Daedalic Entertainment’s Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth has been receiving a lot of positive feedback from gamers and most critics. The point-and-click, narrative-driven story based on Ken Follett’s series of novels comes across as a mostly faithful adaptation with a striking visual art-style that sets it apart from everything else on the market. However, there were a few changes in the story where choice and certain forms of character development were wrested from the player’s experience… namely when it comes to sexual violence.
There are some spoilers ahead, so be warned that if you plan on playing through the episodic series you may want to avoid this particular topic, but if curiosity has wooed your attention like a fur ball in front of a cat, feel free to read on.
So one of the defining moments of Pillars of the Earth is that early on in Book 2 the main character, Aliena, ends up getting raped by the main villain, William Hamleigh. This shapes the entire character arc for Aliena, along with her thoughts on pregnancy, her relationship with Jack, and coming to terms with the burdens she carries in life. Throughout it all, it’s also something that she later on in life has to overcome, physically and emotionally, especially in terms of dealing with Hamleigh throughout the story.
However, in the video game adaptation, this entire story arc is missing. One user over on the Steam forums asked the developers about this particular creative decision, because they felt as if a large portion of Aliena’s character development had been wiped from the slate by completely axing the arc.
The community manager for Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth managed to get word from the leads over the project, Carsten Fichtelmann, Matt Kempke and Caspar Michel, who explained why the video game adaptation completely removed the sexual violence…
“Ken Follett agreed with us early on that it would be best to exclude sexual violence as our adaptation is also meant to be played by a younger audience around the age of 16. In addition to that we personally believe, that sexual violence as motivation for a female characters is a classic trope that has not aged very well. If we had chosen to depict sexual violence we would have wanted to make it an important topic and not just a side note but there would have been enough room for that. Being taken hostage, losing her father and home and – after having built up a new life having everything taken away by the same man – is, we think, enough to define Aliena’s relationship with William. Of course, as you said, that means their relationship is different than in the novel.”
The original poster, FLKttn, noted that removing the scene took away a lot of the “strength and agency” for Aliena’s growth as a character. They also felt it weakened the animosity between Aliena and William, especially given that in the book version she seethes with growing disdain at the idea that she might be pregnant by William.
Knowing that this aspect of the story was changed in the way that it was, do you think that was the right call for the creative team behind Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth or should they have played it straight like in the novel?
Books 1 and 2 are currently available, with the third and final book set to release in May of 2018 later this year. For more info you can visit the official website.