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I am not happy with how Bladestar was handled


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So, I discovered and played through Rejuvenation a few months ago.  I really liked it for the most part - It's got a lot of nice gameplay improvements over Reborn, I like all the sidequests and how some of them tie back into the main story, and while I think Reborn has the better story and writing overall, I still really enjoyed Rejuvenation's story and got invested in all the main characters.  However, my enjoyment of the story dropped off quite sharply at certain points - in particular, the majority of Chapter 14's main plotline. And I've been sitting on this giant rant about it for quite a while, which I've finally decided to get off my chest.  If Jan, Zumi, or anyone else on the dev team happens to be reading this, I'm sorry I'm about to be so negative about something I know you put a whole lot of time, effort, and creativity into.  Please understand that the only reason I'm so upset about this is that you did such a great job for the most part, and got me really invested in where your story was going up to this point, and I feel like it let me down.  So let's get into it.  Spoilers for the entire game up to Chapter 14.

 

Spoiler

So, in recent years, I've become somewhat skeptical of the whole "Well-Intentioned Extremist" trope and its role in our fiction.  For the less trope-savvy among us, a Well-Intentioned Extremist is an antagonist whose motivation involves improving the world in one way or another, but goes "too far" in pursuit of their goal (whatever the writer happens to think "too far" means), and has to be stopped by the protagonists.  The best example from Pokemon's main series is N and his followers in Team Plasma, and obviously Flora and Bladestar are the main examples from Rejuvenation.  At first glance, this trope seems like a nice way to create a sympathetic antagonist…  But, wait, let's look a little closer at this.  What message is an antagonist like this supposed to be sending?   "Trying to make the world better is a slippery slope to murdering innocent people, so you'd better just accept and preserve the status quo no matter how corrupt it is?"

 

Look at my earlier example of Team Plasma.  A cursory glance at the setting of Pokemon's main series will tell you that their core message - that humans are treating Pokemon unfairly - is absolutely spot-on.  Pokemon, whom the series has demonstrated are fully sapient beings, are kidnapped away from their homes and families by humans, brainwashed into obedience through Pokeballs (what other explanation is there for wild Pokemon desperately trying to fight you off up until the moment you catch them, at which point they obey you without question no matter how low their Friendship?), and then forced to perform uncompensated labor and/or beat each other unconscious for the humans' entertainment.  Even if Pokemon like battling, or like being together with humans, there's no reason they have to do so in such a one-sided relationship where the Pokemon have no agency whatsoever.  All of these completely sound arguments are raised by Team Plasma in BW, and then how does the game come to the defense of its own premise?  "Well, actually, Ghetsis was evil and didn't really care about all that stuff.  I guess you'd better destroy the entirety of Team Plasma, and then do literally nothing about any of the questions they raised."  Yeah, you can see how horribly flimsy of an "argument" that is.  And you can see what I mean about Well-Intentioned Extremists - stories tend to use them to implicitly excuse the failings of the status quo by virtue of "Well, look how evil the person trying to change things is!  You don't want to be like them, do you?"  And with all the problems our society here in the real world is plagued with, "only villains try to change the way things are" is absolutely not a message I think the world needs more of right now.

 

All of this is why I'm always really excited whenever a game that comes along that gives you the option to side with the extremists and champion their cause.  The highest-profile recent example of this (that I'm aware of) is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which is a huge favorite of mine, but a few other Pokemon fangames have done this as well, likely in response to the whole Team Plasma situation described above.  I'm pretty sure Pokemon Desolation did this (though I'm not too familiar with that game), but my personal favorite example - and my favorite fangame of all time, even moreso than Reborn - is a little-known gem called Pokemon Alabaster, where you can join a team who's trying to forestall a prophecy that's basically just one big allegory for global warming.  It's also just generally a really good game with an awesome original soundtrack and y'all should check it out.

 

Whew, that's a lot of context.  Onto the actual Bladestar stuff.  So, given all of that stuff above, it'll probably come as no surprise that when I first met Flora in Chapter 10, and she explained Bladestar's goals to me, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.  After all, a lot of the things she was accusing Cassandra and her peers of are (almost certainly intentionally) very reminiscent of a lot of problems with capitalism in the real world.  And playing further into Chapters 11 and 12, going into the Underground and seeing the extent of the lives that Cassandra and her system has harmed, only reaffirmed that I was on the right side.  Not to mention the fact that Cassandra is, y'know, part of Team Xen, and is almost certainly planning to do the same thing to Grand Dream's population that Madelis was planning to do to Sheridan's population.

 

But Chapters 11 through 13 were also starting to make me worry that perhaps the game and I weren't on the same page regarding how I was supposed to feel about Bladestar.  This is most obvious in the Missing Children quest and the Classified Information quest, as well as the Alamissa Urben section of Ch. 13.  All of these require fighting against Bladestar in some capacity or another, regardless of if you joined them earlier.  In the case of the Missing Children quest, I don't find it quite as distracting, considering that all the Bladestar grunts you fight are acting on behalf of V, not Flora, and their actions don't seem to be contributing to Bladestar's primary goal at all.  But the Classified Information quest is quite infuriating to me, specifically the part where, after using the Rose Badge to open the door to Drifio, your character, with no opportunity for input from the player, volunteers the truth about Flora to the International Police, thus completely negating the choice you made back in Chapter 10.  Something similar happens during the main quest on my route, where, after the meeting with Flora, Erin just straight-up tells you that she's planning to double-cross Bladestar, informs you that you apparently don't actually care about being a member, and then leaves as though you're perfectly OK with everything she just said.  I remember spending a few minutes after that moment running around the Bladestar base, trying to find Flora and warn her that Erin's going to betray her.  Generally speaking, when giving your players choices in a video game, no matter what else you want to accomplish with those choices, you want the player to feel like those choices actually affected the trajectory of the story in some way.  Just acting as if my choice to join Bladestar didn't happen for the purposes of these quests and events completely shatters that feeling.

 

But these examples are nothing compared to the turn Bladestar takes in Chapter 14 (and the end of Chapter 13).  Let's start breaking that down.  Flora reveals her identity to the public and blows up the Grand Dream Ball, killing a bunch of innocents and her own followers and gravely wounding some of your friends in the process.  You then find out that the Bladestar members present at the ball weren't informed that they were going to die, which Flora justifies by saying that she had to make sure that no information about the attack would leak.  When the family and friends of the sacrificed members predictably leave Bladestar as a result, Flora responds by saying that she doesn't need weak people like them in her city anyway.

 

OK, so.  This character turn for Flora, from "extreme in her methods, but still means well and cares about the people she's trying to help" to "total hypocrite who doesn't care about her own followers or cause at all, only about winning" took me by surprise, but I'll admit it didn't come entirely out of nowhere.  Even back in Darchlight Caves in Chapter 10, she was lamenting how incompotent her grunts are and getting annoyed with them not being able to follow simple orders.  Back then, I interpreted this less as "I don't actually care about my grunts and hate that I can only get societal rejects to join me," and more as "It sucks that my grunts aren't more competent, that's going to make it a lot harder to accomplish my goals and make a better future for the people I care about."  But I guess the "she's just an asshole" interpretation is valid too.  Still, it's a little jarring to hear her make a speech about how Cassandra's system is unfair to the weak and downtrodden, only to immediately turn around and claim that she doesn't want the weak and downtrodden either.

 

As for the whole "blowing up innocent people" thing…  I'm sorry, I know that was supposed to make me hate Flora and regret siding with her, but for me personally, all it did was make me hate the writing.  See, the thing is, I'm perfectly down with necessary sacrifices for the greater good, but only as long as those sacrifices are actually necessary - as in, you've actively considered and rejected all possible less-destructive alternatives.  I can think of plenty of ways the attack on the Grand Dream Ball could've taken out Cassandra and whatever other targets Flora wanted while avoiding all that collateral damage:

 

  1. Given the crazy quantities of grunts and admins you see at Site Zero and Eclysia Pyramid later in the chapter, I'm almost certain Bladestar had enough members to just lay siege to the building where the ball was being held, assassinating all their targets while leaving everyone else untouched, and preventing anyone from leaving until the mission was complete.
  2. We've seen in some of the earlier sidequests that Dr. Jenkel, known Bladestar member, is in possession of a Telemote - a teleporter that's also a remote!  If she still wanted to go with the explosion plan, Flora could've mass-produced a bunch of Telemotes and given them to her grunts so that they could get themselves and the non-target guests away from the blast in time.  This would actually be far strategically superior to just letting them die, as she could've immediately put them to work on either the assault on the Judicial District or the mission to the Eclysia Pyramid.
  3. She could've also done the reverse, and just have the Telemote-wielders teleport Cassandra and the other targets directly into Mt. Valor's crater or something.
  4. If Flora can break into Team Xen's HQ and steal Rift Matter, it's possible she could also find some way to steal the designs for the Pokeball-jamming signal they used at Blacksteeple, which is a completely story-breaking ability that Bladestar could've used to easily take over the city with zero resistance.
  5. There were witnesses all over Alamissa Urben who saw Cassandra leading Team Xen's assault against their city, including multiple high-ranking Pokemon League members.  I see no reason why Flora can't just get some of them to testify that Cassandra is involved with Team Xen, which would immediately get her removed from power and either executed or permanently locked up, no domestic terrorism required.  Granted, this wouldn't work for all the other unspecified "greedy politicians" Flora wanted eliminated, but taking out Cassandra alone would improve conditions for the city almost immediately, remove Team Xen's control over it, and probably leave Bladestar in a better position to remove the other targets from power later.  Honestly, I'm not sure why Ryland didn't do this on his own a long time ago.

 

My point with pointing out all these alternative strategies is, the way the attack was handled doesn't make Flora seem to me like a heartless bastard who will do whatever it takes to succeed, no matter the collateral damage.  It just makes her seem incompetent, and like she hasn't thought through all her options.  Which I guess could've worked if more explicit attention had been drawn to it, but I really don't think that's what they were going for.  And by ignoring all these alternatives - pretending that "blow up innocent people" and "do nothing and let Cassandra stay in power" are the only two options - the game is beginning to fall into that same trap with writing Well-Intentioned Extremists that I mentioned back at the beginning.  Flora, the only person actively trying to fix GDC's biggest problems, is portrayed as so cruel and unreasonable that no sane player would ever fully agree with her - which implicitly condemns the rest of Bladestar and their goals by association, even though it really shouldn't.

 

Anyway, onto the rest of Chapter 14.  Nastasia picks you up, you're given a choice as to whether or not to accept her offer of a truce, I answer no, Nastasia says something about how she's "making me cooperate whether I like it or not" (even though she does nothing to enforce this), and then the game, once again, just proceeds as though I made the opposite choice that I actually did.  Aelita talks about how awful Bladestar is, and how they're so glad we're going to get revenge on Bladestar, and I'm just sitting there like, "WELL THAT MAKES ONE OF US."  Flora informs her followers that she has no further use for us, since we ***PROBABLY*** stopped supporting Bladestar after the attack on the ball.  Which, OK, I know why this is here.  I don't like it, but I know why it's here.  If Flora actually tried to ask the player to help her at that point, you'd either have to give them the option to say yes, which could completely derail the plot, or force them to say no, which would've infuriated the players who wanted to say yes (just like forcing us to ally with Nastasia a few minutes earlier did for me).  So you just have Flora betray the player, so now even players who might still want to support her have no option but to fight her, since she attacked first.  Once again, though, this just makes her seem incompetent rather than ruthless - even if she doesn't know we're the Interceptor, she knows that we're at least strong enough to defeat her in battle, and a simple background check would reveal that we've consistently kicked Team Xen's ass up to that point.  A smart leader would've tried, at least one time, to get us back on her side before deciding we've outlived our usefulness.

 

Moving on, we reach the top of the pyramid, fight possessed Ryland, and it's revealed that Cassandra somehow survived the attack (my money's on her using artificial bodies like Ren) and that the assault on the Judicial District has failed.  Flora is arrested, and everyone except me cheers that Bladestar is no more.  Because that's really the heart of the issue, isn't it?  It's just the Ghetsis "argument" all over again.  Yes, Flora was incompotent and unreasonable and did horrible things - hell, she doesn't let you use the Jewel of Life to heal your friends for, like, five minutes, even though doing so would cost Bladestar literally nothing - but it was really just her.  Bladestar almost certainly would've been a genuine force for good in Grand Dream and the Badlands if literally anyone other than Flora had been running it.  But she was an asshole, and therefore the game tells us we have to take her entire organization down with her, ruining all the hopes and dreams of the downtrodden residents of the Underground.  Sucks to be them, I guess.  But hey, look how evil Flora was!  You don't want to be like her, do you?  Guess the only solution is to never try to improve society, ever!

 

But OK.  All my whining thus far has been working under the assumption that joining Bladestar should be a genuine option, because that's how I would've made the game.  But hey, as it turns out, I'm not actually making this game!  This is Jan and Zumi's creative project, not mine.  Maybe they don't share my worldview, and believe revolutionary violence can never, ever be justified, and that any and all positive change needs to come from within the bounds of the system (no matter how much that system is designed to actively resist meaningful change).  And maybe they don't want players to even have the option to engage with that worldview.  Or, regardless of their ideology, maybe they, quite understandably, just don't want to put in the countless extra development hours it would take to create a full-fledged "Join Bladestar" route.  OK, that's all perfectly valid.  But in that case, the solution is to JUST NOT LET ME JOIN BLADESTAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.

 

When you give your players a moral choice of some sort in a video game, you're generally trying to accomplish one of two things with it.  The first possibility is to provide an opportunity for personal expression: allowing the player to reflect on who they are and what they value most, then watching those values reflected within their character's actions and the outcome of the story.  A good example of this kind of choice is the Zekrom/Reshiram route split in Reborn.  The second possibility is to show consequences: the choice has a right and wrong option based on the values the developer wants to impart onto the player, and you're clearly shown down the line whether your choice was right or wrong, and why.  A good example of this is the sidequest in Rejuvenation involving whether to show mercy on the ex-Xen bandits or evict them.  Here is a good short video explaining this in more depth.

 

So, as it stands, does the choice of whether or not to support Flora in Chapter 10 accomplish either of these two things?  On the surface, it seems like it's about personal expression, letting the player weigh their commitment to justice against their commitment to peace, or their desire to uphold the law against their desire to get their next Badge, or just whether or not they actually take Flora at her word.  The thing is, though, for this kind of choice to work, two things have to be true.  First, the choice has to meaningfully affect the outcome of the story going forward, or at least provide a convincing enough illusion of affecting the story that the player can't tell the difference.  Second, the game should not pass judgement on the player for this kind of choice, no matter what they choose - if it does, then it's telling the player that the values they chose to express when they made the choice are wrong, bad values.  And nobody likes being told that their worldview is wrong.  By forcing the player to fight and destroy Bladestar in Chapter 14 no matter what they chose in Chapter 10, the Flora choice breaks both of these rules, and fails at providing personal expression.  But OK, if it's telling me that my worldview is wrong, maybe it's about consequences instead?  Well, again, not really - Flora blows up the ball no matter what you choose here.  Maybe if joining Bladestar inadvertently helped Flora do something even more unnecessarily destructive, this would make more sense, but nope.  In fact, the route where she does the most damage is the one where you try the hardest to stop her, as she kills Florin in that one.  If nothing meaningfully changes as a result of your actions, then they can't really be said to have consequences, now can they?  In short, this choice accomplishes nothing within the game's story - and if it's not accomplishing anything, then it shouldn't be in the game.

 

Which brings me to my conclusion: three possible ways I would fix Bladestar's role in the story, depending on how it is actually intended for the player to relate to them.  Keep in mind that the first two would only affect the story if the player chose not to rat out Flora in Chapter 10 - if they sided against her, or just never confronted her in the caves, the story would progress pretty much exactly as it does now.  My problem isn't really with anything in the story in a vacuum, but rather that A) fighting against Bladestar is the only option, and B) the story tricked me into thinking it wasn't going to be the only option.

 

  1. Make Flora redeemable.  This is the option I'd ultimately prefer, and I see it going something like the Crimson Flower route in FE:3H.  If you don't side with her, Flora remains set in her ways, and the game proceeds like it currently does.  But if you do side with her, you're able to find out about her more morally dubious plans and convince her to find alternatives.  With the player's help, she has some character development and realizes that she needs to take better care of her followers, and use violence against innocents only as an absolute last resort.  This would also involve alternate versions of the Classified Information sidequest and the Alamissa Urben section of Chapter 13 so that they no longer involve fighting or otherwise working against your allies.

 

Come Chapter 14, Flora wouldn't blow up the ball, instead taking one of the alternative options I detailed above - probably the Telemote one, since it'd change the fewest material details of the situation.  So Bladestar now successfully takes out their targets at the ball without harming anyone innocent, but before you can help with the assault on the Judicial District, you get word that Team Xen, led by Madame X and some weirdos with red visors, has seized control of the Rift Hippowdon, and is assaulting Eclysia Pyramid and trying to take the Jewel of Life, which doesn't jive with Flora and/or Ryland's plans to restore the Badlands.  (Oh yeah, she probably doesn't vine-ify Ryland in this timeline either.)  So you get sent off to deal with that, and maybe convince some of your friends to help you.  This way you still get to use the new areas and a good chunk of the story content that's already there in Chapter 14, just with you fighting Team Xen instead of Bladestar.

 

While you're at the pyramid, you get word that Cassandra somehow survived and defeated all the Bladestar grunts who were assaulting the Judicial District - so Bladestar is still destroyed, but it's framed as a bad thing this time.  This is so that the story can remain mostly the same in Ch. 15 onwards - if Bladestar won in some routes but not others, there would basically have to be two entirely different storylines in all future chapters, which would be kinda awkward from a development perspective (Pokemon Alabaster used this solution as well).  After the big fight with the red-visor people at the top of the pyramid, you have a regular, official Gym Battle with Ryland.  And then Chapters 15 and onward can play out from there with only minor dialogue adjustments between routes.  Maybe your ending after inevitably defeating Cassandra would change depending on your route, with siding with Bladestar bringing more extreme changes to how GDC is run in the future.

 

2. Still have Flora be evil, but make Bladestar itself redeemable.  This one's a little weird, but if there's some kind of important creative vision for Flora's character that absolutely requires her to be evil, then this would still allow that to hold true.  It also doesn't necessarily require significant alterations to Chapters 11 through 13, like Option 1 does.  So, Flora still blows up the ball no matter what, but if you sided with her in Chapter 10, instead of immediately going to Eclysia Pyramid with Nastasia, you now get the option to head to Bladestar HQ instead.  Once there, you can talk to Flora, where she'll tell you how you've outlived your usefulness and try (and fail) to defeat you.  Upon being defeated, she has a villainous breakdown and starts ranting about her true motives, which have way more to do with megalomania and egotism than with actually improving the world.  She makes this rant in front of all her followers, who naturally decide that she's no longer fit to be their leader, and lock her up.  They then select a new leader, which I think can really only be Dylan.  He's an extremely powerful Trainer who's lived in GDC for a long time and understands the struggles and needs of all the rejects that Bladestar is fighting for, and he even seems to remember an earlier era of Bladestar when it was less destructive and more focused on helping people in need.  Though if he's going to be the new leader, maybe you can only take this route if you've finished the Missing Children sidequest up to that point.

 

 

Anyway, more or less the same thing happens as in the last option - Team Xen starts assaulting the pyramid, and you've got to stop them.  In this option, though, all your friends have gone to the pyramid with Nastasia already, so you'll have to go without them, possibly having Dylan and Ana help you with puzzles instead of Aelita and Ren.  Speaking of Aelita, she's still super pissed at Bladestar for almost killing Erin and Melia, and when she finds out you're still working with them even after what they've done, she's probably not going to take it well.  That could add some nice spicy drama to the main cast.  Anyway, the rest of the route is the same as the above - Bladestar loses but it's a bad thing, official Gym Battle with Ryland, ect.

 

3. Remove the choice to side with Flora altogether.  Change the Darchlight Woods/Caves storyline such that you never find out that Flora is involved with Bladestar.  Or just rewrite it so that Flora never offers to let you join.  I'd still be a little disappointed that you can't join the cool extremists, but at least this way I wouldn't feel like my choices are being retroactively invalidated by the game.

 

Of course, Rejuvenation's story isn't finished yet, and with v13 seemingly close to completion, it's entirely possible that the new content will make that Chapter 10 choice actually mean something and resolve all of my complaints.  Maybe there'll be an option to, I dunno, break all the captured Bladestar members out of prison, and install Dylan or Ryland as their new leader.  Maybe Flora will get some character development now that she's seen how badly her methods failed.  And considering that Cassandra is with Team Xen and has thus far demonstrated zero redeeming character traits, it's pretty much inevitable that we're going to fight her at some point - albeit probably not changing society as drastically as Bladestar wanted to once she's gone.  This all remains to be seen, but for now, the story up to Chapter 14 is what we've got, and it just doesn't sit right with me.

 

So, uh…  Yeah.  That's all I had to say.  Once again, I really did enjoy the game and its story for the most part, this is just the one thing that really, REALLY bothered me.  Based on what I've seen in the rest of this forum, it doesn't seem like anyone else was put off by this the way I was, but hopefully you can at least understand why I was.  Regardless, thanks to anyone who took the time to read all this nonsense!

 

 

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This is really well-written, and I understand a lot of your points. I do respectfully disagree with your position on this topic. I know that the world we live in right now is a volatile, ugly place, but it is still my personal worldview that violence is (99.9% of the time) not the answer. Even when it feels justified, it alienates people from your cause, and ultimately hurts it. On a scale like this, collateral damage is inevitable and invalidating to whatever justice you're trying to enact. I disliked Flora the second we met her, when we saw her hypocritically setting off her sort of corruption bomb Darchlight Forest. Are your really restoring the Badlands if you're destroying the earth somewhere else? I think in many ways this gets into the main theme of the game--whether it is ethical or right to sacrifice the life of one for another, or many (in Flora's case, sacrificing life on one part of the planet for another part of the planet)--or, if it is better to find another route altogether (do nothing, wait for a phone call, act as a rebel, etc.). Even if her original intentions were pure, when she took on the role of a terrorist leader, she made a lot of irredeemable decisions. Don't forget what she did to Rune and Huey. I'm just saying that I think the point of this game is to say that things don't always have to be black and white, and there is always another way to go about things.

 

I think that, in terms of Bladestar, as you mentioned in your last couple of paragraphs, we should hold out for future releases though. Jan has implied heavily that we're not done with Bladestar yet. There are still working members, with Jenkel and V being at the top. There is still so much mystery surrounding these two and hopefully more will become clear soon. I think what Jan did so well was making Bladestar such a complex organization, and creating these questions to debate in the first place. Even if the cause was right, I don't think you can disagree that what Flora did was undoubtedly wrong. But, in terms of Bladestar as a whole, I don't think we should condemn the plot or characterize it with a trope until it's finished. I just think there's a lot more to this commentary on extremism than meets the eye, and again we'll just have to wait to see what route this takes.

 

I think another thing to consider is the role of the player character in this story. It's kind of an interesting phenomenon. While technically you are you, and make your own decisions throughout the game, there is simultaneously a definite role and personality that is already laid out for your character the minute you start the game. They are the Interceptor. They are meant to act as a balancing act between good and evil, darkness and light. They are the Zygarde to the clashing Xerneas and Yveltal. If you remember Adrest, the name of this character is very likely to be a reference to Adresteia, which is an epithet for the Greek goddess Nemesis. Her role is literally "the goddess who enacts retribution against those who succumb to hubris" (source). That is, by definition, a position that would be against Flora's role. In my opinion, Flora and the PC were destined to clash from the beginning, and it doesn't make sense for a character who is supposed to be of balance to join an extremist group.

 

That's just my thoughts. Again, really well written and interesting analysis. I just think you should consider waiting to pass judgment until the entire story is revealed. 

 

In addition to my points above, I wanted to say that I think that the option to "join" Bladestar is presented to us in order to learn more about the organization (or story as a whole). If you choose to join them, you get to see their base and speak with a lot of members. You learn more about Flora, and learn that she is afraid of the Xenpurgis. I don't think the point of it was ever to derail the plot and work for an organized group. I think it was just an interesting way to learn more about the world. 

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Thank you for the very thoughtful response!  Those are very interesting points about the player character in particular.  I never knew about that Adresteia thing, and the idea that the Interceptor represents Zygarde makes a lot of sense, considering that they are supposedly summoned by the universe as a last-ditch effort to restore balance.  However, the Interceptor is also established as having the unique ability to stand outside of destiny and make choices that influence the future.  Which is a large part of what made me think that the player's choices would have more impact.  But of course, Jan can't possibly create content for every possible choice that every possible player would conceivably want to make, so there have to be a lot of restrictions on those choices no matter what.  It'll be interesting to see how those two somewhat conflicting aspects of the Interceptor's role influence things moving forward.

 

In hindsight, yes, it does seem like the option to join Bladestar was never intended to be a way to actually side with them.  I really still think that it at least should've been more clear from the beginning, though, especially since there are other fangames like Alabaster that actually do give you the option to join similar groups.  Again, I don't mind too much if the game wants to take a firm stance against extremism.  The real reason I disliked Ch. 14 so much was that, to me, the game gave off the false impression that it was letting me decide for myself how I felt about the issue, and then walked back on that.  The whole thing would've been fine if it was just more clear up front that I wasn't joining Bladestar for real.

 

But regardless, you're absolutely right that we should wait for future versions to see how the whole issue of Bladestar and their cause concludes.  I was kind of jumping the gun, assuming that because they were officially destroyed at the end of the chapter, that this was the last we're going to see of the whole issue.  I was worried it was going to end up exactly like Team Plasma did, where they use the group's extreme methods and blatantly evil leader as an excuse to ignore what they were actually fighting for.  But I should give Jan a little more credit than that, and wait to see where that plot thread goes in the future before making assumptions.  And while I would've handled the specifics of Bladestar's role in the story a bit differently, you're absolutely right that Jan did a great job with creating them and exploring the issues they bring up.  It's a rare story that's able to get me invested enough in its outcome that I'm inspired to write a whole essay about it.

 

Thanks again for responding and giving me some perspective about this!

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On 1/15/2021 at 8:16 AM, sparsyle said:

This is really well-written, and I understand a lot of your points. I do respectfully disagree with your position on this topic. I know that the world we live in right now is a volatile, ugly place, but it is still my personal worldview that violence is (99.9% of the time) not the answer. Even when it feels justified, it alienates people from your cause, and ultimately hurts it. On a scale like this, collateral damage is inevitable and invalidating to whatever justice you're trying to enact. I disliked Flora the second we met her, when we saw her hypocritically setting off her sort of corruption bomb Darchlight Forest. Are your really restoring the Badlands if you're destroying the earth somewhere else? I think in many ways this gets into the main theme of the game--whether it is ethical or right to sacrifice the life of one for another, or many (in Flora's case, sacrificing life on one part of the planet for another part of the planet)--or, if it is better to find another route altogether (do nothing, wait for a phone call, act as a rebel, etc.). Even if her original intentions were pure, when she took on the role of a terrorist leader, she made a lot of irredeemable decisions. Don't forget what she did to Rune and Huey. I'm just saying that I think the point of this game is to say that things don't always have to be black and white, and there is always another way to go about things.

 

I think that, in terms of Bladestar, as you mentioned in your last couple of paragraphs, we should hold out for future releases though. Jan has implied heavily that we're not done with Bladestar yet. There are still working members, with Jenkel and V being at the top. There is still so much mystery surrounding these two and hopefully more will become clear soon. I think what Jan did so well was making Bladestar such a complex organization, and creating these questions to debate in the first place. Even if the cause was right, I don't think you can disagree that what Flora did was undoubtedly wrong. But, in terms of Bladestar as a whole, I don't think we should condemn the plot or characterize it with a trope until it's finished. I just think there's a lot more to this commentary on extremism than meets the eye, and again we'll just have to wait to see what route this takes.

 

I think another thing to consider is the role of the player character in this story. It's kind of an interesting phenomenon. While technically you are you, and make your own decisions throughout the game, there is simultaneously a definite role and personality that is already laid out for your character the minute you start the game. They are the Interceptor. They are meant to act as a balancing act between good and evil, darkness and light. They are the Zygarde to the clashing Xerneas and Yveltal. If you remember Adrest, the name of this character is very likely to be a reference to Adresteia, which is an epithet for the Greek goddess Nemesis. Her role is literally "the goddess who enacts retribution against those who succumb to hubris" (source). That is, by definition, a position that would be against Flora's role. In my opinion, Flora and the PC were destined to clash from the beginning, and it doesn't make sense for a character who is supposed to be of balance to join an extremist group.

 

That's just my thoughts. Again, really well written and interesting analysis. I just think you should consider waiting to pass judgment until the entire story is revealed. 

I'm pretty sure she did pretty much nothing to Rune and Huey though? She "invited" Rune to join, she refused, she forced her to not snitch on Bladestar and that's it. She also seems to be actually missing Rune too, so I doubt she's the reason for her disappearance.

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6 hours ago, nhehvnukl said:

I'm pretty sure she did pretty much nothing to Rune and Huey though? She "invited" Rune to join, she refused, she forced her to not snitch on Bladestar and that's it. She also seems to be actually missing Rune too, so I doubt she's the reason for her disappearance.

 

Spoiler

In Ch13, it is revealed that Flora basically forced Rune into a corner. She asked her to join Bladestar, but Rune declines. For this, Flora says that she would normally kill Rune, but since they were childhood "friends", she wouldn't. Instead she forces Rune to stay silent. And if Rune doesn't oblige, she says that she will reveal Rune's "deepest and darkest secret" to Huey (blackmailing her into being complicit). 

aside: I'm still really curious about what this deep dark secret is. rn I'm almost certain that Rune and Huey are secretly from Sashila Village (I can go more into that if anyone's interested), but other than that I'm at a loss. We know there's a huge age difference between them (Rune being 26 and Huey seeming to be around the age of like 13 [unconfirmed]), and they don't have any parents, so I can't help but wonder if Rune is actually Huey's mother or something lol

 

Flora also later mentions wanting to "avenge" Rune, so she definitely knows more about what has happened to Rune than she is letting on. I find it kind of cruel that she won't tell Huey anything.

 

But besides what she did to Rune and Huey, you could also look at what she did to her own brother, Florin. Or sacrificing the lives of her own followers (without their knowledge). Or what she did to Ryland. Or her Ferrothorn. The list goes on.

 

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While there is much I disagree with here but won't get into as I don't really have time for a debate, I do want to touch up on your misconception of my favorite team in all of Pokemon, Team Plasma. They were not destroyed or went away but instead split into two. Old Team Plasma led by N and Rood, signified by wearing the knight outfits, took the lessons of separating humans and pokemon was not the answer to heart and truly reformed and now help pokemon stop pokemon abuse and care for them. Their base of operations is the only other church in all of Pokemon. Ghetsis and his goons now signified by their new black pirate outfits in New Team Plasma try to freeze Unova solid using Kyurem and operate out of a flying ship. This of course leads to a epic civil war scene where OTP wins.

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1 hour ago, The Swordsman said:

While there is much I disagree with here but won't get into as I don't really have time for a debate, I do want to touch up on your misconception of my favorite team in all of Pokemon, Team Plasma. They were not destroyed or went away but instead split into two.

 

Yeah, sorry, I was a little imprecise with my wording there.  I've played BW2, I know Team Plasma technically sticks around after the first time they're defeated.  What I really meant is that after the end of BW, no further consideration is given to whether they were right about humans mistreating Pokemon.  It's just assumed by everyone that they were wrong, and everyone just carries on catching and battling Pokemon as though nothing happened.  Certain characters, most notably N, do pay lip service to the idea of establishing a more equal relationship between humans and Pokemon without the need for Pokeballs, but that's not reflected in the gameplay or in any of the characters' actions.  To my knowledge, all Rood's group in Driftveil does is look after Pokemon who were stolen by the original Team Plasma, with the intent of returning them to their original Trainers if possible, not preventing Pokemon abuse on a wider scale.  And of course, all Ghetsis's group cares about is world domination and stuff.  So Team Plasma's original goal of trying to overturn the unjust system of Pokemon ownership has indeed been permanently thwarted by the BW player character.  That's what I meant when I said they were destroyed.

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3 hours ago, VoidlitAudino said:

 

 To my knowledge, all Rood's group in Driftveil does is look after Pokemon who were stolen by the original Team Plasma, with the intent of returning them to their original Trainers if possible, not preventing Pokemon abuse on a wider scale.  And of course, all Ghetsis's group cares about is world domination and stuff.  So Team Plasma's original goal of trying to overturn the unjust system of Pokemon ownership has indeed been permanently thwarted by the BW player character.  That's what I meant when I said they were destroyed.

Well they also try to stop NTP throughout the game. (as Pokemon tends to leave abusers to just the evil team despite that being unrealistic) Honestly you could further the development of OTP by having them form a partnership and business relationship with the Ather Foundation of the Ultra universe.

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imma be real honest here, When i first played rejuvenation and met blade star for the first time, i didn't give 2 cherries on a milkshake about them as i saw them as unnecessary filler until we get to the team Xen stuff. But they clearly hold important lore to them,

1). they're trying to "fix" the current state of GDC (Which as we know is basically being controlled by team Xen) so we may or may not end up teaming up with them in the future

 

2). Flora DEFINITIVELY knows what happened to Huey's sister (i forgot her name) so we're definitely not done with her yet

 

3). Also Anna's whole shanaiganary is still a complete mystery 

 

Really Bladestar had good intentions and it was just Flora herself who led them to what they are now with her twisted ideology making a team that i actually enjoy and can't wait to see what happens to them. 

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On 1/15/2021 at 10:30 AM, VoidlitAudino said:

So, I discovered and played through Rejuvenation a few months ago.  I really liked it for the most part - It's got a lot of nice gameplay improvements over Reborn, I like all the sidequests and how some of them tie back into the main story, and while I think Reborn has the better story and writing overall, I still really enjoyed Rejuvenation's story and got invested in all the main characters.  However, my enjoyment of the story dropped off quite sharply at certain points - in particular, the majority of Chapter 14's main plotline. And I've been sitting on this giant rant about it for quite a while, which I've finally decided to get off my chest.  If Jan, Zumi, or anyone else on the dev team happens to be reading this, I'm sorry I'm about to be so negative about something I know you put a whole lot of time, effort, and creativity into.  Please understand that the only reason I'm so upset about this is that you did such a great job for the most part, and got me really invested in where your story was going up to this point, and I feel like it let me down.  So let's get into it.  Spoilers for the entire game up to Chapter 14.

 

  Reveal hidden contents

So, in recent years, I've become somewhat skeptical of the whole "Well-Intentioned Extremist" trope and its role in our fiction.  For the less trope-savvy among us, a Well-Intentioned Extremist is an antagonist whose motivation involves improving the world in one way or another, but goes "too far" in pursuit of their goal (whatever the writer happens to think "too far" means), and has to be stopped by the protagonists.  The best example from Pokemon's main series is N and his followers in Team Plasma, and obviously Flora and Bladestar are the main examples from Rejuvenation.  At first glance, this trope seems like a nice way to create a sympathetic antagonist…  But, wait, let's look a little closer at this.  What message is an antagonist like this supposed to be sending?   "Trying to make the world better is a slippery slope to murdering innocent people, so you'd better just accept and preserve the status quo no matter how corrupt it is?"

 

Look at my earlier example of Team Plasma.  A cursory glance at the setting of Pokemon's main series will tell you that their core message - that humans are treating Pokemon unfairly - is absolutely spot-on.  Pokemon, whom the series has demonstrated are fully sapient beings, are kidnapped away from their homes and families by humans, brainwashed into obedience through Pokeballs (what other explanation is there for wild Pokemon desperately trying to fight you off up until the moment you catch them, at which point they obey you without question no matter how low their Friendship?), and then forced to perform uncompensated labor and/or beat each other unconscious for the humans' entertainment.  Even if Pokemon like battling, or like being together with humans, there's no reason they have to do so in such a one-sided relationship where the Pokemon have no agency whatsoever.  All of these completely sound arguments are raised by Team Plasma in BW, and then how does the game come to the defense of its own premise?  "Well, actually, Ghetsis was evil and didn't really care about all that stuff.  I guess you'd better destroy the entirety of Team Plasma, and then do literally nothing about any of the questions they raised."  Yeah, you can see how horribly flimsy of an "argument" that is.  And you can see what I mean about Well-Intentioned Extremists - stories tend to use them to implicitly excuse the failings of the status quo by virtue of "Well, look how evil the person trying to change things is!  You don't want to be like them, do you?"  And with all the problems our society here in the real world is plagued with, "only villains try to change the way things are" is absolutely not a message I think the world needs more of right now.

 

All of this is why I'm always really excited whenever a game that comes along that gives you the option to side with the extremists and champion their cause.  The highest-profile recent example of this (that I'm aware of) is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which is a huge favorite of mine, but a few other Pokemon fangames have done this as well, likely in response to the whole Team Plasma situation described above.  I'm pretty sure Pokemon Desolation did this (though I'm not too familiar with that game), but my personal favorite example - and my favorite fangame of all time, even moreso than Reborn - is a little-known gem called Pokemon Alabaster, where you can join a team who's trying to forestall a prophecy that's basically just one big allegory for global warming.  It's also just generally a really good game with an awesome original soundtrack and y'all should check it out.

 

Whew, that's a lot of context.  Onto the actual Bladestar stuff.  So, given all of that stuff above, it'll probably come as no surprise that when I first met Flora in Chapter 10, and she explained Bladestar's goals to me, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.  After all, a lot of the things she was accusing Cassandra and her peers of are (almost certainly intentionally) very reminiscent of a lot of problems with capitalism in the real world.  And playing further into Chapters 11 and 12, going into the Underground and seeing the extent of the lives that Cassandra and her system has harmed, only reaffirmed that I was on the right side.  Not to mention the fact that Cassandra is, y'know, part of Team Xen, and is almost certainly planning to do the same thing to Grand Dream's population that Madelis was planning to do to Sheridan's population.

 

But Chapters 11 through 13 were also starting to make me worry that perhaps the game and I weren't on the same page regarding how I was supposed to feel about Bladestar.  This is most obvious in the Missing Children quest and the Classified Information quest, as well as the Alamissa Urben section of Ch. 13.  All of these require fighting against Bladestar in some capacity or another, regardless of if you joined them earlier.  In the case of the Missing Children quest, I don't find it quite as distracting, considering that all the Bladestar grunts you fight are acting on behalf of V, not Flora, and their actions don't seem to be contributing to Bladestar's primary goal at all.  But the Classified Information quest is quite infuriating to me, specifically the part where, after using the Rose Badge to open the door to Drifio, your character, with no opportunity for input from the player, volunteers the truth about Flora to the International Police, thus completely negating the choice you made back in Chapter 10.  Something similar happens during the main quest on my route, where, after the meeting with Flora, Erin just straight-up tells you that she's planning to double-cross Bladestar, informs you that you apparently don't actually care about being a member, and then leaves as though you're perfectly OK with everything she just said.  I remember spending a few minutes after that moment running around the Bladestar base, trying to find Flora and warn her that Erin's going to betray her.  Generally speaking, when giving your players choices in a video game, no matter what else you want to accomplish with those choices, you want the player to feel like those choices actually affected the trajectory of the story in some way.  Just acting as if my choice to join Bladestar didn't happen for the purposes of these quests and events completely shatters that feeling.

 

But these examples are nothing compared to the turn Bladestar takes in Chapter 14 (and the end of Chapter 13).  Let's start breaking that down.  Flora reveals her identity to the public and blows up the Grand Dream Ball, killing a bunch of innocents and her own followers and gravely wounding some of your friends in the process.  You then find out that the Bladestar members present at the ball weren't informed that they were going to die, which Flora justifies by saying that she had to make sure that no information about the attack would leak.  When the family and friends of the sacrificed members predictably leave Bladestar as a result, Flora responds by saying that she doesn't need weak people like them in her city anyway.

 

OK, so.  This character turn for Flora, from "extreme in her methods, but still means well and cares about the people she's trying to help" to "total hypocrite who doesn't care about her own followers or cause at all, only about winning" took me by surprise, but I'll admit it didn't come entirely out of nowhere.  Even back in Darchlight Caves in Chapter 10, she was lamenting how incompotent her grunts are and getting annoyed with them not being able to follow simple orders.  Back then, I interpreted this less as "I don't actually care about my grunts and hate that I can only get societal rejects to join me," and more as "It sucks that my grunts aren't more competent, that's going to make it a lot harder to accomplish my goals and make a better future for the people I care about."  But I guess the "she's just an asshole" interpretation is valid too.  Still, it's a little jarring to hear her make a speech about how Cassandra's system is unfair to the weak and downtrodden, only to immediately turn around and claim that she doesn't want the weak and downtrodden either.

 

As for the whole "blowing up innocent people" thing…  I'm sorry, I know that was supposed to make me hate Flora and regret siding with her, but for me personally, all it did was make me hate the writing.  See, the thing is, I'm perfectly down with necessary sacrifices for the greater good, but only as long as those sacrifices are actually necessary - as in, you've actively considered and rejected all possible less-destructive alternatives.  I can think of plenty of ways the attack on the Grand Dream Ball could've taken out Cassandra and whatever other targets Flora wanted while avoiding all that collateral damage:

 

  1. Given the crazy quantities of grunts and admins you see at Site Zero and Eclysia Pyramid later in the chapter, I'm almost certain Bladestar had enough members to just lay siege to the building where the ball was being held, assassinating all their targets while leaving everyone else untouched, and preventing anyone from leaving until the mission was complete.
  2. We've seen in some of the earlier sidequests that Dr. Jenkel, known Bladestar member, is in possession of a Telemote - a teleporter that's also a remote!  If she still wanted to go with the explosion plan, Flora could've mass-produced a bunch of Telemotes and given them to her grunts so that they could get themselves and the non-target guests away from the blast in time.  This would actually be far strategically superior to just letting them die, as she could've immediately put them to work on either the assault on the Judicial District or the mission to the Eclysia Pyramid.
  3. She could've also done the reverse, and just have the Telemote-wielders teleport Cassandra and the other targets directly into Mt. Valor's crater or something.
  4. If Flora can break into Team Xen's HQ and steal Rift Matter, it's possible she could also find some way to steal the designs for the Pokeball-jamming signal they used at Blacksteeple, which is a completely story-breaking ability that Bladestar could've used to easily take over the city with zero resistance.
  5. There were witnesses all over Alamissa Urben who saw Cassandra leading Team Xen's assault against their city, including multiple high-ranking Pokemon League members.  I see no reason why Flora can't just get some of them to testify that Cassandra is involved with Team Xen, which would immediately get her removed from power and either executed or permanently locked up, no domestic terrorism required.  Granted, this wouldn't work for all the other unspecified "greedy politicians" Flora wanted eliminated, but taking out Cassandra alone would improve conditions for the city almost immediately, remove Team Xen's control over it, and probably leave Bladestar in a better position to remove the other targets from power later.  Honestly, I'm not sure why Ryland didn't do this on his own a long time ago.

 

My point with pointing out all these alternative strategies is, the way the attack was handled doesn't make Flora seem to me like a heartless bastard who will do whatever it takes to succeed, no matter the collateral damage.  It just makes her seem incompetent, and like she hasn't thought through all her options.  Which I guess could've worked if more explicit attention had been drawn to it, but I really don't think that's what they were going for.  And by ignoring all these alternatives - pretending that "blow up innocent people" and "do nothing and let Cassandra stay in power" are the only two options - the game is beginning to fall into that same trap with writing Well-Intentioned Extremists that I mentioned back at the beginning.  Flora, the only person actively trying to fix GDC's biggest problems, is portrayed as so cruel and unreasonable that no sane player would ever fully agree with her - which implicitly condemns the rest of Bladestar and their goals by association, even though it really shouldn't.

 

Anyway, onto the rest of Chapter 14.  Nastasia picks you up, you're given a choice as to whether or not to accept her offer of a truce, I answer no, Nastasia says something about how she's "making me cooperate whether I like it or not" (even though she does nothing to enforce this), and then the game, once again, just proceeds as though I made the opposite choice that I actually did.  Aelita talks about how awful Bladestar is, and how they're so glad we're going to get revenge on Bladestar, and I'm just sitting there like, "WELL THAT MAKES ONE OF US."  Flora informs her followers that she has no further use for us, since we ***PROBABLY*** stopped supporting Bladestar after the attack on the ball.  Which, OK, I know why this is here.  I don't like it, but I know why it's here.  If Flora actually tried to ask the player to help her at that point, you'd either have to give them the option to say yes, which could completely derail the plot, or force them to say no, which would've infuriated the players who wanted to say yes (just like forcing us to ally with Nastasia a few minutes earlier did for me).  So you just have Flora betray the player, so now even players who might still want to support her have no option but to fight her, since she attacked first.  Once again, though, this just makes her seem incompetent rather than ruthless - even if she doesn't know we're the Interceptor, she knows that we're at least strong enough to defeat her in battle, and a simple background check would reveal that we've consistently kicked Team Xen's ass up to that point.  A smart leader would've tried, at least one time, to get us back on her side before deciding we've outlived our usefulness.

 

Moving on, we reach the top of the pyramid, fight possessed Ryland, and it's revealed that Cassandra somehow survived the attack (my money's on her using artificial bodies like Ren) and that the assault on the Judicial District has failed.  Flora is arrested, and everyone except me cheers that Bladestar is no more.  Because that's really the heart of the issue, isn't it?  It's just the Ghetsis "argument" all over again.  Yes, Flora was incompotent and unreasonable and did horrible things - hell, she doesn't let you use the Jewel of Life to heal your friends for, like, five minutes, even though doing so would cost Bladestar literally nothing - but it was really just her.  Bladestar almost certainly would've been a genuine force for good in Grand Dream and the Badlands if literally anyone other than Flora had been running it.  But she was an asshole, and therefore the game tells us we have to take her entire organization down with her, ruining all the hopes and dreams of the downtrodden residents of the Underground.  Sucks to be them, I guess.  But hey, look how evil Flora was!  You don't want to be like her, do you?  Guess the only solution is to never try to improve society, ever!

 

But OK.  All my whining thus far has been working under the assumption that joining Bladestar should be a genuine option, because that's how I would've made the game.  But hey, as it turns out, I'm not actually making this game!  This is Jan and Zumi's creative project, not mine.  Maybe they don't share my worldview, and believe revolutionary violence can never, ever be justified, and that any and all positive change needs to come from within the bounds of the system (no matter how much that system is designed to actively resist meaningful change).  And maybe they don't want players to even have the option to engage with that worldview.  Or, regardless of their ideology, maybe they, quite understandably, just don't want to put in the countless extra development hours it would take to create a full-fledged "Join Bladestar" route.  OK, that's all perfectly valid.  But in that case, the solution is to JUST NOT LET ME JOIN BLADESTAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.

 

When you give your players a moral choice of some sort in a video game, you're generally trying to accomplish one of two things with it.  The first possibility is to provide an opportunity for personal expression: allowing the player to reflect on who they are and what they value most, then watching those values reflected within their character's actions and the outcome of the story.  A good example of this kind of choice is the Zekrom/Reshiram route split in Reborn.  The second possibility is to show consequences: the choice has a right and wrong option based on the values the developer wants to impart onto the player, and you're clearly shown down the line whether your choice was right or wrong, and why.  A good example of this is the sidequest in Rejuvenation involving whether to show mercy on the ex-Xen bandits or evict them.  Here is a good short video explaining this in more depth.

 

So, as it stands, does the choice of whether or not to support Flora in Chapter 10 accomplish either of these two things?  On the surface, it seems like it's about personal expression, letting the player weigh their commitment to justice against their commitment to peace, or their desire to uphold the law against their desire to get their next Badge, or just whether or not they actually take Flora at her word.  The thing is, though, for this kind of choice to work, two things have to be true.  First, the choice has to meaningfully affect the outcome of the story going forward, or at least provide a convincing enough illusion of affecting the story that the player can't tell the difference.  Second, the game should not pass judgement on the player for this kind of choice, no matter what they choose - if it does, then it's telling the player that the values they chose to express when they made the choice are wrong, bad values.  And nobody likes being told that their worldview is wrong.  By forcing the player to fight and destroy Bladestar in Chapter 14 no matter what they chose in Chapter 10, the Flora choice breaks both of these rules, and fails at providing personal expression.  But OK, if it's telling me that my worldview is wrong, maybe it's about consequences instead?  Well, again, not really - Flora blows up the ball no matter what you choose here.  Maybe if joining Bladestar inadvertently helped Flora do something even more unnecessarily destructive, this would make more sense, but nope.  In fact, the route where she does the most damage is the one where you try the hardest to stop her, as she kills Florin in that one.  If nothing meaningfully changes as a result of your actions, then they can't really be said to have consequences, now can they?  In short, this choice accomplishes nothing within the game's story - and if it's not accomplishing anything, then it shouldn't be in the game.

 

Which brings me to my conclusion: three possible ways I would fix Bladestar's role in the story, depending on how it is actually intended for the player to relate to them.  Keep in mind that the first two would only affect the story if the player chose not to rat out Flora in Chapter 10 - if they sided against her, or just never confronted her in the caves, the story would progress pretty much exactly as it does now.  My problem isn't really with anything in the story in a vacuum, but rather that A) fighting against Bladestar is the only option, and B) the story tricked me into thinking it wasn't going to be the only option.

 

  1. Make Flora redeemable.  This is the option I'd ultimately prefer, and I see it going something like the Crimson Flower route in FE:3H.  If you don't side with her, Flora remains set in her ways, and the game proceeds like it currently does.  But if you do side with her, you're able to find out about her more morally dubious plans and convince her to find alternatives.  With the player's help, she has some character development and realizes that she needs to take better care of her followers, and use violence against innocents only as an absolute last resort.  This would also involve alternate versions of the Classified Information sidequest and the Alamissa Urben section of Chapter 13 so that they no longer involve fighting or otherwise working against your allies.

 

Come Chapter 14, Flora wouldn't blow up the ball, instead taking one of the alternative options I detailed above - probably the Telemote one, since it'd change the fewest material details of the situation.  So Bladestar now successfully takes out their targets at the ball without harming anyone innocent, but before you can help with the assault on the Judicial District, you get word that Team Xen, led by Madame X and some weirdos with red visors, has seized control of the Rift Hippowdon, and is assaulting Eclysia Pyramid and trying to take the Jewel of Life, which doesn't jive with Flora and/or Ryland's plans to restore the Badlands.  (Oh yeah, she probably doesn't vine-ify Ryland in this timeline either.)  So you get sent off to deal with that, and maybe convince some of your friends to help you.  This way you still get to use the new areas and a good chunk of the story content that's already there in Chapter 14, just with you fighting Team Xen instead of Bladestar.

 

While you're at the pyramid, you get word that Cassandra somehow survived and defeated all the Bladestar grunts who were assaulting the Judicial District - so Bladestar is still destroyed, but it's framed as a bad thing this time.  This is so that the story can remain mostly the same in Ch. 15 onwards - if Bladestar won in some routes but not others, there would basically have to be two entirely different storylines in all future chapters, which would be kinda awkward from a development perspective (Pokemon Alabaster used this solution as well).  After the big fight with the red-visor people at the top of the pyramid, you have a regular, official Gym Battle with Ryland.  And then Chapters 15 and onward can play out from there with only minor dialogue adjustments between routes.  Maybe your ending after inevitably defeating Cassandra would change depending on your route, with siding with Bladestar bringing more extreme changes to how GDC is run in the future.

 

2. Still have Flora be evil, but make Bladestar itself redeemable.  This one's a little weird, but if there's some kind of important creative vision for Flora's character that absolutely requires her to be evil, then this would still allow that to hold true.  It also doesn't necessarily require significant alterations to Chapters 11 through 13, like Option 1 does.  So, Flora still blows up the ball no matter what, but if you sided with her in Chapter 10, instead of immediately going to Eclysia Pyramid with Nastasia, you now get the option to head to Bladestar HQ instead.  Once there, you can talk to Flora, where she'll tell you how you've outlived your usefulness and try (and fail) to defeat you.  Upon being defeated, she has a villainous breakdown and starts ranting about her true motives, which have way more to do with megalomania and egotism than with actually improving the world.  She makes this rant in front of all her followers, who naturally decide that she's no longer fit to be their leader, and lock her up.  They then select a new leader, which I think can really only be Dylan.  He's an extremely powerful Trainer who's lived in GDC for a long time and understands the struggles and needs of all the rejects that Bladestar is fighting for, and he even seems to remember an earlier era of Bladestar when it was less destructive and more focused on helping people in need.  Though if he's going to be the new leader, maybe you can only take this route if you've finished the Missing Children sidequest up to that point.

 

 

Anyway, more or less the same thing happens as in the last option - Team Xen starts assaulting the pyramid, and you've got to stop them.  In this option, though, all your friends have gone to the pyramid with Nastasia already, so you'll have to go without them, possibly having Dylan and Ana help you with puzzles instead of Aelita and Ren.  Speaking of Aelita, she's still super pissed at Bladestar for almost killing Erin and Melia, and when she finds out you're still working with them even after what they've done, she's probably not going to take it well.  That could add some nice spicy drama to the main cast.  Anyway, the rest of the route is the same as the above - Bladestar loses but it's a bad thing, official Gym Battle with Ryland, ect.

 

3. Remove the choice to side with Flora altogether.  Change the Darchlight Woods/Caves storyline such that you never find out that Flora is involved with Bladestar.  Or just rewrite it so that Flora never offers to let you join.  I'd still be a little disappointed that you can't join the cool extremists, but at least this way I wouldn't feel like my choices are being retroactively invalidated by the game.

 

Of course, Rejuvenation's story isn't finished yet, and with v13 seemingly close to completion, it's entirely possible that the new content will make that Chapter 10 choice actually mean something and resolve all of my complaints.  Maybe there'll be an option to, I dunno, break all the captured Bladestar members out of prison, and install Dylan or Ryland as their new leader.  Maybe Flora will get some character development now that she's seen how badly her methods failed.  And considering that Cassandra is with Team Xen and has thus far demonstrated zero redeeming character traits, it's pretty much inevitable that we're going to fight her at some point - albeit probably not changing society as drastically as Bladestar wanted to once she's gone.  This all remains to be seen, but for now, the story up to Chapter 14 is what we've got, and it just doesn't sit right with me.

 

So, uh…  Yeah.  That's all I had to say.  Once again, I really did enjoy the game and its story for the most part, this is just the one thing that really, REALLY bothered me.  Based on what I've seen in the rest of this forum, it doesn't seem like anyone else was put off by this the way I was, but hopefully you can at least understand why I was.  Regardless, thanks to anyone who took the time to read all this nonsense!

 

 

Glad someone is as disappointed in how Bladestar was handled as me. I just finished my second run of Rejuv, where I sided with Flora and bladestar, instead of ratting her out to Erin, thinking that somehow I'd get to act as a member of Bladestar, only to be disappointed by finding out that the story plays out exactly the same minus a few dialouge changes. I love your take on what you think they should've done with Bladestar, and I feel the same way

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On 1/16/2021 at 9:09 PM, sparsyle said:

 

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In Ch13, it is revealed that Flora basically forced Rune into a corner. She asked her to join Bladestar, but Rune declines. For this, Flora says that she would normally kill Rune, but since they were childhood "friends", she wouldn't. Instead she forces Rune to stay silent. And if Rune doesn't oblige, she says that she will reveal Rune's "deepest and darkest secret" to Huey (blackmailing her into being complicit). 

aside: I'm still really curious about what this deep dark secret is. rn I'm almost certain that Rune and Huey are secretly from Sashila Village (I can go more into that if anyone's interested), but other than that I'm at a loss. We know there's a huge age difference between them (Rune being 26 and Huey seeming to be around the age of like 13 [unconfirmed]), and they don't have any parents, so I can't help but wonder if Rune is actually Huey's mother or something lol

 

Flora also later mentions wanting to "avenge" Rune, so she definitely knows more about what has happened to Rune than she is letting on. I find it kind of cruel that she won't tell Huey anything.

 

But besides what she did to Rune and Huey, you could also look at what she did to her own brother, Florin. Or sacrificing the lives of her own followers (without their knowledge). Or what she did to Ryland. Or her Ferrothorn. The list goes on.

 

Dont get me wrong, Flora is a horrible person, but her actions towards Rune is not a prime example of her awfulness. She literally just gave her info and then forced her to not tell it to anyone. As for Huey, there's a decent chance that telling him about the reason for Rune's disappearance will make him aware of her connection to Bladestar, so even if she wanted to tell him, she probably couldn't. In your original post you compared the actions towards Rune and Huey to her irredeemable actions (Florin execution, Ryland, etc) ,which is what I tried to point out. I basically agree with the rest of your analysis. Also, Flora also took special effort in making sure her Ferrothorn wouldn't be hurt, so that's another moot point.

 

 

On an somewhat unreleated note, anyone has a video of Florin's execution? I tried to trigger it myself but I somehow failed.

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On 1/20/2021 at 1:22 AM, nhehvnukl said:

Dont get me wrong, Flora is a horrible person, but her actions towards Rune is not a prime example of her awfulness. She literally just gave her info and then forced her to not tell it to anyone. As for Huey, there's a decent chance that telling him about the reason for Rune's disappearance will make him aware of her connection to Bladestar, so even if she wanted to tell him, she probably couldn't. In your original post you compared the actions towards Rune and Huey to her irredeemable actions (Florin execution, Ryland, etc) ,which is what I tried to point out. I basically agree with the rest of your analysis. Also, Flora also took special effort in making sure her Ferrothorn wouldn't be hurt, so that's another moot point.

 

 

On an somewhat unreleated note, anyone has a video of Florin's execution? I tried to trigger it myself but I somehow failed.

I think the only way Florin could die that I am aware of is...

Spoiler

When you tell Casandra everything about the Bladestar base in Darchlight Caves, she goes to check out the base escorted by Florin and she kills him there. Although I don't know what Flora has to do with this sequence, since Florin dies at the hands of Casandra. Unless there is a different scene where Flora gets involved with her brother's death that I am not aware of...

 

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10 hours ago, Sreenath said:

I think the only way Florin could die that I am aware of is...

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When you tell Casandra everything about the Bladestar base in Darchlight Caves, she goes to check out the base escorted by Florin and she kills him there. Although I don't know what Flora has to do with this sequence, since Florin dies at the hands of Casandra. Unless there is a different scene where Flora gets involved with her brother's death that I am not aware of...

 

I dont get it either but this v12 teaser seems to insuniate that Flora is reponsible somehow so I guess she is? might be a retcon though

 

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I think it was pretty good, it can be used as a critic against radicalism / extremism, even good causes (like dethroning a dictator) can go too far if you apply the "For the greater good" / "The end justify the means" argument, so yeah, maybe in the end everything would had worked out as Flora wanted (or not) but the people she killed on the bombings will still be dead forever and the fact that they were innocent is even worst.. And in the end she got blinded by her goal so much she even against her own family and friends and was willing to sacrifice her underlings (while she stays cozy and safe, of course) for a cause she deems just..

In the end I believe she would had just became a dictator herself but be completely unaware of it, constantly justifying her actions.. The difference between her and Cassandra is that Cassandra wasn't a hypocrite that though she was doing good..

Tho' I admit that they kinda been shoved in there.. If they were introduced along with the other chapters little by little that would had been better but since they only show up on the GDC ark it does feel like filler indeed but that's my only problem with them.

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On 1/19/2021 at 2:52 PM, nhehvnukl said:

Dont get me wrong, Flora is a horrible person, but her actions towards Rune is not a prime example of her awfulness. She literally just gave her info and then forced her to not tell it to anyone. As for Huey, there's a decent chance that telling him about the reason for Rune's disappearance will make him aware of her connection to Bladestar, so even if she wanted to tell him, she probably couldn't. In your original post you compared the actions towards Rune and Huey to her irredeemable actions (Florin execution, Ryland, etc) ,which is what I tried to point out. I basically agree with the rest of your analysis. Also, Flora also took special effort in making sure her Ferrothorn wouldn't be hurt, so that's another moot point.

 

 

On an somewhat unreleated note, anyone has a video of Florin's execution? I tried to trigger it myself but I somehow failed.

I don't exactly remember how I triggered Florin's execution but I remember following Erin around in Darchlight caves, telling her Flora was apart of Bladenstar, exposing Flora as soon as we got out of the cave, and telling Cassandra everything. 

 

While Flora is on trial her, Bladestar members bust in the court room and save Flora. Flora had planted evidence, beforehand, to make it seem like Florin is apart of Bladestar and gets him put on execution.

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6 hours ago, MhicKy said:

I think it was pretty good, it can be used as a critic against radicalism / extremism, even good causes (like dethroning a dictator) can go too far if you apply the "For the greater good" / "The end justify the means" argument, so yeah, maybe in the end everything would had worked out as Flora wanted (or not) but the people she killed on the bombings will still be dead forever and the fact that they were innocent is even worst.. And in the end she got blinded by her goal so much she even against her own family and friends and was willing to sacrifice her underlings (while she stays cozy and safe, of course) for a cause she deems just..

In the end I believe she would had just became a dictator herself but be completely unaware of it, constantly justifying her actions.. The difference between her and Cassandra is that Cassandra wasn't a hypocrite that though she was doing good..

 

Well, yes.  Flora, as written, is a total hypocrite who caused way more harm than necessary in pursuit of her goals, and probably would've ended up becoming a Robespierre-style dictator had she successfully taken power.  What I'm really concerned about is the fact that that is how the game chose to depict the only person actively trying to fix GDC's biggest problems and get it out of Team Xen's hands.

 

Let's compare this to something similar in Reborn.  In that game, we have Titania, and to a lesser extent Saphira, who use way more violent methods than any of the other heroic characters when fighting Team Meteor.  And they're depicted as being pretty unambiguously in the wrong for doing so, as we're always shown friends and family of the Team Meteor members they killed and are meant to empathize with them.  Yet despite that, Titania and Saphira are also depicted as still being firmly on the side of good.  They regularly work together with the player character and the other main characters, and while they're depicted as being wrong about that particular thing, they still have a lot of other good values to bring to the table.  Because in Reborn, the focus is always on the central conflict against Team Meteor.  Meanwhile, in Rejuvenation, you spend the majority of an entire chapter ostensibly helping Team Xen maintain its control over a major city, because the people trying to stop them are just that big of jerks.  The game seems to put a lot more focus on avoiding the wrong way to combat injustice than it does on actually combatting injustice.

 

But, as I've said before, these complaints are only about the story as it exists now, up to v12.  I might change my mind depending on how the issue is handled in future installments.  And even then, I don't have too much of a problem with the game depicting extremism the way it does, so long as it's being done deliberately.  It's less of an actual flaw with the game, and more just not what I would've done if I were making it.  (Though even then, they really should've made it more clear that joining Bladestar wasn't an option.  That one is an actual flaw as far as I'm concerned.)

 

As for Bladestar being "shoved in there," I guess I agree with that?  I think it's more a consequence of the game trying to juggle too many villains and villainous factions at once, and not having enough time to devote to each of them.  Especially since Team Xen has been taking a backseat to all the other villains, and it sort of feels like the main plot has ground to a halt while we deal with all of these other guys.  So yeah, I see what you mean about it seeming like filler.  But I guess that's another thing that I'm going to wait to fully judge until the entire game is finished, to see if there's some larger conclusion that all the sub-plots and minor antagonists tie back into.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Honestly I didn't care all that much about the choice, just made it because that route seemed more unique and my friend ratted Flora. The whole GDC arc is my favorite part of the game and i really appreciated bladestar as a whole. But even then, the way the choice was handled seemed very odd. Letting you do that choice to  subsequently just say "oh btw your character doesn't actually care about it" is.... Eh, why did i get to choose anyway? Fighting team Xen in the open while supposedly being a rat was really odd too. Thinking back choosing to ally with Flora didn't add anything to the experience and just made the arc feel weaker. While also making the mute protagonist even more gratting. I can tolerate them but I have a strong dislike for mute protagonists. Now if the little input i have on their character i'm offered is overridden, what's the point of having one?

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(Note that all knowledge outside my route came from either this thread or Youtube).

 

This is so well thought out and contains quite a few valid points. 
I as well have been able to see the flaws in the Bladestar development and choice tree.

 

Let me start by setting the scene:

 

Much the same as the Zekrom/Reshiram split in Reborn represents cold truths vs. beautiful lies, at it's core Erin and the siblings represent biasedness vs. objectivity. 

 

I chose objectivity/the neutral route. I partnered with Erin and DID NOT expose Flore at either given opportunity. 

 

All three are strangers to us at this point but the siblings are biased on either end of a politics spectrum we are ignorant of and doesn't effect us at least not on the direct level that it does the citizens of GDC. 
Erin on the other hand is more our equal and allows us, encourages us even to assess all the facts we're able to gather from an objective perspective rather than forcing us on a side which at least Flora's route does. Being forced to join Bladestar with one sided information which is how I read Flora's route goes, is NOT alright with me. 

Furthermore she established herself as a friend of Aelita's which alone is more reason to trust her than the siblings despite it being the word of a stranger. 

 

As to Flora, true, what we saw was suspicious but we have no context. Again, I don't know her, I don't know Bladestar therefore I felt uncomfortable passing judgement and in a real court our character's witness account would not hold up because of the aforementioned absence of context and credibility as an outsider who is furthermore a first time visitor to GDC. Flora claims to want to renovate the badlands for easier outsider access so what we saw could well have been a contribution to that which is a moral cause. 
Research was also a factor here. I read that when she's arrested she shouts something to the effect of: "You'll see. You made a big mistake!" and this felt to me like a genuine admonishment not just a tantrum. 

 

This was reaffirmed for me when Cassandra was revealed to be Team Xen immediately after we leave her office (and I once again chose to withhold what I witnessed). 
I had trust issues with Cassandra before the choice was presented as well. There were two areas in particular that didn't sit right with me:
1. When I talked to the guy in the Judicial District before going to her office who reveals that she's constructed non-functional buildings that don't even have entrances for pure aesthetics. 
2. Her arguments against Flora's desire to renovate the badlands. She makes very clear that she doesn't give a crap about outsiders aka potential tourism and potential new residencies.  

 

On another note, this is one of those choices you describe that's actually not one. If you choose to "tell her everything" you still don't because Erin stops you. I think it would have been more interesting to be punished for trusting Cassandra rather than negated. 

 

I started to get the sense that either Bladestar is good or Flora is a double agent. 


Here is where I concur that the follow through becomes flawed or non-existent as well as inconsistent. 

 

Given the route that I am on, I as well was quite uncomfortable with the Classified Information forced Flora reveal to the international police despite that Looker and Anabel are far more trustworthy than Cassandra and bluntly stated no interest in going after Bladestar. 
As with the join Bladestar route, this negated the choices I made as well and there was something else about it that bothered me.

Anabel's response implies that we told them that Flora was the leader of Bladestar.

Hold up. That's far too specific a reveal for a quest that isn't obligated to be done at one certain part of the game (and I did it quite early on, pre-Past Sheridan/post-apocalyptic timeline). Although it does fit the join Bladestar route regardless of the point in the game, on mine and probably others as well, it's not possible for our character to be certain of Flora's rank until the ball bombing although the Rose Badge is rather strongly indictive. 

It's possible Anabel came to that conclusion on her own but that's quite a leap for someone in law enforcement. 

 

This is but a blip though as I'm seeing that the entire Bladestar choice tree holds no weight in the plot. 
Here after reading the events that transpire at the Grand Dream Ball, I had begun to feel slightly guilty that I didn't expose Flora, ever slightly as I hold to my reasoning. Then as I'm watching Dai Laughing on Youtube who did, I see that she escaped custody in the middle of her trial. Therefore, apparently it makes no difference whether or not she's arrested, I assume all those lives including possibly Erin are lost regardless and Melia, Alice and Allen put in critical condition. 

This isn't the first time a choice (or choices) doesn't (don't) hold the weight that is implied. Another is whether to save the officer or Maria in first past-Avium arc.
Apart from a few relationship points and establishing whether or not Gardevoir views the PC as a threat, it made no difference in the long run apart from minor dialogue variations in her later appearances.

That was one of the hardest choices for me in the game as I'd expected a significant split off that did not occur. Gardevoir's type line as revealed in her rift battle is also nonsensical and random but I digress. 

 

We now return to our regularly scheduled Bladestar program.

 

When Classified Information is contrasted to Missing Children, Bladestar's morality suddenly splatters across the spectrum. 
In Classified Information, we discover that Bladestar not only possesses rift technology but a hidden rift Pokemon which in itself is contradictory because it's the same technology developed and used by their supposed foe Team Xen. 
But wait, there are more levels of contradiction. 

Missing Children on the other hand introduces a Bladestar run underground community that gives those who are struggling in life a place of acceptance. While this does fit with Flora's ideals (or what she claims are her ideals if she isn't arrested and attends the meeting with Cassandra), the head of this community is not Flora but someone who is established as unassociated with Bladestar and attempted to harvest a Nano drive from an android that can control Pokemon. 
Dylan tells the PC that Bladestar has become unrecognizable to him, that it was once genuinely good but their moral approaches derailed. 
Is this the same Bladestar or another branch or perhaps what is left of the original Bladestar that Dylan remembers and supports? Is Flora the reason they derailed?
Who is V, what is her connection to Bladestar and what does she want with ANA's Pokemon controlling Nano drive? 
 

Frankly, it's been several chapters and I still don't understand Bladestar or their temperament anymore than I did when they were introduced.

We don't much understand Team Xen's ideals and goals either but at least that's somewhat being used as a plot point and Team Xen still carries a lot of weight (they tried to groom Melia through Jenner, both created and killed our character's mother and want to recreate Storm-9 and Madame X is an intriguing mystery) whereas with Bladestar it's just questions being piled on top of questions on top of more questions with no real answers or a sense of plot significance.  

 

Granted your very well written assessment here implies that the joining Bladestar route provides a lot more context, that is just another writing inconsistency as it's a rather significant imbalance that leaves the other routes lacking. 
While this reveals to me the appeal of the joining Bladestar route it still doesn't justify the absence of consent to me. I am still satisfied with my route.  

 

Flora's morality is where we disagree. The bombing and her reaction comes off as psychopathy. 

She is shown in the aftermath scene to be an amoral violent extremist with no real capacity for empathy and more of an interest in seating herself in Cassandra's place to flip the societal dominance than in creating societal equality. 

 

That aside I also disagree that the existence of other options didn't mean she didn't see them. It's not a black and white concept and Flora has displayed proneness to violent, narcissistic outbursts right from her introduction even towards her own brother. I have no problem believing that she could have seen every single option and still put all her stock in the most violent one. Even it weren't psychopathy and she felt the same distaste for it as Melia did for allowing Vivian's self sacrifice. 

 

Well that's my piece. I'm still holding out hope that there is some benefit to not exposing Flora but not much now. 

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Honestly this bothers me for a completely different reason. I went with Erin in the caves and she told me that bladestar is a terrorist group. So when I am given the option to expose the leader of a terrorist group why would I ever say no? I feel like this game really needed a prior meeting with bladestar, something to ya know, introduce them before you are given such a huge choice. Like if I had been to the underground/badlands first and learned about what Flora/Bladestar was doing for these communities, and how evil the leaders of the city are, I would be way more inclined to not tattle on her. But nope, the only thing I am told about them is that they are terrorists, so of course, I will side against them, except when Cassandra asked of course, cause she fishy AF. 

 

If you are wondering why I trusted Erin so much, it is because they said they knew Aelita, which makes me trust them basically instantly, especially since his story checked out and this game has not had any real backstabbing yet (at least not by major characters). 

 

But yeah, I do agree that giving players a choice that does not particularly matter or that is basically not allowed is pretty silly.

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