I’ve hit the point in my leveling where I’m firmly entrenched in Galeras and I’ve been largely enjoying the mixture of alien farmland and war-torn Holland in the landscape. Part of the initial quests in the zone are doing active work for the Exile armies – you’re running around assassinating key officials, rescuing ammunition, bandaging the wounded and helping to blow up tanks. It’s fun stuff and it always feels like you’re running through enemy lines to do something important. Near the end of this story, you capture one of the Dominion airman in order to find out information about why precisely the Dominion are in Galeras.
A pit in my stomach formed because, frankly, I always know how these things end.
When it comes to relative brutality, video games always like to take a sharp dark turn when interrogation is concerned. I’ve seen relatively goofy games go straight into the “forceful questioning techniques” and games actually designed to be hyper-real take it to very extreme levels. I do not want to torture someone for information in a video game or beat them with an inch of their life. The narrative that violence perpetuated against other actively fighting people in a violent context is one I can adopt, even in fluffy story settings. Struggle is intrinsic to humanity. But gunning down opponents on a battlefield is very different from sitting down and torturing one person for information – it brings out a disconnected brutality that I do not not like mimicking in video games.
So when “Show and Tell” showed up in my task list, I braced myself to just get through it. My character would never, ever torture someone for information, despite being a pretty aggressive spellslinger, so I’d just sidestep the canon-ness of it and that would be that. Consider me entirely shocked when the quest, while still an actual interrogation, stayed firmly true to the tone and goofiness of Wildstar.
Mesmer Radu, a Mordesh esper of some stripe, has you help him use illusionary animals to prod the airman’s fears. First you try a jabbit (he laughs, mocking you that maybe it’ll tickle him to death), then a large ox-type creature, and finally a buzzbing. The airman quakes at the idea of a giant bee (who wouldn’t, actually), so Mesmer Radu has you capture an actual buzzbing from the surrounding whimfiber trees to bring back so you can extort information from the airman. You do so and the guy caves at the sight of a literal giant bee. Mesmer Radu commends you for your skill.
And that was it. No red hot pokers, no savagely beating someone up to obtain the information. Just some rather believable and goofy esper magic and animals to get the Dominion to squeal. It captures really what the essence of Wildstar does – straddling that line between having serious subjects like war or violence mixed into a world that is, let’s be honest, goofy and candy-coated. It knows what it’s about. The fact that it displayed it here, in possibly the darkest kind of quest, makes me glad that I am not going to run into more serious problems in the future of the game. Maybe I will. If I do, I will definitely confront that when it happens, but given my patience for hyper-realistic atrocities, abuse, torture or sexual assault being handed out as story hooks in other video games, give me my bunnies, psychic constructs and double jumps. I am pleasantly surprised that so far, I’ve been able to really lose myself in the world of Nexus without worrying what’s in the deep end.