It has disappointed me how far behind Giant Bomb has gotten in following and keeping up with VR. I've thought for a long while about posting blogs to help people get more perspectives on the medium and where it stands. I hope to write more fully encompassing pieces to help explain what has changed in VR in the last four years, but this seemed like an acceptable start since I wanted to share this with SOMEONE.
Please forgive if the prose seems sporadic; I effectively immediately removed my headset and came out to write this to convey my thoughts as accurately as possible. Please enjoy.
I cannot say the ending of this game was profound in any special way, but VR has the ability to make any moment more personal. This was no exception. I’d like to share my personal experience as I perceived it in the moment.
The entire campaign has revolved around a totalitarian group called The Tower against a ghoulish and theatrical group that calls themselves The Reclaimed. I found this dynamic supremely rote, as both sides are intended to be distasteful to play into the typical “everyone is garbage or dead” sentiment of the franchise.
By the end of the game, a runaway from The Tower named May Benoit was betrayed by a subset of the people she was trying to protect until they made it out of the city and out of The Tower’s grasp. That subset were afraid to be on their own, so they ratted out May and her young artist daughter, Ambre. The young girl is revealed to have been killed in the crossfire from the one person bleeding to death in a shed when you stumble upon the aftermath. Before leaving her to presumably bleed to death, I tell her she is forgiven. She was already going to die, and leaving her miserable in guilt wasn’t going to achieve anything. As I step out of the shed, one of the corpses is up and moving again, having turned while I was distracted. I briefly consider leaving the walker to find the lone survivor, but decided against it and put the creature down. It was time to push through the warzone. The stars hung over the burning dumpsters and overturned vehicles as both sides marched on each other toward a church they both sought to take.
After multiple infuriating attempts to smartly work my way through the battle, I ultimately pushed my way through the combat with dumb brute force. Everything I’d worked for, a reserve of seemingly unlimited food, medicine and weapons, was waiting for me under that church.I heard zealous proclamations of each group’s supremacy, and eventually the sound of mauling and screaming. People were being eaten.
Eventually, I broke into the church. Everyone I found was dead, most holding someone in their lifeless arms with them. As I slowly surveyed the rooms, I heard church bells ring. At night, this was basically a dinner bell for walkers. Soon the streets would be overrun and everyone still on them would be devoured without discrimination or mercy.
Two people were shouting at each other after the first ring. I ran to the main hall, seeing a traumatized and enraged May Benoit holding the rope to the church bell, threatening to ring it again. Beside her is a slender National Guard soldier named Casey. Up until a minute ago, he’d been trapped in the Reserve everyone was after. We helped each other to free him and let me get inside.
He repeatedly pleaded with May, explaining that the three of us were safe inside, but everyone else would be slaughtered outside, and some of them were innocent in everything that was happening. May had had enough, though. She’d been betrayed by the Tower, and then by those also abandoned by the Tower that would do anything to win their approval back.
“Didn't you hear them out there? Needlessly slaughtering each other when they should be unified. They have always been stupid and cruel, even before the world went to shit. Their fucked up philosophies. Their petty treachery. Even the innocent. Their pathetic desperation. They all twisted my priorities. Blinded me to the truth. I should have been looking after me and mine. All along. I allowed THEM to take her away from ME! They are the reason my daughter is dead.”
At this point, I teared up. The sentiments were not subtle to comment on the current world we are in. I couldn’t stand beside her conclusions. But I could empathize and sympathize for WHY and HOW she got there.
Then what would clearly be the game’s final decision presented itself. Casey, shaking in fear from his previous trauma of being forced to take part in a mass execution, held his gun on May. She promised she would ring the bell again and kill everyone outside. Casey, not wanting to finally know he was a murderer, begged me to kill her. I tried to talk her down, but there was clearly no way to deter her in time.
Choices quickly dropped away. May wouldn’t give up on getting revenge for the death of her daughter on everyone outside the building. Casey wouldn’t let her. So, as I could see, I had three choices. Shoot May, shoot Casey, or do nothing and let things play out. I wouldn’t kill May, and Casey was equally innocent. I didn’t want May to ring the bell, but not enough to murder her.
There was one blast. There was one splatter of blood. May’s body fell limp to the ground.
Casey cursed me for putting him in the position to have to finally definitively kill another human being. But I wasn’t listening. I stared at May’s bloody corpse the entire time, kneeled beside her. In her I saw all of the bullshit reasons we’ve told ourselves to justify our worst impulses. Murder, greed, betrayal, blind faith and unquestioning loyalty. I couldn’t blame her for concluding it was best to burn it all down and let the earth continue on without us tainting its land.
Then I reached out my own hand to the bell’s rope. My fingers wrapped around it.
It was looking at that rope, entwined in my hand, that I realized I had one more option before me…