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Gaming Cliffhangers

February 18, 2013

We all love and hate those moments where the story suddenly comes to an end after a startling revelation, an untimely character death or an unanswered question. The same is true for gaming. Many developers use these cliffhanger moments to make you feel profoundly touched or shocked … or if you are a cynical thinker, they do it to drive up interest in a sequel that won’t be out for another two years. Either way, I brought together some of my favourite gaming cliffhanger ends just for you.

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction

After defeating Emperor Tachyon and saving the galaxy for the umpteenth time, you would expect Ratchet and Clank to be able to chill out and have a nice relaxing time. This is, however, interrupted by the Zoni, the temporal time-travelers that have been lending their hand to help Clank in this latest perilous adventure. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the mysterious entities appear and kidnap Clank in front of Ratchet’s eyes. Powerless to stop the Zoni, Ratchet must watch as his friend disappears. Two friends who have been through thick and thin, the inseparable duo, are ripped asunder.

It was an incredibly powerful ending. Watching Ratchet’s disbelief and complete shock as his robotic friend is stolen before his very eyes is heartbreaking. Anyone who has suddenly lost touch with a friend or had someone very important to you removed from your life can sympathize with Ratchet. Ratchet, a hero, a warrior, a computer game character assembled entirely out of pixels. For you to feel anything towards this character and feel his grief is an achievement, and that’s why the ending of Tools of Destruction sticks in my mind. It left you and Ratchet with so many questions: who were the Zoni? What were their real motives? More importantly, where did they take Clank?

Assassin’s Creed II

Assassin’s Creed II. The final mission: to exact revenge on the last person alive who conspired against and had your father and two brothers executed. He just so happens to be the Pope, and it just so happens that events twist to where you, Ezio and Rodrigo Borgia, the new Pope, end up having a fist fight in the middle of the Vatican. All the while, Rodrigo spouts lunacy that God is asleep under the Vatican. Ezio obviously dismisses this as utter nonsense. How wrong he could be? There are no gods down there, but instead there is a sentient projection of Minerva, a member of an ancient advanced civilization that predates humanity. She speaks in riddles about the death of her culture, a terrible cataclysm that befell her people.

This is perhaps one of the most intriguing, surprising and spell-binding turns in gaming. It leaves you wanting more information, craving more answers and to learn where and how Ezio and Desmond figure into her cryptic messages. The most startling memory of first experiencing this ending was where Minerva turns her gaze from Ezio to Desmond, calling out to him through time, using Ezio as the conduit between them. What kind of amazingly intelligent, clairvoyant and advanced culture did Minerva come from? Becoming so immersed in the fiction where you almost take obsessive interest in a made-up history makes you crave a thirst for knowledge and answers. Another reason why Assassin’s Creed II has one of the best cliffhanger endings ever.

Half Life 2: Episode 2

After the monumental victory against the Combine, you have little time to rest as Eli prepares Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance’s helicopter for the next step in Valve’s legendary FPS franchise. Ten seconds later, you find yourself trapped and helpless in a psychic field by the sickly grey larvae Combine Advisors. Eli pleads for his daughter, Alyx to look away as the Advisor plunges its feeding tube into the back of Eli Vance’s neck. It’s simply emotionally devastating to have no control to stop it and to watch as Alyx then cries over her father’s lifeless form after the Combine Advisors retreat.

The fade to black as Alyx whimpers for her father to stay and not leave her is gut-wrenching. There is a deep need and want from Half Life fans to see what will happen next. Instead, Valve sit on the story, knowing the hype this cliff-hanger is still generating. There is one question all Half Life fans are asking: “how much longer do we have to wait?” or perhaps it’s: “Did Gabe really eat the only copy of Half Life 3?”

Killzone 2

There is nothing more heroic than a final charge against an enemy too numerous and ruthless to count, right? The ISA’s final charge into the heartland of the Helghan capital may seem heroic, but really it was an act of complete desperation, a futile struggle. Left abandoned and stranded on the Helghan homeworld, with half of the ISA killed by a nuclear blast, Rico and Seth join the final charge of the ISA with no hope of escape.

Somehow, our valiant soldiers manage to fight their way to the palace of the Helghan dictator Visari, only for Rico’s rage to take over him and execute the war criminal, in effect completely disregarding the orders of his superior.

After the death of the enemy they were here to capture in an attempt to end the fighting, Seth wanders out of the palace, exhausted, and sits down only to see a Helghast armada of battleships fly overhead and move away into the distance. The enemy that was almost defeated seems to continue on stronger than ever. Seth sighs, not one to rush about and panic like his fellows. He simply acts like a desperate, defeated man, far from home, his best friend lost and with little chance of ever getting back alive. The enemy, seemingly unstoppable once again. You can almost see him deflate, a man completely defeated and exhausted by war, a war that has taken so much from him.

We can all attest to times we have felt like just sitting down and feeling sorry for ourselves in the face of a terrible situation.

All good stories – or rather, all good tales – are often filled with darkness and despair, but it’s how you overcome this darkness that makes a great story, and after that ending I couldn’t wait to see Seth and his ISA brethren fight against that darkness.

Dreamfall: The Longest JourneyWritten by Luna Ottosen

I’ve never actually met anyone beside myself who has played either Dreamfall: The Longest Journey or the game it was following, simply titled The Longest Journey. Which is a shame, because both are great, underestimated games that sadly never got enough publicity. But they’ll get some now in this article as, Dreamfall especially, ended in a major cliffhanger that has left fans of the series (well, me) hungry for answers that just haven’t come in years.

dreamfall-zoe-castillo-coma

Dreamfall came out on 1 March 2007 and as far as I’m concerned it was always Funcom’s idea to release a game to come after, but so far it hasn’t happened. Maybe people just aren’t into adventure games. At least not the kind that Dreamfall and The Longest Journey are. They are both very much point and click, much like Monkey Island. But I wish more than anything that this series gets a third addition.

The picture above is the end scene of Dreamfall. The main character, Zoë Castillo, has ended up in a coma after being subject to a mysterious device made by a mysterious company that can alter people’s dreams. Through the game Zoë has tried to get to the bottom of events that she has more or less been whirled into against her will. And we only briefly feel the edge of some of the many answers that are missing. Is the ruthless and inhumane company boss really Zoë’s long-lost mother? And why did she put Zoë in a coma? What happened to Zoë’s journalist ex-boyfriend who got her mixed up in things in the first place? What is this company up to? And how can Zoë be talking to us in the epilogue when she’s unconscious? Is she really trapped in a dream somewhere? All we know is that “bad things are happening.” And all I know is that this is one of the best games I have ever played, and I can’t wait to find out what happens – if we ever get the chance.

Image Links: spong.com, holeinthewallgames.blogspot.co.uk, yangus12.deviantart.com, Crumahara, The First Hour: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Otoberete permalink
    February 19, 2013 6:24 pm

    I remember Dreamfall! Those games were great, nothing else quite like them. Oh and a kickstarter for an episodic continuation called ‘Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey’ was just funded recently, so answers are coming :)

  2. February 19, 2013 9:23 pm

    A fellow Dreamfall player? I’ve been waiting for this moment since 2007. Are there others? Tell them it’s okay. Tell them they can emerge. We’ll protect them. They can be anonymous. And a kickstarter was funded?! Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Please excuse me, I must go and read up on everything.

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