Wonderquest: Sophie

I noted before that, although the cast of Wonderquest includes a variety of nations and walks of life, every character seemed to be male. Well, that changes on level 10, and maybe it would have been better if it hadn’t. The new playable character there is Sophie, an environmental activist from France, although her function in the intra-party banter is strictly that of token girl.

She comes with some interesting new abilities: she can ignore force arrows, and even to a limited extent reorient them. The in-game dialogue has her teasing the rest of the party about it, like “Silly boys, you see an arrow painted on the ground and you feel compelled to obey it” — linking the ability to gender when it could have been made mainly about her role as activist, refusing to bow to authority. Still, it makes for some nice puzzles. We’re at a point where there are enough characters in the party to make satisfying puzzles out of changing repeatedly, so there’s repeated pattern of “Become Sophie, go through some force arrows to flip a switch or whatever, turn back and take advantage of it”.

Perhaps to compensate for this ability, she has a rather severe limitation: she can’t fight. Her “weapon” is a firebrand, which can keep monsters at a distance (if you find a source of fire to light it), but doesn’t let her kill. Again, this could be seen as appropriate for an environmentalist, although she’ll gladly kill indirectly by taking advantage of environmental hazards. But that’s not what it suggests when you juxtapose it with her other special ability, which is screaming. Given water (a limited resource, even though there are huge lakes all over the place), she can scream to temporarily send monsters scurrying away. It all reminds me of certain Anita Sarkeesian videos. And the thing of it is, the designer clearly put some degree of thought into giving the character her own strengths, competencies that the male characters lack and a bio that could at least provide the basis for greater characterization — but then also makes her scream at things that everyone else can fight.

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