Villnoire: a casual RPG experience full of centrism

So hey, if you’ve been following along with me on Youtube, I’ve been doing a playthrough of Villnoire, an RPG Maker 2003 game by Little Wing Guy. I’ve finally finished it and the final episode will probably be posted shortly after this goes up. I’ve also done two previous posts on Villnoire that you can find here and here.

Villnoire follows the stories of a ragtag bunch of people fighting against Inchor, a nation that’s made genocide of druids – the naturally magically attuned people – open policy. Does a disgraced ex-Inchor soldier and ex-prince, three druids and a Tony Stark character have what it takes to end racism?

So, what do I think of Villnoire after my months long playthrough? Well, while Villnoire is successful as an RPG to actually play, I think its narrative is dangerously naive at best, and just plain stupid at worst.

When it comes to the “game” part, Villnoire is pretty solid! It creates a casual RPG experience in that there’s never a serious need to grind in the game. The enemies placed on your direct path give enough EXP to get through the game, and going off the beaten path to get all the treasure chests – which typically rewards more EXP on top of it – will definitely keep you ahead of the curve. While unused party members don’t gain EXP, I found in the endgame that keeping them well-equipped will keep them on par when you do actually need to use them.

Battles tend to be quick affairs and I found them to be pretty fair, for the most part. There are only two elemental types – light and dark – which really strips down the elemental nonsense in these games. You are also strongly encouraged to make use of elemental skills for two reasons: 1) elemental weaknesses hit like a truck and 2) using skills charges up an Overflow bar, which allows you to use a Limit Break-esque move. Now, I’m kinda mixed on how the Overflow is used since each character only has one unique Overflow skill with varying usefulness. Lukas is an easy choice to use, since his skill restores somebody’s MP to full. Then there’s characters like Zach, who just kinda inflicts a bunch of status ailments on enemies, which you really don’t need to do since by the time you typically have Overflow, battles are almost over and bosses are less susceptible to it. Kinda felt that this part needed some more work, but still, it overall provides a good incentive to fight optimally.

Aesthetically, the game reminds me of Ara Fell – which is a good and bad thing. The maps are well-designed and create the feel of an old 16-bit RPG. In fact, I consider Villnoire to be better than how Ara Fell does it because it’s not as visually busy; while those maps were very much the beating heart of the game for me, there needs to be space to breathe. But also, just like Ara Fell, the soundtrack is kinda nothing to me, not gonna lie. I had something playing in the background while I was going through the last bits of the game, to be honest.

Also, speaking of which, there’s also a crafting system like that game. However, unlike my experiences with that game, the crafting in this one kinda feels more meaningful because a lot of crafting materials are hidden in the environment, which invites you to poke around more in the setting. Wish that you could craft from anywhere, but hey, I welcome it.

But I’ve talked enough about gameplay in the previous posts. What about the game’s story? Hmmmmmmm.

So hey, we got Inchor, a nation led by Vorian Vanheart, who’s really into committing genocide. We have Reyson, a sort of self-appointed leader of the druids, who plots to assassinate him in hopes of making things better for druids. However, in doing so, he forsakes his health and his relationship with his family. At the start, he holds a somewhat strained relationship with his daughter, Vivian, who’s not only distanced from him because of this, but she also wishes to find a peaceful solution to better the lives of druids. Their plot shows off clashing beliefs and good ol’ family drama that also somehow ends with Reyson becoming a basic liberal (this will be a recurring thing).

In his initial plan to assassinate Vorian, Reyson tries to get Vivian to recruit Lukas. So, Lukas has a bunch of plot threads tied to him. As an ex-Inchor soldier, he feels guilt about his complicity with the nation’s atrocities toward druids. While initially standoffish, he rises to the occasion for the sake of his druid party members and has an obligation to Zach. Along with them, he’s loyal to Brice, the defector from the Vanheart name that truly wishes to be a good ruler, who helped him escape Inchor to allow him the chance for a good life and to find peace of mind.

And also, he just has this separate plotline about his wife that feels really extraneous to me. Like honestly, if you change the ending a bit, everything about Lukas’ family can be removed from the plot entirely and you wouldn’t be missing anything. He already has a lot of story and drama with regards to his past history and the other party members. We don’t need this. It just kinda feels that it’s there to shoot down any possible relationship that isn’t Vivian and Brice.

And speaking of Brice, he and Lukas are so ride and die together that they have far more chemistry with each other than their respective partners, to me. Like with how NPCs talk about Brice, he’s the kind pretty boy prince in some yaoi story. Come on.

And also there’s Emilia. Gameplay wise, she’s a dang good mage that can attack with both elements and heal ailments. Story wise, she kinda suffers the last-party member syndrome in that it feels like she doesn’t fit in and comes in too late to really have any satisfying narrative. In fact, it’s kinda exacerbated by the fact that she’s also mute.

Really, the character with the most solid, completed vision is Zach. So, when I started playing, Zach was my least favorite character because he’s like an MCU character joker guy, which is an archetype that I fucking hate. However, he has one consistent passion, and it’s killing fascist soldiers – which is good to me. His motives become fully known when it’s revealed that he was a human villager in a town of druids that was spared by a genocide targeting his friends and family and he’s since dedicated himself to killing anyone that was connected to the massacre. He winds up having a revenge narrative that winds up being better than whatever the hell’s in the Last of Us 2, even though he winds up on the other side as a basic liberal.

So, let’s finally examine this game’s politics. As I’ve said in previous posts, the game takes an extremely liberal approach to its conflict in that in the end, it can’t dream beyond inoffensive change.

For starters, the game spouts the centrist belief of both sideism through Vivian. Multiple times she espouses the need of having to stop violence on both sides, which is one of her reasons for wanting to stop Reyson’s assassination plot. Which is absurd, because the only violence said to be coming from the druid side is either self-defense, propaganda from the people trying to genocide them, or, you know, wanting to kill people that want to commit genocide. It’s just an incredibly stupid stance to take. Look up paradox of tolerance, folks.

Now, the game does actually address a good point through her. One of the reasons why Vivian doesn’t believe violence is the best way to go is that the Vanhearts are just individuals part of a greater social problem. And you know what? That’s an extremely valid point. There’s a lot of liberals truly believe that things will get back to normal if Trump is voted out of office – whilst siding with George W. Bush, the guy that is ideologically close to him and pretty much set the foundations of the Trump administration. Seriously, what fucking clowns.

However, there are ultimately two problems with this. For one, while anti-Druid discrimination doesn’t exclusively come from the Vanhearts, it’s kinda implied that Vorian coming into power was what set Inchor towards pursuing open genocide. Considering that they’ve also turned Inchor into a police state where its own citizens blatantly hate the Vanhearts, why would assassination be out of the question? Fuck em.

It also isn’t mutually exclusive with the gang’s actual solution to the problem, which is my second problem. The ultimate solution is to… get Brice to give a big speech to the Inchor citizens. Yeah, that’s it. You fight through the Vanheart Manor so he could have the biggest stage to give a West Wing speech that somehow wows everyone. He acknowledges that change can’t happen overnight, but from what I see of the ending sequence, everyone’s just kinda open to change. So I dunno? Racism is over, I guess.

It’s all just extremely stupid, from my current viewpoint as an American. We have a party that’s increasingly leaning toward fascism while the supposed good party keeps moving rightward with them in an effort to win votes from people that will always see them as radical leftists regardless of belief. We are in a long period of anti-police protests with nerd libs insisting that the protests stay peaceful whilst there’s multiple pieces of recorded evidence of cops brutalizing people that did nothing wrong. There’s just this need in liberal politics to appeal to the sensibilities of oppressive forces to attain peace and rights, but for the most part, it’s just a fantasy that only works in fictional narratives like Villnoire’s. People in Martin Luther King Jr’s day saw him as an extremist, Stonewall was a riot, etc.

And the thing is, even if I believed in these limp dick politics, Villnoire‘s ending was just… extremely underwhelming. Brice does West Wing speech, Lukas’ sub-plot is closed, there’s a mundane ending montage that doesn’t show that anything meaningfully changed besides Brice and Vivian marrying, roll credits. I remembered that there was this sidequest I didn’t do and I checked the creator’s posts to see if there’s an alternate ending that I’m missing. There is not.

I appreciate Villnoire as a casual RPG experience. Like, there needs to be more RPGs that’s just around 10 hours long and doesn’t put a serious emphasis on grinding. And hey, Little Wing Guy, congratulations on finally finishing this game after a whole lot of years, you should be proud of yourself.

I hate the story though and in fact, I feel that I wasted my time. I think the game is interesting to play as a study because it’s pretty solid for an RPG Maker 2003 RPG gameplay wise, but as a story to experience, I kinda hate it.

One comment

  1. I do find it interesting how much political allegory is injected into this game. Normally I would say a lot of RPGs tend to have a very liberal/pacifist outlook but typically plot elements are vague enough that it’s hard to find parallels (or antagonists are straight up evil and that’s that), and not to rock the boat and to “just be a video game.” Ironically, with this game the “not wanting to rock the boat” belief is in full force to the point where it does rock the boat.

    Also i just love the use of a rpgmaker message box in a existing comic edit, kind of wish more rpgmaker games had this much discourse. Even if it does reveal stunted beliefs.

    Like

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