Indecision is Good [Valkyria Chronicles 4]

I hate Claude Wallace.

iron will

This guy is awful. I don’t remember the last time I was angry enough at a protagonist to scoff at the emotional climaxes and conclusion of a plot.

Valkyria Chronicles 4’s writing is bad. But mediocre writing has occurred in other games and stories without pushing me to actively hate it. Generally speaking, so long as there’s a token effort to hit all the basic requirements, I’m willing to give things a pass. Valkyria Chronicles 1 did this quite well: simple characters, simple plot, a little bit of political intrigue, and the bigger portion of writing going to setting up the world and gameplay mechanics: ragnite means industrial revolution means power means war, ragnite means radiator means weakspot, etc.

I don’t remember much of what would be called the “plot” of VC1. Which means it probably wasn’t amazing. This is fine. It was simple, and it worked. VC4 has this too, with its new addition of Squad Stories, where each of your minor characters in groups of three get their own short narrative. It also does this for a few of the supporting antagonists. But it doesn’t do any worldbuilding. And it doesn’t do this for the main characters. It even makes some really odd choices in pacing, like following up a big reveal not with an explanation, but with an entirely unrelated flashback. But these are minor problems. Many a bad story has been saved with a good protagonist.

The major problem is VC4 has Claude Wallace for a protagonist.

At first I couldn’t imagine this would be a controversial position, but after spending some time arguing on /v/ it appears there is a social duty for a literary dissection of VC4’s man with the fancy haircut. Claude Wallace probably isn’t the worst character ever in a big or semi-big name series, but he’s the worst one I’ve seen. I say this in the sense that I usually drop stories if the plot or protagonist doesn’t get it up within the first few episodes or hours – and VC4 fit very neatly in that category. VC4 is a character story, about a character that does nothing.

I thought about stopping several times. But VC4’s gameplay was fun enough, a few of the Squad Stories were entertaining, I like Raita’s designs, and Steam’s refund window closed after 2 hours, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Maybe I could be wrong?

I wasn’t.

Claude Wallace is a piece of shit.

And I am here to tell you why he’s a piece of shit.


> The Ideal
> Overview of Claude Wallace
> Claude’s Decisions and His Character
> The Counterarguments
> The Finale
> Epilogue
> Meta / On Rhetoric


— — — (album of all images used in this post— — —


The Ideal

First though, a couple of basic definitions. You’ve probably heard these before, so I’ll keep it short, but it’s important to lay these out first before the complications of the plot come later.

What makes a good character?

A good character has 1) a background, 2) a behavior pattern, also called a personality, preferably resulting from that background, 3) an event important to them, and 4) a change to their behavior pattern resulting from that event. What’s commonly called a “two-dimensional character” is one that only has the former two items. The latter two items is commonly called a “character arc”. A “two-dimensonal character” with a “character arc” becomes a “three-dimensional character”. “Three-dimensional character” is what I call a good character.

What makes a good protagonist?

A good protagonist is a good character with an objective, and takes actions towards the realization of that objective. This commonly means that a good protagonist has charisma:

“Explain what charisma is.”

“I used it to mean the nature of a hero or a ruler.”

“I’d give that answer… twenty points. Charisma has three elements. The nature of a hero or a prophet, an ability to simply make you feel good when you’re around them, and the intelligence to eloquently talk about all sorts of things.”

Professor Saiga, Kogami Shinya
Psycho-Pass

The “nature of a hero or ruler”, as I interpret it, means ‘individual action to shape the world in the image of his ideal’. Such a thing is “natural” to him as eating is a natural response to hunger; the hero or ruler is “hungry” for doing actions that cause favorable consequences. Protagonist: “Protos” “Ag”, means “Forward” “Move”.

I disagree with the original quote in that the nature of is only worth twenty points. I feel this nature is the primary principle, and the other two parts are followthrough: people naturally like such a man precisely because he is able to command the world (the world, as far as most people are concerned, consists of other people), and to command the world (of other people) requires general intelligence and eloquence. Note: a good antagonist consists of the same parts that make a good protagonist, he’d simply working towards a different objective that requires conflict with the protagonist.

Claude Wallace is a bad character.

Claude Wallace is a bad protagonist

And some other things which probably have standardized literary theory jargon for, but I can’t be bothered to find out what they are, so I’ll just call him the appropriate names when we get there.


Overview of Claude Wallace

Claude Wallace does not have an arc.

There is not a single event in the story which is so important to him that he changes his behavior in any permanent way.

The story spends a fair number of times talking how he’s changed from when he was a kid. But we don’t play him as a kid. We don’t even see him as a kid, save for him being scared of running into a burning building – which is perfectly reasonable. It’s just characters talking about how he was called Scaredy-Claude when he was a kid and he did this or that thing, and now he’s changed. It would be one thing if Claude was some kind of macho man, and the player is left to wonder if these stories are really true. It’s another to spell out exactly what happened – he got traumatized by the events following that fire, sat around for an indeterminate amount of time looking at clouds, then decided to sign up for officer school – and what comes out of that is still only “oh yeah, I can see why he was called that”.

Claude Wallace does not take action.

The second half – the main section – of VC4 takes place on a secret battleship travelling on top of a frozen sea. The frozen sea is supposed to be impassable. The operation is about riding that ship straight into the Imperial capital. And yet, at nearly every turn, they are intercepted by the same group of Imperial special forces. And Claude does nothing about it.

Claude is not the commanding officer for most of this operation, but that doesn’t matter. He’s the protagonist. Plenty of stories have smart characters serving under a dumb organization, or where there’s only one interesting character and stuff happens because he acts on information he notices that no one else does because everyone else is stupid. This is not one of them. Claude does nothing. No one does anything. It’s simply a surprise every time it happens. No,

Hmm, no known technology exists that can traverse this frozen sea, the only one we know of is secret… could it be that the other side also has some kind of secret? However it is they manage to do it, is there something we can do with this knowledge that they are tracking our movement?”

The fact that they’re being tracked is even brought up, but nothing is done about it. It’s talked about once and then not again.

Claude does nothing to change the overall course of the plot. Indeed, when they are inevitably once again trapped, all that happens is Claude does his oh-no-a-bad-thing-has-happened routine, a (1) certain side character yells at him to do something about it, and then he does something about it.

All of this was encapsulated in the second scene of the game, right after completion of the tutorial. The first scene starts off with them in a flower field, and the Empire showering them with artillery strikes. This second scene has Claude looking somber over the now-dead flowers. Not somber, and ordering people to bring out those bags of seeds he had prepared beforehand to plant new flowers as replacement because this was a completely forseeable event, being on the front lines as he was. Not somber, and giving a prayer to all the dead flowers before moving on to bigger problems.

Just somber. And nothing.

flowers1
flowers2
flowers3
flowers4
flowers5
flowers6
flowers7
flowers8

Nothing until that (1) certain character tells him to get off his ass and file the report for the battle to their superiors.

Now, I don’t think this scene alone is particularly important. I feel introductions / pilot episodes must be masterfully crafted if the rest of it is to be a masterpiece, but a sloppy introduction alone doesn’t prevent a story from getting a pass. Nor must it color the entire character.

The problem is, in Claude Wallace’s case, it was the color of his character. That color in those first few minutes is next to the only color we get, regardless of if it’s flowers or anything else.

I do mean anything else. Keep this flower scene in mind.


Claude’s Decisions and His Character

So.

What does Claude Wallace actually do in Valkyria Chronicles 4?

After the tutorial for the base game, and basically a second tutorial for the new unit type for VC4, the story starts off with a flashback, with Claude Wallace being assigned to Squad E after graduating from officer school as valedictorian. He announces to the platoon that they’re all going to become Rangers because he wants to make changes in the world, to do that he can’t be a pawn, becoming Rangers is his solution to that problem.

In his speech Claude says some funny things. He graduated from a Federation officer school, is the commanding officer of a Federation army platoon, and says “The reason I joined the military was to protect Gallia from the Empire”. Gallia is not a part of the Federation. It’s a neutral country. The Federation not only allowed a foreigner into their officer school, but put him in their army, and after verbalizing speech that could easily be seen as sedition, lets him join and command elite infantry…? But this is a minor point.

I mention this minor point in detail here because this will be a reoccurring theme. Most people when arguing over a story talk in terms of its lore. I think this is a wrong approach. Missing lore (“plot holes”) can generally be written in ex post facto. You can’t do that for the decisions of characters – not without changing everything. It is characters’ decisions and what they knew they made those decisions that matter to a story. “Why” and lore is just worldbuilding.

“The reason I joined the military was to protect Gallia from the Empire. It’s my homeland, and I’ll fight for it. And all of you stand here today because you have something you want to accomplish, or protect. But right now, we’re just a handful of soldiers among tens, hundreds of thousands. We’re pawns on a board. I don’t intend on staying a pawn. I want to bring the Empire down with my own hands, by my own will. If I want to do that, however… I need results. I need to earn trust. I need to stand on the front lines and change battles with my own decisions and tactics. And if we can make it into the elite ranks of the rangers, I can make that a reality!”

The major point is that he didn’t plan on becoming a Ranger until after meeting Squad E.

Claude Wallace decided to take the platoon through Ranger training -after- he found that the two NCOs of Squad E were childhood friends, and one of them would not listen to or die for “Scaredy-Claude”. The timing of events is: first Claude is introduced, then the three find there are familiar faces, then one NCO refuses to take orders from him, then the other tries to defend Claude to no avail, then Claude does not defend himself, and only after that is the stuff about Rangers.

actual introduction

This timing reveals something important: the Ranger speech was -not- his introduction.

The speech containing his motivations and all that other shit was -not- in his introduction as the new commanding officer for Squad E. His introduction -was- the hand-behind-head nervous-laugh anime male at meeting old friends, letting his subordinates disrespect him to his face, only stopping when some other nameless character sent that NCO off on a 100km run for the social violation. Claude did nothing of the sort. Claude announced, days later, not moments later after regaining his bearings from the surprise, not holding off on the 100km run until he had finished his introduction, that they would become Rangers. If it was such an important thing to him, it would’ve been in his first meeting with everyone, and that goes for both real reasoning (it’d make sense to the characters) and writing reasoning (it’d make sense to the player). A man of action seizes the moment. Claude Wallace is not one of them.

raz look me in the eye
claude does not

Did he plan on leading a Ranger platoon the whole time? Let’s suppose he’s a wimp. Grant that he’s not a good protagonist. That doesn’t mean therefore he is also a liar.

Claude said to the other NCO he’d “come up with something” to gain the insubordinate NCO’s trust. Upon the announcement, that other NCO said “Claude… this is your solution?”. Claude nods.

ranger1
ranger2
ranger3
ranger4

But clearly, Claude said something else, so Rangers was what he was planning the whole time.

Now, if this were only a white lie, made for the purpose of group cohesion, and he really did join the military as an officer for those reasons, it would be okay. If it reflected his character, a teller of “white lies”, and eventually they get too big and something really bad happens and he’s made to face the consequences of his choices, it would be okay. I didn’t see this Ranger speech timing problem until writing this dissection because at the time I was still giving Claude the benefit of the doubt. It was originally one of my “exceptions” where Claude was actually a decent protagonist who has objectives and takes actions.

But it isn’t. He isn’t.

The first time I saw this was in the prelude to what the story framed as the first battle, the Battle of Siegval Line. A VC equivalent of the Maginot Line, Federation is on offense. After showing a reconnaissance photo from an airborne angle in a time before airplanes, everyone thinks this is impossible. Claude Wallace gives a rousing speech, his superior officer adds onto it, the troops’ morale is regained. Claude compliments his superior officer.

His superior officer tells him “I’ve always hated you” afterwards.

i've always hated you

That – is what wiki writers and defenders of Claude Wallace would want you to believe.

Here is what actually happens.

[COM:MANDER, WAL:LACE, MIN:ERVA, SOL:DIER]
COM: “Soldiers! The final battle is upon us! The Empire’s built a defensive line along their old border. They aim to stop us here. This is the Siegval Line!”
WAL: “And the troops defending it… I can hardly imagine how many soldiers are in that shot.”
COM: “This photograph only shows our target, the central area. The Empire has ten units of this size stationed at regular posts along the line.”
WAL: “What? That force alone looks huge… They have ten times that?”
COM: “It’s true. We’ve been chipping away at the Empire’s numbers. But judging by this… They still have enough soldiers to outclass anything we’ve dealt with so far.”
SOL: “We’re low on supplies as it is, and now we have to face an army like that? What chance do we have?
MIN: “They may have strength in numbers, but every one of our soldiers is worth ten of those conscripted farmboys!”
WAL: “Minerva, you have a bad habit of underestimating the enemy.”
MIN: “…!”
WAL: “We’re facing an iron wall, with all of the Empire’s military strength behind it. Not only is the Federation outnumbered, but we’re exhausted from a long campaign. …Is it really a hopeless fight though? Think of our battles up until now. Every time, we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Who made that possible? The Ranger Corps.”
SOL: “Yeah, we did…!”
WAL: “We can outfight them. We can outsmart them. And above all, we have a home to protect. The Federation can’t lose… Because the rangers always win!”
MIN: (silence)
MIN: “Lieutenant Wallace is right! We cleared the way for Operation Northern Cross! If they want to fling insults from behind a wall, then we’ll stand with pride and face them!”
SOL: “Y-Yeahhh!”
SOL: “We can do it… Let’s tear it down!”
MIN: “We’ll break their wall of iron! This kind of glory doesn’t come every day, and today it’s ours to claim!”
SOL: “Yeahh!”
SOL: (crowd cheer)
WAL: “Look at them. They’re full of fire again… You’re really something.”
MIN: “…”

Claude Wallace interrupts his superior officer’s rousing speech because she’s wrong.

And then immediately proceeds to give his own rousing speech.

I’m not making this shit up. It’s real. It’s Chapter 4-2.

fuck your speech1
fuck your speech2
fuck your speech3
fuck your speech4
fuck your speech5
fuck your speech6
fuck your speech7

Then when that superior officer holds her temper and supports his speech for the good of group morale, he compliments her, as if it was her idea.

fuck your speech8
fuck your speech9

And then, after the meeting:

WAL: “Um… Sorry about earlier. Calling you out, I mean…”

He’s looks for approval! In private!

From the person herself after he shit on her face in public!

Literally can’t make this shit up.

im sorry

He’s sorry he did it! Can you believe it?

This is the protagonist. Of a character story. This is the guy we spend nearly all of VC4’s runtime with.

He doesn’t even do it for any particular objective, like some two-faced underworld gang boss that lies and deceives, then gets money or power or whatever out of it, that would at least be interesting. This guy is only doing it for social approval, and has no foresight whatsoever, presumably because he’s too busy thinking about himself. He saw the speech would give him social approval, so went for that. Then noticed that it actually cost him approval somewhere else. So he tries to take it back! He does things, and then regrets them immediately afterwards.

People call Claude Wallace a wimp, but I don’t think he deserves the title. Shinji Ikari is the wimp protagonist archetype, and from him we can see that wimps follow through. When Shinji ran away, he physically left the premises, took physical transportation to its end, and then walked until he physically couldn’t walk further because it was a cliffside and the road had collapsed. When he accidentally injured a classmate’s sister, he took those punches. When he rolled over, and he stayed that way. Claude Wallace is not like this. He doesn’t stick with his non-decisions. Claude Wallace is not a wimp.

Claude Wallace is a narcissist manipulator.

Or as I like to call it: a forked-tongue fucker.

iron will

The game wants you to believe he does these actions because he has an “Iron Will”. It’s the most common cut-in in gameplay, called “Potentials”, where characters have combat traits adjusted for bonuses or negatives due to their personality. Claude Wallace gets “Iron Will” nearly every turn. There are even two chapters, one titled “A Ranger’s Pride”, and another “A Soldier’s Pride”, and that sort of thing is probably littered everywhere if I bothered to check (there’s probably a chapter or two titled “Iron Will” too).

I don’t think this is what people with “Iron Will” do. This isn’t to say it is inaccurate that Claude talks about his “Iron Will” all the time. Couples with deep relationship problems incessantly share happy pictures of themselves – because they think happiness of the “likes” will make up for lack of fulfillment from the actual relationship. From such a principle it follows neatly that people with honesty and motivation problems will incessantly talk about how they have an “Iron Will”: the invocation of the phrase is the substitute for the real thing. Protagonists who move mountains don’t talk about how they ‘won’t run away, ever again’. They wouldn’t be capable of conceiving such a a thing.

Everything’s possible for Claude Wallace though. He’ll give you anything you want. Right after he sulks until the last moment or shits all over you. Don’t worry, he’ll apologize later.

Does he act like this the whole game?

No.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), most of the time he’s just boring. The base is burning, we need to secure an escape route. There’s enemy civilians in this winter wasteland, let’s take them aboard our state secret ship. Stuff that’s as good as it gets on a report (or a wiki page) and not in any other form. Imagine a whole story where a protagonist does nothing except what cliches say a protagonist would do; that would form a large chunk of his actions. I’m talking about the points at which he doesn’t fit that mold. Welkin of VC1 was pretty boring too, but he had that memorable scene where his solution for getting a tank across a river was literally to run across it on the bottom. He made a high-stakes seemingly impossible bet to defend his sister’s honor, which he didn’t worry about at all and was just pondering sitting on the riverside, until he came up with the idea and pushed it to its end. Claude Wallace does nothing of the sort.

Claude Wallace is memorable because of how forked his tongue can get.

When the cooperative NCO, Kai, comes back from a secret mission and tells Claude and the previously insubordinate NCO, Raz, in private that he’s deciding to disappear and replace himself with a body double, with no explanation, Claude and Raz accept it. The platoon sees the body double and doesn’t, and asks Claude for an explanation. Claude says Raz has an explanation. Raz makes up some story and the platoon accepts it. The problem then becomes evading detection from superior officers. The new Kai says she doesn’t think it will work. And -then- Claude says “Just leave it to me”. It ends up working. Again, with the assistance of Raz. (Raz is “that (1) certain character” from earlier. He’s the other character in the Claude sulks, gets yelled at, finally does something about it cycle.)

In escaping a chase through the mountains with no supplies, they discover an Imperial supply base. The base has railway tracks that run west, which means it goes to Gallia, now also at war. There is no discussion of “we need supplies, here are supplies, let’s get them”. Before the batttle, Claude says,

“I think we should attack the base. And it’s not just about homelands, or patriotism. If Gallia falls, the Empire won’t stop there. They’ll use it as a foothold to keep moving west [into the Federation]. We joined the army to protect what’s important to us. And if we want to do that, someone has to take out that base.”

At the start of the battle, Claude says, to his platoon of mostly-Federation men,

“Take out the supply depot before they can use it against our homeland. For Gallia! Squad E, move out!”

When Claude gets a promotion, he asks why it wasn’t given to Minerva. He’s told it was because it was offered to Minerva, but Minerva passed, recommending Claude instead. Claude accepts it, then goes to Minerva.

WAL: …Minerva.
MIN: …
WAL: I accepted the position. I’ll be commanding the guard convoy. But why did you recommend me?
MIN: Was the title not enough? Now you want to hear me admit defeat in my own words?

Minerva is the character set up as the rival. Her entire character is about not being as good as Claude at commanding troops even though she takes it seriously and he doesn’t, and that Claude could be so much better – thus save more lives – if he took things seriously.

Some say this makes Minerva a bad character.

For me, Minerva was a big reason at many points as to why I didn’t put this game down in disgust. Every other character is sucking Claude’s cock, the game does too with Claude’s positive Potential “Iron Will” and Minerva’s negative Potential “Defiant Spirit”.

defiant spirit

Even the camera sucks his cock, framing it like Minerva’s some delusional character who has too much petty pride and it’s getting in the way. They even shove the words in her mouth while making Claude look like he actually stands up for himself in any fight ever.

pride contest

Minerva’s motivations, however, are largely irrelevant – because she’s not the protagonist.

Claude Wallace is.

And why is Claude Wallace here to talk to Minerva?

Minerva’s platoon just got wiped out; she believes it’s because Claude was screwing around as usual. Claude doesn’t tell her about the supply base, nor says anything in response. Minerva hasn’t been talking or eating much since they got on the ship. And yet, despite all this, she passes up a promotion in favor of recommending Claude.

What does Claude say? Not “How are you feeling”, not “I’m sorry”, not “I made a decision and it was wrong”. There’s a number of people out there saying Claude is a good character because he’s “relatable” or some crap word like that. What Claude actually does is not think ahead and constantly seek people’s approval – and seeking approval is about him, not about you. Next to the first words out of his mouth to Minerva after she lost her men, blamed him, and yet still recommended him, were, “But why did you recommend me?”.

At this point, one could plausibly say this isn’t a selfish question.

accept position1
accept position2
accept position3
accept position4
accept position5

But wait, there’s more!

its actually about forgiveness

What. A. Surprise.

And it happens. Over and over again. Claude’s always on the lookout for people thinking bad thoughts about him, and it takes Minerva yelling at him for a plan rather than just talk, or more frequently, Raz yelling at him for commands on what to do, for him to, half the time, look at the weather and then do something.


The Counterarguments

We’re gonna skip to the end now to look at the two big items.

Some plot happens in the interim, but Claude doesn’t do much in them, and no one cares, so they don’t matter. These two items on the other hand are what people use to justify Claude not actually being a wimp, that he’s actually a good protagonist, he’s relatable, he’s a hero, blah blah blah.

The two items are:

1) Claude sends Raz on a suicide mission.

Sending Raz on a suicide mission was nice. Claude was crying when giving the order, but that scene was nice. When Kai burst onto the bridge asking where Raz was, why aren’t we picking Raz up, turn the ship around we need to save him, Claude said full speed ahead, get the fuck off the bridge this is a restricted area, I thought something was actually happening. Wow, after 15 chapters of nothing and more nothing, finally, something moved Claude enough that he changed how he acts.

raz is still alive right
forward

Then he runs over to the comms station and joins Kai in crying over Raz’s death.

please dont die guy i sent out on a suicide mission

People like to say this scene makes Claude a good character because that’s his lifelong friend, this is how anyone would act. Would you act different? How could you say it would be better if he didn’t cry? Would you prefer a robot? And on and on and on.

“Claude is constantly put into situations that are far more grim and difficult than anything Welkin had ever to face. Sure it isn’t a COs job to be relatable, but working for a guy you can’t talk to is fucking whack. Claude is seen trying to his save squad from more harm then neccesary and lead them through a blizzard all while trying to keep his cool and appear strong for them. They all know he’s a little insecure, but they have no to doubt his abilities because of the prior success he’s brought them. Whenever the rest of his battalion killed, Claude is visibly broken over it and doesn’t just shrug it off like a psychopath.”

“The stakes in VC4 are so much fucking higher than they were in VC1 it’s not fair to compare them 1 to 1 as characters. Claude was forced into partaking a death march in brutal winter conditions that was essentially doomed to fail from the start and lucked out insanely hard to be brought along the actual true plan for winning the war that involved sacrificing a perfectly innocent child and” oh, that’s the next item.

These arguments are the same type as arguments by lore.

It doesn’t actually matter, in an independent sense, whether a protagonist cries over losing a friend. What matters is what we’ve been developed to expect the protagonist to do. Generalized: if we have a stoic protagonist with very reserved reactions, and then there was a reaction, it’s moving. It may or may not make sense: if it doesn’t, we want to find out why, if it does, we empathize. If we have a very emotional protagonist that reacts to everything, an even more extreme reaction does not get the same out of the audience. It can’t. It has to be a more subdued response.

Contrast is an important concept everywhere, whether it be silence in music, color in art, frequency in information, or anything else. The actual “thing” rarely ever matters anywhere nearly as much as the relationships inbetween.

Claude Wallace is sad over everything. All. The Time.

More accurately:

He does something, and then regrets it about a minute later. All. The Time.

I already don’t care about people who switch sides faster than my toothbrush. So when something something happens, and Claude does it again, I don’t care again. I don’t care if he lost his friend or his mom or his lover or whatever. I don’t care that he’s been through a long campaign of war, deep in enemy territory away from friendlies and in the hostile cold. Insert whatever. I don’t care. It’s 16 out of 18 chapters in, and finally, something people normally recognize as big has happened, maybe, just maybe, Claude will have an important event and change his behavior. Maybe finally, he’ll get an arc, and become at least a good character.

But nope. He doesn’t. It doesn’t happen. He just does the same fucking thing. Again.

With one exception. There, he doesn’t do something, regrets it, -and then he doesn’t regret it-. At last, character development.

And it’s even more infuriating.

2) Claude doesn’t pull the switch to activate a nuke in the middle of a city.

There’s only a few times games have ever gotten verbalized reactions out of me.

This was one of them.

“>how dare you not want to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people”

“Don’t tell me you actually think setting off a nuke after a ceasefire declaration is actually a good and reasonable idea, Anon.”

So sometime before Raz’s suicide mision, Claude becomes commanding officer of the ship and becomes privy to more secret information: The ship is powered by a loli hooked up to a special reactor, and the operation’s purpose is to run the ship right into the Imperial capital and use her to chain-reaction the rest of the ragnite on the ship. VC’s equivalent of a nuke. Except it’s also a loli. Claude makes some inconsequential noises when he finds out. Point is, Raz dies, ship arrives in Imperial capital, Claude is determined to end the war by setting off the nuke.

At which point a ceasefire is announced.

ceasefire

Through speakers outside in the city, and inside in the ship. Somehow there’s a connection back the thousands of kilometers back to Command and the ceasefire is legitimate and not an enemy plot. Whatever.

Claude’s response is, for the only time in the entire story, to get mad. Oh boy!

claude mad1
claude mad2
claude mad3

And then, Claude does nothing.

raz flashback
sorry
can't do it
sorry riley
but no regrets
objective was not destroy empire
it was to end the war

There’s a few layers to this.

Like before, it doesn’t matter in an independent sense whether a protagonist kills millions of civilians. It’s possible to frame such a thing as a reasonable, if not the only acceptable course of action. Bokurano in its climax kills billions not by indiscriminate explosion but by individual direct fire, the protagonist was forced to visualize every person’s soul before firing. And it worked. The question is how it’s framed.

First of all, none of these thoughts were present before the ceasefire announcement. At this time Claude Wallace was already aware of the effects of the bomb: he had seen and experienced one firsthand, when one of the other battleships had detonated to escape enemy hands. His battleship was running away to escape the blast radius, and at a fair distance still it got toppled over. So it’s not that he didn’t know it’d kill everyone in the Imperial capital. Hell, even if he was an absolute blithering idiot and didn’t know, it’s not like anyone brought it up to him at that time. The ceasefire didn’t detail about how war is terrible and now it’s great we’ll all be at peace again, just imagine all the happy things, blah blah blah. It wasn’t propaganda. It was a ceasefire announcement.

These “reasons” are all garbage made up after the fact, just like the Ranger training.

Claude Wallace hears the ceasefire,
then gets mad about it and wants to pull the switch,
then decides not to pull the switch,
then apologizes for not pulling the switch,
then says he DOESN’T regret not pulling the switch,
THEN he starts spouting off this or that reason on why pulling the switch would be bad!

hand on switch
mad
sad
no regret
fuck you minerva

Up until this point, half the reason why they were still going was because they had to avenge their comrades. That’s what Raz’s words meant, and that’s what those words in general every time they had been used up until that point.

what did you say
was it a lie
it wasn't a lie

It’s not like Claude was some kind of principled peaceful guy, always looking for the course of minimum damage, always looking for ways to make things better, and it’s just that his idea somehow meant joining the military of a foreign power. At least in this grand opening speech to his men, he states: “I want to bring the Empire down with my own hands”.

Remember that?

“The reason I joined the military was to protect Gallia from the Empire. It’s my homeland, and I’ll fight for it. And all of you stand here today because you have something you want to accomplish, or protect. But right now, we’re just a handful of soldiers among tens, hundreds of thousands. We’re pawns on a board. I don’t intend on staying a pawn. I WANT TO BRING THE EMPIRE DOWN WITH MY OWN HANDS, BY MY OWN WILL. If I want to do that, however… I need results. I need to earn trust. I need to stand on the front lines and change battles with my own decisions and tactics. And if we can make it into the elite ranks of the rangers, I can make that a reality!”

I won’t say Claude is the kind of guy who itches for a fight. I won’t say he’s some kind of foresighted genius who knows the Empire is up to no good and there’s going to be another war soon enough, might as well join the military early and get a step ahead.

Claude Wallace is not a good protagonist. Claude Wallace is not a good character.

Claude Wallace is not that interesting.

destroy with own hands
fight to very end
revenge is not the answer
what did you say
was it a lie
it wasn't a lie

Claude Wallace is just a liar.

iron will

A liar of convenience. A lazy piece of shit whose only motivation is to look good in the eyes of others.

This is the protagonist of a story. A character story. A story about him never having to make hard decisions, because what can be hard when a) you can just regret it later and no one pushes your shit in for it? or b) the plot comes and saves you?


The Finale

i wont run away againfire

“Raz dies because Claude sends him to his death. He also pulls Riley and Ange out of a fire. You’re an idiot.”

This fire is held up as the third reason as to why Claude isn’t whatever I happen to be calling him right this minute, but I thought it would be an insult to the other two to group them together, so I’m addressing it separately.

This is a fire in the engine room of the battleship. At the end of the story, shortly after the switch isn’t pulled, an antagonist does some shenanigans and starts the detonation sequence himself, the ship is pulled into the sea, where it is sinking, and somewhere along the way the room caught on on fire. Claude Wallace gets into the ship to retrieve Riley Miller, the love interest, because she hasn’t come back out with the loli after defusing the bomb. Claude Wallace says he won’t run away again, which isn’t really a line you want to be hearing at the end of a story from the main character, but whatever, he actually doesn’t run away, and does save the two girls by going into the fire. All well and good.

The problem is that immediately after this, Claude is stuck on a tank on a ship with seemingly no way out.

tank on ship

And then he makes it about himself again.

my turn to be a sacrifice
i tried my best

Inbetween Claude says some lines to his driver about how we always find a way through, then when he can’t convince him, he starts talking to himself about how it’s time for him to make his sacrifice. All that stuff about protecting the loli and his love interest, looking at her before telling the driver to not give up, nope, straight out the window.

riley
time for me to be a sacrifice

Nevermind that his death here wouldn’t actually mean anything. It’s not like his death will mean the two girls get to safely. Or that anyone gets to safety for that matter. The rest of Squad E never boarded the sinking ship. That’s details though. “Fuck that shit, it’s time for me to look all dramatic so it’s a sacrifice!” t. Claude Wallace.

But wait, there’s more!

Because Claude Wallace is the protagonist, and this isn’t that kind of story, he can’t die. So how does he get out of the situation?

The plot hands it to him.

ship ramp1
ship ramp2

The ship is falling apart by itself and one of the things that happens is it gives him a ramp to get down safely to land. Not, he racked his brains and tried a number of things, including shooting at certain parts of the ship and one shot happened to create a ramp. Not, he had seen the schematics of the ship before and knows that if a shot was placed here, it’d create a ramp. Not, we need to get off this ship, just ram the railings and fly off the side in a 30 ton tank, it can’t be worse than getting sucked under into the water. No, it’s look nice and pretty for the camera. And then roll off like nothing happened.

But wait, there’s more!

a miracle
claude im getting us off

Claude doesn’t even command the driver to get them off the ship! The driver notices himself, and says he’s gonna get them out of there immediately. Claude on the other hand is in a daze, not even paying attention to what’s going on, and talks about some retarded delusion because he’s still too busy jacking himself off.

With the girl in his arms.

ship is telling us to live

Yeah, this is what men do. Pull women out of a fire, then squat on a sinking ship telling yourself that these are your last moments and your failed rescue is actually a heroic sacrifice. Then when someone else snaps out of it and saves everyone, attribute it to the ship wanting you to live.

This is what makes Claude Wallace a good character.

Apparently.

flowers
fuck your speech2
fuck your speech8
im sorry
accept position4
its actually about forgiveness
forward
please dont die guy i sent out on a suicide mission
mad
sad
no regret
it wasn't a lie
riley
time for me to be a sacrifice

I think it makes him a piece of shit.


Epilogue

That covers Claude’s character, which covers most of the story.

The explanation written above is the thread I found that makes him a character, and not just a blank slate self-insert, which at many times not mentioned here (because they are boring as all hell) seemed like it could be. But shitting on Minerva to give his own speech and the quadra-fliperoo with the nuke went over the line. Perhaps that’s how the average of some group of people out there are, but it was ridiculous enough for me that I had to put my foot down.

It could also be that Claude was written by some committee of writers or some other reason from a long list of phrases with industry jargon, VC4 had production issues etc., but I don’t think that’s a valid excuse. I think Claude was intentionally written this way because making a forked-tongue fucker seems really hard to do by accident, but whatever, suppose it is. It doesn’t matter. Plenty of other games and stories do just fine. There’s a certain way to build things so that when you cut, you don’t cut critical parts in stupid ways. Moreover, they did it well enough within their own story with the side characters, so it’s not like they couldn’t do it. Why not with the main character?

Or any main character? All the main characters were garbage.

Raz is a fucking moron. His stupidity is used to move the plot three times in the beginning, almost back to back. Raz is the character that can be goaded or tricked into doing basically anything, and often he’ll do it himself. Not only that, just as Claude’s lack of authority enables him to continue doing stupid shit, his consistent reaffirmations of Claude’s skills on one hand and intermittent yelling at Claude for orders on the other enables Claude to be a whiny pussy. “But he volunteered for the suicide mission!” And Claude cried over him dying. I don’t care. Raz is a slightly better character no doubt since he actually has things he wants and goes for them. But he’s still a bad character because it requires everyone else to be accepting or stupid in order for him to work. Which is what happens. Because all the main characters are childhood friends. Or something.

Riley is a dumb bimbo anime girl. She’s supposedly an inventor, but fixes machines by whacking them with a wrench, as well as being able to stop a never-before-studied chain reaction with no tools and no prior preparation. Stomps on you if you look up her skirt and throws a pepperspray grenade at you if you’re in a brawl and something flies in her direction. Her character arc is that she goes from not trusting Scaredy-Claude to trusting Crydy-Claude, because reasons. I didn’t mind Riley for most of the story. She did nothing and was boring. But at the end she said she was partially responsible or something for the invention of the loli nuke, and she’d be there to help Claude pull the switch. And then when Claude did his quadra-fliperoo, Riley, with no argument whatsoever, said she supported that decision too. Because reasons. One of her positive Potentials has some name or other, but the line she says in it goes along the lines of “Claude, I Trust You”. For his part, Claude has a “Riley, Watch Me”. Both of which have about the same weight as “Iron Will”.

Minerva is the exception. Most of her character is about smacking Claude in the face, which isn’t particularly interesting, but where they happen she makes good decisions, and has good lines. When Claude shit on her in public to give his own rousing speech, she went along and helped boost morale. This shows that she’s focused on objective first. One time when Claude’s tank driver is moping about something not being possible like Claude would (his tank driver is less fork-tongued and more wimpy), she says,

“If you’d rather hide in here and tell yourself that, go ahead. Just make it a choice you won’t regret. Decide what’s important to you. And make it quick.”

Minerva made only one (1) mistake in the duration of the whole story, and that was not pulling the trigger in this scene.

minerva's sole mistake

Forseti is the main antagonist. And he is as forked-tongue and retardedly shortsighted as Claude.

Forseti is the original Kai, the one who disappeared and replaced himself with a body double. Forseti defected and went over to the Empire, because during that secret mission he found out about the lolis. He decided the Federation was rotten, and thus would go over to the Empire, because lolis were being exploited “into the triple digits”. Hundreds of little girls being exploited are more important than hundreds of thousands or millions of not-little-girls dying. This could be fine. Even joining up with the enemy could be fine. Even staying with the enemy after finding out they do nearly the same thing (lolis trained into super soldiers rather than made into nukes) could be fine.

What’s not fine is he got to high ranks being a master strategist, and every time anything goes wrong, he says it’s someone else’s fault. Not only to them. He actually believes it. There is never a moment where this guy thinks to improve his own actions. And he does less than nothing to see others as people.

Now, Forseti is a strategist serving under this guy called Belgar, who is the actual head of that paramilitary branch. It’s been only a year or two since defection, but he’s reached the top levels here. Belgar has three women serving under him. All three are clearly mentally unstable. When all these characters appear at the same time (to another antagonist), Forseti doesn’t have anything to say or react to the presence of the three women. So all signs point to him being familiar with them.

In his first deployment in the story, Forseti is able to locate the battleship fleet because the new Kai, his sister, also called Leena but I’ll call Kai here, is his spy. He got a radio to her, the radio told him the fleet’s location, he sets out to trap and capture them for Belgar’s purposes, but he’s planning to defect while doing it to save the lolis. He brings the three mentally unstable women with him.

And is surprised when they do mentally unstable things.

Like try to destroy the ships instead.

forseti centurion

Later he meets Kai face-to-face. First he says it was an accident.

comet accident

Then he said it was a fully predictable result, and it’s all Kai’s fault.

comet not an accident

At some later time he successfully traps the second ship, and simply hangs around outside doing nothing, waiting hours upon hours for the main character ship to arrive. Then when the second ship decides to detonate rather than fall into enemy hands, he’s in grief that it’s yet another loli he couldn’t save.

bull shit

He pulls this trick probably a few more times. They all sort of blend into each other, so I don’t remember all of them. The last time he does it is right before he’s shot (by Kai) to Claude, saying that he’s disgusted that Claude is going to kill an innocent girl.

forseti disgust

When moments ago, he told another girl to off herself.

offing chiara1
offing chiara2
offing chiara3

And a few moments before that, he was complaining about the world being corrupted.

twisted

And moments after that, he says he’s okay with sacrificing innocents.

sarcifice how many
who knows

Forseti is a deluded narcissist – just like Claude.

Like Claude, all actions that move him any distance toward his objectives take place offscreen before the story began. Also like Claude, not once in the entire story does he do anything of note. He’s a liar, and he’s pathetically stupid. “My sister is pointing a gun at me and sick of my shit, let me goad her and tell her she won’t shoot. Oh she shot. Wow, imagine my shock, I can’t believe you shot your own flesh and blood, you’re a real traitor now, now you have to live with the consequences, hold up I need to put this on twitter #NeverFederation”. Difference is only in that Claude is a groveller, where Forseti prefers that the attention is a result of hate.

But everyone takes him seriously, because he’s the antagonist.

Forseti dies after getting shot, but some of his last words were in Claude’s flashback after the ceasefire announcement and before the quadra-flip. So Claude actually believed him. And Kai did too. Via some channel I forget, she heard that Forseti’s goal was that he, Kai, and Ange could escape war and live somewhere, peacefully, together. Because telling her his perfectly preventable accident killing hundreds was actually her fault is definitely a productive thing to say to reach such an ending.

forseti's promise

And of course, the last main character is Kai. Her character is entirely around becoming independent of Forseti. Present tense. Given that she believes adopts Ange in the end (Ange’s story was entirely with Riley; further explanation is not given), I don’t think she succeeded.

There’s a whole roster of side characters I’m not gonna go through. They all work in structure, varying in quality. I liked Nico.

nicole nicony

And Lily.

lily

And Vancey.

hammered

Ange was fine.

ange

In there is also the romance between the antagonists Walkz and Crymaria, which was nice. Those were two actual characters with a short but sensible progression and their personalities fit.

the absolute chad

Not like Claude and Riley or Raz and Kai. Who had nothing. And- well, Raz-Kai wasn’t nothing, but it was pretty stupid. Those romances sucked and didn’t make sense. To say nothing of the ‘actual’ main plot. Which we never actually discussed much what it was.

That’s alright though. If you didn’t play it, you didn’t miss anything.

Claude Wallace sucked and he ruined what little there was of it.


Meta / On Rhetoric

“Wow he thinks abandoning a little girl is what good characters would do”

idealistic bullshit

In the end, arguments are largely about winning social approval.

Lore is the highest social approval in fiction: it’s stuff in the world put there by the author. Arguments by lore are easy to argue socially because of this appeal to author’s authority. Arguments by character decisions are significantly more risky. One is because people think judgements of others is subjective – secretly, many such people believe it’s dangerous to voice negative judgments about people at all (real or not). The other is because it’s fairly trivial to knock down such an approach by going after the speaker by ridiculing him using his own ridicule. Such a tactic has a natural “ooh he got you there haha” spice to it. A character said to be bad for not doing X must mean the speaker believes doing X is good, X is obviously bad wow look at this guy, and so on.

Consistency is irrelevant – even at the level of one line to the very next. People are only ever capable of holding “one” thing in their mind at a time. The maximum complexity of that thing is small for many people, because the development of such a thing is not necessary. The number one thing important to human survival is social approval. So long as they’re attuned to whoever has power at the time, they have maximized their chance of survival.

“>Claude
>pussy
Do people think this because he didn’t nuke a city full of civilians?”

“it’s in the first fucking scene and he doesn’t change for the majority of the story, and i say “majority” rather than “duration” only because i haven’t finished it yet.”

“He never whines about flowers again, why do so many people get hung up on that scene?”

“>why do people get hung up on him not triggering the nuke
>why do people get hung up on him and flowers”

VC4’s main noise with the journalists was in an early scene where Raz grabs Kai’s butt and doesn’t get punished for it. What occurred was, in that same scene, less than ten seconds later, Kai decks Raz, and then they have a spectacle brawl. The easy comment is to say that journalists are liars. The more general comment is to say people like those who have power and will believe whatever they say. No need to look for a journalist here. We have Forseti and Claude. They have the author’s authority of antagonist and protagonist.

The support of Valkyria Chronicles 4’s story is confirmation that at least four opinion flips back-to-back in the span of a minute on an important topic is no problem for the average person.

Somewhere else soon enough, or more likely, happened long ago, someone’s tested for five.

low visibility

It really is “I say jump you say how high”.

I don’t like it.

Or at least, at this level, I detect and reject it enough to be bothered.

I should’ve gone with my first instinct of dropping the game / skipping the story. Minerva’s sensibility and large tits kept me in. Maybe Minerva was bad civilization after all.

“Benefit of the doubt” stems from this social approval. It does not stem from openness to truth. Truth is less something that is built up to with additional information, more closely it is what remains after removing lies. Truth is approached by testing what you think is true much more than by testing what you think is not true. Giving something “benefit of the doubt” is deliberately testing what you think is not true – at cost to yourself. To signal deference to the other guy. Who in this case would be SEGA.

I made a mistake in giving VC4 the benefit of the doubt. The gameplay and side stories were fine. The girls are great. And now that I’ve finished the main story, that’s all that’s left, so that’s nice. But for the duration up to this point, which was mostly the main story, it was shit. VC4’s writing was infuriatingly bad shit. Like watching a man cry out as he strikes you, over and over again. 93 hours of that, or stuff close enough to it makes no difference. I needed to do something. To recoup costs. To repent.

To make a reminder for what kinds of consequences ensue from such actions.

Imagine if Claude Wallace was a real person and not a fictional character, with no plot protection, and you gave him benefit of the doubt.

riley
time for me to be a sacrifice

It’d be pretty bad.

this exists solely because facebook seems to default to the final image of a post for its preview image. apparently you can control it by setting a html meta property, but that's not allowed in free wordpress. what is allowed though is putting down images in html and then setting them to not show up. so this technically is the last image - as far as facebook is concerned.

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