Lord Of The Cringe: Oblivion’s Prequel Adventure

By Richard Cobbett on February 13th, 2012 at 11:24 am.

A rare moment of Katia's life going well. It won't last.

Yes, yes, Oblivion has long stepped aside and given Skyrim the spotlight, and Prequel – also known as Making A Cat Cry: The Adventure – has been around for a while. It’s been brought to my attention that not everyone knows about it though, so here’s why you should check it out.

Prequel is an interactive webcomic that started almost a year ago, with a penniless Khajiit girl arriving in Cyrodiil to escape from… more or less… everything in the entire rest of the world. Taking the name Katia Managan, she resolves to put her reckless teenage years, crippling alcoholism and tendency to wake up stark naked in complete strangers’ beds behind her, and become a productive, capable, liked and respected member of Imperial society.

This… doesn’t go entirely according to plan

A few hours later...

Cringe comedy barely describes it. You may think that characters like Nordrick have it tough, but that’s nothing compared to the sheer weight of crap the universe keeps dropping on Katia’s head. What makes it more painful is that this isn’t just a metaphor. You see, Prequel is one of those MS Paint Adventures comics, where the audience gets to issue instructions to both Katia and the world, and especially early on, both they and author Kazerad are utter sadists.

Thanks, world...

These early instalments can be spectacularly painful reading. It’s worth pushing on though, as eventually the tide does slowly start to turn. Katia still lives in a world where everything that can go wrong almost certainly will, but a few tiny, tiny successes (successes like simply making it from Anvil to Kvatch without screwing up) finally start adding a touch of hope to her life. You want to see her find something she can pull herself up with, and as pathetic as most of her moments of happiness are, the expressive art really makes you happy for her. And worried, knowing that any highs she gets are only to make her next humiliating faceplant all the more painful.

But hey. At least she gets to enjoy it while it lasts. Celebratory low-five!

Thanks, voices in my head...

That’s another neat thing about Prequel. It’s not simply words and pictures, as wonderful as both those things are. Individual scenes are animated, whether it’s a character staring at Katia in bemusement or disdain, or something adorable like her ears perking up in excitement. Some episodes even have interactive Flash sections, including a mini RPG for exploring Kvatch.

Most of the time though, you’re left with regular words and pictures – and that’s just fine. The writing is often bitterly, toe-curlingly cruel, but still extremely funny, and the ways the various controllable characters bounce off the audience works superbly for both random plot twists and comedy frustration. At times, you’re left practically shrieking at Katia as she stubbornly refuses to heed the audience’s (actually good) advice. At others, it’s the straight-up humour of a page-long rant about how very non-vampiric a certain perfectly normal human female is, no matter how red her eyes, or how obsessed she gets with a game called Don’t Leave The Shadow.

In short, check it out. You don’t need to know much about Oblivion to follow the story, and updates are regular (if not at regular intervals). The starting chapters can be tough to push through for the sheer weight of horrible things happening and a general feel that Katia would probably be better off climbing into a burlap sack and throwing herself into the nearest well… but it’s worth continuing at least until she discovers a certain skill that might – just might – put an end to her miserable days of being the catgirl the whole world can look down on.

Yeah, right. As if it’s ever going to be that easy…

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41 Comments »

  1. Gira says:

    Furries.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Anthropomorphised characters are not strictly the domain of sexual fetish. Get over it.

    • Metonymy says:

      Anything is better than MSPA, and this appears to be “anything,” so I guess I’ll give it a go.

      As far as furrydom goes, I see it as a channel for people who don’t know how to integrate sexuality into a normal life. As long as it keeps them out of the party van, its a good thing.

    • IDtenT says:

      Think of the kids!

    • KaL_YoshiKa says:

      “Anything is better than MSPA”

      Wait…what.

    • Nevard says:

      Personally I’d have to say that the MSPA Forum Adventure community is the nicest place I’ve ever been a member of
      If you ignore all of the ones that are just ripoffs of Homestuck

    • MikoSquiz says:

      “Furry” is shorthand for “anthropomorphic animal character”. They’re not just a fetish.

  2. Dominic White says:

    This comic has (so far, at least) been a very pleasant surprise. It’s hard not to feel genuinely bad for Katia, too. She’s likeable, just terribly inept at most things.

    I’m also fairly sure I was the one that showed this to Richard, so blame me if the idea of a cat-person in an interweb comic makes you vomit with rage.

    • Eagle0600 says:

      You have done the world a service then, sir. I’ve been following this since before it had it’s own website and I am glad more people have the chance to see it. Even if it is only tangentially related to PC Gaming.

    • Premium User Badge Durkonkell says:

      I did not expect to see this here!

      I’m pleased, though. I’ve been following Prequel for a while, and Kazerad has managed to make Katia very likeable. I have never wanted a Khajiit lass to successfully deliver a letter so much!

      The little flash minigames are amazing too, although they’re less ‘games’ and more ‘alternative ways of telling the story’.

    • meatshit says:

      This is a pretty big surprise. A video game web comic about an anthropomorphic animal is the most surefire recipe for terribleness I can think of, yet it’s actually quite charming and funny

  3. Premium User Badge Clavus says:

    I’ve been reading it for a while now. One of the best things to come out of the MSPA forums. At the beginning the author does do his utmost best to make just about everything go wrong for Katia though, which is sort of annoying, but in the end makes the story even better when she does achieve something.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I find it better than MSPA, simply because it has less wallsoftext and less meandering plot (about 10 “notable” characters compared to MSPA’s mess of whatever/interludes/timeloops/etc)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Prequel actually has some kind of narrative thread, rather than just lolsrandumb.

    • Nevard says:

      But Homestuck does have narrative threads
      So many of them that they’ve tangled into some unrecognisable eldritch mess, and several of them seem to have gotten lost or are missing their ends

  4. Premium User Badge Maltose says:

    I think we broke it. :’(

  5. JackShandy says:

    Too much talk and not enough pictures, and it constantly ignores suggestions. That’s the MSPaint adventure version of “Press X to not die”. Still, it’s impressive that it sustained a good level of quality over a good period of time.

    • Nevard says:

      You do know how many suggestions it gets right? It’d be literally impossible to use all of them

    • JackShandy says:

      It would be literally possible to not deliberately do the opposite of what the readers suggested. As in, drinking the wine when every single suggestion is shouting “DON’T DRINK THE FUCKING WINE”.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I suspect you may have missed the point of that particular interaction – that Katia as an alcoholic is still being incredibly tempted regardless of the voices in her head screaming at her to put it down.

    • JackShandy says:

      I understand it, I just disagree with it. The story pretends to give the readers control just so that they’re more invested when katia breaks that control and does what the writer has planned for her. It’s obviously effective, but I can’t stand false agency, in games or comics that act like them.

    • Nevard says:

      The story wouldn’t be very interesting if we could magically solve all Katia’s problems right away though would it? If she defeated her alcoholism just like that because we said so then everything’d be fine, there’d be very little conflict and everything would be boring.
      You can’t treat writing a story like playing a game, as you seem to be doing. The story has rules just like a video game would, but they aren’t visible. Just because there’s no “influence of alcohol: minutes since last drink” statistic in a convenient bar at the bottom doesn’t mean it’s not something that affects the story.
      And also as it is a user-assisted webcomic, things that create an interesting story takes a front seat.

      There’s a whole forum of these kind of forum adventure comics that this one was spawned from you know, and the ones that take commands purely by which is most popular (as you seem to be implying should be done here) instead of which is most narratively fitting and leads to a more interesting storyline usually tend to end up the least interesting.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m well aware of the existence of the MSPA forum. Heck, maybe I’m just jealous that my own forum adventures never got that far.

      It’s just very rare for katia to listen to a suggestion, even for simple things. People suggest “Look carefully around kvatch” and she cheerfully yells “Nope!” and runs in; “Don’t drink the argonian’s water” has her leaning towards the glass, and “Attack the mudcrab” has her hiding behind a rock. These aren’t clever subversions of the form, like the alcohol thing. It’s just that the author has a very strong idea of what the story is going to be, and doesn’t expect the readers to do anything but come along for the ride. It defeats the point of opening up to user suggestions.

  6. Premium User Badge Jackablade says:

    My, that’s depressing. I may need to find a drink myself at this rate.

    • Dragatus says:

      Yes, the first 70% of it can be quite depressing. But it’s worth pushing through already just for ASOTIL’s first appearance. It’s fantastic how it slowly builds up to it and it’s hard to describe without spoiling it for others. So let’s just say that that particular bit of the story is one of the best 3 things that happened to me this month.

  7. Uglycat says:

    Curiously, this is much better while listening to Morrowind’s soundtrack (than Oblivion).

    PS: RPS, please go find Jeremy Soule and do an interview with him…

  8. MSJ says:

    I kinda like the absolutely normal human Nah, that does not drink anything weird at all. Maybe it’s the understated cuteness of her art, or her “leave the big stuff for the guards” thing, or her enthusiasm for healing that does not have a hidden agenda at all. Or maybe I’m just into vampire girls with cute fangs showing through their mout…. I mean completely normal girls that look normal even if her eyes are a bit red and her canine teeth are a bit big.

  9. Ergates_Antius says:

    I’m afraid I can’t support anything that involves sad cats!

  10. Bhazor says:

    Well with the exception of the grim dark nightmare this isn’t any more cringy than your average british sitcom. As a Peepshow fan it seems pretty light hearted. As a Jam survivor its about as dark as My Little Pony.

  11. LionsPhil says:

    I am greatly pleased to see this show up here, having been following it these past months.

    The Kvatch RPG was outstanding. Talk to people multiple times. Use everything.

  12. Tei says:

    I remember seeing some of these “animated gif” on the internet. And inmediatelly posted about it on my facebook wall. Theres something trully special about this, cute and terrible.

    • frenz0rz says:

      Couldnt agree more, there really is something special about this.

      I read the first few pages this morning and have been going back to it all day. I like how it achieves something quite rare in fiction, let alone online webcomics; that it can be both genuinely heartwarming and more than a little depressing at the same time. Plus as an Elder Scrolls fan and lore buff, its filled with references that I actually get.

  13. Premium User Badge Andy_Panthro says:

    I’ve been reading this since Richard tweeted it a while back. At first I thought there was no way I would read through it, and yet after a while it charmed me and now I’m actually keen to see what’s going to happen.

    The vague interactivity of it adds a bit to the experience, especially when you see people’s bizarre suggestions.

  14. nemryn says:

    Dimitri noooooooo

  15. Nalano says:

    The invention of a yellow, furry woobie.

    But dear god was the whole “beat Katya down for the first three dozen updates” bit a bit overwrought.

  16. Davee says:

    I stumbled across this a few weeks ago and wasn’t sure it was worth reading at first. The beginning is incredibly cruel to Katia and sometimes a bit slow, but the Oblivion references and events/characters makes up for it until it starts gaining some speed (after which said references get even better, too). The animations and Kvatch walk-around game were nice indeed – they convey important/dramatic moments very well if you ask me.
    First webcomic in quite a while that made me feel genuinely sad that I had to wait for an update when I finally caught up! Luckily the updates are usually very regular.