A character ranking and reflecting take on Gnosia

So, just recently, I spent my time in Vertumna in I Was a Teenage Exocolonist. It got me fondly thinking about one of my other favourite narratively strong sci-fi adventures: Gnosia. It originally released on Nintendo Switch for English audiences, and came to PC players via Steam in March 2022.

I had wanted to expand upon my initial thoughts after its original release on the Nintendo Switch, but I could not help flip flopping on how to rank all of its delightful characters. That’s because a major gameplay aspect and narrative element of Gnosia is aligning yourself with the various characters to discover new and important information about your crewmates and the space they all find themselves trapped in. There’s a reason to be fond of every single one of these guys.

So I thought, what better way to talk about Gnosia yet again than a highly personal and probably hot-take ranking of each individual? For my personal ranking of the characters, their in-game stats are not coming into play here, since my preferences towards each individual are not determined by those. So remember, it’s all based on my opinion! No one is unlikable, and each have their own strengths, weaknesses and sense of charisma that will be more appealing to your own sensibilities. If anything, I’m quite biased when it comes to certain characters having exclusive love events, but who is surprised by that?

14. Jonas

Jonas from Gnosia

Jonas is the captain and pilot of the spaceship the game takes place on, and appears to have a good head on his shoulders — at least until his past becomes known. His time spent alone in the lonely and expansive space has left him a bit worse for wear mentally. But he’s pretty relatable, gaming until his very last breath and all.

The one and only reason Jonas ranks at the bottom for me is his mistreatment of Stella, his loyal and faithful caretaker. She’s not literally a caretaker, but does help and is very considerate of him considering his disposition — yet she gets little to nothing in return for such compassion. In one scene when she is killed off by Gnosia, he couldn’t care less. That’s not a great look, Jonas.

Furthermore, I find that Jonas was relied on more as a comedic character than fleshing him out into something more sympathetic, especially when compared to everyone else. It’s a shame since his origins hint to a much more interesting and likable guy, but what we are left with is a legitimate husk of a man.

13. Stella

Stella from Gnosia

Despite how much I defended Stella just above, she’s not nearly as memorable or interesting as the rest of the cast. Admittedly, even Jonas is more impressionable, but if there’s simply one thing I prefer her over him for, it’s her caring nature. She’s quick to pull the player to one side to collaborate with frequently out of sheer concern, and no, she is not always a Gnosia when she does this — but that is a clever Gnosia Stella tactic that can happen.

On the other hand, while she is morally sound, her Gnosia form suggests a much darker side to her — arguably the biggest character change among the crew. It’s always a shock to the system when she appears so innocent – but that’s probably to be expected with the quiet ones, right? Her Gnosia sprite change is especially notable for being the only one to get a visceral reaction out of me when it’s revealed. Not cool, Stella.

12. Yuriko

Yuriko from Gnosia

Yuriko is a tough one in all aspects of trying to accurately judge her. She is the biggest threat to the player character during the loops, no matter if she happens to be friend or foe. Her confidence exudes authority, being a calm and capable leader type. If she is Gnosia, she poses the greatest challenge to the player, since the other crewmates tend to believe her and side with her almost unanimously unless the player character is levelled up enough.

She comes across as antagonistic and calculating, but there’s two sides of the coin to her – she’s also bad at lying, having disdain for deceptive people herself. She makes for a great illusive, mysterious character, both in her dialogue and design, but despite just how much goes on with her character, I don’t find her all that memorable due to her obscure origins and true intentions. As a villainous character, she’s absolutely intimidating, but that’s as far as my compliments go for her.

11. Kukrushka

Kukrushka from Gnosia

Kukrushka ranks quite low for me for being either too quiet during debates — it makes her a difficult participant to suss out during all the discourse — or too much of a conniving player during the moments when she’s the enemy. Her innocent appearance and muteness does wonders for her managing to go 90% of your loops undetected and ignored, and it’s no surprise as to how she does it – she’s an absolute cutie who you would not want to doubt for a moment.

But that’s not all there is to her character, of course. While she’s an interesting character, simply being likable doesn’t necessarily make her deserving of a high rank here in the grand scheme of things. She is one of the game’s most intriguing aspects, though — particularly once the story picks up and the mysteries start to unfold.

10. SQ

SQ from Gnosia

SQ is a difficult one to discuss without spoiling anything so we’ll keep this one short and sweet. She’s the oddball of the cast, with a bright design and eccentric personality that will be quick to grab the attention of players. For better and for worse, you’ll sympathise with her once her true colours are revealed. Until then, look forward to her always leaving you confused and unsure about your feelings for her.

9. Chipie

Chipie from Gnosia

Almost everyone from now on ranks highly for me due to their most persistent characteristic: kindness. As one of if not the kindest characters in the game, Chipie is the only one to ever suggest that the Gnosia might actually have good intentions — thought-provoking, to be sure. This does a good job of indicating his more open and peaceful nature compared to his other fellow shipmates.

He also happened to save Comet from her rather inhospitable planet, and gave her a chance at a different, better life by doing so. This leads to one of my favourite “paired” endings in the game for its sheer wholesome factor.

8. Otome

Otome from Gnosia

Otome is coming in 8th place for a couple of obvious reasons on my personal likability scale – she’s part animal and she has a heart of gold. Otome feels guilty for accidently swallowing a goldfish, is in love with the doctor who performed surgery on her, and sacrifices herself when in the bug role.

She is an extremely empathetic being, feeling remorse and apologising in routes for what she has to do to survive, and coming from a talking animal, she is more human than the majority of its cast — who can, at times, appear to only be “mostly human2. She is almost everything to me, but just a few more characters outshine her in the end of this incredible journey.

7. Remnan

Remnan from Gnosia

When someone describes a character as “protect at all costs”, it’s the definition of Remnan, even more so than the innocent and sweet Otome. Remnan is the meek and shy character whose introverted nature is understandably backed up with his empathetic backstory and baggage. He lived on a planet that was only inhabited by AI, which makes his antisocial behaviour rather understandable. He has been incredibly, unimaginably traumatised, and he simply deserves better.

6. Shigemichi

Shigemichi from Gnosia

Shigemichi just misses out on my top 5 despite how much I love him. He is such a great friend to his crewmates, more so than any other character. He is so supportive of the others, seen often blindly sticking up for any one of them he has a bond with during loops, despite logic suggesting that he shouldn’t be doing so.

His stats are also awful, resulting in him getting voted out almost all the time in the first round unless certain other characters are just too vocal to take the spotlight off his idiocy — Setsu, Raqio and Comet tend to fulfil this role. Quite simply, the reason for most of the funny scenes in Gnosia happens is mostly due to Shigemichi. He is a highly entertaining character and a brilliant buddy to have.

5. Gina

Gina from Gnosia

If Comet did not exist, Gina would be my best girl of Gnosia, hands down. She wears her heart on her sleeve, is genuine with others, and puts everyone above her own well-being no matter the cost or situation. This is best exemplified by a certain scene playing out when she is Gnosia, in which she willingly sacrifices herself to protect the rest of the survivors on the spaceship. Evidentially enough, no amount of Gnosia can change a heart as pure and kind as hers.

4. Comet

Comet from Gnosia

Comet is a spunkyhappy-go-lucky lass, and this simple fact should help to explain why I love her character so much. She’s a genki type of character, and is easily one of the most enjoyable to spend time with on the ship. She manages to juggle dim-wittedness and a keen eye for detail in a delightful manner to make her insanely likable for her dorky, yet dependable self.

She is very perceptive, and her ability to judge character is one of the best in the cast. Depending on your status as human or Gnosia though, you might have to be careful, because she’s quick to suss out people and protect herself and those she cares about. You’ll usually be good to go when taking her guidance during debates — though be cautious in case she’s being a clever fox as a Gnosia. Her backstory is also one of the most interesting origin stories of the cast, with a very neat and horrifying ending deriving from her own actions.

3. Sha-Ming

Sha-Ming from Gnosia

This is the main reason why I mentioned this list being a hot take but what can I say other than I’m a simple woman? Sha-Ming genuinely does hide a heart of gold, often surprisingly unveiled as a Gnosia through the mention of his protectiveness of animals. This links to the way in which he converses with Otome, and to his past misfortunes with others — all this affects the way he talks and treats other people.

On one side his behaviour is absolutely cowardly, as he couldn’t care less about how others perceive him even as he grovels and begs for his life — an exclusive skill of his to avoid being put into Cold Sleep. But he is also willing to admit being a Gnosia once suspected, and chooses the most effective, pain-free way to kill the other crewmates. To add to this, in his love event, an exclusive small amount of dialogue really helps express Sha-Ming’s honest and upstanding virtues through how he is willing to sacrifice himself even as a Gnosia. I really like him, and his love event just seals the deal.

2. Raqio

Raqio from Gnosia

Raqio is one of the few crewmates to identity as non-binary, and plays an extremely important role in the game. And I love that for both reasons combined. They are a headstrong, opinionated and intelligent individual which does them no favours during debates since they are the most vocal of the entire crew that puts a pretty big target on their back.

But on the other hand, Raqio always acts for the greater good no matter how sharp their tongue may be. Additionally, they are such a refreshing depiction of a non-binary individual players can get to know and bond with within a Japanese game. Their amazing design and being more of a layered character also helps their memorability in the long run.

1. Setsu

Setsu from Gnosia

Could there have been anyone else to top the list? Not at all. Setsu is the most selfless individual in the game. They aim to save everyone on the crew, not just once, but who knows just how many times over the course of the events in the game.

They will stop at nothing to protect the MC, they do everything in their power to change the fate of the ship and those onboard it and they are, ultimately, the best character in the game.

Since we’re keeping things spoiler-free, we’ll leave it at that and say you should experience it for yourself first-hand. Let the game pleasantly surprise you — and maybe shed a few tears while you’re at it.

Reflecting on the themes and messages of Gnosia

We’re closing the list off with my favourite discussion of any game: its themes. Gnosia as a death game explores themes we have seen countless amounts of times within its sci-fi narrative. Most obvious is the way the primary villains explore the challenge of conformity: the intention of bringing humanity together in pursuit of “the greater good”.

To counter the challenge of conformity, there’s a persistent celebration of individualism in the game through its diverse and striking characters. Each shipmate is vastly different to the last, not just in personality, appearance, weaknesses and strengths, but also in beliefs, virtues, origins, sexuality, identity and all manner of other characteristics.

As such, Gnosia is as much of a celebration of life and everything a singular life can encompass as it is a critique of death. These well-established and deeply explored characters are clearly distinguishable as being good people even when they are a Gnosia. This is because for the majority of the time, they accept life and death as it is, and not how the villains do by focusing on mass cyberisation and forcing reincarnation. The villains’ inability to accept their own expiry date, instead believing in the supposed good of future technology for self-preservation is simply wrong.

For the good guys, all the characters are constantly evolving — quite literally in some cases, since Chipie is becoming a cat, Otome wants to become a human and Stella is not the only character who is not what she seems to be. Ultimately, the game makes a point of celebrating this diversity and staying true to your own individuality, no matter how you identify. It should be no surprise that a game set in the future embraces such sensibilities — indeed, the similarly space-bound I Was a Teenage Exocolonist also celebrates non-conformity and identity.

But it’s even bigger and better than that, as Gnosia embraces and encourages growth through hardships and through the endless loops that are its main gameplay mechanic. The game quite literally opens up with the quote “Ad Astra per Aspera” meaning “to the stars through difficulty”. Gnosia and life itself is a constant battle to overcome, and it is through our sheer perseverance that we continue to grow and face challenges head on to learn from our experiences.

Gnosia’s cast are fully aware of the extent of their existence. Everything has an end, but while we are here, every person should be celebrating. The fear of othering is the primary horror of all. It’s a sentiment we’ve seen time and again in body horror moves — and experiencing it interactively through a video game makes for a mesmerising narrative experience.

So if you haven’t played the game already, then what are you waiting for? It’s playable on both the Nintendo Switch and PC so take your pick!

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Lilia Hellal
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