Waifu Wednesday: Ist

Dungeon Travelers 2 is one of the best dungeon-crawlers of all time — I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my favourite RPGs I’ve ever played.

A significant part of the reason for why I regard it so fondly is its large cast of memorable female characters, each of whom offer something unique both in mechanical terms and in how they contribute to the overall “party dynamic” with their characterisation.

It’s hard to pick a favourite from such a consistently loveable cast, but somewhere near the top of the list for me is Ist.

Ist is a maid robot, which ticks two awesome boxes all in one go. She serves the rather tomboyish and stubborn princess Eltricia, who acts as a good complement to what initially appears to be a somewhat stoic, naive and emotionless personality.

Ist is far from being a characterless robot, though, and gets some good development over the course of the whole game. In fact, as Dungeon Travelers 2 goes on, she demonstrates herself repeatedly to be in possession of a rather dry wit — whether this is an intentional aspect of her personality or just a side-effect of the way she naturally acts is up for debate, but it certainly makes her enjoyable to spend time with.

Ist’s very existence in Dungeon Travelers 2’s world is pretty interesting. Although we only really see the game world from the perspective of the caves and dungeons beneath it, we get a good sense of context from the narrative scenes that unfold between expeditions and the way the characters interact with one another. For the most part, the world is depicted as the usual sort of “JRPG fantasy” — strong Western fantasy influences, but with rather more in the way of cute girls than you’d typically find in your average Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

A fantasy world usually implies a technology level of a roughly “medieval” standard, perhaps with the addition of magic to make things a bit more convenient than they would have been in real medieval times. But the fact that Ist is a robot — and a distinctly convincing humanoid robot at that — suggests that the technological level of Dungeon Travelers 2’s world of Romulea is rather more advanced than we might initially assume. She does, however, serve a princess, suggesting that this level of technology is perhaps only available to the truly privileged or affluent, which would go some distance to explaining why protagonist Fried doesn’t just send an army of robots in to clear out the dungeons rather than his increasingly large harem.

Interacting with Ist over the course of the game suggests that robots are far more than simple automatons, too; they have become their own distinct “race” in the world in their own right, with their own societal conventions and norms that differ somewhat from those that humanity at large follows. For example, she has no shame about appearing naked, though her ears remain covered by her elaborate maid headband at all times since, according to her, revealing her ears would be “analogous to humans exposing their private parts”.

Dungeon Travelers 2 isn’t the first game to feature robots or automatons with their own cultural norms that contrast with humanity — in fact, it’s quite a common thing for Japanese media to explore. Comedy visual novel My Girlfriend is the Presidentfor example, features a spaceship that is able to turn into a humanoid girl, while classic Squaresoft RPGs such as the SaGa games and Chrono Trigger also feature robotic characters in their narratives. More recently, of course, we’ve also had Nier: Automata, too, which concerns the contrasting cultures of the androids and the “machines” — both of whom are artificial lifeforms, but each of whom have adapted to their situation in very different ways.

Mechanically speaking, Ist’s robotic nature is reflected through her efficiency. Her unique character skill gives her a significant bonus to her Maid skills, which are among some of the most useful in all of Dungeon Travelers 2 in that they don’t typically cost TP to use and can provide healing and TP recovery to the rest of the party. In other words, a Maid character is typically the backbone of an efficient Dungeon Travelers 2 party, and Ist is arguably the most efficient Maid there is.

Dungeon Travelers 2’s nature encourages you to think of all the different characters as more than just collections of stats, skills and mechanics, however, and Ist’s various events help to “humanise” her somewhat as she gets to know Fried and the rest of the party. She also continues to demonstrate her loyalty to Eltricia — not just as her servant, but as her friend, too.

Ist comes to understand feelings of camaraderie and friendship as she plays her role in the party, and gradually starts to loosen up a bit from the rather stiff, stoic nature she demonstrates when you first meet her. By the end of the game, she fits right in with the rest of the group, and it’s hard not to regard her with a fond sense of affection. She may not be human, but she’s most certainly an important and beloved part of the team — not just for Eltricia, but for Fried and all his other friends, too.

From a personal perspective, I’ve always been a fan of “humanoid robot” characters in the style of Ist. As someone with Asperger’s, the idea of being in a situation where you’re not quite sure what is the “correct” way to behave is eminently relatable, and the growth in confidence, assertiveness and general competence at handling a variety of social scenarios these characters typically exhibit across their complete character arc is always inspiring to see. Ist is no exception in this regard, exhibiting a considerable amount of development throughout her time with Fried and the gang in Dungeon Travelers 2’s narrative, further explored through the myriad optional “sub-events” triggered by all manner of different conditions during gameplay.

Ist is just one of many reasons that Dungeon Travelers 2 is such a delight to play, and those who particularly enjoy her company will be pleased to know that there’s a scene towards the end of the game where you get to essentially “pick your waifu” from the whole cast to get a unique intimate scene with them — Ist is an option, along with the rest of the playable cast. (The scene is also repeatable from the scene select menu, so those who like to play the field are also catered to!)

Even without the possibility of a bit of robot romance, however, Ist remains a charming addition to an already wonderful game, and she will forever have a place in my party — both for how incredibly useful she is as a character from a mechanical perspective — and, perhaps more importantly, for just how enjoyable it is to have her around.

More about Dungeon Travelers 2

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