Much like yesterday, this post will contain spoilers for Castlevania: Order of the Ecclesia; again, I offer this as warning.
Albus is a roguish rantipole. At first he reminds me of a Balthier: dandy-ish clothing, a penchant for pistols, and lack of physical combat. Our first interaction with him proves him to be a rash individual with issues of insecurity; he will be the one to wield Dominus, not Shanoa.
That is, until you play it again, knowing what Albus understood about Dominus’s role in bringing back Dracula.
Suddenly he is set up, through his dialog and actions, as someone who is telling the truth the entire time. He is the one who can rebel against Barlowe’s lies and see through the deceit. Albus is suddenly transformed from a figure who is impetuous and selfish, seeking to prove his masculinity, to someone who is desperate and heroic.
Which is rather common.
The discussion has already and will continue to occur over how to take the latest Prince of Persia’s protagonist. As Abbott pointed out, we have this hero in spades: the misunderstood rebel or loner who has questionable intents but is drawn into heroic actions. In this respect, Albus is intriguingly constructed, not the least of which is that we have him as the villain for the majority of the game, not just some mercenary or hired gun who happens to tag along for a quick buck.
As I stated, he has a bit of the dandy about him. Rather than fight with any physical implements, his tools are magic and a pistol, which he can combine for attacks. His one physical attack is a flying kick engulfed in flames, an attack bolstered by magic and meant to keep the protagonist dodging. His masculinity is left somewhat questionable through most of the game, as he has neither a muscular physique nor is he direct in anything he does–at least by today’s standards.
In fact, neither Barlowe nor Albus display masculinity in anything but their control over Shanoa; no matter what path the player chooses, she chooses an ending based on one or the other male winning in his goals. By every other standard, Shanoa is the most masculine of the Order of Ecclesia. She is the one going out and engaging in action and until the end is the only one not ruled by her emotions in any regard. She is a Classicist’s ideal.
Albus, in return, is an abomination to Shanoa and the player for the first portion of the game. One cannot understand what he is trying to convey through his words because as Shanoa we have no past recollection ourselves, let alone of Albus. What is his character before this? Instead, he is someone who is trapping villagers and off doing research on Dominus. He is someone whom we simply cannot fathom, nor understand his true nature until we finish and look backward at what occurred.
Which provides an interesting parallel at which to approach the game. Considering the time period in which this game takes place, it occurs somewhere between the battle between the Age of Enlightenment and Romanticism, which leaves Albus in some interesting ground as to what type of male he is. The Order of Ecclesia in some respects seems to be taking the route of the Age of Enlightenment in how to deal with Dracula, by using Dominus (which is made up of Anger, Hatred, and Agony) as a tool in an empirical fashion. Albus then steps in with a rebellion similar to that of the Romantics–one has to appreciate these emotions and stand in awe of them.
Suddenly he becomes emotion. In fact, Albus is the impetus for expression through the entire game. After Dominus steals Shanoa’s emotional capacity and memories, it is only he who can save her from the Classicist ideals of eschewing emotionalism. In fact, Barlowe’s fascination with bringing back Dracula seems to be one built purely on the former, while Romanticism (which would eventually lead to the literature that popularized Dracula) would fight against this emotionless appeal to power.
It is the use of the three emotions of Dominus as a tool that hopes to bring about the rebirth of Dracula, seeking to rationally guide emotions into use. While the sacrifice of Barlowe finally releases Dracula, it then takes the sacrifice of Albus to defeat him. This is a time period in which scientific rationalization and industrialization would elevate the status of the human at the question of humanity, and Barlowe’s disregard is only tempered by the emotional aesthetic of Albus.
Albus becomes the Romantic hero: introspective, rejecting his Order’s edicts, being outcast and alienated, and facing isolation while later showing regret for what he has done and self-criticism which leads to his helping Shanoa. In such regards, his masculinity is fulfilled by another era and movement’s definition.
In regards to Shanoa and the player, he is the one who most pushes for an emotional aesthetic appreciation. Working through the game as Shanoa, the difficulty requires a rational mindset in learning the patterns, gaining the levels, learning the combinations of glyphs to use, and the ludic elements (of which the game is largely comprised–the plot comes in small snippets) work to remove the player from any sense of attachment in an emotional fashion. Albus serves then to not only be the Romantic hero in the plot, but over the game itself.