Part 12: Hopper Rouley and the Separation of Church and StateHopper Rouley and the Separation of Church and State
You all voted for option 2.
: Does that mean she hasn't lost her clairvoyance?
"I was worried it was behind the couch"
: As you can see, that's how it is. The Reaping's also started in Frisia-not just here. That's not your doing, is it Coronzon?
: Of course not. You don't think that we've sided with the Umbra, do you?
: We're all Umbra. Amma is, and so is Rask. He got away, from what I've heard. Who came to Albius?
: Are you saying you don't know, Blance? I'm surprised. You should have seen the one responsible for all this.
: Something hides these events from my sight, but I did catch a glimpse. It seems there are two mortals. One here, one in the North. They resisted the Reapers, an unprecedented feat. The one in the North, if I am not mistake, has even managed to excarnate him.
: You'd also feel it if an Umbra were killed... Disembodiment only. A Reaper's already attacked him twice-not in full force, for some reason. I couldn't tell exactly, but he's lost his body again.
I hate this lazy storytelling trope where people explain that their villains aren't using their full power and got defeated, but are of course able to re-appear at full strength and explain why that fight didn't matter. This also looks to be a reference to events that haven't happened yet. Go, editors!
Down the line.
: What is it you can do yourself that I can't?
: (Grimacing) Answer my questions. There's something odd about this Reaping. It's waning. You think I'm hanging around here for fun? It's because of all this ringing-like it's suppressing the Reaping. For whatever reason, I don't think it's anything to cheer about. If it could hinder the Reaping, it could spell trouble for us too!
Reapings aren't very common and there aren't that many of them. For that matter, how do we know this isn't normal and the last two have been anomalies?
: So that's what's been bothering you. Truly, there's some magic to all of this, and we need to get to the bottom of it. Maybe I'm no match for you or Ananael, but I don't believe for a moment that you're surprised.
: The first legions of Frisia are closing in on Berkana. Gebonans wreak havoc on the Ashen Wasteland. Gells have been sighted in the Vandil Forest. The moment we show any weakness, the Pallians are going to be at our throats. We were ready for war and the Reaping, but not for this sorcery!
Who the fuck is "we"? Is he speaking of the Temple? Remember, Coronzon here is part of the Temple of Divine Retribution, not to be confused with the Temple of Divine Wrath in Frisia who are more blatant about being evil than Coronzon here. They're very similar, but retribution implies punishment for wrongs committed rather than Nakoma's explanation of a Temple that instills only anger. Regardless, he was talking about the Umbra a moment ago, and they don't seem to have any problems blending in with human society or real need to care about politics.
: Will you offer help in return?
Yea, if the music didn't give it away Coronzon is kind of a bad guy.
: There are enough murderers at large as it is. Although, you're one of them... Still, doesn't the thought of saving someone please you, even a little?
: I'm afraid our notions of pleasure don't match. But I hear you. I hope you'll allow me to weigh decision about any requests we make with my own scales [sic, and huh?]. If so, then we have a deal.
Translation: I'm not doing shit I don't want to do. I think? This game's English gets really mangled at times.
: Shouldn't we be helping each other?
: Spare me your chuckling! If only we'd turned Frisia into a graveyard when we had the chance, we could have avoided all this.
This begs the question, how the hell did Frisia stay the same for 700 years? Go back to the intro and you'll see Frisian troops that look exactly the same as their present-day counterparts getting sliced apart by Hopper and friends. Did they let the Temple of Divine Wrath alone after defeating the Reapers that day? Clearly there's not a huge natural barrier if three legions can wander in willy-nilly. Normally I dismiss worldbuilding as the last refuge of those who have nothing to say, but expecting me to believe that a country lasted for 700 years and was exactly the same is pushing it. Roman civilization lasted hundreds of years, sure, but went through tons of upheavals such as the transition to Empire and the rise of Christianity. Frisia 700 years ago supported the Reapers for...reasons...and Frisia today supports the Reapers for....reasons. The current state of Frisia is so hilariously backstabby and inept it's a wonder it holds together at all, and I suspect we're supposed to believe Nakoma is holding it together through sheer personal power (being a Reaper) and heading the church (no Frisian character ever proclaims their faith or indicates a belief in the gods). Remember, this is supposed to be a morally grey epic about how your enemies have families and children.
: Naturally, once we're standing in the middle of a graveyard called Berkana.
: Enough dawdling. Tell me what you need.
: It's not that simple. A merchant named Padagang supposedly saw a woman of profound beauty before the Reaping began, but no one else did. Then he saw the retired Captain of the Odalan guard-Thorn Brenin-with his daughter. They were talking to a Reaper.
Note the imbalanced scales by Coronzon. This would be better symbolism if Coronzon was pretending to be friendly, but his side of the conversation has been entirely about his personal fears, prejudices, and desires to commit genocide. Hopper even calls him a murderer to his face and he just rolls with it.
Down the line.
: Is the young prince in need of rescue?
: Thorn is sentenced to death. A Reaper left his mark on the town gate, and our dear Chirlan broke it down when he escaped. The Albius guardsmen were clearly a bit traumatized. Then Thorn goes and hacks them all to pieces. Treeg's worried about his son, and he wants blood.
: Is Thorn aware there is a prince in his squad of soldiers?
: Should I care? I don't give a damn about the prince. One of Thorn's companions is his bodyguard-some lad called Sopp. His head will be removed from his shoulders the moment any harm comes to the prince-and he knows it. He'll go to great lengths to prevent that. Thorn is much more inquisitive.
: Where could Thorn be headed?
: (Wincing) Thorn will race from menhir to menhir until he realizes that the Reaping has corrupted them all. He's already visited the first nearby one-even tangled with some Enses there. I don't know where he's headed. The next menhir can be founded on the outskirts of Ursus.
: Enses are dangerous foes. Thorn's able to go toe-to-toe with them-he didn't earn the rank of captain for nothing. There's hope he still lives. Being accompanied by such a commander will keep the Prince much safer too.
Guys, Thorn is cool and good. Where are you going? Respect Thorn!
: You still have not explained what it is that you need.
: I want you to stop that incessant bell. It's not just Albius that's been affected by this magic. The bells toll all through Berkana now-all by themselves. Not a chimesman in sight. All because of this one here. The Reaper didn't appear anywhere else but here.
: Why should I care, Coronzon? I'm not unraveling someone else's enchantment. I need this body, and I've got enough problems as it is. I'll do without your help. Maybe you should get to the top of the town hall tower by yourself.
: I couldn't unweave this mysterious spell! Among the Umbra, you have the highest affinity for magic. Give me some advice, at least. Several people have already perished in that cursed town hall. The bell's magic saps the mortals' will and forces them to climb ever upwards! But we're different!
Why are we doing this? We owe Coronzon nothing, he's a crazy murderer who rants about genocide, he's explicitly said he's not going to return the favor, those guards can't really stop us and are just under orders to bring us to the cardinal, not stop us from leaving. I get characters aren't rational, but literally everything in the game is telling us not to trust Coronzon. Hopper even called him a murderer and was making cracks about him turning into a Reaper! There's no reason to placate him and we got the information we need. Let's just leave and talk to Thorn.
That's not a leave option.
: Blood is smeared on the pavement. It looks as if it was more than an ordinary fight. The squeaking of a door makes you turn around. Several gloomy, towering figures exiting one of the houses stop when they see you. Large sacks on their backs betray that either one of them is moving out or they're common marauders. It seems like it's the latter. The thugs throw their loot to the ground and draw weapons.
We fight the thugs. This is a good time to talk about Hopper.
: Hopper will always fight alone. Even though he will later travel with other characters, the writers will contrive some circumstance to get them out of the way so that Hopper can solo everyone. This is an incredible advantage that makes playing as Hopper easy before we factory in his incredibly silly ability selection. He has:
-a single target attack that gives him loads of energy
-an AoE that butchers everyone near him
Then he can unlock:
-a free attack that deals 10 energy damage to a random target, and doesn't end turn
-an HP or energy drain attack that deals a ton of damage
-a hit-all fire blade attack that has a cooldown, but you take so many turns it really doesn't matter.
-a passive that gives him 2 attack whenever he kills a dude.
This means that rather than having 1 character being a challenge, you can either slaughter everyone with powerful AoEs and at the slightest sign of trouble fuck off and run into the corner and wait for your global attack to come off cooldown. He can't use battle cards, but battle cards are mostly RNG bullshit and you have the tools to auto-win every fight, so who cares?
Hopper is just as lethal as Lo Pheng. He relies on energy drain rather than Cloud Tower to survive longer fights, but trivially slaughters these thugs. We're getting to the main reason why he's worse than Lo Pheng, so enjoy Hopper murdering these dudes while you can.
That's...not an option to leave.
: On your way to Town Hall, you're joined by Coronzon. You examine the staircase and concede that it is indeed enchanted. Luckily, the spell doesn't affect Umbra. As you try to make sense of the intricate spellcraft, Coronzon creeps up from behind and shoves you forward!
: You rush up the stairs-against your will. This sorcery is affecting you, even though it shouldn't. You must turn back...but you can't. Your feet heed you not.
I can't believe the untrustworthy guy betrayed us!
We kill them all. It's the same as the thug fight. Spam Circular Hit.
Well...yes. The problem I have with this entire sequence is that Coronzon immediately comes off as untrustworthy to both us and Hopper. There should have been something here about how Hopper and Coronzon are friends, or the things they did together, or hell, write Coronzon as a smooth-talking con man instead of a blatantly evil raver discussing genocide. You'll note that Coronzon never really gave an answer for "why should I do this" and Hopper really has bigger shit to care about.
: You muster up the courage and grab the rope, losing your footing as the bell tower crumbles. Everything goes black-all but a message burned into your mind. "Follow the guiding one. Collect the seven parts of wisdom. Read and be saved."
Cryptic bullshit, everyone's favorite part of the fantasy genre. This is the game telling us how to get to the best ending. Naturally, I will be leaving this in your hands, goons. I did it on my first playthrough but screwed up my second.
Yup. This is what that "curse power" on the map alluded to earlier. Every so often the curse builds in strength. We get a choice as to what to do about it, which I'll have us vote on when it comes up. Suffice to say a high curse power mangles poor Hopper's stats - but we don't really care, because that just makes battles take longer while we kite everyone and spam his AoEs.
: (Melodramatically) You scoundrel! I drag you from the rubble and what do I get in return? Have you lost your tongue, or have you no gratitude? The town hall bell tower is no more. You've brought it all down... somehow. The store's still in one piece though. And the tolling has stopped.
: That kind of magic is out of my league, Coronzon. I can only tell you that it definitely kept something horrifying at bay. It still does, but now with my help. See my hand? This unknown sorcerer must have had both hands blackened!
: Or could it be a sorceress? No matter-a being capable of such magic can assume any form. The spell hasn't broken, and that's no ordinary curse on your hand. The bell must have been a decoy, then, but I don't understand the enchantment's purpose.
Coronzon may be a genocidal maniac, but he wants female representation in media now, dammit!
: How should I know? If not for the bell tolling the people of Albius might have slaughtered each other. Damnation! It's your fault I got caught in this enchantment, along with gods know who else. What if this blackness spreads to my heart?
: Hasn't happened yet... Enough with the weeping. A pompous nobleman is headed your way. You met my request, so I owe you one. However, if you want to ensure my good will, I'd suggest you find Thorn and bring him to Opacum. I want to have a look at him. Oh, here comes Prince Treeg!
You get absolutely no points for guessing who in the squad "Ho" is. What I do want to point out is that Albius is in Odala, not Jerana and Thorn served the Odalan crown. What is a Jeranan prince doing in a backwater village in another country?
: Excuse my insolence, Your Highness. I only wish to understand. First, I hear about a girl of profound beauty; now there's talk of some hag. And what of this dream? Does it pertain to your orders?
: I dreamt of a terrifying hag who foretold your arrival. She tried to soothe me-said you'd help. Don't grind your teeth, Coronzon. Respect the Jeranan Crown!
: You demand respect for the Crown, yet you show none for the Temple. All these dreams and prophecies are pure heresy! Oh, and forget about Thorn, he's not your subject. It's not up to you to bring him to justice.
Decisions lie before us!
Do we support the church, or the state? They're both assholes.