have to be honest with yourself; Venture Forth is an objectively harsher move, offering more penalties and fewer Quest Dice, and later on the latter becomes pretty unattractive, making Engage Danger seem like the better option. You’ll have to keep an eye on yourself to ask if you’re traveling far enough for Venture Forth to kick in.

A Requiem for Horizon Prophecy Online: The Final Four takes you on a nostalgia trip that you actually didn’t take the first time around, and it pulls it off very well. My mental image of HPO was pretty strong, and the emotional weight behind some of the questions being asked of me was satisfyingly heavy. It also, honestly, plugged into a recurring thought I have. Existing, as we do, half in a digital world, I sometimes think about how ethereal it all is. There are people I genuinely thought of as friends that I’ve lost as forums shut down or games ended. There wouldn’t be a Cannibal Halfling Gaming without the Mad Adventurers Society, but all the links to that site are long since dead as it sunk back into the online aether years ago, taking some of its members with it into my memory. Entire communities and worlds have faded away, preserved with scraps of downloaded data if they’re lucky and only in the memory of (usually disconnected) few if they’re not.

If you’ve ever felt wistful over lost friends you knew but never met or wished to visit a story or a world that no longer exists, these Final Four hours may have a particularly strong appeal. As a bonus? You can name your own price.

Now, why did I log out here for a bit? Because Requiem explicitly tells you not to read ahead of the Hour that you are currently in, so that what comes next remains a surprise for your first playthrough. Hour 1 is pretty straightforward, the proceeding three are less so. There are some interesting trackers that help to convey a sense of urgency as time runs out for HPO, some choices to make, and some branching paths to follow. While I by no means cover every option or even every ending in the game, now is a good time to say that beyond this point there are spoilers for A Requiem For Horizon Prophecy Online: The Final Four. Reader and potential player beware.

Alright, let’s log back in…


River Relay

So of course at the first river crossing I come to I get ambushed by a whole ring of whispering, giggling Moist Faeries “asking” me to escort them to their home lake. ‘Ambush’ quests, not my favorite part of HPO. There’s an Erratic Tinkerer nearby who offers a turbo-canoe to get me there quickly, although he warns me that it will attract a lot of attention from a bunch of owlbear skeleghosts that like to come down to the water.

The river is bad, the canoe is terrible, and the faeries are probably going to try and drown me.

The runic weapon I got back in the Tomb is a rifle with a scope that increases the distance at which I can notice threats, which is probably all that keeps me from getting ganked by the skeleghosts on the first stretch of the trip. The river starts to wind around a crumbled tower. I remember it being whole and controlled by a clan of players – they started letting players claim ruins and stuff and rebuild them as the story progressed. Now it’s just set dressing, and it’s home to an arcane vortex that lashes out and swamps the boat.

First corpse run! Some minor resurrection sickness as the Spark of Eternity guides Marn’s soul back to his body, which has been reassembled by nanovites. Better yet, looks like the vortex is a timed event, so I can just move on. Next landmark is a bandit camp, which promptly empties out into a bunch of little rafts and tries to come after us. I hold them off with the runic rifle, but the darn faeries keep making the turbo-canoe zig-zag, so it’s not as clean of a getaway as I’d like. We pass through the next ancient ruin without any trouble, and cruise over a small waterfall to reach the faeries’ lake. They’re whispering about ‘keeping’ me, but in the end they give me a runic artifact, a belt-mounted Aura Shield. They say that I should keep going “before it all comes crashing down”.

There’s a bridge that goes over the lake. I recognize it, it was a really popular spot for PvP duels. Real Lone Wolf and Cub vibes – well, given that we’re in HPO, more Samurai Jack I guess. There are two players there, in end-game gear, another Godslinger (of Dian Cécht) and a Drillmore facing one another down. I stay and chat for a while – they saw they’re going to wait until there’s a minute left before the end, and then they’ll have it out one more time.

I get back on the road and leave them to it.

A Town Called Ignominy

Ignominy is one of the smaller towns on the Regent’s Roads, once a couple of shacks and a saloon over a prospering silvern mine that’s now a couple of shacks and a saloon over a near-empty silver mine. I remember there’s an interplanar rift way, way down that lets the miners hit another payload if you can zip it up, and the loot is good, so I start making my way there. I keep getting hassled by mechasaur mobs though, so I turn and try to put them down at an abandoned drone hanger. A trick shot activates a bunch of drones that do the work for me, and then I’m down in the mines.

The rift’s mobs are almost a pushover by comparison, and I clear the way for the Wistful Foreman’s workers. The rift doesn’t seal, though, and the Foreman starts to talk about sending an expedition through. That’s definitely not how I remember it, but the Foreman rummages one arm through the rift and then throws me a magical trinket that provides spell resistance – a pendant with a gemstone of shifting color that I always tried to get while on the Roads.

Then something weird happens. I’m getting back on the Roads, plotting out a route that’ll take me into the path of some petty whywaymen that have got their hands on alien weaponry – unless the game’s changed even more than I remember – when I get a private whisper. That moderator that’s been writing all the haikus say they’ve noticed what I’m up to – say I’m one of a very few just playing through the starting part of the game instead of doing something specific like the duelists – and that they want to help.

They’re offering to teleport me to the end of the Whyway. At this point that’ll mean skipping half the Roads, by ‘completing’ the quests I’ll even get two levels out of it.

Marn started this journey without any XP-boosts or heirloom items or anything else I’d earned back in the day because I wanted to experience the game the way I had back when I started but… dealing with the Moist Faeries took longer than I planned for. I think of Nelaeryn, and all the content there’s no way I’ll get to reach, even with the mod’s help. Their help will let me see more of it, at least.

I think I can do without extraterrestrially armed bandits, and even warp vampires. I say yes.

Weird, though, I thought I was at least familiar with all the mods, but I don’t recognize this one’s username. Huh. Must have joined up while I was away from the game.

Hour 3: Dungeon

I’m so close to Sovereign. The capital city is a beautiful metropolis where machines ease the citizens’ burdens of labor and magic suffuses the air itself, where spells are woven into everyday art and artificers reach for the stars with reverse-engineered alien technology. There’s only one more thing in the way of reaching the Horizon: the Dungeon of Pasiphaedra. Named after the powerful lich who built it long ago, the Dungeon now serves as a final test of strength for adventurers hoping to enter Sovereign.

As I appear at the end of the Whyway, I receive a ping that my old guild leader has asked to join my party. As she loads into my  instance, I check the old guild voice chat; sure enough, she’s there, waiting for me. She’s got a character I don’t recognize, but she’s definitely better equipped and a higher level than me, and they’ve even got a premium mount. Definitely taking advantage of the veteran perks, including a few heirloom items.

She offers a challenge, for old times’ sake: a race to the end of the Dungeon. Before I can respond, her avatar vanishes into the Dungeon’s antechamber. Heck, why not? The race is on.

Dungeon Corridors

The upper levels of the Dungeon of Pasiphaedra are filled with a hodgepodge of  traps and monsters designed to deter would-be adventurers from delving too deep. Even at the top, however, strange things flicker at the edges of my screen, and illusory mobs vanish and reappear to psych me out before each encounter. I’ve got to fight and puzzle my way to the Grand Well in order to descend.

I haven’t talked with ‘Miith’ono’rance’ – never learned her real name – since I logged out for the last time years ago. She’s rolled up a Skipknock this time, something she never played before as far as I know, just like being a Godslinger is new to me.

The level design is as hodgepodge as the obstacles, half raw stone and half obvious salvage from the Horizon‘s crash. I remember being really creeped out by all the weird flickers and shadows I was jumping at the first time, but then it was two in the morning and I was a – probably legally overmedicated on energy drinks – high schooler back then. Now it’s, eh, kinda lame. I blow through a pack of cyborg rippers in their own lair like they were nothing, getting an angelic trinket that ‘deepens your connection to the god you best embody’.

I was one of the guild officers under ‘Honor’ back in the day, and we were pretty close back then. I mean, as close as you can get with someone you never see in the meatspace, I guess, which… hell with it, can still be very close. We talked about all sorts of stuff in a private channel of the guild voice chat; we both moved around a lot, although neither of us ever went into why.

Next up is a trio of elemental golems in a part of the dungeon that definitely looks more like an ancient ruin. It’s supposed to be part of an older complex that predates the lich, if I remember correctly. They don’t prove any tougher than the rippers, in part thanks to that pendant the Foreman gave me. There’s an Energy Shotgun in the room’s chest, pretty standard AoE tech weapon, and then I leap down into the Grand Well and head for the depths.

Honor was one of my best friends when I was playing HPO, in spite of the fact that I never actually met her. Then I just… sort of ghosted her and the guild, I guess. I didn’t really think about it. At the time, anyway.

Dungeon Depths

The central chambers of the Dungeon are way better defended, and the place no longer looks like eighteen different architects were involved, which actually makes it harder to spot traps. Mostly undead down here, although there’s the odd wandering beast, and those traps are quite a bit deadlier. Not anywhere near the endgame raids I mastered, but then again I don’t have endgame gear, now do I? I need to collect the Aether Keys to access the Sanctum and finish the Dungeon. I haven’t heard from Honor since before she rushed in, and I don’t quite know what to say to restart the conversation, voice or text.

I venture forth, trying to get through a platforming gauntlet I remember being just really annoying. It’s the first place in the game where you have to jump to get to anything, and half the platforms are basically floating necrobombs and another quarter are swarming with undead. The Memory of Ëtris gives me a bonus to things like this, and the Holy Light helps with all the undead, but it’s a mess and I’ve got the Corpse Soon Rot effect by the time I get to the other side.

Talk about foreshadowing, the only other thing besides a lich that could possibly be running the show around here would be a technodracolich, and I know for a fact they’d never put one of those things this early in the game, even for a laugh two hours before HPO closes for good.

Oh, good, zombified goblin rat raiders. LOTS of zombified goblin rat raiders. I mow them all down eventually, but my Blessed Blunderbuss is scrap by the time the last raider falls. That gets me the last Aether Key though, and I’m through the Astral Door.

Pasiphaedra’s Sanctum

Here we go, boss fight time. The actual lich is long gone, but the Vestige of Pasiphaedra is bad enough. The Sanctum is huge, way more complex than a simple dome or something, and covered in carvings and tapestries telling the lich’s story. The boss has magic, tech, and a never-ending stream of adds. Here we go.

I go right for the Vestige, bullets flying and Holy Light blazing, and I whittle its health bar down, but it’s not enough before it tears open an interplanar rift and dumps a bunch more elemental golems on me. They’re not as vulnerable to my Light or the connection I have to Nemain, but that pendant comes in handy again, and I take another try at the Vestige, which responds by throwing a bunch of magma geysers at me.

The pendant and Ëtris are the gifts that keep on giving; I dodge most of the geysers and tank the rest, and land some of my own shots that continue to whittle away at that health bar. The Vestige deploys nanovites to build a suit of armor for itself, making it way tougher, and goes in for the melee. Like all the carvings and stuff say, the true way to power in this world is to blend all its gifts, native or alien.

I drive it back, so its nanovite armor starts to peel off and form into haywire robots that try to encircle me. I lose my pendant to an unlucky damage effect, but then the path is clear back to the Vestige, and I finally bring it down. I gain a magical artifact, a sliver of pure crystallized magic that was shaved off of Pasiphaedra’s phylactery and grants me an extra level just for having it, and head out.

Honor is waiting for me when I take the exit portal to Sovereign. She congratulates me on a well-fought attempt, but there’s a twinge of melancholy to her voice. It’s the last time either of us will ever see the Dungeon of Pasiphaedra, which was the first real challenge in the early game. There were a lot of memories made there.

I thank her for the race, but her response seems… kind of distant. I can’t blame her. I’m the one that left first. But I’m realizing now that this wasn’t just the last time I’ll ever fight the Vestige. It’s the last time Honor and I will ever speak to one another. We didn’t… I didn’t maintain a connection outside of HPO, and without it…

It sucks. But I don’t try and convince her, now, to do otherwise but go our separate ways. We already drifted apart. Some connections don’t grow back.

We say goodbye, and I wish her luck, and the voice chat goes dead for the last time.

Hour 4: Horizon

Well, I made it. The camera pans to show off the hub city of Sovereign and its grandiose neighborhoods. As it moves I think of the first time I saw the Starveil District, the cyclical world events in the Moonfire Quarter, the cataclysm that destroyed the Stormforge Steps, the hundreds — thousands? — of hours I poured into just this one city.

Lot of fond memories, here. There were the guild meetings, the in-game weddings, the player-run marketplace, the city-spanning collection quests, the holiday events, the monthly faction skirmishes, and so, so much crafting. For so long, Sovereign was almost my second home, a city I lived in just as much as my real hometown. If anything it was my first home, because none of the real ones lasted very long back then.

I’d love to visit my player housing estate or my favorite faction’s headquarters, but another automated server message warns me that there’s not much time left. The camera settles on the crashed starship in the center of the city. The Horizon awaits.

I get a prestige class, and I choose Warp Knight – the alien teleporter tech the class uses and the Warp Speed it grants is going to be really important, because I’m going straight for the bridge. Usually this is the kind of thing much higher level people would do, after they’ve quested around Sovereign a lot and bought their own house, but I don’t have the time. It’ll be tough, and I’ll probably be losing levels, but I should be able to make it though… scathed.

Cross The Horizon

My Warp Speed and all the runic gear I have gets me pretty far in, but I’ve already dropped to Level 9 as  the ship’s unstable warp core drains me. Some rival adventurers, who honestly have the look of griefers trying to get one more mean-spirited laugh in, try and jump me then. They don’t stand a chance.

The Spark of Eternity flares in my mind. Of the gods who walked this world long ago, none remain alive. The Godslingers and all the rest are praying to the dead and the absent. We’re on our own.

The next deck is crawling with technopirates. There was this one recurring technopirate NPC, charming guy, never could hate him no matter how many times he pulled one over on the guild. These guys are just mobs, though. Strong mobs, and I come close to burning out my Aura Shield, but get to the next deck without making a corpse run or losing any gear. Down to Level 8, now.

Ugh, a themed puzzle. I vaguely recognize it, but I’ve got no tech gear to provide bonuses – only the Memory of Ëtris is any help, and then only barely because it’s magic. The Memory is burnt out by the end. The Spark flares again. The Horizon didn’t just come from the stars, it came from another reality, one which had lost its own gods just like ours and eventually crumbled away into nothingness. They were trying to escape, but whoever had robbed them of their divinity had sabotaged the ship.

Good ol’ cyborg rippers, the dire model compared to the ones I faced a few hours ago, start, well, ripping through way out of the ship’s ductwork to attack me. By the time the last one goes down I’ve fallen to Level 7, but I’m still moving.

It’s hard to imagine that Sovereign could exist with this place right in the middle of it. The city wasn’t peaceful, by any means, but it was safe, for a given value of it. Oh, sure, there were events like when we lost the Steps, but to think of all the day-to-day that went on outside while all this lurked on the other side of the hull…

What’s worse than owlbear skeleghosts? Owlbear skeleghosts that cling to the ceiling and pounce on you. Drop owlbear skeleghosts! I wish I still had that Blunderbuss, as clunky as it looked, but the ol’ Holy Light does for them well enough. Why did the artifact plant the Spark in my mind? As it flares a third time, the answer is clear: because there was no one else. Call it fate, or programming, or narrative causality, but I was the one who was there to take on the Spark, and that’s that.

Mechasaurs inside any confined space are terrifying. Mechasaurs inside a spaceship is a nasty surprise, and honestly I don’t even remember them being on the Horizon before. This time I do lose the Aura Shield, and what’s worse now I’m down to Level 6.

I used to run the Horizon just for the fun of it. Go in with endgame gear, race others to the bridge. Honor used to use it as a recruitment method – first three people to reach the bridge got in the guild. That’s actually how I joined up in the first place. Not so easy now, but it’s a fond memory, reaching the end and being welcomed.

I’ve got to go on a scavenger hunt through the next deck to find a bunch of MacGuffins so that this one NPC will turn on the elevator I need to keep going. With the warp core reaching for my levels like it is it’s yet another race through the corridors – this is why I picked the Warp Knight. I make it to the lift at Level 5.

Elemental golems again, feeding on a power station. but that sliver of Pasiphaedra’s phylactery comes in handy. As the flashes of lightning fade, the Spark of Eternity flares one last time. Its purpose is simple – make new gods so that the prophecy is fulfilled and this world does not suffer the same fate as the Horizon‘s.

The End

I finally reach the Horizon’s bridge. Here, stored somewhere in the starship’s memory banks, is the original digital copy of the Horizon Prophecy — the magical code that changed this world forever. The Spark of Eternity led me here. It’s been so long since I’ve entered this hallowed instance, but, with minutes to spare, I’ve made it.

I feel… scared? Satisfied? Sad? I  approach the console. Pink lightning crackles across the screen. And then —

The Horizon Prophecy fills my mind. I’ve memorized these words by now; there’s no need to repeat them here.

As the cutscene ends, the game freezes. A black screen shows me my own reflection, and then I’m back at the game’s title screen. Marn stares at me blankly from his pedestal. Rediscovering these quests, these enemies and NPCs — revisiting the story and world that has shaped so much of who I am — it’s over, now.

Even though I knew all of it already, I can’t help but be grateful that I had the chance to see it again. I’m glad I got to see Sovereign again. I sent one more pack of griefers running. I got to say goodbye to Honor the way I should have in the first place, even if it was bittersweet.

I say my goodbyes and exit the game for good. I’ll miss the comradery and the sense of wonder the most – HPO gave me friends when I needed them, and new worlds to explore that captured my imagination more than another school full of strangers could. Rereading the Prophecy was fulfilling, I’m glad I did it, but I wish I’d spent more time with other players in these final four hours. Those duelists went out together on a low-level bridge, and I wonder if that’s better than reaching the end on my own.

Not sure what I’ll do now, or what I’ll play next, but if I learned anything from this it’s to treasure things – and people – while you still have them. Even if it’s just a game. Because it may not be just a game.

I made it to the Horizon, but some part of me is still yearning for more. Of course, that feeling will pass with time…won’t it?


Some of the narrative here is borrowed from the game itself, to help set up and tell the story.

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2 thoughts on “Solitaire Storytelling: A Requiem for Horizon Prophecy Online: The Final Four”

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