Archivist Spotlight: Johedy Kladivo
I've seen enough footage of Forspoken to understand that it is a game that's trying very hard to be epic as well as appealing to the youths. Whether or not it accomplishes this goal is up to you, but I wasn't all that impressed with the game play or the writing and when a significant amount of the game is jumping from cut scene to cut scene you'd better have some good or mildly amusing storytelling to justify the intrusion.
The story of Forspoken is that of a young woman, Alfre "Frey" Holland, transported from modern day New York City to the nondescript medieval world of Athia where a corrupting darkness, tyrannical sorceresses called Tantas, and annoying NPCs hinder her ability to get home. Oh, and she has magic powers and a talking cuff that gives her snarky advice and what might generously be called guidance. I know the developer, Square Enix, pumped a lot of money into this game but...even for a presumably open world RPG there's a lot to be desired.
But I'm not here to talk about janky game mechanics or the protagonist's cringe dialog. I'm here to talk about the best character in the video game, the only NPC that matters, Johedy Kladivo, Archivist of Cipal.
Johedy (voiced by Keala Settle) is first introduced in the An Oath of Vengeance quest. Frey, overcome with guilt when a child she befriended died off screen at the hands of Tanta Sila, heads to the city of Cipal's archives to gain more information on the Tantas. Once Frey enters the archives, she's immediately greeted in the best way possible: Johedy tosses her a book, questions her "heroic" status, and gives us her backstory. She used to be a blacksmith and was rather close with Tanta Sila, making weapons for her, before the sorceress descended into madness. In the midst of darkness, death, and destruction, Johedy stepped up and took on the archival profession as a means of serving the needs of her people.
Fun fact: 'kladivo' is Czech for 'hammer'! Love a significantly named character!
From the moment we meet Johedy she's a firecracker of personality and the most intriguing NPC amongst the cast of characters. Hell, I find her more engaging than Frey not just because she's an archivist but because her backstory sounds way more interesting than Frey's isekaied Chosen One storyline. How does one go from a blacksmith to an archivist? No, like, specifically, how did that happen? Was there a previous archivist? Did they die suddenly and tragically? Did Johedy become the archivist to spite Tanta Sila because they had a lovers quarrel?
Am I writing fanfiction as I go? Yes. Yes, I am! You can't stop me! Look for my 30k, friends-to-lovers-to-enemies fic on Ao3.
I also love the look of Johedy, another example going against the average image of archivists in media. She's a short, fat, broad-shouldered Māori woman who could probably take you in an arm-wrestling contest while downing several tankards of ale and fighting off hired goons at the same time. She's perfect and I love her! Developers, please make a game all about Johedy solving archival problems with a blacksmith's mentality that's just for me!
And the one moment I will give the writers credit for is this exchange of dialogue:
Frey: Okay, so how do you go from a blacksmith to a librarian?
You can't see me, but I'm happily clapping at Johedy's forceful correction. The way it's delivered speaks to a woman who's had to tell people she's not a librarian many times over. I can relate.
Thankfully, Johedy is also smarter than the average protagonist and sets Frey up for success by giving her the floor plans to Tanta Sila's castle. She's not sold on Frey's ability to defeat Sila and stop the corruption, but she's not about to send her in without the right intel and tools to give her a fighting chance. Honestly, she might be one of the best video game portrayals of an archivist to date. At the very least, she's one of the best on this site!
Johedy shows up a few more times over the course of the game. You get to talk to her briefly after defeating Tanta Sila, and I think she has a sidequest you can complete to get upgrades or rewards. There's also another exchange in the archives when Frey is desperate to find a way back to New York following the death of another character who was poised to help her - as is the fate of many characters in these stories. Lastly, during the end game chapter, you can speak with Johedy and other survivors in the archives to gain resources before the last battle.
I can't necessarily recommend playing Forspoken, but I can recommend spending time with Johedy Kladivo!