So I got to the end, and I see why some people were pissed. What's the good of a great game that ends on an awful cliffhanger!? I haven't played the DLC yet, but for all intents and purposes, that's a Werewolf: The Apocalypse ending.
Obviously, a sequel is needed, and if it never transpires, that's rotten.
Why am I reminded of werewolf? WW is an apocalyptic universe based on the premise that the apocalypse is inevitable, and nothing Our Heroes do will change fate. So they have to find reasons for fighting and striving and protecting, even if sooner or later it's all going to come crashing down. A bit like how I feel about climate change at this point -- I think we may be approaching the point of no return, and I see absolutely no hope that enough of the world is going to change energy and consumption practices in time.
In Werewolf, most characters live life day to day by not thinking about the Apocalypse: it's too distant, too hard to wrap one's mind around, so let's get on with the day's tasks. Many others optimistically believe that maybe, just maybe, there will be a way around it. Inevitability is hard to believe in!
For about ten years, I played on a werewolf RPG which was text-based RPG, a MUSH. I had a character who went by the nickname Hope-star, tasked to "bring hope and healing to a place well-chosen." Eventually she underwent trials to become a Harbinger, basically a seeress. During the course of those ordeals, she had a vision of the Apocalypse that came with the certainty it WAS a true vision, and nothing could avert that future. It was a devastating secret to bear. How can one hope, or inspire others with hope, if you know that the world is going to end soon?
I spent a good eight or nine years roleplaying with that paradox, and came to a simple answer: everyone dies, but that doesn't make life not worth living. Journeys end, but we still take trips: it's the experience and not its termination that matters.
So the ending of XIII-2 gave me a strange sense of deja vu: haven't I been here before? It's not quite the same as Werewolf, because I don't believe for a moment that XIII-2's story really ends there, in the Apocalypse, with no hope of changing it. Lightning wouldn't have been pushing Serah forward with promises of hope if there was none. I'm convinced that Lightning will take the Goddess' place and set things aright, sooner or later. She's already in the chair.
But still, similar themes of hope, despair, journeys and endings. Very mythic, which is one thing I adored about X. Very archetypal.
I am still digesting. I should probably be annoyed at Squeenix for designing a game which begs a sequel, when I'm not sure they'll ever do the sequel. But I'm too interested in the game itself, in the world and timelines and myths. What Squeenix does as a company is separate in my mind from gameplay and gameverse. Both those things, I enjoyed very much.
I guess X stays my favorite, though, since even the tragic parts of the ending are "worth it": beloved characters are lost, but the world is saved.
ETA: after more hours of digesting, I think the problem is that so much of the game was built on a premise of hope -- we'll meet Lightning at the end, we'll rescue Fang and Vanille and Snow, we'll save the future --that it's not fair to disappoint those promises. In Werewolf, we always knew things would end badly.
Then again, I've only played the main ending. I know that there is a secret ending. I have enjoyed the game enough that I'm quite willing to do some more exploring to unlock what I've missed. (Although I hope they don't involve overmuch button-mashing; the pace of combat is sometimes hard on my arthritis.)
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