Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Beastwoman Smells Guuud

"Won't be hard to pull you underground
And won't be long 'til you love me
And I'll be coming at your back to bring you down
Leave you with an open wound
Left to die alone like an animal"

Genitorturers - Lecher Bitch

Minor Tyranny spoilers.
While Obsidian's recent RPG Tyranny suffered more than its share of problems, mostly revolving around its unsatisfyingly truncated last act, it offered among its better features the companionship of an NPC roster running the gamut of an evil overlord's minions, lackeys, henchmen, grunts and toadies. Ya got the fanatics, collaborators and conscripts, the bootlicks and backstabbers and the scheming usurpers, and of course no evil overlord's army would be complete without a breed/brand of nominally inhuman monsters to confirm, by proxy, the villain's own place outside the cozy, empathetic bonds of human normalcy.
Meet my trusty bolverk, Kills-in-Shadow.
Though she seems to spend most of her time scratching her hairy pits or even hairier teats, this girl really comes through for you whenever you need some heads bashed in or limbs ripped apart. Her playstyle's a perfect complement for my own mix of squishiness, suicidal aggression and crowd control. Unable to equip any armor, waiting for me to initiate before launching herself into the fray, dashing across the battlefield while knocking enemies on their asses, howling and yelping when she gets in over her head, she'd be a laugh riot even if she weren't both well-written and well-voiced.
Her dialogue manages to play up the moldy old routine of the primitive and/or imbecile musclehead who hasn't mastered personal pronouns (what TVTropes calls "Hulkspeak") while somehow coming across as quite natural, clever and even weirdly... poetic, at times. Beastwoman speech strings varied adjectives around a few evocative verbs to great effect, and belying its initial awkwardness, you quickly learn that Kills-in-Shadow suffers little impediment in communicating her feelings on any number of topics. Often this entails a concise, lurid bluntness. Possibly the scariest moment in my first playthrough came when Kills-in-Shadow confessed getting a bit frisky toward my character -
 - especially since it's not clear whether she intends to ride me like a pogo stick or floss her fangs with my intestines or both in whichever order. As with Barik's particular quirk suggesting a similarity to Vhailor from Planescape: Torment, several conversations with Kills-in-Shadow bring to mind Ignus' freewheeling mania, a loose cannon you can barely manage to keep rolling away from yourself, though unfortunately in terms of gameplay she doesn't seem to ever go as far as turning against you like Ignus could.
Or maybe I just like her too much and consistently stayed on her good side... by bitchslapping her down to enforce pack hierarchy.
In any case, she counts among the various reasons to consider Tyranny a truer spiritual successor to the original Torment than the more kid-friendly Tides of Numenera claims to be.

The success of the character hinges partly on some good voice acting maintaining a quick, excitable, rolling tempo to that third-person caveman routine which prevents it from sounding stiff or dopey. Largely, however, she and the whole beastwoman race were solidly designed from the ground up for both an instantly recognizable thematic place within Kyros' world and for internal consistency. Not as stupid as they seem but for the most part lacking self-control or a measurable attention span, their dialogues reveal an appropriately bestial synesthesia, a hypersensitive maelstrom of haptic, olfactory, visual and aural data keeping their decision-making solidly mired in the obsessive bloodthirsty "now."

They're a welcome slap in the face to furries and their tendency to infantilize the object of their fascination, to every mewling catgirl on the internet, and every vegan werewolf begging for treats. They break modern cliches left and right, not least the more recent bemoaning of racism among fictional elves and goblins. Tyranny's various human societies share an almost universal racist prejudice against these sentient predators, but it's for the most part entirely justified. They prove themselves at every turn to be vicious, impulsively murderous and largely deserving of their gradual extermination. They make Larry Niven's Kzinti look clean-cut, clearheaded and reasonable by comparison. Kills-in-Shadow's on your side after all, the evil, ravenously megalomaniacal side of the story and ironically, it's arguably the most evil and sadistic faction in the game which is even willing to enroll beastmen at all rather than hunt them to extinction. These ain't heartstring-tugging beaten puppies.

As for Kills-in-Shadow, she's quickly earned her place in the roster of truly memorable cRPG henchmen, with the added distinction of being one of the least likeable or sympathetic.

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