November 25, 2012 – I spend a lot of time on our podcast talking about how great the stories in some games are. I've also devoted a fair amount of time talking about stories that have rubbed me the wrong way for various reasons. What you have here, dear reader, is a sampling of ten of my absolute most disliked plot twists and turns. This feature doesn't reflect the opinion of everyone else here at RPGFan, but for me, these are some of the things have left me shaking my head in disappointment and/or screaming at the screen in frustration (at least in the case of the last few in the list).
Do you agree? Disagree? Think I'm a fool? Take to the forums and share your thoughts! And most importantly, be aware that this entire article features full and heavy spoilers for every single game included. You have been warned!
(Editor's note: This list includes a few adventure titles-- but anything we normally cover on the site was considered fair game!)
In Borderlands, you're seeking the Vault. It's rumored to contain riches beyond imagining... or guns... or something awesome. And the mysterious disembodied voice that urges you onward sure makes it sound tempting. But then you get there, and whoa! Turns out the Vault is a gateway to a super-scary monster. You kill the monster, and the voice tells you, "Oh, sorry, it was just that monster. There's nothing else." But since you're the one who attracted all the attention to the Vault in the first place AND assembled the key to open the thing, it seems like the lady with the sexy voice could have just... you know... not had you go after the Vault? Fortunately, Borderlands 2 put these events in context, so this lame twist scrapes by at number ten.
Final Fantasy X had one of the most poignant and meaningful endings in the series. In a game with themes heavily focused around the sacrifices we make for our loved ones, it was fitting that, in the end, Tidus made the ultimate sacrifice for the world. Yuna's final speech declaring that we should never forget those who had left us was heartfelt and genuinely moving. But then, after the events of Final Fantasy X-2, the Fayth shows up out of nowhere and says, "Hello. Would you like us to revive Tidus?" Just like that, Tidus is revived, explanations be damned. This was an unbelievable cheapening of the storyline in FFX and completely trivialized Tidus' sacrifice in favor of some lame fan service.
Throughout Dragon Age, players are repeatedly taught that there are always two sides to the templar/mage conflict. The mages feel oppressed and afraid of the templars, whose zeal for stamping out blood magic seems based in an honest desire to protect the general population. Fear of blood magic runs high, and templars are quick to believe the worst when it comes to spellcasting folk. You spend most of the game learning that mages aren't bad by nature, and in nearly every case, they swear they'll never turn to blood magic. And then they turn to blood magic and you or a templar kills them. Every. Single. Time. Your final grand decision of siding with the mages or templars is moot, since the archmage (who swore he wouldn't turn to blood magic) turns to blood magic. There isn't even a moral dilemma here; it turns out the head templar is also possessed by some super-evil force, so you can just kill both leaders and be done with things. Yawn.
Indigo Prophecy's unique blend of adventure gaming and storytelling was quite addictive. Much like Heavy Rain, things seemed to be heading in a certain direction. You're tracking the strange Mayan man who apparently forced you to commit a murder. You're closing in on answers when your character suddenly dies, turning into a zombie man, and then a nice old grandma turns into a monster from the Internet. No, literally. She's the Internet, and she needs the Indigo Child to... do bad stuff. Talk about off the rails. One of the final scenes in the game involves an ancient Mayan guy in a hoodie fighting the Internet monster. Quality entertainment, crap plot twist.
Remember that episode of Thundercats when Mumm-Ra dressed up as Pumm-Ra and pretended to not be evil, and how hilariously obvious it was? Apparently Blizzard did too. Zoltun Kulle, an evil and powerful mage, is the only one who knows where the Black Soulstone is. So, even though everyone tells you how evil he is (including Kulle himself), you revive him. "But how can we trust you?" the player asks. "You can't, I'm evil," replies Kulle. And then he cackles evilly and discusses murder and being evil, and laughs about betraying allies. And then you get the Black Soulstone. And then he turns out to be evil, betrays you and you kill him. Well, that was an exercise in ignoring obvious threats.
After traveling to the farthest and darkest corner of the galaxy, battling through many incredibly powerful foes along the way, your characters prepare to brave the infinite unknown and witness the culmination of years of prophecy and their own individual destinies. You stand before the final gateway, and with a deep breath, you dive through!
And pop out of a TV screen. Whoops. Turns out the entire Star Ocean series up to this point was an MMORPG. Now you're going to go chase around a bunch of people in crazy outfits and fight a programmer while the game plays goofy jazz music. It takes a crazy plot twist to make all the events of a game thus far seem meaningless. It takes a far worse plot twist to do not only that, but also retroactively remove the importance and meaning of the conflicts in its predecessors. Star Ocean 3's plot twist does just that.
Heavy Rain is a great game full of tense moments and strong storytelling. It's remarkably consistent, and continually drops you clues as to the true identity of the Origami Killer. That is, until it decides to intentionally and artificially mislead you. Partway through the game, you lose control of your character, Scott Shelby, and are taken out of his perspective while he steps into a room and secretly does things that would be a dead give-away that he is, in fact, the Origami Killer. The game then returns control to you, and asks you to investigate the room, noting all the signs that the killer may have been present. These are shady storytelling practices that artificially mislead you as to the killer's identity. At no other point in the game does your character "go off and do stuff without you," and it feels like a truly cheap and underhanded way to throw you off the trail.
Taken from the Mass Effect wiki
: "Over time, however, they [the Leviathans] observed that their thralls would frequently build synthetic intelligences to aid them; these synthetics consistently rebelled, wiping out many thrall species. In response, the Leviathans created an Intelligence with the mandate to preserve life at all costs."
So, in Leviathan, we learn that one of the oldest, most powerful species in the history of the galaxy figured out that the various species that it conquered created AI constructs. It then realized that those AI constructs inevitably ended up rebelling against and destroying their creators. So the Leviathans created an AI construct. Which then rebelled against them and destroyed most of them. With this kind of logic, you'd think the galaxy was being run by a baby or something.
The great part about Kingdom Hearts: DDD is that the game doesn't burden you with things like plot or character development until the last thirty minutes. When the game was being developed, I imagine that the writers put on their blindfolds, grabbed their trusty red crayons and construction paper and just went to town on the script, coming up with the abomination described below:
In summary, Xehanort traveled through time before he knew to travel through time so that he could meet you at this point in time so that his cronies from another point in time could trap you in a dream during this time so he could clone himself seven times in order to have seven of himself in every time but you stopped him so now he has to go back to his time which is actually the future where he was already defeated by you and... yeah. Really. I may have misrepresented a few details here, but that's probably because my brain had glazed over and been stupefied by how absurd it had all become.
I'm not sure even a Kingdom Hearts III can fix things at this point.
I am Commander Shepard, and I will win this war without compromising the soul of our species. Until I commit mass genocide or become a godlike (and no longer human) being or forcibly enact the homogenization of every single living being in the entire universe, that is.
Leading to what has to have been the most publicized outcry due to a game's ending, well, ever
, Mass Effect 3's final moments are both controversial and flat-out stupid. Prior to the Extended Cut, which was the narrative equivalent of putting plywood boards over a gaping chasm (oh, so the Normandy is going to park in front of Harbinger for a few minutes while I have a tender scene with my love interest? Thanks for "clarifying," Bioware), the ending was simply a series of sequences that were thematically inconsistent with the rest of the plot and completely contradictory to the ideals players had been told they were fighting for over the course of three games. Twist endings aren't unusual, but they're rarely pulled off with such utter ineptitude. Remember how tonally inconsistent the theatrical "happy ending" of Blade Runner was with the rest of the film? That's exactly the mistake Bioware made in ME3, only in reverse. Top that off with a number of plot threads that seemed to be leading somewhere else (which many players ran with, forming the indoctrination theory), and you've got a recipe for the dumbest plot twist of all time.