LISA: The Painful is a deconstruction of Roleplaying Games and the concept of a hero in general. Starring Brad Armstrong, an ego-driven villain of a protagonist from start to end, LISA is an interesting game, perhaps sometimes too dark for its own good, perhaps sometimes too cruel for its own good. One of the things it does excellently, however, is its unique theme of companionship, which is to say how much it lacks companionship.
Brad Armstrong is a lonely man. He is joined by countless people of bizarre qualities, yet he never tries to learn anything about them, because he doesn't care. Since Brad refuses to bond with the party, the player learns hardly anything about the party, and just like that, the party is made up of sacrificial lambs.
To both Brad and the player, the party are nothing but tools. They matter only for their usefulness in battle. This puts the player in the shoes of Brad in many ways. Since they are only interacted with for recruitment and occasional post-battle lines, they are ranked only by battle and how proper they are as tools.
It's an interesting arrangement, as well. Did you know that the LISA wiki has recommendations on how to cheap out sacrifices so you only end up killing useless and unlikeable party members? You can rig the various sacrifices so you lose practically nothing of any use. The party becomes nothing but another item at your disposal. While the player may still form an attachment to party members, especially Terry Hintz, who levels up massively and turns out extremely powerful, you will bond to him because he grows powerful. Any emotional attachment you have to your party is purely superficial.
There is a sequence in which the player is forced to risk the life of their party members in Russian Roulette, and a sequence where the player must trade away either their arm or a party member. You can rig each of these situations to a point where Percy Monsoon and Fardy Hernandez, two mostly-useless party members who you receive before this, will die gruesome deaths, whereas party members you like remain safe. I can confirm that I myself risked Fardy before anyone else, and while he did not die, I would have risked Mad Dog before I'd even touch Terry, Olan, or Rage Ironhead, three useful party members who had leveled up very well throughout my play. Similarly, I arranged the situation of the sacrifice so I'd lose Percy Monsoon instead of an arm.
There is a possibility that the player will get through LISA without losing a party member, but it's a slim, selfless one. Without extensive walkthroughs and save scumming, you will likely lose at least one of your party members. Even if you manage to get through, an unpredictable event in the endgame means that without an incredible trick of prediction or save scumming, you will not get through LISA without killing your party members.
At numerous points, I could feel only frustration when my party members, characters who in other games would be my friends, died horribly. Frustration that these tools were lost. In part of its deconstruction of RPG tropes, LISA tears apart the party. You are just as monstrous as real monsters in this game, and despite being the protagonist, it is impossible to find yourself truly attached to these characters for their personalities.
Fardy is arguably the best example of this. Fardy's story is a tragic one. Held captive by the Men's Hair Club, Fardy Hernandez, despite being a helpless, innocent man, has been violated and abused his whole life. His story is horrifying, tragic, and completely glossed over. In fact, as stated, thanks to Fardy's low stats, he is an easy sacrifice to Russian Roulette. This man has suffered his whole life, and Brad, and the player, just plain won't learn anything about it.
Much like other indie favorites such as Papers Please, LISA puts you in the shoes of a bad person, and it forces you to slowly let the fabric of your morality slip away. Yes, you're doing this to pixelated constructs in a fake digital world, but LISA makes it a challenge, nay, a constant setback to be heroic. To be selfless earns you an achievement, yes, but it makes the entire game far harder. This fits with Brad's character. He's trying to do good, he really is, but he can't connect with these people, he's unfit to be a hero, and the player can't make him into one, no matter how hard they try.
The theme for this month was the Company you Keep, but you don't keep this company in LISA. That's because the story is told from Brad's perspective, and Brad only cares about Brad. The companions in LISA are brilliant, sometimes monstrous, sometimes good, sometimes awesome characters, but you'll never get to bond with them or know them, only see them as tools, because that's what they are to Brad. Ultimately, the only true company Brad Armstrong keeps in LISA is Brad himself, and the player finds themself trying to reach out, to find friendship and kindness in these companions... but the player won't because, much like Brad, they're just not heroic.
In saying nothing about your allies and friends, LISA says everything you need to know about Brad Armstrong and yourself.