By Alec Meer on October 20th, 2009 at 11:40 pm.
I hate this guy.
Alric here manages the improbable feat of being an especially memorable arsehole in a monastery full of arseholes. If you recall, I find myself in the monastery due to a grave error that has irrevocably driven me from my chosen path of banditry, and led to my being forcibly conscripted into the Order – a presumed-sinister conglomerate of mages, religious types and fighters that’s the closet to what passes for authority in this stricken land.
I remain very concerned about the long-term consequences of a game as prone to strange behaviour as this one is thinking I’m still half-bandit, but grudingly pressing on with the Order’s questline seemed my only option. In short order, I’m given some robes (which are surprisingly good armour, it transpires) and I manage to rob a staff from the very back of a fellow novice. I’m all set for magery. Hell, I’m even beginning to feel enthusiastic about this.
Then I meet Alric. The arsehole. As well as being Captain Grumpy From Grumpyland, he repeatedly insists I call him ‘Master’. Well, no. I’m not doing that – not for you, not for anyone. Apart from possibly for Jon Pertwee, but he’s dead now. Alric gets more and more pushy, but I refuse to yield to his ego. That’s when he tells me to sweep the floor.
Now listen, matey. I know Risen’s is supposed to be a harsh world, but I’m here for the fantasy escapism, not menial housework. I barely ever sweep my own floor, y’know? The bugger won’t even give me a broom, a situation I eventually resolve with a midnight pick-pocketing spree. (Speaking of which, one upside of my having rather unorthodoxly already done most of the Harbour City quests is that I’m fairly well-trained in lockpicking and pickpocketing. This makes the Monastery something of a treasure trove for me – had I been caught or wandered over here straight away, it would have been a frustrating world of locked-tight mystery.) I’m furious, and this makes me do something out of character. I look around. Coast is clear. Stab.
This is very, very naughty of me. But I can’t pretend I’m not enjoying it, especially as the game’s oft-screwy clipping means he’s ended up with his face stuck inside a wardrobe door and can’t hit back. Down he goes, and leaves behind a supremely tasty sword. I grab it, then brace myself for trouble. This surely won’t go unpunished in this guard-filled place.
No-one comes for me. Alric eventually gets up, as most non-monster NPCs do in Risen, and he doesn’t try to take another pop at me. When I try to talk to him, he doesn’t say anything. My finger hovers over quickload, unsure. Is this a bug? A taciturn agreement that I’m the better man? I check my journal – alas, my floor-sweeping task remains. Hmm.
Even with vengeance obtained, it seems I have no choice. I have to sweep ten floors. God, I hate you, ‘Master’ Alric. At least I’ve got your tasty sword, though.
Sweeping done, I’m allowed to go train. This involves three frowning men telling me I’m not strong enough then demanding a fight. Joke’s on them, as, again, my prior excursions in Harbour City mean I’m currently something of a beefcake. They don’t last long, leaving my final training opponent… Master Alric. I can’t help but giggle, especially when he strides into the arena holding a bit of stick rather than his shiny sword. Which I’m not even using, having pickpocketed an even tastier staff from a passing dude in a fancy robe. It’s a staff with a sword on the end – can’t do better than that. Alright buster, let’s do this dance again…
Turns out Alric isn’t such a pushover when his face isn’t stuck inside a wardrobe. It’s a long and bloody fight, and if I told you how many times I quickloaded and saved, you would not think highly of me. I hate you, Alric. I hate you even more because you can beat me when your magic sword is taken away, dealing massive damage with just a bit of stick. But I get him eventually. It feels good. I only wish I could demand he then swept my floor.
I resent being in this monastery, but at least I no longer feel like a nobody. Still, my frustration at being locked inside it is growing rapidly. Over the next few hours, I trudge around performing various tasks and undertaking various tuition for the Monastery’s various bigwigs. In the process I learn how to make scrolls, I talk to a madman who lives in his own library, I resolve an argument involving a turkey and I steal so very many things. It’s fun, and the more high fantasy feel of this place is a pleasing contrast to the earthiness and grime of Harbour City. But I want out. I’ve been stuck inside this musty place for hours. Occasionally, I wander to this mountain prison’s parapets and stare wistfully at the wide world below.
Mini-spoiler ahoy! Aieeeee!
I also end up investigating a murder This involves long conversations with pretty much everyone in the Monastery, in a way which makes me feel as though I’ve employed some sort of deductive reasoning but in reality is only about truding back and forth until new dialogue options open up. The grand finale, though, involves me pretending to be a drug dealer to lure the killer out. My mind-altering wares shared amongst the Monastery’s populace, I take another freaky, fully-clothed bath and wait.
The lights dim, and a darkened figure appears. Who could it be – who could have murdered the previous local dealer for his cash-pile? It’s only bloody Alric. What. An. Arsehole. One more time for luck, I beat the crap out of him. Don’t you ever show your face around here again, Alric. As he leaves, he mutters something about how he’d have expected better of me, that there was some worthy purpose for his actions. Not for the first time, I wonder about the route not taken, what I’d have found out if I’d somehow joined forces with this murderous egomaniac. Not that there’s any way I’d have ever done that, of course. Not with bloody Mr Sweepy here.
A bit more pretend book-reading, scroll-making and trudging later, finally, finally I earn it – permission to leave. I walk, not run, towards the doors that have kept me in here all these long hours. I’ve earned this.
Oh yeah. I’m so back. Have I now managed to best the great cruelty the game heaped upon me last time? We shall see…