Wage of a Champion

“The obvious path is humble; safe. But pays the wage of a cook. Not a champion.”

Lion Statue, Jade Empire

Jade Empire is actually the game that really got me into roleplaying and Bioware games, and this one, nearly pointless quest, in the game is what really stuck to me over the years.

You know that one quote that you completely memorize because you just love it so much? Yeah, that’s what this quote is for me.

Basically in this quest, there is a large statue of a Chinese lion that indicates a specific order in which the player has to put smaller, coloured versions of itself on a table. Once the player finishes doing this, a voice rumbles from the statue, and it goes ahead and says this.

Now Bioware uses the moral dilemma system so often that seeing it in an RPG game is considered a huge cliché now. This quote, however, is interesting in that it kind of predicts the feelings that one would have after playing a Bioware game.

In terms of Jade Empire itself, I have always chickened out when going toward the evil path (or the “Way of the Closed Fist” as they call it). I know from Star Wars and even Fable (as well as my guesses with Jade Empire) that someone – usually a very important someone – always dies.

And that is what I think when I look into quotes like this. Not necessarily that someone died (it is a game after all), but that in the end, we won’t feel quite finished because there is no solid end; something important was destroyed or someone important was killed. Hence, the player feels as if they were “paid in the wage of a cook, not a champion.”

The route to be good is also always longer with more work involved. Generally less income too, so they can’t actually buy any of the more expensive equipment that they may need. It is harder, yes, but more satisfactory. The idea that we have done more in the game gives us just a little more gratification than if we had done the easy, darker path.

And I think this can apply to real life as well: the more work we put in and the more invested we are in something, the more satisfied we feel when we finish.

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The Injustice of Superman

“Someone took it all away from you once too, didn’t they, Bats? And look what you became – an all-punching, all-kicking little ball of angst. What do you think Superman will become? He’s a God who has deluded himself into believing he’s a man. What will he turn into?”

The Joker, Injustice: Gods Among Us

The standard view of Superman is this noble, perfect superhero. We hear his name and immediately think of perfection, from the powers, to the style of clothing, to the hair that never, ever, seems out of place. He is what helps us determine who is truly a hero, a villain, or an antihero. Even the word ‘super’ is in the name: Superman. He could do absolutely no wrong.

Well, until that is all challenged in Injustice: Gods Among Us. As I explained in a previous blog post (see here: Rebirth of Harley Quinn), Neartherrealm studios and DC Comics had a lot of freedom when it came to the storyline, as it is based in a completely different universe than the one we are used to. And the Joker is at the centre of it all.

When we think of the Joker, we think insane yet brilliant mastermind. Completely unpredictable (in fact he is also one of the only characters who can break the fourth wall), which is why the only one in the whole DC universe who can really compete with him is Batman, who is also quite the brilliant detective. Netherrealm, also the creators of the Mortal Kombat series, went insane when they thought up who the Joker would cross paths with in this game (please tell me you aren’t entirely surprised; the Mortal Kombat series can be considered pretty over-the-top).

Long story short, the Joker decides to “play the game on easy mode” and attack (and kill) Lois Lane and hers and Superman’s unborn child. If that wasn’t already a war crime in and of itself, the Joker takes it one step further: he drugs Superman into doing the deed himself (you can go and read the comic or play the game if you want to learn more about how).

Despite all of this, the Joker still comes out as insane as always, pulling out this little gem of a quote to Batman when the Dark Knight interrogates him. And he does bring up a great question: What will Superman become now?

And so we learn Superman’s weakness when kryptonite is not in abundance: his mental willpower.

We will watch him take down and destroy full corrupt governments, call for ceasefires by force, blackmail Aquaman and all of Atlantis, eliminate all the criminals in Arkham Asylum, and many other things. All for the “greater good,” or so in his mind. The loss of family brought upon this paranoia that, if he could eradicate all potential threats to the world, he could save everyone.

We as readers, however, know this does not work.

We can’t even say that this is just exclusive to Netherrealm and DC Comic’s new Superman either, as the Superman that we know mentions later that he probably would have done and become the exact same thing as Superman does. They do a great job with this development of Superman, and it makes us really think that even the greatest people in the world can break in the most destructive of ways.

Stargazing Lions

“The stars shine during the day too, you know. It’s just that the human eyes can’t see them because of the bright light of the sun. But… if you look up… the stars are always with you. As long as you don’t forget that, the stars will always be watching over you.”

Leon x God of Leo, Star Crossed Myth

Did you think this would be a Lion King quote? It’d make sense wouldn’t it? Oh how severely disappointed some people probably are…

Sorry, it occurred to me as I was writing in a title that even I expected a Lion King quote. Sorry again, because this is going to be a little depressing.

This quote hits me close to home. I am sure many of us have lost a loved one at some point in our lives. I lost my grandfather some odd years ago, and then my grandmother maybe two years later. It was not a fun time for anyone in my family.

It comes off as comforting in a way, like yes, we may not see the stars at all times, but they are always there. We just have to believe in them.

Leon is a bachelor from a Japanese otome game (literally “maiden game”), or dating simulator, called “Star Crossed Myth.” It’s a little embarrassing to say that I read these, not going to lie, but they’re fun and interesting reads nonetheless.

Back to Leon: he is the star God of Leo, the zodiac sign known for being proud, having a high ego, and a driving personality to look for love. Though he denies the need for love multiple times, he is actually seen as a very lonely God (and he is not a fan of being lonely). In Leon’s case it also makes him proud enough to blatantly ignore multiple rules within the God hierarchy.

Something that is akin to the lion that Leos are based off of is Leon’s great, physical strength. I suppose we could also say that his laziness is another trait similar to a lion’s, though the strength in this context is most important. Once Leon realizes his feelings for the MC (aka the Main Character) are more than platonic, he decides that he needs to break their relationship off as soon as possible before someone gets hurt. Gods aren’t allowed to love mortals in general, but because he is so strong that he is unable to control his power 24/7, he knows that he must listen (for once).

It does take him a while to put this break off plan in motion, which is why he says this quote to the MC. This context also brings up another good point in the quote.

This person that he refers to in the quote (the “stars”) do not necessarily have to be dead, but they can also be someone that one must leave forever (or at least for a very long time).

Though we may not see a friend, a lover, or a family member anymore, as long as we remember the memories, they will always be with us in our hearts.

Why You Should Never Steal a Lightsaber

“I took your lightsaber, so I could never forget what you did.”

“Took it? Stole it, you mean.”

Atris and Meetra Surik, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

Pulling up another quote from a game I already sort of looked at a week ago bugs me, but oh well. I saw this and really wanted to comment. Oddly enough, it is not so much the art of taking/stealing a lightsaber that is currently making me cringe, but the fact that Atris goes ahead and uses Meetra’s old lightsaber.

In order to explain, I am going to use Harry Potter.

In Harry Potter, wands are created, then they have the responsibility in choosing their user. They may change allegiance, but if the user and the wand are not in sync, their full potential cannot be reached. Lightsabers are similar.

The user takes all of the parts they need, and uses the Force to fabricate it to their liking. The parts they choose are also vital, as choice of handgrip, whether there is a belt ring or not, blade intensity, and where the activation lever is can all factor in whether the lightsaber will work well for the user. It is meant for them to use, not someone else.

I suppose in much the same way, we may see something like this happen in Star Wars history. Though wielding a single blade and a double blade at the same time may give Kao Cen Darach a blade advantage over the other two Sith attacking him, with using Satele Shan’s lightsaber, coupled with an unbalanced weight, and new and unpopular form of fighting (double + single blade), the art of controlling it all may drop him back down to a disadvantage. We actually see that he will turn one blade off on Satele’s ‘saber, possibly because of the awkwardness of the style. Spoiler Alert: Master Kao will lose this battle.

Though we may hope that the stronger and more equipment we use can give us an advantage, if we are not completely confident in using said equipment, it will mean nothing. Sometimes it is best to just go back to the basics and what we are best at, and in Master Kao’s case, single bladed combat. And if someone else’s lightsaber seems to have stronger focus crystals, it would take a lot of practice to get used to that lightsaber for the crystals to make a difference. May as well just put the work into taking the crystals out and putting them into one’s own lightsaber instead.

I understand that Atris may have seen a sentimental value behind taking Meetra’s lightsaber, but her usage of it may have very well been a factor in why she didn’t stand a chance against the Jedi Exile in a fight. One would think that a historian would know better.

“I long for the day…”

“I long for the day when men turn away from invisible monsters and once more embrace a more rational view of the world. But these new religions are so convenient – and promise such terrible punishments should one reject them – I worry that fear shall keep us stuck to what is surely the greatest lie ever told.”

Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, Assassin’s Creed II

I only started playing Assassin’s Creed this summer, and I can honestly say that I am absolutely in love with the series so far (I’m on Revelations). The first game is a little repetitive, but the next couple of games definitely make it worth the grind. Trust me.

This quote that I pulled out… is a sensitive topic. I am not saying that we should turn away from religion or faith completely, no that’s not what I mean when I bring this up at all. I am not arguing with or against Altaïr’s wishes (as his “dream” seems slightly radical). In fact, there are moments in my life when I hope that someone – some deity up above – is watching over me. It’s comforting in a way.

I am only here to look through, give my personal thoughts, and add in some analysis to this quote. That is all.

Altaïr’s codex is thirty pages long, ranging between drawn picture entries to long, written paragraphs of insight (and sometimes, a bit of both). Codex page 20 is long, about four paragraphs, explaining his confusion surrounding the traditional Abrahamic religions. Though it may quite possibly be the longest of all his codex pages, it is most definitely the one that hit me most.

Within the game, Assassins are known to be warriors who fight for the freedom of thought, so that the people of the land may turn away from “blind faith” as they call it. Altaïr is a perfect example of someone who questioned authority and the blind faith, and so is the perfect one to write something like this in his journal.

In the first game, in following his story, we notice that with every kill he makes to appease the Al Mualim (the Master Assassin at the time), he questions the reasoning. Over and over again, he questions and demands answers from everyone, only to get a “You will understand in time” answer, or nothing at all.

The assassin’s maxim: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted,” can be interpreted in that assassins grew up only knowing rational thought (that they only believe in what they know or see; science and logic are what they believe in. An unpopular way of thinking, considering his story is based around 500-600 years before the Age of Enlightenment). With this in mind, it is also important to note that Altaïr grew up with this thought process, which is why he is able to question everything that does not make perfect sense to him. Despite this, Altaïr is still inarguably one of the smartest characters in the whole franchise, as well as one of the most respected all around. His later promotion to Master Assassin says as much.

This quote also brings up a good point in the Assassin’s Creed series: though the original Crusaders/Hashashin conflict was between the Christian and Islamic faiths (though that may not have been the central purpose), the Templar/Assassin conflict is between religion and atheism. Altaïr, if you have not noticed, is an Atheist.

The most important thing I want to pull out of this quote is the very last bit: “I worry that fear shall keep us stuck to what is surely the greatest lie ever told.” I personally am not suggesting that anything in any religion is an all-out lie, but with Altaïr’s writing and attitude toward religion, we know that he is referring to religion when he mentions “lie”.

The first part of this is what I actually agree with, in worrying that fear will keep us stuck here. Fear of punishment. Fear of a fight. Fear of what may or may not happen. This conflict between faiths, believers, non-believers, believers of other faiths has not ended. And this is where Altaïr is truly disappointed.

As I stated before, I do not agree with his wish for all religion to end and for us all to become atheists. What I do agree with, however, is for us to get along, no matter our faiths. There is potential for the faiths to coexist.

I think if we can catch on to this way of thinking, Altaïr and many others will still be proud of our generation.

Death by Flying Boxes

“Hmm… a wise dragon once told me, ‘Aim high in life, but watch out for flying boxes.'”

Revilo, Spyro the Dragon

The very first Spyro game will always have a special place in my heart. Though it was rather difficult for a three-year-old, the gameplay, music, and animation always give me chills just to think about (oh would you look at that: goosebumps).

It was maybe… last year… when I tried to replay the game again. And I ran into this beautiful little tidbit of advice again: “Aim high in life but watch out for flying boxes.”

Let me make it clear that this quote is not that difficult to understand. The “aim high in life” bit is exactly like “shoot for the stars” and other similar sayings. “Watch out for flying boxes” contains a metaphor (flying boxes) for the unexpected things that may happen when we try to reach our goals.

Like in the Spyro franchise, particularly in the second and third games, the player expects to take Spyro into an unfamiliar land, collects things, beats the bad guy, and leaves. But of course along the way, we run into the unexpectedness of locals needing help with their problems before Spyro can advance in the story. It makes sense, really.

In our lives, we will always encounter the unexpected when we try to reach our destination. It could be raining the day of the big game, the printer could break down the night before an assignment is due, or there could even be no milk left when we want to make cereal. It is always important to be ready for those “flying boxes” that could pop up at any point of time.

Then again, in the context of the first game (where this quote was pulled out from), the boss of this level quite literally just throws boxes at the player to cause damage. I’m kind of wondering if I looked way too far into it.

The Elusive Angel

“Are you an angel? Aw I’m just kidding. That’s the worst line I’ve ever used. Hope some poor kid doesn’t start using it.”

Atton Rand, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

I love when video games make references to other things in their franchise. Here we see Atton Rand asking Meetra Surik this very question thousands of years prior to when the young boy, Anakin Skywalker, asks Padmé Amidala if she was an angel. Seems Atton would be quite disappointed in the younger generation if he ever found out.

But as silly as this is, it is interesting to think about the term “angels” and what it means to us, as opposed to what it means to those in the Star Wars universe. Many may be human, but their world and beliefs are very different from our own.

For us, angels are beautiful, winged creatures from the heaven above. However, none of the Abrahamic religions exist in the Star Wars galaxy. All they have is the Force with Force-sensitive users. There is no “heaven,” only the Force. So where would the term “angel” come from?

Well, it turns out that Angels are humanoid creatures with six wings, and believed to inhabit the moons of the planet Iego. And get this: they were known widely across the galaxy for their great beauty.

George Lucas was prepared for just about anything, wasn’t he?

Rebirth of Harley Quinn

“Ya know what? I’ve just come out of a pretty abusive relationship. I’ve had a little bit of time. I’m starting to come to terms with a life without my puddin’. And you know what I’ve decided? No one gets to lay a hand on me ever again.”

Harley Quinn, Injustice: Gods Among Us

Injustice: Gods Among Us contains one of the most interesting and dynamic versions of Harley Quinn to date, which just so happens to be my personal favorite version as well. She has quite a major role in comparison to other comic and gaming arcs (though that is not to say that her role in Suicide Squad was any less major too), and we are able to watch her slowly develop in wake of the death of the Joker.

Sorry, spoiler alert: Injustice should be treated the same as Game of Thrones when it comes to characters. Because it is set in an alternate universe to the one us consumers are used to, DC Comics and Netherrealm studios had lots of freedom with what they wanted to do in terms of plot and characterization. And as it so happens, the Joker ends up being killed near the very beginning.

It is fair to say that Harley Quinn’s character and origin have been heavily developed over the years. Although, we must remember that she was specifically made for the Joker, and I don’t mean that in a deep way; she was created by writers to be the Joker’s sidekick and abused girlfriend. Pull the Joker out of the picture however… and what are we left with?

That is the question that is brought about by the creators of Injustice, and this quote summarizes it beautifully.

Without the Joker around to tell her what to do, Harley suddenly has a whole range of freedom that she can use to exercise her own forms of chaos… and thinking.

We also see some evidence leading up to this quote that show she is slowly moving on from the Joker (emphasized when she asks Green Arrow “Have you ever loved someone you knew was wrong for you?”). Though there can be much debate on when her mental state began to heal, it is clear once she says to Lobo: “No one gets to lay a hand on me ever again,” that she has finally found herself.

It is likely that her meeting with Green Arrow had an influence on her and her thought process, but no matter the cause, she is eventually able to find her own strength, and learn once again that she is her own person. Whether that be a villain, chaotic antihero, or a true, crime-fighting hero along Batman’s side, she can decide from now on where she wants to go.

And I can tell you right now that her joining Batman in his insurgence against Superman’s regime was my favorite part of the whole Injustice storyline.

A Brother’s Cold Advice

“So tell me, what are you willing to sacrifice to do the right thing?”

King Logan, Fable III

This is definitely one of my all-time favorite gaming quotes, mostly in that there are so many ways it can be advice in everyday life. But keeping with the mechanics of the video game it came from, it serves as a great introduction to the game’s light side/dark side idea, something that plays on the moral psych in a way that I have never seen in any other RPG game I have played before.

In Fable III, we play as the Hero Prince/Princess, who must make one of the most difficult decisions in the history of gaming almost immediately into the game’s introduction. King Logan, our Hero’s brother, allows his younger sibling the choice of either punishing the protesting leaders outside the castle, or the Hero’s significant other and best friend. The punishment: death. To make the decision even trickier, there is a time limit; if the player does not choose who dies in time, both parties are executed.

Quite a… heavy way to start a game, eh?

It is here in this moment when Logan asks, “what are you willing to sacrifice to do the right thing?” And in this moment comes the catch as well.

Neither are considered right or wrong in this game. Which is interesting, as one would assume that immediately after he says this, there would be a right and wrong sacrifice right? I know I had to play this game at least twice to fully understand what Logan meant.

Let us assume that our Hero decides to go the morally “good” direction throughout the game. Such would include refusing money when offered, handing out free rent, giving money to the poor, and helping the citizens of Albion out of the goodness of their heart. Fast forward to the midway point, when they win the revolution and overthrow King Logan to take the throne: they realize that they need an army to counter the coming “Darkness” that will plague the country in five years time. They need money to build this army. The money that our Hero did not make.

That’s okay, there are those in the kingdom who can help wrack up quick money and the country will be okay, right? There is the great businessman Reaver, who the Hero will strike up many deals with in order to gain money, all for the greater good of course. Deals that include destroying landmarks for oil, enforcing child labor, raising taxes, and breaking promises made to the people.

The people in turn, should understand that there is a greater evil to fight. Their individual problems can be put on hold until the five years of preparation are up, and they will definitely thank the Hero eventually when they are all alive in the end. That is the assumption, anyway.

Soon enough, the Hero is hailed a tyrant King/Queen, the very thing they promised to replace after the fall of Logan. But through the war, everyone in the kingdom survives. Everything, but the love, respect, and promises made during the revolution. They are alive, but no one is happy. No one is grateful. This was not the ruler they wanted, but the same one they had in the first place.

And so King Logan’s words repeat in our minds: “What are you willing to sacrifice to do the right thing?”

Fable III may have some flaws in its gameplay, but the storyline and decision-making definitely make up for it. The interesting government mechanics make this game nearly impossible to finish while staying completely on the good path.

Then, there is the most important thing to take out of the game. The question on everyone’s mind: What really is the “right thing” to do?