Not sure if the next FSN post will be read for Saturday, but you do get this, so, it’s something, I guess?
Anyway, this was a fun and solid wRPG that gets major points for just being something different. It’s not a must-play for all, but if you like wRPGs I’d definitely rec it.
Also worth noting is that there’s one white person in the whole game, and it’s John Cleese.
I really enjoyed this game. If you’ve played Dragon Age: Origins, you’ll be familiar with the UX: lots of choices, lots of control, deep party member characterization (the base camp setup is here!), and a ton of sidequests with flavor text and rewards for exploring nooks and crannies. Combat can be a bit button-mashy but is still quite fun, and I found the boss battles to be nicely challenging on Grand Master difficulty. Nothing revolutionary, but certainly solid.
The selling point of this game, though, is the setting. Instead of the general Tolkienian high-fantasy setting, the game is set in a Chinese fantasy world, and it’s really, really cool. It’s a new mythology, a new philosophy, and just so incredibly unlike everything else it’s really hard not to be enamoured of it. Perhaps the biggest sin of the ciswhiteguy control of media is the lack of variety, the lack of originality when there’s so much in the world at large to explore, and this is the perfect reason why– the setting completely revolutionizes this game, taking it from mediocre to a hearty recommendation mostly just because it’s different.
Also, dat twist. It was one of those things where for like 20 minutes I was thinking, “Wait, no, this has to be wrong… right?” But that’s all I’ll say about that.
I broached this in my Witcher novel review, but I… like learning. I like the idea of being thrown into a world whose entire cultural history I hadn’t committed to memory by age 10. I like stopping gameplay to go research what a striga is or how the heavens are arranged in Chinese legend. These are additions to the gameplay experience. The idea that we should be striving for habituation as it yields ease is incredibly bizarre to me. Why don’t we seek the mythos of Eastern Europe, of China, to create more distinct narratives? In doing so, we actually bolster the narratives we already have, because we prune them. Everyone gets better for it. Why don’t we want to tell more stories?
Well, racism is why, but it’s not a particularly logical platform, so needless to say I just don’t get it. The idea of not wanting to expose onesself to new ideas is so incredibly bizarre to me I honestly have trouble wrapping my head around it.
Also, you should watch this because it’s freaking hilarious:
Changing topics, let’s talk about women.
I said before, and will say again, that I genuinely think Bioware tries really hard to be inclusive. They don’t always succeed, but I feel like they try, and I really appreciate that, because it’d be too easy for a big-name studio to go, “Whatevs,” and keep raking in the cash, which is indeed what most of them do. (Aside: I once tried to Google for a list of female characters in DA2, and all of the results were neckbeards complaining that there were too many women in the game. I need a male tears mug, they really do sustain me.)
I think this game is a really good example of how you can do really good things and get brownie points for them while still messing some stuff up when marketing/patriarchy gets the better of you.
First of all, the costuming is freaking ridiculous, and I honestly would have passed over the game based on that alone if you hadn’t recced it. People made fun of the midriff Dalish armor in DA:O, which I always thought was kind of weird. The armor was stupid, but it’s wasn’t super-sexualized and it was the lowest-level armor of its kind and basically all the other armors in the game were fine, so I really don’t get why people are so caught up on it. Why more people don’t mock the costuming in this game instead, I don’t know.
But I do have a theory. I actually noticed that the weirdness only applied to the female PC and one party member, which makes me think this was a case of marketing insisting there be ~sexy women~ for the obviously-male player to ogle. There were no sexualized children, all the female NPCs were dressed normally, and even Silk Fox had a totally reasonable outfit. The end result is kind bizarre– the game just ends up incongruous with itself. So yeah, I’m inclined to blame higher-ups for this and not the actual creative team.
The game also had an endgame queen, which is something I’ve hit quite a bit of lately and was nice. She was of the “shun traditions and be badass in secret” stock character, but it’s a really positive stock portrayal and I like it, so I’m totally fine with that.
The antagonism between Dawn Star and Silk Fox was just this side of irksome, though. On one hand I get that they were trying to make it a genuine personality clash, but on the other I think it fell a little to much into the “women only have competitors and sycophants” camp.
You also had that interesting problem that popped up in Radiant Historia, where the plot was driven by women (especially if you play as a woman) and there were tons of great women doing every job imaginable, but the supporting cast still tilted male. I think this is a growing pains issue, as I did in RH, and I think as time goes on the woman at the forefront will spread backwards and things will get more balanced, but it’s another look at how you can do some great things right while still falling prey to bad old habits.
And that brings us to “Henpecked Hou.”
The old “women are harpies who live to tormet poor, maligned men” is stupid, sexist, and I shouldn’t have to elaborate any further and if I do, welcome! You must be new here. It annoyed me every time it came up.
However, something kind of bizarre happened. It almost seemed like they were going to deconstruct it.
When you find out late in Hou’s companion dialogue that it was an arranged marriage neither of them really had any say in, and then that they couldn’t have kids even though they wanted to, it seems like the game is trying to say that there’s usually a lot of deep reasons people are unhappy in marriages, and none of them have to do with women being “nags.”
Except that the game just kind of stops there and then keeps playing the trope straight. It was like they wanted to make the situation deeper, but either didn’t know how or didn’t have the nerve to go through with it. It was honestly really confusing tonally, because you go from Hou pouring his heart out right back to “lol women” jokes, and it doesn’t make any sense with what we now know of the character.
Going back to opressive mindsets stifling creativity, I think the seeds of a really interesting plotline were here. They even started to sprout and then… they were just abandoned. It was almost a kind of inverse Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, and I still don’t quite know what to make of it. It didn’t seem sure of what it was trying to do.
The only other thing I have to say, I think, is re: gameplay. I really liked playing on the highest difficulty setting. However, this meant dying sometimes, and my boss strategy generally was to do a suicide run or two to figure out how the boss fought before settling in for the real fight.
This game had some of the longest loading screens I’ve ever seen, and I have no idea why. It actually significantly impacted my ability to play the game, because I ended up dialing the difficultly back so I wouldn’t have to deal with them.
I honestly don’t know what was up here. I was playing it on a 360 even though it’s an original-XBOX game, so theoretically there should be more than enough processing power to run things relatively quickly (and I’m finding this to be the case with Morrowind), but maybe there was some weird compatibility issue going on? IDK.
Anyway, for you teal deer:
If you like wRPGs, you’ll really enjoy it. While the gameplay is rather rote, the setting and story are engaging, there are some really nice characters, and there’s tons of sidequests oh god the sidequests. If wRPGs aren’t your bag it probably won’t convert you, but the uniqueness of the setting alone may make it worth a look if you’re on the fence.