Visit our sponsors! (or click here and disable ads)
Fallen Gods Update #8: Violence
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 24 September 2018, 21:24:13Tags: Fallen Gods; Mark Yohalem; Wormwood Studios
As I recall, this month's Fallen Gods development update was originally supposed to be about event design. It appears however that MRY has decided to embark on a brief detour with an update about violence. Specifically, the game's approach to violence, which true to its Norse inspirations, is grim and amoral - something which is also reflected in its mechanics. It's a relatively short update, but it makes up for that with some new screenshots. Here's an excerpt:
In typical fantasy novels, when a villain tortures a brave young woman or torches a helpless town, the bitter herb of his evil is mixed with the sweet confidence that he is merely sowing the wind. Even in ostensibly “grim-dark” series such as A Song of Ice and Fire, the long arc of history bends in favor of “breakers of chains” and once-bullied bastards. I mentioned earlier that “the noblest aspect of fantasy” is “its ability to train us to view doing good as the proper exercise of power.” Here I’ll add that its capacity to comfort, even if a kind of deceptive opiate, is no small virtue either. Run-of-the-mill childhood bullying is hardly the worst thing in the world, but it’s still rough, and that roughness is at least a bit diminished by books like The Once and Future King or any of a thousand other stories. But here, too, our game offers something different.
Unlike such fantasies, neither Fallen Gods nor the sagas that inspire it promises a moral plan for violence. When the strong use their might to hurt the weak, that does not necessarily set in motion a Rube Goldberg device by which the aggressors will ultimately suffer a comeuppance at the hands of their victims. The bloody slaughter of a people does not imply that the lone survivor will one day become king over a just, prosperous, and fecund realm; he may simply wind up an outlawed murderer meting out a measure of revenge until the day he’s caught and killed. Or he might not even make it that far. Perhaps, weak and weary, he’ll be run down a few days later and speared where he sleeps.
Our game’s setting is a world already whirling in the cyclone of such violence, and its story is that of a powerful, selfish fighter who sees others merely as a means to an end (or, we might say, a means not to end). To tell that story in that world means not flinching back from its ugliness—one must heed the cry of Aldonza in The Man of La Mancha when she is at last pushed to the brink by Don Quixote’s refusal to see the fullness of her suffering: “Won’t you look at me, look at me, / God, won’t you look at me!” As in the sagas, violence in Fallen Gods knows few limits, and it falls on the weak and undeserving no less than on the mightily wicked. Their suffering deserves to be seen and told.
That’s not to say that Fallen Gods features nothing but ugly violence or that its depictions of violence are especially gory or torturous. By the standards of modern video games and or R-rated movies, the violence is sparing and its depiction is restrained. But it is designed to have a bit more heft.
As with other aspects of Fallen Gods, that heft is conveyed mechanically. Because HP are so limited (typically single digit, even for a powerful warrior), every wound is serious. Healing is painstaking—in the field, resting restores a single HP per day, and time is valuable. There are no healing potions; rapid recovery can be achieved only by the godly skill of Healing Hands, which costs precious soul-strength, a resource the god gains only with difficulty, as previously discussed. Sickness (which encompasses both poison and disease) causes a person to grow weaker, rather than healthier, with each passing day, and unless you are strong enough to outlast the ailment, only Healing Hands or a priest’s craft can help. So too with crippling, a condition that halves the might of the injured, leaving him or her vulnerable in combat and much less helpful in events.
The seriousness of violence is also conveyed visually. Our attack and death animations avoid majestic or balletic movements. Though blood and gore is minimal, blows are meant to convey force; we want the player to wince when he sees a churl club a wolf’s skull. Illustrations likewise show battle not as glorious but in its rough-and-tumble grit.
Finally, Fallen Gods uses its narrative to drive this point home. The vignettes told through events involve not only battles in which the god participates, but also the aftermath of battles he’s missed, the weary despair that comes from the anticipation of battles that have not yet materialized, the economic drain of feuds, and so on. These events rely in part on the differences in perspective among the god (who is largely oblivious to others’ suffering), the narrator (who is aware of that suffering but takes it as a fact of life), and the player (whose values are likely very different from either the god’s or the narrator’s). The parallax effect of these overlapping perspectives is meant to be disconcerting and in some instances even dizzying, as when the narrator grumbles about surly thralls going about “unbeaten by their betters.”
Fallen Gods is an adventure in which the player has the opportunity to slay foul creatures, wield magical weapons, win powerful allies, and earn the admiration of many. But it is not unalloyed heroic fantasy, for beneath and within this quest is a frank and cautionary look at the uglier side of a world in which meting out death is viable way of life and perhaps the only way back to the heavens.