The Way is a freeware, indierole-playing game created by Lun Calsari on the RPG Maker 2000. It consists of six consecutive episodes, the first of which was released in 2002.The people of The Way believe that the entire world is enclosed by the Rolling Mists. The very front of the world is gradually revealed by the Mists and explored by the Forerunners, while the rear of the world is swallowed. What lies in between is the titular Way and every human being spends their life Walking the Earth, either alone or accompanied by other wanderers. Settling down is considered blasphemous and the religious order of The Guided will ensure that the people keep moving forward and live their lives the way it is intended by The Purpose.The story follows Rhue of Landorin, a young wanderer on a quest to regain a piece of his past. As the game begins, he's been searching the Way for many years already. Rhue is setting a frantic pace for himself, desperate for a simple clue that might help guide him to that which he lost so many years ago.Throughout the six episodes, Rhue travels through caves, duels in tournaments, traverses infernal realms, gets caught up in a gang war, survives a demonic outbreak, goes through a lawsuit and performs in a grand stage production.Along the way, he encounters many new people, such as the arrogant and abusive Strata, the charming and knowledgable Traziun, and the lawful and violent Slade. Very soon their journeys are overshadowed by murderous threats: A gang of bandits who call themselves the Blue Scarves attack wanderers under the leadership of a woman called Dancing Violet, and a mysterious shadow killer leaves a trail of corpses along the Way.All six episodes of the game can be downloaded here.
An Economy Is You: Averted. Rhue apparently is completely or nearly broke from the start of the game, never gets any more money, never does any shopping and only ever pays for (plot-mandated) things by getting other people to pay for him. Very, very rarely, you can barter goods in specific situations, but overall it's fair to say that Rhue has no impact on The Way's economy whatsoever.
An Interior Designer Is You: Borderline. In Episode 6, you can buy a house and fill it with furniture, but it's all placed ahead of time, and it's pretty important for the Lexus ending.
Apathetic Citizens: Almost everyone Rhue encounters in Episode 6. Barely any citizen of Dream Estrana cares that the city is surrounded by a red void and almost completely destroyed, they all just keep living their lives, claiming they have done so for years.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Very glaring in Episode 6. This wasn't a concern in previous episodes since there were never more than four people traveling with Rhue at once.
Black Comedy: Many of the funnier parts in the game are pretty much about Rhue being a grouch. Highlights include calling a woman a money-grubbing, lazy whore (more than once) and insulting a young boy for no reason.
Black Speech: The language of the Lord Below and the monsters in the Pits. Scatha and Sacrifa are shown speaking it.
Block Puzzle: There is one in the battlegrounds in Episode 3.
Blood Brothers: After a year of Blood Lyn training, each student is paired up with a student of the opposite gender.
Blood Oath: People who sell themselves to the Blana Sera take a blood oath and are called Blood Lyn for this reason. Breaking it usually results in death.
Bonus Boss: The leptor. Many more, if you count optional Plunges.
Rhue's companions in Episode 6 become stronger through this system.
Averted for the rest of the game though. Rhue gains points in individual stats one or two at a time by absorbing items, and other party members stay the same for the duration of their stay with you but usually have new skills and better stats if they show up again later.
Characters as Device: Many characters in Episode 1 are introduced merely to teach the basics. The most glaring examples are the characters Dana and Wes. They help Rhue fight a few battles, are knocked out cold, and... are never seen again. At least Therin got a cameo in Episodes 2 and 4.
Crapsack World: The Purpose is implied to be there simply to control people, while the Lord Below actually exists. One of the only large cities, Estrana, is full of poverty and crime. And the world is made up of crazy religious fanatics (The Guided) and tools (Blood Lyn).
Creator Breakdown: Though it may be part of the epic Mind Screw that is Episode 6, there are many hidden messages that can only be accessed by RPG Maker about a girl who saved him (the creator, Lun), only for him to leave her crying, complete with calling himself a fool. There's also a hidden room with sad music only heard that one time, some child who "just wants to get back to sleep", and a man spouting things depressing even for The Way, about looking through a window every day and growing sadder and sadder each day after looking at it. Looking reveals it's an image of a young boy smiling. Lun was definitely going through something when writing this stuff.
Cruel Mercy: If you defeat Strata at the end of Episode 5, Rhue mocks him and lets him live. However, since the character in question has pretty much spent his entire life being a Glory Hound, being beat by some wanderer with weird clothing, right after one of the few people he might have cared for is killed, probably did not do well for his sanity.
Cutscene Boss: The Plunge battles, sort of. They do have a legitimate alternate combat system, but they mean that most of the one-on-one battles between humans in the entire game take place outside of the normal combat system (and early in the gane there's little you can do during the battles to really affect your odds of winning.
Drama Bomb: Episode 5. Man, Episode 4 took a turn for the dark, but... well, let's just put it this way. The episode is called Everyone Must Bleed.
Dramatic Thunder: Dramatically timed at Kloe's execution at Matalan at the end of Episode 3 and after Lexus's death at the end of Episode 4.
Dramatic Wind: In place when Traziun makes his eye for an eye speech.
Duel Boss: Just about anything that would've been one of these is instead handled through the Plunge system.
Dug Too Deep: A secret mining operation in Estrana lead by Sacrifa has accidentally unleashed creatures from the Pits who keep killing the miners. Rhue and Kloe take a one-day job as guards in these mines to upgrade their citizenship and apparently nobody expects them to make it out alive. The trope get subverted. They aren't mining anything at all, they're just digging. Sacrifa wants to reach the deepest Pits to make his Deal with the Devil in person.
Dysfunction Junction: Seriously, look at the characters after Episode 4. It's hard finding a character that doesn't have some kind of psychological issue.
Earn Your Bad Ending: Accessing the Reaches ending – in which Rhue basically refuses to accept that Serena is dead, dies, and descends into hell – requires insane Plunge skills, as well as defeating the game's hardest boss.
Easter Egg: Lots and lots. Some can be found in the actual game (the twisted C.O.O.L Meeting, for example), or some that can be found only with RPG maker 2000 (The Short Sketch). Philosophical messages can be found in the code of Episode 6, including some kind of weird scavenger hunt and a code in PGP.
Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: The basic core of the Plunge system works this way. Cross Sweep beats Lunge Cut, Lunge Cut beats Drop Slash, Drop Slash beats Cross Sweep. Though you get access to more advanced mechanics later on, which are capable of bending the rules.
The Arastotzi use their connections to upgrade Rhue's citizen status several times.
Even Dancing Violet could be freed from her prison cell by bribing enough guards with enough seru. She asks Rhue to win the Plunge tournament to use the money and connections the win would bring him to free her. We never see if it would have worked though, since Rhue loses against Strata.
Gorn: Despite the 16-bit Super Nintendo RPG style graphics, there are very gruesome deaths, especially in episode 5. For starters: Heads being ripped off, the body collapsing into a bloody heap, characters being graphically impaled on stalagmites, having their faces ripped off, scalped, being ripped in half, having limbs amputated, getting ripped in half at the torso, having guts exploding out, and a bird graphically tearing strips of flesh from a corpse, all with blood splattering all over the ground and walls.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The characters' curse words are harmless to the player, but have a potentially offensive meaning in-universe. "Flaming Fires of Janwen!" invokes the destruction of the city of Janwen and is therefore a profanity. Shorter versions like "Sweet flaming lands!", "Lands..." and "Burn you!" are seen being used.
Achieving 100% Completion. There's a Point of No Return for almost every area in the game, and many chests are hidden behind secret passages. Oh, and there are a few things that require inhuman clairvoyance or a complex string of Dialogue Tree decisions to get. Have fun.
Worse, until the last chapter you don't "level" in the traditional sense nor get currency from battle – your power is determined by equipping stat items and fighting several combats to "absorb" them. In other words, if you stumble through the early chapters without a guide by the end your stats will be low, you'll be missing several special moves and there will be nothing you can do to make up for it. Oh, and the alternate "Plunge" combat system used for duels depends almost entirely on your stats; no amount of personal skill or patience can cause you to win if your stats are too low, though almost all the later Plunges are either optional or very easy.
Hopeless Boss Fight: Numerous, usually but not always Plunge battles. Most notably, the first three Plunge battles are unwinnable, and Rhue actually gives up after two strikes in the third.
Hub City: As the largest settlement seen in the series, Estrana serves as the stage for many of the inter-political conflicts between the many groups and organizations that exist within The Way, and a majority of the dungeons in Episode 4 exist within the city itself. Dream Estrana in Episode 6 serves as one for nearly the entire episode, with plenty of sidequests inside its walls to keep the player busy.
Ironic Echo: Strata utters a condescending remark toward Rhue as he walks away from him for the first time after mugging him. Rhue repeats a variation of it after he defeats Strata in their last encounter in the series.
Strata: Why don't you contemplate what's just taken place here while I go make some money at the races. Later, blue boy.
Rhue: Why don't you contemplate what's just taken place here while I go after Gaius. Later, loser.
Kill 'em All: In Episode 5. The casualties are: Slade, Lyrra, Cetsa, Alan (you can see his dismembered legs poking out of a bush), Sacrifa, Entrego (presumably), and an entire city of innocent people, including children.
Lampshade Hanging: Lots. For example, many of the more fashionable characters tend to insult Rhue's ugly clothing.
Lazy Backup: Rhue's party in Episode 6 if he recruits more than three teammates.
Let's Play: Malefact is doing one and had just ended episode 5. It has been on hold for a long time, however, although he has come back from his hiatus at long last. You can find it here.
Long-Lost Relative: Several, as seen on the character sheet. Other relations are implied in some places, but cannot be proven or are disproven by Episode 6.
Lost Forever: Except in Episode 6, previous areas cannot be revisited, so if you didn't get the items there, too bad. This goes for experience, too, since the game doesn't use random encounters, but also because the aforementioned items are your primary source of stat gains in the first place.
MacGuffin: Serena. Rhue trying to find her is what drives his actions and portions of the plot forward, but she doesn't actively do anything to influence the story. Which makes her an in-universeMacGuffin as well, since the Phantom Slasher uses Rhue's memories of her for exactly the same reason – to drive him forward.
Meaningful Rename: Very common. If a character chooses to start a new life and take on a new identity, they scramble the letters of their name to create a new one. Additionally, if they want to leave a dark part of their past behind, they eliminate one of the letters. If they have achieved a great new status instead, they may add a new letter to their name. For example Kava -> Kavax. See the character sheet for more examples.
Military Academy: The battlegrounds of the Blana Sera turn children and teenagers into Blood Lyn.
Mind Screw: The entirety of Episode 6 is the worst offender, but the rest of the series is pretty confusing as well. Not only is almost nothing resolved, what little the fanbase has to work with is extraordinarily cryptic and confusing. (Expect lots of Epileptic Trees popping up.)
Minigame: Several times. Holding off a siege with cannon fire, a vaguely side-scrolling shooter game, catching a rabbit...
Mood Whiplash: In Episode 5, you wander around before Dancing Violet's execution, listening to humorous conversations. Then, you witness Sacrifa's wife being stoned to death.
Multiple Choice Past: Two of the flashback sequences Rhue has of Serena; they're dependent on what the player chooses for him. The first one decides her hair color, while the other defines how her personality matches with the various female characters Rhue has encountered so far in the series. This is justified by the very end.
Our Souls Are Different: A person's body and soul are not physically connected, but their soul casts a "shadow" which is called the person's "aura". Their aura contains their personality, emotions, memories etc. It's possible to disconnect someone from their aura and absorb it. Jopaga in Episode 4 is working on such a serum. The person can survive without their aura, but they'll only be an Empty Shell afterwards.
Shadow Swords automatically absorb the aura of everyone they kill. Their wielder has then access to their victims' memories and can – if the sword wills it so – take on parts of their personalities. When or why this happens is Left Hanging.
Slade's aura is only absorbed partially by the Phantom Slasher in Episode 5. He survives, Rhue absorbs part of his memories and the Slade he meets in Dream Estrana never talks.
Public Execution: Episode 3 ends with the preparations for Kloe's execution at Matalan and Dancing Violet's execution is a plot point in Episode 5.
Pyrrhic Victory: In what appears to be the canon ending, Rhue finds out about Serena. But he realizes he is just a fabrication of the mind of others and has lost pretty much everyone he has ever cared for. Well, except Kloe, if you have enough of a friendship rating with her.
Relationship Values: They're invisible, and most of them don't matter – some affect the dialogue, while others were created early on only to never be put to any real use. Only the following values matter:
The Lexus points have the biggest influence on the game, as they can unlock an entirely different ending if they're high enough.
The Sorya points determine if you encounter the character in Episode 6 and whether they join your party.
The Kloe points slightly influence the ending.
Retcon: Defied in that instead of having later episodes contradict information from earlier ones, Lun went back and edited the episode in question. Examples include how the headhunter in Episode 1 used be looking for Gaius instead of Jeruh, and Slade reacting a lot differently at the mention of Serena's name in Episode 5.
Re Traux: The game uses Super Nintendo style graphics and MIDI music.
Rule of Cool: Having control of Traziun's storm through the fortress is really pretty pointless, the game could have just shown him killing them all. It was mostly there just to show how Traziun is Awesome Incarnate.
Scenery Porn: There are quite a few pre-rendered backgrounds that look nice despite being relatively simple.
Averted for most of the game. The number of notch items and the number of enemies in each episode are usually very balanced, so is the strength of your sword auras and of your enemies.
Played straight in Episode 6, though. You can find a huge number of notch items, to the point where you need to grind to absorb them all. And if you want to get access to all three Multiple Endings, you may want to do that. Maxing out the level of at least one sword aura will also prove helpful in the last battles, and – according to the official walkthrough – requires at least 80 to 120 battles per aura.
Teamwork Puzzle Game: One of the rooms in The Pits in Episode 3 require Scatha and Rhue to work together with the switches inside to get past it.
That Liar Lies: Played straight by Scatha in Episode 5 with Cetsa on the receiving end, after the latter claims that she's Serena.
Theme Naming: Subverted. The episode names all rhyme with the previous one...except for the last, "Truth Hides Nothing".
There Is Only One Bed: After rescuing Kloe from the Blood Lyn in Episode 4, Rhue allows her to stay in his room for the night. The Dialogue Tree makes you choose how to deal with the situation.
Thriving Ghost Town: Justified. Most towns are pretty barren, since they are only supposed to be temporary.
Title Drop: The final bosses use attacks based on the episode titles. Not to mention the fact that the entire game is set in a place called "The Way"...
Trophy Wife: Discussed a couple of times. Scatha believes that there is no real love in the world and every man is only after beautiful women as a trophy. Strata is clearly interested in Cetsa for this very reason and hurts Lyrra deeply when she realizes this.
Violation of Common Sense: Being a bad thief and acting like a complete Jerk Ass during the party in Episode 6 – which leads to getting the worst courtroom result with no notch item rewards – is the only way to trigger an external event that gives the player a certain notch item that allows access to a hidden skill.
Walking the Earth: Everyone, pretty much. It's considered blasphemous to settle down.
What Could Have Been: An episode retelling the past episodes from Lyrra's point of view, Episode 6 ending with Rhue entering the top cell of the Arm of Estrana, followed by an Episode 7, amongst other things.
Woman Scorned: Lady Patura uses all her authority to degrade Slade and break him down, after he refuses her advances.
World's Strongest Man: This is what the title of Paraphalyn signifies. Oddly, no one seems to hold the title by the time the game rolls around. Well, no one alive. Kavax is quite happy to give Rhue a shot at inheriting the title from him during Episode 6.
Wraparound Background: This is used in the scenes where characters are running on what Rhue remembers as the Landorin Stretch.
Unstable Equilibrium: Very, very much. Winning challenges or finding secrets early in the game nets you awards that boost your power forever afterwards. If you do not find these secrets or beat these challenges, however, you're likely to do poorly in the future.