Time to Bake and Drink

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

Well, today’s the day. Today’s the day I try to make a cake. THAT cake.* And I’m doing it tired, with a cold, with kids riled up for a long weekend and Mrs. McP working at home.

This shall be an epic day.

But first I gotta buy food. For real. AGAIN.

Cheery. MUST MAINTAIN BIRTHDAY-PARTY-APPROPRIATE CHEER.

Feminina:

Well, you fooled Microsoft Outlook!

Suggested responses:

  • “I’m glad you had a good day.”
  • “Glad you’re having a good day!”
  • “Sounds like a good day.”

Hotmail does not yet understand sarcasm or wildly melodramatic forced good humor.

It’s gonna be great. You’re gonna love it. Just think of all the rum you can add to the cake! And to yourself!

Butch:

Outlook, apparently, has been hitting the rum as well.

I tried the rum last night. You know, just to make sure it’s cake worthy.

It’s cake worthy.

Ok, off to cut out parchment rounds!

Feminina:

Excellent! You wouldn’t want to get halfway into making the cake and then find out you had to go buy better rum.

Although…maybe if you run out of rum you can send Mrs. McP out to get some MORE good rum….

Butch:

Mrs. McP is supposed to be helping by cleaning the house. Instead, she’s getting all obsessed with the crafts she’s going in to do with Nugget this afternoon cuz, being a working mother, she hasn’t learned that you never, EVER, volunteer to go in to help with crafts. The day before a break. In a class of 22 third graders.

Better save her some rum.

Cakes are in the oven.

Feminina:

Mmmm…warm cakes…

Volunteering with crafts, eh? The day before a long weekend? She’s braver and/or more foolhardy than I.

At least you get some quiet time with the rum.

Butch:

And cake.

All I’m missing is a sorceress.

Sigh.

Feminina:

Give Mrs. McP time and practice ‘doing crafts’ with 3rd graders. Some kind of sorcery is going to come out of that if she survives.

Butch:

Considering the most important trick for her to learn is making her clothes disappear in a hail of sparkles, that might not be the thing to practice with third graders.

Feminina:

You gotta start somewhere.

Butch:

Are you saying that making pipe cleaner snowflakes is a precursor to the whole clothes disappearing thing?

Cuz that WOULD be a miracle! That would add some cheer to this week!

Feminina:

I’m saying that you can’t rule anything out! Especially if there’s plenty of rum involved.

Butch:

That is, by three country miles, the cheeriest thing I have heard this week.

Feminina:

Hey, it hasn’t been that bad! We finished Shadow of the Tomb Raider! That’s a sense of completion and the satisfaction of a job well-done.

And thoroughly talked about. Like we do.

Enjoy that cake. And rum.

 

*Just think rich, fancy, complicated cake full of rum. The rum is key.

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When Bad Things Happen Because of Good People

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LadyBrain_64Puncherson_64

Spoilers for a sidequest and some plot points in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Feminina:

OK, the week is winding down and we’re already thinking of moving on (next up: join us for Red Dead Redemption 2!), but I want to throw in a few final thoughts on SotTR.

Specifically, there was this kind of interesting sidequest, if you wandered around Paititi in the Serpent Guard green feathers and mask enough. You run into a little girl who says her dad is a Serpent Guard and he’s just the greatest and she wants to be like him, so she’s trying to read a series of murals or monoliths or whatever around the village.

Lara obviously offers to help, so you go around and find all these things and translate them, and it’s about the gods working together or some such, and then you head back to share your news, and find that the girl is gone. Instead, there’s a woman there (I don’t believe it’s the girl’s mother, I think the mother is dead and this was a neighbor) who says that her father came and got her and is going to sacrifice her, and you should go save her!

So you go to the sacrifice site, still in the green feathers and all, and the father welcomes you warmly as one of them. The girl also welcomes you, and you say something like “they’re going to kill you!” and she says “yes, but that’s just how it is, it’s a great honor” or something. She doesn’t seem much bothered, but you say “run when I tell you” and she agrees. I guess because you’re dressed as a Serpent Guard and are in a position of authority.

Then the father starts a pre-sacrifice prayer, which is quite interesting, because he talks very sincerely and lovingly about how brave and smart his daughter is, and what a worthy sacrifice she’ll be. They’re just about to give her some drug to keep her calm or whatever when you yell “run” and the girl takes off and then you have to fight a bunch of Serpent Guards.

When they’re all dead, you go back to where you first met the girl, and she’s fine but wonders why you interrupted the ceremony, and you say something like “you have an even better destiny than to be a sacrifice!”

And she thinks that’s great and can’t wait to tell her dad, who, of course, you recently killed. And Lara says more or less “well…uh…your dad…the thing about that is…” and the other woman jumps in with “he has to work far away for a while, but you can stay with me and I’ll take care of you.”

Happy ending!

But a sort of weirdly ambiguous one. I mean, it’s not that I think–or think the game is arguing–that we should have let her be sacrificed because cultural relativism, who are we to judge, etc. I’m OK with making the call that human sacrifice, even if it serves a purpose within a particular society or culture, is something to be opposed. We should find ways to organize our society and culture that do not require ritualized murder! (When I run for office, it will be on this controversial platform.)

But I found this story very interesting, especially when compared to the superficially similar one where we rescued Hakan.

That one was very straightforward: sacrifice bad, basically just a way to appease/terrify the mob while eliminating political rivals, and saving the guy is what his only surviving family, his young daughter, wants.

Here, the sacrifice was more sincerely intended: both the father and the young daughter are in agreement that it’s necessary and an honor. This sacrifice was genuinely believed to be important to the gods, while I think with Hakan the sense was that the gods were pretty much just the convenient cover story.

And yet, it’s the same group–the Serpent Guards and the cult of Kukulkan–behind both of them.

I guess it makes sense narratively if we assume human sacrifice was always part of this culture, and then Trinity came along and took over and exploited that for their own ends. But again, while I don’t think the game was saying human sacrifice is A-OK if that’s your tradition, you do you!–it was interesting that they did include some complicating information that presents it as not entirely a self-serving evil. These aren’t all monsters: caring people can mean well when they sacrifice someone.

It’s obviously not universally favored within Paititian society, since that woman encourages you to stop the sacrifice and covers up the fact that you had to kill the girl’s father to do it, but it’s not entirely the work of outsiders either.

Hm.

Butch:

Ah, man! That does sound like a good quest! Bummed I missed it. Not bummed enough to actually DO it, but still.

That does add a nice level of complexity to things. It also puts into context why a) Unuratu was ok with the idea of being sacrificed herself and b) would have added some depth to the ending that I didn’t get because I didn’t do that quest. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, without that quest, why Unuratu would be cool with a practice that, as you say, seemed to be political with a religious cover story.

Though, in reading your description, my reaction was “Damn, game, ANOTHER cop out?” It sure sounds like that would have been far punchier had it not had a “happy ending.” Shit, Lara killed a girl’s father and, thus, changed the girl’s destiny rather unilaterally. She, basically, became Amaru. “I believe this, so I will kill your dad and change your destiny because I’m so right.” That’s cool! That’s some serious shit! But did they make Lara confront that? Did they make the player explicitly confront that? No. They gave everyone a convenient out by having an NPC step in and defuse shit, much like they plopped Abby in there to defuse romance.

I really have no idea why this game seemed to want to put a muzzle on anything that could really have some emotional punch. I get that it’s an adventure game, not some heavy handed narrative fest. It ain’t Gone Home. It ain’t even Mafia 3 in what it’s trying to be. But damn, if you’re going to go down the “I will impose my beliefs on you by killing your dad and changing your destiny,” which the writers must have known, even intended to reflect Lara’s own story, follow through on the thing. Why go there at all if you’re not going to follow through?

It’s almost like this game got changed in a later draft. I kinda felt the whole way that, once, early in its development, they really were going for heavy themes of colonialism, religion, family, maybe even romance, all this shit that would have been good, and someone, two thirds of the way through the process said “Dudes, no. We can’t go there on all this. It’s a TR game, people just want to raid tombs, let’s sanitize it.” Because you’re describing a quest that was done, and good, and themey, and had this extra NPC tacked on who’s sole purpose was to sanitize things.

Granted, I didn’t play this quest, but it sounds like the woman there wasn’t in it to ADD themes and complexities and have the player all “Maybe sacrifice in this culture is complex.” It sounds like she was there to whitewash themes and make it so Lara and player didn’t have to look in a mirror.

Feminina:

I know, right? There was a lot there! As you say, the parallels with Lara’s own life: someone else deciding what was best, removing her father from her life, choosing her destiny for her…who are we to make that call?

And if we do have that right, if “I saved her from being sacrificed to a god I don’t believe in” is an acceptable reason (which…it is?) then don’t we also have to acknowledge that there may have also been compelling reasons for the choices that other people made that ruined Lara’s childhood?

And if people can sincerely and lovingly make these unthinkable-to-us decisions for themselves and their families, then we have to accept that they have what seem to them to be very good reasons for it, probably just as good as our reasons are to us.

It’s also interesting if we want to take it back to our discussion of the ending, and of how Lara had to ‘sacrifice’ a world where her family was alive and together. She sacrificed possibility in order to save the world she already knew. How much different is that from what this father was prepared to do, with his daughter’s cooperation?

And it seems very different indeed from what nameless cult priests were prepared to do with the rebellious Hakan, not with his daughter’s approval, but they, too, were safeguarding the world as it was: controlled by the cult, with dissent firmly squashed (and, again, changing a girl’s destiny by making the decision that her father’s life was not as important as some other ideal).

A lot of really interesting parallels, and as you say, in the end they didn’t do that much with them.

Butch:

They didn’t. Which really sums this game up. It had a lot going for it. It ALMOST did some really awesome themey things, but just when the themey finish line was in sight, it gave up. This quest sounds like something that could have been really, really great had they just trusted it, and trusted the player to be able to handle the emotional punch.

I don’t get it. Other linear adventurey games in the past haven’t shied away. Haven’t these developers played UC4?

It’s a shame, really. This should have been a much better game.

Feminina:

Yeah…it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it. I did. The puzzles were fun, the challenges were mostly a good level of challenge without being too frustrating (giant spinny robots aside). There was some lovely scenery and some interesting people. It was fun.

It wasn’t a lot more than that, though.

Maybe they just wanted to end the trilogy on a safe, “let’s go with what we know and have a little of everything people like without pushing any boundaries” game, and now they’ll start a new trilogy full of weirdness and crushing emotional decisions and stuff.

We shall see.

Love: The Final Prize! Or Not.

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers!–for the ending of Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

All done.

So I can say, in regards to this game, one last time,

I’M SO CONFUSED!!!!

First, you’re right. That wasn’t so bad. Died, maybe, three times, not counting this one jumpy climby bit where I died four or five times just because I was tired and being stupid. And, get the nice thing out of the way, the images of primitive zombie orcs overrunning the helicopters and stuff was very cool, especially as it meant that I didn’t have to fight the helicopters.

But in regards to narrative, I think the word is “wut.”

As for the thing I understood, Roarke’s death was a bit anticlimactic, wasn’t it? Shit, I don’t even think I took out the turret. I just shot dudes until Crimson Fire there took him out. I didn’t even get that it was Roarke until the radio chatter said so.

Then…confusion.

So…it was real? And, if it was real, why is she just sitting there with it on a table in the after credit scene? (Did you see the after credit scene?) And, what, she sacrificed the god? But not herself? And did she know that was what was gonna happen or was she prepared to die? And how could everyone shrug that off two days later? Shit “Two days later…..” is a shitty device.

It didn’t even make sense as a metaphor. She was…what, divesting herself of the past, maybe? But how is that a sacrifice? It freed her. She still remembers her family. She didn’t sacrifice anything. And so, ok, gets rid of shadow, but then, what was Amaru trying to do? What’s the opposite of what Lara did? How’d this save anything? How didn’t it? And what would Unuratu had “sacrificed?”

Just, the fuck, man?

And what was with the after credit scene? She, what, came to terms with her past by sacrificing…what? She said goodbye to her parents so that she would be cool with sitting at dad’s desk becoming, what, a professional Tomb Raider? “Have a tomb you need raided? Call the best. Lara Croft, LLC.”

Just, the fuck, man?

Usually we are very good at looking at a mess of tea leaves and seeing all sorts of patterns. But man, this just looks like someone hasn’t cleaned out the teapot in way too long.

You start with the coherent analysis. I’m stuck on “Just, the fuck, man?”

Feminina:

Yeah, I was also a little confused. By which I mean almost entirely confused. As best I can tell:

–The danger was real, in that there actually could have been an apocalypse
–The person controlling the box at the critical moment got to decide whether or not the world was ‘remade’
–It was maybe remade according to some personal specification of that person? Like, Trinity could have a world ‘without sin,’ Amaru could defend Paititi, Lara could have…gone back in time and had her family? I guess? [Or at least, the box seemed to promise that…it remains unknown whether or not the person would actually have gotten what they wanted.]
–That person had to ‘sacrifice’ their deep desire for whatever it was in order to avoid destroying the world
–That person also had to be willing to sacrifice their own life, although apparently the willingness was enough (shades of Abraham and Isaac?)

I don’t know WHY any of this stuff is true, but that’s what I got from the story.

Like you, I found the end battles fine. Befriending the orcs (CALLED IT) was an interesting development, and they were certainly helpful later. I like to imagine what became of the survivors…I mean, they don’t have to guard the box anymore, right? So do they come to the surface and try to integrate into society? Stop cutting off their lips and stuff?

Or are the dagger and the box still around, and the orcs grabbed them and hid them again so some other tomb raider can find them another time?

Who knows?

And yeah, I’m fairly baffled by “two days later.” What happened in that two days? (Maybe that’s when the orcs grabbed the box and the dagger and ran off.) Was she unconscious? Healed of a sucking chest wound by magical energies? Or did the dagger never even stab her because it dissolved first or something? Who knows?!

And at the very end when she’s at the table in the office and we see her childhood art…what? I don’t know.

I guess…she saved the world, made peace with her past in the process, and went home to set up her own personal tomb-raiding business, as you say. Happy ending.

Odd, ill-explained happy ending.

Best I can do, man.

But Jonah and Abby, that was nice, right? He found love…definitely not with Lara. Safest way to go, really.

Butch:

I’ll….go with that. It makes some sense. I’m not sure how you “got it from the story,” as the story didn’t really, you know, SAY any of that. Crimson Fire doesn’t say “I will show you something, and you must choose between it and, like, everything.” And if Amaru desperately wanted to save Paititi, then THAT’S what he would have had to sacrifice, so that wouldn’t have been a good plan to save Paititi….

I dunno, man.

You did call it with the orc queen, and I give you props, I do. I must admit, I was sure we’d have to fight her.

That would have been awesome if, in the end, we saw a couple of them in Paititi there trying to fish or something.

But, who knows about the dagger and the box?

I do! In the after credit scene, Lara has them. Or, at least, the box. There’s a shot of it! There’s this big pan over all her/Lord Croft’s stuff and the very last thing is the box.

Which…you know, in a game where “The hero is also the bad, evil, plunderer,” having a scene where she’s happily displaying plundered objects jars a bit with the themes we’ve discussed. “We are terrible too….but hey, here’s a happy ending where we have all the neat stuff! Whoo hoo!”

This game was inconsistent.

And yes, that was quite the two days to just bloop over. And what of Trinity? What of a lot of things?

I’ll take your explanation, though. Mostly because I can’t do any better. I’ve been trying to think on it, but the more I think on it the more confused I get. That’s never a good sign. That does not speak well of the game.

And finding love not with Lara IS the safe way to go for Jonah, but it was also a dodge. It was, once again, using the Sassy Woman of Color to make it so the Cool, Big Hearted Man of Color didn’t wind up with the White Female Hero. Here we have the hero embracing love, wanting to be with the living, in paradise. Usually, that story ends with a smooch, right? The kiss at the end. But the only kissable option for Lara is big, gruff, brown Jonah. And the game was all “Can’t have that!” Music swells, our two heroes decide to embrace love and being with the living, she moves in and “Oh, wait, shit, sorry Lara I have a date. With someone who isn’t white.”

This game’s writers have a lot to answer for.

Feminina:

Well, I think it was meant to be a sort of “you have to choose between what you want for yourself and what is better for the rest of the world.”

So Lara could have chosen her family and maybe somehow wound up with them in some other reality, but the rest of the world would have been subject to the apocalypse. And I think it’s implied that Amaru could have saved Paititi, in some form, like maybe he could have wound up in a reality with only Paititi, while the rest of the world had been destroyed, or something.

I think maybe it’s saying that you have to be noble enough to weigh the entire rest of the world, as it is, with all its flaws and sorrow, over your own idealized vision of it or your favorite things about it.

I get this more from familiarity with similar narratives than because it was spelled out here, though. I mean, we have Unuratu telling us we have to be strong and resist temptation, and we know Trinity and Amaru want specific things from the ‘remade’ world, and we see Lara being sort of tempted by (a better version of?) her family in her childhood, and I mostly filled it in from there.

Oh yeah, that’s right, she did keep the box. I do remember that. So definitely nothing left for the orcs to guard, then. I hope the Paititians welcomed them warmly and taught them how to fish and hunt capybara and tolerate sunlight.

Hm. Good point about Jonah and Abby being kind of a cop-out. I mean, it’s also true (I think?) that Lara Croft doesn’t have a history of ending up with a romantic interest, so we could argue that the game steered Jonah away as much because Lara can’t have love at all, as because she can’t have nonwhite love. But you’re right that it looks awkward.

It’s interesting, even if we assume the reason IS because Lara can’t have love, because why can’t Lara have love? There’s such a long tradition of action heroes ending up with a hot woman on their arm as a reward for the suffering they’ve undergone, that it seems like that trope could easily apply here, but no…ending up with a hot man is not allowed.

Probably partly because of double standards: the hero can have a different hot woman after every adventure if he wants, but if the heroine does that she’s a slut, and while Lara may dress suggestively (especially in the original games), she’s probably actually saving herself for the right man (maybe YOU, the male player!).

Probably also partly because the original games that established the tradition of Lara not having a love interest certainly assumed a generic straight male player, and further assumed that this player would not see winding up with a handsome man as an appealing reward for trials undergone. (Maybe if she wound up with a beautiful woman!–but that would prompt another set of protests.)

Butch:

Ok….I can see that as her Big Choice. But I give you this because of your incredible ability to read between the lines (and tea leaves). I’m not forgiving the game, because it made you do that.

But even if I concede that’s the message….

A) when it comes to Lara, big deal. She gave up an idealized life so that everyone could survive, yes, but based on what happened two days later and beyond, her life was pretty damn cushy. This wasn’t some “I will die and suffer so everyone will be happy instead of being happy myself.” This was “I shall be happy in this way so everyone else will be happy instead of being happy in that way and have everyone die.” Oh no, she had to settle for a mansion and shit. Poor dear.

Even Jodie didn’t have that particular choice in Beyond. She could have gone to live in a pretty, happy afterworld with everyone, or she could stay and BE UNHAPPY for a long time before being pretty happy with the guy. Lara would have been EXTREMELY selfish if she was all “A mansion isn’t good enough for me. Die, y’all.”

I’m not sure about Lara and love. I never played the other games.

True, it would prompt other protests if she wound up with a woman. And that might be it, the male player. Or the male developer, for that matter, being weird about it.

Because, now that I think on it, I can’t remember a game with a female lead that ended with a smooch or whatever. Well, a female lead that was given, not chosen (my Evelyn ended up holding hands with Sera, but that doesn’t count because I chose it, and non linear, and Sera is not a guy). Aloy? Alone. Chloe? Going off with her friend, not a lover. Jodie? Wound up with a guy, but only after a lot of misery and a sense of “settling,” not triumphantly smooching.

Hmm.

Feminina:

That’s very true: does the heroine EVER end up with a love interest as a ‘prize’? I can’t think of an instance offhand.

Male developer/assumed male player is probably a lot of it, but yeah, I’m going with double standards too. Not only in the sense that a female protagonist who ended every game with a different hot dude would be seen as slutty and therefore less admirable/sympathetic as a character, but in the sense that we have a whole cultural narrative about how women are supposed to approach romance, and that is, very seriously.

Women are thought not to WANT to just grab the nearest hot guy as a fun reward for making it through some situation. Women want Lasting Love. Women want Commitment.

We kind of expressed that ourselves when we talked about how if Lara and Jonah get together, Jonah’s probably doomed: we assume that only tragedy and death could separate them if they were to become romantically involved (and that, for narrative purposes, Lara would be single again in a later game).

Obviously, they could never get together for a while and then just break up! Obviously she could never adventure if she had a boyfriend/husband! He’d have to die!

Now granted, killing off love interests to ‘free’ the protagonist and/or give him or her (but usually him) a reason to go questing for vengeance is a longstanding tradition that is by no means limited to female characters, and in fact is more often applied to male ones. We would have been just as worried about Joanie if there was a chance of her becoming involved with Larry Croft. She’s doomed! But that’s mostly because they’ve known each other a long time and the relationship would necessarily be complicated by a shared history. It takes a big event (like one party’s death!) to tidily get out of a serious, complicated relationship. (Breaking up, divorce, that’s so dull and non-heroic.)

At least there’s also this competing tradition of the random girl who accompanies the hero for one adventure and winds up with him at the end and then presumably just goes her own way before the next installment. I don’t THINK we’re meant to assume that every Bond Girl dies between movies. They’re free to move on with their lives, because the relationship was uncomplicated. (Obviously, the woman he actually married had to die. The moral is, DON’T GET SERIOUS WITH THE HERO. Even though, as a woman, your sole motivation is presumably to snare a strong, manly and successful mate and the hero will therefore be utterly irresistible to you. It’s a bit of a bind.)

Anyway, asides aside, the point is that there is no comparable tradition of a cute guy who accompanies the heroine for one adventure, winds up with her at the end, and then is never seen again. Even if Lara and Jonah had just met in this game, we’d be kind of concerned about him if he got involved with her, because we would assume the relationship was serious: she wouldn’t get into it otherwise.

Because women really only want Serious Relationships.

Hm.

And hm, the flip side: men NEVER actually want Commitment or Serious Relationships, because that is not manly.

I give props to the Uncharted games for bucking this trend with Nathan Drake and Elena. If I recall, we didn’t talk all that much about their relationship, but when you think about it, it was actually kind of a nuanced portrayal of a couple who get together, have some rather serious issues, but care about each other and eventually make it work in the long term.

Butch:

But you can still have Lasting Commitment with a kiss at the end. MY Geralt wound up with Triss and hot cakes. Nathan Drake ended up with Elena and a kid for heaven’s sake. Happily ever after doesn’t have to be a different hottie at the end of every game. (And before you’re all “But Chloe,” he never did END UP with Chloe. At the end of two, she walks off and Sully goes after her, and she disappears in the middle of three.) Drake wound up with Elena more than once. It can happen. And that’s in a practically identical game to this! They broke up, got back together, even had awkward scenes with Chloe in them. Ended up together.

Whereas women don’t even get THAT. Even when we have an image of a couple hugging each other on a couch playing video games, then a fade to their kid, that’s in a game with a MALE hero. Women heroes just end up alone.

But, well, to stick with the adventure genre, what you’re describing here is the grand daddy of these games: Indiana Jones. He ends up with a different hottie at the end of each movie (except three, where the hottie goes nuts and dies). I think it’s even established that Marian has gone her own way for some reason. So that can happen.

Also, Geralt. Remember, if you end up with Triss, as I did, you learn that the ONLY reason he ever loved Yen was an enchantment. He was loyal, really, to Triss all along.

Except when he was banging Keira Metz. And all those hookers.

Damn.

Hmm indeed.

But it is kinda interesting that you can end a game, as a woman with a male lover, in games where you pick your gender. You’ve had happy straight endings playing Bioware games and Bethesda games as a woman, right? Shit, you even ended up with different dudes in the ME games, right? (Although the way they made that possible for you was killing Thane….hmm. But that didn’t have to happen. You could be with Garrus the whole time, right?)

Feminina:

Oh, I wasn’t saying ALL stories about male heroes necessarily end with them smooching an interchangeable attractive woman. As you pointed out, there are plenty of counterexamples. Pretty much any game we’ve played, really. (Except for all those hookers…ha.)

I was just saying that the final smooch with an interchangeable attractive woman is a time-honored trope for male characters, and not for female characters.

I think part of the issue is that we don’t even really have much in the way of tropes for the end of adventure stories with female protagonists, because we haven’t had a critical mass of them yet. Currently, as you said, the common ending is “no-romance, she goes off alone or maybe with a friend,” but we don’t have all that many examples to look at.

And to be clear, I’m not arguing that games SHOULD end with the female protagonist embracing a random hot dude as if she’d won him like a trophy. I imagine they could, if it made sense in the context of the game and story, and that could be fine with me, but I also don’t mind if she goes off alone or with a friend. It can be good, really, in that it supports the idea that a female protagonist doesn’t need a romance in order to be a valid character, anymore than a male one does.

But as you say, it’s interesting that that seems to be the default, so far. Let’s not entangle our female characters with relationships! You know how emotional women get about relationships. So much drama.

I think RPGs where you design your own character are a different (also interesting) topic from stories with a single scripted main character, and I’m not sure we can say much about one based on each other. Giving a player the option to design a character and then have that character seek romance or not is a lot different from writing the story of a single specific character who seeks romance or not. Choice vs. just-how-the-story-goes can make a big difference in terms of our sophisticated analysis.

Butch:

We were only talking about the endings. I’m SURE Geralt straightened out his ways once he had cakes.

It’s true, even in games, like this one, that scream for it, the woman doesn’t get her end-smooch.

Now that I think on it, this game kinda did the end-smooch, but it was for Jonah. The very last conversation in the game (before the credits) was Lara and Etzil teasing JONAH about JONAH running off with a woman. After all that, the game ends on Jonah’s love life, how HE gets the smooch at the end. Not Lara. Not Paititi. Not even that they saved the damn world. Jonah getting laid. That’s how we end this.

I dunno, man. For all the talk of Lara as a feminist victory, this game had a lot to answer for on the sexism front.

It’s true not EVERY game has to end that way, any more than EVERY game has to end with a man being running off with a hottie. Geralt didn’t have to. Drake didn’t every time. But some narratives scream for it, and still nothing. Lara and Jonah could have very easily ended up together. Aloy had about three or four different potential love interests, and got none of them.

I think it depends on the narrative. There are stories about male characters where it would make no sense if it ended all kissy. Take TLOU. If that had had the game all “Hey! You did it! Smoochy!” that would have been very weird. But it seems that when the narrative suggests romance for a man, man gets romance (or sex), but when the game suggests romance (or sex) for a woman, she gets nothing, either because of tragedy or because all the men are taken or something.

Even when the story has to contrive something! It seems Abby’s sole purpose in this whole narrative is to give Jonah someone to bang, thus diffusing any possible tension between Lara and Jonah. That’s it. What the hell else does she do besides give Jonah and Lara some reason not to end up together?

And choice vs. set-story, true, but my point is that created characters, or I should say created female characters, at least have the option to end up in a straight romance at the end, whereas scripted female characters never do. At the very least, Bioware and Bethesda give women a chance for romance. No one else does.

Though…

You know, thought: Maybe we’re focusing too much on the idea of “Can a woman get a man without being a slut?” and not enough on the other end of the equation: Society/games/whatever being ok with a man as a prize? “Prize” in and of itself is objectifying. Society has no problem objectifying women, but men? Less so. The hunky beefcake as a reward might not be something we see because we don’t think of hunky beefcakes the same way we think about women.

Indeed, in the first to ME games, Shep could be a gay woman but not a gay man. The man could get women as rewards, the woman could get women as rewards. And yes, yes, the woman could get a man, if you figure the possibilities it was more likely that the sex interest at the end was a woman, not a man.

So maybe it’s not just “women should want love, not sex,” it’s “Well, men aren’t something we objectify to that level.”

Feminina:

Oh, good point! I wasn’t even thinking about how Jonah finding love with someone else is still JONAH FINDING LOVE. And, as you say, his successful romance being almost the final note of the game.

The manly hero winds up with a hot woman he met during the course of the adventure, even when he’s not actually the hero.

While Lara, the actual hero, ends up alone. Entirely alone, because even her loyal platonic friend FOUND LOVE and went off.

Hm. Hm indeed.

And yeah, also a good point that probably a lot of it is also about how we’re not comfortable having “random hot guy” be a prize the protagonist ‘wins’. Because we’re accustomed to assuming that that guy is a character in his own right, a human being with his own needs and desires, not just a pretty trophy for someone to claim.

Unlike all those random women claimed by heroes over the years. I’m sure they were totally psyched about it.

Good points. Very good points.

Butch:

And Lara, the actual hero, doesn’t even get the last word IN HER OWN GAME.

I think that’s it for brilliance. I’m trapped in the car again. Trumpet.

Someday you’ll need a car. To sit in.

Feminina:

I refuse to admit the car! Remember, my clever foolproof plan is to only allow activities they can walk to.

“Are the trumpet lessons next door? No? Then forget it. As a wholesome alternative, I recommend you go get in some fights with neighborhood dogs instead.”

But seriously, my clever foolproof plan is REALLY to make Mr. O’ drive them around while I am (so unfortunately!) still at work.

Butch:

Ah Mrs. McP’s plan!

Well played. Well played.

Fights with dogs build character.

Feminina:

Sometimes I actually manage to learn from your tragic circumstances.

Not that often, but sometimes.

Enh, Maybe Throw In Some More Skills

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for a tomb in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Ok, not done, but still on schedule. I did manage to finish the last tomb. One last go around with the Skree! Argh! zombie orcs. Good times, good times.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about these tombs that are so combat heavy. There’s combat in the course of the game (mostly). Tombs, in previous games, were a respite from that. Yes, the whole “Make things explode then jump!” bits were cool, but really, I just DID a lot of fighting. Let me do annoying things like making big spiky things swing just so.

Anyway, did it. And that is a nice perk I got. And now there’s really nothing else to do except go to the endgame. I ain’t wasting time gathering relics. Tombs, yes. I am a tomb raider. But the rest? Fuck it. Endgame ahoy.

But on perks and stuff……

So I basically have every skill. Certainly if I took the time to go do everything else, I WOULD have every skill. As I was thinking on that, I don’t think I like it when that happens in games.

Skill trees are supposed to let you customize your character, right? To decide how you’re going to play the game, what kind of game you’re going to play. I suppose for those people with time, skill trees give you a reason to replay a game, like, “Ok, I did it all combat that time, now I’ll do it all crafty this time” or something. If you end up with everything anyway, that undermines all of that. You’re not playing your way. You’re just walking down the other side of the same street. It doesn’t really affect all that much of anything. If you’re going to have this huge system, then have it matter some.

And what was particularly bizarre in this game was that there were some skills that came at exact points of the story. You got skill points every thirty two seconds, which let you get new skills so often they became white noise. We kept saying we forgot we even got half the skills we got. But still, the game was like “You have fear arrows NOW! NOW DAMMIT!” “You can string dudes up in the trees NOW! NOW DAMMIT!” All this when you’re saying “Dude, I have three combat skills I just got that I haven’t even used yet.”

They didn’t even make sense as narrative gating. We’ve seen games use the “Now you can do this!” trick to gate off parts of the game world for narrative reasons. It’s really “Now you can do this so you can get past that barrier and do the plot and the tougher enemies over there.” These “story” skills were just “Now you can make fear arrows! Isn’t that neato?”

I dunno. In the end, this game imitated itself. Must like one wonders why the ancient peoples built decorated death windmills when a perfectly good wall and spikes would do, one wonders why Eidos put so much work into areas of this game, only to have all that intricacy not matter a whole lot when all was said and done.

Feminina:

That Tree of Life was an interesting tomb. Puzzley and intriguing to look at, but yeah, the fighty bits–I also am unsure how I feel about having to fight in tombs. As you say, tombs are where we go to ponder how to climb walls and make things swing just so, not get into fights!

On the other hand, it keeps those orcs in our minds as things that are around there doing whatever they’re doing, and I guess that’s useful. They went to all the trouble of inventing these people, what are they supposed to do, just drop them?

I’m not playing anything, so I’ve been reading a bunch of books. Because if I’m not playing, what else am I supposed to do in the evening?

Butch:

Right! This game had some identity issues. Too much in the world wasn’t fighty, the tombs were fighty, then it was all fighty all the time….

Pacing. Game lacked it.

And the orcs…That seems like more of a design thing. Like, “Shit, we did ALL of this. We might as well bring them back for an encore, all that work we did and all….”

This goes back to what I said about skills. If you’ve spent all this time designing something, and then you say “Wait…why’d I do that?” the response should not be “Well, might as well cram more of it in….”

Hmm. I don’t generally read. Sometimes I watch hockey. But mostly I drink, stare into space and wonder a) why I had three kids and b) can I stay awake until I finish my drink?

That seems to be an appropriate way to spend time.

This past WEEKEND man. The dynamic in the house leads to that stare into space bit. We’re in the Mrs. McP death spiral. Generally, the kids are as happy as Mrs. McP is. Happy Mrs. McP: Happy kids. Pissed off, grumpy Mrs. McP: grumpy, crazy kids. So the kids get mad cuz mommy goes to work or whatever the fuck insane reason. They needle Mrs. McP. Mrs. McP gets mad, starts avoiding them. They say “MOMMY IS ALWAYS AVOIDING US!” so they get more up in her shit. She avoids them more, gets madder, etc.

This weekend was like living with three five year olds. And Meatball, who was, by far, the most chill person in my house.

Ok, rant over.

For now.

Reading. Look at you, with your intact soul and all that.

Feminina:

Ah, drinking and staring into space. That’s classic too! I mean, what’s reading but staring into imagined space? And I’ve had a glass of wine or two with books, no fear.

Kids do respond to moods, they do. And not with logic or thoughtful care, just with their own moods. “Oh, you’re tired and grumpy? I’ll see your grumpy and raise you MELTDOWN.”

Then before you know it everyone is screaming hysterically about the single stupidest thing they can find to scream about, like a bunch of frazzled loons. “It’s time to get ready for bed? This is THE WORST DAY EVER!!!!” [Brokenhearted uncontrollable sobbing.]

I mean, not that I would KNOW, because my children are uniformly sweet-tempered and also imaginary, but that’s what I’ve HEARD. From other people.

Butch:

I assumed you had a glass. It’s how you do.

Everyone is screaming, as in your eldest, your middle and your wife. She can raise you MELTDOWN like no one I’ve ever seen. And I have three kids. Meatball and I were looking at the three of them yesterday, and they were all nuts, and Meatball just looks at me, sighs, and says “Want to go watch Peep in your room?” and I just nodded and off we went. Peep and the Big Wide World is very relaxing.

I did warn you, Femmy. I did.

But it Was Such a NICE Horrible Tomb!

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for one of the tombs in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

OK, talked to the blind guy, did the tomb, talked to the blind guy again and I want to talk about the blind guy.

So what did you make of all that? There was a lot to make. I sort of read it as more evidence that Lara, in her desire to do the right thing, relies very much on self delusion. Or just lying. She says to the guy “Let me be your eyes….let me see it for you….” and then she, well, doesn’t LIE so much as gloss over. She says “It was amazing…the machines still worked!” all breathy and excited, and leaves out the dead bodies and the smell and the eels.

It’s really good storytelling that they left it vague as to whether or not she’s INTENTIONALLY doing that. Is she thinking “You know? It was kinda shitty down there, but if I tell the guy ‘Dude, it was TOTALLY shitty’ he’ll be so sad….”? Or does she REALLY remember it that way? Does the thrill of discovery and defying danger color her own memories?

Because I certainly got the sense that Manu’s memories were glossed over. When he was tomb raidin’, it must’ve been just as stinky and deadly and eely, and yet he remembers it the way Lara described it. They are the same in that regard, and many others.

Which is why it was SUCH a nice touch that he was blind. He’s the one in the game the most like her. And he’s blind. Hmm.

I also think there’s some wink at the player here. When we play games, we remember all the “cool” stuff we do. We forget the dead bodies. We remember the cool machines and forget the smells. Our own self delusions and blindness.

Good stuff. And something I’m still turning over in my head. I think there’s a lot of ways to read this….how’d you read it?

And what do you make of the fact that the reward for this side quest, the reward given by the character who was the most like Lara, was useless? No new gun. No new outfit. Not even jade we could sell. Nope. Just a skull with some gems in its teeth. Something with sentimental value, yes, but no practical value at all.

And that, as I can remember, is the ONLY side quest where that’s true. Every other one had a practical reward.

Lot to unpack.

Feminina:

This is interesting. I think I interpreted it almost exactly the opposite from you. I don’t think she was lying about how great the tomb was. Maybe playing up the positive a bit–the fact that she never mentions all the times she could easily have died is a bit telling–but I think she genuinely remembers it primarily as this fascinating archaeological experience. Also, I got the sense that there was an implied passage of time there while she was talking, that we were meant to understand that what we heard wasn’t all she told him, so I sort of assumed there were more details in the part we didn’t hear (because be honest, we’d get a little antsy listening to a long, detailed description of a thing we just did).

It’s also pretty much human nature, I think, to gloss over the boring or uncomfortable parts of an adventure to focus on the highlights. The adventure is in the exciting battles and the cool things you discover, not on the time you tripped and got covered with corpse-rot from all those bodies.

I’m also not sure this is even really self-delusion for Lara: I think she does in fact experience these creepy dank tombs as fascinating archaeological moments and cool adventures and amazement at the fact that these ancient machines still work (an amazement I share). I don’t think she’s all that perturbed by the dead bodies and eels, to be honest. She certainly never really complains about them.

Which, to your point of how this scene makes her kind of like us, the players–I completely agree, you’re totally right that the way she tells the story reflects our experience as much as hers, but I would argue it reflects not so much our experience of FORGETTING about the bad stuff, as it does our experience of not even being particularly bothered by the bad stuff. I mean, all those dead bodies were gross, yeah, but I’m sure neither of us for a single second imagined not proceeding because they were there, or even took any particular pains to avoid getting too close to them.

It’s all a fun adventure for US, no matter how grisly the dead bodies and annoying the eels, because…well, duh, because it’s a game and we’re not in any danger of being drowned by eels, or even having our clothes get all mucky with corpse grease.

And Lara as a character is a lot more blase about the dangers and the grossness than an average real person would be (but then, she’s not meant to represent an average person), but she kind of has to be if she’s going to stand in for us in the game’s environments.

If she got all “oh man this is so disgusting, I hate this, this is awful, ugh, another horrifying dead body” all the time, we’d probably get tired of listening to her. “Why do you even do this if you’re going to spend all your time whining about how gross it is?” we’d reasonably wonder.

So I guess I thought she wasn’t lying to either him or herself, she really thought it was amazing and that he would think it was amazing, and I thought the fact that he gave her an object of no combat value represented the fact that he shares her passion for the pure adventure of exploring old crypts. No one else in the game really seems to get that, no one but her has any interest in poking around half-flooded underground caverns full of bones just for the hell of it (I mean, we get rewards, but come on, she’s not doing it because she wants some ancient moldy outfit), but this guy, he knows! And so instead of giving her something that will help her in some practical way, letting her kill people or avoid being killed, he gives her something that symbolizes the impractical rewards of exploration for its own sake.

I can certainly see your point about glossing over things, and the fact that he’s blind and maybe she is too in the sense that she doesn’t see the grimy REALITY, only the exciting ideals in her own mind…it’s a good observation.

I thought he was blind mainly as a narrative device to explain why he hadn’t gone there himself and/or didn’t just go with her now, because while poking around in tombs alone is framed as a passion no one else shares, it’s also a part of the game that we (at least, speaking for myself) don’t really WANT to share. These are solitary puzzles, and it wouldn’t work the same way to have Jonah or somebody tagging along while we wander through these tombs and crypts.

So yeah…I see your point. It’s a good argument. I didn’t read it that way at all, but it’s a good one.

Now that I think of it, though…our two interpretations aren’t actually mutually exclusive, it’s just a matter of whether you focus on the positive (she gets to share her tomb-raiding passion with a fellow exploration-nerd! it’s like that moment of finding a member of your own fandom in an unexpected place!), or the negative (both of them are imagining/remembering this whole tomb-raiding business to be a lot more exciting and wondrous and a lot less dirty and dangerous than it really is).

Hm. Good discussion!

Butch:

Yes…true…but this particular story, or the telling of it, isn’t just a telling of an adventure. This isn’t some dude who says “Hey, Lara Croft, who is easily recognizable in this mission for some reason, regale us with a story of adventure!” This was a promise Lara made to “be his eyes,” to recount it accurately so that this man who, like her, is an expert can experience what he used to experience again. Recreating something for a blind expert who’s been there, done that is different from shooting the shit to a bunch of laymen and kids.

Except…I had this thought as I was typing….Manu IS shooting the shit to a bunch of kids, isn’t he? He is. And he’s the one that was RIGHT! The “experts” were all “Yeah, Manu’s full of stories,” but he was correct! Hmm.

But anyway, she promised to be accurate. Not interesting, not exciting, not fun, accurate.

And she may not be “lying” per se, but that breathless “it was so great” telling wasn’t accurate.

As for her not complaining all the time, again, true (though I avoided the bodies cuz the damn fish were clustered by them, practical, me), but the game, specifically, in this tomb, made her notice icky stuff. It starts with her saying “Ugh…what is that SMELL?” So, while you’re right that she/we can’t/don’t want to dwell on every icky thing, when the game goes out of its way to have Lara go “eww,” then that place must be “EWW.” The game threw that in as if to say “Yeah, yeah, yeah, she sees corpses all the damn time, but this particularly icky, ok?”

And then that was followed by a breathless, inaccurate telling of it.

Cuz there were lots of tombs that DID have cool decorations and working machines and, really, no bodies or even traps or stink. This could have been a tomb like that, in which case the breathless telling would have made perfect, accurate sense. So the fact that the game brought attention to the fact that this tomb was icky resonates.

But we come across dudes all the damn time who have reasons for not going to, well, every single place a side quest tells us to go. No one is up to getting Uncle Bart’s hand axe. It’s the very nature of the side quest. Blindness is not a reason we see all that often. “I’m too old now,” or “I got hurt” or “I have more responsibilities,” these come up a thousand times. But “blind?” Blind is something. This totally could have been a “This was the one I never got to see, and now I’m old, but you, could you finish my life’s goals and tell me all about it?” Not “I’m LITERALLY blind here.”

There just seem to be a lot of details in this one that seem very intentional. Or maybe I’m just grasping cuz this game is light on themes.

Every so often we do good discussion!

Helps when I actually play. And helps when the game gives us some decent themeage, which, while I have liked this game, has been lacking.

Feminina:

It’s true. They did make a point of her noticing that this tomb was particularly unpleasant.

Which, again, can easily be taken to support either perspective: as you say, this is a nasty gross tomb full of nasty gross corpses that even Lara can’t completely ignore, but she makes it sound all great.

Or–as I might say, arguing my side–she knows that what the guy wants to hear about is not the mundane details of how it smells, because you can smell gross stuff anywhere, it’s the cool, unique details of exactly what’s in this tomb that you wouldn’t experience anywhere else.

As you say, he’s an old explorer himself, so she doesn’t have to downplay the hardships because he’s been there…but she also doesn’t have to play up the hardships to impress him with how dangerous and difficult it was. He just wants to know what cool stuff was in there.

Skipping over the not-cool stuff is glamorizing the whole thing, sure, but on the other hand it’s also getting to the point. And, as I said, I feel like she’s meant to have told him a lot more than we actually heard, and I assumed that a lot of the less exciting details, potentially including the horrible smells and the disgusting corpses, were in that longer conversation. And I do have a tendency to read between the lines and cut slack based on what I imagine is there, sometimes with admittedly minimal support from the text, but in this case, I think it was pretty clear that there WAS in fact supposed to be a longer conversation.

There was a sort of ‘time passing’ camera shift, wasn’t there? In addition to the fact that there is literally no way the couple of lines we actually heard from her would be considered a satisfying summary of an adventure by anyone, let alone a fellow tomb-enthusiast.

So I personally think she probably did give him all the nitty gritty unpleasant details, and he probably listened with interest because he’s been in similar situations and it brings back old memories and so forth, and they talked about all the grossness the way a couple of nurses will sit around talking about the ulcerating sores they saw the other day, or whatever, totally unperturbed while everyone else at the table cringes in horror, because they’re both experts in this topic.

It’s still absolutely fair to note that we don’t SEE any of that, and that the incredibly condensed version we actually hear must represent either her personal takeaway impression of the whole experience (in my read) or at least the one she wants to give the guy (or to give us).

We could ask why the game wants us to have that takeaway as opposed to one where she sits down and talks about disgusting muck and moldy bones with a fellow expert. Again, my interpretation was that we’re meant to believe that the enthusiasm IS her takeaway, that the disgusting muck is just something she slogs through to get to the wonder of ancient machines that still work, and that’s why she does this.

But arguing that this kind of almost childish wonder demonstrates a certain shallowness in her approach to the stuff she does…I can certainly see that too. We could say it shows she’s just another outsider looking for something to marvel at in an ‘exotic’ culture, ignoring (‘blind to’) all the grit and death and real-world consequences.

Hm. I dunno, man.

Butch:

Nice transition, cuz I wanted to talk about the “outsider” “exotic” thing, too.

One theme that we have had to talk about in this game is the idea of Lara confronting (or having to confront for Lara) the fact she is a plundering, colonial naughty white person. She’s just a pillager, too! But here we have her finding a kindred spirit, a dude who shares her views on things (he, too, seems to have a childlike wonder, and a desire to marvel) who isn’t a naughty white person. You get a sense that he’s lived there a long time. He’s a native, but he’s like her.

Or is he a native? He speaks Spanish. He’s in the mission. So maybe he was born here, but where’s the line between invasive plunderer and native? You could say this dude is an invasive plunderer, too. Christian, speaking Spanish, etc. After all, the artifact he gave her wasn’t Spanish or Christian at all. It was Mam, and ancient. So this nice, not white dude is really just another level of plunderer, right? A nice twist on game tropes.

It also ties to something that has had me wondering for a while (and maybe this will make more sense when we finish the game): When we do get the box, we take it, plunder it, whatever, from someone who ALSO took it, plundered it, whatever. We didn’t remove it from its rightful place, the way plunderers so often do. We stole it from the guy that stole it.

And I don’t know if that dynamic, especially with the Lopez story, is there to make Lara/the player off the hook (Hey, Lopez was nuts and a thief and a killer and we’re taking this back for the people of Paititi, yay us) or to, once again, say Lara is also icky (Lara’s doing the exact same thing as this killer, thieving missionary, naughty Lara). Certainly Manu is an interesting counterpoint to Lopez.

Feminina:

That is indeed an interesting question in this game, where we have a few levels of invasions. The Spanish (especially the guy who originally stole the box) came charging in with their Christianity, poking around, sticking crosses everywhere and apparently repurposing existing tombs and structures. Manu, a descendant of that intruding culture, was exploring the artifacts of the previous inhabitants–but he doesn’t seem like an outsider himself, having presumably been born in the Mission and lived his life there. The Spanish were outsiders when they first got there, but they aren’t anymore, really.

Lara feels different in the sense that she definitely still is an outsider, but she’s an outsider at a different level of threat than Trinity, which, while taking careful steps not to be recognized as foreign, have basically taken control of Paititi for their own ends.

And then, some of the old murals about the founding of Paititi talk about wars between the people who were there then, so maybe it was just their good luck that (as far as is recorded) there was no one living there when they arrived that they had to fight with about it.

Butch:

That’s true! There were wars just to see who could be the “first real” Paititians!

Nice job to the game for going there on all this. Most games don’t.

It’s funny because this game didn’t really do themes all that much, but when they did, they did them well. It’s even more amazing when you notice they did them well against a backdrop of a totally absurd story.

Very erratic storytelling and themes in this one.

Feminina:

Yes, there’s some stuff there but it feels very secondary to the action. Or maybe the story feels secondary to the action and the themes feel tertiary to that.

I mean, it’s a very old school pulpy adventure melodrama type story, there’s nothing really WRONG with it, it just doesn’t do a whole lot that’s novel or thought-provoking. It serves the sidequests and the exploration and the action and the puzzles, and that’s about what it seems to be there for.

And themes, we can usually dig themes out of pretty much anything, but we just haven’t found that much to work with (though when there’s something there, it’s good for some solid discussion).

Meh. It’s a fine game. I enjoyed it. I think in terms of stuff to talk about, there was more in the first and the second, but this wasn’t a bad conclusion to the new Lara Croft saga (if they do end it here).

Butch:

Oh it ain’t over. I don’t even know how it ends and it ain’t over. It could end with her dying, her ashes being scattered across the continents, her soul destroyed by archdemons and her very sensible tank top zapped with an anti-sequel ray and it STILL won’t be over cuz shit, Femmy, it’s Tomb Raider.

Feminina:

I’ll drink to that.

Butch:

And there we go. Friday arrives early this week!

I’ll try to finish up this week, but who knows, what with this family of mine.

Some Thoughts on Jaguars and Festive Decorations

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for story bits in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Ok! We’re moving now!

After five or six more tries on the sliding, I got it! Then back to Paititi, got the bow, made the kid king, went back to the mission to poke around and get supplies (they fixed it up pretty quickly!), helped the kids with the treasure hunt (you’re right, that was rather sweet), and spent WAAAAAAY too long making the whole follow the cross thing more complicated than it had to be. Figured it out, turns out that shooting a rope arrow was the way to find her (Like, dudes, you’re standing RIGHT NEXT TO A ROPE THING try that), found her, now I gotta get out of there.

Back me up on this: When it says “Look through me to find the way,” and it has a big fucking hole in it, that suggests you look through the hole and go that way. It does. Really. I looked through that damn hole every possible way. I GAVE UP and that’s when I found the other crosses.

Look through me my ass.

But what I really want to talk about is the Narual or whatever the hell it’s called.

There was stuff there, and I’m still pondering. It certainly was a callback to the first jaguar. Not the empress one we skinned, but the FIRST first one, the one that is about to kill Lara and gets in her face, but then turns away out of…what…respect? This seemed like that again, Lara and this animal facing each other and sharing some degree of respect. Only Lara DOESN’T spare her opponent the way the jaguar did. Lara is more the “animal.”

But that aside….how’d you read all this? It WASN’T just a jaguar, the way I thought it would be. It had clothes and a mask. So….what? Is it really a mythical shapeshifter? Can Amaru really control it? Or is it some kind of ritual thing, people went out and…what, dressed it? And what did you make of the fact that her unmasking it was drawn out? They wanted to say something with that, but I’m still pondering what.

It was a good scene, and I get some of it, but I’m curious as to your take.

Feminina:

Yes! Onward and forward!

You are not wrong: “Look through me” does indeed suggest that looking THROUGH THE DAMN THING would be important, and I also tried several times to get somewhere by looking through the circle on top of the cross before finally giving up and wandering over to look at the other crosses by the gate, after which I noticed that hey, there are more out here! It was super easy after that, so maybe “look through me” was just their way of adding a little misleading challenge to the whole thing?

That dressed-up jaguar was very interesting. Here’s kind of what I made of it: it was a sham, created by Trinity/Amaru to keep people in line. If I recall, one of the people she talked to about it mentioned that it hadn’t been seen in years, it was just a legend, and then lately it’s actually been seen, and maybe that’s an omen or whatever.

Maybe it’s an omen…or maybe it’s a way of keeping people from wandering around outside the village where they might run into Trinity’s soldiers/camps/jeeps/etc.

I think the jaguar was probably in considerable discomfort from being all dressed up like that (though it also probably received some sort of armor bonus), and that’s why, when it was wounded, it simply lay there and let Lara walk up and kill it. And I think she recognized that as well, which is why she was so ready to simply kill it rather than leave it be (which might not have been that much of a kindness anyway, depending on how badly injured it was–yay, I get to die slowly in pain and confusion!).

I could be wrong, but that was my read.

Butch:

Ah, see? This is friendship. Knowing that, when I feel stupid, you did the same stupid thing. We’re in this together.

Hmm. I can see the jaguar as that. Seems an odd place to put the bow, though. After all, the other stuff was guarded just by dudes.

But, you know, gameplay. Been a while since we fought a jaguar.

But I’ll take hoax/sham. I’m very curious to see if hoax/sham stays a possibility….

She did treat it with a kind of reverence. Not reverence, respect. Utzu even says “He must have respected you greatly to choose jaguar.” There certainly is something to their mutual respect (or general mutual respect jaguar-wise).

It’s interesting that the only real mutual respect with opponents we see in the whole game is her an the jaguars. She doesn’t share any mutual respect for any Qevins or Amaru or anyone. They all just call her Croft or Ixhi or whatever. Amaru and Lara spend all their time calling the other crazy. But with the animals, there’s this connection.

Add to that the fact that so many skills have animal names. Serpent this, eagle that, etc. You learn stuff, you get skills, you get more “animal.”

Hmm.

Feminina:

It is interesting that the opponents she really respects are the animals, and as you say, the cool skills are named after animals…she becomes more like them in her ability to hunt and survive in the jungle as she gains experience. Hm. I mean, undoubtedly partly it’s just that animal names are locally relevant/sound cool, where ‘Grandma Trinity’s Secret Grenade Recipe’ does not, but also from a thematic perspective, the animals maybe could be seen as the ones who live in the world without all these human complications we’ve been dealing with. Maybe the animal connection gives us some larger tie to the world as it is, something to be interested in saving aside from the humans?

We talked yesterday about how it’s all very well to imagine remaking the world free of sin but what happens to all the people living in it now, etc., but even that was a pretty limited perspective, focusing only on the effect of this action on HUMANS.

It’s not just about people! What about all the animals, what about the many unique environments that would be harmed by the (likely) destruction involved in remaking the world? Maybe Lara’s depicted respect and connection to animals is meant to (or does, even if not intentionally planned to) hint at an awareness that these things are also worth some consideration, even though a concern specifically for them is never spelled out.

Butch:

Right. The complexities of being “inhuman.” What really makes you an “animal.” Or a monster or a reaper or whatever.

This game plays a lot with the idea of “are you really the good guy? You’re just like the bad guys!” Add to that the idea that you’re just like the inhuman bad guys, too.

And THEN make it that the inhuman bad guys are the ones you kinda want to be like. Or at least respect.

This game, in general, is not too keen on humanity.

Feminina:

Well, I don’t know. It’s not as if it’s promoting a “humans suck, the world would be better without them” message (which it could have, with that whole ‘remaking the world’ thing).

I don’t think I’d really say it’s not keen on humanity, so much as that it argues that being human is complicated. We all have similar emotions and share the broad outlines of many experiences (loss, fear, love, longing for booze), but we react to them in different ways. We do what we think is the right thing, but is it? Sometimes we do what we think is best, sometimes we obey the rules and do what society thinks is best, and which approach is really better?

Some of us choose to make passion plays out of mummies! Others…do not. But maybe we should!

Butch:

Nah, let’s stick to booze. Easier. Cleaner. I have enough clutter around the holidays (relevant because packing the last of that up today). I don’t need to jumble my house up even more with mummy dioramas. It’s bad enough Mrs. McP has all these little Danish elf thingies that she has posed. 

Now that I look at them, they’re creepier than mummies.

Feminina:

Yeah, see! Although the mummies would take up a lot more space.

So yeah, let’s stick to booze.

Butch:

I dunno, man. She has a LOT of these little fuckers.

And nutcrackers! So…many….nutcrackers….

Which are also creepy as fuck.

Feminina:

Hm. Kind of a toss-up, then. Maybe you’d be better off trading them for one mummy.

On the other hand, if you had to trade them for the same number of mummies, forget about it. You wouldn’t have any room left in the house.

Butch:

I already didn’t have any room in the house. Ferdinand the Duck is famous for screaming “Christmas means carnage!” in Babe, the Sheep Pig, but he really should have said “Christmas means clutter!”

Boy does it.

And creepy. Elves, the elf on a fucking shelf (he’s watching you….), the nutcrackers, the fact that, thanks to my parents, practically every ornament on my tree is a picture of my kids (THEY’RE watching you…..), the fact that the only outside lights you can get these days are LED and, while environmentally sound, are VERY vivid (and, thus, creepy)….

I’m just here for the booze and cookies.

But watch: someone will find a way to make THAT creepy.

Feminina:

I firmly have nothing to do with the damn Elf on the Shelf.

NOT IN MY HOUSE YOU CREEPILY SMILING BASTARD!!!!!

Give me the genuine spiritual dedication summed up by a mummy passion play any time.

But then, I’m not married to Mrs. McP.

Butch:

Dude, she regretted it the minute she brought it home.

But the kids still ask where it is if it doesn’t show up on the first.

I think they just want it out to torture their mother. Who completely deserves it.

Here, watch this:

The Elf on the Shelf – TV Spot

They say “What you say and what you do.”

So I changed it to “The elf on a shelf is watching you, what you drink and who you screw” and sang it to Mrs. McP. And now she says that’s all she can think about when she sees the thing.

She completely deserves it.

Feminina:

Hahahaha! That’s awesome.

And well deserved.

Butch:

Indeed it is.

Mrs. McP’s tombstone will read “It looked like a good idea when I saw it on Pinterest….”

Feminina:

So many things do! Probably.

This is why I stay the hell off Pinterest.

Butch:

Very, very wise.

Key Moral Principle of the Day

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for plot points in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

I am a dedicated blogmate. I am. Despite not really being able to breathe, and having a fever, and having, you know, children, I played!

Let’s see….got the box, lost the box, Jonah got the box, Jonah lost the box.

Now I’m sliding down a hill. I didn’t finish the sliding. I just hit a wall of tired. I was getting worse at it. When I missed the first jump four times in a row, figured I’d come back when I wasn’t exhausted.

This game has a balance problem. And a pacing problem.

Didn’t we, a while ago, talk about how, for a very long time, nothing happened? Mostly cruising around doing tombs, picking up relics, chillin’? And now, when I really, REALLY wanted and NEEDED (more on that in a second) a break it vortexed me into yet more intense, linear, fighty plot. I WANT the game to chill. And it’s not. Or it might after I finish the sliding, but it didn’t and it should have.

Because I needed a break. Not just me, personally. Lara, and, to some extent, the game.

Remember for a while there I was saying “This is silly. The game has given me all these skills, then has failed to give me a chance to learn them, get used to them, enjoy them?” Well, by the end of the oil field, I was finally getting good! I was using special arrows, I was using that deal where you can string dudes up in the trees, I was using corpse bombs, it was fun! That last part with all the trees and shit? That was a great level! It came together! It was what the game should have been all along!

So you’re thinking “Then, Butch, what’s the problem?”

The problem: Because there really wasn’t any real chance to chill and wander before I got vortexed into all this box stuff, I didn’t have a chance to restock my stocks. Let’s face it: You pretty much needed to get creative in the oil fields. The game wanted you to. It sure would be NICE to have gotten creative in these fighty levels, too, especially in that bit with the big cross that glowed in survival instincts (what was with that? I even tried messing with it after the fight. Couldn’t figure it out).

But I couldn’t because I am out of EVERYTHING. I used it all in the oil fields. By the time I got to the second stage, I couldn’t do corpse bombs, lure arrows, fear arrows, nothing. Not even special bullets for the rifle. It was all right back to nothing but bow to the head and gun if you get seen. All the tricks I was just getting into….gone. All because of the pacing of the game, and for the very strange decision to put in all sorts of loot that you didn’t need and no loot that you did need.

So many missed opportunities. Combat should have been a lot more fun in this game. It WAS fun when it all came together. But it wasn’t together all that much.

I also have themes to talk about, and I want to revisit our extreme callback on “is this game sexist,” but I need coffee. And Advil.

Feminina:

The glowing cross? You mean in the cemetery where you were killing all those guys? I figured that just meant you could jump onto it, which I did. I don’t know why we specifically needed to be told that, but kind of like how the vines and branches glow when you can climb into trees? Otherwise, you’re right, it seemed odd.

I did run out of stuff to make corpse bombs. That’s about as creative as I ever got, though, so I didn’t notice the lack of much else. I don’t think I used lure arrows once.

So, uh…your problem is you actually used the fun tools they gave you, instead of just shooting and sneaking (and making corpse bombs) the entire game because you never remembered the cool tools from one battle to the next.

Fear arrows were fun. I used those once, right after I got them. Then the next time I tried, I couldn’t (I swear I had them and it just wouldn’t let me use them, like “nope, those are cheating in this fight”) and after that I just forgot about them entirely.

Which is not much of an argument against your contention that combat isn’t very well balanced here.

Butch:

Yeah, that cross. I was certain there was a thing. Like, make it fall on dudes cuz themes or something. Guess not.

More like when I finally DID remember a cool tool, it became irrelevant. Got there all “Ok….hit that guy with a lure, then once everyone is close hit that guy with fear. So glad I practiced this. This is going to be awesome. Ok….and….wait, what? WHAT? Fuck.”

Re: arrows…Ok, this is embarrassing, but at least I figured it out.

So with any weapon, all we had to do to switch between special ammo was to select it multiple times. Push up for bow, push up again to cycle through ammo. That’s it. Not that it was cheating, but that we were too dense to realize how to choose what it was we wanted to do.

Once I figured THAT out, combat got a lot more interesting.

I figured that out very recently. Then ran out of stuff that would have made combat interesting.

How to switch between smoke and shrapnel grenades once I’m holding a can remains a mystery.

We’re just stupid. The game should know that.

Anyhoo….might as well move on to deeper stuff, as we’re too stupid to figure out game mechanics until it’s too late.

So last night, once again, I saw a man yelling at a woman about what’s important. Remember that Jonah conversation a long time ago? Sure you do. This conversation with Dominguez seemed a lot like that, and it was just as unsettling.

MAN: I see the big picture! I have vast goals that benefit the world!
WOMAN: But….but….DADDY!
MAN: You are being selfish! This is my life’s work!
WOMAN: (And this is a direct quote): You don’t know what that means to A NINE YEAR OLD GIRL (emphasis added).

So not only do we, once again, have the man thinking of the big picture, planning, being all practical and the woman being selfish and emotional, we have the woman tacitly comparing herself to a nine year old girl. She doesn’t say “You don’t know what this means TO ME,” she says “To a nine year old girl.” And, as she still is fighting this fight, she’s fighting the fight of a nine year old girl. A childish fight. Which, when added to all of everything else, seems to, once again, reinforce the idea that the menfolk are the ones thinking and planning and stuff and the woman is just a whiny, selfish, childish daddy’s girl.

This disquiets me.

And, thing is, I don’t think it was intentional. I don’t think the writers were all “Let’s make Lara Croft, like, really childish and whiny,” but they did. And I’m not sure that we would have seen this with a male hero.

Feminina:

Oh, I knew HOW to select special arrows, I just usually didn’t remember. Guns, I honestly never even thought to use the special ammo, so who knows if I knew how or not. I vaguely knew I had something, but whatever. And grenades, no, I have no idea how to do that. I think maybe it depended on the specific type of container you picked up? Like, only bottles could become molotov cocktails? I pretty much never made any grenades, because I could never figure out anything about them.

So, yeah, we’re stupid. And yes, games should know this!

As for the troubling scene…hm. I see what you’re saying.

But also note that the big manly plans the dude has are EVIL. Yeah, he claims he wants to benefit the world, but do we believe that? And even if we believe that’s his goal, are we down with him just killing people over it? (Or convincing them to kill themselves, and we STILL don’t know exactly how he did manage to convince Lara’s father to kill himself there, do we?) So having logical rational manly plans is not entirely a positive thing here.

And yes, Lara is presenting the emotional side of the argument, but also the non-evil side. Also the HUMAN side, and we talked previously about how she was potentially missing things because she’s too busy focusing on big exploration and plans and ignoring the humans in front of her. Like her father.

But yeah, it’s a stereotype that the man is planning evilly and the woman is emoting humanely, because men are so logical they lose track of humanity and women are the gentler, more nurturing sex who are concerned with children, etc. I can see that.

Butch:

Well, wait. Yes, evil…I guess. Certainly “bad guy.” But he does make an interesting point about protecting his people (something we’ve done in countless other video games). To Paititi, white dudes kinda are like the wild hunt or the reapers, right? Things from far away coming to basically wipe their world off the map. Usually, we FIGHT things from far away that want to wipe our world off the map. So you could say it’s all in your perspective.

As for “killing people over it,” he also points out that Lara has killed a WHOLE lot of people. She challenges him all “But you’ll kill people!” (fair) and he retorts “and how many lives have you taken to further your goals?” (Kevin nods sagely.)

So if that kinda sorta balances the whole “good/evil,” “negative/positive” “Human/inhumane” scales, then all we’re left with is the “rational/emotional” scale. And, as the game explicitly tried to level the “good/evil” scale, we have to put the fact that we’re left with “rational/emotional” as all we’ve got on the game.

Feminina:

Fair. Good point about Paititi and the Wild Hunt, I like that. (There’s an interesting bit in one of the Paititi sidequests that kind of applies to this, where she chooses to save someone who’s going to be sacrificed, and everyone involved in the planned sacrifice seems very sincere and well-meaning so you kind of wonder whether or not interfering is even the right thing to do…like when you rescue Hakan, but without the ‘he’s a political prisoner’ aspect.) Cultural relativism. Interesting questions.

Another couple of questions that could be asked, though:

First…are we meant to assume that Amaru is completely untroubled by emotion, that his plans are totally about logic and what he has rationally determined through careful study is the objectively best course? Probably not. He seems pretty passionate about his goals, really.

Second…even if he’s not motivated by emotions at all, and it’s true that all we’re left with as a difference between the two of them is who’s rational/emotional, why do we assume ‘rational’ is the better one to be? Is that maybe OUR bias, as much as the game’s, thinking the thing that’s stereotypically associated with manliness is better?

Don’t get me wrong, I personally do value logic and reason quite a bit. But Lara IS the protagonist, and Amaru/Dominguez isn’t. Maybe the game is saying “all other things being equal (because they are), go with your heart. Do the thing you can live with yourself for doing. Try not to hurt children.”

We can debate whether or not we agree with that as an organizing principle, but there’s some support for it in the game. As you note, there’s not actually a whole lot to distinguish between Lara and Amaru in terms of murder and destruction…but arguably there is in their behavior with regard to children (which may stand in for their concern for people in general).

Examples: as you also note, Lara specifically cites the damage done to her as a child. Besides that, she saves Hakan because his daughter asks her to (she doesn’t want children hurt by losing their parents), she goes out of her way to help that kid with his dice, she saves that other kid who was sentenced to death for stealing herbs to help his mother (more child-parent stuff), she helps the kids in the Mission with their treasure hunt, etc. Lara cares about children, in general, and we have no evidence that Amaru does. He’s actually responsible, directly or indirectly, for a number of the threats to children that we’ve seen.

And yes: of course she cares more about children! She’s a woman! She probably just wants to settle down and raise them, as she stereotypically should! But I think a male character–paste Nathan Drake into this game–could have showed this same level of care for children, helping them in the same ways, and it wouldn’t have seemed weird: I think it can be saying something about her as a character besides the fact that she’s female.

Even leaving the children aside…it’s true, Amaru’s not bad because he wants to save Paititi. Saving Paititi is a sympathetic goal, and could be a laudable one if he didn’t practice quite so much human sacrifice and world-destruction while trying to carry it out. He’s bad not because of what he wants, but because he’s willing to go too far to get it.

Maybe the theme here is that, like Lara’s father (according to that accusation by her mother), Amaru has lost touch with the people around him. While trying to save Paititi, he a) turns it over to Trinity, which doesn’t actually care about it and b) terrorizes its citizens by sacrificing a bunch of them. Is that really saving it? Is he really caring about the PEOPLE here, or is he too focused on some idealized Paititi in his own head?

Maybe the difference between Amaru and Lara isn’t strictly rational/emotional (we previously debated whether Lara, too, could have been accused of bring too caught up in big plans and not caring enough about people), it’s whether or not you’re capable of ever valuing people over plans.

And maybe to do that, you have to let your emotions come through sometimes: you have to let yourself think about how other people are going to experience the results of what you’re doing, and maybe that starts with remembering what it was like to experience the painful aftermath of what someone else did to you.

Butch:

Very interesting questions about culture. And I’m glad the game went there. It’s one of the better things this game did.

And, well, yes. Amaru is worked up. But saving your people and whole way of life from complete destruction can rile one’s emotions. He even points out that he’s worried about thousands of lives, and she’s only worried about one.

Go with your heart is great when it doesn’t lead to killing a lot of dudes and ending a civilization. Like, the ending in Gone Home? When they run off together? Not the best rational choice, but still. Happy ending, because they followed their hearts without killing a thousand dudes and ending a civilization.

Again, what’s too far? We’ve destroyed plenty of civilizations who wanted to “end our world.” Reapers, Wild Hunt, all sorts of stuff. The general rule of games is “once they fuck with you, or your people, kill ’em all.” We’re good with that. So why can’t Amaru be?

And, interesting you put that in past tense, the “did to you.” Lara is, at some level, trying to fix the past. Amaru is trying to prevent the future. I’m not sure if that makes Lara more sympathetic or not.

Yes, Paititi had some bad shit happen to it cuz of white people, but that was long, long ago. As far as we know, Amaru hasn’t had any acute personal tragedy like Lara had. Right? Or did I miss something?

Feminina:

Wait, what do you mean, he’s concerned with thousands of lives and she’s only concerned with one? Amaru is trying to save Paititi, but Lara is trying to save THE ENTIRE WORLD. Right?

Whether or not WE believe it, she (and he!) genuinely believes that this box can remake the world, which means basically destroying it as it is. I think. Which means a fair number of people would die. Pretty sure. My impression has been that that’s kind of what Lara’s about on this whole quest, and that’s where I’m coming from in saying that Amaru is going too far in his attempt to save Paititi.

If you can only save your village by destroying everything else in the world, I’m going to say that’s going too far. Not to be a heartlessly logical, manly sort, concerned with plans and numbers over people, but that’s kind of my take.

And again, yes, Lara is trying to fix the past in that she’s trying to do something her father couldn’t, or to get right something that he got wrong, but she’s ALSO trying to prevent the future in which the entire world is destroyed and remade.

Butch:

Ok, before we go on here, you’re finished, right? I’m assuming you are.

So this has been troubling me…..

“Remake” the world isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it? Let’s think about the world a little.

******

Ok, let’s stop, cuz that’s depressing. Wouldn’t it be nice to remake a bunch of that? Amaru has never said “destroy.” He’s never said “Death to the infidel” or anything. Remaking some shit might just be ok. He has never said “After this, all that will be left is Paititi!” He just thinks that if he remakes some shit, maybe people will leave Paititi alone, tolerate it, not try to, you know, give it smallpox.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Unless you know shit I don’t.

Feminina:

True, ‘remade’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘destroyed,’ and no, there’s never a point at which anyone says “oh, and by the way, when we pull off this box trick, everyone is going to DIE!!!!!”

And yes, I’m finished, so I can say this with confidence.

But Lara certainly seems to believe that ‘remade’ means destroyed, and all those cataclysms don’t exactly suggest that whatever happens is going to be harmless. Still, to some extent it’s true I’m just going with what Lara appears to believe in assuming that ‘remade’ means catastrophe.

However, we have to also consider what else we know about the box.

First, Unuratu said she needed to be the one to hold/control the box at the critical moment, because she had worked to be strong enough to resist its temptation. This implies that something bad will happen (presumably to the existing world) if someone takes advantage of the box’s ability to remake the world.

Also, Amaru isn’t acting on his own: Trinity is deeply involved in this project, and I don’t believe Trinity gives half a damn about saving Paititi as such. If I recall correctly, Trinity as an organization wants to do this because the world will be remade “free of sin.”

And as you said, think about all the sin in the world. Yeah, there’s a lot of it I could do without! All that stuff with people being destructive and horrible to each other in so many ways, would things be so bad without that? Maybe Lara just doesn’t want to change her own murdering ways!

But then think about all the things that I don’t believe are sins but that have been categorized as such by other people. Whose definition of sin are we using? Presumably Trinity’s, and they’re…weird folk.

And how do we achieve this world free of sin? By magically making everyone genuinely good (according to someone’s definition), or by brutally repressing/wiping out everyone who isn’t? And even if it’s the first, are people who have been magically changed to be good actually the same people they were, or all they all brainwashed robots?

So you’re absolutely right, we don’t really KNOW that remaking the world would be a disaster, but I think it’s the logical decision–ironically, considering where we started with this–to say that it’s not worth taking that chance based on one dude’s hunch. Because he can’t know, any more than she can, what the actual results will be: presumably no one in the current world has ever done this before, so he’s going purely on what he FEELS to be true and not on any evidence he can possibly have collected.

So yes: I’ve come around to saying that Lara is (emotionally) making the rational choice by trying to shut down Amaru’s (logically argued) ‘gut feeling’ that this box thing is a good idea.

Everything is topsy turvy! What’s bad is good and bad again!

Just…try not to hurt children. That’s your moral principle for the day.

Butch:

Figured you were done. I’m trying, dude! I’m going as fast as I can!

I figure I have, what, about a week? Get through whatever it is I’m doing, go back to the mission to poke around, then the endgame, right? That’s about it?

Is the endgame really annoying? You know how I feel about endgames.

True…Trinity’s ideal doesn’t sound like a world I want to live in….

They are weird folk. That they are. Very much.

I will not hurt children. Even middle children who hurt their younger brothers because they didn’t want to play foos ball. Four minutes after they wake up.

If I can get through that, I deserve to be the one who opens the fucking box.

Feminina:

No rush. Go back, poke around in the Mission…uh…do some stuff…a bit more poking around…and then the endgame.

Which is not bad at all. I was actually only just beginning to be kind of annoyed with the final fight, and then it was over. I died…I don’t know, three or four times, but not a ridiculous number of times. It was good. Some decent action, some combat, not brutally difficult for the sake of being difficult.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good…Etc.

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

I’m never playing again. Not because I don’t want to. BOY do I want to. I really, really want to.

But holy shit. My kids went crazy. I watched the four people I live with fight and swear and yell and storm around and generally act like they were in general population at a prison and they wanted to riot.

And then, at five AM, Meatball barfed. Spectacularly.

And Mrs. McP decided to “helpfully” work at home.

My morning has been yelling, and fighting and a litany of “helpful” reminders of things I have to do.

I’m never playing again.

But I really want to.

Feminina:

Oh man. Dude. I am sorry.

Interestingly, O’Jr. woke up at 4:30 saying his stomach hurt, but he didn’t throw up and seemed OK later. Enough to get up and watch his videos and drag himself to school, anyway. Fingers crossed I don’t get a call about spectacular barfing later.

I am very, very sorry.

Butch:

No, I’m the one that should be sorry. You’ve been dutifully chugging along, and I’m in a serious rut. Even considering skipping a lot of crypts and monoliths and documents to get back on the same page.

This sucks.

Feminina:

It sucks a lot, man. Stupid life, interfering with games! Frustrating cranky sick family!

It is only a matter of time before our positions are reversed. Especially once your kids are driving themselves places and mine are still home all the time being hormonal menaces.

Butch:

To add insult to injury Mrs. McP is using the laptop despite having her own.

Feminina:

Dude! What is even up with that?!

You should probably just start drinking now. This day is clearly not going to improve in any other way.

Butch:

Don’t tempt me.

Feminina:

Maybe you need some exercise? Like, a LOT of exercise. And it’s pretty nice out, for January. Just go walk around the track for, like, 5 hours. Blissfully alone.

Or walk to a bar so you can start drinking! If it’s far enough away, it totally counts as fitness.

Butch:

Hey….it does!

But got…..a treadmill. Sigh. Used it yesterday. A walk is far less relaxing when you hear your family yelling at each other.

I’ll go outside and take down Christmas lights. Cheery. Or something.

Feminina:

A treadmill? Damn. Definitely the sort of thing that seems like a good idea at the time, and then turns out to have an unexpected and horrible downside.

Are you sure it’s not tragically broken? Maybe it needs a new…uh…forfenglobber cable. Which you will have to go far, far away to get. Conveniently available near the bar!

Far, far away.

Butch:

Yes! Yes!

That!

What you said!

Today sucks.

Feminina:

Microsoft’s helpful suggested responses:

  • I’m glad you agree.
  • Looking forward to it!
  • Thanks for letting me know.

Uh…no. Those don’t really… Work harder, Microsoft.

I would have accepted [ominous music].

Butch:

Well, “Today sucks,”

“Thanks for letting me know”

makes some sort of sense. Sorta.

Feminina:

True, I suppose.

“Thanks for the heads-up, so I can be prepared if the suckage comes my way! Looking forward to it!”

We look out for each other like that.

Butch:

That we do.

Now I’m getting sick. I feel like I could sleep until next week.

Today sucks.

Feminina:

No no no!!! Not getting sick!

Although it’s not terribly surprising given the way this day has gone.

At this point, if you wake up tomorrow and the house hasn’t burned to the ground, you’re going to have to count that as a win.

Butch:

Happiness is low standards.

At least we got a T SHIRT!!!!! out of today.

The Passion of the Corpse

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for locations in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Well, that was weird. You know how we often say “I meant to do the story but magpied?” Well, yesterday I tried to magpie, poke around the city, do that side quest where the person ran off cuz El Dorado, you know…

And somehow got sucked into the main story.

It was like “Oh hey Jonah I was just..dude…wait…no, don’t give me the hint pamphlet…don’t…oh all right.”

It’s backwards day!

I’ll let you ponder how, exactly, everyone missed Lopez’s VERY COMPLICATED CLUES for 400 years. What was extra funny was that I found the cross first, and then, when Jonah said “We have to find a cross….” I said to the screen “What, that one there?”

Best line of the game: “I can’t believe that worked.” -Jonah.

Anyway, I wish I had something substantial to say about the main story, but I don’t. I got stuck. I’m in the rather gory room where the stations of the cross are set up with dead people (eww) and I can’t figure out the damn puzzle. I think I have to get the light to the first station there and hit the lever, then the second, etc., but I can’t figure out how to get the light to that side of the room. How do you get the light to that side of the room?

I will say it’s rather a thing that this game decided to go there on macabre Christian imagery. Games exploit….did I say exploit? I meant to say….are inspired by myths and stories and religions from other cultures all the time, and use them in weird, supernatural ways. I can’t remember a game that went all in on the creepy, supernatural religious thing in an adventure game that was THIS Christian. Even the stuff in Raiders, the ark wasn’t surrounded by shit like this. This is some SHIT, man. Mummies doing the stations of the cross?

Whoa.

Feminina:

That happened to me too! I was looking around trying to solve the mystery of the missing archaeologist, and all of a sudden I’m in the church getting main quest hints. Oh well. You can go back later.

And that also happened to me, that I uncovered the cross before I realized I needed it, and said “maybe that one over there?” when I learned I needed to find one. Heh. We’re back to doing exactly the same thing!

One does wonder how that secret stayed hidden for so long. All those clues cleverly concealed behind that crumbling plaster, no one would ever have noticed and wondered.

Those mummies are really something, huh? I like how Jonah’s all “ewww, man,” and Lara is trying to be culturally sensitive and stuff, saying “it might have been considered a great honor,” or whatever.

It might have been…but I’m with Jonah: eww.

If I recall, you have to bounce the light from one side of the room to the other somehow. Move the little carts around, fiddle with stuff…it worked for me eventually. Remember how many stations you’ve already done, too. I lost count and started at the wrong one. Doesn’t end well.

I do kind of like that the game is addressing Christian ritual, tradition and imagery in the same kind of detached way it addresses Incan, Mayan, etc. Evenhanded, it seemed. And it’s interesting to have her thoughtfully commenting on some depiction of a saint with the same sort of reserved historical interest she has for the God of Corn or whatever. It’s all the same basic thing, isn’t it?

Myths, history, cultural inspirations.

I’m not quite sure what we’re supposed to make of the fact that at least some of the myths are true: I mean, the dagger and the silver box DO apparently have the power to bring on or stave off apocalypse, right? Why is that? What gives them that power?

Presumably it’s not actually true that it’s about literal ancient Mesoamerican deities, and we’re instead meant to assume that their myths express their understanding at that time of some truth that was revealed (one recalls the very interesting treatment of religion in Horizon Zero Dawn, where we as players knew the non-divine origins of certain ‘revealed truths’)…but what? What is the larger explanation?

Aliens? Atlanteans? Some other advanced culture lost so far in the mists of time that a dagger and a silver box are the only relics that remain?

We shall probably never know. That’s not the kind of secret a game necessarily wants to reveal. Kills the mystery and all.

“Well, you see, several billion years ago people built world-destroying nanobots that wiped out everything on earth except for some genetic material that allowed life to redevelop, AND this dagger and this box, which are the two parts of a switch that will unleash the bots again. Should that ever be necessary for any reason. And here we are.”

Or something.

Man, I want some more Horizon. I mean, that’s not a dig at this game, I’m enjoying this game (although our discussion does seem to be pretty light on themes and more focused on mechanics and such). Just, thinking about it for a moment made me remember how much I loved Horizon, and now I miss it.

Butch:

I can go back? Good. Cuz what has me worried is that I haven’t yet found a campsite in this place. I tried! I found a merchant! And some dudes! But no campsite. And if Things Happen I still want to come back and magpie.

Maybe these people had kids. We both have houses with little chips in the plaster, and, what do you tell the kids? “Don’t pick at that! Don’t make that worse!”

“But MOM! There’s some sort of fresco under there that will lead us to a secret treasure!”

“Dammit, I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch me play those video games! That isn’t real!”

“But MOM!”

“DON’T PICK AT THE PLASTER!”

“Yes, mom.”

Who knows what secrets our houses keep?

And yeah, man. Eww. And gutsy to put in a game. Goin’ there. I applaud it. Even if eww.

Oh yeah? Moving the carts is part of it? Maybe fiddling? Thanks, Femmy. Didn’t think of that. What WOULD I do without you?

Is this how you do it at work? Some poor student comes up all “Where can I find authoritative works on renal angiostentonectomyosis?” all earnest, needing help, and you’re all, what, “I dunno, man. Book, maybe. The web? I dunno. You’ll get it eventually.”

Have you finished? Because we did discuss the idea that Trinity diverting rivers and scrubbing sites and shit was what was really going on. That it IS just a box, and pay no attention to the trinity behind the curtain. So if you know something that explicitly contradicts that, don’t spoil.

I mean, besides the weird zombie orcs.

And the pistachios.

Uh….moving on.

Yeah. Junior played Horizon through a couple of times (first time on story, cheater) and I did watch it wistfully. He has quite the eye for screen shots (gets that from his ol’ man, I tell ya). I wish they’d just announce the damn PS5 already because I have a feeling that a lot of games everyone wants are going to be saved until we have the option of getting them on a PS5. Everyone knows there’s GOING to be a Horizon 2, but I have a feeling it’ll be something they use to show off the next gen.

Which needs to happen! Not cuz I want a new box, but because I think it’ll lead to a deluge of games. Games we want.

Feminina:

Now that you mention it, I’m almost certain there’s a weird ancient fresco under the wallpaper in the stairwell–but I wouldn’t want to ruin the rustic shabbiness by pulling it up any further to check.

Dude, I was trying not to spoil. Obviously you thought of the carts and the levers. I was just trying to say “you’re on the right track, there’s not a weird additional trick you haven’t noticed.”

If you want actual HELPFUL information: focus the light the way it’s already going first. That’s my tip. Do one of the stations on that side. (Not just any random one! One specific one. The right one. Otherwise it won’t end well.) THEN worry about reflecting it back the other way.

I have not finished. I got to the part where it said “make sure you’ve done all the stuff you want to do before you proceed!” and then I ran off to look for missing mission givers and stuff. So I could be finished soon, probably, although I have no idea how long the endgame is. But first I have to tidy up all my loose ends in the various regions.

You’re probably right that HZD2 is waiting for the PS5. Sigh. I respect that. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome on the 5. I just want it as soon as possible!

Butch:

Well, I still think it’s next Xmas. Sony’s being all weird. Only four games at the last E3, none of them with release dates, all gorgeous things we’d play on a PS5. So if it’s NOT this year, they wasted a whole E3 showing stuff that’s more than a year and a half off? Maybe two? Makes no sense. Especially as there’s, like, NOTHING big coming out this year. Almost like everyone is waiting until Xmas. When there’s gonna be a new console. Usually all the game sites have “The 22 games we’re excited about next year!” around now, and….nothing. Cuz nothing.

And now the news that Sony is skipping E3 ENTIRELY this year, but will proceed with “other ways to engage the community” or some shit, doing their own thing.

I dunno, man. Wishful thinking maybe, but I still think we’re getting a PS5 for Xmas this year. And games. Good games.

Re: wallpaper: Exactly. That would hurt home value. As would finding out there really is an ancient treasure, as that would undoubtedly lead to your house getting destroyed, and the last time I filed a homeowner’s claim for damage from “ancient underground treasure room collapse” HOO boy the paperwork.

Leave it be.

Ah THAT’S the tip I needed. I was certain I had to start with one on the OTHER side, and that was tripping me up.

Will she get her hands caught and then the spikes? Cuz I made that mistake on the last “aim a mirror” one.

Ah! Am I close? Cuz I want to tidy stuff. I can come back to the mission to tidy, yes?

We’re actually gonna finish sorta close to each other? Even though I didn’t play, like, at all over the holiday?

WHAT?

Feminina:

She will definitely get her hands caught and then the spikes. And then the reload screen. At least it reloads quickly in the middle of a puzzle!

Yes, you can go back to the Mission to tidy, although if you just got there and don’t have any campsites, you might have to hike a bit to get there. I’m not sure how that will work, actually, since we got there by cutscene the first time and I had campsites to fast travel to when I went back, but I’m sure there will be some way. There’s a lot of stuff around the Mission! Tombs, crypts, treasures, that sort of thing. Nothing critical in the larger picture, but stuff. Things to hunt, missions to fulfill, challenges to attempt, documents to find. You know.

I think you must run into a campsite at some point in the course of the…stuff you’re on the way to do. In that general area. It’s gonna be great.

And just thinking ahead, there will be a point where you think “no way is it going to be possible to come back here after this!” but trust me, it is. Don’t even worry about it.

Butch:

NOT THE DREADED LOAD SCREEN!!!!!

Ok, I trust you.

There’s gonna be yet more fighting, isn’t there? This game went from weeks of no fighting to a Kevin slaughter, didn’t it? C’mon, game! I just KILLED Kevin! I WANTED to magpie!

Feminina:

Game: TOO BAD! You shouldn’t have been looking around this area if you didn’t want to get sucked into the main quest!

Player: But…I always look around. Looking around is what I do! It’s how I find all the sidequests! Why is this time so different?

Game: SHUT UP, THAT’S WHY.

Butch:

Yeah! And it was nasty of the game! They gave you that side quest right away, and the green circle to go to was on the other side of the main quest! It was like “Go there and GOTCHA!”

I think it was taking revenge. “You….you and Femmy….always blowing off these well constructed narrative pieces…I’ll show you…yes, yes, talk to the quest giver…head towards the circle…you cannot resist the circle…that’s it…getting warmer and GOTCHA HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

It hates us.

Feminina:

Yes, it was kind of mean, putting the main quest RIGHT THERE next to the side quest. Practically on TOP of the side quest. I mean, what were we supposed to do? It was entrapment, really.

Butch:

It so was. SO WAS. It got us both. It knows us well.

Feminina:

It knows us, and was angry with us. We have been appropriately chastised–dumped into an underground mummy passion play without warning. That’ll teach us. (Spoiler: It will not teach us anything.)

You Had Me at ‘Disney Email Fever Dream’

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for a fight and plot point in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

What in the actual fuck? HOTMAIL CHANGED! Is this the fuckery that you have been living with? IS IT GOING TO SUGGEST THINGS???

Man, I haven’t had enough coffee for this.

Ok, I did play a little, and I have two things to talk on, and enough so that I don’t want to discuss at the same time. We’ll do one after lunch. I’ll ask Siri to remind me. Fancy new phone.

Ok, so I was at the “you just have a knife” bit. I got past the first wave of dudes pretty well, then got amazingly stupid and should have known I was tired and should have stopped. But did I? No. Here’s how stupid: I killed a guy, there were two other guys. Ok, fine. So I made a corpse bomb (you’re right; awesome) and tried desperately to get the other two to come check it out. Forever. I took forever. And then I realized there was a pond between them and dead guy and they couldn’t swim.

I was missing ponds. Should’ve stopped. But no.

Cuz then I got to the dudes with thermal glasses.

Game, that’s not fair.

But I got by them, and then got to the place where you learn that if you’re muddy then the obviously cut rate glasses Trinity has don’t work. And I tried to get by that but by then the fatigue had made me completely stupid and I gave up.

First thing of the day:

It’s too much. It’s all too much. Every single fucking fight this game does something different. Every one! There’s a new stealth thing, there’s a new weapon, there’s a new bad guy, you’ve lost your weapon, you’ve gained a weapon, SOMETHING. And that’s not even counting the fact that you’ve likely picked up a skill or two that you’ve already forgotten about since the last fight.

Now, you or one of our loyal followers might be reading this and thinking “Butch, you hypocrite. Back in Mafia 3, you complained at length that every fight was the same, nothing ever changed.” Yes, yes I did complain. AFTER ABOUT 30 HOURS! After it got boring! This changes so fast I don’t have time to get used to any style before it changes. Shit, I don’t have time to LEARN any style before it changes! Every damn fight is like a tutorial, but with late game difficulty!

Let me get bored before you switch it, game. Or at least let me get close.

I think the whole thing is a symptom of design, though. We talked about how people wanted more tombs crammed into TR games, and this game aimed to deliver. But it seemed to do that at the expense of combat. There aren’t a whole lot of fights in this game, precious few compared to other games like this. But the game has a bunch of fighting skills, and they gotta use ’em. Shit, the game’s cover is a hot woman (what? She hot) carrying five, count ’em, five weapons. It’s a combat game! But it isn’t. But it is! So they have to cram all these combat ideas in, and it winds up being a tutorial. The whole time.

And pissing me off.

Where’s the fucking send button……ah.

Feminina:

Hotmail has changed!? I bet you start getting helpful automatic conversation suggestions soon!

Welcome to my world.

Well, Microsoft’s world, really.

And yes…the thermal glasses. That was a nasty trick, Trinity. And then the “oh, never mind, here’s how to render the thermal glasses obsolete!” That was amusing.

We’re going to give both the player AND the enemy new tricks that they almost immediately either forget about or can no longer rely on anymore!

I see what you’re saying. The combat IS a lot of new stuff that you learn and then forget, or learn and then learn to counter. And as you say, there isn’t a whole lot of combat, comparatively speaking, so I agree, probably these new things would be welcome and refreshing changes of pace if we’d been engaged in heavy fighting most of the game, but when I barely remember how to switch weapons from one fight to the next because it’s been so long, making me learn/remember some new stuff TOO does get a bit overwhelming.

I didn’t actually mind it that much, maybe because I wasn’t playing while I was tired, but I do see what you’re saying. They are trying to pack a lot of stuff into the relatively few combats they have, so yeah, it starts to feel like something new every time you get into a fight.

Which I could see working, if the game were kind of ABOUT combat in some thematic way. It contributes to this sense of uncertainty about fighting, being always a little on edge, which would be effective in a game with a protagonist who was less skilled. Say, back in the first game, when she was really just learning to be a cold-blooded killer. Being constantly thrown off by some new trick, always just about to stumble and fail because the reflexes aren’t quite there, that could work.

Or, alternatively, maybe in a game very late in a series, where the character wonders if she might not be losing her touch, getting too old for this, whatever.

It fits more oddly in a third game, when we’ve put in a lot of murdering time with her already and are more in a “coming into her own” mindset. “Becoming the Tomb Raider,” as the copy says. We feel like right now we should KNOW how to fight, and so having to learn it all the time doesn’t make as much sense, narratively.

Plus it slows us down, as players. Especially if we’re tired. Have a little sympathy, game. We’re old and tired!

Oh…damn. Maybe it’s not talking about Lara, maybe it’s talking to US!

“Are you losing your edge there, player? Mind and fingers not as nimble as they were? Eyes not as sharp?”

Nah, probably not. They’re selling to young people too.

Butch:

And what a colorful world it is. This is like some Disney email fever dream.

This is my very point about those goggles. That all happened in the span of minutes.

And mud. It HAD to be mud. I’m SO bad at remembering if I’m muddy. And then I’m in cover and I can’t see if I’m muddy and even if I could it’s not that different from being not muddy… confusing. It’ll get me killed eventually. Maybe it already has. I JUST DON’T KNOW!

Right. New every times. And, as you say, overwhelming. Especially as there’s things I wish I knew. This “chained takedown.” I’m supposed to be able to do another takedown of a nearby enemy after a stealth one. How? Just another triangle prompt? HOW? Why are grenades sometimes smoke, sometimes shrapnel? What if I WANT shrapnel? What if I WANT fire arrows? I don’t know how to do what I know how to do! I certainly don’t know how to do what I don’t know how to do!

I’M SO CONFUSED!!!!

Maybe they were all into it the other way, like, “Well, by now she’s a killer and knows 84295738597 tricks to kill, let’s put them all in! At once! But not really cuz thermal glasses and mud!” Which, yes, accurate. She WOULD know all this. But I don’t, and I’m the damn player.

Feminina:

I have chained takedown! I have never used it because I’ve never figured out how or been in the right place at the right time. At least you dodge sometimes. I have the ‘dodge then attack’ move and I can never remember to dodge so I can use it. Or I dodge, but not at the right moment, so I’m scrambling instead. It’s a mess.

I’m just going to keep telling myself it’s not because I’m old.

Butch:

Well, at least tell me this bullshit is possible even if you are old. Cuz that was frustrating last night.

Ok, so I set a reminder for myself to talk about the other thing. I said “Siri, remind me at noon to talk to Femmy about that thing.” And it just said “Talk to Sammy about that thing.” Confused the hell out of me.

Anyhoo….

The second thing:

So that first kill there, when she gets out of the water. The man’s all “Look what I found….” and there’s a cutscene where they fight and she kills him, her on top of him. That HAD to be a callback to the first time Lara kills someone. Attempted rape, or, at least, implied imminent attempted rape, big wrestling fight, one person on top trying to kill the other. Right? And this time it was Lara on top and she wasn’t shocked at all. Or scared. She was all “Don’t try me.”

But, and this dovetails with our “we’re getting old and we suck at games” thing, they took all control away from the player at that point. That whole thing was a cutscene. The first kill in the first game was not. It was all QTEs and shit. But this, you watched. And I think that was because they didn’t want to give you a chance to fail. This was a scene that intentionally mirrored the first game, and, if you died, even once, it would have changed the whole scene.

Which…hmm. Is that “gamey” enough?

Feminina:

I noticed that too. Her rising from the water, extremely cinematic, all dark and sinister and silently lethal–and not under your control. And you’re right, if we’d missed that kill, it would have spoiled that whole mood, so that’s probably what it was about.

“Look at me, an avenging angel of darkness and murder–oops! Stubbed my toe, fell down, the dude shot me in the back.”

SOOOOO not cinematic.

I think it’s gamey enough, as long as they don’t do it constantly. It’s a trick that could get old, for sure. “Oh, great, another dramatic cutscene moment followed by a murder I don’t control and won’t get XP for, yawn.”

But since this is basically the first time we’ve noticed it in this game, I’m OK with it.

Butch:

It’s not just that it wouldn’t be cinematic. If the whole point of the scene is “Before, she was weak and scared and now she is a death machine who barely blinks,” then if she/you die nine times then she/the game fail entirely to make the point in the first place. And…I dunno. I can see using a cutscene to make a point, but the times I’ve seen that (the one that snaps to mind is the death of Sam in TLOU, when there was that 12 minutes cutscene) are usually there because something huge is happening, like an archdemon is emerging from the moon or some shit, OR to make the player feel powerLESS (like in TLOU). It’s weird to have a moment where the PC is supposed to be powerFUL be taken away from the player. WE were powerless, watching HER be powerful, and that kind of break…was jarring. In a game.

Feminina:

Hm…yeah…I can see that. But on the other hand, you also argued in an earlier discussion that the correct amount of previous knowledge to expect a player to have is none. Given that, we should assume that while WE might think back to a scene in the first game, it’s not actually reasonable to expect that any player will, and therefore the scene must have been designed more with a blank-slate player in mind than with one who played the first game.

In which case, considerations of “how is this going to play for people who might remember that scene in the first game” are at best secondary to considerations of “how freakin’ badass is she in this scene.”

For me, the jarring bit was more “I was so deadly and invincible two seconds ago and now I’m going to get killed 8 times in a row.”

I’m so freakin’ badass! Oh, except I can’t remember how combat works or how to make grenades and I keep dying.

So I get what you’re saying. There is a bit of a disconnect there: “you’re awesome! But we can’t actually trust you the player to be awesome here, so why don’t you just sit back and do nothing and watch the awesomeness we did for you.” It takes the player out of the game in that specific moment. And that moment is kind of a key one for the character, and yeah, the player kind of likes to be involved in key moments.

On the other hand, they’re kind of right not to trust the player to be awesome enough for that moment, so I can see why they did it.

Butch:

I dunno, dude. I think it’s ok to say “We need to teach the player to do stuff, but we also know that there’s an overarching narrative here.” If you make a sequel to a movie, you still have to do some plot exposition for people who haven’t seen the first, but you still can assume that some knowledge of the plot exists in some people. Plus, in games, it’s easier to remember narrative details than it is to keep specific motions in your hands over time. Tutorials and whatnot act to get your hands working again. That’s what has to be blank slate.

And, much like any other genre: There’ll be scenes in sequels that people who have seen/read the first couple will read differently than those seeing/reading/playing it first. And that’s fine. I think this scene was something that new players would read one way, but also very much recalled the first game.

But I just played more! And WAS awesome! Got through the part that was giving me fits last night in the first go (amazing what a little rest will do), and got fear arrows which are awesome, and did the bit where you could actually USE the trees for the first time in forever which is awesome (they should have done more of that), and then heard Jonah was dead (hmm), CLIMBED a tower TOWARDS a helicopter for some reason (what, exactly, was Lara’s plan? I died twice there because I didn’t think there was any WAY I was supposed to go up…), got the REALLLLLLLY cool scene where she comes up out of the water with the fire behind her (and was SO thankful I was wearing the feathery thing with the boots cuz DAMN I looked good), machine gunned dudes and somehow shot down a helicopter. I have no idea how I shot down the helicopter. I was just picking off dudes thinking “Once I pick off the dudes I shall deal with the helicopter,” and then it crashed for some reason. Whatever.

Then Jonah was alive and despite Lara being consumed by a dehumanizing rage at hearing he was dead, she kinda was just like “Oh, hey, Jonah, sup?”

Lara, weren’t you in a dehumanizing rage for a while oh whatever.

Game gonna game.

But see, that level with the trees and the cover and all the options as to how to approach it: THAT’S what this game should be doing more of. THAT’S some serious TR shit. But too rare, too brief.

Seriously, what was with the whole Jonah’s dead no he isn’t deal? And how is his whole escape plan “I’m gonna call some people?” That’s the plan? And it WORKED???? Like, he got an Uber?

Lara’s overthinking shit, it seems.

Feminina:

That was a bit of a narrative anticlimax.

“MY FRIEND MIGHT BE DEAD I WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING–oh hey man, there you are, alive I guess. How’s everything?”

I think maybe when we shot the explosive barrels while the helicopter was low enough to be caught in the blast, it crashed?

Like you, I was kind of just going along, surviving, picking off dudes and remaining aware of the helicopter up there, and then somehow it had crashed without my needing to deal with it. So yay! I think it had something to do with the explosive barrels. Or maybe I just accidentally hit it the magic number of times while shooting wildly at everything in that general area. It’s a mystery.

The important thing is, we didn’t have to find a grenade launcher to bring it down.

And no one came after it or got in our way while the Uber Jonah called came to pick us up and take us back to the safety of the village.

Butch:

I’ll say anticlimacx. And rather unexplained. They could have at least done something like “I thought you were dead! He said you were dead!” “Uh, no, Lara, I was just…well, you know this incan food has a lot of fiber, so I was out in the bushes. But, you know, not the ones you took cover in back there. I think.”

There were barrels?

Oh, I was very pleased about the crashing. Helicopters, man. There’s always a helicopter. This was, by far, the least annoying helicopter.

Ha. “JONAH GET OFF THIS CHANNEL!” “Hey, Lara, was just asking if you want to spring for an Uber…we could do a Lyft but we’d have to wait, like, ten more minutes oh you’re busy.”

Feminina:

I never notice the barrels. There are always explosive barrels that I notice AFTER the fight. “Oh, I could have shot at that, I bet it would have blown up and done some damage, oh well.”

This time I noticed the barrels! At least once. They were up on that catwalk that guys kept jumping down from, and I shot them, and there was a big explosion, and the helicopter kind of reeled a bit.

But maybe it was going to do that anyway, if you didn’t shoot any barrels.

The important thing is, it was the least annoying helicopter. We will always remember it fondly.

It, and Jonah’s Uber.

“Hey Lara is this channel safe yet, because I wanted to know what you were thinking of doing about dinner? There’s that little place next to the crypt I’ve been meaning to try…”

Butch:

“JONAH! SIGN OFF!”
“Well, there’s two places, and they both have a 4.6 on yelp, so I thought I’d let you choose, cuz I’m always picking the one with the longer wait and-“
“JONAH!”
“Or do you need me to find a place with some gluten free stuff on the menu? Cuz there might be-“
“I liked you better dead.”

Barrels. Yeah. See also the ambush scenes. They always have shit I never noticed.

I don’t know, man! I didn’t even really move. I just hunkered and picked and eventually it all ended. It was so not annoying. Really, more helicopters should just give up.

Maybe it was ashamed that it failed to kill the hero that CLIMBED RIGHT UP TOWARDS IT FOR NO REASON WHAT WAS THAT.