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Spoilers for Hiberheim, in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Well. That continued to be odd.

Killed some mecha-roosters (huh?), met the dying apprentice (again, SO nice of people not to die until they’ve shared plot points) who really just seemed to be waiting in a lava pit protected by poison for no reason. The went north, got cold, talked to arhu, fought some wolves, met a ghost of a white stag that Roderick seemed to think I should remember (I didn’t) who mentioned my death (which seems to keep coming up, we should talk on that), then broke an elemental out of ice jail and fought snowmen and got a tip on how to get into the prison.

How far along are you on this particular quest line? The witch bit? Have you found Icara? And have you started this civil rights sub line?

(A whole new sub line? This game is large.)

There’s a lot going on here.

I’m still holding onto the theory, here, that Scarlett is crazy. Mecha roosters? Snowmen? If anything, she’s getting more and more bonkers. And two of the people who have talked about the end of things (The Conduit, this stag) seem to think the end of things, or, at least, Scarlett leaving this plane/dying are good things. The stag seemed to imply that Scarlett “moving on” is a positive thing. Hell, contrast that with the fact that so very many bad guys are people that WERE dead/gone/had moved on and came back. Rivellon does not seem to be a good place to be, or, at least, a place where “good” guys wouldn’t want to stay. Even the weaver, who we assume is good, isn’t “here.”

The only real negative prediction I’ve seen was the terrified bull who could tell the future. Maybe go talk to him, see what you think on all that.

So what’s your take? Where are you? Am I ahead of you?

Feminina:

The mecha-roosters! So weird. But yeah, we fought them, found the dying apprentice (I tried to heal her, but of course it was no use: Narrative demanded her death, and so she was beyond my aid), went into Hiberheim and got chilled.

Met the stag: I was also puzzled by the expectation that I should have known him. Don’t know what’s going on there. You may be right that the PC (in whatever body–you keep saying Scarlett is crazy, but what’s your take on Roderick then? Is he just an aspect of her personality?) is mad. Or we might be perfectly sane, but the WORLD(S) is/are mad!!!!!!

I forgot about the snowmen! We need to go back and fight them. We had gotten separated while we poked around, and I ran into the snowmen and Delios ran into something else and I went to join him and we forgot to go back and check out the snowmen.

OK: wishing well, snowmen. That’s what we still have to do in Hiberheim. After we’re done fighting…um…the bunch of things we’re fighting right now.

As to where we are on the quest line you’re on, well, we found Icara, met up with King Boreas, mumble mumble no plot spoilers but we basically wrapped up that particular bit.

However, we did not deal with the snowmen or do any civil rights line, so you’re ahead of us in that respect.

Butch:

Yup. And she was conveniently off the beaten path, so you didn’t stumble into a plot point, got to explore, etc. Nice of her.

My take is that Roderick and Scarlett are the same person. Watch: in a game about sin, your own motives and sanity, it would make some degree of artistic sense to either a) encourage your players to co-op it only to have that as a twist or b) force a player who is playing alone to do “different” things only to wonder why when the player has been…well..the player all along.

Because there’s just enough sanity here to highlight the lack of sanity. This isn’t a world where EVERYTHING is mecha roosters and evil snowmen. If it was that, then fine. Those are the rules of the game world. That would be “normal.” Nor does this seem to be a game where they just threw whatever the fuck in just for the fun of it, like a college DM who really shouldn’t be allowed to DM but he really, REALLY wanted to. This balance seems intentional, and the progression of it (from just talking cats, who, by the way, didn’t talk unless you ALTERED YOUR CHARACTER to hear them) to mecha roosters to whatever else we’re gonna find. That’s a person getting crazier.

But to go back to “maybe the world is mad….” If we have genuine concerns for the PCs’ sanity, then consider the religious imagery. If these people trying to destroy Rivellon are really trying to help the PCs, then their “evil” religion IS good. They really are, literally, trying to save us. As the blog today said, we’ve done NOTHING good, we’ve done a lot that is bad, and we’re proud of ourselves. We’re sinners in every sense. These “bad” religious people might well just SEEM bad because of the delusions of the PCs’. And that’s a metaphor we could chew on for days.

So where are you, exactly? The mines? Or somewhere else I haven’t found?

Ok. So this is something that I should be doing at this point in the game.

Well, if “ahead” of you means I did one conversation, killed three snowmen, and got a tip as to how to break in that I obviously didn’t need cuz you did it and didn’t get said tip. So not that far ahead of you.

Feminina:

Oh man, I want a tip! It might have made getting in easier. But we got in nonetheless, so whatever. I do need to kill those snowmen. They were creepy.

We are in the process of making our way to the mines, but have been waylaid by things. As tends to happen. But that’s the thing we’re aiming for.

Scarlett/Roderick being one crazy person could explain a great deal.

Possibly not how they got a sequel out of this game, but many other things.

There’s definitely SOMETHING going on with those two (whether they are in fact two, or only one). The diminished (or not yet achieved) great power, the shining armor, the legions, the wronging of demigods, the absence from the tapestry of time. Us basically creating this whole thing in our own heads could account for that.

Or maybe the world is real and we really are just that awesome. Don’t rule that out!

Butch:

Not only a tip……one marked on the map with a quest marker!!!! Golden!

And they were creepy. Even moreso in combat. All in keeping with this game’s “HA! Funny right? No. Creepy” vibe. Which I like.

Yeah, that’s something that has bugged me, that whole knowing there’s a sequel thing. Though, even avoiding spoilers, I do know that it’s unlikely Scarlett and Roderick are in it, as none of the reviews were like “It was great to get back to these characters,” but they did praise the more robust character creation tools in 2. Whether that matters to my theory? Who know? Maybe it takes place in a different Rivellon, someone else’s dream. Or not. All of this being WILD INTERNET SPECULATION!

My point is the existence of a sequel can’t weigh us one way or the other.

Very much something going on. And not just “something,” but, it appears, the same things. Everything in the end of time is addressed to “you,” not “Oh, Scarlett you were a great this and you Roderick were a great that.” No “You both.” No matter what, it’s you. Which could be singular or plural, which is cool cuz unanswered questions are great when you’re wondering about sanity.

There’s also something that’s conspicuously absent from oh so many games: backstory. Ryder? Geralt? Aloy? Shepard? Drake? All had backstories. Shit, most of the time you PLAY their damn backstory sooner or later. This? For all their chatting with each other, they NEVER say “So what did you do before you became a Source Hunter?” Shit, I don’t even know how you become a source hunter in the first place! They just are, with no real explanation. Like a kid playing pretend: “This is my place.”

Oh I’m not ruling out that we’re awesome! And I give the game credit for keeping the game world “real” enough that it would fit as just another game world.

Feminina:

I have also noticed that absence of backstory. Our history is mentioned in passing by Madora “you must have trained at the X camp, right? I’m from the Y” or whatever–but you never respond to that either way (‘yes, I trained there’ or ‘no, I didn’t.’)

When you talk to Icara she’ll make a couple of interesting comments about this that I won’t spoil, and also says something like “didn’t they ever mention during your training that Source was more than madness?” and again…you don’t respond either way to fill in a single detail about your training or your past.

There’s this blank in our history that becomes rather conspicuous when you think about it: we know absolutely nothing about our pasts. We materialized on the boat heading to Cyseal, right?–with orders to solve the murder of Counsillor Jake, and for all we know, we were created from nothing at that precise moment.

Which, obviously, as PLAYER characters we in fact were…but as you say, usually the CHARACTER as such has a pre-player life that we know at least the bare bones of. It might be very bare bones indeed, but at least “grew up rich, got into drug smuggling for kicks, developed super powers after a radioactive shark bite” gives you something to stand on when you think about who the character is.

Here, we have nothing. Except for the choices we make as we play them, we have no idea who these characters are. And I think maybe they don’t either. When we first talked about this a bit ago, ‘do we know why we became source hunters,’ ‘oh, probably the loot was slightly better than with cheesemongering’ or whatever, we kind of assumed that we didn’t know YET, but that the normal, human history of the characters would be filled in at some point, but by now, the blank in their history is so complete and lingering that it’s clearly intentional.

I think very likely they don’t actually HAVE normal human histories, and whether that’s because they were created/created themselves just for this adventure, or whether it’s because they’re insane and making it all up but didn’t make up the history…time will perhaps tell.

Further thought on ‘except for the choices we make as we play them’ we don’t know who they are: Because we did get to ‘create’ them with appearance, skills, etc., one could argue we were meant to be making up their backstories for ourselves as we went, just as we would if they were our D&D characters at the table.

Which is possibly true, in which case, in a larger thematic sense, is that simply a subtle way to invite the player to participate in the madness, if madness it is?

“Here, YOU decide why you’re a source hunter!”

Butch:

Nope. No details. The game even starts rather…vaguely. You’re on a boat. From…somewhere. And someone else’s boat at that.

As for history, even “abnormal” human histories are histories, right? If they’re aging backwards or something, they’d at least remember the times before the game starts.

See, I’m interested in knowing that, if things do get filled in, if they’re even more insane. Sometimes, people who have their reality challenged start saying/thinking “Uh…well….give me a minute….ok HERE’S the thing…” (paraphrasing)

But agreed, the lack of history here is intentional. Especially as this game does incorporate oh so very many conventions of the tabletop and video game RPGs that came before it. Backstory is convention, and this game is a slave to convention, so the absence of convention matters.

It has to be a way to draw the player in. After all, intentionally making two people who are the same is part of the metaphor (or could be). Also, again, the game is a slave to convention, except when it isn’t. Not allowing you to “make” characters would make the absence of other conventions painfully obvious, as making a character is so much a part of an old school RPG. If we were given a character, Geralt, Aloy, whatever, and we didn’t get a backstory, we’d think it was either obvious or lazy.

Feminina:

I do still kind of think the existence of a sequel suggests that it DOESN’T turn out you’re hallucinating the whole thing, though.

I mean, that would be quite a twist and it would be a bit weird to, after getting through a game and saying, essentially, “it turned out it was all a dream!” then go on to make another game where players could come and be…different dreamers!

It seems also like the kind of thing someone might have mentioned in talking about the new game: “after finding out Rivellon was a delusion, we now move on to exploring…” whatever.

It could happen, to be sure. We shall see. But if pressed, I would have to say I think it seems unlikely.

None of which means that there isn’t some narrative purpose to the blank in our backstory, which I agree there totally is. Or almost certainly, since it is possible it’s just an omission. We’ve been known to think things were significant and then had it turn out they didn’t seem to mean anything (although that doesn’t stop us from speculating and reading into the text).

There were at least a couple of the Elder Scrolls games that leave the PC as a pretty blank page…in Oblivion you were escaping from a dungeon where you’d been held for vague reasons, and in Skyrim you were about to be executed because you’d been mistaken for a rebel, or something…? But in neither case was there much of a character bio to fall back on.

Hm.

Butch:

Well….maybe not dream, per se.

Maybe a situation where all these dimensions (that we do know exist in the game world) are all different delusions. After all, we started on this with me thinking the torture racks looked a bit like hospital beds. What if our their dimensions were different “realities” of people in, say, the same hospital?

Could be done.

And Skyrim, yeah, but Skyrim was very, very thin on story, or at least any kind of important story. This game is chock full of it. Skyrim was almost more of a playground/builder. “Get loot to trick out your house! Then buy another house and decorate that!” Divinity is not that kind of game. You didn’t NEED a backstory to trick out your house with crafting tables and cheese. The whole process wasn’t that far removed from Minecraft.

Feminina:

Ooh, did I forget to mention that once you meet King Boreas he lets you establish a settlement in Hiberheim, and you can build houses and attract people to live there by giving them bars and disco balls?

Hahahahaha!!!! Joking.

It is true, the Bethesda games tend to run light on story. Even FO4, which HAD all that detailed character story, felt light on it because there’s so much else to do. Divinity is much more compact. You can wander off the main path, sure (do I have an enormous, confusing quest list? Yes I do!), but only so far and for so long before you’ve defeated all the non-respawning monsters and/or wind up stumbling back onto the main path by accident because it is decidedly not open world.

So, as you say, the story feels a lot more intentional and a lot more important to the game. It’s not just some incidental plot there to give you a vague excuse to explore and loot (although you should definitely do those things). The story is definitely why you’re there.

Which is not always the case in games.

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