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Video Game / Kult: Heretic Kingdoms

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Valkarin: Religion is death...
Alita: ...and death to religion.

Kult: Heretic Kingdoms or Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition (depending on where you live) is an isometric Fantasy Action RPG, released in April 2005. It was developed by Slovakian studio 3D People (subsequently rebranded Games Farm), with design input from International Hobo and writing by Chris Bateman (who also did Discworld Noir).

The gameplay of Heretic Kingdoms is not dissimilar to Diablo, Divine Divinity, Sacred, or Nox. Its storyline is more detailed and involved than some Action RPGs bother with, and focuses on a character named Alita (unless players rename her). Alita is an inquisitor-in-training in a world where God Is Dead and the Inquisition is a militant atheist movement dedicated to suppressing all religion. It kicks off with the discovery that the special sword used by the hero who killed God (and who Alita is a distant descendant of) has been stolen.

The game has no relation to the Tabletop Game called KULT.

A sequel, Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, was released in November 2014.

This game provides examples of:

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Joran Cynessa claims to be this, intrepidly venturing into a warzone for the sake of his work. Of course, if he happens to find a few interesting weapons along the way, selling them to carefully screened, discerning buyers is a perfectly respectable way to finance his work. (He's actually just a weapons smuggler.)
  • Affably Evil: Gozen, thief master (disputed) of Kyallisar. He's polite to Alita even if she has come to kill him, and if she rejects his offer to switch sides, he thanks her politely for hearing him out before they fight.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Order of the Veil was founded to oppose the ruler of its day in secret. In recent times, one of its five branches has stepped into the open to pursue the Order's goals in public: the Inquisition, which Alita joined before she knew about the larger organisation. The other four branches remain secret, and its members may hold prominent public posts.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Alita encounters a dying messenger in the forest, who asks her to carry his vitally important message. She can do so, but it turns out not to be as vital as the messenger thought the sender actually sent several messengers, just to be sure, and one of them gets through anyway.
  • The Apprentice:
    • Alita is the apprentice of High Inquisitor Valkarin. Near the end of the game, Valkarin learns that Alita is one of the possible candidates to resurrect the Dead God, which he absolutely cannot allow. He reluctantly tries to kill Alita to prevent this possibility, but upon failing, acknowledges that she has Surpassed the Teacher.
    • The magical bond which can exist between masters and apprentices is used by Alita to find a certain person. Quova (who is being sought) and Percheron (whose location is known) were both apprentices of Sice Larwan, so Alita can follow the trail from Percheron up to Larwan and then down to Quova.
    • Sollas, a member of the Order of the Veil, has his own apprentice, but the apprentice decides to make some money on the side by summoning demons for a crime boss. Alita is sent to deal with him, though he has already figured out he's in over his head.
  • Badass Creed: The five members of the Penta Nera each have their own rote phrase to describe their job in metaphorical terms. ("I am the fire...", "I am the blade...", etc.). One of them later becomes a Survival Mantra after one member, Evanger, is nearly killed by another, Valkarin.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The Eremite believes this. As his ghost explains to Alita, he had a vision of himself going to the monastery and dying in a futile attempt to stop a theft, and so that's exactly what he set out to do when the time came. Trying to fight it, he believed, wouldn't work and might just make things worse. A conversation at the Oracle, near the end of the game, reveals that he's completely wrong. Prophecies are only binding if you're too weak-willed to fight them.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: Some wood elementals can send swarms of insects to attack you.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Alita (as part of the Inquisition which enforces a ban on religion) expresses this opinion while debating an Eremite. The Eremite, by contrast, takes the view that unthinking adherence to doctrine is the problem, and that this is not particular to religion.
    Alita: Religion destroys free will.
    Eremite: Dogma destroys free will.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: For unknown reasons, after God was killed, children began being born with scars called "macula". Alita's is naturally the one going over her eye. Those marked thus have an innate affinity for magic and have greatly increased lifespans. The Inquisition quickly took an interest in recruiting all marked they could find.
  • The Chosen One: Although God Is Dead, there's one person prophesied to take up the sword which killed him and become a vessel for his rebirth. It turns out that Alita and Carissa are the two people who fit the prophecy, which prompts High Inquisitor Valkarin to (regretfully) try to kill them as a preventative measure. In the end, Carissa is revealed to be the prophesied one, but Alita holds the sword. Depending on player choice, this may result in a We Can Rule Together deal, but it's also possible to defy the prophecy.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Alita tends to be rather grudging about being roped into other people's problems, but if players choose to have her help people anyway, some of them point out the oddness of a complete stranger running around solving everything.
    Miller: Have you got some pathological need to help people? Not that I'm complaining; it's just weird, is all.
  • Creepy Cathedral: In Kyallisar, there's a side-quest in which Alita has to purge an old church of the ghosts that haunt it. The church itself has been shut down for a long time, but now, a cult has started worshipping the ghosts of its former residents.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Alita sometimes offers these to people who aren't really evil, but who are intent on opposing her. Particularly notable are Lord Malfagon and his guards, who oppose Alita only because there was a prophecy saying that she'd destroy them and they don't realise it's a self-fulfilling one. Her warnings never actually work, though and sometimes, there was never really any chance, such as with the elder demonspawn (which is basically just a giant bug):
    Alita: In the name of the Inquisition, desist all illegal activities and leave Kyallisar!
    Demonspawn: Hssssssssssss...
    Eremite: It was worth a try.
  • Elemental Powers: Near the start of the game, Alita has to choose an element to begin her magic use with, picking between Fire, Water, Air, and Earth (which are said to correspond with destruction, paralysis, speed, and resilience, respectively).
  • Evil Chancellor: Played with. In the backstory, Krenze had a lot of the hallmarks of this when he "served" the Theocrat bad advice, sabotaged plans, and eventually assassination. However, the ruler in question was unmitigated evil, and Krenze was trying to rid the country of him. He was, therefore, a bad chancellor to his ruler, but in the name of good.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The Sura race has a caste system, with the lowest being the Ishkai (who are basically no better off than slaves). Alita encounters some Ishkai who have fled their masters but are now in danger of recapture, and she has the option of either helping the Ishkai (on the grounds that slavery is illegal in Corwenth) or the slavers (citing distaste for defiance of authority). Either justification can work with the fact that she's an Inquisitor and all.
  • God-Emperor: In the backstory, the Garulian Empire was ruled by people who considered themselves divine. This probably contributes to the strong anti-religious sentiment of some factions, leading to the suppression of all religion in many places.
  • The Hermit: One of Alita's tasks is to track down a hermit who lives in the woods, as a favour to the forest's guardian. He's found, but only as a ghost. Since he's a religious hermit, and Alita's job is to enforce a ban on religion, their interaction is a bit rocky, but the hermit's new posthumous status makes their debate a moot point.
  • Heroic Lineage:
    • Alita is a distant descendant of Arkor, the hero who killed God. That lineage is important, because only descendants of Arkor can interact with the magic of the sword he used. Various people have tried to control the bloodline, and Alita herself grew up in a dungeon (pending ritual sacrifice) because of her heritage.
    • Master Valkarin, head of the Inquisition, has his own heroic lineage, since Mara Valkarin was the organisation's founder.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: If Alita tells the authorities that Joran Cynessa is a weapons smuggler, she can later find him in Kyallisar, offering to pay anyone who can track down the lowlife who got him in trouble. Alita can take the case and insist on half payment up front.
    Quest log: Find out who sold out Joran. Here's a hint it was you.
  • A Homeowner Is You: Alita can buy houses, which may be more convenient for resting (a game mechanic) than the alternatives.
  • Illegal Religion: The Inquisition exists to suppress all religion, although its authority isn't recognised everywhere. It's independent of governments (having actually started as a secret society during the rule of the Theocrat), and isn't always well-liked, so Alita is told to be discreet about her allegiance. She doesn't conceal her antipathy to religion completely, though, and sometimes snaps at people who express religious views even though suppression of religion isn't actually the mission she's on.
    Black Fang captain: I pray I will have a chance repay you.
    Alita: You can start by not praying.
  • Klingon Promotion:
    Sharok: I've fallen out with my old master a slight difference of opinion.
    Alita: What did you disagree on?
    Sharok: Gozen thinks he should remain thief master of Kyallisar I think it should be me.
    • Gozen himself encourages this kind of promotion with his own bodyguard, having a standing policy that anyone who can kill the current bodyguard gets the job. Sharok comes up with the idea of using this to assassinate Gozen challenge and defeat the bodyguard openly, then kill Gozen himself once there's no protector. Gozen isn't actually dumb enough to have overlooked that, however:
    Gozen: I assume Sharok planned this as an attempt to kill me.
    Alita: It's not the most subtle plan, is it.
  • Lich: Two are encountered, both of whom were once official government Necromancers back in the days when that was legal. Percheron, the lesser of the two, is rather addled from his isolation. His master, Sice Larwan, is a lot more lucid (and a lot more powerful). Neither, however, have to be fought rather, they're sources of information, since the magical master-apprentice links they had in life persist after death (and Percheron and someone Alita is looking for were both apprentices of Larwan).
  • Mark of the Supernatural: Some children are born with scars known as the Mark of the Dead God, which generally indicate a high degree of magical ability. Alita, the protagonist, is such a person.
  • Multiple Endings: There are a number of variations on the ending, but they boil down to three basic directions.
    • Alita can uphold the Inquisition's teachings and destroy the sword, defying the orders (and ambitions) of the secret society of which the Inquisition is the public front. This leads to her becoming High Inquisitor herself.
    • Alita can do as she's told and give the sword to Carissa, who can unlock its power and become the vessel of a reborn God. This is essentially a We Can Rule Together ending.
    • Alita can decide that she's done working for other people and use the sword to establish herself as a dictator, like Taryn Arkor was in the backstory.
  • Mugged for Disguise: The fact that a dying messenger's uniform was taken may not seem very important when it's mentioned, but in fact, it means that the other messenger you find in the forest is actually your quarry in disguise.
  • Necromancer: Necromancy used to be common in the Heretic Kingdoms enough so that Civil Necromancer was an official job. It was banned by the Theocrat (perhaps the one time he was on a side commonly associated with "good"), but nothing was done about the undead already created. As such, "undead slaver" is a valid occupation you go to an abandoned mine or something, capture the Undead Laborers, break their conditioning, and sell them to people wanting cheap workers.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: This is implied to be the way Alita will go if she keeps Godslayer for herself. No indiscriminate rampages here.
    Alita, potentially: Becoming a brutal dictator will require careful preparation.
  • Proud Warrior Race / Proud Merchant Race: The Sura actually seem to be a combination of the two, being a proud mercenary race. They value strength and prowess, but are very insistent that it be properly compensated, never given for free. There's a sidequest where Alita is able to save a Sura warrior from fatally flunking his trial of endurance, but he'll only accept help if Alita has been hired to rescue him being rescued for non-financial motivations like pity or compassion would be so shameful he'd rather die.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In the backstory, a warlord controlling a key rebel fortress sold out his colleagues to the God-Empress, but was then executed due to the God-Empress's contempt for traitors.
  • Royal Blood: Quova is a descendant of the royal line of the Garulian God-Emperors, but doesn't really care. He was raised by the Sura (who had been doing mercenary work for the Garulians), and prefers to think of himself as an adoptive member of the tribe in question.
  • Royal Harem: Taryn Arkor put his harem to work breeding a steady supply of special sacrifices victims, pairing male descendants of Arkor up with his concubines. One such pairing resulted in actual love, with a consequent escape attempt. The mother didn't make it, but the father and their child did.
  • Royal Inbreeding: Not precisely "royal", but the Heroic Lineage of Arkor, the hero who killed God, has been subject to this. His lineage carries power over the sword he used, and as such, people have tried to control the bloodline in ways which caused it problems.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: While not a desert, the city of Kyallisar is a long way from the coast, being built on a bunch of rocky outcroppings in a mountain pass. Some of its buildings, however, are obviously repurposed wooden ships.
  • Sapient Fur Trade: the Taymurians are sometimes hunted by humans for their pelts. This doesn't make them very inclined to end their war against the human kingdoms, but if players do a side-quest to take out some hunters, one of the Taymurian tribes is willing to respond by making peace.
  • Screw Destiny: Quite possible, according Alexandra (who, as Seeress, produces a lot of the prophecies that other people feel obliged to follow).
    Alexandra: For many, the prophecies we give are prisons like this for those who lack the will to choose.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Early in the game, a hermit went to his death because he thought his vision of death was inevitable; later, Lord Malfagon fights Alita to the death because she was prophesied to kill him. Alexandra (who, as the Seeress at the Oracle, presumably knows what she's talking about), says that prophecies like this are actually just self-fulfilling. In reference to the latter case:
    Alexandra: It is ironic... were he the kind of man who could have ignored the prophecy and gone on with his life, this fate would have been avoided.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Both exist. Alita has four basic statistics (Melee, Ranged, Magic, and Speed) which are rated with letter grades (B+, C-, etc.), but also as Attunements which grant specific bonuses (better chance of critical hits, more loot, etc.).
  • Spirit World: Alita (and other mages) can transition at will between the normal world and the Dreamworld, which is full of spirits and other weird things. Typically, mages can only stay there for a limited amount of time, although an optional Attunement exists which changes this. Many things (including most characters and enemies) exist only in one of the two worlds, and you can walk right past things by being in the wrong world to see them as such, the game advises players to check the Dreamworld from time to time. (You may, for example, stumble on werewolf spies lurking in Corwenth's war camp, invisible to all the soldiers.
  • Stripperific: Alita's outfit as seen in drawn artwork, such as in the intro, is basically half a miniskirt, a metal bra, and some straps. In-game, players can choose various starting outfits for their Inquisitor, all of which are on the revealing side (e.g. a minimalist Minidress of Power). However, you do fairly quickly find some actual armour to wear.
  • Swap Fighter: In the sequel Shadows: Awakening, Soul Eating demon named the Devourer can materialize their consumed souls as puppet bodies in gameplay, switching between them and their true form on-screen (which simultaneously switches between the Mortal Realm and the Shadowrealm).
  • Taking the Bullet: In the backstory, the Order of the Veil's attempt to assassinate its renegade member, Quova, was prevented when Kjellin Malfagon took the blow instead. It's generally agreed that Malfagon was a decent guy, but whether or not Quova deserved to be saved is definitely a contested matter.
  • Targeted Human Sacrifice: The sword Godslayer can be empowered by the blood of people descended from Arkor, its original wielder. Taryn Arkor, who was using the sword to keep himself alive, recharged via his fellow descendants, splitting them into sacrifice victims and breeders of future sacrifice victims (opting to use females for the former and males for the latter). The protagonist, Alita, grew up in a dungeon as one of the planned sacrifices, but Taryn Arkor was overthrown in a rebellion just before she was old enough.
  • The Theocracy: In the backstory, Taryn Arkor, despite being a descendant of the hero who killed God, established himself as the head of one before being rebelled against (and then backstabbed by his Chancellor). This made religion more enemies than ever, and the Inquisition, a militantly atheist faction which bans religion (and which the protagonist belongs to), has its origins in the resistance to the Theocrat.
  • Thieves' Guild: Thieves in the city of Kyallisar are generally under the rule of a thief master. The authorities don't go after the thief master as strongly as they could, partly because the thief master generally keeps the worst parts of the criminal underworld suppressed better than the authorities could. When Alita arrives, there's a civil war between two people who want the post, and she can be tasked with ensuring the triumph of one candidate (the authorities don't care which) to stabilise things again.
  • Tree Top Town: Kyallisar isn't a tree-top town at all, but it does share a few characteristics with them (such as a large number of rope bridges). This is because it's built on a series of small, disconnected, rocky outcrops, with big chasms separating them. The topography created by this is much the same as if it were elevated in trees.
  • Undead Laborers: When necromancy was legal, a lot of these were created and they're still around, even though no more are being created. Corralling idle zombie workers from abandoned mines and suchlike for resale is a valid way to earn a living.
  • Water Source Tampering: One of Alita's tasks is to go and stop some Taymurian shamans who are contaminating a river as part of their campaign against the army of Corwenth.
  • We Can Rule Together: At the end of the game, Alita acquires the sword of Arkor, but is not the one who can truly wield its power. Carissa can, and offers Alita one of these deals.
  • When Trees Attack: Tree-ish enemies can be fought in the forest. Unlike a lot of examples, these are more tree-stumps than full trees.
  • Wolf Man: The Taymurians. Some people treat them as animals, hunting them for their pelts; naturally, this makes them disinclined to cooperate with humans, but Alita can change their minds by taking out some hunters.

Alternative Title(s): Heretic Kingdoms The Inquisition