March 3, 2010 – Everything changed in the monastery.
Walking its halls as a bandit on a diplomatic mission was an endurance test. The monastery is the rogue’s wet-dream. The quarters are lined with the bunk rooms of the recruits, all of whom are busy with their daily tasks, and rich with chests and cupboards to raid; in the cemetery is a tomb, hosting only still-dead, non-animated skeletons buried with their possessions, ready for plundering; there’s a warehouse where the Inquisition keeps its artefacts, guarded by a single old man who enjoys taking time off; and if that weren’t enough, a surprisingly thriving drug-trade makes the guards easy to bribe. It takes every bit of will I have to be a good envoy and not rob the fools blind.
The monastery itself, unsurprisingly, turns out to be very much the opposite side of the coin to the Don’s camp. Where the Don’s camp is open, scattered across wilderness in a deep swamp basin, the monastery is a single structure, completely enclosed and built into the high peak of a volcano. Where the Don’s men are concerned with toiling, hunting and generally surviving, the monastery is populated by disciplined novices, training and sparring. Most importantly, whereas the Don’s men are bandits and outlaws, they have all chosen their allegiance and lifestyle freely and are content with the consequences. The novices of the monastery, disciplined and noble on the outside though they may be, are largely being trained against their will. Many have been captured and “conscripted,” forced to learn the ways of the Inquisition, are eager to leave, and are passing time until they get the chance by smuggling, selling and smoking weed. Whereas the Don justifies crime and anarchy as being for the greater good, the Inquisition does the same with fascism. At least I was right about one thing: it seems my only choice was ever between two poisons. Risen’s world is a grim one.
My discussion with the Inquisitor, Mendoza, is illuminating, however — much more so than any I’ve had with the Don. It quickly becomes clear that, while the Don claims he’s working for the “greater good” — the “freedom” of his people — he has yet to really convince me. While I do prefer his brand of anarchy to the theocratic, totalitarian ways of the Inquisition, the giant pile of gold in his temple tells its own story. Mendoza, jerk he may be, seems much more committed to the greater good of fighting the “true” evil threatening the island (like you didn’t see that plot twist coming?). I don’t trust Mendoza but I’ve played enough games to know that I can usually at least trust lengthy exposition about forgotten evils. Therefore, I agree to help him collect the x number of macguffins he needs to stop this evil. Also, it’s the only way he’ll accept the Don’s terms for peace. And then, you know, it’s also the only way to advance the main quest of the game. So there’s that.
I finish my conversation with Mendoza when I’m greeted by a screen that proclaims, “Chapter Two.”
Chapter two? I’m only just beginning chapter two? Oh boy. I accept my fate to be tied to this game for quite a while longer than I ever expected and carry on.
Things change in chapter two. There are new monsters in new places; there are new NPCs in new places; NPC’s with whom I had previously exhausted all dialogue options now have more to say to me; I’m informed that the temple to the east is now open. However, the small changes only bring to light the lack of big ones. The workers at the Don’s camp are still carrying crates from the site we claimed; Harbour Town has still not been claimed by either faction and its residents persist in the same daily routines; the Inquisition’s farm outpost is still in a perpetual state of “packing up.”
I return to the Don to report on my meeting with the Inquisitor. I tell him the Inquisitor’s terms and about my new quest. Most importantly, I relate the importance of my new quest. Naturally, he will hear none of it. I’m to collect these magic items for the Inquisitor, but bring them to the Don instead to strengthen his bargaining position. I don’t trust either of these old fools but at least I have an enemy to fight now. It’s invisible, always looming just beyond the horizon, but it’s there. If the Don won’t see reason by the time I have to report back to the Inquisitor, I’ll kill him. From now on, I’ll decide for myself what does and doesn’t fall under the banner of, “for the greater good.”
In stark contrast to chapter one, wherein I spent most of my time in the Don’s camp or Harbour Town, wrestling with ethical crises, playing for/against factions and learning to navigate the morally murky waters of civilization, chapter two isn’t so easy on me. Yes, I said easy, because while I fought with my own conscience in chapter one, I also spent a lot of time in duels that weren’t to the death, talking and exploring. I was surrounded by people, good or bad. Now I’m out in the wild, on my own, and it’s clear that things will be this way for quite some time.
Becoming a jack of all trades has screwed me a bit. I really ought to have seen that coming. I’m not completely gimped but, to make a long story short — a story filled with the frustration of constant paranoid saving/loading — I turn the difficulty down to easy. Oh well. I have nothing to prove.