Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Character Spotlight: Caim (Drakengard Series)

Something to be noted before I start at it, there's going to be Drakengard Spoilers as well as possibly Nier Spoilers in this post, and as I've said in the past, the best way to experience the former is with this Screenshot LP whereas the best way to experience the latter is to buy it and play it.  Fully.  All four endings.  So if you've not done either, maybe skip this post until you have.  I've even inserted a page break for your convenience, much like I did with the spoiler-heavy post about inFamous 2 I made a while back.

Astute observers will notice that I take a lot of my time to gush on about the Drakengard games (including Nier in this, since Nier is a spiritual there's not really a word for it, which I will explain later, but Nier is a sequel to Drakengard and it's easier to say Drakengard games without the Plus Nier qualifier) and it's mostly for good reason.  I've always gone on about the characterization but only barely touched on it for spoiler-free reasons since I like to try and keep this as readable as possible for everyone keeping in mind that I have some niche views sometimes.  I know there's people who hear about stuff that they never really get into, but don't want it spoiled for them either (mine is pretty much everything Shin Megami Tensei which I will get into someday) because what -if- they ever had that chance?  Now it's ruined, spoiled.

Regardless, this won't be my first foray into very spoiler-rich conversation and won't be my last, but at the very least I'm doing my best to properly mark them.  I suppose the best way to go about proving this fact is by stating very directly at the foremost that Caim is the anti-thesis of a Hero in that he is a Psychotic Murderer who is quite aware and okay with that fact.  Now, he is presented to you as a character who is fighting in a war with a giant, faceless, obviously evil Empire who is responsible for the death of his parents.  Gruesome death, I should mention, as they were eaten by a dragonIn front of himAs a child.  So while he might be fighting against them out of happenstance, it's clearly something he desires and it's quite obvious that he enjoys slaughtering every single one of them.  (Shown off when one of the earlier cutscenes in the game has him stabbing the obviously dead body of a soldier who'd made it very far into the castle where his sister was.)

In the face of much less violent 'heroes', it's quite easy to say that Caim is just kind of a dick, but really, I can't say that I -blame him-.  Certainly, he's not being altruistic whatsoever until the sequel, but in the face of what he goes through before the game even starts, I would suggest that it's -other- heroes that we should look at funnily.  One of the things in media, games specifically, that doesn't get enough coverage, so far as I'm concerned, is that the 'Hero' doesn't necessarily have to have 'Good' in his alignment and 'Neutral Evil' will suffice just fine.  Regardless, I should get back to this after I've explained away what affects Caim over the course of the game since I'm doing no favors to the development by going on about it right now.

In one of the first couple of levels in the game, the Empire is laying siege to a Union castle where his sister, Furiae (who is also the Goddess Seal, one of the four things that keep the world from ending) is hiding out in and during that battle he is mortally wounded.  Having heard word of a dragon being captured in the courtyard of the castle, he makes a beeline to it with a plan in mind, clearly.  Whether that plan is to kill the dragon before he dies because he really hates dragons (for obvious reasons) or to enter into a pact with it as its the only beast around that he knows of is unsure, but he walks away with a pact with the red dragon, eventually known as Angelus.

A pact, as I've explained before, is a staple of the Drakengard universe where a person and a being of magic willingly bind their lives together in exchange for a mutual gain and loss.  The 'beast' in the case loses their freedom in most cases, whereas the Human in the exchange lose something a little more significant (in most cases).  For instance, Caim loses his ability to speak, Leonard (who becomes a member of the dysfunctional party, as do the others I will list) loses his eyesight, Arioch loses the ability to carry children, Seere loses the ability to age and Heirarch Verdelet, easily the worst member of the party (possibly even the game) loses...uh....his hair.  There are other examples in the sequel, but fuck the sequel for now, we're just talking about game one here.

Within half an hour of the game, basically, Caim nearly gets killed in battle with the Empire and is forced to save himself by allying himself permanently with a dragon, a creature that he absolutely despises, which leads to him losing the ability to speak forever outside of telepathically communicating with Angelus (which he never does in-game).  So, yeah, there's quite a bit of drastic things happening to him right off the bat.  And that's not all, as the Empire is actively seeking to capture, possibly assassinate his sister for being one of the Seals guarding the world.  You don't find that out right away of course, but when the Empire starts breaking the seals, it becomes rather apparent.

The game really gives you a sense of "Misanthropy is key" through the characters you interact with as the main party of 'heroes' is comprised of a serial slaughterer who revels in it, a pedophile, a child-eating serial slaughterer who revels in it and is also fucking crazy, a creepy little child and a doomsayer who won't shut the hell up, not to mention one of the antagonists ends up being Caim's one and only friend, Inuart, who is brainwashed by the Empire because of his burning desire for Furiae.  Who also enters into a pact with a dragon.  A black dragon.  Like the one that ate Caim and Furiae's parents.  (His pact-price was his ability to sing, by the way, as he was an accomplished bard.)

So about halfway through the game Caim has slaughtered thousands to protect the Seals of the world from getting destroyed, which proves futile when they do anyway, protecting his sister from being kidnapped which ends up happening anyway and by his former best friend who has a shiny new pact beast in the form of a Parent-Devourer no less, and is, canonically at least, joined by at least one or two fellow psychopaths or deviants in one form or another.  Cheery game, right?  It gets better.  At this point, there is still one non-living, non-destroyed seal in the world, the Seal of the Ocean that the party has to find, which they do, and protect, which they don't.  Their goal in sight, the Empire gathers all their forces to launch a decisive attack on the Union in a last-ditch attempt to wipe them out.

Caim and his dragon proves to be valuable assets in the battle, of course, and are able to hold off the Empire well enough for the Union to start getting the upper hand.  It's then, however, that the destruction of the seals start to take a toll on the world and the sky reddens as a spell from the leader of the Empire makes all the fallen soldiers rise once more as undead soldiers.  Caim slaughters them once more before realizing that it's folly to try and kill them while their leader yet draws breath and heads directly to the Empire's Capital, fighting his way through the castle until he gets to the interior chamber where he finds both the leader of the Empire and his sister, Furiae.  The leader of the Empire turns out to be a young girl (who looks suspiciously like Seere (because she's his twin sister)) who is possessed by a strange force called "The Watchers" who obviously wish to see the world unbound.

It is clear that The Watchers are getting their way as well, as when Caim enters, Furiae is already dead, a knife plunged into her heart and only just barely gone.  Add one more thing to balance against the normal "Hero" psyche and another reason why I don't blame Caim for being a sociopath whatsoever.  Since the final seal has been broken and the world cast into chaos, Caim decides against murdering the possessed six year old child ruler and turns his attention to the rest of the Empire, determined to take out as much of it as possible before they happen upon Inuart once more who has taken Furiae from the main chamber and is absconding with her for reasons that....well, are reasons.  (Inuart is still 'in love' with her, and has a plan, I'll just leave it at that for now.)  So to prevent the further kidnapping of his previously kidnapped, presently dead sister, Caim and Angelus engage Inuart and his Dragon in battle until Inuart finally manages to get away and you don't see him ever again in canon.

With that distraction gone, the party realizes they have to take down the Empire at whatever means and return, eventually getting back to the capital where they have to fight a combination of Empire soldiers of all varieties (magical, normal, undead) as well as a legendary dragon named Wyrm and, eventually the possessed Mannah (the six-year-old) herself.  When properly subdued, Verdelet attempts to dispel the evil from within her and it goes terribly wrong because Mannah grows to be about fifty stories tall, leading to the climactic battle between Caim and Angelus against Fifty-Stories-Tall Fuck-Off Magical Mannah.  When she's finally defeated, she returns to normal size and "The Watchers" presence disappears, though the world remains unsealed.

The game ends here where the world is in ruin, Caim has lost everything but his dragon who promptly offers herself up to be the next Goddess Seal to make the world one again.  It seems anyone can be a Goddess Seal (provided you're female, I imagine), but unsuitable hosts don't take to it as those born into the role do.  Unfortunately, the only person who can perform the sealing ritual is Heirarch Verdelet (who I should mention at this point -hates- non-humans, despite the fact that he has a pact with a Petrified Dragon) who does so, which causes incredible pain to Angelus which is likely felt through the pact by Caim.  And this is directly after they share a goodbye (as unsuitable Seals cannot roam about and exist as normal, or at least Angelus would not be able to) where Angelus finally admits to respecting Caim enough to actually tell him her name.

This is where Drakengard ends.  After witnessing the brutal death of his parents, slaughtering untold numbers of enemies in vain, entering into a pact with something he hates after almost dying, losing his voice as a result, watching his sister get kidnapped by his former singular friend who is now sharing a pact with a dragon suspiciously similar to the one who ate his parents, seeing his sister dead, kidnapped again by said friend that he has to attempt to kill who he has to let go of, resorting to attempting to kill a possessed child twice, and then losing his only -other- friend who he actually shares his life force with to a ritual that likely caused him untold amounts of pain, Caim as a character has been fully developed in Drakengard 1 Canon.  And if you thought he was 'evil' before....

....but that's a story for another day.  Tomorrow, specifically, as this was incredibly fun to write.  This post is only half of Caim's overall story and is only half of why he's such a goddamn good character.  You have all of his development here (for canon at least, as there's four other endings in Drakengard which I may or may not cover) and it's what happens next that is absolutely brilliant and is the best part of Drakengard 2 (and in fact the only good part of the game, which, hilariously might be established simply by notes and such from Drakengard 1 specifically, I'm not sure where the rest of Caim is/was developed.) which is what I'll cover next time.  I'm looking forward to it.

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