Monday, February 13, 2012

Pathologic: The Ending, according to the Bachelor

If you haven't read the write-ups for Day 12 I suggest you go read them right now unless you've played the game through already. What we'd like to present to you right now is an overview of the endings.


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!"
After this, we're treated to an unsettling vision of the theatre, the three protagonists lying on stage like rag dolls with button eyes.



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.

(Others)
I'll let Kevin fill you in on the other ending--the one supplied by the Devotress. For now I have some thoughts.

Concerning Victory.
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
Is this the "right" ending? For the Bachelor, who calculates in cold math, whose empathy has been steadily burned away by the shit-storm that is human nature, this ending makes perfect sense.

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!

8 comments:

  1. That's very interesting re: the Bachelor's chosen ending not being the right one. The Haruspicus ending provides the Haruspicus with the victory screen, right? Or possibly it's just that if you've seen the scene in the theater you're given the victory no matter what.

    I still don't want to write about the "correct" endings versus the incorrect ones, but if you haven't seen it, here's the Devotress one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PZ5GBly6nk

    (Congrats on the Kill Screen article, by the way! They seem like a really neat publication, though I haven't bought any of their issues yet.)

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  2. I just recently finished a playthrough of the Bachelor scenario and have to say that my results are the opposite of what you've found. After making sure all of my adherents were (apparently) alive and well, I had enough leftover Powders and Panacea to save all of Burakh and Klara's adherents, and thus invited both of them to the council. I went into the Polyhedron and met the Authorities, and received a letter from the Creators to visit the Theater.

    I saved right before the final decision at the council meeting, and for me, the only decision that "acknowledged the player's victory" (seeing the three button-eyed characters on the stage, and walking out the door) was to destroy the town and save the polyhedron. Every other option played the exact same cinematics that you describe, but they just cut right to credits afterwards, no "acknowledging victory" postscript.

    This makes sense to me, considering each character is supposed to have their own solution to the epidemic, and I figured the creators were acknowledging the player's victory for successfully role-playing their character. Ie, they wouldn't acknowledge your victory for destroying the Polyhedron as the Bachelor, since that's the Haruspicus' solution. At least, that's what happened in my playthrough and how it made sense to me.

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  3. I think that's fascinating! It's a shame I don't have OnLive anymore to see it for myself. I wonder if there are any other variables aside from the adherents that change the endings.

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  4. "Let it all burn but Polyhedron should remain" - that's Nikolay Dybovsky's words.

    And
    1) Why Daniel should be competent and have the experience and the wisdom to defy the Plague? He isn't epidemiologist, he told that several times! (and he actually tried to run away from the town when the news broke, remember?)

    2) Why do you call Utopia 'Kain's private paradise'? A) Victor and George will die in a month after the end of the game (I don't remember exact dates but it was Maria who said this and Mistresses can't lie), and Maria herself will die shortly after they build the city on another side of the river. B) Utopia is a place where people would be able to defy boundaries of laws of nature, how does it promises that someone will gain happily ever after? The city will be the most appropriate place for talented people like Dankovsly and Stamatin brothers and daring projects like Polyhender and not a place for calm drowsy existence.

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  5. I would also like to point out that the Bachelor's ending is not "wrong" and that acknowledging the victory depends on some other parameters. just like Nick up there, I've received congratulations for choosing the character's ending (that is, saving the Polyhedron for the Bachelor etc).

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    1. I definitely get that. I'd go back and replay the last several days--in which I expended two of the valuable panaceas--to experience it for myself, but I no longer have the internet connection for OnLive. Thanks for the input, both of you.

      I am dissatisfied with the criteria for getting the "right" ending, however--that true victory is only proclaimed by saving EVERYONE's adherents. Because I believe that is antithetical to so much Pathologic hammers home throughout its narrative: that not everyone can be saved. The mechanic of getting the "true victory" in this manner seems superficial, "beneath" the game, even.

      I hope to someday revisit this. As it stands, again, thank you.

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    3. Michael, thanks for sharing that YouTube video of the "save the Polyhedron, destroy the town" ending. Perhaps there was some subtle difference in Duke's playthrough that led to the "victory" ending being excised. Or perhaps it was some quirk in the game code itself that caused the difference. There have been reports from some Pathologic players that the game gets a little buggy when it comes to the final moments.

      (For any other readers who are curious to see the ending that Michael posted initially, it is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wwU_kJIINc)

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