The Reconstruction Part 5 (Guest Review)

Last time, there was an epic boss battle, and also slavery. The prologue is finally over, so let’s move on to chapter 1.

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Both Kott and the blond-haired guy sitting across from him fiddle with the gameboard occasionally. It’s something of a character tic, and is also used as a pause to break up long stretches of dialogue sometimes. It’s also an instance of amazingly subtle foreshadowing for a really late plot point that I only understood when the prequel explicitly spelled it out.

Kott: “I stopped getting my hopes up a long time ago, you know. Maybe I’m just bitter.”

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Kott: “Can’t believe we’re STILL getting roped in to this. I don’t care what He says.”

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Fell: “The Voice Himself has entrusted us – ALL of us – with this ultimate responsibility.”

Kott sneers at this and says she’s getting her hopes up for nothing. Fell scoffs and turns her back on him, at which point he asks if she’s going to “stalk some more of those poor folks down there” and says it’s not going to work. Supposedly, she’s not supposed to get directly involved, “they” have to come to her.

“You’re not gonna find anyone to stop it again. Donz already knows what’s coming.”

As if on cue, this guy shows up

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and then immediately runs off.

Fell retorts that Kott’s lazy whiner who just plays games all day, then looks up towards the heavens and…appears to be talking to me.

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Fell: “I trust You’ve already sensed the birthpoint of the allies we’ve been tasked to draw out. …I’ve a sensation, this time, that Your choices will stand unfaltering. Do you agree?”
Fell: “Mmm. Yes. I needn’t tell You Your duty, but I must know how You intend to perform. Guilds are the finest creation to emerge from this, and any, civilization so far.

They’ve been here a long time then. I do feel a little sorry for them, even if they’re pretty amoral. This is the only life they’ve ever known, and even after so long they’ve never been able to fulfill their purpose. I think Fell and Kott are both equally broken, just in different ways – Kott has given up on everything, but Fell has done the reverse, becoming utterly obsessed with her orders to the detriment of all else. I wonder if this wasn’t supposed to happen and they’ve lived for far longer than they were supposed to, or if their creators never put any thought towards their mental well-being at all. Probably the latter.

Guilds are the finest creation to emerge from this, and any, civilization so far. Organizations of heroes working for a common goal, to better the lives of others.

But yes, guilds! Basically, it’s an institutionalized form of an RPG party. I find this concept pretty interesting. It does sometimes feel contrived how every NPC and their dog has some minor grievance that only your most specialest of RPG parties can solve, but if that kind of thing actually happens on a regular basis, a society creating a formal institution to deal with everything makes sense. It also helps dilute potential sueishness by making the characters’ professions commonplace instead of exceptional.

She then gives me a choice of difficulty settings. Instead of a single, blanket difficulty ranking, there are three choices to make: ally strength, enemy strength, and experience gain rate. I find this setup rather nice, since you can tweak things more to your liking. I pick moderate ally/enemy strength, and faster experience gain (I can’t turn down bonus exp!).

However, there is one aspect where it kind of trips over itself. There’s a statistic linked to the difficulty ratings that influences how much favor you gain from quests. The game tries to reward you by increasing the multiplier at higher difficulties, but paradoxically, it’s actually a better idea to keep it as low as possible. You gain bonus experience points at certain favor landmarks, but they don’t apply to all future allies, just the ones you’ve currently recruited. It’s therefore most optimal to scrape by with as little favor as possible until you’ve recruited the full entourage.

Everyone wishes me luck (even Kott), and the scene ends.

The Watchers are one of the most intriguing parts about The Reconstruction, in my opinion. At first glance they appear to be generic plot advancers, fulfilling the role of the mystic seer or what have you that’s only there to tell you that you’re the Most Specialest Chosen One and to then have no further character development. They’re an interesting subversion of what is usually a shallow, boring cliché, much like Zawu in Last Scenario. Considering that the developer said he hated most high fantasy tropes and purposefully tried to twist the tropes as much as possible with The Reconstruction, this is to be expected – and I feel that he succeeded. The Watchers all have a surprising amount of personality (well, maybe not Nath) despite their generic role. They’re not all in agreement – Kott in particular is very jaded and bitter, all but explicitly rebelling against whatever grand plan Fell has in store. Donz apparently isn’t even on speaking terms with anyone else, and is off doing his own thing. It’s an interesting approach.

But wow, tone whiplash. After WHEE ACTION-PACKED FUN this slow, drawn-out exposition scene feels really weird.

We fade to black. Now chapter 1 can begin in earnest.

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I actually really like the chapter titles in this. They’re rather poetic without being overly pretentious or dramatic about it, and often connect to the main plot of the chapter in clever ways.

Color fades in, and the header changes to Royal Guild Registry Foundation (RGRF) Upper Wadassia.

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Dehl: “(Nearly ten years have passed since that day. All I could do was run… and hide. First the castle fell, and the Tchiitra came, and now, the farmers and this drought… We have to do something. This idea of a guild may be what I need to make amends…)”

It really surprised me to realize that the very first things we hear from Dehl discuss his backstory and motivation in such explicit terms. Chapter 1 actually has a few moments like that, after which the game plays its cards very close to its chest up until the reveals. I wonder if that’s an oversight, or if it’s intentional? Much of the early foreshadowing seems meaningless due to an inexperience with the world and characters, and thus a lack of context to place it in. As a result, it tends to have been forgotten by the time it becomes important. If intentional, that’s quite clever.

Suddenly a group of people walk in.

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Dehl is one of the few characters to have an alternate portrait. Most have to make do with one (or if they have others, it only changes their clothes or hair and not their expression).

Qualstio tells Dehl to introduce himself, and he does, revealing that his last name is “Sikohlon” and that he’s Qualstio’s “friend”. I will express skepticism about that latter point later in this scene. He also assures the group that they will be provided with “generous compensation”, so guilds have accommodated RPG heroes’ lust for monetary rewards as well.

The four introduce themselves in turn. First is this guy:

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Zargos: “Name’s Zargos, an’ this is me lovely wife, Santes. We’d be honored t’ help ya out. Grandpa was an ambassador for th’ Wadas Royal Family, so travelin’s in my blood.”
Dehl: “The… Royal Family? That must have been some time ago, since… since they…”
Zargos: “Yeh, I know what yer getting’ at. I think we held up pretty good so far without ’em, eh?”

No royalty in the present day, woo! It’s bad to be happy about peoples’ death and I’m sure their deaths were tragic, but, well monarchies really suck. It’s nice to see a fantasy RPG with them absent for once.

He tells Santes to introduce herself (why doesn’t she have the agency to do so herself?).

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So. This is Santes. She’s the resident comic relief character, and that’s about all the characterization you’re going to get from her. I found her antics amusing at first, but she’s pretty one-note, and her routine gets tiring after a while. Some of her lines are just so ridiculously madcap that they beggar belief. Supposedly she and Zargos are based on a real-life roleplaying couple the developer knows/knew, but I really don’t think she fits well into the narrative. At all. In a more comedic story where zany antics are the norm, maybe, but not here.

Zargos: “Mind yer manners ’round the Shra, dear.”

Zargos is also rather creepily controlling around her. In isolation, something like this is pretty normal, but he ends up saying things like this way too often. I think it’s because he’s the straight man to Santes’ madcap comedian, so he usually ends up being the one to reel her back, but no matter what it still carries some unfortunate implications to me.

Dehl says it’s okay. Zargos’ response is…well.

“Well, ye know, just a little bit odd seein’ lizardfolk out ‘n’ about, runnin’ free, an’ all. Don’t worry none, though, we’ve worked with much worse sorts!”

…Wow, that escalated quickly. “We’ve worked with worse sorts”? And that’s supposed to be a compliment? I think the most disturbing part is that Zargos isn’t even trying to be offensive. The prologue implied that people disliked shra in general, but Captain S didn’t have to put up with anything this nasty. And this is just casual racism speciesism.

Dehl doesn’t seem to care at all, though. The cat person in the back introduces himself.

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Dehl: “Ah, a Fih’Jik. You must have traveled quite a distance to be hunting near to Wadassia.”
Fero: “The further from home I am, the better, Shra-friend. A pleasure to join your pack.”

Dehl asks Qualstio if he recruited more people, but he didn’t; there was a call-to-arms because of a bug infestation. In that case, though, I wonder why guilds are allowed at all? If the city wants all hands on deck, they should be appropriating guilds as well. (Especially since the guard force is incompetent and Dehl’s guild will end up doing most of their jobs anyway.) Otherwise there’s the very obvious loophole of joining a guild to avoid the call-to-arms, which these four may well have done. Dehl wants a sixth person anyway for the sake of safety in numbers.

Qualstio: “Yeah but, don’t we gotta get some kind of license or something’ if we get too many?”
Dehl: “Correct; we are restricted to six armed civilians at one time in one place, by law.”

I like this little detail. Its only purpose seems to be to justify why you’re limited to a certain party size, but it’s nice to see gameplay elements woven together with the story like this, instead of just being completely arbitrary. It makes sense from a story perspective as well. Guilds are apparently commonplace, and though Fell dressed them up in heroic imagery, they could very well operate as mercenary groups if they were so inclined. If they were allowed to field an entire army, I can imagine that things would quickly get out of hand, so I can see why governments would want to restrict them like this.

Qualstio complains about bureaucracy, and Dehl rather coldly shoots back “You may criticize it after you’ve defended it for a significant length of time.” Oh Dehl, you poor Stockholmed baby.

Qualstio relents and agrees to search for another recruit. He dismisses most of the NPCs in the background, but for some reason fixates on…this guy.

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He turns around slowly and dramatically, which I find kind of amusing since he’s just a little kid.

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Qualstio tries to entice him by saying they’re part of a guild. Dehl boggles and wonders what he’s thinking. I just sort of went with this on my first playthrough, but I do have to echo Dehl’s sentiment. Obviously, they’re desperate, but even leaving aside the ethical concerns, I don’t see how a kid is going to be of much use to them. I honestly don’t know why Qualstio thinks the robes are such a big deal, I’m pretty sure it’s just school uniform. The kids are taught magic, which is probably what Qualstio’s interested in, but even a spellslinging kid is still going to be a liability – a loose cannon at best. However, Dehl is too much of a wuss to voice his objections, so…

Kid: “My name isn’t ‘kid,’ neither!

Your text box title says it is!

It’s Tehgonan. But, you got my ear now, so go on…”

Qualstio further hooks him with promises of wealth, violence, and

“Hey! Bet you never talked to a real live Shra before either! We got one, ya know!”
Dehl: “Qualstio, I am not a bargaining tool.”

This is…actually pretty inconsistent with Qualstio’s later characterization. He’s supposed to be a decent guy who is a genuinely good friend to Dehl, but he doesn’t seem to act like that at all during these early bits. Casual racism at Dehl’s expense is particularly jarring.

Regardless, Tehgonan is less than impressed, and says his father claims they give you the “Blue Plague”. Dehl is disturbed by this, suddenly looking pained and saying “That’s… not funny.”

This foreshadowing went over my head when I first saw it, which makes me sad because it’s pretty blatant. I mean, Dehl didn’t so much as blink after hearing “we’re not used to seeing your kind not be in chains” and “you’re bad, but I’ve worked with worse so no big deal”.

Nobody seems to notice this. Tehgonan is finally sold by the promise that he’ll be able to skip his classes and wants to join immediately. For some reason Qualstio suddenly objects and says they should inform his parents first. Apparently this is a moral quandary for him, but not dragging a little kid into armed combat in the first place. The kid laughs him off – “What THEY don’t know can’t hurt ME, ya follow? and with that single line Qualstio withdraws his objections and even says “I like this kid already.” What is consistent characterization.

This is especially weird because Qualstio actually liked his parents and had a relatively functional family. I think the implication is supposed to be that he sees himself in Tehgonan, but his antipathy towards his parents should give Qualstio cognitive dissonance, not affirm that. I wonder if this was written before Qualstio’s backstory was finalized?

Now that that’s dealt with, Qualstio tells Dehl to be a leader and sign the forms. Dehl is flummoxed by this – “Me? I offered to pay the initial cost. You never said anything about… leading.” – so either this is an innocent mistake and Qualstio doesn’t know Dehl’s personality at all, or he knew this would come up and is purposefully steamrollering over Dehl’s objections. That’s pretty dickish. It also irritates me on a personal level because I see so much of this kind of “introversion is a disorder and you just need to GET OUT AND EXPRESS YOURSELF and everything will be perfect forever!” stuff in media and it really bothers me because that’s just not how introversion works. A lot of Qualstio’s “helpful advice” to Dehl is this kind of really patronizing stuff that makes him look like he doesn’t really understand Dehl (or care to). In fairness to him, though, Dehl does have a lot of issues that he can’t really work out on his own.

Dehl relents, though – “I knew you’d snap soon enough,” Qualstio says – and he walks up to the registrar’s desk, at which point everything goes to Hell.

Dehl: “Ah, excuse me, Officer, I…”
Guild Registrar, First Class: “Yes! This is the Wadassian Guild Officer Registry Center! Are you…lost, Shra?”

…They were loudly discussing this, like, a few feet away from her, and there was no indication she was inattentive. Is she purposefully doing this just to be a jerk? She then continues in this vein, expressing confusion about his gender and questioning his citizenship. Why aren’t the other guild members saying anything? Are they taking sadistic glee from watching Dehl get grilled like this? Qualstio, at the least, could definitely vouch for his citizenship, so why doesn’t he? Qualstio, who purposefully set him up to do this even though he must have known this was at least a possibility. “Friend” my foot.

The game likes to drill in how shra have it rough, and it really, really overdoes it here. This whole debacle could have been completely avoided if Qualstio hadn’t insisted on making Dehl do it. It makes no in-universe sense. The whole thing just feels like an excuse for the story to grind Dehl beneath its heel.

She does eventually accept the forms and asks for a name. Dehl provides his own and she clarifies that it’s a name for the guild itself and I have to wonder why Dehl didn’t know this in advance. He does mention that the guild was primarily Qualstio’s idea so it’s possible he just didn’t bother to look anything up, but in that case Qualstio is even more of a dick for not telling him any information before putting him in the spotlight.

And speaking of Qualstio, this is when the little weasel finally decides to chime in. Not when Dehl is being verbally abused after he roped him into it, but when they’re discussing something this insignificant. At least it’s to give Dehl encouragement, but still, someone has strange priorities.

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This isn’t the best stopping place, but this is getting pretty long, so I’m afraid I’ll have to cut it here.


One Comment

  1. Nerem says:
    This is super late, but it’s funny as the whole guild concept that they do here is actually hyper prevalent in Japanese RPG maker games, and in fact in basically JRPGs in general that have the protagonist be a generic adventurer.

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