Never before has the illustrations completely dissipated my interest in a game, and the funny thing is that wherever I look I see nothing but praise for the depictions of the vapid Poseurs of Kilforth – even people who dislike the game rave about the artwork. I’m baffled.
The landscapes and buildings are great. It’s evident that the artist responsible is a very competent illustrator, but it’s not the execution that is the problem, it’s the subject matter. Or the complete lack thereof. Specifically when it comes to the depictions of the people of Kilforth. Sure, there’s the odd dwarf and a few monsters, but for the most part these people are dolls in glossy, sensuous opera costumes.
These people are adventurers? No way! They are passive, dressed up, made up, retouched and processed. Their eyes are anxious to look into the camera. The backgrounds feel like backdrops and invoke a sense of department store glamour. Their weapons look like movie props. These men and women would look more at home half-naked in an underwear ad or on the cover of a fashion magazine.
While looking through the cards I half expect flavor texts like “Pout! And hold that sword higher!” or “That dagger is PERFECT with your earrings!” These people look so detached that the game could as well have been completely abstract. They seem very far removed from the theme and the story, the action and the suspense. I thought this was supposed to be a fantasy quest game, not Dark Ages – High Fashion, the new expansion for Prêt-à-Porter.
These hunks and hair models look completely out of place. They don’t look like they could get the job done. But that’s not the worst of it. If we remove the game mechanisms and the story and the theme and just look at the images in isolation, they are pictures of generic, streamlined, shallow beauty, and of shallow ideals. Kens and Barbies, some of them. Girls with lip gloss and leather armor. Others are weathered, potent men who help selling shaving cream when they don’t pose for fantasy art.
Hollywood actors are dressed and styled to look like they come from a different time or a different place. The denizens of Kilforth look like they try to look like Hollywood actors. I suppose their job is to convince me, involve me and engage me, to make the land of Kilforth come alive. But these soulless mannequins are so obviously steeped in the superficialities of contemporary marketing that they can’t take me to a different time and place.
“[F]antasy with a gothic edge” it says on the box. Very edgy indeed.
I turned a game down because of its looks. I guess that makes me as shallow as the Poseurs of Kilforth, but it’s the Golden Age of Gaming and I can allow myself to be picky. I’ve put the box away now, but a faint whiff of hairspray seems to linger in the air, and there’s a glowing afterimage on my retinas, a silhouette; could it be the telltale blur of a green-screen?