The gray machinery of the Inquisition behind the cute facade of Minoria [Review and Analysis]

When you check images of the new game from the creators of Momodora, Minoria, you see an interesting aesthetic full of cute characters, like a modern fairytale. But behind this delicate facade, Minoria touches really dark and delicate topics, from religion, to dogmas, the oppression of the weak ones and the violence against nature. The colorful aesthetic is hiding the gray moral patterns of Minoria’s plot and setting.

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From the gameplay point of view, Minoria is a classic Metroidvania with a good RPG component. There are secrets to discover, different equipment and magics (called incenses), and also a bonus boss fight. The game is short for the genre (around 5 hours), but with 2 endings and also secret equipment unlocked when defeating a boss without getting damaged.

But the plot, the lore and the hidden layers built of small details are the most interesting side of Minoria. In the world of Minoria, an unforgiving Catholic Church is using the Inquisition to hunt for witches, powerful beings in contact with nature. If this is not dark enough, behind the fairytale facade of the art-style, the dark core of Minoria will slowly and subtly appear. First, it will be the dead bodies lying in the background, then it is the turn of lore books with really disturbing details.

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It will soon be clear through notes and books that the silent protagonist was brainwashed to become an inquisitor. A weapon without a morality ready to kill whoever is judged by the Church. The Church is also a rotten and corrupted organization. For example, the Saints in this world are members of the clergy who now live isolated from the world, surrounded by extreme wealth and pleasures. If games like Blasphemous use the horror of religions and Inquisition in a very direct way, in Minoria everything is more subtle, the grayness is hidden in few lines of dialogue, or in the backgrounds. But the player will feel this sense of uneasiness. The lack of free will, and the absence of morality, are also translated into the gameplay. Somehow, the linearity of the game is the main responsible of creating those chains. While killing witches, you will soon realize that they are not that evil, but, anyway, you cannot do nothing other than killing them.

This is really evident while fighting a couple of specific bosses. When they will be at low health, they will stop fighting, dragging around the arena while cursing you. They are already defeated and deadly wounded, but you have no alternative than keep on fighting. There is no way to have pity for the boss. The main character cannot fight the orders of the Church, as well as the player cannot break the linearity of the game. But you would like to do that, to find a way to avoid these murders. The linearity of the game is making you question your morality. Why cannot stop? Why cannot avoid to kill this character? But you character is only a brainwashed gear of a bloodthirsty machinery, so you just keep on fighting. Only at the very end of the game, the player will have a real decision to do. But, even in this case, the choice is reverted, and a promised happy ending will bring to even more death; and also to a final boss fight against a hopeless and powerless character.

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Under the main cathedral of the Order, a dark dungeon will reveal all the hidden torments caused by the Church. While fighting your way through the dungeon, you will meet skinny and traumatized prisoners who will only ask to kill them, such big is their pain. There is no reward for sparing or killing them, so also in this case the weight of your choices is meaningless, like if for the main character the life or death of another human being is totally irrelevant. This will cause a huge sense of uneasiness for the player, in a gorgeous and colorful world with fairytale-like characters, death will powerfully emerge from the background.

Also the concept of fighting against the nature will make you question your action. Some of the boss Battles are against primordial forces of nature, called Witch Deities, but is it truly necessary to destroy something so ancient? Also the main purpose of the game is to burn down a magic forest, which of course can open so many parallelism with the problems of our real world. But this is another story.

Behind all the colorful and the beauty of Minoria, a dark truth lies, a gray story where the linearity of the game will make you feel a brainwashed and blood-thirsty machine, without second thoughts for questions or pity. A deep story where nature and free will collide against dogmas and impositions.

Mary Skelter Nightmares: When the dungeon is a colossal living creature with its own needs

There are worst things than wandering through the dark and cold corridors of a dungeon. If you think that a claustrophobic and repetitive space made of moistly walls and empty silences was the most terrifying and standard environment for a dungeon-crawler, now you will change idea. Because if the dungeon was instead a colossal living creature, the situation will be far worse. This is exactly the main idea for the setting of Mary Skelter.

While you wander through the dreadful but colorful dungeons, you may forget that you are instead inside the body of a colossal eldritch entity called the Jail. As the name suggests, for the few survivors it is impossible to leave the body of this creature, and they are doomed to endure terrible torture inside this organic prison. The Jail is able to mimic things that assimilated, explaining the peculiar and variegated environments. The creature also possesses a sort of immune system, but of course instead of macrophages and lymphocytes, there are monsters called Marchens, and the immortal abominations known as Nightmares (have a look at one of them here: Monster of the Week: Downtown Nightmare (Mary Skelter) — Surreal and Creepy). Sometimes by watching at the variegate and interesting dungeon setting, the player could forget to be inside a living creature, but the game will find ways to remember it. For example, it is quite common to find healthy flesh pulsing out of the walls, just a small fraction of a gigantic living organism. Sometimes, huge eyes will open on the walls, following the party in a creepy and disturbing way. Also the main objective of the party is quite straightforward: to search and to destroy the Jail’s hearts in each different layer.

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The really interesting thing is that being inside a living organism is not simply a storytelling trick to make everything more interesting, but it is directly integrated into the gameplay. As every living organism, the Jail has needs, both physical and psychological. If the player satisfies one of the needs, it will be possible to access to a specific wheel which allow to win a random reward. If some prices are bonus in battle, more experience or less enemy encounters, other bonuses are more rooted in the setting of the game. For example, one of the most interesting reward is the possibility to morph the Jail body itself, unlocking secret areas or creating complete new floors. To fully explore each level of the Jail will be not only necessary to satisfy its needs multiple times, but also putting extra care while unlocking the “random” rewards. The concept of satisfying the biological needs of a giant monster in order to control its own growth, to explore new floors of the dungeon, is a really innovative concept.

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Which are the biological needs of the Jail and how the player can satisfy them? Of course the primary necessity of any living being is the hunger, and the fundamental need of feeding. The Jail in this sense is not different from any animal and, even as a colossal abomination, it still needs food. The Jail will feed on the fluids of the creatures roaming inside of it, absorbing and digesting the blood that is splattered on the walls of the dungeons. How can the player satisfy this need? In each battle if an enemy is killed in a critical way, it will splat pink blood on the walls of the Jail. By critically kill many enemies, the dungeons will turn in a pinkish slaughterhouse, and the Jail will satisfy its hunger. Other than feeding the Jail, the blood will stain on the walls of the dungeon for the entire game. So yes, practically speaking, a player could turn the Jail into a pinkish hell.

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Another primary need of any animal is sleeping. Also the Jail, an eldritch monstrosity, sometimes needs to peacefully sleep. Only when the Jail is sleeping, the player can take advantage of this situation to satisfy this need. In some specific moments, the Jail will simply fall asleep. This is the only time when the player can fill the sleep bar. Just walking in silence is enough to keep the Jail in its peaceful sleep, increasing the sleep bar towards the bonus. Fighting will of course negate any satisfaction, since a battle is of course very noisy and will bother the Jail’s sleep. However, if the player is able to defeat the enemies without taking damages, this will provide anyway a step toward satisfying this need. For sure a quick and deadly battle is less noisy than a long one.

The third need is more complex and, well, a more delicate topic. Because apparently even for a gigantic eldritch abomination, the third physiological need is the libido. Japanese RPGs will never stop to be a surprise. Anyway, also this need can be satisfied by the player in order to take control of the Jail, its growth, and the relative bonuses. Before being traumatized by what the main characters should do the satisfy the libido of this huge abomination, let’s take a big breath because the solution is not as disturbing as could look. Scattered around the dungeon there are innocent looking heart symbols. Those are called “Emotion Points”, and are the quickest way to increase the Jail’s libido. If you forget for a second the name and the bland appearance of these symbols, the main idea is anyway that the characters are looking for “very sensible points to increase the libido from the inside of a huge organism”. Yes, now everything is really more disturbing.

If hunting for “Libido Points” inside a colossal being is not your daily meal, there is another more direct and less subtle way to satisfy the Jail’s libido. The main party is composed by only good looking girls, often with very few clothes on. If this alone could be enough to increase libido, they also have a more interesting secret. They are not human, but something called Blood Maiden, a class of warrior related to blood. Their true power arises when they get covered in blood. But when they are extremely drenched in blood, they could become corrupted, going into a dangerous frenzy. So what could be the most efficient way to clean the blood from their skin? Of course by licking each other. Japan, what a wonderful land for dark RPGs. This action is however not shown to the hungry player’s eyes, but, apparently, the Jail is instead enjoying the spectacle, since its libido will increase.

Mary Skelter is a dark JRPG with a really unique setting. Not only the player is wandering literally inside the “final boss” for all the adventure, but the player is also directly integrated in its ecosystem, trying to play with the Jail’s needs to control its growth. This is really a unique concept with a huge potential, and a very innovative way to connect the gameplay with the setting. For more info you can also check my review: Mary Skelter Nightmares Review: an innovative dungeon-crawler where fairytales are drenched in blood.

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The Bloody Captain of Diamond City: the story of a baseball superhero searching for the absolute fame – Fallout 4 [Characters, Diaries and Stories]

This is the first issue of “Characters, Diaries and Stories”, a collection of fan-fiction stories regarding peculiar RPG characters of my own invention written as tales, but based on the action of the actual character and together with screenshots. I would like to promote in these articles the connection between character creation, fictional tales and free roaming games. I will also add in future articles describing videogame session/mission written as diaries of the main characters.  As first article, I will tell the story of a character I played in Fallout 4, creating for him a story together with screenshots. I hope you will appreciate his dark tale of a superhero in search of the absolute fame. 

In a world ruled by radiations and mutants, where mankind is wildly living in almost barbaric conditions, the memory of baseball was able to create a hero. Well, or at least this is how it started.

Diamond City is one of the last light still shining in the wasteland of Fallout 4. The city was built inside a baseball stadium, a sport long forgotten but still integrated in this new culture. Many people born protected and inspired by the Baseball, safe inside the wall of the stadium. Several people watched at baseball like at a forgotten art, a discipline to be mastered to achieve the true power. And our hero was one of them.

Inspired by the baseball statue outside of the city, he started his travel to master the ancient art of baseball to become the hero that the city deserved. Thanks to the help of a local business man, who was running a baseball museum, our hero started a long journey toward a gym with ancient baseball artefacts. His dream was to find gear able to provide him the strength and the power to actually become a superhero. The travel was long and harsh, but our hero learned how to fight and how to survive in the Wastelands. However, the tragedy was behind the corner.

He was resting in an abandoned house, very close to the gym hiding the forbidden baseball treasure. The site was empty and silent, but during the night, a green light broke the darkness in a small burned forest in front of the house. A glowing Deathclaw, irradiated from toxic wastes, was staring at him in the night. Huge and green, with horns and long claws, a proper demon born from the contaminated wastelands. Our hero used all his weapons to face the creature, but the fight was lost since the beginning. Scratches and wounds opened his body, while he screamed with all the possible pain when his body was ripped open and irradiated. The Deathclaw flew, thinking that its job was done. But our hero was hard to kill.

Half dead, wounded and irradiated, he laid in the empty house for who knows how long. Suddenly, his wounds started to heal, while his body recovered from the trauma. Surprisingly, something changed in his body and now the radiation wahealing him. He couldn’t believe what was happening. He really gained a superpower, and now was immune to radiations. Following the enthusiasm of this new epiphany, our hero reached his destination: the baseball heaven. With effort and time, he was able to build armours, masks and weapon using baseball materials. He wore the head of a mascot to hide his identity, while learning how to fight with baseball bats. He trained to transform a common baseball ball into an explosive, or how to attach circular saws to a bat. A standard baseball uniform became his bulletproof armour. No, not only a simple armour, but a superhero suit. After months of training, he finally came back to Diamond City as the hero he was supposed to be: the Bloody Captain of Diamond City. Or just for friends, the Captain.

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Now it was time to truly build his name, fighting the evil and achieving heroic challenges and epic deeds to reach the absolute fame. It was time to become a superhero not only for himself, but for the people around him. After all, he was immune to radiation and a master of the ancient fighting art of Baseball. While criminals and gangs were fighting using military weapons and guns, he was fighting only with his baseball bat. Dozen of criminal lairs were cleaned up by a crazy guy wearing the head of a bear and wielding a baseball bat. But strangely, he was really difficult to kill, and with time his name started to be on the mouth of the every criminal.

But for the Captain it was not enough to be only the scourge of the criminal underworld. He wanted to be a hero, responsible of legendary deeds that a common human could only dream of. He started to use his legendary baseball bat to challenge colossal and ferocious creatures in deadly duels. Of course the trail of blood and fights started with his revenge against the Deathclaws. The Captain was able to defeat in close quarter combat, after a deadly and brutal fight, several Deathclaws by using only his modified baseball bat. He was now the real alpha predator.

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But this was not enough. The next opponents were really colossal creatures, such as the Mirelurk Queens. The Captain was able to track one of this ancient beasts, and was able to inflict the final blow with his faithful bat. Deeds and epic challenges continued, but his name never became a legend in the mouth of everyone. He was able to control the atomic power, unleashing a rainfall of bombs on the main quarter of the most notorious gang: the Gunners. The Captain took also control of several weapons of  mass destruction, including an old submarine and some cannons. He became a hero even more powerful than the statue that inspired him at the beginning.

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He also never forgot the ancient art of Baseball, that was always part of his deeds. A museum of baseball was opened by him, showing the hugest collection of balls and bats. The technique called “Manrun!” was also perfected by him, who was able to send humans directly flying in the sky with one hit of his bat. He also achieved to build the biggest baseball field in the world by positioning baseball bases on the extreme corners of Boston.

But it was never enough, and his name never became famous such as the notorious Silver Shroud or Grognack. The alcohol and the grudge became his hideout. The fault of his failure was in the hands of the other heroes, for this reason he started to discredit them. First thing, he found ancient clothes of Grognack the barbarian in a comic shop. He hired an incompetent sidekick to dress as Grognack, always making him fail in every deed, always hurt and exposed to the enemy fire. Second, he challenged Silver Shroud by freeing his city from crime, taking his name and role but dressing anyway with his iconic baseball uniform. But this was not enough, so he started to impersonate them by dressing with their costumes, to discredit and ridiculed them. It was never a hard deal, sometimes he got drunk dressed as Grognack, or he broke a window as Silver Shroud.

But whatever thing he made, it was still not enough for him to be a legend. He was famous, but was not “The Legend”. Nobody was making radio shows or writing books about him, he was a minor celebrity according to his own eyes. Something in him broke, and something new born in his mind. When the atrocious crimes started in Diamond City, he couldn’t believe a human being could be responsible of such monstrosity. At the third killing, the local newspaper started to address the killer as the “Deathclaw Ripper”. The serial killer used a homemade Deathclaw’s hand to make his victims in pieces, with a inhuman barbarity and a sadistic violence. He also always left on the scene of the crime a real severed Deathclaw’s hand.

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The city was shocked by this rampage of violence, but the guards couldn’t stop him. The Captain placed all his effort to catch the criminal, but the Ripper was always one step ahead of him. For how much he tried, he was never able to collect a single clue. The crimes continued and our baseball hero became the worst nemesis of the Ripper. The citizens appreciated his effort to catch the monster, and he became the most beloved hero of the town, often collaborating with local authorities.

Of course, a part of him always knew what was happening, especially when he found the homemade claw full of blood hidden in his own house. His mind just couldn’t accept that he had another personalities, something so dark and evil that was harvesting the people of the city, something arising from the traumatic attack of the Deathclaw. Because what every hero needs, it’s an evil villain to stop.

He continued trying to catch the Ripper, but always failing. Of course: who could be able to catch himself?

Bloodborne: the dark side of birth, maternity, infants and conception — Surreal and Creepy

The adult fear of giving birth to an aberrant creature is always a big taboo. If in the movies this dogma was already faced several times, especially in 1977 with the nightmarish David Lynch’s Eraserhead (check my article talking about surreal sex and “wrong” birth: Eraserhead Intro: a surreal sex scene), in videogames this concept […]

via Bloodborne: the dark side of birth, maternity, infants and conception — Surreal and Creepy

The Human Hydra of Fear & Hunger: never trust a NPC [Creepy Characters] — Surreal and Creepy

Fear & Hunger is for sure the darkest RPG ever made, set in a dungeon without morality and full of horrors and brutality (you can find a complete review in my other blog Dark RPGs: Fear & Hunger a journey in a land without morality). The enemies are grotesque and creepy foes, and even the […]

via The Human Hydra of Fear & Hunger: never trust a NPC [Creepy Characters] — Surreal and Creepy

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne plot explained: the Reasons to build a new world — Surreal and Creepy

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne (SMTN) is a unique and interesting game. For example, you are not going to save the world, because the world will end just after 15 minutes of play. This a pessimistic game. There is no hope for humanity, because all the people, except 6, are totally annihilated. There will be big SPOILERS […]

via Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne plot explained: the Reasons to build a new world — Surreal and Creepy

Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy

Digital Devil Saga (DDS) is a spinoff of Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) for PS2. If you think that Shin Megami is creepy, with all its disturbing catholic imaginarium, you should know that the main theme of DDS is: the cannibalism. Imagine a world, called the Junkyard, with 6 tribes fighting each other to access a […]

via Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy