ParadiseLost Plays "Woke" Video Game Four Horsemen

Starting the Game

ParadiseLost

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The game Four Horsemen came up in the Woke Franchises thread here. I found it interesting, picked it up, and now I'm here to report to you: is this game broke and woke, or is there something more to this game?

Initial thoughts:

* The UI is basic and not exactly impressive. If you told me this was made in Ren'Py (popular Python based visual novel engine) I'd believe it, but that's not a bad thing. I'd rather small indie developers just use a quality free game engine like Ren'Py so they can focus their full efforts on the actual game rather than them try to create an original engine or work with something harder and it come out as a glitchy mess.

*When you start the game, it gives you an option of where to start. The only recognizable option is the Federated Islamic Republic of the Greater Levant. Not exactly a good sign (insert Rick & Morty "Unsolicited Opinions About Israel" joke here). Especially when all the other country locations are made up; it really stands out.

I'll go there. What could go wrong? Who knows, maybe it'll be realistic!

Summoning @Tzeentchean Perspective
 
Story Part 1

ParadiseLost

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Yeah, this is pretty clearly a VN.

Immediate criticisms: The audio is bad. Its like someone made a freaking country orchestra, and it doesn't go well with the tone of the game at all.

However, I think I misunderstood the country selection - it seems to decide where you're from, not where you're settling.

Having said that, the dialogue is actually good so far. Which is quite important. Its forgivable for a VN to have bad music (though hardly recommended - an OST is generally a big part of a VN), but VN's with bad dialogue are condemned to the lake of fire.

But yeah. The characters sound like a bunch of quasi-anarchist teens with a DIY attitude. The dialogue is better than James Patteson's young adult books. (Who am I roasting with that sentence? Your guess is as good as mine.)


Aaaaand I'm running into an error where the game is continuously CTD'ing upon launch. Even uninstalled and reinstalled it. *sigh*

Let's see if I can fix this.
 
Story Part 2

ParadiseLost

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I got it to work.

The game is organized by day and night phases. Each phase you pick something to do out of a list.

So if your origin is the Levantine-whatever, the characters names are Safi, Hassan, Zahra, and Muhammad. Of those, Safi and Hassan are the most interesting.

An early dialogue is Safi and Hassan discussing Zahra's (the younger girl) desire for a door. Anyway, Safi says that Hassan (who grew up his entire life in the country their in) doesn't know what its like to be in a refugee camp, and that he doesn't really know what it feels like to be in danger. She rambles a little bit...

And then Hassan responds with dialogue suggesting that they murdered an old homeless man who used to live in the bunker, and he thinks Safi is worried that someone will do the same to them, and that's why she wants a door.

Safi is horrified by the insinuation.

Zero to fucking eleven just that fast: from joking teenagers to "Straight outta Earth Bet" (if you get the reference). Then again, Hassan's pretty much called out as a pothead early on, so I don't know how reliable what he said is.

The backgrounds leave a lot to be desired, and I don't really like Muhammads character design. Everyone else looks nice though.

The younger kids pretty much do whatever the older kids say. Safi is the primary one in charge; Hassan would probably be in charge if he wasn't irresponsible... and a pothead... and somewhat lazy.


So here's an interesting development: Hassan has a pot-induced vision where he sees four seals, and he starts rambling about how when all four seals come to fruition, the end will come.

Now, some of the seals are appearing on certain options during the day/night cycles.

I like how the developers don't just explain the mechanic; they just give you enough information to know that there is a mechanic.

Scratch that. Seems like the seals just correspond to what characters appear in a scene.


Scratch scratching that, the seals represent the four possible endings to the game.
 
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Story Part 3

ParadiseLost

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Here's one of the prettier background, though that's not saying a whole lot:



This game was clearly produced on a tight budget. Admittedly, the character models are much better.



This is from a different route though - Hassan's hair color is black in the Levantine background.

This part was interesting:




This seems like a bit of a parody of Jonathan Haidt's moral foundations theory, which suggest the writers have at least a basic knowledge of ethics.




On the one hand, this does sound like something 15 year old girls would say. On the other hand, girls of that age are annoying.

Points for "fuck you o' clock" though.

Later on, when Zahra asks how to get her friends to talk to her more cause she's feeling insecure like she's a teenaged girl or something, Sharon actually gives good advice:



And then it gets to mansplaining and fucking nerdbros and shit, and my suspension of disbelief is broken because it stops sounding like how 15 year olds talk as soon as they act like (a) this girls upset that she's getting hit on a lot because she's an immigrant... in a city explicitly full of immigrants, which suggests that it isn't actually the case.

Given the politically loaded language their using (mansplaining and nerdbros... which, I could believe a fifteen year old girl could say that, just not a normal fifteen year old girl like how Zahra has been acting so far.) its pretty clearly meant to be a statement about how American tends to fetishize foreigners, even Hispanics, but it just kinda rings hollow as the areas that fetishize foreigners don't tend to be areas that have a huge amount of foreigners.

It rings even more hollow because it makes Zahra sound entitled.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If there's one major flaw in the game mechanically, its the lack of an option to go back.

You see, the game essentially forces you into Iron Man Mode - only one save per campaign, and you can only reload to the beginning of the current day. Additionally, this game lacks any ability for you to scroll back and see past text, which is usually a staple in visual novels.

So yeah. Points taken off for lack of important game functions for its genre.

The name of the country they settled in is Gaikoku. Which is odd, given they're living in a World War 2 bunker.



Part of the game is Muhammad talking to his dad in certain scenes, and they seem to act as a foil on each other.

The other disappointing thing is how the focus of the games narrative is on Zahra and Muhammad when Safi and Hassan feel like far more interesting characters.

And now we get to actual scenes where the game tries to represent racism... and its cringe as fuck. I'm too tired to describe why fully, so I'm going to wait to do more of this reviewing to tomorrow. Its even more confusing because the racism is against Zahra, so the narrative goes straight from "These racists are fetishizing Zahra because of her race" to "These racists hate Zahra because of her race." Which seems contradictory. I could understanding if it was a single loser guy acting like a weirdo, but large groups of teenagers don't tend to actually engage in that kinda doublethink.

So far my take on it is: "Why would you read this when you could read Tsukihime or Dies Irae or Majikoi or When They Cry or other excellent VNs?" And there isn't really a good reason.

Th-th-that's all folks!
 
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Racism in Four Horsemen

ParadiseLost

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The first major scene with racism in it is a scene where Zahra is in class and well... Its not very flattering.

Zahra is a prodigy when it comes to electrical engineering, and she throws a fit in Physics class because they're learning Coulomb's Law (which as she points out isn't something actually useful for doing real engineering) and complains that they aren't learning some other more advanced law that she already knows that's more useful.

The other students of course are not happy about Zahra being a know it all, but they go to far and start making really racist and sexist remarks.

For bonus points, the teacher starts spouting nationalistic remarks that seem largely unnecessary. She also says Zahra is close to being given an F to the class for poor behavior, which tbh is probably warranted if the scene is representative of how Zahra normally acts.

Zahra appears very entitled in this scene; just because you're a prodigy doesn't mean you deserve all the teachers time and attention, and it doesn't mean you get to demand that the class is taught in a way that's most convenient for you.

Now, Zahra's poor behavior obviously doesn't justify any racists remarks, but the remarks themselves sound... schitzophrenic.

One moment they're insulting her, the next minute they're talking about "Levantines are nasty in the sack right? I wanna tap that!" "Go for your dreams bro!"

They sound more like college frat boys than high schoolers - which admittedly isn't unheard of, but again, its SOD breaking.

Especially that this town is again supposed to have a significant migrant population. Why are there only two Levantines (Muhammad and Zahra) in Zahra's class?

And the portrayal of racism only gets worse:



Yes, Safi meets a girl that looks almost exactly like her.

Yes, the other girl calls her "illegal."

Yes, there's a foreign quarter, meaning again this city has a huge minority population that we somehow don't see.

Denver acts like... a stereotypical 4Chan /pol/ shitposter mixed with a white supremacist (which seems really weird for a country with a clearly Asian name like Gaikoku). She basically drivels on about "YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!!! REEEEEEEEEEE!"

I will say that Denver really is an accurate portrayal of the stereotypical white supremacist. The thing is that she starts trying to pick a fight. Which doesn't make sense.

Realistically, in an actual city with a huge population of people that just left an active warzone... someone as racist as Denver who was near the foreign quarter would end up getting her shit kicked in. Or worse.


Hassan continues to be best character.


Edit: Also, I think this is the first game ever I've seen ZERO community content uploaded on it. Zero, zip, nada.
 
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ParadiseLost

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Have to admit, escalating dibs calls is kinda amusing.

Hassan and Muhammad proceed to make fun of her for being angry and for calling dibs on something she didn't even want.


She also gets a character development scene.

Admittedly this game is woke int he sense that female empowerment seems to be... overdone... to the extent that all the positively portrayed males act like white knight idiots whenever relationships come up.



Anyway. I'm doing playing for quite a while.
 
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ParadiseLost

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Well.

After what I just read... God damn, can't say the game pulls any punches with its narrative.
 

ParadiseLost

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It's very long, I'll say that.
Not what I meant.

When I said "Is that difficult to read?" I was referring to the fact that I said "Never read Homestuck" and he posted AGAIN asking me about fucking Homestuck.

So I was asking if he found the statement "Never read Homestuck" difficult to read.
 

Abhorsen

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Not what I meant.

When I said "Is that difficult to read?" I was referring to the fact that I said "Never read Homestuck" and he posted AGAIN asking me about fucking Homestuck.

So I was asking if he found the statement "Never read Homestuck" difficult to read.
Oh, whoops. lol.
 

Zachowon

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@ParadiseLost Can we have you play these type of games all the damn time? not VNs but woke series?

As for this... Seems like it isn't as bad as the description makes it out to be
 

King Kravoka

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When I said "Is that difficult to read?" I was referring to the fact that I said "Never read Homestuck" and he posted AGAIN asking me about fucking Homestuck.
Welll I thought question two was self-explanatory. Just tell me what it doesn't hold back on.
 
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