Luminous Arc

The stated premise of Luminous Arc is that women are evil witches, and will destroy the world by turning Good Men away from God. Within the first half hour I turned to Boyfriend and said, “I can’t figure out if this is a horrifying example of gamer culture or a brilliant satire.” He just kind of gave me this pitying look.

The first five hours I spent with this game were me trying to figure out if it was playing its premise straight. “A game that came out in 2007 couldn’t get away with hating women this much,” I would think, and then I would remember Bravely Default, which literally had this as a subplot, and lose my verve. Then something would happen that would make me hope, then something would happen that would convince me my hope was stupid.

This is a game that dares to ask questions like, “What if we lived in a world where women weren’t evil?” and “If the person you kill is a female who wanted power, is it really murder?”

Luminous Arc is a tRPG. I have not played many tRPGs, so unfortunately I can’t really comment on it from a genre-perspective. My brother, a huge Fire Emblem fan, tells me the battle system looked almost identical to that, so while I did enjoy the battles I think it’s likely I just enjoy the genre and there was nothing remarkable about this game. Certainly it lacked character balance– there were a few characters who you had virtually no chance of winning without, and some who were just complete 100% dead weight. This annoyed me. I like to keep character levels uniform, for one, see how everyone battles for two, and when you had to include a shitty character in a battle you basically started handicapped, which was irritating.

The story, though… ugh.

The game starts out with our Shonen Hero, Alph, who lives in a commune run by the local church with his brother. The church basically takes in orphans and trains them to be church soldiers, and Alph, being the Shonen Hero, is the best one evar. At the time of plot-kickoff, monsters are appearing, and “witches,” powerful magic-using women who are enemies of the church, are starting to show up, and as we know powerful magic-using women must be killed, especially by churches, so we set out to kill them. Also they look like this:

Remember, children: women with power are evil dirty whores. Good women are meek and mild and let the menfolk save them.

As I said, I spent hours upon hours forcing my way through this just in disbelief that this plot could be played straight. Early on, there are some hints it’s not — an awesome witch named Lucia shows up at the commune to be sassy as hell at everyone, but it’s unclear if we’re supposed to love her sass like normal people or hate her sass because ew, women with opinions. Then the child soldiers murder a woman they’re told is a witch, and it’s heavily implied she wasn’t actually and they just killed an innocent woman, but then we meet Dirty Whore Witch up there, and also there’s a Brock whose whole point is to sexually harass the women because that’s ~~hilarious~~, and all in all the signals were so mixed I just could not decide.

Ultimately it is in fact revealed that the church’s god is evil and the witches are good, but the game seems to think this “twist” gives it carte blache to treat the women however it wants, and it just does not.

First of all, that the way the witches were demarcated as evil in the first place was by being women with power and sexual appeal, and that part wasn’t subverted at all. The game has a real issue conflating female power and sex. The leader of all the witches is dress as such:

Claire(2)

The fake church-made witch you fight who is super-powerful looks like this:

Iris

And, grossest of all, when you find out the super-chaste good-girl in your party is a secret witch, her transformation is terrible:

Cecille

These are not strong female characters, they are Strong Female Characters, “fighting fucktoys,” the kind of faux-representation women are handed to get them to shut up without actually taking their feelings into account because the devs actually hate women. That these women weren’t evil was supposed to be a massive twist, because, the game says, who wouldn’t look at a woman dressed like this, who has power, and not immediately assume she is an evil liar? This is writing and characterization done by people who think a strong woman is a woman that has no self-respect, and if that’s how women today was to act, well, they deserve what they get (male-gazed).

(The game at least doesn’t go as far as to sexualize the childlike witches, though in context that just highlights what the writers think of adult women.)

I actually think I coasted through the second half of this game high on the pure relief that the moral was not actually, “the church is right, burn the women,” but upon thinking about it afterward, the truth is even apart from all the sexism fuckery the story is nonsense. It is one of those stories where Things Happen, and we’re told those things make sense in context, but never actually presented any evidence of that. Who the fuck is Iris, and who was she to Heath? WTF was the point of all the setup with ~oh the pope is so young and a rebel with new ideas~ when literally nothing came of it? What the actual fuck was Kopin? What is an angel, who was Priel, where did she come from, and why? She just shows up and starts being an antagonist for the hell of it. What was she getting out of the world’s destruction?

The worldbuilding was complete nonsense. What were dragons? Where did they come from? Why were they in the form of human children? Were Alph and Theo actually brothers? What did it mean in practice to be a “rym”? How did they end up with the Light Lapistier, how did they get separated from the witches, and where are the other dragons? What does “being a dragon” even mean if they just live normal human lives unless the come in contact with very specific magic? Nothing makes any sense under even the slightest examination.

The game is also rife with extraneous characters, from all the useless party members (the fucking Brock, who literally never does anything important, I swear to God), to the random swaths of generals whose dialogue was painfully unfunny, to the extra bishops and shit who were just there for the evilulz. Heath was extraneous. Leon was extraneous. I don’t even know what the fuck purpose Pollon was supposed to serve. No villains had any motivations outside of “be evil.”

So, yeah. This game sucked, but it did teach me I find tRPG gameplay fun, so there’s that.

33 Comments

  1. illhousen says:
    “The game starts out with our Shonen Hero, Alph”

    So, you literally play as Alpha Man?

  2. Doortothe says:
    I wanted to say you were over exaggerating the whole sexism thing… then I saw the character designs. I am forced to agree.

    On the plus side, does your like of tRPG gameplay mean you’ll be getting to Fire Emblem sooner?

    1. SpoonyViking says:
      So you hadn’t played the game before?
      1. Doortothe says:
        I have not. My initial desire to disagree with Act’s accusations stem from a part of me that wants to believe things aren’t as bad as they seem.
        1. actonthat says:
          Also I’m a lying liar who lies.
          1. Doortothe says:
            So what’s the truth then?
            1. actonthat says:
              That you’ve been socially conditioned to treat women who complain of ill treatment as hysterical liars until you see “””””objective””””” corroboration of their thoughts and feelings.
              Reply
              1. Doortothe says:
                While I won’t or can’t deny that possibility, I’d be more inclined to agree with you if, to me, you were some random stranger on the internet. But you’re not. I know you, I’m familiar with your opinions and I respect them. My reaction was more personal than generic. I think that makes a difference, if you get what I’m trying to say.
              2. Nerem says:
                Well, as a random stranger, I’ll confirm that the game is sexist as hell. And it totally things that the ‘horndog who wants everything female’ is a good character and was funny the first time, so they had a SECOND one who just wants Witches and is even more annoying about it.
    2. actonthat says:
      I’m still trying to get Smallyoungerbrother to do the Fire Emblem posts for me.

      The next tRPG I’ll get to is probably Yggdra Union.

  3. Nerem says:
    Yeah, this game is terrible. Far too many of the characters are complete jokes, gameplay personality, and story-wise, and they’re not even good jokes. I got the impression they wanted to have Magikarp-types or ‘lethal jokes’, but instead they were just plain jokes and bad.

    The big twist was painfully obvious, because the Church basically acted as evil as possible from the first minute. Though the party was pretty fucked up too. “Oh that innocent woman we just killed? Well, she wanted power so she deserved it.”

    Rondo of Swords is a similiar game with WAY better story, though it has the worst implemented system for promoting characters to new classes and side-quests in general. Yes, let’s make it so if you recruit people, then you’re automatically unable to promote certain people because you’ll get the quests to promote them too late to do them.

    1. actonthat says:
      As usual, it got middling-to-good reviews, somehow. The exception seems to be something called X-Play, which slaughtered it, but sadly I can’t see the review right now and I’m sad. Everything about the game is really complete nonsense. The tone was all over the place, the worldbuilding was outlandish, and the characters were shit. That it didn’t completely slaughter the gameplay is actually kind of impressive, considering.
  4. No says:
    I’m calling bullshit on this one. I’ve played luminous arc, I’m female, I thought the designs and story were great. You’re acting like all witches looked sexualised which isn’t true, Vivi, Lucia and Mel aren’t even remotely sexualised. The witches were simply dressed like witches. I mean honestly I think all of your points are bullshit, the story is about how religion (or just the church) can really cause people to do bad things if it’s for their god. I feel so sorry for your boyfriend for having to put up with this bullshit.
    1. actonthat says:
      The witches were simply dressed like witches.

      You’ve got me on this one — I just saw a group of witches walking down the street yesterday, and this is exactly how they were dressed. My sincerest apologies to witches everywhere, and you dear Anon most of all.

      I make my boyfriend do my laundry, stay mad <333

    2. SpoonyViking says:
      Simply dressed like witches? Are you sure about that?

      The Three Witches from “MacBeth”: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d5/Macbeth3.jpg, http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/28/5028-004-3D34C309.jpg, http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/5700/5791/macbeth_5_lg

      The Witch of Endor: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/Witch_of_Endor_by_Elsheimer.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Witch_of_Endor_%28Nikolay_Ge%29.jpg

      Morgan le Fay: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/Sandys%2C_Frederick_-_Morgan_le_Fay.JPG, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/Morgan_le_Fay_by_Edward_Burne-Jones.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/Queen_Morgana_Appears_unto_Sir_Launcelot.png

      The Norns: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Die_Nornen_%281889%29_by_Johannes_Gehrts.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Nornsweaving.jpg

      It’s not as if you can’t find sexualized depictions of witches before modern times, and eroticism is an important part of some depictions of witches (although you should note that even in those depictions, the eroticism isn’t mean to tease, but rather, to disturb, since their underlying inspiration is exactly the fear of female sexuality), but the visual roots of the witch archetype is a crone, not an erotic cosplayer.

      You could argue the game’s developers were just following the lead of anime witches, who do tend to be overly sexualized, but here’s a counterpoint:

      http://stephenesherman.com/images/crtob2.jpg

      That’s the witch from Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood”, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth”. You’ll notice her visual identity was heavily inspired by a stock character from Noh theatre.

      1. NO says:
        Witches can wear whatever they want, the game takes place in a fictional universe, the witches in that universe dress that way, witches in other games like this dress that way. You seem to hate characters just for wearing revealing clothing. Slutwalks are empowering but how dare fictional females wear something that shows boob or leg! Am I right? Feminism is such a joke. But hey, the game is great, had two more games in the franchise, and I know I’m right all the way.
        1. actonthat says:
          Shhhh it’s okay anon you can still jerk off to it we won’t stop you shhhh go lay down now
          1. No says:
            I’m female and frankly I wont jerk off to it, I will play it and enjoy it as a game. Maybe you should go lay down. And just not ever get up or write anything ever again.
            1. actonthat says:
              lololol yeah 100% female, can tell by how you’re acting

              can’t lay down have to get paid to write for a living :D

              Reply
              1. No says:
                I have a vagina and boobs, so yes, I can assure you I am a 100 percent female. You on the other hand are just a 100 percent stupid and hateful. If this is the kind of garbage that you get paid for I really don’t want to live on this bloody planet anymore.
              2. actonthat says:
                k bye <3
        2. SpoonyViking says:
          Witches can wear whatever they want, the game takes place in a fictional universe, the witches in that universe dress that way, witches in other games like this dress that way.

          Why do you acknowledge they are fictional people in a fictional universe, but can’t make the logical connection between that and the fact that, by definition, they can’t choose what to wear and someone in production made that choice? It’s usually very silly to attempt to justify in-universe outfits with “that’s what the characters chose to wear” considering they actually didn’t choose since they’re not, you know, real.

          Slutwalks are empowering but how dare fictional females wear something that shows boob or leg! Am I right?

          A REAL person, especially a woman, CHOOSING to dress themselves however they want in defiance of social conventions which say it’s a woman’s fault she was assaulted for dressing like a “slut” IS empowering. A FICTIONAL character being drawn in a sexy manner by their creators isn’t empowering to anyone – much less the character themselves – except to people who want to wank off to them.

          But hey, the game is great, had two more games in the franchise, and I know I’m right all the way.

          Yes. That’s why you’re here spewing your idiocy in this blog, because you’re not bothered by it at all and is 100% confident your worldview is correct.
          Ah, teenagers.

        3. Farla says:
          Slutwalks are empowering but how dare fictional females wear something that shows boob or leg! Am I right?

          I think an important thing to understand here is she’s not saying, “I hate the witches because the clothes they’re wearing make them sluts”. She’s saying, “There is no reason for them to be wearing these outfits, and so it’s obvious that it’s chosen for out-of-universe reasons at the expense of their characters and choices.”

          Let’s consider the one who starts off modest and then has a much more revealing costume to go with the reveal she’s a witch. Is this because she was stifled under the church and forced not to wear things like that, and as an empowered witch she chooses to wear sexy clothing? That could be fine. That would be her making a decision. Now, when every character somehow trips into the same outfit type regardless of personality or background, it’s more of the problem. That’s erasing any choice and treating them like blowup dolls – apparently none of them feel cold, or like outfits that are easy to put on, or comfortable, or provide decent armor protection, or just like having more surface area to put frills on. People don’t all make the same choices – it’d be bad to give all characters the same modest outfit type without an explanation for why that outfit was so necessary it overrode all individual considerations, and indeed, you usually don’t see that because it’s understood to be bad to flatten characters out. That means that people are willing to accept bad design if it means it’s sexy.

          1. Borreblooble says:
            Let me guess, you’re all feminists who believe that they are right and believe in patriarchy, the wage gap and the 1 in 5 statistic?
            1. actonthat says:
              Psst, we can see your IP and email, we know you’re the same person.
              Reply
            2. SpoonyViking says:
              For someone who knows “[they’re] right all the way”, you certainly do feel a need to loudly proclaim to others how “right” you are, don’t you?
              Reply
              1. actonthat says:
                This is a good one, we don’t normally get quality trolls for some reason.
              2. SpoonyViking says:
                I feel we have been lax, somehow. Well, Farla has, anyway, since we’re all her. :-P
            3. Wright of Void says:
              Ah yes, I forgot the wage gap is a myth. Because women just happening to have a much harder time getting high-paying jobs definitely doesn’t have anything to do with sexism, obviously.
              Reply
              1. Falconix says:
                As someone who refuses to give pageviews to The Escapist, what’s the main takeaway from that review?

                (I’m guessing either you’re using it as a showcase of sexism in videogames, because it’s from Koei Tecmo, or the video rants at length about the optional lingerie costumes getting replaced by Zelda and Zero Suit Samus costumes in the European/American versions)

              2. Farla says:
                No, it’s that even one of their precious videogame reviewers on their precious Escapist is calling porny videogame costume design sexist and distracting.

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