Saturday, February 12, 2011

What if Morpheus was the bad guy

If you plan on playing through Enslaved (which you should) and care about the ending being a surprise, do not read on.

Very little is explained in Enslaved. It is clear that there was some sort of cataclysm that wiped out most of humanity and that robots are in control, but the robots appear to have to no agenda beyond rounding up everyone who is left and slapping funny looking helmets on them. The game provides a guided tour of what New York would look like after several hundred years of neglect and it manages to do it without being depressing. Trip and Monkey have no concept of how many people there were at one point; upon discovering a large building Trip remarks, 'Hundreds of people must have lived here.' Monkey replies 'wrong, maybe thousands.' They have no concept of what the old world was, how filled to the brim with humanity every nook and cranny could be. All they know is running from machines that are hunting them, and they don't even know why they are being hunted in the first place.

At about the half way point, after Trip's village has been wiped out, the 'bad' guys get a name: Pyramid. That is still all that anyone knows about them, and even then no one knows if it is a person or a place. Cue stealing a giant mech and heading west. It is a real place, a shining pyramid in the dessert surrounded by angry, angry robots. Battles are had (I do not mean to slight the actual game part of Enslaved, it was good but unremarkable), one of the heroes dies in a rather stereotypical moment of self sacrifice, and Trip and Monkey find their way into the pyramid. The game is essentially over at this point. There is nothing left for the player to do besides watch the epilogue and then figure out if any of this made sense.

Inside the pyramid are thousands of humans, all with the same mind control helmets on. In the center is Pyramid himself, an incredibly old but spry little man who is constantly monitoring hundreds of screens, making adjustments with very quick, mechanical movements (he looks like a refugee from Silent Hill). The screens each show little snippets of the old world, prior to the machine take over. Sound familiar? Pyramid is running his own little Matrix here, with the kidnapped humans not being slaves but citizens in his fantastical world based on his own memories. There is a great deal of moral ambiguity here. In The Matrix the machines created the matrix to placate their human batteries. Pyramid was as much a victim of the apocalypse as anyone else, but he created his virtual world to shelter humans from the dangers of the real one, whether they wanted to be saved or not. The machines in this case are just left over from a conflict that destroyed both sides, still doing what they were programed to do hundreds of years ago.

Is Pyramid really evil? Surely kidnapping people is wrong, but does the end result of them living a happier existence justify it? Monkey is not a smart man, he hits things with a staff for a living, so it doesn't take much for Pyramid to convince him to try on a mask and see what he has been  missing. Just as he is about to lose himself Trip (who appears to have significant daddy issues) starts pulling the cords out of Pyramids back. Monkey's view of paradise fades and he is left with an old man thrashing about, leaking black fluid from his back and Trip standing over him wondering exactly what she had just done.

When Pyramid died his world died with him. Thousands of people wake up from the greatest dream they ever had to a world that could give a shit if they survive the night. Trip even asks 'Did I do the right things?' and Monkey doesn't answer.

And that's it. Fade to black, roll the credits. The person Monkey had been protecting for the entire game, whether he wanted to or not, turns out to be the real villain, and even she didn't know it. An excellent little game, it's a pity it didn't sell better.

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