I’ll fully admit it’s been a minute since I replayed CCH2, (and this is a Patreon exclusive but I don’t know how many folks on the thread are up to date on it, but I haven’t seen any CCH3 content either) so it’s possibly I’m missing or misremembering details that would color my thoughts differently, but I’ve always gotten the impression that the Savior vs Prestige allegiance measurement felt more notable than Savior vs Prestige vs Speck. Like … you’re at Speck. I’m pretty sure there are players who want to be able to get into Prestige or Savior but it can also feel like it’s a bit of a given that you like Speck?
If nothing else it’s the only school that really feels written entirely sympathetically. Prestige and Savior both feel like–setting aside that I adore Booksmart and will continue to do so in defiance of whatever various things she says and does or will say and will do–the text of CCH2 feels like it considers them on a pretty “jerk with a point” level at best, with it being up to player interpretation how much they might or might not have a point or how much they are or aren’t a jerk. Booksmart is controlling but wants to eliminate evil and pain in the world, so eh? MegaCat is a classic traditional hero but is … also super controlling and pretty militaristic, so also eh? (I mean, also everybody is secretive but so’s Tolly so I’m leaving that aside.) I mean I could sit here and rattle off points (Mendell is an ass, but so was Stunner in game 1 so it isn’t like “people who feel powerful can be jerks about it sometimes without necessarily being bad people” isn’t well established in the lore of the game; we can’t really know how honest the Smarts were but MegaCat didn’t even see the students so like, which is worse? I know what I think but that doesn’t make me correct) but it continues to mostly be a gut thing, whichever school the player thinks is more or less right. The MC feels very much at an arm’s length with all of the schools–the MC sees what the school has decided to show them, and nothing else.
Whereas in Speck, kind of all the “do I trust them” is just about Tolly in specific–and, here, I’m gonna put a pin in this and come back to it. But overall you get a way more sympathetic view of Speck. You know all of the students, you’re encouraged to bond and get close to at least a few of them. At one point the player is directly told “even the cast members you don’t know on an individual level have their own rich lives outside of what you’re made aware of,” in a humanizing scene you don’t get with characters who aren’t aligned with Speck.
Which is all a fairly long winded way of expressing that I feel like “Savior vs Prestige vs Speck” doesn’t really feel like a 3 way rivalry, either in scale or in characterization. Measuring the big schools up against Speck ends up with “who do you like better: your choices are two guys on bus yelling unsourced callout posts about each other or your mom,” or "who do you feel is better equipped to save the world from the most powerful and destructive forces that could possibly join forces: two guys who have budgets or, again, your mom, who’s a nice lady who it does seem like has more influence than you’ve been initially led to believe, but is still like, one lady working at a community college and I would like to repeat and emphasize that the other guys have budgets,"and the weighting feels so unequal as to stop me from really processing Speck as being an institution I should think about in the same terms as Savior or Prestige.
And coming back to the pin–whether or not you trust Speck is about whether or not you trust Tolly, so maybe instead of “Savior vs Prestige vs Speck” I should be thinking “Smarts vs MegaCat vs Tolly,” but that still feels pretty imbalanced. Tolly is still just a much more intimate and prominent character, so when I think about her and directions that she could go in it just feels a lot more open ended than with the Smarts or MegaCat. Revelations about Tolly are just by default going to have a much bigger impact on the MC–who knows her on a personal level, sees her regularly, and has their education and future tied up with her. If there’s a book 3 twist that Streetsmart is evil–alright, cool. We already know the MC isn’t on their level, so on some level it just matters less what they’re doing–but like, oh my gosh, book 3 reveal that Tolly is a robot alien sent from the future to murder all the birds and like, that’s gonna have some personal impact on my character. It has to, it can’t not. Like do my credits still count? Will they transfer when I inevitably find an alternate higher education than one led by the anti-bird-alien-bot? And I’m probably kind of sad about Tolly not being a person. If it turns out Booksmart isn’t a person I’ll also be sad but like, I didn’t really know her. We met like once. There’s just a level of personal investment with Speck and Tolly that’s unavoidable and that I don’t think Savior or Prestige will be able to (or care to) match by the time the “Speck vs Prestige vs Savior” match-up is going to start to have effects.