That Was a Good Ending: AlternativA

I’m writing this blog about the game AlternativA, and it is meant for two particular audiences, those that have played the game, and are interested in reading some thoughts on the ending of the game, and those that will never play the game, and want to hear about an unconventional ending. For those that intend to play the game, play it first, then read. This is a commentary that contains spoilers for those that haven’t played the game. It should also prove interesting to those not interested in playing the game, or those that don’t play games at all.

I recently played the point and click adventure game AlternativA, and while I must admit that the game had it’s fair share of problems, it was a pretty good game. Basically the game was set some time in the future, where pretty much the whole world is controlled by three entities: The State, which is the local government, Endora, some kind of corporation that does pretty much everything, and Theolex, another corporation that pretty much does everything.
The chick, Andrea.

At the beginning of the game the main character, Richard, is on his way to his job as a construction worker in the industrial district of Prague, but the security robots that patrol the entrance take his work card from him and tell him that he is fired. In fact, pretty much everybody that worked there got fired, so after arguing with the robot for a bit he gives up and goes home. However, suspecting that something weird is going on he decides to investigate, and ends up joining something called The Resistance. Now I don’t know why The Resistance exists, or what they were resisting, because up until Richard got fired, everything seemed to be okay. But it does exist. Apparently they don’t like large corporations. Well, when Richard first tries to join it some complicated stuff happens, Richard gets accused of murder, the chick from the front cover of the box, that you see on the Steam page shows up, and it turns out some big conspiracy is going on. Other interesting people are met, the quality of the game sort of peters off, and the puzzles get really easy, and then comes the ending.

The ending was the best part in my opinion. It kind of sneaks up on you. I’d imagine, though, that many players might approach it and be like, “The game just ended? Right there?” In fact the same thought crossed my mind. I mean I figured it was about time for the game to end. I’d put in about 8 hours, which is a good length for an adventure game. Still, I kind of wondered if that was the actual ending of the game, so I did a quick search on Google to see if there were alternate endings. I mean the game is called ”Alternativ”A. So maybe… but I didn’t see anything I could have possibly done differently except play with the harder difficulty setting, which did not appeal to me since it seemed to have a limited number of saves, but apparently doing the harder difficulty setting doesn’t get you a different ending, so it didn’t matter. And honestly, I really hope there is no alternate ending, because I really liked the ending we got.

So here’s how it goes. Throughout the game, Richard discovers that the reason he lost his job was because Radium, a rare element, was discovered on his job site. In fact the whole construction operation that he worked on was really just a cover for a mining operation that was going on in secret. Richard’s quest then became discovering what the corporation, Endora, needed Radium for. Which lead to the final puzzle, where Richard breaks into Endora, and steals some documents concerning a scientist who was murdered and Radium. Well, it turns out that Endora basically wanted control of the whole world, but The State (recall that this was the local government) still had most of the power over the population, and so Endora need Radium because time travel technology had been invented, and it required a great deal of Radium to work, hence the mining operation, and Endora’s plan was then to go back in time and wipe out The State before it ever even seized power or existed, Terminator style.

So that’s all interesting and stuff, and what science fiction conspiracy theory story doesn’t have a plot like that? Pretty much they all do, just substitute the time travel for science fiction weapons, EMP devices, computer viruses, brainwashing, what have you. Someone’s always trying to take over the world, and the heroes always try to stop them…
It’s a grim world with a grim ending.

So, after getting the documents, Richard meets up with Andrea (the chick), and some other dude that was in The Resistance, shows them the documents, and so you think maybe the heroes are about to do what they are supposed to do, and ”try to stop” Endora, but instead, they just give up. They conclude that time travel is way beyond anything they can handle. They conclude that they are pretty much screwed and there isn’t a darn thing that they can do about it. One of the characters says, “They’re going to succeed! … This is a huge conspiracy that is eventually going to affect us all. The Resistance can’t get involved in this, we should start preparing for some big changes.” So there you have it, the conclusion of all the work that Richard had done to find out about the conspiracy was that they couldn’t “get involved”. After that conclusion was made, Richard just decides to disappear since he’s a wanted man, and Andrea goes with him, since, what the heck, the whole history of the world is going to change, might as well take a chance and just run away with some guy she met a few days ago. That was the end.

In reading some forums, I noted that a few optimistic players said that this was just setting the game up for a sequel, the characters don’t do anything because the resolution is meant to happen in the sequel. They might be right, but I argue against that. I mean based on what the characters said at the end of the game, they didn’t intend to do anything, they basically just concluded that it was too far beyond their reach that they couldn’t do anything, and I liked that. I mean really, some things are just too big for any one man, or any small group to handle. Look at most action movies, the hero would realistically be dead within five minutes. No bad guy is going to stand around talking to a hero about his master plot when he could just shoot him, and while this game did actually have moments like that, the ending at least said, “Nope, you can’t do it, you might as well give up.” And they did give up.

That’s what I liked most about the game. The characters just took a totally different stance. None of this, “I want revenge” sentiment. They did what most people would do, they disappeared into anonymity. I was very impressed that the creators of the game had done this. I mean the game isn’t American made, and I know that outside of America, people don’t necessarily have the same expectations as far as resolution of plot is concerned, and may not expect the traditional “happy” ending, but this was certainly the most tragic I’d seen. I mean the characters could have tried and failed, but instead they decided not to try at all. It was a bold ending, to say the least. Maybe there will be a sequel to this game with a happy ending, but that will kind of ruin it for me. I liked the give-up ending a lot. I want to see more stories like this. I think it makes a stronger ending. It gives you more to think about. It makes you wonder, what would you really do? Probably not give up, but these characters did.

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