The Pure, the Vile, and the Deadly

by NedMasters


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The Pure, The Vile, and The Deadly, March 14, 2022
by Gryphon
Related reviews: EndMaster

General Recommendation: I recommend this game, though you should definitely read all of EndMaster’s other games before this one, as there are a lot of references. All the paths are enjoyable on their own, but they really shine when you can appreciate the depth and history that went into each of them.
Preview: Get a closer look into the heads, lives, and fates of three major characters from EndMaster’s other works.


General notes:
These stories are most notable for the way they fit into the extended universe of EndMaster’s stories. The Pure tells the story of what Tanya has been up to since her appearance in Rogues, The Vile follows Semra’s fate after the events of Eternal, and The Deadly gives us more insight into the character of Catalina. While there have always been connections and references between EndMaster’s works (such as the harbinger ending of Eternal and epilogue 16 of SSS), this collections takes a big step forwards in tying the disparate stories together into a cohesive narrative. These stories give the reader the kind of enjoyment that can only be had from full immersion in a complex and interconnected world. Not many authors have connected universes expansive enough to support a story like this.
One character unites all these stories: Big Red, the demon first introduced in Necromancer. In The Pure he is the story’s instigator, bringing Tanya to the realm of the ancients and then disappearing, leaving the reader wondering how he is tied up in all these events. We know him to be a master manipulator, but also know him to be against the “ancients”, so his involvement here is an enigma. His involvement in The Vile is more clear cut, he’s taking advantage of Evigrus’s destruction to try and nab a bunch of valuable svelk souls. The transparency of his involvement here is what eventually allows him to be outwitted in this path. His role in The Deadly is the least involved, with him simply nudging Catalina towards necromancy. Unlike Tanya, who fights him, and Semra, who deals with him, Catalina simply refuses to engage with Big Red, and they go their seperate ways.
The Pure:
This story feels like a prologue in a lot of ways. We’re given a snapshot of a character and a setting, and are introduced to a new and unusual conflict. It’s clear that this conflict is only just beginning, and that the characters really have no idea what they’re going to be facing here. It’s just the tip of the iceberg in what is sure to be an epic struggle. This is especially true when this story is fitted in with the other stories set in EndMaster’s extended universe, such as “eterpia”. It feels as if some larger story is brewing behind the scenes.
Despite being framed as a conflict between infernals and celestials, the real battle here is between law and chaos, with Tanya on the side of law and the celestials having joined with the “ancients” on the side of chaos. Cosmic battles of law vs chaos tend to be more interesting than the traditional good vs evil ones.
The references to other works are done most explicitly in this story, as characters from several different works are brought together by the introduction of an entirely new threat to the EndMaster multiverse, with the promise of future collaborations between them to combat this threat.
The Vile:
An aptly-named story. We follow Semra here, and the ensuing plot is exactly as brutal and depraved as one would expect. Though we don’t learn anything new about Semra’s history or attitude, we get a chance to see her operation style and thought processes, whereas in Eternal she’s always lurking behind the scenes and pulling the strings. Here she’s been backed into a corner and needs to take much more decisive and desperate action.
Of note is the dero’s involvement in this arc. They’re one of the more intriguing races introduced in Eternal, but get very little screen time. In this story, we learn a lot more about their history and culture through Semra’s interaction with one of the more non-traditional dero communities. The worldbuilding surrounding the dero is intriguing.
The Deadly:
Right off the bat, the path with Catalina is far more intimate than either of the previous two paths, with their large-scale conflicts. The path begins by focusing on Catalina’s haphazard childhood and budding necromantic powers. While the other two paths are fast-paced and deal with life-or-death challenges at every turn, this one takes its time, focusing on slowly building up to the events that have shaped Catalina’s life. It really feels like the reader is experienceing the full extent of her childhood on this path, and it’s fun to pick up on the details that later resurface in Necromancer.
Catalina is not an avatar of death gifted with fantastic necromancy powers. She has a talent, but it’s not the god-like ability Azreal has. This makes the tone of this story quite different than the tone of Necromancer. As Catalina, the player has to be more crafty, relying on a variety of skills and intelligence rather than the brute-force magic that Azreal can get by on. It’s a refreshinig angle to view the plot of Necromancer from.
Oddly, though Catalina’s view on her life is ultimately triumphant, the plot could very easily be interpreted as her defeat and surrender. She intends to lead the dark order, but instead falls for Azreal and allows his goals and ambitions to eclipse her own, leading to her death and the death of the world. Catalina does not view this as defeat, however. Her view is best summed up in her words to the musician; she sees what is happening as inevitable and beautiful, the natural order of things. It’s particularly interesting to see a character take this attitude in the choose-your-own-adventure format, as characters in these formats tend to be more proactive.

Specific notes:
-Starting Tanya’s path off with a scene from Sinthinia’s perspective is an interesting choice. It does a good job setting the scene and characterizing the main character from an outsider’s perspective, which is good, as the reader isn’t immediately supposed to know who this is.
-Tanya’s dislike for promiscuity is interesting, since she didn’t seem to have anything specific against it in Rogues. Probably a reaction to her nature as a succubus.
-Tanya’s dislike for the name “mistress” compared with Semra, another of this game’s narrator’s use for it is an amusing contrast.
-I like the attention being given to the internal politics in Tanya’s army.
-I bet Tanya and Francis would get along, actually, if they were serving in the same military.
-Engan does a good job coming across as nonthreatening initially.
-The weirdness of the town is built up slowly and effectively. The first part of this story is suspenseful, and makes the action in the second half more exciting.
-The concept of a plane where harming others is impossible and entrapment can only be done through trickery is interesting.
-Walking backwards to find the door is a good detail that adds to the growing weirdness and uneasiness.
-The angels all have mixed feelings about Tanya’s ability to kill them. I like that they’re not just a monolith, and that many of them have grown to regret coming here, such as the celestial who tells Tanya to warn the other realms.
-We learn just enough about these “ancients” through Engan to see what a threat they are.
-“You’re going to a dark place and I’m going to enjoy putting you there” is repeated across a couple different stories and branches. I wonder what the significance to it is?
-I like the order vs chaos dynamics in this story, especially since the ordered protagonist is non-traditional.
-It’s too bad Arash doesn’t live, I would have liked to see him survive. His death is important however, since it shows important factors about Tanya’s character, and is a good event to focus the final scene around.
-Tanya’s relationship with Zel is another good way to frame the story’s beginning and end, and show the kind of change she’s trying to make in the infernal realm.
-Tanya is another example of a lawful protagonist done well. It’s interesting to see an infernal committed more to the “lawful” side than the “evil” side, and brings new dimensions to the conflict in hell.
-The final scene’s focus on Tanya and Aron works well to end on a more personal note.
-The eldritch threat faced here feels appropriately alien, but it helps that it has been seen before in other EndMaster games, such as in Necromancer and Death Song, and the torment ending of Eternal. Coming completely out of the blue would feel unforeshadowed, instead the threat is one the player has been semi-aware of for some time, but possibly underestimated.
-I like that not all the non-canon endings end in death, and that some of the non-canon branches earlier in the story go deeper than just a single choice.
-Though Tanya’s conversation with Sinthinia is non-canon, it offers insight into the conflict between them that we don’t get on the main path. It also raises questions about Big Red, which the main path doesn’t have time to address.
-Semra’s behavior around her own kind is no different than her behavior arouund Francis, which manages to be both surprising and make sense. The opening scene does a good job reminding the player exactly how unstable she is, while also reminding them of her obsession with Francis.
-It’s spelled “Derro” in Eternal but “Dero” in this game.
-Marzost is a well-developed character. He’s an unusual dero and throws Semra off her game somewhat. He’s reasonably intelligent in his pursuit of saving his people, and his attraction to Semra is logical (though still fucked up) given what we learn about him. He adds variety to the dero race. Like a lot of EndMaster characters, I’m left feeling unsure about whether or not to pity him. He’s certainly a pitiable character given his history and what happens to him, but he’s done a lot of bad things too.
-Of course “beating around the baby” is a svelk idiom.
-The scene where Semra learns of Francis’s death, and her ongoing thoughts of him, do a good job showing her continued obsession with him.
-I’d like to note that one thing EndMaster does well in all his works is creating evil characters with realistic goals. None of the villains are just committing crime and murder for the hell of it, they all have reasonable motivations and things they’re trying to achieve. This is especially true with Semra.
-Thoguh Semra does really want to help her people, saving her own neck comes first and it doesn’t take much for her to throw them under the bus.
-The implications of the dero being soulless are fascinating. It’s used well as a device in this story, fits with what we know of them from Eternal, and is an intriguing worldbuilding element.
-The sex scene betwen Semra and Marzost is one of the most brutally violent things I’ve read. Even if it’s not a genre I like, I can tell it’s excellently done, and the full brutality of the situation is made clear to the player. It takes skill to pull of a scene like this without it being needlessly gratuitous.
-The loophole Semra exploits to get out of selling her soul is a clever one that’s set up efficiently in the story beforehand.
-It’s a pity that Semra survives in the canon ending. I shudder to think of the poor people of the world from Rogues she’s been released on.
-The depth of the non-canon branches is good.
-The Necromancer saying “you’re just mean and I don’t like you” to Semra is amusing and satisfying.
-The beginning of The Deadly does a good job setting the scene and characterizing the narrator (who I assume is Catalina). Telling this story flasback-style is interesting. It’s an original way to frame the story, and it helps solve the issue of playing a game as a character whose story has already been told somewhere else.
-The opening scene with the butterflies also does a good job setting the scene. We see the prosperous urban/magical city of Nuro, and we see Catalina’s less fortunate upbringing in it. Despite her young age, we can see she’s already attracting death.
-Interesting to see things from child Catalina’s persepctive.
-Chloe’s presence is important on this path, giving Catalina a peer to talk to. Also it’s always fun to see orcish characters in heroic roles.
-I like that the development of Catalina’s powers is taken slowly. While the Necromancer learns necromancy with ease, it takes Catalina time and effort.
-It’s nice to see a fictional orphanage that seems to be actually trying to help the children who live there.
-The relationship and goodbye scene with Catalina and Ms. Olga is touching.
-I like the way this game is divided into sections (Growing, changing, seeking, etc.)
-Magic users being identifiable by their smell is an interesting concept.
-Including Catalina’s liking of music here is a good detail to connect it to Death Song.
-It was clear that Alec had some ulterior motive here.
-Amusing that Catalina goes out to try and get laid and instead ends up killing a vampire. Necrophilia is so much less complicated.
-It’s fun to see the politics behind the Dark Order from Catalina’s perspective. Azreal was always a bit of an outsider, and never got to learn the mechanics behind it in as much detail. Good to see Mr. Demar be a bit more rounded out.
-I like that Catalina relies on nature magic too in dire situations. She’s a well rounded magic user.
-Not surprised to learn that Catalina fully plans on controlling Azreal from behind the scenes.
-Lol, “Yes, I’m fine, I’m just dead.”
-Makes sense that dead Azreal isn’t that interested in sex anymore. It shows how he’s transforming into a personification of death.
-Lol, “I mean, other than genocide, what have I done?”
-It’s good that the scene with the musician in Death Song isn’t ignored, but also good that it’s not given as much attention, since it isn’t the focus of this arc.
-I like the way the framing device is used for the non-canon endings on the Catalina path. People often have elaborate daydreams and musings about how life could have played out, and one can imagine these experiences would be all the more intense for a ghost. The surreal way in which reality breaks down at each non-canon ending emphasizes the dream-like nature of the entire path.

Generally good.
Mastery of Language
Generally good, though there are a few proofreading/sentence structure issues in places.

Not great, each story has one canon ending, and reaching it is a victory. This is more like reading a set of linear stories with the added challenge of trying to survive. It's not a problem, though, since the reader is made aware of the story's somewhat linear nature beforehand.

Player Options/fair choice
Generally good, the consequences of actions are foreshadowed and don’t feel random or unearned.

I did alright when I first played The Pure, though I did better in the second half than the first half.
I didn’t enjoy The Vile as much as The Pure, just a little too sexually violent for my taste. I did alright in terms of not dyring.
I did better than usual on The Deadly, only dying a couple times.

CONCLUSION: Another fine example of EndMaster's work, and a rare example of the depth of an extended universe being explored for full reader benefit, immersion, and enjoyment.

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