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Page 2 of 7Hard to be a God is more an allegorical tale and introspective journey than anything else. If you search for the crux of the book you bump into the second problem, expressed by the conversation in chapter 8 between Don Rumata representing a (theoretical) diety and the enlightened Budach, a medical man Rumata was able to rescue. They discuss the society of Arkanar, and Rumata asks Budach what he would do if he theoretically could advise a god how to solve all of the people's problems. Budach proposes a number of solutions, but they are all flawed in some way. This short conversation serves to illustrate that when the Marxian model fails or is (too slow) there are no easy solutions to fix everything, even for the Gods.
But of course, it tells a story too. I won't get into it very far, in case you want to read the book (like with many Russian classics, there's a decent translation available online). It tells the story of Don Rumata, who is concerned about the recent developments in Arkanar. The kingdom was starting to develop the buds of an intellectual enlightenment of sorts, with their own Copernicus in Bagir Kissenski, their own Louis Pasteur in Tata to the alchemist Synda discovering the first law of thermodynamics mostly by accident.
Out of nowhere, the ruthless Don Reba became the minister of security (of the crown), becoming the de facto ruler over the somewhat useless King Pits VI. Don Reba is seemingly incompetent, many of his larger political machinations coming to naught. But beneath this veneer, he and his troops of Grey militia are methodically searching out and destroying all intellectuals, right down to people who can read and write period, having marked them as dangerous to the state. This suppression, frequently compared by the communist Rumata to Nazism (for instance by drawing comparisons the Night of the Long Knives), is effective, breeding a fearful populace and killing all intellectual progress.
Except for Rumata, the earth observers on Arkanar realise too late that this society is not stable, and some upheavals and revolutions later we reach the end of the book, when the story is told in retrospect as Rumata is back on earth (it's not clear how long after the book this is). According to popular Noon fan opinion, the Arkanar Massacre threw the kingdom back in its development by several aeons, which would also lead to the decline of the earth progressor school of thought as represented by the Institute of Experimental History.
One final note on setting: the kingdom Arkanar is in the midst of its feudal age at the end of the Arkanar Massacre, whereas other areas on the planet Arkanar are more developed. You start Hard to be a God as a trainee agent of the imperial intelligence organization, which places you square in the mainland empire of Estor. This means you're moving from a more advanced society into a more backwards one. What's more, there is some 22nd century earth technology on Arkanar. Hard to be a God features only a helicopter, a mini-camera and some wonderful curative drugs, but the game promises to feature more, with highly advanced weaponry taking the traditional role of magic.
Enough of the book, on to the demo, and on to a more lyrical storytelling style... Note that the following text is more of an outline than an accurate reproduction. None of the dialogue or combat events are described exactly as they happened. If you'd rather jump directly to my text about the game, click here.