“Great games don’t have to be big”
Similarly to the first episode, Silence, Anthology follows an artist struggling with their art and with who they are. In Anthology, we follow Franz Markert, a young painter who recently arrived in Vienna, who is looking for a new subject while dealing with, as we found out later, some dark and troubling issues of his own.
I will be honest, I struggled with Anthology. The game itself is just as beautiful and creative as Silence was, even more so. The Lion’s Song has grown since Silence. In episode 2, you are offered a map of Vienna and a few locations to visit pretty much whenever you like, which was very nice. The game presents the concept of seeing people’s “souls” or their “layers” whichever term you prefer or think fits best, but Anthology struggle with how it presents or sees the women of that episode.
There are many women physically noticeable/present in the game, but nearly all of them are either entirely in the background, not offered as an option of characters to interact with, almost as if to say that women are not interesting, do not have souls, or no layers. Those that Franz Markert does notice have layers I found to be profoundly shallow. They are shown to us as being either envious of other women, being in love or lustful of men (or simply lustful in general), lonely or distressed, gluttonous or old. Although it is good that women are not portrayed solely as innocent creatures unable of sin, these things are generally attributed to women, and considering that there are only 2 women in the entire game that you can actually interact with, one of which you treat in a very questionable, I found the decision and the treatment of women in this episode particularly disappointing.
By the second half of the episode, the story of Franz seems to figure out where it truly wants to go, and what the character itself also wants to go. Although at the expense of others, Franz struggles with very real and human things, beyond simply who he is as an artist or who he is as a person, but how his art and his decisions define him, and what it is doing to his well being.
Franz’s journey is a rough, complex and ugly journey. As his journey went on, a dislike of him grew within him. I realized that what I saw him seeing was not who people were, but rather, what he saw, with all of his ignorant, judgmental and inexperienced self.
By the end of this episode much of how I felt turned into something else, I saw what the episode was presenting me as a complex character, a character I originally did not like, as a character that wasn't created to be merely liked. Just as Franz realizes, people and the world that we live in has layers, layers we may find simple at first glance, but never truly are. I appreciated that Anthology gave me a character that I did not hold simple feelings for due to the fact that characters should not be simple, they should have layers, and this story does.
8/10Anthology was a great episode. It has complexity and is very well aware of that. The music is lovely, the world and the options it offers were expended. Yet, Anthology made the mistake of placing women in the background, defining them almost as background objects, shallow beings, or guides needed to perfect your art - rather than human beings just as complex as the men of the game. This was, I believe, a mistake, and I am curious to play episode 3.
Episode 2 is available on: PC