The Let's Play Archive

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 12: It's Not Nativism! We Swear!

Last time on Stygian, we ran into a bunch of American Indians who wanted to kill us for being white and decided the best way to honor their ancestors was to run into the woods and act like a bunch of caricatures. Today the game is going to explain that Lovecraft's story he wrote as a fantasy about murdering immigrants because they were both stupid and liked crime is actually totally worth adapting to a tale about an uncaring universe. Really!

Anyway the Terrible Old Man Arkham Stabber murdered three out of the four "Boston Rejects" who stole his gold to presumably help Julian convince Maria that taking her clothes off would be a cool thing to do.

Wow, you told us he was red haired and sweaty twice and gave us a portrait of a red haired man! You shouldn't have! (Nice hat though).


I admit I chuckled at that. Of course, that completely ruins the terror they intend to convey, so it's not like this is a win for Stygian in any way, shape, or form.

: You must be Keelan.

: Tell me more about the gold.

: Your pals?

: The Boston Rejects we called oursel'. Found each other havin' some hard time, we did. No work, no money, bellies empty, no chance to return to what we left behind. We were slowly dyin', ma'am!

This is the big statement the developers want to make about the immigrants. See, they're not thugs or robbers, they're just men who can't find jobs in the 1920s! Now, it's pretty clear you're supposed to compare it with Lovecraft's description of the immigrants in the original Terrible Old Man:

Lovecraft Hates Immigrants posted:

It was the design of Angelo Ricci and Joe Czanek and Manuel Silva to call on the Terrible Old Man. This old man dwells all alone in a very ancient house on Water Street near the sea, and is reputed to be both exceedingly rich and exceedingly feeble; which forms a situation very attractive to men of the profession of Messrs. Ricci, Czanek, and Silva, for that profession was nothing less dignified than robbery.

The problem is that two of them (Salvador and Abel) are absolutely thugs, because they joined the Mob! While I ridicule the Mafia as a threat to Bertha, everything we've seen from the Mob depicts them as vicious amoral killers, from Violet's death to the man being shot outside the club to the poisoned liquor they distribute to their sponsorship of Richter.

The other problem is that this is the 1920s and jobs were not in short supply (seeing as you can play a young man who fought in World War I, my guess is that this is pre-depression). The developers seem to have this idea that they need to repudiate some of the awful views of Lovecraft instead of putting in the work to take the things that people like (monsters, magic, and an uncaring universe) and severing them from all of the racism and nativism and Lovecraft's fear of the many, many people he never met refusing to leave the house, they try to comment on it. Being incompetent idiots, we get Coaly Willie, Wjatal the stereotype used to justify the deployment of the US Cavalry, and now the Mafia men who were actually just poor immigrants unable to get a job as able-bodied men in the 1920s. It boggles the mind!

: Where is the gold now?

: (He answers in a hysterical shout) The gold is gone! We sold it all before we arrived here! To Salvador's cousin, somewhere near Innsmouth. E's not huntin' us for the gold, he wants us! He wants our souls!

Of course we need a gratuitous Innsmouth reference because this is Lovecraft. I am pretty sure I pointed out that Lovecraft's entire purpose in creating these New England towns was to reinforce that you could encounter horrifying Mythos elements wherever you lived - he just happened to live in New England. Nerds being bad at reading comprehension mandates that literally every Lovecraft game needs to include Arkham, Innsmouth, and Dunswich rather than taking the logical conclusion of having Nyarlathotep chilling in say, New York.

: (His eyes dart about fearfully) Kingsport... I wish I had known... The legend... The legend is true!

Lovecraft hates immigrants posted:

This collection frightens away most of the small boys who love to taunt the Terrible Old Man about his long white hair and beard, or to break the small-paned windows of his dwelling with wicked missiles; but there are other things which frighten the older and more curious folk who sometimes steal up to the house to peer in through the dusty panes. These folk say that on a table in a bare room on the ground floor are many peculiar bottles, in each a small piece of lead suspended pendulum-wise from a string. And they say that the Terrible Old Man talks to these bottles, addressing them by such names as Jack, Scar-Face, Long Tom, Spanish Joe, Peters, and Mate Ellis, and that whenever he speaks to a bottle the little lead pendulum within makes certain definite vibrations as if in answer. Those who have watched the tall, lean, Terrible Old Man in these peculiar conversations, do not watch him again. But Angelo Ricci and Joe Czanek and Manuel Silva were not of Kingsport blood; they were of that new and heterogeneous alien stock which lies outside the charmed circle of New England life and traditions, and they saw in the Terrible Old Man merely a tottering, almost helpless greybeard, who could not walk without the aid of his knotted cane, and whose thin, weak hands shook pitifully.

Somehow this game's fuckups continue to amaze me. It takes extreme intelligence to try to adapt "The Terrible Old Man" and try to write about how the unfortunate immigrants aren't ignorant thugs but simply desperate men trying to take care of dependents like poor Maria, and then turn around and write it so that the immigrants are, in fact, ignorant thugs who can't get jobs in the Roaring 20s. I don't really have more to say!

Incidentally that is your hint to go buy Stanley Fredkin's book. Hope you read it!

Now, the original Terrible Old Man ended with a cut from the Terrible Old Man confronting the last robber and the robbers' bodies being found around town cut as though by swords. Lovecraft, unlike these developers, understood that the readers' imagination would conjure a fate more terrifying then whatever he could write down.

The Stygian developers gave us pirate ghosts.

The ghosts start circling Keelan and the party in a cutscene. Now you might be thinking "oh they're gonna cutscene kill Keelan, ok". No, it's worse than that.

Alright, we get to fight the ghosts's for Keelan's life?

Oh, they all go first? Well, this might be a challenging fight, but -

I'm going to spoil it right now, the ghosts are immune to all your weapons and murder Keelan in two turns. However, this means we get to sit and watch as the ghosts all move from their starting positions to Keelan. What an engrossing use of the combat mechanics!

Wow! The ghosts spent a minute stabbing them while we didn't get turns! Wasn't that spooky? Aren't you emotionally affected by the death of a man you met five minutes ago in a hellscape of death and terror?

The Terrible Old Man commands the ghosts to back down. The game apparently forgot to check whether we were playing a woman or not, or he's deliberately misgendering us.

We don't get any experience, but we get ANGST.

Of course we can't loot Keelan!

TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:

: Ma'am! You gotta help me! The ghosts are after me!

: Are you Keelan?

: Yup! We should never have robbed that old man of his gold! The legends were true! Now, you might think we're a bunch of criminal immigrants, but actually we were all just really poor and unable to get jobs as able-bodied men in the 1920s! We were never thugs, despite the fact that half of us joined the Mafia before the Black Day!

: WoOoOoOo! It's time for an incredibly long cutscene where we sloooooowly stab Keelan to death! We are slower than the plot of a David Weber novel! Now we will leave! WoOoOoO!

: *dies*

I need to swing back by Marino's to grab the pamphlet, but on the way we trigger a party event.

: Open your eyes and look for the clicking sounds?

: Put the gun down!

: (He shifts his finger to the trigger) God forgive me! But I cannot keep on. (He suddenly shouts in a haunting tone) I'm drained! Can't feel! Can't even feel fear!

Again, this is a lot more powerful without these interjections.

: I used to be scared of things! Of death, of failure, of never seeing my loved ones. I used to be alive, you see! And if I can't even feel fear than I must already be dead. So please do not judge me.

: Did your mother send you here to kill yourself and break her heart, soldier?

: I'm just trying to save a friend's life.

: I've had my share of terrible days... (Tell him about your initiation ceremony)

: (The soldier sits through your story with a face completely devoid of expression. When he finally speaks, you are unaware if he heard anything you said.) It's time for my guard duty. (He sniffles and shakes himself)

: And... (He continues with a shy smile, an exceptionally rare sight on his gray face) Thanks, Williams. And you are not that much of an asshole... Just a little bit.

I don't really want to make light of the suicide here, so no summary, but I do want to point out Bertha is explicitly comparing her initiation as a sex wizard. Make of that what you will.

We get this from Marino. I'm hoping it's not actually shit-encrusted, but knowing this game...

Blah blah blah references blah blah blah lack of originality blah blah blah never buy from Cultic Games again.

This happens, we get a debuff, I think it's a Color out of Space reference, and I don't really care.

We get a cutscene showing that this is a very spooky house. At this point all the horror elements are overused and badly delivered. Are we supposed to be scared, or are we supposed to be clapping like trained seals because wow, another Lovecraft reference?

The invulnerable ghosts challenge us at the door. We accuse them of being the stabber and they ask for evidence.

The game is awful and I'm not subjecting you to the questioning. It's not very interesting.

It's time for what we all clamored for, more cutscenes in this exciting story!

Let me remind you that the plot is literally to collect Lovecraft references because a spooky man who may or may not be Nyarlathotep told us to.

You probably don't remember him because I glossed over him yelling about Nodens while rolling my eyes at the desperate reference spewing.

: Good, good. Still here... Now, aren't you ashamed of accusing an old gentleman like myself of such a foul deed? (He gives out a disturbingly vulgar laugh) Heh, I's foolin' wit ye, cabin girl!

Such an interesting character that we had to jump through all that bullshit to meet him.

What the fuck is this? Why is this a twist? Why do we care?

: Up until this bloody moment, they've been talkin' my head off! Greedy bastards they are. Asking about their share all the time, the gold that I promised. The gold that I never gave. But they were fools, you know.

: There are things that every bloody seadog keeps in mind. Like, ye better know the ship what you're boardin'. Like, yer captain's orders may mean your death. Tis a tough trade and we set sail knowin' that.

I do not understand why the developers felt the need to turn the enigmatic sorcerer in the original into a generic sea dog, but I confess bafflement at many of the bad decisions made in the game.

: So, when things go ugly, we real sailors don't pule[sic] like that sissy over there, what thinks himself a bloody corsair. (The specter continues to gaze at the old man with a silent, burning hatred)

Remember when the TOM commanded the ghosts to leave us alone? I remember.

: Why does that one remain? (Point to the last specter)

: So you think the murders are over now? With Keelan dead and all?

: You know what, cabin girl? I never liked it in this rotten city so no one can hold me here. My damned crew are gone except Dawkins, and he's in no state to pick his own teeth, let alone be stabbing a fellow.

: The other spectres are gone?

: Like they should have been a long time ago! Right at the Day of the Whirlpool. But I know those bastards. The grudge they held against the thieves was deep...

: Nodens? I remember you mentioning him before.

: Then you know he's the Lord of the Deep. The seas of the world belonged to Nodens, until the world was ruined by the Old Gods. Now, those things... (For the first time, you read fear in the old man's eyes)

: They corrupt and shatter and devour until little animals like us can find no place to belong or simply to be. The sleeper is awake now. (He spells the name in an alien tongue) Cthulhu...

The idea that we have never heard of Cthulhu despite residing next door to Miskatonic University and a Cthulhu idol reminds me of nothing so much as characters in Jack Chick tracts asking who Jesus is.

: The Cult also seems to worship this Cthulhu. Is that what rules over Arkham?

: I can sense Cthulhu's presence here like I can smell gunpowder from a hundred yards away, and I'll tell ye one thing: the former is by far the more dangerous.

In the original story Cthulhu is defeated by ramming him with a boat. The danger he presents is not that he is physically or magically powerful, but that his awakening heralds an age of amorality which can be delayed by ramming him with a boat, and that no matter how often he is defeated someone will fuck up and morality will be swept away. This goes right over people's heads.

This is also completely untrue. No one in Lovecraft's stories is ever coerced into joining the Old Ones. The horror of the cultists is not that they are slaves to Cthulhu, but that they voluntarily serve him knowing it will be the end of morality.

: You asked me about the Dismal Man before. Is he a servant of Cthulhu?

Cthulhu is a priest of greater powers, so no.

: If the world was destroyed, what are we doing here?

: I see. Another thing...

: I've read the story. You led your men to their doom.

: You sacrificed their lives for personal gain.


We take 5 damage from some kind of Cutscene Bullshit.

: Do you know a way out of Arkham?

: I don't want to be a bad captain, cabin girl, but there is no berth for you in the boat that I'm taking. Even through you gave me some nice entertainment along the way.

We then get a spooky cutscene of the Terrible Old Man floating through the door.

TheGreatEvilKing heavily abridges this crap posted:

: Hey! Cabin girl! I can't believe you're calling me a murder - ahahah, I'm just messing with you! I love killing people! It rules! But I didn't kill those immigrants! That was the ghosts! They wanted the gold but the immigrants stole it! Whoops! Anyway, the ghosts are all gone! WHAT A TWIST?

: Uh, what?

: Yea, the Old Gods have plans for you, unlike me! I'm gonna go hang out with NODENS! REFERENCES! YEAH, NERDS! YOU LIKE THAT?

: So, why is that guy here, and should we expect more murders?

: That's cheating Logan Dawkins! The developers couldn't think of anything original to say about me once they ran out of references so I became a pirate captain with a band of pirate ghosts! WOO! Anyway, I'm going to hang out with Nodens, who is good, unlike Cthulhu and the Old Ones, who are bad!

: Cthulhu?

: This is a Lovecraft game, cabin girl! Cthulhu is very bad! He mind controls people into worshiping him!

TheGreatEvilKing: Wow, i see reading comprehension is difficult, huh?

: So is the Dismal Man a servant of Cthulhu, or...?

: Nah, he's Nyarlathotep. He serves something, heh heh heh.

: Wow, you're a shitty captain, turning all those pirates into ghosts.

: Why don't you eat some cutscene damage?

: If you're leaving Arkham, can I come with?

: Nope! I'm a spooky ghost wizard! Bye!

The Outsider wants to talk.

We get it. You're a damn nerd who never went outside and has no knowledge of the human condition, while in the original story you did cool things like hang out with ghouls and mummies and whatnot.

We get a haunted flintlock. I'm probably just going to sell it. This is a pretty nice haul though.

I forget to screenshot it, but what we're really here for is the lead bottle from the original story. In the original the old man talked to it like it was a trapped soul or something. Here?

Next time, on Stygian: I think we have to find the Necronomicon? But this is farther than my practice run went! Who knows?