What constitutes a good character? Join me in this series as we try to find characters with character. This week is Eddie Riggs
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genres: Action, Adventure
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Warning: The following contains spoilers. You have been warned.
You know, I’ve noticed that throughout this run of articles, I have yet to delve into the backstory of someone who is not damaged, negative, or all around depressed. We have seen a share of morose individuals, possibly due to the fact that they breed characterization and growth rather easily. Slapping a tragic past to a backstory is easy, and how the story is told can depend on the reception a character has. But what about someone who, for all intents and purposes, has no real tragic past, or at least a past that is not important to their defining characteristics? What about the all-around good guys?
Well, look no further. If you would indulge me for picking from one of my favorite games, Brutal Legend’s protagonist Eddie Riggs fits that bill like a spiked gauntlet on a headbanger. Eddie is the type of character that, truth be told, is very straightforward, but in many ways just as deep as any sullen hero can be. At least, depending on how you look at him.
Eddie is a diehard metalhead and old school roadie for many metal bands in his day. The self-proclaimed “best roadie in the business,” Eddie is surprisingly humble regarding his profession. He sees himself as a peripheral character, someone who doesn’t want to take the spotlight away from the stars of the show. Eddie is content in this role, since it is his place to make sure everything runs smoothly for the band on center stage.
While working for a horrific metal band called “Kabbage Boy,” Eddie is suddenly killed when the stage collapses on top of him, but his blood powers his ornate belt buckle and transports him to the Age of Metal, the Brutal Legend world. With chrome spires and bladed rocks, the Age of Metal is in many ways a spectacle to behold for Eddie as he meets Ophelia, a young rocker chick who helps him escape the clutches of the demons known as the Tainted Coil.
Eddie is quickly put into the role of the organizer for a revolution against the Coil, once again becoming the background player that essentially delivers an army for the human resistance leader, Lars Halford. The first half of the game reflects this for the most part as Eddie essentially gets little credit for his adventures, but ever devoted to the cause, he keeps fighting on without such acknowledgement’s by the growing army. Eddie also acts as a sort of counselor for the army; giving them support and advice through his snarky comments to show even the lowliest of headbangers that they can accomplish anything.
Many of these traits fall in line with Eddie’s profession as a roadie, the organizer and cheerleader for resistance leader Lars, so when Lars receives much of the credit for building the army, Eddie is content with this. However, mid-way through the game Eddie does finally get close to Ophelia, who reveals her past history to the wayward roadie as the daughter of victims of the Sea of Black Tears. A powerful force that transforms those who touch the inky waters, Ophelia is ostracized by some in the army because of her past, with only Eddie and Lars protecting her. Eddie still shows affections for her, considering his own murky past with his parents, and the two start a relationship together.
Throughout this, Eddie is just trying to do the right thing the only way he knows how, hacking, slashing, shredding and driving his way to victory to help and protect his newfound friends. Even growing the powers of a demon, Eddie shows great loyalty and prefers to not be in the spotlight. This is the crux of Eddie’s character, his unflinching trust to those he cares for, so long as Lars, his sister Lita, and Ophelia are taken care of.
Sadly, this will come to an end when the resistance movement meets the leader of the Coil, Doviculous, who murders Lars and implies that someone is a traitor to the group known as Succoria. Ophelia, because of her past, is accused of this treachery. While Eddie tries to comfort her, only to repel her when she lets slip that she knows about Eddie’s parents and refuses to tell him about them “for his own good.”
This is Eddie’s lowest moment in Brutal Legend, one where he makes a decision to leave Ophelia behind. It is the only time he refuses to trust someone, and it clearly breaks his own heart to cut ties with Ophelia. Sadly, Ophelia takes the rejection to the extreme, and drowns herself in the Sea of Black Tears. Months later she returns with her own army, the Drowning Doom, to destroy Eddie for breaking her heart. Eddie is not deterred by this though. Recognizing that her transformation is his doing, Eddie hopes to free Ophelia from the Sea’s influence, setting things right and showing his devotion to her still.
All of this comes to a head in the final battle, where Eddie learns that his mother was the demon Succoria, the traitor that Doviculous alluded to previously. Most of this story is actually exposition found in the game world, which explained Eddie’s demonic powers and the history of the Age of Metal. Eddie was transported to the modern world by his father, a human hero named Riggnorock, for protection against the Coil so that he may one day return and lead humans from their oppression. Now faced with destiny, Eddie slays Doviculous and finally rescues Ophelia from the clutches of the Sea, showing his devotion and love for her in the process.
Truth be told, Eddie’s character is basically following a typical “chosen one” story arc, but the game humorously downplays the trope by having Eddie stay in the background until Lars is killed. Normally Eddie would be the star of the show, leading the troops in battle and taking all the credit for the resistance. While the gameplay supports this logic, Eddie only takes command when Lars is killed, and does so with a great sense of justice against Doviculous and the Coil, eventually ending the demon’s reign in the Age of Metal. After the fact though, Eddie allows Lars to take all the credit for their success, as seen by the eulogy his sister Lita gives for leading them all against the demons in the end.
Turning the tropes on its head in other ways, Eddie is also not a flawed character, at least in the tragic sense. Other than his one moment of weakness in turning away Ophelia, Eddie is usually brash, sarcastic, and cocksure of his own abilities. He is confident enough to be taken seriously, and wise enough to reign his own attitude in when the time for jokes are over. The only weakness he shows is when he wishes to uncover information about his parents, whom he never met, but he doesn’t actively search for information obsessively, so even then it is a minor flaw compared to some of the heavier drama seen in this series.
This does make Eddie somewhat shallow as a character, but still very deep in terms of characterization. His sense of justice and trust for those around him is nearly unflinching, only betrayed if they betray his own trust. This also makes him infallible regarding his half-demon side, which has Eddie reject the tenants of the Tainted Coil by using his powers for the humans. Even this half-breed legacy is unflinching for Eddie, another subversion of the clichés often associated with it. So in a way Eddie shirks his own characterization, much like he does in the main storyline. He stays in the background as much as possible, working behind the scenes to make others look better. The same effect can be said here in Brutal Legend, a game that boasts amazing and quirky characters from all fronts.
But this is really the point in the end. Eddie is obviously immune to the common story tropes that allow for great melodrama, but in its place is just a fun, uncomplicated character that feels at home in this quirky world. Brutal Legend is often lauded for its amazing design, and it shows how enamored Eddie is with the world the moment he wakes up in it. Eddie is not here because of epic destiny, although he grows into it as the game progresses, but he doesn’t forget where he came from either. He is essentially just along for the ride, enjoying himself and doing what he does best, caring for others while he diligently works behind the scenes.
But does that make him a worthy character with character? One of the hardest things to convey is an all around good guy, one who strives to do the right thing against insurmountable odds. Eddie Riggs fits the bill as that character, since he sheds any baggage that would often be associated with the thematic beats of the storyline present. It is not a complex characterization, no, but it is a simple, enjoyable one, like comfort food for the mind, and sometimes that is all you need to enjoy a good character.
Man, it was good to do something fun for a change. Anyway, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or email me at Robert@blisteredthumbs.net, or on twitter @LinksOcarina. See you next time.