Part 14: Clap Your Hands, Seals!
Welcome back! Last time on Stygian the game rent itself asunder during normal gameplay.
The game decides to actually kind of hold together now.
I want to show off the instant death for betraying Krogh.
: I'd like to report a cult fugitive... a man named Krogh.
You should never do this because you're fucking yourself out of the magic shop, but if you feel like developing a sequel to this game this is the option for you.
We swore nothing?
Yup, instadeath game over! Though I guess we didn't technically die despite the curse telling us we would. Stygian!
So the theater guy has a lot to say. I'm showing off the dialogue mostly so I can make fun of how badly written it is, and this should not be confused with anything of importance.
"Mind abusing", huh.
: (Shouting at the cultists circumambulating[sic] the alleys of the Parish) Come, my brethren! I sense that some among you are worthy of the revelation inside the Theatre of Bones! The only true miracle of the Century of Lies!
: Come closer, brethren! I can see that the fruit of renunciation is ripe in some of you! Beyond these doors you'll submit your hearts and purge your souls?
They...did read the Call of Cthulhu where the stated goal of the Cthulhu cult was to abandon morality and run around killing people?
In other words, we internalized the memes of "Cthulhu will eat you FIRST!"
: What is this place?
: (The cultist looks over you from head to toe with undeniable contempt) You are not welcome here, you of the wretched folk. You are standing on the sacred ground of the Cleansed.
This concept could almost work if the author wanted to portray how racism and dehumanization leads to amorality as represented by Cthulhu. I would credit the authors with going that route with the KKKultists, but if we're being honest I can't credit these idiots with attempting anything.
"Is he flipping the bird? No, he's making an odd hand gesture that suggests some kind of denunciation!"
"Damn, that's Good Writing! You gonna finish that paste pot? I want some fortification before I draw the Coaly Willie portrait!"
"No you see all the other killings and burnings were done without judgement, but this time we're going to judge you! Juuuuuudge! Juuuuudge!"
: What lies behind these doors?
You could have said his eyes narrow and left the dialog. I really don't understand why this cultist is so hostile to potential recruits, but I will chalk it up to Stygian!
: Forgive me. I did not mean to offend your, uhh, religion.
You literally just called this sacred ground. Whatever. Nothing in this fucking game makes any sense or has any kind of cohesion.
We can go back and ask:
: I've heard that all the notable figures of Arkham came here before the Black Day.
: Oh, yes. They are all inside...still enjoying the screening in its full glory.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: YOU NO CULTIST DURRR GO AWAY
Anyway, we go to the right and get another cutscene.
: Your thinnest hope of salvation...
: ...lies in testing your flesh with the pain...
So our reward is another pointless fight.
: Seize this chance!
Yea I think you're missing a word there buddy.
This fight suffers from the fact that it sucks. All these idiots have are sticks. Unlike the real cultists, who have a bunch of branding irons, torches, and five million hit points, these guys don't do anything and it's not their fault. I do, however, trigger some interesting bugs.
I'm pretty sure the problem with Children of Pazuzu is that if you cast it on an unoccupied hex it crashes the game. You do this, of course, because it has an AoE. I'm trying to hit that cultist and the guy slightly above him. No, I don't know what the little sad masks mean either. I restart the combat and run into a bug where the game refuses to let me switch weapons.
I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I really hate this game.
We eventually execute an escape. Now, you might be thinking "aren't these guys supposed to kill us on that cult guy's orders?"
These randos are still standing around.
You might be asking yourself "what the fuck is an Awakened? We've never seen this term in the game." It's pretty obviously the Great Old Ones, but this is slightly jarring.
I'm going back to my theory that Cthulhu ate the editors.
We can rummage in the pile here to literally wallow in filth, as opposed to the metaphorical wallowing we're doing already.
You might be asking "is Richter a cult member" to which I reply, no, the developers just put this label on the cultists' chemistry station because Cthulhu presumably ate their QA.
This guy yells at us to get out because he is guarding the cultists' stuff.
Anyway, we need to get to the Blasted Street so we can do stuff that a random spooky man told us would let us escape Arkham.
Welcome to the Blasted Street! It sucks! That corpse ahead of us is our real objective. It has a gas mask, some cigs, and a diary.
Part of the problem with this sort of media is that when everything is so unrelentingly bleak audience engagement goes way down. So far everything is dark and gloomy and depressing, the game goes out of its way to drive home that we are powerless and just enduring this session, there's no actual hope upon completing these prophecies, and the only relief is the Voice of Madness trying to be funny in a way that completely poops all over the game's tone by portraying mental illness as something that makes you funny while trying to sell it as the ultimate terror a la Lovecraft. Thus I do not care about Little Mikey or this guy's starvation. Everything is bleak and depressing and there is no hope, this is just more maudlin bullshit thrown onto the fire. We are supposed to take away that Hines at the Essex Hotel has an invention, but I'm going to go with the alternative path that gives us garbage poetry instead.
Anyway, fuck this! I'm gonna go down the street and try to grab loot!
This isn't good!
So, game over right? No. The game just hangs. I can't move the party, we don't get a game over screen, nothing. I reload the game and it turns out that I have to redo the cult fight. I discover something odd.
You can actually drive these guys insane by spamming spells. The actual cultists I believe are not horrified, but it's weird that these cult "pledges" are sworn to the Great Old Ones and work for a bunch of sorcerers but are completely shocked by this. Whatever! We murder them all!
I massacre them all this time and they drop this. They're literally called "cult pledges", like they're joining a frat and not a human sacrifice death cult.
Whatever! I go back to the Blasted Street, loot the guy's corpse, and return to the cultist camp, and this happens!
I see we are back to the time-honored "shotgun adjectives in the hope one sticks" method of fantasy writing.
: Please accept my most sincere apologies for interrupting you in such an untimely fashion, but I've brought a new message from her ladyship.
I can't tell if the player isn't allowed to investigate anything because the developers think the player is stupid, or if they want to keep them on rails to discuss how little is in the world of Stygian.
: Thank you. (Take the envelope)
He fucks off and we get this exciting message from the Baroness.
Uuugh. I don't particularly like the Dreamlands in this game. A lot of the stories Lovecraft sets in the Dreamlands are about the adventures of melancholy protagonists who are kind of tugged along and don't really encounter the Mythos entities as threats to sanity or civilization but rather just as weird magical adventure elements. The Mythos stories and Dreamlands don't really work well together - the Mythos stories are all about postponing inevitable doom and horror, and the Randolph Carter stories are about wacky melancholy adventures. But never mind that, we have a date with a woman who showed us some hot statue tits!
Before we do that, these guys while about how some dudes not in the cult saw a "miracle" at the Essex hotel rooftop. This is probably a really stupid idea because the Cthulhu cultists are telling us to do it, so I'm going to do it. I go back to the Old Eel Inn and pay Marino, because we can't get ambushed there.
Here we go.
Yup. We have gone from an oppressive, terrible post-apocalyptic world kept down by men of violence and dark sorcerers serving inhuman masters to LSD Mary Poppins.
: (She communicates with you through a soundless melody that resonates within your psyche)
I hate "soundless melody" so much.
Yea you're getting the screenshots for all this garbage.
Lovecraft's monsters never really draw on Satanic or fire imagery, so maybe describing the Necronomicon as "infernal" is not the best choice?
Also we have done nothing but slavishly follow the prophecy! We are not breaking its clutches, we are clinging to it like a drowning man clutching a piece of driftwood.
Wow, the Color Out of Space! You shouldn't have. Really.
: THIS RHYME THING OF YOURS, MAKES ME UNEASY. CRYPTIC
Damnation, once again, is not a concept in Lovecraft's stories. Characters do not fear for their immortal souls, they fear acquiring spooky knowledge and mental illness.
Also, these rhymes are terrible and we should have just left with the Mi-go.
: You know a way to pass through the Blasted Street?
: Are you using the Dreaming to plant ideas in my mind? (Occult)
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:: Hi I am a bad poet/and I really want you to know it/thanks for helping me out/now take this spell or I pout
: LOL I AM CRAZY BUT I CAN TELL YOU THAT THAT IS POOP FROM A BUTT! PLOP! HUH HUH HUH! PLOP!
: Wow, are you planting ideas in my head?
: Go through the street/to end this shit
So, you might be thinking "did we learn the spell?"
No! We actually got...
A SPELL MANUSCRIPT WE NEED TO REST TO RESEARCH! FUCK YOUUUUUUU!
I try to rest with the hobos but we get attacked by lunatics, so I reload. Fuck this. Let's go see this "miracle" at the hotel, it's a sidequest so we can at least get some XP.
Here we are, at the hotel rooftop. We are able to go here now because we overheard the cultists. Don't question event flags.
This is what we're doing huh.
Wow! So spooky!
Ok, I need to stop and rant here. Yes, at some point you're going to encounter Cthulhu in a Lovecraft game. The problem is that there is absolutely no progression or buildup to this. Now, Lovecraft was a hack writer with terrible prose and awful racism spewed all over his stories, but even he understood that you needed some kind of suspense to build up to a reveal. In the actual Call of Cthulhu, we went through first a series of terrible nightmares, then a cult meeting where the cultists tortured and killed people in the name of Cthulhu and freely spoke of the horror of his coming, then Lovecraft showed the actual monster himself. This is fucking pointless! We've had vague foreshadowing that Cthulhu is out there and is "bad" from the Terrible Old Man, we've seen a few altars, and we got a statue, but this doesn't build off of what we've seen. We see... a big monster. The game doesn't even tell us it's Cthulhu, we're supposed to infer it from our knowledge of Lovecraft! Because the game has squandered all of its playtime on stupid tangents like brains in jars that want to commit incest, pirate ghosts, blackface actors, and the Chicago mafia, this means nothing! It doesn't spur some horrible realization, it doesn't provide a meaningful conflict, and it doesn't fit with anything foreshadowing! The game's visuals are incapable of portraying this big monster as something that's more horrifying than, say, a brain in a jar describing how it lusts after its cousin. That 20 sanity loss is the biggest in the game, but we don't know why this monster is so terrifying or even what it is.
Of course, the game isn't going to tell us, but we can infer that this is Cthulhu because of pop-culture osmosis, and suddenly it all makes sense. This isn't the close of some dramatic arc, this is the most blatant Lovecraft reference thrown in clumsily so that TVTropes nerds can recognize something and clap and cheer like trained seals. Look, it's Cthulhu! Look, he's driving that Mafia guy insane! Look, he's driving you insane! Wow! Cthulhu! You recognize Cthulhu! He's so cool! You might even think of something good Cthulhu was in! Member? Member? Member?
At its core, that's all this game aspires to be: a collection of references to make you think of things that the developers thought were actually good.
Next time: Guys, it's the Color out of Space! Remember the Color out of Space?