Sunday, June 27, 2010

Antagonists: Thief 2 - The Metal Age

Now, I know what you're thinking... Thief 2 isn't an RPG. No, it isn't, but I feel that from time to time I need to remind people that I do actually play games aside from RPGs. I think I would actually have to rate the Thief games my favourite computer game series. I must also say that another huge favourite of mine is the Prince of Persia series, well, the Sands of Time trilogy. I haven't played the last two, nor been inspired to do so based on reviews.  But, I'm meant to be talking about game antagonists, not my gaming habits.  So, requisite spoiler alert for Thief 1 and 2.

Thief 2 begins with a crackdown on you and thieves in general, and pits you against a Sheriff Gorman Truart who is trying to get rid of all criminals in the city. Given you're a thief, that's bad for business. As a result, you start going after the Sheriff himself, only to find that someone beats you to punch. Suddenly, the real danger is presented as a group called "The Mechanists" a fanatical religious group led by someone called Karras. At this point, you're actually accosted by Viktoria, an antagonist from the first game. Viktoria is part woman and part plant/tree spirit, and has the power to command trees and plant life.  Using these powers, she actually plucked one of your eyes out of your skull with vines in the first game.  This is why Garrett has a mechanical eye with the ability to zoom in on objects, to replace his stolen eye.  Needless to say, Garrett isn't happy to see her, but despite the past relationship, they reluctantly agree to work together against a greater threat.

That's a serious skin condition...

Karras was the one pulling the strings forcing the sheriff to do his dirty work. While building an army of steam-powered robots with the help of his followers, Karras found a means to turn the criminals Truart captured into robotic slaves, which are distributed to the homes of the wealth to act as obedient servants. Ultimately it is revealed that Karras has found a means to produce a gas which turns organic material into rust in a self-sustaining reaction. In an act of true fanatacism, he believes that cleansing the world of all organic life except for him and his robots will pave the way for his deity "The Builder" to cause the world to "ascend" to glory.

Biological weapons are a novelty in a steampunk setting.

So Karras plans to seal himself in "Soulforge Cathedral" while the servants release the gas across the city. The homes of the wealth are where so many of the plants are, so the reaction will continue and consume everything. Viktoria hatches a plan to draw the servants back to cathedral and place plants there and seal it off so that Karras destroys himself instead.  Garrett disagrees, but is convinced to help after Viktoria assaults the cathedral alone. Viktoria dies in the process, but Garrett vows to finish the mission.

I guess Karras and Magneto go to the same helmet shop.

The odd thing is that you never actually encounter Karras directly. You do see him in paintings or the game's cutscenes, but the best look you get at him in person is a small glimpse in the final level. So Karras an antagonist that you never fight directly... but in truth, that's fitting, because Garrett isn't a warrior and neither is Karras.  However, like Arcanum, he's not really the driver of the game until later.  Your initial perceived enemy is Sheriff Gorman Truart, and Karras only because the villain later.  Even then, you have no real idea what he is up to until the briefing before the final level, possessing only the knowledge that it is likely to be bad news.

So why is it when you're doing that final mission, you've developed such a passion to make sure Karras is eliminated? I believe it is because of the way he's introduced and painted throughout the game. The first time you encounter him, he is preparing to blackmail the sheriff and is creating his slaves from the "lowlifes" that Truart brings him. After meeting with Viktoria, Karras leaves a message taunting you in his Angelwatch Monastery, and sets the whole place on high alert, making your life very difficult. All the robots speak in "his" voice, and his emphatic zeal and devout insanity all give you a villain that you want to defeat.  Even Garrett, who is typically not one for violence, gives the distinct impression he wants to get rid of Karras not just for the sake of the city, but also to avenge Viktoria's death. The final level also sees him taunt you frequently through his loudspeaker system, just furthering your desire to see him defeated.

Karras turns out to be a highly memorable antagonist because of the way he's presented. You really get the impression that he is a crazy zealot who believes what he is doing is the right thing, but you never really feel sorry for him. He really is a murderous villain, but the morals he espouses through his words and actions let you know that he is so deluded that he believes he is only a holy mission, but also that you have to stop him. His nasal voice and insane ramblings left a lasting impression, and for me he ranks as one of my favourite game villains.

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