.GREP played rear guard, .ZHAR moved in front, .SORT and .CAI stood next to each other in the middle. .GREP scanned the area behind him, tapping into his powers of multi-spectral vision. In the real world, .GREP had read flowery writers who would metaphorically say a character “cast” their vision around an area. Now, .GREP literally cast his vision behind him, the way he might throw a baseball or cast a fishing line. His sight zoomed at high speed through the walls of the tunnel’s curve and
long straight-away, down which he can see the movement of several life forms. They are indistinct in his enhanced vision, like trying to see forms through a shroud, but they are moving along the walls and ceilings, which is a bad sign. .ZHAR will have to confirm what they are
a moment later he gestured with his free hand and sent a thought to .ZHAR. There, multiple marks behind us, possibly hostile. What d’ya pick up? As he thought it, cringing at the feeling the telepathy left in his mind, like a bass vibration running through his brain, .GREP set down the briefcase and knelt in front of it, quickly clicking it open.
.ZHAR, search for patterns!
The translated thought hit .ZHAR as a simple command. Telepathy was not an exact science and relied as much on the receiver to be unbiased as it did the sender to be accurate. As he obeyed the order, scanning the tunnel around them, .ZHAR felt his Ghost flush a brighter purple for a moment before settling back to its usual dim glow. It was not irritation, but simply… contempt? The change was unavoidable—his Ghost control was not always on par with his physical self-control, although the signs were more confusing here in the Planes, anyway. .GREP would catch the flash, of that he was sure, but would think little of it. The man was observant—.ZHAR had to give him that much—but in an efficient sort of way. If the data wasn’t immediately relevant, he put it aside.
Expanding his mind out, .ZHAR searched for the hot embers of energy that usually signified other beings, as well as searching for the tiny boxed sparks that his mind associated with the presence of energy fields. It was routine by
sense life forms approaching from not far behind: based on their speed, they will be upon us in about a minute. Behind them, much further back down the tunnel, there is a much larger presence proceeding towards us. It will take longer to arrive
now, and came to him without much effort or focus.
The nature of the Ghost World was such that senses could sometimes become confused. The Ghost World seemed to have physical form. There was gravity: things could fall in the Ghost World. If they fell from high enough, they broke. There were sounds, and smells, and certain places that were warmer or colder than others. Yet none of these things were experienced in the way that we were in reality. A Ghost might recognize that she was cold without feeling discomfort or stand somewhere that she knew was dark and yet have no trouble seeing. She might even (if she had the power) decide to challenge gravity and walk up the side of one of the Ghost World’s many buildings. Even more disturbing, the bundles of energy that formed her feet into accurate representations of human heels and toes would make the sounds of footsteps as she walked up the building. It was like a broken video game, one where the rules were partial to change if you spoke to them in the right voice.
Sometimes even the simple perception of being in one place could become blurred and unfocused, like a memory someone is trying to recall. At those moments, entire journeys could seem to go by in an instant, though miles of “physical” land had been traveled. This phenomenon was called “Blitzing” and it was particularly prevalent in the winding tunnels of the //Undercross//, which was why so many Ghosts used it for quick traveling on the Planes. Spending too long in the Ghost World could drain a person to dangerous limits. If those limits were crossed, a Ghost would fade entirely, becoming part of that boundless energy, and the psyche of the user would return to the aether. It happened, oh yes. It happened more often than some Covens wished to admit. Sometimes a team of four or five Ghosts would go into the Planes and, if they stayed too long, only three or four would come back. Whatever a Ghost’s physical representation was on the Planes, it was an essential part of making it back to reality. If it dissipated, so did the person. Because of this, the //Undercross// was an essential tool for getting around fast.
The place resembled something out of 1950’s New Yorka sprawling grand central station made up of ancient architecture and filled with odd knick-knacks, such as the gigantic clock that seemed to change its time at random. It could best be described as the subway system for the Planes, though most Ghosts preferred not to stray into its vast tunnels and networks. There were no rifts in the //Undercross// to offer quick escape back to Midnight, and no one knew how far the tunnels extended.New York, Grand Central Station, subways… these things survived as pictures in dusty coffee-table tomes (.GREP’s mother had owned one when he was a child), informing a cultural memory that no one living had actually ever experienced. Or maybe a very few had, but that comes much later in the story.
Last bit for the night. First real dialog in the piece. This concludes the prelude and brings me into the manuscript proper. From here on out, I have a lot to drawn upon. Going to get started tomorrow. If I can keep up this pace, I should have the completed manuscript by summer. Regardless, I’m enjoying the hell out of this.
.GREP grunted as he pulled her into the highest room of the watchtower. It was little more than four arches which supported a roof and which had once held four massive stained-glass faces in each arch. Now only one remained, and it was covered with so much grime that whatever the image had been was indecipherable. An ornate chandelier hung from the roof, it’s lights blaring almost offensively against the gloom, throwing shadows everywhere.
“Me and the kid had a bet,” .GREP said, his features stretching to accommodate his dimpled smile. His blue eyes met her own teal ones in silent greeting.
The ‘kid’ in question, .SORT, walked into the light, towering over .GREP. “Which you lost,” he said earnestly. His own chiseled features betrayed none of .GREP’s amusement, though she sensed he wasn’t adverse to a game as long as there was a chance for him to claim victory.
.GREP shrugged at her. “I said you’d be here by the first rift.” He turned back to .SORT and pointed in mock accusation. “But you said she wouldn’t make it at all, so I was closer to right. You owe me a beer.”
.CAI’s eyes strayed to .GREP’s outstretched arm. They all had their scars, and .GREP’s extended up his right arm in a pall of warped flesh, disappearing into his tight muscle shirt. A Wraith had caught him on the Planes and ripped a chunk out of his Ghost. .CAI had been able to heal the wound, but never the scar.
.GREP looked back at her. “I like your new look,” he quipped, nodding at .CAI’s hair. “Trying to copy me?” Her hair that had been black on the street, black as .GREP’s was naturally, was now a gross mixture of green and gray where the color was draining out, and a glaring platinum blonde where it was already gone.
“Yeah,” .CAI said, her voice lathered in sarcasm. “Thought I’d try being ugly for a day, see how you do it.”
But .GREP was already turning away, touching his ear and radioing .ZHAR to tell him to get ready to jump. .CAI wondered how long they had. Twenty seconds? Thirty? How close had .GREP come to losing that bet? .SORT had stalked towards one of the arches and now stood with his hands in the pockets of his slacks, his open trench coat and shaggy brown hair blowing in the wind.
Barely a dozen seconds passed before she felt the rift wash over them. Stray pebbles and bits of granite on the dirty watchtower floor trembled and jittered, as stones sometimes do when a train passes by. She saw .GREP phase out. He walked through a shadow and then it was like he melded into it. She didn’t see .SORT go. The pull had always been strong for her and she went almost immediately after .GREP left. With a tug at her midriff, she phased into the Ghost World.
Yep. Still writing strong. It will be another 1000 words longer today by the time I’m done.
The stairs went up the watchtower in a stoic square pattern, hugging each wall like the stairwell of an hotel. CAI took the wide steps three at a time and was breathing heavily when she reached the third landing. Only seventeen more stories to go, she thought. The Watchtower was an anomaly in a city whose towers and skyscrapers were defined by black metal, blue super carbon, silver titanium, and shimmering glass. It was brown brick and gray mortar, but more than that, it was brick and mortar which dared to jut into the sky. Like an ancient Tower of Babel, it mocked the more modern structures. I can rise, too, it seemed to say, and I don’t need your fancy super carbon to stay up. The fact that it didn’t reach as high as the true skyscrapers didn’t take away from its solemn grandeur.
Antique lamps lined the staircase and some flickered with ghostly light, shining on the rotten bits of carpet that still clung to the concrete steps like hair on a rotting skull. Huge ragged holes in the walls served as windows onto the city scape, which came steadily into view the further .CAI climbed. Sometimes the effect was disconcerting. She would round a corner, feel a blast of cool air, and find herself staring out into nothing. The worst part was near the eighteenth story, where a whole wall had collapsed, leaving only the staircase framed by abyss on either side. To her right was a dark pit lit only by the pale lamps, giving her a dim view of the stairs spiraling away towards the ground. To her left was the inner city of Midnight; Purgatory, with its lights spread out like a blanket of stars that had fallen from the sky. It was early, yet. A little past midnight, those lights would later be joined by six actual stars, the only stars that still cared to shine over the city. No matter how much light the city polluted the night with, those stars would still be brightly visible. Far in the distance, the Uni-Crown stood like the finger of God, the tallest building in the city.
.CAI came upon this treacherous opening at a small sprint, and caught herself just in time to avoid running out into the open air. She fell to her knees on the last step before the opening. This hole hadn’t been here the last time. The Watchtower, like everything else in Midnight, was slowly falling apart.
After my Mass Effect journal, I wasn’t sure I’d be chronicling another video game playthrough again. Certainly it isn’t something I intend to do every time I pop in a video game. But I did get to thinking, there are some games I WISH I had hard record of my first experiences in. Earthbound comes to mind as one of those. I have faint memories of my first time through and some specific scenes I’ll never forget my reaction to (like finding smut and pulp fiction in the trashy house you can buy), but so much more has been lost. Yet it’s not as simple as playing the game again to get the same experience. It’s not like I don’t REMEMBER Earthbound. The first time is special, for some games.
Which brings me to Ni No Kuni. I’ve played about 4 hrs now, over three or four fairly short sessions. I was immediately struck by the game’s visual style, which is the cell shaded effect you see in games like Dragon Quest VIII or Wind Waker, but which carries all the charm of a Miyazaki film to give it a truly classic animated flavor. Joe Hisashi was even on board for this one, and his signature compositions lend a distinctly Ghibli film to everything. I somehow doubt that Miyazaki, who is getting well on in age, was involved in this project, but definitely the art style is influenced by his aesthetic. In terms of exact feel, it has that Victorian Ghibli feel, reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Sky, with a touch of Nausicaa and Mononoke here and there (but definitely leaning towards the former).
The story has been satisfying so far, with a surprisingly moving opening. There are going to be spoilers in this, so be prepared. Near the end of this post, they will come on strong. Each post I do, I’ll put the non-spoiler stuff up front and give ample warning, just in case you plan on playing the game.
And play it you should, if you are into RPGs. I mentioned Earthbound earlier, and maybe that’s because this game brings it to mind occasionally. It is a different feel from Earthbound, for sure, but certain things do bring it up, like the on screen enemies which lead to a battle screen when touched, and who can be surprised if you hit them from behind. The battle system is more reminiscent of a Tales game from that point on, though a little easier. It’s actually one of only two very small complaints I have so far: the game is a little too easy and also I wish that there was some Okami-style system built around the magic casting. The spells are runes and even are drawn with an ink-like effect that includes telling you HOW to draw them. So I was shocked to find out you just select them from a menu and the game casts them automatically. I won’t call it lame, because I’m having too much fun, but maybe a little disappointing. I hear there’s a DS iteration of the game (apparantly not the same story) and I have to believe they use the stylus to draw runes.
There’s also this incredible magic book which has just been beautifully designed and has been worked in as a non-essential yet important part of the game and story. It acts as a compendium of all the enemies you’ve faced, all the items you’ve found, and also little side stories to fill in the history of the world. The graphics make it come to life, sometimes literally, as when you view enemies and they morph from sketchy line art into the 3D model. It does feel like you’re reading a magic book at times like these and the effort is appreciated.
I also enjoy the main character and I LOVE Mr. Drippy, his bizarrely shaped fairy companion. Drippy is a far cry from Link’s Navi. He’s more like an Irish Brawler and I keep expecting him to start chugging whiskey and dropping f-bombs all over the place. The final effect is one of fairy tale bemusement. Playing as a kid has its advantages, too. There’s been so many goddamn Emo heroes in JRPGs in the last decade that I’d forgotten how fun it is to see the world through an innocent’s eyes. It also feels much more in character for a kid to take on simple tasks for villagers. I remember back in FFVII: Crisis Core, I always felt damn silly to run around a town helping people put up flyers or start a business. I was an elite soldier being used for… marketing and sales? Never felt right. Even in Mass Effect it felt silly to put saving the universe on hold to locate someone’s sister or hunt down a missing cargo. But in Ni No Kuni, when someone asks Oliver if he can help find their kids who are playing hide and go seek in the city, or help them plant a garden, it doesn’t feel wrong for him to say yes. That’s another way it feels like Earthbound to me: it was fun to play Ness because he was simply a nice kid. It’s easy to get behind that kind of character.
Now we’re going to hit some Spoilers.
Because despite the niceness of Oliver and the colorful nature of everyone, the game actually gets quite dark at times. Oliver’s mother dies within the first hour of gameplay and the scene is actually quite sad, probably because it’s so unexpected. This isn’t FFXIII, where the world is clearly grim from the start and the death of a mother feels like something that was probably going to happen anyway. No, this is a happy game, full of laughing children and bright colors. So when those children are dashed across the face with something like the death of a mother, it’s (as they would say in pokemon) super effective. I hope there’s more of this, because it’s a clever juxtaposition of styles which should serve to remind developers that it’s often more effective to be light handed with a heavy story. Ni No Kuni is surprisingly subtle, even when it’s throwing giant talking cats at you.
Not fun to think about the fact that all of this story was close to being forgotten. On a whim, I had long ago saved the files and buried them in some folders. Good thing, too, because where it was stored online, it has disappeared. I say good thing, because it’s really inspiring me to write way more than I did on the last story.
The city of Midnight is a sprawl. It sits upon the frozen earth as a black blemish, a gigantic circle enclosed on most sides by the Heavenly Peaks. At the center of the circle lies the Inner City, also called Purgatory. Here ingeniously designed skyscrapers twist metallic girders and glass faces into the sky; here cars built to fit some lost aesthetic drive the lengths of ever-decaying highways; here is constant noise and chatter as the majority of Midnight’s inhabitants work themselves to death, or entertain themselves into a placated acceptance of life. The noise, if you listen carefully from the right spot, is sometimes broken by the howl of one of the Tall Men.
The rest of Midnight can be defined as thus: the Peripheries, which are the outer ring closest to the frozen Heavenly Peaks and the icy wastes; MidCity, which is most everything else; and the abandoned zones, spotted dead zones throughout the city with no order or reason. It was in one of these dead zones, a one of the only ones inside Purgatory—rare for a dead zone to appear in the Inner City, and a continual source of anxiety to those who lived within view of it—that a certain traitor of the #STRIKERS had gone for a quick fix of the flesh and had instead ended up with his own knife embedded in his heart outside of a bar called Hobknobs which played live jazz music all night long, the louder the better.
This dead zone was special. It contained The Watchtower, and The Watchtower contained a rift that activated at exactly 11:59pm and 12:01pm every night, on either side of midnight.
.CAI pulled herself away from the building, flexing her red hands. Looking back, she saw a dark black stain streaking down where she’d been leaning, running down towards the body of the man she’d killed. The unnatural rain was washing out her dye. She reached up and undid the bun of hair, letting it fall across her shoulders. It would stain her coat, ruining it, but she didn’t care. She needed a new coat anyway. After tonight’s encounter, this one now had a tear along the side from where the traitor had rushed at her with a knife after
he had seen the scar above her right eye and maybe she had been too cocky in not covering it up with some kind of makeup because he had known then and had had time to draw the knife before she could react
he’d realized who she was and why she was there. That same knife was now buried in his sternum. She’d seen
a street walker. A young girl with black hair tied up in a cute bun. And after all, why not? Wasn’t that why he came here every week? The place was known for street walkers. It was just that they weren’t usually this young or this attractive. And this one was dressed almost demurely, with that buttoned up purple coat and the skirt that fell down to right below her knees. Long for a street walker, young for a street walker, cute for a street walker. She could be making much more money in the InnerCity than in an abandoned zone. But then he had felt something different tonight, that something good was going to come his way. He wasn’t usually picky, but he’d turned down the first three walkers he’d seen tonight. And this was his reward for his patience. He imagined that black hair loose and falling over his thighs while she serviced him, one of his hands wrapped through it, caressing the fine shape of her skull. He moved forward to taste those large sensuous lips, and his eye strayed to her one imperfection, a tear shaped discoloration above her right eye
the knife flash in his hand and had barely had time to turn the slashing wrist aside before she heard the sound of ripping and the knife had torn into her coat instead of skin.
that’s why I skipped over the first three. Ghost bitch planted the thought in my head, she ensorceled me. Bitch can’t weight more than a hundred pounds. I’ll slice her open and spill those Witch guts all over the pavement
.CAI shook her head to clear it. The man’s thoughts were rushing over her like cars passing by on a busy highway. She leaned close to the body, held a hand close to the slack mouth. Sure enough, she could feel a slight warm breath against her palm
how did she move so fast that should have cut her from hip to neck and how did she have a grip like that and oh god how was she pushing the knife back towards him, towards his own chest and then he was knocked off his feet, thrown against the side of the building, and the knife was pushing its way into his sternum and his muscles were relaxing and contracting and the ramen he’d had that afternoon was emptying itself into his pants and she was pulling away still alive
.CAI drove one palm hard into the handle of the knife, driving it sideways and deeper, piercing the man’s heart and ending the deluge of his thoughts in her mind.
So I abandoned everything I’d written so far and began a completely new version of “Two Sides of Midnight,” setting it in a science fiction world this time which I had come up with a couple years ago for an online game. thankfully held onto all my notes and reading them tonight was completely inspired. Here’s the opening:
Her shoulders pushed up against the cold stone of the building. Her head rested back upon its cushion of black hair. She could feel the small bob that she’d tied it into pressed against her neck like a finger poised to give her a massage. Water dripped into her eyes, blurring her vision so that she couldn’t see the rain; she felt where it splashed against her skin and began to eat into her make up. She imagined the layers of paint dropping off of her cheeks as white tear drops. Passing her tongue over her rain-soaked lips, she tasted gasoline and vinegar.
The fear was sinking in upon her and no amount of acid rain could burn it away. She tried to tone down her emotions, to merely be uncomfortable. She could feel the cold of the building through the thin, purple, coat that clung tightly to her back. She forced herself to keep her eyes open and to let the rain burn them. Though none of these bodily sensations were pleasant, they were all better than that sense of slipping out of her skin against her will, of not having a body.
An airwhale passed above her and for an instant she was illuminated by its blinding spotlight. Then the ship passed, leaving Inner Purgatory, heading to either MidCity or the Peripheries on some unknown errand. Her thoughts stayed with it, and for the passing of a moment she felt she might be able to drift away with it, a virtual stowaway. Then her ear vibrated with the hollow echoe of static. It was like having a glass pressed over her ear with a fly trapped inside of it. The buzz made her cringe but also finally brought her back to herself. She reached up her left hand and rubbed her earlobe between two slender fingers, adjusting the volume of the implanted chip.
“I thought we were on radio silence.” Her voice was a whisper lost in the clatter of the rain against the steel street.
Haven’t had time at all to devote to writing other than my market branding research and script editing. But the last couple of days the words were so piled up in my brain that I had to get some out on paper or risk overflowing. This is just some of those words, from the chapter “Summer in Spring.”
What an odd feeling! To know that the place you are is strange and yet to not be able to remember why. To have nothing to compare it to, and yet to feel that strangeness all around you at all times. This is the feeling that enveloped the girl during her time in the healer’s hall and which, even long after, hung about her like a sign that read “outsider.” Others seemed to sense it, too. Some were drawn to her. Many would avoid her. The man with the broken leg was one of the former. It was he that gave her the name Summer.
“That name is taken,” the doctor would later tell her.
“The season can share,” she replied.
The last two or three days of writing have all been about finishing Chapter 2. There wasn’t anything I really wanted to post, because I was jumping all over the place, tightening dialog and messing around with character moods. Also just having fun. But now that I’m done, here’s a short selection of excerpts:
“I hear whispers even at my level of the Order,” Timur said, frowning. “Tyrenis may have spoken for you and ensured your safety here, but there are many who question what place a beast creature could possibly have amongst the sages.”
And there was the heart of it, Jhyipp realized with a bitter twist in her heart. Tyrenis had passed on to her his grand mission to save the world, saddled her with a child who believed she was from Origin, and then had taken off for the borders with no indication of when, if ever, he would return. She was supposed to bring positive change to Illeadd in his absence, and yet she was seen as an outsider to these people. Her very appearance was a reminder that she was from another race, a race which was thought to be inferior. The sages hadn’t brought freedom to the beast creatures because of some illumination of the common person. It had gone against their code to enslave any intelligent being, and when they took power here, they enforced that rule on the citizenry. It had not been easily accepted, and even the sages themselves had wondered whether the fight was worth pursuing. For years, in fact, the debate had raged as to whether the beast creatures were even sentient. Jhyipp hadn’t been born in time to witness these debates, and yet some days she felt that they were still going on, inside the minds of all the sages who looked on her with either suspicion or, almost worse, pity. Only Tyrenis both trusted and respected her, and now he had left her here alone.
And so, dammit, she would have to improvise the best she could.
“Of course you are right,” Jhyipp said, sounding concerned, sounding defeated. “It would be disastrous for me to be seen as protecting a woman from Origin, regardless of whether I believe her story or not.”
“We have a saying of the desert,” the Doctor said slowly, as if thinking on each word. “You can feel the warmth of fire, but you should not try to hold it. This is fire you play with.”
“I hope so,” Jhyipp said, and looked towards the door to the Healer’s Hall. Behind that simple oak door was a bed on which a young girl sat, unaware that her fate was being decided by two strangers from a land as foreign to her as hers was to them.
“We need a fire now,” Jhyipp said. “I’m just afraid this will turn out to be another false light.”
That night, the healer Timur was involved in an unfortunate incident. Witnesses testified that the healer had gotten into an argument over a woman, with a well-known Mercenary, James Frizer, at a local tavern. According to testimony, the two exchanged “malicious words” before Timur snatched Frizer’s dagger and wounded him on the head. In the ensuing struggle, as stated in the coroner’s report, Timur was stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly.
Some arguments held that Frizer had simply walked into the tavern and murdered the healer, in cold blood. The jury, however, concluded that Frizer acted in self-defense, Jhyipp put her signature on the official decision, and within a month Frizer was pardoned and the case utterly forgotten.
“We must tell the council.”
Timur’s tremulous voice had lost its tremble and had gained a thin confidence, like the words had been stretched tighter across his vocal chords.
“Over a misheard word spoken by a confused child?”
Jhyipp tried to sound more sure of it than she was.
“None of us misheard the word, and she clearly meant what she said. She might not remember the details, but she is from Origin. It explains everything odd about her and her sudden appearance. And so the Council must know.”
“You cannot tell them. They will kill her straight out.”
“As well they should! A person from Origin, Jhyipp! A woman from Origin!”
They were standing outside the Healer’s Hall, speaking in conversational, if agitated, voices. Jhyipp had always found that, at times of disconcertment, there is a certain comfort to be had in casual tones. The Summer Doctor hadn’t said anything. He was staring past them, his eyes closed. He was listening, of that Jhyipp had no doubt, but whatever thoughts were forming in his head he was keeping hidden behind those eyelids.
“If she is from Origin, she could have knowledge that could benefit us,” Jhyipp said carefully.
“Nothing good can come from that dead city. Its machines shut down long ago. Winter has engulfed it and the way there has long been forgotten, thank the gods. That a girl of her age even survived speaks of some occult art and devious purpose. She didn’t come here by accident, I would warrant. Ou’katanas is right, she carries a curse into Illeadd.”
Ou’katanas had to be the name of the Summer Doctor. Jhyipp wished he would speak. She needed to know if he was an ally. She was walking dangerous ground, had been ever since the girl had uttered the name of what was known as the first city, the Origin city.
“We know Origin was connected to the breaking of the world,” Jhyipp said. “It is possible that the solution to fixing it could lie there.”
Timur was shaking his head before she even finished.
“We don’t know anything about Origin. Your mentor suspects, is what you mean. Those are Tyrenis’ words coming from you. I’ve read his papers and I have every respect for the man, but there is little fact to support his theories. This is real. This is dangerous. You know the saying, ‘where the people of Winter walk, the Tall Men follow?’”
“What did you say earlier? Superstitious claptrap.”
“The wisdom of old wives, perhaps, but the ruling of the Council holds. Anything from Winter is to be brought immediately to the Council to be safely disposed of. And that includes people. If you will not bring it forward, then I shall. At once. But it would look much better coming from you, and rather suspicious if it doesn’t. I hear whispers even at my level of the Order. Tyrenis may have spoken for you and ensured your safety here, but there are many who question what business a Beast Creature could possibly have amongst the Sages.”
Question with 1 note
todd360 asked: Just curious, what made you peg Control as renegade rather than Destroy? I thought it was a sly twist at the end that what you assumed through the game was suddenly turned on its head in the final moments. Ironically Control saves lives and offers guardianship (with paragon) rather than the dictatorship you get with renegade Control (thin line I know) and Destroy requires the sacrifice of a synthetic race you helped gain full sentience to kill another fully sentient machine race. Just wondering.
Hey, Todd! Thanks for reading. That’s an interesting question and a great perspective on the ending that I hadn’t considered. It gives me more hope that the endings can adhere to different playthroughs.
I will say that the game itself presents Destroy as more of a Paragon action and Control as more of a Renegade action. Why? Because Anderson is used as the mascot in favor of Destroy and The Illusive Man is used as the mascot in favor of Control. In the Extended Cut, they even feature, being shown taking each action as it is explained to you. The message here is pretty clear: Anderson, who has been the stalwart ally of Shepherd throughout three games and is a hero of the galaxy, favors Destroying the Reapers. And The Illusive Man, who has been an enemy of Shepherd for the entire third game and a very devious ally in ME2, favors Control. Because they set it up in this way, it is hard to think of Destroy as anything other than the “good guy” option, and Control as the “bad guy” option.
On a personal note, for my Shepherd, who was a full-out Paragon, destroying the Reapers felt like the SAFEST bet. My Shepherd had been lied to by pretty much everyone over the course of the series, from Udina to The Illusive Man, and now she was supposed to trust a Construct which essentially tells you it’s protecting the Reapers? She couldn’t buy that. She did what she came to do and what the game told her Anderson clearly would have wanted: she destroyed the Reapers.
Post with 1 note
I was prompted to start thinking about the ending of Mass Effect again, partially because I replayed the last segment in order to fix a trophy glitch and partially because I wrote my review, which you can view by clicking the picture below.
Watching the ending again I am still really affected by it. And I keep coming back to the same question: would various Shepherds find emotional closure in the various endings or was the game designed for a specific kind of Shepherd, and specific choices? That is to say, did the writers have certain choices in mind when they wrote the main themes of the game and tackled the endings?
After debate and a little bit of research, I decided I can’t answer this question fully, not without playing another time. I did watch a couple of the other endings. I have to admit, the synthesis ending feels the most off-key, because it’s not a theme that’s brought up at any other time in the game. But the Destroy ending clearly worked for my Shepherd and I can see the Control ending definitely making sense for a Renegade (although I know the ending speech changes if you’re a Paragon and do it).
Again, a full analysis can’t be done without multiple playthroughs. But based on the one playthrough I did make, I felt like certain choices really fit in with the game that the writers, ah, wanted you to play. I say that VERY tentatively. I can’t honestly say that the writers had one series of choices in mind over another. The writing in Mass Effect is clever and subtle, and definitely changes based on choice, as I pointed out in the final Quarian mission, which I saw both ways. This is opposed to games such as the Deus Ex series, where conversation choices and even missions outcomes really don’t affect how the character acts and are secondary to the story the developers want to tell.
At the same time, the writing in Mass Effect does still tell a story, rather than the Fallout model, which just throws you in an open world and pretty much says have at it. Yes, you may be able to create whatever kind of character you want in Fallout, but it ultimately has less value than any Commander Shepherd because no one in the game world cares. You really feel like you’re controlling an avatar in Fallout; just a connection between you and the game. But Shepherd comes alive and progresses through a story that the writers tried to imbue with some meaning and symbology. The question is, in crafting this, did they end up favoring certain choices over others?
These were the three biggest indicators I found of potential favoritism.
In any case, that I made these choices helped make the ending fit my character. A big part of it was because my story was so focused around Liara. Really, the whole point and purpose to my Shepherd was to create a world in which she could live together in peace with Liara and neither of them would have to run, or fight, any more. That’s why she had to choose to destroy the Reapers, even at the cost of EDI and the Geth. Shepherd had promised Liara she would end the war and return to her. And that’s why the ending affects me so much. There’s tragedy, but there’s also hope. All of the goodbyes that occurred prior to the last mission just spoke pages about the fact that this was going to be the last time Shepherd saw any of them, and then Liara’s last heartbreaking cries for Shepherd as she is pulled away by the force of Harbinger’s attack drove it home. And then… well, it kept getting driven home, from Anderson’s death to Shepherd seeing the blood covering her arm, and finally the look on her face as she plugged bullets into the Crucible. And then, after all that, a ray of hope: a single breath amidst the rubble.
So that’s that. That’s pretty much the final debate going on in my mind: will a second playthrough deliver a new experience as engaging as the first time? I won’t be able to answer it until I do a new playthrough. I may post my thoughts when I eventually do that, but I’m not planning on making another journal series for the next time I play. I may end up doing it, regardless, but for now, these are my final words on Mass Effect.
Now I’m off to do more multiplayer. It’s really fun.
Timur released the last strap and stepped back from the bed. The girl sat up, her long golden hair falling over her face. One pale hand brushed it aside and there was an unconscious grace in the movement that made Jhyipp feel unsettled. It was as if that movement contained a hint of some tragedy to come, that she couldn’t yet see. She hadn’t told the girl that the establishment she’d been found outside was a brothel. Logically, it all made sense. A beautiful girl with an exotic hair color found dazed outside of a disreputable place was no great mystery. The only question was whether the girl had tried to run away and been beaten by her pimp or whether some customer had taken more advantage of her than she had planned on. Yet this didn’t feel quite right to Jhyipp. The explanation wasn’t that simple, and she sensed this even if she couldn’t see it, the way she knew she had a nose underneath her wide set eyes. Besides, Tyrenis was not an idiot. He’d checked with patrons of the brothel (patrons, in case the brothel owner had reason to lie) and no girl meeting the description had ever worked there. The only blonde girl there was a summer child with deep ebony skin. And her normally light brown hair was dyed using the astringent bark of the Rickshaw tree, mixed with the pulpy pollens of the Poghlam flowers.
After having slept on it, some other random thoughts popped in my head. Nothing close yet to an analysis of the games or a breakdown of the characters/story, just more thoughts on story, design, and little things I wondered about.
An analysis is going to take some thinking and maybe another playthrough. I mean, Mass Effect is admittedly HUGE. The full series was about 90 hours for me, which is maybe not long compared to, say, a JRPG, but there’s so much world information packed into that time that on my first playthrough I feel like I only have the basics down. I can’t even explain, at least not well, how the Mass Effect Relays work, let alone relate the full history of all the various planets, races, and wars. I do have a pretty good handle on character back stories, but then I start thinking about all the options and possibilities I missed. Makes me want to spend all day on the ME wiki, just looking at all the character choices, but that would really spoil things for a future playthrough.
Speaking of which, I haven’t decided if I’m going to go for an insanity run or what. I almost feel like Insanity would just be less fun. ME2 was already pretty balls hard at times and ME3, while not difficult, just had some battles that dragged on. I was pretty efficient at taking out Brutes by the end, but Banshees are hard to hit and take so much punishing. And the little troops, like Marauders and Cannibals, just never stop coming.
I also haven’t decided exactly how I want to play it. I’m thinking of tackling a more roguish dick of a character, male, something like if Zaeed had been put in charge of saving the galaxy (heaven forbid). But I know me; I’m going to have trouble playing TOO much of a dick. Not so much for all the little side quests (it will be fun to make some different choices on those) but for things like killing the Rachni queen or letting the genophage continue unchecked or letting the Geth (or Quarians) die. Those are hard decisions to make, especially when you know that being sympathetic and inclusive turns out well in the end for everyone, with pretty much no consequence (the Genophage being a possible exception that we have yet to see the end of). I mean, the Genophage was headed in the right direction with this, what with not only the death of Mordin, and the threat of Krogan dominance, but also the promise from the Salarian councilor that he WOULD NOT HELP YOU if you cured the Genophage. I thought that made the choice really hard. Win the war? Save a species? But then that gets bullocksed when you save his life and he decides to help you anyway.
Side note, cause now I have to ask: if you don’t save the Rachni Queen, then does the enemy lose access to Ravagers? Because I hate fighting those things and it would be well worth it, from a gameplay standpoint, to kill the Queen if they don’t get to come around.
Anyways, if anyone wants to complain about choice in ME3, it’s areas like the Genophage where the finger should be pointed. I still have a lot of trouble with some of the design choices in all three games, and it’s different for each one, but ME3’s big hang up was that silly galactic readiness map, which really rewards one style of choice over another. I mean, the Paragon really has an easy time in ME3, being able to save Quarians AND the Geth, getting the support of Krogans AND the Salarians AND saving the Turians at the same time. While it really doesn’t have much effect on anything at all, I definitely would have been heart broken to see Liara die because of a lack of military strength, and I loved having Shepherd’s little hint of life at the end. That was exactly what I wanted to see.
So my question is, would this be as satisfying on a Renegade run? I mean, Mass Effect’s story (especially in 3) seems built around the contemplative, understanding, heroic leader. Would it play as well with a Renegade character who is brutal and self serving? I don’t know. Now, maybe I’m misunderstanding Renegade. Maybe the Renegade guy is just someone who gets shit done, no matter the cost, but I remember some choice options throughout the game which were pretty brutal. Especially in ME2, where you can basically side with the Illusive Man. How does that play out in ME3? It would have been interesting if you could have been more allied with the Illusive Man throughout the events of ME3, if you were a Renegade. Like if he were on the sidelines, offering you rewards and support for taking out the Krogans, etc. to replace the offers put out there by the Council and other races.
Basically, what I would look for in a Renegade campaign would be the ability to play a “humanity is going to make it alone” type of character and find the same success and emotional satisfaction that I did with the Paragon “let’s all be friends!” choices. That’s my next playthrough, and I will be impressed if they pull it off. It will never feel quite as awesome as this Shepherd did, though. I’ve said it before, but she was just perfect. Never has a choice-based game made me feel so in control or at least matched up so well with my aesthetic. Some of those ME writers and me would get along fine in a cafe hang out.
Which leads me to some random thoughts. I chose the shaved head for my Shepherd and I really haven’t seen a lot of Shepherds like that from browsing the internet. She seemed so perfect as a soldier, with her military buzz cut. Funny that I mostly see her with long hair and a rounder, less severe, face—like the “official” Jane Shepherd.
Another random thought: I never found Kasumi in ME3! No idea what happened to her. I found every other character from ME2, but not Kasumi. I did read this morning that she has a mission on the Citadel, but I must’ve completely missed it (probably because I hated going back to the Citadel constantly—that counts as true in all three games, by the way).
That makes me wonder something else about a Renegade playthrough. Does making some of those Renegade decisions cut down on content? Like, for instance, letting people die at the end of ME2. Already, to let people die, you’re essentially skipping a lot of loyalty missions (or doing them wrong, I suppose). Like, if you really want to play a dick, you would get Tali or Garrus killed. And that would cut out a huge chunk of ME3. Not missions, I know, but tons of little plot details and character developments. And couldn’t that lead to a far less satisfying ending, no matter how much of a jerk you are playing? And then, if you get someone like Zaeed killed, would you even get that little Citadel side mission in ME3? Or would you get it and he just wouldn’t be there?
Page 2 of 10