TKoSaP: The Thrilling Conclusion

I suppose that human sacrifice is often a metaphor for sexual violation: the thrust of the knife, the preference for virgins, the typical accompaniment by rhythmic chanting that increases in speed and intensity until it reaches an uncontrollable rapturous climax. The King of Shreds and Patches takes the analogy a step or two farther, having the villainous Barker lure Lucy to her doom by pretending to be in love with her. Rather than snatch her from her room by force, he invites her to a secret midnight tryst; when her housemaid learns of this, she begs the PC to intervene, fearing not for Lucy’s life but for her virtue and reputation. And even though the player knows better than that, the whole situation still has a strong whiff of romantic rivalry, with Barker in the role of the jerk who your long-standing crush is inexplicably gaga over, even though he doesn’t really appreciate her as a person and just wants to use her (albeit not, in this case, for carnal pleasure). I suspect that this is something that male and female players will read differently, with the men feeling the pangs of despised love more keenly. But when the PC finds out that the reason Lucy broke up with him months ago is that she was already seeing Barker in secret, well, I think we can all appreciate how nightmarish that situation is, even without the fear of death and summoning mad gods and so forth.

And in the end, when the player stumbles into the cultist frat party, Barker already has her naked and spread-eagled, chained to an altar. But the indignity doesn’t stop there. He hasn’t told her, but he’s planning a threesome. He’s going to share her with his colleague Van Wyck. There are two other sacrifices beforehand, one performed by each man, so you get to observe their technique; Van Wyck seems to savor the moment, while Barker just seems to want to get it over with. But then they raise their knives and prepare to penetrate Lucy together.

There’s only one way to stop them, and that’s with a better phallic symbol. By this point in the story, I had two pistols. And you need two to rescue Lucy, because you have two people to shoot, and these are 17th-century wheellock pistols that take multiple turns to load, 1The game handles this really well. Loading a pistol for the first time is treated as a puzzle: open this cover with a lever, rotate that bit with a spanner, pour the powder in, etc. Once you’ve done it once, you can repeat the actions by simply entering the command “load pistol” — but it still goes through the entire process, or as much of the process as necessary given the pistol’s current state. And in the endgame, where things are happening fast and threats can come at a moment’s notice, “load pistol” simply performs the next step in the process. I don’t know how the development of this game went, but this all seems like the sort of thing that you get in games with really good playtesters. and which have to be laboriously reloaded if the powder gets wet, which it probably is at this juncture. I wrote in my last post that either rescuing Lucy or failing to rescue her could produce a satisfactory conclusion to the story, and in fact the game allows either: any ending where you send the loathsome thing that the cultists have summoned back to whence it came is considered to be a victory worthy of an epilogue. But for a while, I thought that saving Lucy was impossible, so great was my trouble with damp powder.

Speaking of endings, I’ve joked before now that the biggest way in which Lovecraft-based games fail to be faithful to Lovecraft’s writings is that they’re winnable. To really be true to the original stories, the best ending should be the one that you get by quitting immediately. Investigating dark secrets only makes things worse. But then, this game isn’t a direct adaptation of Lovecraft, but an adaptation of a Call of Cthulhu module, and it’s very true to the spirit of that game.

   [ + ]

1. The game handles this really well. Loading a pistol for the first time is treated as a puzzle: open this cover with a lever, rotate that bit with a spanner, pour the powder in, etc. Once you’ve done it once, you can repeat the actions by simply entering the command “load pistol” — but it still goes through the entire process, or as much of the process as necessary given the pistol’s current state. And in the endgame, where things are happening fast and threats can come at a moment’s notice, “load pistol” simply performs the next step in the process. I don’t know how the development of this game went, but this all seems like the sort of thing that you get in games with really good playtesters.

No Comments

Leave a reply