Part 56: Cleopatra Jones and The General Who Didn't CareCleopatra Jones and The General Who Didn't Care
Last time on Tyranny, we rolled into Nerat's base and trivially kicked his ass.
There are a bunch of Scarlet Chorus members scattered around the camp, who aren't hostile and are clearly just here to steal shit.
Florian was the man we talked into handing himself over to save his men. He deserved better than this, but at least we avenged his death.
: And now he's dead. It's hard to believe, really. I'm happy, but he also gave me this life, this name. I hated him, but he was incredible. An artist...
Verse, go look at Florian. That's not art, that's both barbaric and potty humor at best.
: Do you think the Voices is really dead?
The game is going to make a big deal out of the Voices trying to use Verse to cheat death. As far as I know, that's DLC added content, but I personally interpret it as Verse and Cleo being so traumatized by Nerat that they can't believe it's over. For all the magic and whatnot of Tyranny, nothing happens that could be construed as a miracle. Sure, you can compare Kyros' Edicts to the plagues of Exodus and the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, but if we're being honest that's something we can easily envision nowadays by watching Hiroshima footage. We've even been using the language "magic nukes" to describe it in the thread! This is not something where people think about touching Jesus' cloak and are miraculously saved, or the witches making themselves small to dance between the raindrops.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: We wasted Nerat! That fucking ruled! I hated him...but he made me what I am today, so...
: Think he's really dead?
: No idea...my trauma says no.
Weirdly, Sirin doesn't have anything to say about this.
The Chorus is dead. There isn't even anyone motivated to pick up the pieces and reforge this thing.
Really! These guys are just here to loot the camp.
They all acknowledge that Cleo's won at this point.
This would be good if our mages were actually going down.
There are a LOT of different comments from the Chorus members.
I'm sorry, what did you think it was before?
We need to do some preparation for the attack on Graven Ashe - not because he's a particularly tough fight, but because we have cool interactions to show off. Mostly we're just going to switch Verse for Kills-in-Shadow.
On the way we're going to encounter more quality DLC content. Our options are "proceed" or "leave", so assume I'm just taking the option to continue until otherwise stated.
So this encounter is buggy.
: What are you doing out here?
The game seems to have forgotten we just destroyed the Scarlet Chorus.
: Whether or not Cairn could help you aside, you know that this superstitious idolatry is wildly illegal, right?
While this is the objectively correct statement about Kyros' incoherent privilege pile, it still doesn't change the fact that we have to keep up appearances. Cleopatra is not the kind of character who is going to join this, so let's ask Sirin for help.
: [To Sirin:] Can you take care of this?
For some reason our options are to send them to Halfgate or kill them. To Halfgate!
So we gain Wrath with a faction for this. I completely miss the screenshot, so you have to guess the faction. Tunon, for allowing idolatry with no consequences? The Stone Sea villagers, who would really prefer their villagers wearing clothes?
Trick question, I'm not sorry.
The game bugs out hardcore and spawns this new faction. Lore-wise, this should not exist as we killed Straydus Herodin and had Amelia abdicate. That is an entirely new faction symbol as far as I'm aware. Was there future DLC planned for this? Cut content? It makes no sense in the narrative of the game as it stands. Oh well, as I keep saying, the base game is good but flawed, but the DLC is utter shit.
Sirin is happy with us for asking her nicely to use her talents. On to the Spire!
Kills-in-Shadow has some new dialog for us.
: Alpha smells good. Makes Beastwoman want to hunt. Kill.
: Little chitter bird has pledged to Alpha of Kills-in-Shadow. Is good for chitter bird's chance of survival. But bad for Beastwoman's ears. She rubs the ridge of a pointed ear, eyes lost in thought.
What I said about Kyros having to find things to bribe the Archons with may apply here as well. I'm honestly not sure how much - we have seen Kills-in-Shadow display mercy toward her weaker friends (namely, Left-Claw) but she is vicious and cunning, and would be an extremely dangerous enemy for anyone to have.
In other news, Graven Ashe is turbo fucked.
: Had any good hunts, lately?
I hadn't used a lot of Kills in Shadow, but she is really growing on me.
: It's time to hunt. Come with me, Kills-in-Shadow.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Well, I'm glad that Sirin pledged allegiance to you, but my ears are going to hurt. Wasting Nerat was cool and awesome! He was a vicious enemy, but you ripped him to shreds proving you're a real winner. Clearly, I picked the winning side!
: Any good hunts, lately?
: Yea! I went and wasted a bunch of Bane, but then I had to flee.
: Come along, I think you'll like this hunt.
I go to the library to research Edicts. This is how you get the last Edict, and I'm 99% sure most players will never see it because you don't need to engage with this game's crafting system at all. Upon release Act 3 was literally only the Archon fights and Tunon's trial, which I am saving for last because it's really good.
Here we go!
With Nerat you only need to fight through two groups of enemies before he lowers the bridge and faces your entire party by himself.
This is not true of Graven Ashe.
This is the second group of enemies. Even with me holding back all the focused rain spells because I want them available for the Ashe fight, the Disfavored are still boring chumps.
See? Now, the fight still takes a bit because of so many hit points, but we just kind of rotate through our status effects and don't care.
One of the Earthshakers was carrying this unique staff. I give it to Sirin.
We also find this hidden on the quartermaster cart. As Cleopatra's hit the soft cap of 19, I have her drink it.
Thanks, Ashe! This was a terrible idea to leave lying around!
I say "fuck it" and obliterate this last group of idiots outside the portcullis.
Graven Ashe has drawn up all his troops with barricades prepared to meet our assault.
: So, you see fit to grace my halls with your presence. This will be the last time. I have no wish to consort with traitors. You have held back this campaign against the Tiers long enough.
One of us marched his army into an Edict, and it wasn't Cleo.
: After I grind your bones into the dry earth, my Disfavored will take back this realm for the vaunted North, and you will be forgotten.
Ashe is in denial here. You get a very different speech if you convict him for Tunon, parts of which are cogent and parts of which are insane denial. Want to see it? Vote accordingly for next route.
Kills-in-Shadow isn't just here for vengeance, but to remind the player just how vile the Disfavored and Ashe have become.
: Yea. What she said.
: Before either of you can make the first strike, Barik steps forward and bellows in protest.
The thing is, Barik is actually kind of right for once. Hilariously, if you convict Ashe, he screams that Kyros is trying to play him and you against each other but you're too blinded by your power to see it. It makes more sense for the Disfavored route - as you can actually get him to swear allegiance after pointing out that he's wrong about the Tiersmen and that the army is more loyal to you as you actually, you know, did the work - than in the Rebel path where I convicted him after he fucked me over personally countless times. Ashe is a terrible human being, but we're on a collision course with Kyros right now and an iron legion could be really handy. Now, there are parallels here between the Weimar Republic and their idiotic attempts to co-opt Hitler so they could use the SA, but the other parallel is Stalin joining the allies. Stalin was awful, but when you're in a fight with Hitler and Hirohito you could use the help.
The problem is, of course, that we can't trust Ashe. He's a known traitor to his king, we personally betrayed him by kicking Erenyos off the tower, and if we bring him into the coalition we piss off all our Tiersmen supporters by making this racist an equal.
: The Archon of War would not have this any other way. Would you, Ashe?
We need to take a step back from beating Graven Ashe's ass to consider this for a moment. Barik's entire arc throughout the game is remaining loyal to Graven Ashe even though Ashe treats him like garbage. Barik is defined by his survival of the Edict of Storms, which has cost him everything - his friends who died by Kyros' will, massive surivivor's guilt, an inability to maintain a relationship, and has sealed him in his rusty armor that torments him by trapping him in his own shit.
Barik is sad posted:
Immediately after that, we learn that it's Graven Ashe's power that's trapping Barik in his armor - his reward for dutifully following and believing in Graven Ashe is lifelong torment.
Ashe fucks over Barik posted:
As we proceed through the game, we learn more and more about their relationship - namely, how awful and abusive it is. Barik didn't need to go through that storm, Graven Ashe ordered the Disfavored to march not to achieve some great objective that Kyros commanded, but to rescue his own daughter.
Chatting with Barik posted:
This revelation is available fairly early in the game, but we meet Amelia late in the Blade Grave.
Amelia gives us the truth posted:
: Shortly after, I heard an ironclad force assemble outside of the fortress. Had I a voice in the legion, I would have told them to pull back. I was being treated with dignity, and we suspected that Kyros' Edict would come in short order... not that any of my father's simpletons would have listened.
Despite all of this, Barik remains loyal to Ashe. Ashe never bothers to send any one to even check on Barik, or retrieve him, or use him as a spy and promise him amnesty. As soon as Barik is gone, he's out of sight and out of mind. Ashe doesn't secretly try to get the armor removed, or ask Tunon for help, or go to Kyros and ask explicit permission to help Barik, he just has Erenyos assign Barik to journey with us and never sends anyone to get him back. Barik is a skilled fighter and commander.
Just wait, it gets worse.
This is true, although Barik has killed a lot of his fellow legionaries at this point.
This is the reward. The game never comes out and states it, but the reward for loyalty to tyrants is the downfall of the loyalist. They do not care about you. Ashe does not care about his troops. He's about to demonstrate it beyond the shadow of a doubt in a few minutes, but his treatment of Barik should dispel the notion. He used Barik in his failed rescue attempt for Amelia, then kept Barik at arms length despite Barik's demonstrated loyalty, and now - despite doing nothing to get Barik back in any way - is threatening Barik's family with disgrace. This is bad, but remember what Barik said about his family earlier?
Barik's safety net posted:
: The Disfavored needed recruits in anticipation of the march south. They offered to care for my mother and brother as long as I stayed with the legion, which is a better guarantee than you'll find anywhere else.
What a great, caring leader.
So, from this conversation you might think Ashe is going to fight at the head of his legion, using his Archon powers and loyal troops in a deadly combination that will be a hard fight.
More astute readers will remember that every time Ashe has had to do anything involving tactics or strategy, he's fucked it up in a hilarious clown show that gets a ton of Disfavored killed every time.
The latter group is right! We can't attack those two guys between the barricades because they are green dot NPCs, so Ashe hides behind his men like a coward and sends those four guys to die. Erenyos and Radix would show up for this fight, but we killed them. Good going, Ashe.
It goes about as well as you'd expect.
I mentioned the rampage trait earlier. Every time Cleo kills an opponent in battle, we get an accuracy boost. This is going to be very important, because these aren't separate battles - Graven Ashe sends waves of his men and women at you before engaging you himself.
The other buffs are Sirin's song "Fatebinder of Victory", which is about how Cleo is going to beat your ass, one of our artifacts, and the Mirror Image I taught to Barik to cast on himself but he cast on Cleo instead. Oh, Tyranny AI!
Ashe, refusing to recognize that even Kyros acknowledged us as an Archon, sends more of his troops in to die. If you look in the back there's an entire phalanx of like sixteen guys standing and doing nothing for some reason.
Kills-in-Shadow kills enough of these losers to level up. I give her more Finesse for her accuracy.
One of the big problems with this fight is that you can't attrit player resources in Tyranny. You can force people to blow their cooldowns, sure, but because everything has so much HP - and because you can stack cooldown reduction - it literally doesn't matter. There are consumable items, but those are also on cooldown and damage just doesn't come in fast enough to make the cooldown a big issue, especially as they heal 75% of your max HP and you can do shit like stack passive healing and accuracy debuffs. The Gravelight tree lets everyone drain health, and you can buff melee warriors to drain life on hit. There's not really a good way in the game's design to actually wear the player down, so this just becomes more proof that Ashe doesn't care about his soldiers in the slightest and is throwing them at you to slightly delay his inevitable demise.
It also doesn't help that they give the Fatebinder crap like Killing Rush and Rampage, so the Fatebinder is actually stronger in prolonged combats. Same with Sirin, she can build up passive buffstacks just by standing around and casting spells.
Ashe apparently hit some kind of bong before we showed up and makes this incredibly inaccurate statement.
This is Maric. He is the leader of the Oath-Bound, the Disfavored scout unit. He is going to contribute nothing to this playthrough other than dying hilariously so we can loot his unique spear that we toss into the pile of weapons we never use.
Barik pointed out earlier that he's a member of Ashe's Iron Guard, who are the inner council of the Disfavored that advise Graven Ashe. Ashe sends the entire Iron Guard out to die before fighting you himself. It's a hilarious contrast with Nerat, who - despite commanding the horde army with no respect for human life - is actually brave enough to fight the party without discarding a ton of Scarlet Furies beforehand.
Sirin's AI casts Thunderstorm before I manage to catch it, and I just say fuck it.
Ashe does have a few buffs he casts from the sidelines - I think this one "empowers" his troops - but they're not enough to raise my opinion of his leadership or compensate for the fact he's hiding like a punk.
After we slaughter literal waves of his men, along with his actual army captains, Ashe decides to play the hero and decides to wade in to save the lives of his men. Now, take a look - the only surviving Disfavored are BEHIND Ashe. Don't believe Ashe when he tells you he's doing it to save his men's lives, he would have fought alongside them if he actually cared. He's doing this because his image as the self-sacrificing Archon of War, and thus, his power, would be irredeemably damaged if he didn't. Remember, he could have gone out and personally led the attack on the Mountain Spire, but instead of doing that while his entire legion was under the Edict, he fucked around in his tent.
Kills-in-Shadow is completely onboard for this shit as Sirin and Cleopatra rain meteors on his dumb ass.
Cleopatra is up to sixty accuracy for murdering all of Graven Ashe's guys. For reference, there's a starter talent in the range tree that gives fifteen. You get +15 accuracy for each kill. I don't think our Archon associate thought this through.
Also there's a +15% damage boost in the defense tree against prone and stunned targets. We probably should have grabbed this, as Cleopatra and friends hand out those conditions like candy.
Look at all the criticals!
Graven Ashe turns around and smacks us for 230(!!!) damage! He actually can hurt if you let him, but he's also vulnerable to slows and being nuked off the face of the earth. Barik has a talent that lets him split damage with an ally, so we're actually fine.
Ashe is now slowed and on fire.
Now he's bleeding. Yes, he's immune to prone and stun and paralyze, sure, but these Archon fights are not difficult in any way. People on reddit are apparently posting about how hard this fight is, and I guess if you're an idiot and bring an all melee team you'll probably have trouble as the Disfavored all try to trip you or something, but if you're a mage like Cleo or a spellsword running all the stupid buffs you'll be fine. I guess there is a risk the buffs run out, I've never played a spellsword because I love blowing people up with magic.
This is what I mean about the healing potions. Barik can just chug one to heal 183 points of damage. The big hit was a critical, and thus we're back to whooping ass while Ashe is in the orange.
I guess he nailed Killsy with a healing debuff. I...don't care?
Ashe is almost dead, so he prepares to activate his strongest attack (and artifact ability) Bladestorm. We've actually seen this before.
Remember our friend, Big Bane? posted:
Hilariously enough, Barik strikes the killing blow and the old man goes down hard.
There's a lot of symbolism in this paragraph. The bloodstained hands are obvious, but less obvious is the sweat. See how it comes down from his brow to his eyes? He's not crying over his fate or the fate of his men, he's working hard to pretend that he cares. The prose isn't great (that last sentence outright tells us what we can see from what is shown), but that's RPG writing for you.
Like Boxer the horse, Barik still loves Ashe despite all the abuse endured at his hands.
: The Archon of War's face contorts into a rictus of anger. Bloody sputum leaps from his mouth as he opens it to shout... nothing. He stares into Barik's twisted visage, and his own features soften.
In the end, Ashe is confronted with the results of his choices and ambitions. His legion is destroyed, and his power shattered.
: Say what you would, Archon.
This frees Ashe to acknowledge the truth - he was never in it for his men, he was in it for the cool power and to be on the winning side. In an unacknowledged irony, his enemy Kills-in-Shadow joins the player to be on the winning side.
This would seem, at first glance, to throw the lie in my face. Ashe is faced with the consequences of his actions as he lies bleeding to death at our hands. What is he talking about? Clearly not his troops, he spent their lives trivially to save his own and his daughters.
Yes, he's talking about his troops here, but there's another devotion we're dancing around. He's not talking about his soldiers with the same breath or with words you would use to describe devotion. There's no duty or even love here.
: Go on.
: Your rise to power is no matter of personal glory. It touches all who trail in your wake. When you... when you ascend, you won't be alone. Far from it. There will be others who look to you. You will be responsible for them in... in more ways than you can know.
I think in some way Ashe realizes he failed his men by leading them down this dark path, as well. By his own admission he broke under the burden, but when he speaks of devotion he means someone else, as well.
This is not a healthy relationship! Ashe describes the love of his men as a burden, when it's an incredible strength he squanders on stupid shit. It's a tacit relationship that he failed his men and doesn't deserve their loyalty.
: I hope that you are prepared for what comes next, because... He grits his teeth as a fresh wave of agony threatens to overcome him.
See, right there, you could just say "he grits his teeth",
THIS is the devotion he was referencing earlier. I'll go into more detail after the summary, but just as Ashe feels burdened by the love of his men and spends their lives as cheap currency, Kyros abuses Ashe's devotion and puts him through hell. He's not the only guy she's stringing along - Hi, Tunon! - but it's a recurring cycle of abuse. Kyros uses Ashe and Ashe can never ever truly gain her respect, and this attitude is passed along to the troops that serve under Ashe.
Ur-fascism, by Eco posted:
Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler. Since the group is hierarchically organized (according to a military model), every subordinate leader despises his own underlings, and each of them despises his inferiors. This reinforces the sense of mass elitism.
The Shadowhunter tribe is avenged.
: Incredible. I assumed he was invulnerable. I guess even I can be wrong on occasion.
Graven Ashe explodes into a ball of light.
His body slumps forward as his mace clatters to the floor.
The Disfavored legion, held together only by their loyalty to Graven Ashe, literally falls apart and all the Disfavored die. They fought only for Dear Leader, and have no principles or dreams beyond that.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Well, you killed Nerat, and that ruled! I don't suppose you came for gratitude?
: Actually, I just remembered I really hate you and I'm gonna kill your dumb ass.
: Ha ha yes! We're gonna kill every damn Disfavored to avenge the Shadowhunter tribe, and I'm going to eat your dead body! It's gonna rule!
: What she said.
: If only I had killed you in Vendrien's Well. You suck! You really suck!
: NOOOOO! You should be friends! You'd be stronger working together, and Kyros might not screw you over if you worked together!
: You can eat a dick, Barik!
: But...I've done nothing except follow your orders, which you never rescind-
: After everything you've sacrificed for me and my selfish whims, I'm going to cast you aside like I mentally did long ago, AND threaten your family who depend on me for support? Do you fucking get it yet, you little bitch? I don't give a fuck about any of you! You suck! Suckity suckity suck! And, now, my legion, we will destroy the Fatebinder! You guys, go!
: Shit! Uh, send in the next wave! For the North! These dumbasses eat that shit right up!
: Die, Fatebinder!
: Uh....shit....go, my last loyal captain!
: Shit! All the guys in front of me are dead! If I run behind the phalanx, my troops might finally put two and two together and realize I'm a worthless coward trading their lives for power and maybe a peek at Kyros' sideboob. Uh...I will fight the Fatebinder myself, to save all of you! Yea!
: Ashe goes down in a way that makes it symbolically very clear that he never cared about any of his men, but pretended to care a lot, and their blood is on his hands. Humor an old man, please. I am dying, please respect a dying man's words.
: Ashe, please! Did our horribly abusive relationship mean nothing to you?
: Be at peace, Barik. I'm dying and realizing what a complete and utter asshole I was. Archon, you are on the path to incredible power, just like I used to be. We were strong, we won a lot...it was great. But it was painful - I did all this for Kyros, and she just didn't care! My soldiers came to depend on me, and I supported them - even through their worst days, until it was just a thing I did because Kyros wanted it. I wanted the power, but didn't want the burden of my men - I wanted Kyros, and she never loved me back. I hope you're ready, because Kyros will never love anyone. Graven Ashe dies, finally free from all his self-imposed bullshit.
Thus dies Graven Ashe. Let's talk about Kyros and Graven Ashe's abortive relationship, shall we? The game introduces Ashe to us in very clear terms.
Earlier in the game posted:
This is Eb's narration and about as close to objective as the game gets about anything. How does Graven Ashe himself describe his relationship to Kyros?
Earlier in the game posted:
It's true! The Disfavored even scream "for Kyros" in combat as we cut them down under Kyros' direct orders. Speaking of which, how does Kyros treat Graven Ashe, and by extension, the Disfavored?
The Very First NPC We Meet In The Game posted:
Aurora, in hindsight, is absolutely right that the Chorus is doing everything from arming the rebels with iron to secretly plotting the rebellion! Even the name of the legion is a dead giveaway.
Earlier in the game posted:
: What was the legion originally called?
The Disfavored are called that because of the contempt Kyros has for them, and their punishment is to be used until they literally break. Even Ashe's name was changed by the Overlord, because this relationship goes all the way down. Ashe strives for the Overlord's approval but will never receive it. The Disfavored soldiers are desperate for Ashe's favor but will never truly receive it. Ashe spends the Disfavored until they break, Kyros opens the game planning to kill Ashe because he's no longer useful. It's literally just fascism from Eco's quote above, and much like Hitler discarded the SA when they were no longer useful after all the street fighting they'd done for him, Kyros discards the Disfavored. Let's compare Graven Ashe, a bad leader, to Abraham Lincoln, a good and beloved one. Is this fair? No. Are we going to do it anyway? Yes.
Lincoln was beloved by the Union soldiers because he was a kind man who tried to help the nation for its own sake, not because he expected some great reward or cool power. Despite the thinking that pardoning deserters and men who fell asleep at their posts would weaken the Union army, he pardoned many deserters and sleepy sentries when their families appealed for mercy. The result was that Lincoln's subordinates needed help, they knew they could count on Lincoln - and when Lincoln needed their help, many of the Union soldiers went and voted for Abraham Lincoln to remain president. Lincoln's cabinet was made of men who had once been his political opponents, and despite their initial disloyalty and insubordination Lincoln was able to win them over through his ability and humanity to the point where he could draw on their diverse backgrounds and ideas to strengthen the Union. This is what Graven Ashe desperately desires to be, but he views his men not as human beings worthy of respect, but as a bunch of dumbasses whose burden he has to carry while they throw everything they have into trying to please him. Lincoln was able to pardon deserters at potential cost to himself, Graven Ashe is unable to forgive Barik for loyally and unquestioningly carrying out Ashe's bad orders. Even their deaths are diametrically opposed, Lincoln dies to an assassin's bullet having defeated the Confederacy and freed all the slaves, and his cause is taken up by the Radical Republicans and survives his death (while he dies surrounded by friends and family who love him). Graven Ashe dies a coward's death, surrounded by the bodies of his loyal troops whose deaths he caused, barely feigning concern and lamenting the loss of his power. No one will take up his mantle, his army literally dissolves because they have no higher calling, and he leaves behind a traumatized abuse victim and a daughter who despises everything he stands for. The only positive thing you can say about Ashe is that he found some peace, in the end, but even this comes at the cost of realizing that everything he worked for was a worthless lie.
Ashe says he will be remembered in the North, but I suspect that Lantry's chronicle will not be kind.
On the plus side, Kills-in-Shadow got a spiffy new mace that used to be Ashe's, which once again feeds into the power of Cleopatra Jones to rain fire and darkness on people she doesn't like. It's also a cool trophy for avenging the genocide of the Shadowhunters!
Next time: We wrap up Barik and Lantry's sidequests, grab the stuff we forgot in the Oldwalls, and chat with Mark to get ready for Tunon's trial!