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Spoilers for ‘the Disembowler’ in Hiberheim, in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Well, then.

Remember the other day when I was all “I wish this game would move it along a little?”

Be careful what you wish for.

I said “a little,” game.

So stopped the attack. Didn’t fight those “lava things,” because each time I tried they said “invulnerable,” even with tenibrium weapons, so I just did the sneaky (keep your fucking XP) and then teleported over lava and didn’t kill the demons (no really, keep your fucking XP), and stopped the attack.

Then. Stuff. Happened.

Opened the armory, met the trife again. Told the imps they were safe, they stopped bugging me. Opened the place with the merchant. Got the last two cutscenes (which….get the last two cutscenes. And I know they’re the last ones, so just tell me about whatever cutscenes you got and we’ll be cool, you can’t spoil). Whoa. Just…whoa, dude. Got to the air plane. Hmm. Met the trife AGAIN and…whoa. Just…whoa, dude.

LIKE SO MUCH STUFF!

And then, after all that, Icara was STILL all just “Yeah, nice, go find Zandilor.”

So I went back and tried, once again, to have Madora forgive the kid orc, failed again, killed the kid orc, and, oh well, that’s a trophy I won’t get. Madora seemed ok with things. Got 5300 XP! Hooray!

For all that! 5300 XP! NOT BITTER.

The pacing in this game is odd. Cuz MAN all that stuff at the shelter plane is usually stuff you get, like, the day before you finish a game. And yet…this is not the day before I finish this game. It just isn’t. I’m just…done there, or damn close. And I don’t think I am in the “real” game. I STILL haven’t entered the phantom forest!

Odd pacing.

Anyway, if you’ve gotten any of that end of time stuff, let’s have a brilliant conversation.

Feminina:

Hm. No. We have not been back to the end of time since the second cut scene.

But we didn’t fight the lava things either, we just hastily killed the Immaculate who seemed to be commanding them, and once she was dead they were totally chill and we just strolled right through them.

What did we do lately…we tried going back to the wizard’s house, but failed utterly to throw the pyramid through the barrier, so instead we went back to Hiberheim, got into the treasure room, got the spell, fought the guardian again, freed the wishing well, got the amulet, broke the crystal, killed the Disemboweler, went back to the treasure room, got the Winter Ring, went back to Cyseal, visited the two wells, picked up Jahan, united the two cats in blissful love (to Jahan’s scorn), and went back to the desert to look for an imp, whom we utterly failed to find.

So we got around, did some stuff, but no plot relevant stuff.

Jahan definitely came with a lot of story dumping, although there’s still some stuff he hasn’t told us. One of the first things he said was something like “at last my thousand-year ordeal is over and I am free!” But he didn’t explain WHY, so in-game we’re left looking at each other saying “I guess we did something important?” and wandering around with him waiting for him to work up to telling us about Balberith. I took him to the goblin village, but all he said was “this seems like demon work,” which, no duh man. Figured that one out. I guess we should take him to the Phantom Forest and maybe the sight of Balberith’s body will jog something loose.

Anyway… Yeah. We caught up with you on some little things, but not the big ones.

Butch:

There are more cutscenes. There is theme.

That is so odd. I had no trouble with the pyramid at all. Well, no loot for you.

Ah! That’s stuff!

I wonder why Jahan had scorn. What was his problem with happy cats? (I think this may tie to the themes worth discussing today)

Which imp? Yox, by chance? Slave imp?

Ah, the disemboweler. I remember him. That was one crazy dude. More on him in a bit. But what did you make of the fact you could free him? Cuz you could, right? Give him the rift spell? I wonder what would have happened…..

And yeah….um….well….Jahan may not do that, what with Balberith being, you know, dead already. Sorta makes explaining the whole deal kinda moot.

I’ll give him some more time then spoil. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Seeing dead Jareth didn’t make Bairdotr talk.

Well, this is still good.

Cuz with the disemboweler, I got two things.

First, of the three prisoners, he, like you, was the one I killed. This, despite the fact he killed fewer people, or was responsible for fewer deaths, than the other two. And the other two were just as unrepentant. It wasn’t based on what he did, but how he described what he did. Or was it? Cuz, with him, it seemed sexual. Which dovetails into my second thought, and why I’m curious about what Jahan said about the cats:

This game doesn’t have a very high opinion of love and sex. Right from the get go, we see the charmed orc, which doesn’t end well either way. The disemboweler had the most sexualized descriptions of anything in this game, and, well, eww. We had to deliver a will to a woman who cried, and the choice in that wasn’t about making her happy, it was about stealing from her or not. One of the happier ghosts we met talked merrily about rape and child abuse. We had Desdemona and the lighthouse keeper, a lovely story of murder and jealousy. Even the main story has a bizarre love triangle that probably will end badly.

And then there are cutscenes. And diaries. And stuff.

And this is a strange thing in this game. We talk on “sin” being “good” in this game. Well, isn’t the thing that really sin-adverse people in the real world abhor the most, well, sex? Here, we HAVE to steal and kill and lie and betray, but sex is still treated with disdain. If anything, sex in Rivellon is MORE sinful than it is here.

Which, well, cutscenes. Get on that.

And I ask about the cats because I saw two exceptions to this: The lovers in Hunter’s Edge, who I still don’t know much about, who are an interracial (literally) gay couple. Those are two things that pearl clutchers here clutch pearls over. And, I thought, the cats. I thought the cats were rather sweet. Little greedy of Maxine there, expecting loot and dowry, but still. They seemed happy, and I wondered why the happy romance was not humans. But now there’s a wrinkle, isn’t there?

Feminina:

Jahan scorned the kitty love because he scorns love in general. It just leads people to value material things and the venality of life and so forth. Basically being bitter because his own love turned out badly.

Which, you’re right, we don’t see much happy love. Hm.

As for the Disemboweler…hm. Yes, I suppose we did kind of reactively kill him because he grossed us out. Interestingly, though, he also didn’t offer us anything useful, so it wasn’t a particularly difficult decision. That elemental we freed, who also didn’t repent at all, offered to give us useful information (which he did). This dude, what did he say? Did he even offer money? If so, it wasn’t anything we cared about at all, because it was last night and I already can’t recall. So the game didn’t work very hard to make us think about whether or not to kill him, did it?

I did feel kind of bad that we had to kill the snowman guards, though. I would also have helped them kill him, if they’d waited a minute! I was on their side, sort of! Other than the whole “freeing the prisoner they were charged with guarding” thing. Water under the bridge. They’re all dead now. XP!

And yes, we were looking for that slave imp. He’s got to be in the desert somewhere, right? Maybe?

Butch:

Yeah, I can see Jahan feeling that way.

Ah, see, the disemboweler didn’t offer us anything. Indeed, he said that our reward would be “leaving our liver where it is.” Buuuuuuuut…….

We make game decisions that cost us loot/info all the time. Why? Because we feel that doing so is the right thing. For example, we didn’t tell the goblins to shower us with loot when we hijacked the totem. We often don’t demand all sorts of payments for helping others. Shit, we feel bad “stealing,” and Mr. O is annoyed that he has to steal to get ahead in this game. So the idea of “We’ll help the ones that give us stuff, but if there’s no stuff in it for us, who cares?” isn’t a way to make us do/not do things.

Because usually, loot/not loot isn’t a factor in what we think is the “right” thing to do. Sure, all things being equal, we go loot, but usually we side with right over personal greed. This guy, objectively, wasn’t as bad as the other guys, but we let the other guys buy us out, and said “fuck this guy” cuz he couldn’t/didn’t buy us out. We NEVER say “fuck this guy cuz he can’t buy us out.” NEVER! And, usually, when someone evil offers us something or other, we say “Nay! We shall avenge whoever the fuck!”

Because the stuff the others gave us wasn’t all that great. Sure, I got a quest marker to the hatch thing, but you found the hatch without it. The loot thingy the other guy gave us was ok, but hardly earth shattering. So, in this case, we made our moral decision based on presentation of the offenses at hand, and trinkets/useless secrets.

Cuz I, rather casually, did the same thing. “Oh, nothing useful? And you’re icky? Whatever.” But if you step back, why were we really so casual?

XP. Ha. At least I got those.

But, oddly, the guards’ reaction was part of the reason why I killed the guy. The other prisoners, the guards seemed mad, like “You have interfered with justice!” The disemboweler’s guards seemed legitimately terrified at the prospect of this dude being cut loose. You gotta figure if the monsters are scared, best to be scared, too.

Which is another thing that makes me think we’re dealing with “real life” crazy people and “real life” doctors/guards. Would a fantasy “evil” king really care about the disemboweler? Would snowmen care about human women in some other plane getting killed? We’ve never seen that sort of thing in games. Monsters care about their own shit. You never see darkspawn arresting a demon for killing elves. The snowmen were reacting the way human doctors would react if someone let a dangerous human loose in the real world.

Feminina:

See, I kind of idly thought about this: was the Disemboweler talking about human “girls” or fellow trolls? Not that it matters in one sense: obviously, it’s horrible either way. But if he’s actually talking about humans, maybe he’s got a (small) point when he says “a butcher kills a cow to make sausage and he’s doing a useful job, but I do the same thing to a girl and I’m a maniac?”

I mean…traditionally, trolls do eat people. We haven’t seen that they do it in this game, but it’s part of their lore. Are we misreading his descriptions of how great it feels to kill them (which, absolutely, read like sexual references) the same way we misread Ruby’s invitations to spend some time with her? Maybe he was literally just talking about how much he loves his food, and we’re the ones turning him into some twisted sex murderer.

Which is nevertheless bad from our standpoint, and by all our game ethics we’re justified in killing something that’s going to kill innocents, regardless of whether the motivation is hunger or twisted lust. So again, in one sense it really doesn’t matter, but in another I think he’s certainly a WORSE person if he’s murdering other trolls (or humans) for sex kicks, than if he just enjoys playing with his food.

I don’t know. It was weird, that whole bit. And disturbing, and gross, and in every way pretty much designed to get us to just kill that troll. Which in a way feels weird. As you say, we don’t usually go against our morals (such as they are) even when someone DOES offer us a reward not to, but he didn’t even try. There was no attempt to make it even remotely appealing to us to let that guy live. He was in the game to gross us out and then die, as far as I can tell. There was no moral decision involved. So is it really that simple, or is there something else going on there?

I’m not sure. I mean, I’m not sorry we killed him. I stand by that decision. But the ease of the decision, paired with all that gut-level discomfort (pun intended, hahahaha) with his disturbing dialogue, makes me feel like either we missed something, or it was maybe a little lazy in terms of writing.

“Add disturbing serial- killer character, then kill him immediately,” is…I mean, again, not that I wanted to spend any more time with that character! But does it add significantly to the experience of the game, or is it just for grossness’ sake?

I suppose it is another reminder that this fantasy world, while often amusing, has a lot of dark edges.

Butch:

It certainly does. And, frankly, I think it’s getting darker the more it goes.

Hmmm. I didn’t think about it like that at all.

I…hmm. I suppose it was suggestive that he didn’t say “people,” he said “girls.” That certainly put a maniacal spin on it. I suppose it could be misleading…but….

But if our game ethics are cool with killing something that’s going to kill innocents, how come we weren’t cool with killing the orc child? Or how come we both rather casually let the elemental go, despite him saying he would keep killing?

There was a decision! We could have let this guy go! And games, especially this one, aren’t exactly explicit in saying “if you do X, you get Y.” Shit, just last night, I told the imps that I misled the Watchers, and they were all “hey, thanks man, here, take this cool thing as a token of thanks” (and it was quite cool.) There was no “Save the imps, get the thing” beforehand.

Again, we did have the chance to not kill him. It wasn’t a deal where he was all “Thanks for freeing me…now…DIIIIIIIIE!” thing that sometimes happens. So there was some degree of making us decide, even if the decision isn’t all that important to the overall game.

Feminina:

Well, yeah, we hear “girls” and we think human girls, but that’s our bias, isn’t it? What else are young female trolls called? We don’t know! “Troll girls” would be my best guess as a human, and as a troll, maybe it just didn’t make sense for him to specify. “Obviously I meant troll girls, why would I find human girls sexually appealing anyway?” could be the argument.

Which is also a legitimate question. There’s certainly a long tradition in fantasy and sci fi of assuming that every strange, inhuman thing out there desperately wants human women (and I’m happy to play that up in my many interspecies romances in BioWare games), but why would that necessarily be true?

I’m not really arguing that we did misread it, just that I guess it seems almost too simple, and I’m wondering if it’s more complicated than that.

It might not be, though! Some things are what they seem.

Butch:

Well…wait. I’m not at all saying that he was sexually into who he was killing. What got my attention is that these grotesque acts were so obviously sexualized, and that the game very intentionally did that.

Interesting you say “strange, inhuman thing,” because my theory is that this is a very real human human. Now, whether his tastes make him inhuman, well, that’s a different discussion. I think the game is using this trope of “weird things liking human women” as, once again, a vehicle for the tearing up of a very real reality. Or, at least, letting Scarlett use all these tropes as a handy template for her delusions.

Tearing up reality. I like that image.

Feminina:

It’s true, it does fit well with your insanity theory. I’ll give you that. Your theory, like any good delusion, is capable of working all manner of things into its fabric.

You’re probably insane, but go with it.

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