Heligoland (Endgame)

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Fluff

You sit out on the cold sand, gazing out across the North Sea. Great floating sheets of ice duck beneath the waves, and resurface. The sky to the north is pure white. The frozen world will follow you here.

Svajone, with a little sigh, sits down beside you, whipping her thick fur coat about her.

"I'm sorry," she says, eventually. "That you came this far for nothing."

You don't reply.

"Though," she continues, more slowly, and it's as if she's trying to justify it to herself now, "perhaps it's a calming thing. To know that humanity will endure. That the memories of our world - our civilisations, our history - will survive this. That there's hope...even if it's not necessarily hope for you."

"You really think it will work?" you ask, your gaze on your weathered boots, and you feel her eyes flick across to you. "You think you can just...fall asleep, slip away into the cold, and a moment later you'll open your eyes once again and there'll be laughter and electronic light and all of this horror will have faded away?"

"A thousand years," Svajone says, and she turns back towards the aching sea. "We think we can stay safely preserved for a thousand years. Which suddenly doesn't seem like nearly long enough. If we don't wake up...well, I suppose we don't wake up. But we will," she adds, quickly. "You have to have hope, don't you? Otherwise you'd just give up. And I know you wouldn't have trekked all this way from Norway if you didn't have hope."

A seagull settles on one of the bobbing floes. With a little difficulty, it manages to keep its balance.

"Haraldas wants you dead," Svajone says. "He keeps telling the others you can't leave - not now that you know our secret."

She turns her head back towards the white glint of Bifrost, half-buried in amongst the highest dunes.

"But you're safe," she continues, with a sigh. "We like you. We like that you walked all this way. They're all talking about you in there - they're all laughing about it. Hell, I wish you could come with us. I wish we had room for you, actually. The Chosen needs someone similar to you, you know."

The seagull dives.

You tap your grubby fingers against your knee.

Eleven. Eleven people have died for you to get here. The three gunmen on the road to Stockholm. That lunatic in the hills over the frozen fjord. That one stings.

Your revolver nestles, snug and familiar, in its holster inside your greatcoat.

"And here we are," you say aloud, "together at the end of the world."

Basic Information

Having found an end to the conflict of the third (central European) act, the player learns of the secret location of a laboratory, hidden away in the dusty cliffs of the Heligoland archipelago, where brilliant scientists are said to be working on a way to turn back the Ice Age (the victor of the conflict who imparts the information has been supplying them with various hard-to-find items for this purpose). Finally, the player reaches it.

But there is no solution. The idea of halting the Ice Age is a valuable lie used by the dozen or so scientists who dwell there to acquire the parts they need. Their intention is quite different.

Having theorised that the Ice Age is inevitable and that it will wipe out the vast majority of remaining life on the planet, these few men and women, holding between them knowledge of most of mankind's greatest technological, scientific and artistic achievements, have assembled a great vault and library, designed to be discovered by the next civilisation to arise after the earth begins to warm again. And, at the heart of this, they plan to freeze themselves, preserving themselves cryonically to be awakened in the future.

A crackpot theory, perhaps - but these highly intelligent people think there's a chance of survival. 'The Chosen Few', they call themselves - and, indeed, there seems to be a religious element to their belief that they, the worthiest of all mankind, will be suffered to live.

Faced with this despairing endgame, the player may:

1) Give up. Simply walk into the oblivion of the great North Sea - a final internal monologue in the dialogue box to lend this some finality.

2) Return home to live out as, essentially, an Eskimo.

3) Use a combination of their skill in a particular field and their conversational techniques to successfully bluff their way into The Chosen Few - this will mean replacing one of the existing members, leaving them to die.

4) Attempt to murder one of The Chosen Few covertly, using various skills, and take their place - if the player is discovered, they will be executed by the group.

5) Watch over the scientists, after the cryonic process, as a lonely guardian and protector until death.

6) Massacre the scientists - either in order to freeze themselves unimpeded or simply for nihilistic lulz or out of spite.

Aims/Reasons for alteration suggestions

In terms of the cryonic element, I'm aware that it could feel silly if not handled in a elegant manner and hinted at throughout the game (for instance, suggestions from a merchant that these mysterious scientists have made a large order of formaldehyde from them earlier on).

BUT the problem with the original suggestion of the endgame as just involving the seed vault is that too little is at stake. With the idea of the scientists freezing themselves, it involves the player more with that whole theme of survival that runs through the game and gives them an ending they're personally invested in. Otherwise the game's ending seems tangential, really. And handled correctly, with an almost spiritual feel to the idea of these few great minds lying down and going to sleep, embracing the cold instead of fighting it...it could be fantastic.

Location - zen's idea. It fits perfectly if we try to imagine a basically clockwise 'standard' playthrough across the game-map. Plus it's isolated, suitably desolate, and the player isn't likely to stumble across it by chance. There are also thematic ties - 'The Holy Land' and a very cool Charlemagne legend zen found that features twelve wise-men 'representatives' who are forced to choose between death, slavery or being set adrift. They were then joined by a mysterious thirteenth stranger who came in his boat, created a spring, taught them laws (with an axe) and then disappeared.

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