Part 8: Short Essay for Level 8
I find it interesting that the whole plot hinges on these two levels, and that they are in the middle of the game. Level Eight out of Fourteen represents a major turning point in the character arc of Konoko and the plot of the game, and it's a complete and utter hatchet job that shouldn't have made it out of editing, but the game's general incompleteness strikes again.
So I'm going to avoid talking about that for now and talk about the level and its design in of itself.
I accept, but am annoyed with the loss of the items from the previous level. I know it's an engine limitation, but having the Bow from the start would be amazing, and great, and probably horribly broken too.
The large rooms are quite generous in their options to allow for combat, and once you get past the ... explosion, the damage to the room there was just an excuse for bad platforming. Platforming which I hate, and won't even bother to do it to show off for you all because fuck the platforming in this game. Instead, what we get is a missed opportunity for some Environmental Storytelling.
In the game we got, the effects of the explosion are summarized in two consoles and one broken room. In a game with a better environmental engine, or even using the same scripting that we'll see in a couple levels for changing things around, we could have had a series of setpieces where Konoko would have to fight her way around and through a damaged facility, with fire and sparks and robots trying to do their jobs, but the Syndicate remainders are fighting them, preventing them from doing their jobs.
In a game that had more development, I'm sure something would have come of this.
The section that I had troubles with was the result of me going in with very little health, a problem that I can trace back to my bad timing in the damaged room. Just a little bit of damage here and there can add up over time, leaving you with so little to work with that you're forced to try, try, and try again until you managed to cheese your way through or you go back to a previous checkpoint and go over the whole previous section, this time hoping for a better outcome.
Guess which one I went with?
But there's no way around it, is there? One 100 second cutscene - not the longest one in the game by far - and the whole plot gets turned upside down and thrown out the window. I can see what the writers were trying to do here, and, well, someone dropped the ball. Hard.
After Level 12, I'm going to have to sit down and actually tell you all how the timeline of the game works out, and how Shinatama's little plot-bomb doesn't add up. That there is no way that this should be a surprise to Konoko. Let alone what she's told in that future Level. And no, there is no reason for either person delivering exposition to lie, so something has to be wrong in the writing.
Anyway... Look, Griffin, last time I called Muro a cartoon villain for his sheer idiocy and evilness. Even one of my readers, Loxbourne, argued that there was no reason to write that scene last level except that Muro is pretty much explicitly torturing a child and that the only way that got into the game was because someone wanted to write it, and it was made.
You took one look at that, handed Doctor Kerr your coffee, and said "No, This is how you twist the knife."
I keep trying to figure out his logic here, trying to deduce the chain of events, of cause and effect that would lead Griffin to try and kill Konoko. So, let's go down the reasons, excuses and why things don't work out.
1. Griffin was ordering Konoko's death because she was now a loose end.
A: NO. Griffin doesn't declare Konoko a rogue agent until long after the bomb goes off, and she's already beaten up and possibly killed other TCTF agents.
Actually, step back there. Why are the TCTF treating Konoko as hostile? We see when Griffin makes the call that she's gone off the reservation, and is no longer TCTF, but she's attacked before that. And it can't be a case of mistaken identity, as she's clearly in TCTF armor. Now, if she had attacked first in blind rage over Shinatama's death, I could see it, but the way the encounter plays out, there's plenty of time for a Trooper to go "Wait, what? Why are you here, Agent?"
But they don't. They're hostile from the start, and there's no attempt to settle the confusion on the part of the TCTF before the fateful call.
Where was I? Yeah. Konoko, at that point, isn't a loose end. There's no way to tell what, if anything, Shinatama is telling Konoko, and there's no reason to assume that the SLD is going to betray the TCTF's confidence like this.
If anything, Griffin still has a path forward to thread the metaphorical needle and get Konoko and Shinatama back in one piece. We know he's receiving telemetry from the SLD (HOW!?!?!) and can send signals to her. So why not try to get a message through to Konoko? Tell her to hold position and protect Shinatama. Wait for the TCTF Strike Force to arrive, and extract with them. Tell her not to risk hurting Shinatama any more by moving her by herself, and given her established moral priorities, telling her to protect Shinatama would be an order she would follow gladly.
Then once she's back in TCTF custody, then go for the throat.
But Griffin is making a bad decision in the spur of the moment. He's going to live to regret it.
2. Her Latency is off the Charts, and she needs to die.
A: OK, so this is going to require me talking spoilers, so here goes;
As revealed in level 13, Shinatama was lying through her teeth about the progression of Konoko's symbiote the whole time. It's only in this level that Griffin finally learns how far along she is, and he's making a gut reaction to a criminal act that he was told to take responsibility for by his superiors. It's out of his control, and this Monster needs to die.
Except... not? Look, killing Konoko isn't going to solve that problem. And if the Latency isn't what you expect, do you really expect to learn what happened from a corpse that was at ground zero of an explosion like that? One that from Level 2 should take out a whole building, if not a city block?
This ties back into 1, where there is still a way for Griffin to potentially get Konoko to willingly come back to the fold, for her to not realize what's going on, or rather, have her suspicions, but put her into a position where you can either still control the information getting to her, or be better prepared should she turn hostile. Or both.
3. Why kill Konoko and not Muro?
A: Actually, I think this one is reasonable. Until Konoko got close enough with her neural link, Griffin wasn't able to get a good reading on Shinatama's state, or Konoko herself. The Processor may be interfering with the signals (something that should have been established) and Konoko was basically acting as an ad-hoc repeater/transmitter once she was in proximity to Shinatama. Thus, Griffin would not know that Muro was present personally, nor that he could have detonated the Xiox self-destruct to try and take him out.
Because I assure you, if killing Shinatama was the price of putting Muro 6 feet under, Griffin would have been pounding that button so hard, something would have broke. And no one would have doubted his decision. Regretted it, and hated him for the death? Maybe, but that would have been the right one from his perspective.
Of course, killing her means he has no Plan A for fighting him directly. What was his Plan B again?
But in the end, Griffin made his decision, and it was the worst one. He made it in the heat of the moment, over the objections of Doctor Kerr, and the hesitation of his subordinates. And once it became clear that Konoko escaped the blast, he doubles down. He can't afford to try to salvage this, and that means war.
Narratively though, this does set up the rest of the game. Konoko has no one to fall back on, no support structure in place. She's going to be running, and that means she's going to start making (more) mistakes, and acting (even more) irrationally in the face of the stresses the next few levels will bring upon her. Everything from here on out is going to be a cascade of failures, escalation and reactions until there is nothing left of anyone.
Of course, on the bright side, 1.21 Gigawatts would make for a nice boost to the DeLorean to fix this mess.
On the dark side, crunch.