Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pathfinder: Kingmaker's Nyrissa's Punishment

Just a short rant today (stop scoffing). This rant’s subject is probably something that many others have realized, of course, but it just occurred to me, and I really liked it, and my trend towards trying to only rant about things that are utterly unique to my own head in recent years has made it difficult to keep a decent cushion of rants on standby, so it’s time to start making some little ones now and then for whatever comes to my mind, regardless of whether others have doubtless expounded upon it before. The game itself does not (I think) specifically spell this out, at least, so that’s good enough for me.

It’s just occurred to me that the punishment inflicted upon Nyrissa by The Lantern King--or at least, her means to redeem herself--is a clever piece of symbolic irony. The so-called crime that Nyrissa is punished for, after all, is her ambition to join the Eldest as an equal, her pride at thinking that she could rise above her station as a queen to join the ranks of gods (or at least beings very close to gods). For her hubris, she was struck down by the beings she thought to join, tormented, and stripped of her ability to feel love, and told by The Lantern King that she would be forgiven once she had caused the fall of 1000 kingdoms, empires, and so on within the Stolen Lands. The long history in the Pathfinder universe of the Stolen Lands being impossible to settle, the innumerable rises and falls of communities within them, are all due to her influence, as she inspires the creation and then instigates the destruction of all manner of societies over the centuries, as penance to terrible higher beings.

What I find interesting about it is that it’s an atonement that echoes the crime that created it. Just as the Eldest stepped forth to punish a queen’s hubris at thinking she could become an Eldest, so now is a queen forced to punish the hubris of lower mortals thinking they can become royalty. Not only is Nyrissa forced to suffer for centuries the inability to feel love, twisting her into the very antithesis of what she originally was, but the terms of her sentence force her to witness her “crime” over and over again, and to take on the role that her own punisher took. It’s not enough for the Lantern King that she suffer--she must suffer while every single day being reminded of what brought about her suffering, and being forced to become the monster who destroys these ambitious mortals that represent herself. An elegantly sadistic, tragic punishment, indeed.

Understanding this also makes me really enjoy and appreciate the connection that Nyrissa and the protagonist of Pathfinder: Kingmaker have all the more. Because in many ways, the Queen/King (is there a more canon term for the protagonist?) is a living embodiment of hope and inspiration to Nyrissa, as a representation of her that shows the possibility of success, that represents everything Nyrissa hoped to be. After all, the protagonist of Pathfinder: Kingmaker is, like all the others that Nyrissa has struck down, a woman/man who reaches above her/his station to become more...and yet, each time that Nyrissa moves to punish that ambition, to strike the Queen/King down and destroy the reign she/he has built and earned, the attack is thwarted, and the Queen/King continues to rule in defiance of the higher being that would punish her/his daring. There’s even a parallel in that you can, with a hell of a lot of careful work, have the protagonist pursue a romance with Nyrissa--another act of being bold enough to reach above her/his station--just as Nyrissa once was the lover of 1 of the Eldest. No wonder Nyrissa can, once you return the capacity to love to her, fall so easily and deeply in love with the protagonist--not only is she/he the hero that saved who Nyrissa was from who she was forced to become, but the Queen/King is also an inspiring symbol of Nyrissa’s own past that vindicates her, whose success proves that Nyrissa’s own dreams and hopes were not wrong, no matter what her conqueror and tormentor tried to abuse her into accepting.

Very cool, Owlcat Games. Looking forward to quality like this in the next one!

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