Building Character: Alexandra Roivas

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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This piece contains major spoilers pertaining to the plot of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the GameCube. You have been warned.

Alexandra Roivas | Eternal Darkness

In my history of video gaming, there have sadly been few truly heroic women. Whether bias by developers or not, the vast majority of the games I have played focused on the masculine, treating women as delicate flowers to be rescued (cough* Super Mario Bros. *cough ) or sexual objects (God of War). Which naturally made it a challenge for me to find a compelling female protagonist to write about for this Building Character. Luckily, I found one in Alexandra Roivas, the lead character in a great game called Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the Gamecube.

Quite simply, Alexandra, or Alex for short, is a survivor. Raised by her grandfather Edward after the passing of her parents, she has grown into a smart, capable woman. In the game, she gets a phone call notifying her that her beloved grandfather has been murdered. Racing to the ancestral Roivas home where he lived, she is horrified to recognize the family ring upon his mutilated corpse. Her next decision is what makes her such a compelling and great female lead. Instead of giving in to terror or sadness and living her life quietly as the last surviving Roivas, Alex digs in her heels and stays to investigate her grandfather’s murder. Along the way she uncovers much more than she bargained for, including a 2,000 year old conspiracy to enslave and forever change the course of human history. But again, Alex does not buckle under pressure, and only becomes more resolute and determined in the face of the monstrous truths she discovers.

Alexandra Roivas | Overwhelming Odds

As Alex investigates her grandfather’s murder, she uncovers a hidden tome called the Tome of Eternal Darkness. Merely touching it connects her to the souls of every other person that has possessed the item, and allows her to experience their history through her eyes. She learns of the Ancients, demonic entities from beyond our veil that have covertly been manipulating human history for a very long time. Stuck in a game of celestial paper-rock-scissors by a deity called Mantorok, they scheme to break the stalemate by imprisoning him and his check on their powers. Defeated, but not lost, Mantorok schemes to use select human pawns to combat the 3 Ancients, Chattur’gha, Ulyaoth and Xel’lotath. Several of those pawns are Alex’s ancestors, including her grandfather Edward andΒ  Dr. Maximillian Roivas. Using the power and knowledge of the horrific beast, they all try their best to defeat the forces of Eternal Darkness. Many are killed for their audacity while several more are driven insane and shattered into mere shells of their former lives. But only one manages to avoid this fate and destroy the Ancients with the aid of their shared experiences, and that strong, brave woman is Alex.

Alexandra Roivas | Discovering the Tome

For clarity’s sake, Alex does much more than learn about the forces of Eternal Darkness secondhand. The more knowledge that flows into her mind, the more the Roivas home opens up its secrets. Though she initially only faces puzzles to solve, slowly but surely the forces her ancestors once faced start to threaten Alex in modern times. Eventually she learns that it is because her ancestral home stands atop the ancient Ruins of Ehn’gha, which is the staging point for the Ancients foray into our reality. Though they had been kept bottled up in the past, the murder of Alex’s grandfather begins to weaken the seal keeping them at bay. Late in the game, Alex must confront hordes of monsters and servants of the Ancients. Luckily, Alex is a strong woman in more than just her constitution. She is very capable with a blade or gun, and her reserve of magical talent is deep, allowing her to cast spells to fight back the darkness. She proves more than a match for any male lead I have ever played as.

Alexandra Roivas | Heroic Lineage

More than that, I suppose I sympathize with Alex personally, since for her the most important things in her life are family and discovering the truth. These cornerstones affect every decision she makes and give her the strength to go on in the face of unbelievable secrets and madness. That Alex is not only able to triumph, but able to do so with her sanity intact, is a great feat, and shows how truly strong female characters can, and should, be. Granted, Alex is able to bear the weight of those burdens better than most, but I applaud her for it. I only wish Eternal Darkness had gotten the sequel it deserved, and perhaps continued the story of Alexandra Roivas, but her story will forever be marked in my mind as that of one of the best female protagonists in video game history.

 

About Josh Speer

Josh Speer is addicted to two things in equal measure : Books and Videogames. He has a degree from the University of Washington in English with an emphasis on writing. He joined Operation Rainfall last year while following it on Facebook. His two giant life goals are to write his own series of fantasy / science fiction novels and to get into the creative side of the video game industry. He is beyond pleased to now have his proverbial foot in the door thanks to the opportunity provided by Oprainfall!




  • zeezee

    Just when I question whether or not OpRa has something to offer over other sites (since its goals have changed since the localization of the three Wii games), a potentially interesting article shows up about a relatively obscure character from a cult classic. And though I appreciate this sort of article, I don’t understand the relevance of gender as the driving force of what makes this character excellent. I will tell you that I’ve played this game, enjoyed it, and liked the characters, but it never occurred to me that I should feel that this character is unique because she defies most gender stereotypes.

    It would be pretty obvious that she wouldn’t “buckle” in fear of the unknown (or undead), because then we wouldn’t have a game to play. She is, for all intents and purposes, fiction.

    It’s not that I’m trying to criticize this article’s writing, but rather, I’m trying to determine exactly what is being said here. The gist of it is that conventional wisdom would assume Alex to be weak and frail, yet she’s heroic and defies “damsel in distress” roles that we see in games. How about I ask you: What makes her any different than the survival horror characters, such as Jill Valentine or Jennifer Simpson?

    One would be able to write a much more detailed article on Bayonetta; a character with a tremendous back story, a greater assortment of weapons, a and much stronger personality, only shunned by our society because she’s “sexualized” in her game. It’s not enough for her to be an ass-kicker because she’s apparently too sexy and that doesn’t create strong female role models according to industry experts.

    Now, I’m a bit rusty on this game because it’s been a decade since I’ve played it, but the truth is that Alex is a one-dimensional character. The only view of Alex that you receive is that of the “savior” (Roivas). The irony is that she is hardly even playable during the game, aside from the beginning, end, and small sections between chapters. We know more about Pious Augustus than we do about Alex, and his role in the story is arguably much more interesting. The writers spent about nil time in developing Alex and spent far more time developing a history of why she needs to be heroic, in addition to far greater depth in here ancestors’ stories.

    Look, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive or strong female leads in games, but I honestly don’t feel that this character is the right one to choose. This is not to say that I don’t care for the character, or the game, but Alex was the weakest (plot-wise) character in the game, yet was coincidentally the most important. The article is called “BUILDING CHARACTER”, and this has done nothing to build the character. I see an intro and a four paragraph plot synopsis but nothing that tells me a thing about the character. It’s not that I see this as the writer’s fault; Denis Dyack and co. simply gave nothing to work with from the beginning.

    • Crystal Baltimore

      Hopefully we always have something to offer that makes us unique. Most of our opinion pieces are diverse and interesting. If you have a character you would like to see covered in Building Character, or a topic you would like to see discussed please let me know. I’ll check comments here or I can be reached at [email protected]

      I’ve not played the game but one (possible) reason for bringing up that she defies most stereotypes is the fact that Building Character was created in part to showcase female characters. It’s something important to me, which is why I wanted the girl characters to have equal coverage in the series. Now, I obviously didn’t write this article and I wont presume to speak for Mr. Speer, so I’ll leave any actual explanation up to him…but I am glad that he brings up the fact that she defies most stereotypes.

      As far as which character was written about – Any character that our authors feel deserve coverage can be spotlighted. πŸ™‚ Some characters have already been claimed, yet the article has not been published, so you may see more characters that you feel are deserving in the future.

      Also, I *think* that I am going to write about Boyonetta at some point. I’l have to check my files for what characters I will be writing about. πŸ™‚

      At any rate, thank you for the feedback! We always appreciate hearing what our readers have to say! πŸ™‚

    • Josh S.

      Oh wow, a strong critical response, haha. I like it. First of all, I chose Alex for a couple reasons. For one, I loved Eternal Darkness. For two, there was demand for a female character for that month, so I chose her since she is the protagonist. There is definite truth to what you say about her, and some other characters in the game, being one dimensional. That comes with the territory when any game has multiple viewpoints. However, I felt some kinship with the character. Maybe I extrapolated from my own imagination ( I do that ) but I truly felt Alex was unique compared to many female leads around that time. You mention Jill, and it’s true she is a strong lady, but she also relies ( sometimes heavily ) on the assistance of others. With a couple of notable exceptions, this is not the case with Alex. Furthermore, I truly do feel Alex is stronger, at least mentally, to be able to withstand the constant psychic assault of insanity in Eternal Darkness. I mean, compare her to the other female characters in the game. She is WAY tougher and more interesting than those, IMO. Also, Building Character, despite the name, isn’t supposed to “build” the character so much. Rather, it is supposed to explain why we think they are worthy of our interest. I hope that helped explain things better. We all love our games, but some of them give us more to work with than others. Regardless, I felt Alex worthy of at least an article. Check in later for a more ridiculous / entertaining BC piece by yours truly about a couple of fantastic GBA characters…