As the Bachelor, I found three "choices" presented to me at the end of the game. I didn't have enough panacea to cure everyone's adherents, so the Devotress couldn't give me her input. So what I had--what I have to analyze here--is not the complete picture, though Kevin and Rory have filled me in, more or less.
The three choices I had were:
1. Let the Settlement be destroyed. But [the] Polyhedron may not be touched. The surviv[ors] will [rest] there until we vaccinate them, and the epidemic will finally [. . .] come to the end.
2. It is enough to destroy [the] Polyhedron to stop spreading of the infection. There is no sense to destroy the whole town.
3. So, I declare my decision to you. I refuse the choice. I shall not decide about the destiny of this town and [. . .] show my arguments to you.
Here's a quick summation of the results of each decision:
Destroy the Polyhedron; Save the Settlement.
We see the model of the town with the water jug that functions as the Polyhedron being slowly wrenched free.
It falls and lies, useless, on the ground. Then a vision of the Settlement with bluish skies, healthy. The kids, the Haruspicus, the turning of the wagon wheel: it looks like everything has turned out well.
|"We aren't dying!"|
The game specifically notes that it "acknowledges the player's victory". We can walk around on stage, look at the dolls close up, before walking to the exit at stage left. Shimmering lights wait, suspended, in the void beyond the door, which slowly slips into the distance.
Destroy the Settlement; Save the Polyhedron.
The cutscene at the end shows the two Authorities--little kids--bashing the model of the town.
The artillery fires, the sun rises and Maria Kain stands looking very smug at the front of her entourage.
After a lovely view of the Polyhedron at dawn, silhouetted against the umber sky, the perspective shifts to the theater again, button-eyed dolls, the three protagonists arrayed at the back of the stage.
The game doesn't acknowledge the player's victory in this ending scenario. There's no text, no script. This ending is a defeat. The Kains won. The player let himself be manipulated, took the bait.
Again, floating lights, door, fade to black.
Refuse the choice.
The cutscene that plays exudes "bad ending vibes". The camera pans across the interior of a plague-ridden house, the light lingering on bloodstained bookshelves, the dirty floors, and so on.
Then we pull away to see the town bathed in red.
And eventually we see the corpses of the dead townsfolk.
The last shot is a fade-out on the Authorities' model of the town.
And then it's back to the town Theatre, on the stage with all the crumpled forms of the protagonists, buttons on their eyes. Door, fuzzy lights, fade to black.
Get this, though: at the end of this scenario, the game notes the player's victory.
I'll let Kevin fill you in on the other ending--the one supplied by the Devotress. For now I have some thoughts.
There's a lot of conjecture about what the endings mean, but it's pretty easy to see the trajectory of each character and how it lines up with their "ending"--the one they contribute to the final reckoning if you save all their adherents.
Artemiy Burakh, the Haruspicus, has grown from the steppe dirt and inherited his father's legacy as shaman and curate of the Settlement. His relationships with the town's children, the way the scenario is shaped, leads him to demonize the Polyhedron. His "ending", so to speak, is to destroy the Polyhedron so that the town can return to the status quo. While the cinematic paints the ending in a positive light, I can't help but be grieved, because it's just as it was before--no better, no worse. The ending is reflective of the traditions and perpetuity of life the Haruspicus seeks so desperately to protect: it's stayed the same.
There are so many unanswered questions I have about Klara, the Devotress, having not played her story myself. She's an enigma. She's a miracle, a curse: she's a cookie-cutter messiah, loved by some and hated by the rest. And apparently her ending functions as a sort of deus-ex-machina, allowing the town to both sustain its own life, do away with the plague, and keep the Polyhedron. Rory's playthrough on his blog will certainly explore this in-depth when he writes up Day 12. Like the Haruspicus' ending, Klara's ending fits with her character: enigmatic, paradoxical, out of the blue.
Daniel Dankovskiy, the Bachelor, is an outsider, a scientist: a reserved and judgmental young man who thinks he knows best. It quickly becomes evident that he has neither the experience nor the wisdom to defend the town against the plague, so the Inquisitor, and later the General, are brought in to mop up his mess. He views the Sand Plague as an enemy: winning is the goal here, rather than curing the disease.
The suggestion the Bachelor brings to the final decision in the other games is to preserve the Polyhedron. This decision leads to the Kains building their "utopia". However, this choice doesn't acknowledge the player's victory. It's not the right decision to make; in fact, I believe it's the only patently wrong choice the player can make at the end of the game. I don't say this out of opinion: every ending except the Kains' Victory has an explicit statement of the player's victory.
If you've read through my playthrough as the Bachelor, you should see how my thinking, both as character and player, shifted over the course of the game. I began bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so happy to save the town, save the world, and somehow, around midway through, I decided I hated the town. They were not worth saving. The crime, the politics, the horror of basic human nature. The problem was not the plague: it was the humans who were scarring the earth, doing violence by their very existence. I resolved that, on the final day, I would destroy the town when the decision was presented to me. The Polyhedron was a happy little coincidence--an inhuman marvel--that I wanted to save, and in the end, it was only a tool that would be misused.
The true enemy in this was never the Plague. The Bachelor realized it. His character introduction at the start of the game reads, "This is the story of a man who performed a miracle and defeated an opponent when victory seemed impossible." Could the conniving, clamoring people of the Settlement be this opponent?
Nukes and artillery aren't enough to kill the enemy, though. Men can escape shells. They can hide, reproduce, and rebuild. But the Sand Plague is a natural mechanism that, perhaps, was never evil to begin with. How does the Bachelor achieve the victory he has worked so hard to obtain? He walks away and allows the human parasite to devour itself. He lets the fever burn out.
|Mother Nature: 7,776 - Humanity: 0|
Edit [1-27-2013]: We've been hearing from other players who have differing reports about the way the Bachelor's scenario ends. If you are interested in reading about them, a few of our readers have kindly posted their own experiences in the comments below (and elsewhere on this site). Feel free to join the conversation, fellow players!