Evil Artistry and Environmental Storytelling

Other games often lean on, even rely upon environmental storytelling. Like many older RPG’s, KOTOR II heavily paints its characterisation purely through dialogue. For comparison sake of artistic opposites, KOTOR II has some pretty imaginative visuals and excellent dialogue. On the other end of this spectrum would be the thief games, with memorable and flavourful dialogue, but truly beatific environments telling a story with finesse and detail.

A simplistic and reductive expression is that setting is a character. I would adjust this slightly; environments are part of an ensemble and the place often in many stories suits the characters and certainly the factions of a story like clothing.

And as far as classics go, lets refer to the obvious. The volcano lair. You Can Only Live Twice in cinema, Bowser’s Castle in the original Super Mario. The ruddy colours and fiery domain of a glowing smoking tyrant.

As we’ve discussed the KOTOR series, particularly the second instalment of the series, here may be a good place to further delve into this notion, when one considers how the antagonists interact with their surroundings, from slaughtering those on facilities you wake up on to final confrontation within places steeped in the dark energies they saturate themselves in for personal power.

The Sith meditate in this game a lot, and I like how there’s a consideration of intellect and discipline to them. even possessed and enslaved to passions and sensations, the practice shows they are a belief system, and not simply antagonists.

One could say it’s merely impressive visuals, but I find Nihilus watching the stars he will devour, Sion meditate alone in the dead ship he is casting, and Traya wrap her lies about her as she twists every named character in the game for her schemes displays the esoteric power of The Sith Lords the game is named after as what makes them truly Dark, truly villainous and not simply because they wear black and wield red blades. The physical effect upon landscape fascinates creators and audiences for one because of the starkness an environment can evoke when unbalanced or devoted to a single visual purpose, and how in a basic and eye catching way humanity reflects upon the incredibly diverse ranges of environment and sentient ability to shape an environment at the same time. Perhaps the most engaging visualiser in both games is how a ‘neutral’ or recovering world is displayed, affirming with a deliberate contradiction how much vaster the landscape is than moralistic concerns or politics. In beholding the subtly off-key and landless skybox of Mannan, or the teal and beige beach of a world being regenerated by forcefields, medium and emotional responses come together as the confining nature of technology gives in a boxed, finite amount of visuals to see, but the imagination limitless as these vast environments are almost wounded, or potentially threatened, or else put the individual human condition into a much smaller space, carrying on as nature does, far vaster and long lived than we could ever be.

The enclave is an example of branches far beyond the assumed light and dark myself and many others had, despite the Jedi being a kind of understated climax. I find it curious in that it is the decapitation of the Jedi first, Jedi and Sith who oppose you and failed their orders. And to have a Jedi opponent at all that’s not a villain story is brilliant. Because Dantoine is quiet, because the masters are rather plain individuals they stand out as people, it is not a reductive case of a hero in white, a villain protagonist, or them embodying good and a flawless code. They are a council brought to task for the crimes the politically castrated yet authoritarian judicious Jedi council performs throughout all their history save for the New Jedi Era and the very early Order. Despite the nature of government forcing a lose-lose scenario of reducing true effectiveness as lawmakers or spiritual isolationists, the Taoist and Buddhist steeped order is drawn to particular natural environments of vast audial tranquillity and ideal removal from large or numerous urban buildings.

A place is shaped by its inhabitants, but shapes them also in turn. This can be often to a detrimental level, pollutants or a difficult atmosphere requiring advanced technology to live, but even simple literary frames can reinforce sorrow or a sense of strife even within perfectly innocuous weather. The City of Tears for example, an evocative tie to crying rather than just rain, perpetually falling in a region of Hollow Knight. Nier’s sunscape, its pleasant and unique bloom effect being unending, part of actually quite a merciless dystopian heat subtly offsets the character’s and player, showing a world out of balance and potentially devastating to life cycles while also appearing to be virtually a holiday landscape with the warm village and sandy bay.

A place and the people within it can be a great many things in the hand of a good creator or the audience engaging with the creation, be it a people ruling their domain, being ruled by its natural or unnatural power. One person’s hold may change an entire world, or the millions upon it simply crawling visitors to the vast purpose and output of what they inhabit.

Perhaps at Nemean®, we may even delve into this concept. A new type of analysis…

Not just Character Analysis; Biome Analysis.

By J.W.H. Hobbs

Leave a Reply