Disclaimer: There are spoilers ahead regarding The Evil Within and the Last of Us. Please stop reading this article if you don’t want several plot points spoiled.
Edit Note: I incorrectly indicated that Bethesda made the Last of Us, when I meant the Evil Within. My apologies, the article has been changed.
Last night, I finally ended up finishing The Evil Within, and it ignited my passion for gaming once again. In all the negativity and the chaos that is gaming lately, it’s nice for an actual game to get me to react so strongly to prove how much I love the media. Unfortunately, for the case of Bethesda (creators of the Evil Within), the passion that arose came in the form of rage at completing the game, and what The Evil Within failed to do in terms of the plot.
With such strong storytelling experiences in games now a days in such masterpieces as Spec Ops: The Line, Bastion, and Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, I’ve come to expect a lot out of stories in the present day landscape that is gaming media. Not only on main plot lines, but on significant side plots, as it can tell a lot about a characters back story, and get me to relate to the characters I’m playing with. Now, I don’t expect the game to tell me everything about the character or the world, as being able to fill in the pieces to who I imagine the character to be and what he has gone through is, in my mind, equally important. However, when introducing a significant narrative that obviously affects the characters motivations to his very core, I expect at least some kind of conclusion to that story arc. Even if it’s vague, and up to interpretation, it gives me at least something to latch on to, to take from my experience. And for the Evil Within, even though the main ending of the main plot line of the story would be confusing to some, it at least it gave me enough information to let me make my own conclusion about what truly happened in the halls of Beacon Hospital.
Sebastian attempts to find the truth of the Hospital, and his complicated past.
However, a significant subplot is introduced very early on in the game, regarding Sebastian Castellanos (the main protagonist) and the mystery revolving around his family. For those who haven’t played, you learn that Sebastian comes to love a fellow coworker in Myra Hanson, and they eventually get married, and have a daughter. Over time, you learn that a supposed accident happened regarding Sebastian’s home being burned down and killing his daughter, and over time you learn that the event may have not been an accident at all. In fact, Myra, while investigating the incident, leaves Sebastian a note indicating that she’s found information to support the fact that it wasn’t an accident. She goes missing however, which leads Detective Castellanos to become more brash in investigating the incident, to the point where he’s close to being thrown off the force.
Now, with all the details out of the way, this side story captivated me from the get go, and gave the detective and his actions a real motivation and reason behind it. And within the horror game setting where the player is unsure what’s reality and what’s illusion, it adds to the dark imagery of the world around the detective. Is the thought of his dead daughter and his missing wife adding to the horrors that he sees? Is the use of fire, one of the main tools that the protagonist has at his disposal, symbolic of the fire that cost his daughter’s life in some way? Despite my problems with some of the gameplay that I ran into during my play sessions of The Evil Within, I wanted to finish the game entirely to find out anything more about the fate of his family, or at least something that I could make my own theory with.
And as I watched the credits roll by after I beat the final boss, all I could think was that I was the boy on Christmas morning who got coal in his stocking. Heck, at least coal would have been useful, technically I got nothing.
Don’t Worry Joseph, I understand that the ending of this game is too much to bear.
You see, all the information I presented to you earlier is entirely where the story arc goes and ends. At the end of the game, you get no evidence of information regarding the fate of your family, and they are not even mentioned. The only possible hint you get is Kidman, the new rookie partner who was obviously there to see you through this portion, saying that you are a good person. That’s it. Whether that’s referring to you defending Leslie throughout the adventure, or that she knows more about your wifes disappearance then she lets on, that’s the only hint that you get.
And that led to anger for me. This is what I was waiting on, a payoff on the story arc regardless of how insignificant the item presented was. Something for me to hold on to. I was angry enough to leave the house, and walk around the street for 15 minutes. So I came back, convinced that I missed something. I looked around the net, wondering if I missed a clue on what had happened. I needed something to grasp on to, something that made the experience I went through worth while. I found nothing of the sort. But what I did find made me even angrier. Apparently, there was a season pass for the Evil Within that I was unaware of. The first DLC doesn’t look to bad, it’s playing as one of the enemies. It’s separated from the main story enough, may give more information on the world, so ok, I’m cool with that. But the second and third are referred to as story based DLC revolving around your rookie partner Kidman…..and this is where I explode in frustration.
DLC can work in terms of story based content, it truly can. But it has to either expand on a character and his back story that wasn’t significant enough to be part of the main story, or separated enough from the plot to be able to be cut out without confusing the player. There are great examples in this with the Last of Us: Left Behind DLC and Infamous: First Light. In particular, the Last of Us DLC gave us back story on where and how Ellie got infected, and what she was before she met Joel. It wasn’t necessary to the main plot, but it gave the audience more ways to connect to Ellie, who was a strong character that we wanted to get to know. I had no problem with shelling out the money for it: it was good gameplay, it gave me a story that I wanted to hear.
But reading about The Evil Within DLC plan sends a shiver down my spine. The sad thing is, that it’s not guaranteed that the DLC in question has any information about the fate of Myra and Sebastian. But implies it heavily, considering that the two were investigating the mysterious disappearances around the city, and that it’s revealed that Kidman was at least somewhat a part of the events that were behind it. And it infuriates me that in order for me to possibly experience it, I may have to pay additional money beyond my original purchase to do so. Sure, I can read it online, but the fact is that video games exist to be interactive with the story in question. Reading it just doesn’t have the same effect, and by listening to possible spoilers, it ruins the experience in it of itself.
The major problem I have is the fact that it’s very apparent to me that Bethesda did this on purpose. Very similar to the concept of sequel-baiting: leave an opening large enough for the audience to wonder about that they have to see the next one. But what feels especially dirty on this part, is that it doesn’t feel like a sequel: it feels like that if the game was a book, that pages were ripped out and given to the costumer, and you can have the rest of them if you pay for those individual pages. And I’m not talking filler pages, I’m talking main story pages.
There’s so much controversy when it comes to DLC to begin with: whether it was part of the original game to begin with, whether resources for the main portion of the game were moved to the DLC even though the main game wasn’t done, etc. And this one in particular leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as the sad thing is, I almost want to buy it.I know full well that I feel this was done on purpose, but I still want to know what happened. The story writers caught me on their fishing line, and the corporate bigwigs are attempting to reel me in. Practices such as what this could turn out to be is really dangerous for the industry: as consumer confidence isn’t exactly bursting from the scenes right now. The old saying of “you bite the hands that feeds…” seems appropriate here, and from what I see from my gaming friends is that one more good bite could drive them away.
Sorry Ruvik, the real horror here is the possibility of DLC like this becoming an industry standard.
In particular, despite Bethesda’s reasonable track record in terms of games over the last several years, this game in particular is going to make me pause when purchasing a product of theirs going forward. And over the handling of one side story arc, which to some may seem insignificant in the big picture. Maybe the DLC will be brillant, and that it will bring about whole new stories and items to relate to. But it’s a question of if I needed to purchase that DLC to begin with. When does a plot point that a story creates become significant enough to be resolved within the main story line. With all the horrors that the game threw at me, and the detailed imagery that I witnessed, the scariest thing that came out of the game is my fear of story based DLC. And if that horror is left unchecked and continues to grow, the industry may be creating a monster that will consume itself.