Friday, July 7, 2017

Barik Echoes

"Has he lost his mind?
Can he see or is he blind?
Can he walk at all
Or if he moves will he fall?

Is he live or dead?
Has he thoughts within his head?"

Black Sabbath - Iron Man

Minor spoiler: Tyranny, Barik


When I evaluated Torment: Tides of Numenera I said it fails to live up to its claim as successor to Planescape: Torment, and I stand by that. Aside from other aesthetics, the various personalities you meet tend to stop short of the monomaniacal stature of the original tormented. Tides' antivillainess can't hold a candle to the inscrutably sadistic Ravel and your companions seem hopelessly hopeful, lacking that pleasingly pervasive expectation of doom, of sliding inexorably down the universe's undertow.

Tyranny's no match for the original Torment either, but its grim setting allows for a bit more thematic overlap. For example, take your (archetypically) loyal walking panzer, Barik, permanently stuck within a tangle of metal slabs and coils wrapped around him by the monstrous strength of a magical storm. (For bonus villain points, you can actually become the proximate cause of Barik's doom during the pre-game roleplaying choices.) Barik's plight gets played off as sort of a running gag in various dialogues, a gag which grows increasingly macabre as you gain an understanding of just how debilitating his "condition" is - culminating in this dialogue:

Torment fans will probably facepalm at that point and wonder how they didn't see it  coming all along. Barik is basically another Vhailor, a modern fantasy version of El Cid Campeador riding into battle indifferent to pre-existing health conditions like death. He achieves this status more successfully than Qara from NWN2 in her role as proto-Ignus, unhampered by NWN2's kid-friendly limitations. Barik will not die so long as his cause lives.

We met the characters from Torment in their decline, the entire plot consisting of a denouement of lifetimes' worth of adventuring and power struggles. There's a lot of potential in revisiting those archetypes in the making, elaborating the kind of personae and plot twists which can make an Ignus or a Vhailor. One can imagine a Tyranny sequel set centuries after the first, coming across a hollow humanoid form of rusted, tangled metal bands which suddenly booms: "I have... AWAKENED!"

Now, what I'd really like to meet is a proto-Ravel, in the process of weaving herself into her power. Better yet, I'd like to play her.

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