The Shroud. We all farm it, but how many of us can actually solve it? Most groups complete the puzzles in part 3 using a "solver", a web-based program where the puzzle state is entered and the solution copied. This post will teach you how to solve the puzzle yourself. It's far easier than most people think.
Humans can solve all of the vale puzzles faster and with less mistakes alone than with computer assistance. Even using a second laptop with a solver pre-loaded, the tile configuration must be copied between the two screens. Any errors made in this step are not easy to correct once the solution begins. To copy the solution to the game, one must make jumps from tile to tile, carefully correcting any tiles accidentally depressed. If a mistake is made, it is very difficult to correct without understanding the technique. Without a laptop, I imagine it's a nightmare.
There are several algorithms one can use to solve the Vale puzzle. I designed the technique presented here to be as easy as possible. No memorization, calculation, or jumping is required. If you accidentally make a mistake, it's easy to recover. Personally, I just run across the puzzle without being very careful, because I know what I can touch without breaking the solution. If you master this algorithm, you can solve the 5x5 in about 20 seconds.
The first step to solving the 3x3, 4x4, and 5x5 puzzle is to master the 4x4. Unfortunately, most Vale puzzle solvers generate 4x4 puzzles that cannot be solved 15 times out of 16. Mastery requires hands-on practice, so please open up the practice tool now. There is no solve button to tempt you, and the puzzles it creates can always be solved.
We will solve the 4x4 row by row. The main idea is to push buttons below the tiles you want to fix. In the puzzle below, the top row has two lights off. To correct this, we push the buttons just below the unlit tiles as indicated.
The idea is that if you only push tiles below the row you want to fix, you only break things you haven't bothered to fix yet. We now repeat this procedure, pushing tiles on the third row to affect the second. In my example, that means we push the first button on the third row. And finally, we solve the third row using the bottom row. The 4x4 puzzle is easiest because the bottom row solves itself! Try solving some 4x4 puzzles yourself. Do at least five.
Now that you've mastered the 4x4, we will try the 3x3. This one is a bit trickier because the bottom row doesn't solve itself. Consider the following 3x3 puzzle below. We first apply the same algorithm we used with the 4x4; push buttons below the row you are fixing. After applying this algorithm we get an unsolved bottom row.
The configuration of the bottom row tells you what you need to do to the top row to fix the puzzle. If a tile in the bottom row is unlit, then you must push the button above it in the top row and the neighbouring buttons. To be concrete, the following pictures show which top row buttons to press depending on the bottom row.
If you have two or three unlit tiles in the bottom row, then you may need to push a button in the top row several times. However, pushing a button twice is like not pushing it at all. Here are some more examples involving multiple unlit bottom tiles.
Once you push the correct top buttons, you repeat the 4x4 technique and the puzzle will be solved. This means you must make two passes over the puzzle. The first pass gets the bottom row to an easy to recognize form. Then you solve the top row (which will correct the bottom row later). The second pass then corrects the mess you made by editing the top row.
You should now be able to solve any 3x3 puzzle you face. Try some now (at least 10!). With practice, you may find you can skip steps 1&2 and solve the puzzle directly in one pass. While that's useful when impressing friends, solving it with two passes is usually faster as you don't need to think. When under pressure in the Vale, I suggest not skipping steps.
Now that you've mastered the 3x3, you'll be happy to hear that the 5x5 is exactly the same. Again, most solvers online will give you impossible puzzles 3 out of 4 times, so I suggest you practice using my page instead. First, solve the top 4 rows. Now, look at the three left-most tiles on the bottom row (ignore the right two). Imagine these tiles were for a 3x3 puzzle. Push the buttons on the top row you would have pushed for the 3x3 puzzle (ie: you should never push the 4th or 5th tiles on the top row). Now solve the puzzle using a final pass. That's it!
For clarity I've included two example 5x5 bottom rows and the corresponding top row button pushes.
Practice solving 3x3, 4x4, and 5x5 puzzles online until you feel comfortable. Once you feel you've mastered them all, read on for tips on how to solve these puzzles in-game as quickly as possible.
When you face a puzzle in the Vale, pick two opposite sides that are easily accessible (ie: not against a wall or water basin) and designate one as the "top". This helps because you need to be able to get off the puzzle after solving the bottom row and then enter the puzzle on the top row. To avoid error-prone jumping, it is easiest to walk along the puzzle two rows below where you are solving. For example, when solving the top row, you are moving around on the third row. To push buttons on the second row, just step forward from the third row onto the second and then back onto the third row. I've included an example path on a puzzle below to illustrate. Using these techniques you can run across the puzzle very quickly.
--- taking a break, will continue guide and include circle and monastery in a bit ---