….Oh boy. What a way to start off 2019 all.
It is within hours since I played through the demo with HusbandoGoddess on her Twitch channel. To be fair to me, I went in believing it’s marketing material touting it as a psychological space horror where humanity has to maintain a tenuous peace with psychotic aliens. That you as the protagonist would be faced with morbid choices that will test whether you would risk the life of your colony against the life of a single person and what that says about you as a leader and human being. Most importantly, I was sold on HORROR. And while, yes, I left the demo horrified, it wasn’t because it was written as a horror story. In many ways, Cannibal Lottery is a Slice-of-Life story: a twisted, morbid SOL story with enough plot-holes in it to sink an aircraft carrier.
At the center of the issues with this title is the protagonist: Faleena Dancy. Ostensibly, all of the weight of being in the center of a society dependent on randomly killing on of their own to appease an alien menace should fall on her/us. The pressure would drive her character and our own interest as tension rampt up between the monsters and the humans. The problem is that when we first see Faleena, one of the monster is playing with her infant daughter: sending 84,000 red flags onto the field. From there we see the true Faleena: a monster herself without the Nosferatu getup and fangs who is happy to appease the alien menace for yet to be defined reasons.
Could she be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome as HusbandoGoddess wondered? It’s certainly possible, but the problem is it doesn’t explain why she specifically goes out of her way in several scenes to give the monsters what they want. It is hinted in a truly garish scene, that she might be in love with one of them: the one who was playing with her daughter. She certainly feels strongly enough to ask that particular alien to eat her heart whenever she died: sending the game into a vore-ish realm I never thought English VNs would get to at least. Beyond that, there is a specific scene where she seems annoyed, if not outright antagonistic, to a scientist who was working to try and biologically stop the aliens from needing to eat humans. Now, yeah, that does sound absurd. BUT, keep in mind this is the only character introduced who is actively trying to save people’s lives and stop the human colony from being livestock to monsters.
And, well, just look at how the game’s art portrays Faleena’s opinion of him:
Faleena may have a great reason to be a sociopath, but Villain Protagonists are hard to pull off. You need to be able to show what they’re doing is wrong while not repulsing the audience, earning our sympathy, OR make it absolutely clear they’re beyond redemption and needs to be stopped at all cost. Faleena is portrayed as not only in the moral right, but a victim of the humans around her who, in her own words, focus too much on the fact that people were being killed for the monsters to eat rather than what the monsters did for them. Because yeah, the cattle not wanting to be cattle are clearly the problem here.
I admit, on reflection I felt perhaps this could be allegorical in the same vein as something like The Promised Neverland (which I haven’t seen yet, don’t judge me). The Cannibal Lottery system could be akin to Capitalism, the humans the proletariat and the alien menace the bourgeoisie with the big theme being how people will defend a system that could inevitably destroy them in the name of normalcy and comfort. It’s a premise I philosophically disagree with because of reasons, but on a pure narrative level it couldn’t work here because those type of stories only work if you show them from the point-of-view of the victims. Or, to continue The Promised Neverland metaphor; Faleena isn’t Emma, or the Nun whose name escapes me, she’s one of the Demons running the orphanage. Everyone on the same page? Good.
Can that change in the full game? Absolutely. The question is, ‘Do the developers want it to change?’ Is this quasi-romantic, dark drama about a sociopath and her alien allies preying on a human space colony the actual goal here? If it is, the only steps they really need to take is to change the marketing. However, if it isn’t, then not only do they have to fix the main character, they have to fix the fact that the story doesn’t make a lot of sense even without Faleena.
Essentially, the premise wants us to believe that the humans went into space with the inability to create their own food, medical supplies or oxygen. You know, the basis of everything outer space trip right now. Beyond that, they want us to believe that the alien menace knows how to create all of these things without the help of humanity. We’re talking things as basic as a garden that we see the aliens tending to without human help, yet commenting that they cannot eat the food they’re growing. So, how do they know how to grow these plants if they’ve never had need to eat them? Same things goes for oxygen because if you can plant a reliable garden in a greenhouse, YOU CAN CREATE A RELIABLE SOURCE OF OXYGEN.
That’s not even commenting on the fact that the humans seem to be unarmed through the events of the game: meaning they went into hostile space without the means to defend themselves. Not even the crew of Prometheus was that dumb. The argument could be made that the alien menace are simply more technologically advanced like, say, the Reapers from Mass Effect or the Covenant from Halo. However their advancement didn’t make them invincible. Even before ME3, you were able to fight off and beat Reapers. Same goes for the Covenant forces. Yet, I’m supposed to believe that humanity has no choice on this one? That our weaponry is insufficient to a species that regularly risks turning into wild animals? Bullshit.
Internal logic has to be established with this one. Why aren’t the humans armed? Why can’t they survive on their own? With so many different fictional and non-fictional variables for this not to be the case, there needs to be overwhelming evidence on why it is. Maybe after filling those plot holes, MAYBE they can address the problem of the main character and borderline psychotic, quasi-romantic, DEFINITELY VORE storyline she is engaged in. I’m sure there is a niche audience out there for this sort of thing. But until it address its core issues, I cannot say its worth your interest. JP3: OUT.