Pandora’s Tower: Saving the World of One

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

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When a child flips open the pages of a book, he is immersing himself into another world as he reads through it. The potential this book (and the world within) has to change the way this child perceives reality is essentially limitless.

The ultimate way to measure this potential involves how well the author fleshes out his or her characters. A book can do some amazing things to the mind because almost every single word is subjective, left to the interpretation of the reader. The emotional connections between characters can seem increasingly real as they become more relatable. That’s why I’m opening with this notion to discuss Pandora’s Tower: There is nothing more powerful than a connection between the characters and the reader.

When a young man picks up the controller, he is held responsible for the actions that take place in another world. Whether he is controlling one person or several, it is undeniable that the actions of the player have a direct impact upon the game’s story, whether its plot is static or malleable. The book’s potential is limitless when it comes to the mind, as it relies heavily upon the imagination of the reader. But the potential of the video game when it comes to establishing connections between characters, or that all-important connection between the characters and the player—that is something truly worth discussing.

The role-playing game genre has offered an infinite number of ways to deal with family, friendship, and love through the stories of countless memorable characters. Pandora’s Tower is certainly no exception to this premise. However, where most games seem to treat character development as scenery (something to experience as the player moves through the game, something to make the game worth playing), the means of using two characters’ relationship with one another as a vehicle in which to move the plot is what makes Pandora’s Tower stand out amongst the games that came before it.

Pandora’s Tower revolves around the developing relationship of Aeron and Elena, two childhood friends. All that’s left outside of the player’s control is how their story begins. From the moment the player first gains control of Aeron, how well (or badly) he treats Elena is the vessel that moves the plot forward in whatever direction that’s wished. Whether the player chooses to save Elena from her curse or watch it consume her, it is important to note that how the player feels about Elena can indeed seal her fate. An opportunity like the story of Pandora’s Tower, to test the resolve of the player (especially since I’ve heard Elena can be quite demanding at times), does not come around often.

There are a good number of reasons why Pandora’s Tower matters. Over the past month of celebrating the game’s release in Europe, Operation Rainfall has offered insights concerning gameplay, its rich musical influences, and its history. I wrote this piece in order to help close the celebration on a more speculative note.

Many games give players the chance to change the world of many—Pandora’s Tower is mainly concerned with changing the world of one. Will you watch as Elena is turned into a hideous beast, or will you save her?