Hey, remember that whole Mass Effect 3 ending thing? Mercifully, I don't plan on giving it any further attention beyond that sentence. But it did – in its less oppressively obnoxious moments – give rise to a renewed discussion about videogame endings. The general consensus? It's the point where even the mightiest fall, tumbling from a perch of lofty regard to the turgid depths of disappointment. BioShock, Fallout 3, Knights of The Old Republic II – even the most beloved franchises have proven all-too-capable of heinous back-stabbery at the 11th hour.
And those are only the standouts. Plenty of other series have committed last-second crimes both large and small, so you could be forgiven for thinking we're in the midst of an epidemic fatal specifically to fond memories. Where, after all, is your satisfaction-fueled victory lap? Why, instead, is there an angry mob waiting at the finish line, pitchforks, torches, and voices raised in a howling thunder of angry regret? Why do games seem incapable of producing satisfying endings? That's the question many gamers have been asking themselves, and they've yet to uncover an answer.
Perhaps that's because they're asking the wrong question.
As any gamer with access to Xbox Live will tell you, Supergiant Games’ sleeper hit Bastion is worth both your time and your money. After winning the hearts of console gamers the world over as well as a boatload of awards, the title is available to Chrome browser users, thanks to the magic of Google’s Native Client, which allows developers to port x86 games natively into Chrome. As awesome as it is, we couldn’t help but make Bastion our Chrome Web App of the Week.
Its many detractors think it is regressive, but Google is pretty sure of Native Client (NaCl), a technology that allows Chrome to run native compiled code across different OSes, being “the ideal way of putting rich content and game engines in the browser.” To prove its point, Google hosted a special event at its Mountain View headquarters on December 8.
Note: This week's entry contains major Bastion spoilers. If you haven't played Bastion, I recommend that you skip to the third page. Also, while we're at it, warning: This week's entry is three pages long. I may have gotten a bit carried away. If you hate words, I recommend that you skip to the part where you buy Bastion.
Bastion is about moving forward. With every step you take, tiles of all shapes and sizes rise up to meet your footfalls. What lies ahead may be uncertain, but one way or another, you'll make it. Occasionally, you'll encounter former citizens of Caelondia – now frozen in ash, dead to the world in all but appearance. THOCK. The Kid's hammer reduces them to powder in an instant. The Kid presses on – without remorse, as though his old friends and neighbors were no more important than a random crate, shrub, or similarly minor impediment. Meanwhile, Rucks – the narrator – doesn't bat an eyelash, instead opting to list off a factoid or two about the deceased-turned-dust-clouds before dispassionately sweeping the whole incident under the rug. It's all in the past now, and the past only gets in the way.
What happened to you, The Apocalypse? You used to be so fresh and fun. You'd tear everything I knew and loved to pieces and rearrange it into some hideous tapestry of my greatest fears, and I'd be like “Oh, you. You're such a prankster.” Or you'd spew zombies into all kinds of zany places (The mall! The circus! Outer space!), and I'd beat them to death while screaming and crying. We had such good times. Now, though, it's old hat. Your abandoned landscapes – once ripe with the pungent odor of adventure – have grown gray and same-y. I used to mow down your menagerie of mutants, robots, and zombies with all the glee of a Hollywood director at a Beloved (And Infinitely Ruinable) Childhood Memories convention, but now each one is just another bump in the road.
We've grown apart, is what I'm saying. But that doesn't mean we can't have a horrifying, dystopic future together. A couple recent games have given me hope that this whole “fiery end to all normal life” thing isn't just a passing fad.
It all started with a recent oft-repeated quote from id Software's Tim Willits. Addressing the issue of precisely why fans won't mind RAGE's vehicle-heavy shift away from id's typical fare, he said, "I think that they will find that it's a refreshing change from anything we've done in the past, and honestly I think that people have modern combat fatigue." Which is certainly a valid point, Pay attention to comment threads involving his game, though, and you'll unearth a second ticking time bomb nearly as large as the first.