on Mar 26, 2014
Before we go forward, I need to back up for a minute. In the last entry I tried to summarize the cutscene that ends the prologue, and I actually made a hash of it by leaving out several elements. Let me try again. In the cutscene we have:
- The Baron, who is leading…
- a cult ceremony, which features a book, which is opened with
- A key (or keys?) which activates the…
- primal stone which creates…
- a magical vortex of unknown utility.
- Erin falls into the vortex while trying to reach…
- the claw. This causes…
- Garrett to fall down after her. He may or may not be trying to save her. To break his fall he throws a rope arrow into the leg of the…
- Thief-Taker General, who is maimed by this.
|And do you, Cornelious, take Aldous as your lawfully wedded… uh. Oops. Wrong script. Give me a minute here.|
That’s a LOT of moving parts. In particular, I think having the book AND the keys AND primal stone makes for too many macguffins. This is certainly too many plot elements to ram into a single three-minute cutscene that’s mostly sound, fury, and bickering between our leads.
After the intro cutscene dumps us into a loading screen, Garrett wakes up on a plague cart rolling through the city. We’ve done a massive time jump (a year) and now Garrett has “amnesia” to explain why he doesn’t realize this. Later it’s revealed that beggars “found” his body and nursed him back to health, and that this may or may not have been a supernatural revival. But that doesn’t really fill in the important blanks. Garrett was presumably trapped under rubble inside the Baron’s mansion, surrounded by cultists, with both the Baron and the Sheriff after him. “Amnesia” doesn’t begin to explain how he could possibly get out of that predicament with all his gear, as well as the claw. (There is more on this later, but I want to talk about it in context.)
|I feel strongly that a Thief should live in a dark hidey-hole and not in a giant open space with lots of light. And if he IS going to live there, he shouldn’t put all his bling on display like the chumps he robs.|
We finish up our tutorial with a trip back to the clock tower where Garrett lives. As an aside: I really dislike the whole “clock tower” idea. For one thing, he’s got display cases of loot around, which sort of kills that desperate feeling that Garrett needs to steal to survive. In the past, Garrett made his living job-to-job, stealing just to put food in his belly. If he’s stolen enough money that he can keep his loot instead of fencing it, then it effectively makes Garrett part of the decadent upper class the game spends so much time deriding. It also means all his sarcastic mocking of the upper class and their baubles is now incredibly hypocritical. I wouldn’t make a big deal of thisThis is a lie. if not for the fact that the game is really heavy-handed with its class warfare message. (We do donate to the poor, though. More on that below.)
Also, living behind the clock face is pretty absurd. Isn’t Garrett worried that someone will come up here to tinker with the clock once in a while? Doesn’t this thing require maintenance? Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to live in an attic or basement somewhere?
It’s not wrong. It’s just dissonant.
|The two best characters in the game: Basso, and Basso’s hat.|
We go see Basso, Garret’s fence. I really liked Basso. He’s probably the most consistent and interesting character in the game.
In the year Garrett was missing a plague has broken out, and now bodies are burned to stop it from spreading. Basso asks Garrett to get a ring. The guy with the ring died and his body is on its way to the furnace to be burned, presumably still wearing the ring.
On the way to the job Garrett stops in to see the Queen of the Beggars. She’s not a bad character. She’s basically a replacement for the Keepers as the conscience of the city. It feels like the plot is supposed to bring her in and go somewhere with her, but it doesn’t. She’s just your upgrades vendor. You give her money, she gives you skill points. That’s fine, although from a practical standpoint it made me wish I could sell all the useless goods in the display cases in the clock towerI think the game actually gives you money for collecting the jewelry you have on display. Don’t ask me how that works.. I’d rather have the skill points than decorations.
|Ugh. That dialog.|
We’ve got a system of hoarding extravagant baubles, a heavy-handed rich vs. poor message, and a system where you donate to the poor as a way of becoming a better thief. None of these are terrible, but they kind of clash or undercut each other.
Moving on: It’s a pretty straightforward mission. You sneak into the factory where the bodies are being cremated, slip past the guards, and reach the guy who supposedly has the ring. If you dig around you might uncover a secret room where there’s some sort of automaton sitting at a desk. It’s supposedly part of the whole “industrialization” thing the Baron is doing. It’s obviously a throwback to some earlier version of the game. No character ever discusses these things, they serve no purpose to the city or the Baron’s plans, and while Garrett talks about them as if they were insidious, they are never seen to move or take any action. In an earlier version of the script, I imagine these things were part of some scheme to take over the city.
We get to the end of the factory and then this cutscene takes place. What is going on here?
The Thief-Taker General shows up. He’s obviously here for the ring. (On behalf of the Baron I presume? The game never explains.) He searches the body. Then he insinuates that one of the guards might have taken the ring. Then he grabs a cleaver, puts it in the hand of the supposedly untrustworthy guard, and forces him to chop the body a couple of times. The cutting is done off-screen, so I don’t know where he’s cutting. Then TTG finds the ring somewhere in the body and executes the guard as an example to the others for not “following orders”.
|I don’t have any screenshots from this part of the game, so here’s a picture of a guy smoking an invisible pipe.|
What? What orders? What is going on here? There are actually procedures for searching bodies posted in the room, and they make no mention of opening the body, which would be a monumentally stupid idea during a plague anyway. Did you give your men orders to randomly hack all the plague bodies with a cleaver in case they have rings in their entrails? Where WAS the ring hidden, anyway? How did it get there? Did he swallow it? What did TTG expect this guard to do? And while we’re at it: Since this dead guy was obviously part of the conspiracy, why didn’t anyone in this cult or club or whatever think to secure the ring before he was dragged off to the morgue?
I’m not saying these questions are “plot holes” or story contradictions. They’re just stuff the story doesn’t make clear, which keeps you from understanding what’s going on.
Whatever. I guess we’ve established our mustache-twirling bad guy who kills his own men for no reason, so let’s move on. Garrett nicks the ring and makes his escape.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.