CotAB: Knowledge

I said in a previous post that Curse of the Azure Bonds is a sequel to a novel, but was told in reply that it’s more like a re-imagining. And I can easily believe this. But if so, it’s one those peculiar sequel/remake hybrids, like Desperado or Evil Dead 2. I keep running into characters from the original who mention that something similar happened to a friend of theirs a while back.

In fact, the game is full of continuity nods, to the extent that I spend most of my involvement with the plot wondering what the significance of various things is. At one point a war broke out, and I overheard some people looking for “red plumes”, as if I were expected to know what that meant. And, well, okay: red plumes are in fact mentioned at one point in the manual. They’re a mercenary force from the city of Hillsfar. Perhaps I would be familiar with them if I had played Hillsfar, another SSI game in the same campaign setting, released around the same time as Pool of Radiance (but with a different engine). But are they good guys or bad guys? There isn’t much to indicate this in your early encounters with them, and it’s something important to know in a combat-based RPG. At one point, a Red Plume shouted for help stopping some escaping prisoners, and I had to make a snap decision about which side to help. The one thing that helped me there is that the prisoners were said to be “Zhentil spies”, and the Zhentrim are one thing I am familiar with, from their appearance in Pool of Radiance.

In fact, Zhentil Keep and even Phlan are visitable in this game. Phlan is just another city not directly related to the story, but it’s definitely the same Phlan: the dungeon-type area attached to it is an as-yet-untamed district of the city. (What, I missed one?) I suppose that the more of these Forgotten Realms games I play, the more experiences I’ll have to relate to the made-up names. And I suppose this is the appeal of these shared settings.

And it makes me think once again about the potential of games for education. If I’m going to be absorbing facts about a setting, why not make it real-world knowledge that might possibly have practical application? Well, for one thing, no one has exclusive ownership of facts about the world; once you’re a Forgotten Realms fan, you’re locked into buying official Forgotten Realms products, which is a plus for the developers. Also, it’s probably easier: basing a game on facts would require research, whereas using a fictional setting just requires making things up. I mean, okay, there’s some research: breaking continuity with other works in the same setting is, while inevitable, frowned upon and avoided, so there is a certain amount of established material that Forgotten Realms authors would have to learn. But the key words there are “certain amount”. It’s finite, definite, and completely knowable. This is probably part of the appeal of fantasy worlds for the audience as well: it’s not messy and uncertain like our knowledge of reality.

1 Comment so far

  1. paul on 27 Feb 2010

    Also, there aren’t many real-life groups that it’s OK to kill like the minions of evil they are.

Leave a reply