Part 41: Hopper Rouley and the Christian AllegoryHopper Rouley and the Christian Allegory
When we last left Hopper, he was deciding how to reject the offer of the evil Reaper Atraakh. The thread voted with one vote for "feign ignorance" and 2 votes for "what the fuck is even going on", a fair question.
The problem is I don't know what the hell is going on without dipping into my spoiler knowledge. Seriously, the game is desperately trying to get you invested in the Mystery Box right now, and it just doesn't work because it's being too stingy with details while focusing too heavily on how GRIMDARK! and ADULT! this story is!
All we know right now is that Hopper has to solve these dumb riddles or he will die, but he's also trying to get Gleda to maybe fight the Reapers? Who knows.
: I can't help you, Atraakh!
Hang on. It's time for an episode of
What the fuck am I talking about?
Right now, with what we know from Khama, Reet, and Hopper we can piece a few things together.
-Hopper, Rask, Amma, Drooket, and the Reapers are all beings called Umbra. Umbra are basically angels who possess people and work directly for the gods. The Reapers - Dorpkhal, Adna, Childao, Tibibar, and Atraakh here - were "High Umbra", basically archangels who took orders from the gods directly. All the other Umbra we've met are lesser Umbra who used to work directly for the Reapers. Hopper here worked for Dorpkhal. The Enses are the inhabitants of Calz who received the word of the gods from the Umbra and did as they were told.
-Umbra are not physical entities like mortals, they're spirits that possess people unless a god is around who can give them physical form. This...actually kind of works for turning them from noble angels who serve god into terrible demons no one likes.
-All of these assholes are not from Terminum (the world we're currently running around) but from a dimension called 'Calz'. The reason they are here is because one of the gods of Calz went mad, fought the other four, and decided he liked killing and eating people so he sent Dorpkhal to go castrate a bunch of dudes so he could eat children. Khama describes Calz as a hellish place with an overheating sun and acid rain ruining things for everyone.
-Currently the High Umbra aren't being kept in line by anyone so they run around being dicks. Their magic is powered by pain and suffering and they still command the Enses, so they have commanded the Enses to run around murdering children to make blade pyramids and other stupid crap. This could be related to the theological problem of evil (how can a benevolent god allow suffering if benevolent gods can prevent it and want to prevent it).
-Hopper is now saying that the events of this game are on their way to do to Terminum what happened to Calz - let the mad god run amok while the sun burns and acid rains from the sky, and wants to know if that is Atraakh's goal.
I'm not really impressed with the style mystery box they have going on here. When I have multiple posters in the thread unable to discern the plot from the game's writing, it's not because they're stupid, it's because this game's writing is unable to convey what the game is about.
Oh no, not Rask! He had such interesting character traits, such as being completely subservient to Chila and willing to murder mortals en masse.
Now this is kind of interesting. Remember that Drooket guy who briefly hung out with Thorn to help him find his son?
That Sean Bean looking guy? Hopper knows he got killed but Atraakh, for all his power and supposed wisdom, doesn't.
Come to think of it this whole scene shows how much Atraakh sucks. Yea, he's cutscene destroying us here, but he had to go beg Adna nicely for the use of her abilities. Lo Pheng beat his ass twice, and the first words from him here are ranting about how Lo Pheng owned him.
...Is that it?
I don't think this is the right use of the word sleek either.
: What do you want from me, Atraakh?
: Not much. Go to Opacum and do what you intend to do. Look around, and commit what you see to memory-and write it down. That's all. The gods will reward you... and not just them. I'll personally ensure that you meet your heart's desire in Opacum.
(The game is still using the Atraakh the Reaper portrait, I just have Nakoma handy).
: I agree... but wait! Who am I supposed to meet in Opacum? What heart's desire are you talking about?
I thought the Reapers served no one? Atraakh serves the gods? I'm so fucking lost right now.
: Atraakh does not reply. As his silhouette dissolves into thin air, as the slough of grass swallows up Chirlan's hollow carcass and as Ake comes to his senses, you wonder whether you've become a slave again... or not yet?
Welp! For the record, Rask dies either way and Nakoma wants you to write this shit down. There's a reason I had the vote, though!
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Waaaaah! Lo Pheng beat me like I owed him money! So I went to my friend Adna and whined a lot and she let me use her cutscene powers!
: Oh, shit! What do you want!
: I want to make you an offer. Serve me, and I'll tell you the plot of this game. Don't you want to know? It's been seven whole chapters.
: Doesn't matter what I pick, Thomas! Choo-choo! So gimme the lowdown!
: Silly Hopper! The writers have informed me I can't open the mystery box until everyone is at Opacum! Now Rask must die!
: I'm dead! Oscar please!
: Now, I want you to go to Opacum like you were already going to do to witness the endgame. Don't worry, I've merely stolen Rask's soul, he's not permadead. Also, if you do a good job you might see Amma naked. Bye!
: What the fuck.
I guess we keep trekking along the same path.
This is still happening, and I keep giving in to mangle our stats. This sounds bad, but all it really means it that I have to spend more turns clicking Mental Blast and using Flame Blade off cooldown. Hopper fights are incredibly pointless.
: Cure the wounded with magic.
There was something in the riddles about sacrificing ourselves to save others, wasn't there?
: You pour some pain-relieving potion into the woman's mouth-and her child's-then weave a spell that shares some of your strength with them. They'll both live, but the blackness on your arm has spread. Suddenly, you hear a noise from the other side of the road.
My strategy for this fight is simple. The curse has shredded Hopper's stats to 9 attack. But if I go in the corner and spam Mental Blast and Fire Blade, I can hurt the Enses and they will never reach me in melee because they move slowly. Every Ense that dies gives me 2 more attack, so I can spend less time clicking Fire Blade.
This is not a tactically interesting game.
The last idiot goes down to a mental blast before he's even near melee range.
We finally get to the Water Menhir and our next stupid riddle.
: You remember Lon's words. You try to picture the witch who enticed you with riddles and promises of lifting the curse, forcing you to wander the roads of Terminum. You miss Chirlan-Rask, the only one among your kin whom you consider a friend. Even then, he didn't tell you what happened many years ago, when he became permanently attached to his physical body and the Ashen Wasteland came into being.
: Huge Vandil pines give way to low fir trees. A waft of fresh air carries the scent of water. Seagulls glide overhead. There's a glint of water beyond the tree-trunks, but the scent of reeds is laced with the smell of blood. The clearing looks like a scene of a recent battle. The island is here. You get off your horse and lean over to examine the ground.
: You straighten yourself. "Oh, it's nothing. Let's set up camp on the island, shall we?"
: Ake dismounts, shaking his head in disbelief. "Apart from being a healer, a bookworm and a sorcerer, you're a tracker now? I can't read the prints, but for some reason I don't see any blood-or bodies, for that matter."
: You shrug. "Just a matter of habit. The bodies could have been dumped in the water. If you search by the little dam where the river flows from the lake, you'll probably find them. I don't recommend drinking the water. Let's dismount. We'll take a break for a couple of hours and carry on.
: You hear no response, and turn to see your companions sinking into the tall grass at the water's edge. Dull green blades entangle their feet and the legs of their horses. "Don't kill them, Adna", you say, before turning to face the island again. "They've done you no wrong."
Oooh la la.
So this is Adna, our third Reaper. She commands plants and animals, which is a really weird powerset for someone who is basically a murderess for hire to have. Usually talking to animals is a sign of great wisdom, such as Asclepius talking to the snakes to learn healing lore or Siegfried talking to birds to learn about Mime's attempt on his life.
Here we literally have a eugenics enforcer who kills people with blades of grass. Make your own pot jokes!
The narration implies she was the human resources lady of the old gods, in charge of Hopper and friends. Make of that what you will.
: What do you want, Adna? To send me where you sent Chirlan? Why did you do it? What are you plotting with Dorpkhal and Atraakh?
Translation: Atraakh can't use her cutscene powers anymore.
: How are you going to use it against me? I haven't heard an answer yet. What do you want from me?
: I don't know what the nature of this curse is!
: Yet it overpowers you, Blance. Binds you to this body, making you mortal. It also... consumes you, though it's linked to the Reaping, somehow. Curious spellcraft, indeed.
: I don't know anything about that. This curse is like a blindfold. I feel like I'm wearing a leaden suit of armor that grows heavier with each step. What business is it of yours?
: Everything concerns me. The curse grows heavier because it absorbs the Reaping-sapping its power. That's why I'm so interested. But you won't last long at this rate. As for your blindness.. we'll put it to the test, soon enough.
Now we know this curse is lowering the Reaping's power due to the constant "give into the curse" dialogue boxes. It seems Hopper is lying to Adna here.
: I don't know who this sorceress is!
I assume he's still lying to Adna, because he's met Chila.
: There must be a connection between you. Everything happens for a reason. I sensed her behind Friga's walls. But I couldn't get closer. She's much too strong to be a simple witch. Too strong, even, for the one I had initially taken her for.
: I don't know who you're referring to, but what did you want to ask her? Why is someone ruining your precious Reaping? Who's interfering with your plans and saving people from insanity?
: I told you, I don't care about wretched mortals-as long as they suffer and die when I need them to. The witch, on the other hand-she cares. That stumps me. Even you don't give a damn about humans!
: I'm going to Opacum.
: Yes, I've heard of it. The only pure place left in Berkana. So far, that is. You've already chosen the right path. It was an easy choice to make. There was no other path laid out before you, after all.
I can't tell if she is breaking the fourth wall because we can't actually choose not to do this as a player, or what.
: You're plotting something too! Is Coronzon on your side? Why are you having everyone gather at Opacum? What's wrong with this Reaping? Answer me!
Ok, I think I'm beginning to see what the writers are actually going for here. There's gonna be a bonus update.
: I have nothing else to tell you, Adna.
NOW things are getting interesting. Why couldn't this have been in any of the prior chapters?
: I do not heal others. Many people believe this stone has healing powers. But there's a grave here with an inscribed tombstone. Perhaps it relates to death. And erasing the inscription is no easy task; the stone itself would have to be crushed.
: What do you need me for then? You have the stone and the inscription. Read it. You'll see for yourself that it's gibberish.
: I can't read it, Blance. If I could, I wouldn't be waiting for you here. You need to read the inscription now. If you don't, someone close to you will die, and you'll have to go to Opacum alone. By the way, I have news of your Amma-or is she no longer "your" Amma?
: Whatever you say. What else do you want from me? Can I go now? What were you going to say about Amma?
: You're looking for a squad led by someone called Thorn, aren't you? You may still catch him-even overtake him, if you put your mind to it. I don't know why this witch drives you to Opacum, but I advise you make it to the fort. It'll be a sight to behold.
: Her prophecies aren't set in stone...
Oh come the fuck on! Adna's right there!
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: I need you Blance. Come here.
: I'm, uh, saving myself for marriage. Do you know the plot of this game?
: You and I both know the writers won't let us get away with that. Why don't you tell me what you know?
: Some witch cursed me to wander around and solve riddles. I have no idea who it is, or why.
: Curious. I had thought the witch was Childao the Reaper, but she beat me in an offscreen cutscene fight. I see that curse is messing with the Reaping.
: Uh, you're being cryptic. Anyway, we're all going to Opacum. Do you know why?
: Excuse me, you're a mere messenger of the gods. You don't get to talk to me like that. Do you think you have free will? That you're human? That you can choose?
: *The point makes a complete whistling noise as it goes over his head*: I'm a real boy!
: I have no idea who that witch is now, but she clearly executes the will of the gods, and we need to listen. That's why I'm here. We need to read this tombstone for the next riddle.
: Oh come on!
: Anyway, Amma's headed to Opacum. You'd better get going too, or you'll miss the final boss fight. Good-bye, and go with God.
So I've given this game a lot of shit for being a stupid mystery box, and I'm still making fun of it, but Adna is laying the game's cards all out on the table here. There is actual meat to this conversation, and for once it's not the authors just trying to write one-handed about prostitute battle arenas or explain how grimdark everything is with Dorpkhal eating babies.
The riddles and the mysteries are not supposed to be a -esque pointless mystery box, they are a divine plan. Notice what Adna says here:
Adna so far has been the most human of the Reapers we've encountered. We've met Atraakh and Dorpkhal both wandering around as corpse-BDSM monsters, but we never see anything other than a human face from Adna. She is not a corpse-monster pretending to be a god leading a false religion like Atraakh, she is in this instance simply a divine messenger. She makes the requisite grimdark motions about torturing people but at the end of the day she lets Ake and friends go.
Of course, there's one thing that doesn't quite square with this.
Earlier in the game posted:
Now I've earlier jumped ahead from the clues the game leaves to reveal (far too early) that she's the Reaper Childao, but her earlier dialogue about having no master doesn't add up with Adna revealing her as a servant of the gods. We do actually have a way to resolve this contradiction.
I'm sorry I have to bring this moment up again posted:
I bring this up not to mock the evil god eating children, but to point out that gods can possess Umbra. Chila is God. It's not clear which god she is but judging from Atraakh's 'the gods' spiel I think she's native to Terminum. You'll note she's very big on mercy and saving others even in this grimdark horrorshow - because the entire apocalypse is a test to see whether mankind (and, by extension, Hopper) deserves to survive. Hopper is an angel saddled with the burdens of a mortal - he now has only one life and every day that passes brings him closer to death, and the only way out is to have faith in God and follow Her commands.
It's very Christlike, in a way - Hopper's suffering reduces the burden on all mankind, and despite my mocking the game for being on rails, this is the one choice we do get to make. If we reject the burden, the Reaping rises to become the literal triumph of evil.
Essentially, the difference between Ash of Gods and Banner Saga is that they're telling the same story but with very different worldviews. Banner Saga is based off pagan Norse myths, and salvation comes not from the dead gods but from the strength of mortals who struggle against the darkness.
Ash of Gods is a similar story right down to the characters, but it takes the Christian worldview that mankind cannot be saved through works alone, and must earn the salvation of God through good works.
I will break the update here - I have more to say on the subject, but I want to hear some opinions from the thread before going into more of this.