OPEN SPOILERS : Half-Life Alyx ending

EatChildren

Wonder from Down Under
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Oct 27, 2017
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There is plenty of time travel and bending of space time throughout the entire series all the way back to HL1 and the expansions.

Tons of hints of the G-Man’s interest in Alyx in Episode 2.

What they did here was perfect and fits in extremely well with everything setup in the series so far.
I've been playing the series since day dot and I completely disagree. Time travel in Half-Life has generally followed a concrete rule of forward momentum. There has not been, to my knowledge, any timeline inconsistencies, paradoxes, change-the-past, multiple timelines/events, etc suggested in the narrative across the entire game. At the very least in the core canon, which is Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Episode 1, Episode 2, Portal, and Portal 2.

Causality has been a major factor in all the games, and all time travel and dimensional shifting has been limited by the subjective perception of time, not the altering of time. Forward time dilation has occurred, but again only by considering causality and the importance of the past being unchangeable. The implications have instead be that while the G-Man seems to break numerous laws of physics, including time, his application of influence has been limited entirely to causality within a single timeline, such as putting a person in stasis and returning them when most convenient. Teleportation is the same. Combine and Resistance technology follows specific rules (including the time dilation of slow teleport), dimensional crossing does not send a person backwards in time, and both the G-Man and Vorts appear bound to a general linearity and causality in the passage of time even if they are able to stall it.

Having Alyx essentially pulled into the future is not a break of these rules. It's on par with Gordon's stasis. Alyx changing the future and completely retconning the final events of Episode 2 is unheard of in the series and introduces numerous narrative problems. How many Alyx's are there? How did these events changing influence the perception of those witnessing them? Can the past be changed so readily? Does it create multiple timelines, or is it still linear? If it's linear, why did the events happen at all instead of being circular and non-contradictory? And if there are multiple timelines what timeline are we now in, and does it even really matter? Is there a timeline with dead Eli? To what limit do characters like G-Man have to directly changing the course of events that have already happened, not just influencing events that haven't happened yet?

It's poor form, as far as I'm concerned. It's pointless and complicated for no reason, and muddiness a lot of the rawer, causality based science fiction that Half-Life is known for. I've got no problem with time dilation. I've got no problem with goofy G-Man premonitions and manipulation of events over a long period of time. But changing the future that we've already experience, via time travel, for a retcon? Complicating the narrative with questions of multiple timelines due to the inherent paradoxal inconsistencies of it all now? Rubbish writing and completely unnecessary.
 

Alienous

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Oct 25, 2017
6,482
That ending is a bold move.

I'm not a Half-Life fan, so I appreciate it might be frustrating from a lore perspective, but I do like the meta, benign monkey paw consequence of 'Yeah we're doing HL3, but we're doing it our way'. It's cool that Valve have a story they want to tell instead of one they just want to finish.
 

finalflame

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Oct 27, 2017
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That ending is a bold move.

I'm not a Half-Life fan, so I appreciate it might be frustrating from a lore perspective, but I do like the meta, benign monkey paw consequence of 'Yeah we're doing HL3, but we're doing it our way'. It's cool that Valve have a story they want to tell instead of one they just want to finish.
Part of why it was pretty upsetting when Epistle 3 showed up. Valve has a story to tell, and the "expectations" set by Epistle really complicates that and muddles it.
 

Spider-Man

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Oct 25, 2017
2,292
I've been playing the series since day dot and I completely disagree. Time travel in Half-Life has generally followed a concrete rule of forward momentum. There has not been, to my knowledge, any timeline inconsistencies, paradoxes, change-the-past, multiple timelines/events, etc suggested in the narrative across the entire game. At the very least in the core canon, which is Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Episode 1, Episode 2, Portal, and Portal 2.

Causality has been a major factor in all the games, and all time travel and dimensional shifting has been limited by the subjective perception of time, not the altering of time. Forward time dilation has occurred, but again only by considering causality and the importance of the past being unchangeable. The implications have instead be that while the G-Man seems to break numerous laws of physics, including time, his application of influence has been limited entirely to causality within a single timeline, such as putting a person in stasis and returning them when most convenient. Teleportation is the same. Combine and Resistance technology follows specific rules (including the time dilation of slow teleport), dimensional crossing does not send a person backwards in time, and both the G-Man and Vorts appear bound to a general linearity and causality in the passage of time even if they are able to stall it.

Having Alyx essentially pulled into the future is not a break of these rules. It's on par with Gordon's stasis. Alyx changing the future and completely retconning the final events of Episode 2 is unheard of in the series and introduces numerous narrative problems. How many Alyx's are there? How did these events changing influence the perception of those witnessing them? Can the past be changed so readily? Does it create multiple timelines, or is it still linear? If it's linear, why did the events happen at all instead of being circular and non-contradictory? And if there are multiple timelines what timeline are we now in, and does it even really matter? Is there a timeline with dead Eli? To what limit do characters like G-Man have to directly changing the course of events that have already happened, not just influencing events that haven't happened yet?

It's poor form, as far as I'm concerned. It's pointless and complicated for no reason, and muddiness a lot of the rawer, causality based science fiction that Half-Life is known for. I've got no problem with time dilation. I've got no problem with goofy G-Man premonitions and manipulation of events over a long period of time. But changing the future that we've already experience, via time travel, for a retcon? Complicating the narrative with questions of multiple timelines due to the inherent paradoxal inconsistencies of it all now? Rubbish writing and completely unnecessary.
There are plenty of points. Can’t believe you don’t remember them.

You teleport to a time before the cascade in HL1. You slow teleport and go forward in time in HL2. Etc.

If that’s how you feel sure but there have been plenty of times it has happened so it isn’t out of the ordinary for the series.

Also the G-Man talks about it all the time. He clearly can pass and see in and out of time given what he does.

Sucks you didn’t enjoy it. I’m hyped more than ever and pretty much called it since day one the game was announced as per my post above.
 

Asbsand

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Oct 30, 2017
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Having Alyx essentially pulled into the future is not a break of these rules. It's on par with Gordon's stasis. Alyx changing the future and completely retconning the final events of Episode 2 is unheard of in the series and introduces numerous narrative problems.
It has one main problem: It undoes the crux and stakes set for an exciting Episode 3 that we would never get, and given Epistle 3 there was all the incentive to just end things that way and move Gordon into Half Life 3 in a time and setting even more foreign to the series' roots than Black Mesa and City 17. Even if they were going back or forward in time to retcon things or affect events, undoing the ending of Episode 2 just removes a good moment for no other reason than to say "Let's pretend it never happened."

Part of why it was pretty upsetting when Epistle 3 showed up. Valve has a story to tell, and the "expectations" set by Epistle really complicates that and muddles it.
No it didn't. It just took the natural course, which is that Episode 2 had itself all but written into a corner with an impossible Combine plot, but with just enough hope in a large macguffin ship that maybe there was some wa--- and then just as the bookend to any Half Life game Gman would show up and pull Gordon into the unknown future for another job. It was the perfect ending to "Half Life 2 Episodes".
More importantly, it moved the plot forward as far as it could before concluding with its usual ambiguity, not retconning what has already been done.
 

finalflame

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Oct 27, 2017
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No it didn't. It just took the natural course, which is that Episode 2 had itself all but written into a corner with an impossible Combine plot, but with just enough hope in a large macguffin ship that maybe there was some wa--- and then just as the bookend to any Half Life game Gman would show up and pull Gordon into the unknown future for another job. It was the perfect ending to "Half Life 2 Episodes".
More importantly, it moved the plot forward as far as it could before concluding with its usual ambiguity, not retconning what has already been done.
Sure. Things changed. There's no reason to be attached to something that, for all intents and purposes, never happened. I hope people will enjoy the story Valve has left to tell, as opposed to something that was never canon nor set in stone over a decade ago.
 

Spider-Man

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Oct 25, 2017
2,292
It has one main problem: It undoes the crux and stakes set for an exciting Episode 3 that we would never get, and given Epistle 3 there was all the incentive to just end things that way and move Gordon into Half Life 3 in a time and setting even more foreign to the series' roots than Black Mesa and City 17. Even if they were going back or forward in time to retcon things or affect events, undoing the ending of Episode 2 just removes a good moment for no other reason than to say "Let's pretend it never happened."
Epistle 3 revealed that what was in the Borealis had it stretching over space time and all that. Once again more time travel abilities and technologies.

if anything the ending of Alyx actually uses Epistle 3 ideas

“Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Tocsin Island at the moment of teleportation, just as the Disparate forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Hyperborea; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past.”

this basically reminds me of going through the last level of the game and all the crazy ways the levels and gravity worked and seeing past people as ghosts frozen in time

“sneering trickster, Mrs. X. For once she appeared not to me, but to Alex Vaunt. Alex had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but he recognized her instantly. “Come along with me now, we’ve places to do and things to be,” said Mrs. X, and Alex acquiesced.”

wow Alyx went with G-Man GEEEEEE WHAT DOES THAT SOUND LIKE

do you guys even read this stuff again before complaining how badly you want Epistle 3? Because you clearly haven’t read it in awhile.
 

Asbsand

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Oct 30, 2017
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Sure. Things changed. There's no reason to be attached to something that, for all intents and purposes, never happened.
But then why show it to begin with? Why walk back on your own plot? That is never good.

I've written this off as a failure as a canon entry. Game seems awesome (but I didn't play myself) and without Marc it's clear they're not gonna pin down the proper direction going forward. They should cut their losses and take the successes of this project to make new IP. After all, the battle against the Combine is a dead end, and it always was.
 

Spider-Man

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Oct 25, 2017
2,292
But then why show it to begin with? Why walk back on your own plot? That is never good.

I've written this off as a failure as a canon entry. Game seems awesome (but I didn't play myself) and without Marc it's clear they're not gonna pin down the proper direction going forward. They should cut their losses and take the successes of this project to make new IP. After all, the battle against the Combine is a dead end, and it always was.
when was the last time you read Epistle 3?
 

Asbsand

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Oct 30, 2017
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It's just overruling Episode 2's ending with convenient space magic for no reason, while inserting new complexities into the lore that were never there.
It doesn't fill me with confidence that the Reddit AMA few months ago the status on its development was "It's finished but the writers are tweaking the ending." That is another Mass Effect 3 situation and it shows. When you write the ending last, and it wasn't somehow written into the original outline, it's bound to turn towards asspulls, and as far as Epistle 3 goes, that seemed to have its end-point largely based in the promises of Episode 2's cliffhanger.
I can't get over the script and voice acting for Alyx (The script in particular makes it hard to act well, I'm sure). It's really amateurish. Definitely takes away from that conclusion.
It had a lot of "this is obviously supposed to be funny but then why am I never laughing with it." And it tries very hard.
 

EatChildren

Wonder from Down Under
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Oct 27, 2017
3,594
There are plenty of points. Can’t believe you don’t remember them.

You teleport to a time before the cascade in HL1. You slow teleport and go forward in time in HL2. Etc.

If that’s how you feel sure but there have been plenty of times it has happened so it isn’t out of the ordinary for the series.

Also the G-Man talks about it all the time. He clearly can pass and see in and out of time given what he does.

Sucks you didn’t enjoy it. I’m hyped more than ever and pretty much called it since day one the game was announced as per my post above.
I do not remember teleporting to a time before the resonance cascade. Shown imagery of it? Yes. Interacting with the piece and influencing the past? No. I also didn't argue against forward time travel. I made that abundantly clear. The question isn't on forward linearity of time and dilation relative to the observer, it's the changing of timelines that I have a problem with. I have a problem with it fundamentally because it introduces a total absence of causality into the narrative as events can effectively be undone by an omnipotent god being that can move back and forth through the passage of time and do whatever it wants, right up to and including changing the future as it has already happened.

That is my problem. The notion of simply being able to hand wave and undo actual events that have actually happened and are actual parts of the coherent narrative are not familiar with the franchise no matter the ambiguous or implied time travel mumbo jumbo of G-Man, Combine, Vorts, or anybody else. Much like Asbsand noted it's just a bizarre narrative beat that doesn't really serve any purpose other than to complicate the causality of the time travel tropes and grounding of timeslines, in addition to overruling a fairly poignant emotional beat and climax to the series.

I'm glad you like it, but I stand by my argument that changing the set future has not been a trope in the series. Forward time travel has, using fairly concrete rules. As a narrative trope, not just in Half-Life but anywhere else, I think it's the laziest form of writing; take one ending and make it irrelevant because someone from the past travelled to the future and changed it, and then complicate the implications of a coherent, causality based timeline by doing so. It's the equivalent of "it was all a dream", because that's basically all it was now.
 

Spider-Man

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Oct 25, 2017
2,292
I do not remember teleporting to a time before the resonance cascade. Shown imagery of it? Yes. Interacting with the piece and influencing the past? No. I also didn't argue against forward time travel. I made that abundantly clear. The question isn't on forward linearity of time and dilation relative to the observer, it's the changing of timelines that I have a problem with. I have a problem with it fundamentally because it introduces a total absence of causality into the narrative as events can effectively be undone by an omnipotent god being that can move back and forth through the passage of time and do whatever it wants, right up to and including changing the future as it has already happened.

That is my problem. The notion of simply being able to hand wave and undo actual events that have actually happened and are actual parts of the coherent narrative are not familiar with the franchise no matter the ambiguous or implied time travel mumbo jumbo of G-Man, Combine, Vorts, or anybody else. Much like Asbsand noted it's just a bizarre narrative beat that doesn't really serve any purpose other than to complicate the causality of the time travel tropes and grounding of timeslines, in addition to overruling a fairly poignant emotional beat and climax to the series.

I'm glad you like it, but I stand by my argument that changing the set future has not been a trope in the series. Forward time travel has, using fairly concrete rules. As a narrative trope, not just in Half-Life but anywhere else, I think it's the laziest form of writing; take one ending and make it irrelevant because someone from the past travelled to the future and changed it, and then complicate the implications of a coherent, causality based timeline by doing so. It's the equivalent of "it was all a dream", because that's basically all it was now.
Seems kind of shallow to throw away something entirely because of a basic plot point that is clearly a possibility in this universe and has been done plenty of times already despite you thinking it hasn’t.

Time travel, bending space time, teleportation are all normal things in the HL universe.

Let’s leave it at that.
 

EatChildren

Wonder from Down Under
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Oct 27, 2017
3,594
Seems kind of shallow to throw away something entirely because of a basic plot point that is clearly a possibility in this universe and has been done plenty of times already despite you thinking it hasn’t.

Time travel, bending space time, teleportation are all normal things in the HL universe.

Let’s leave it at that.
I still don't feel you've given any examples in the series of where the future has been written and then undone, where causality has been unravelled, nor are addressing the legitimate concerns for canonised retcons implicating a narrative and what that means for the future. You might see the perspective as shallow, and I don't mind that. I think stories where major events can be written out of existence by convenient time travel, where causality is no longer a factor, is shallow, inconsequential writing, vapid and devoid of emotional brevity, and a lazy way of directing a narrative into a new direction. It's a shame we're at odds with that, but I guess that's the nature of subjectivity, so I'm happy to leave it there.
 

BossAttack

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Oct 27, 2017
19,898
Valve just made an excellent Half Life game without him, I respect his work but maybe he is not the be all end all when it comes to it.
Excellent game, sure, but judging by that ending, I dunno bout the story.

Both excellent points. Laidlaw is a good writer. He is also not the gospel voice of Half-Life, and to say he's the only person who matters when it comes to how the story resolves itself is disrespectful to all the other talented writers and developers at Valve.
It's not disrespectful, when you're lead writer, the guy who basically created the narrative for HL leaves then things are going to be different. When Drew K. left Mass Effect we got Mass Effect 3's ending. When James Cameron isn't writing and directing Terminator, we get garbage. When Sam Lake isn't writing Max Payne we get Max Payne 3's narrative.

So yes, the specific writer matters. You can be a talented writer in your own right, but when you take over from someone else's work then things hardly ever feel the same. It can potentially be good in its own way, but it won't be the same.
 
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dimb

Member
Oct 25, 2017
644
Really just at a loss as to how people are stepping up to the plate for what's here. It doesn't make any sense at face value on a fundamental level, to the point where many aspects of the series just become incomprehensible. How does Half-Life 2 exist in any capacity when the backstory of Alyx is completely rewritten and she's essentially removed from the story? Nothing about the way players interacted with her in previous games no longer makes any logical sense.

Furthermore, there is an extreme difference the concepts of foresight and stasis are completely independent from time travel. It's one thing to be able to peer into what is likely to happen, and another to instantly teleport to it and change the course of events by transporting a piece of the past to it. The G-man clearly does not always have things go his way...he's even shown hints of emotion in relation to this in the past. Why would he shape the future for others and not himself? Please don't just say that it's all an act and that he planned for things to not go his way. What we see here introduces all sort of bizarre questions that are impossible to find answers for. Why didn't the G-man just "nudge" the course of history with Gordon in the past? Why did we go on these long adventures if we can solve problems with such immediacy? Why is the G-man trading for something here at all? Gordon was never asked to help or given payment, he was simply taken and used as a pawn, being placed in the necessary position for things to happen. The escape from the control of the G-man always felt like a temporary reprieve offered by the Vorts that couldn't last forever. Why is Alyx being given something she wants instead of being used in the same manner?

This narrative being produced about reclaiming the direction of the series doesn't add up at all. Why even make such a great effort to bring Eli back if you're just using a different actor? Does the story Half-Life: Alyx tells actually feel like an important piece in the overall narrative of the franchise if it just resets a long looming cliffhanger in such a meaningless fashion?
 

Sibylus

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Oct 25, 2017
2,758
There is plenty of time travel and bending of space time throughout the entire series all the way back to HL1 and the expansions.

Tons of hints of the G-Man’s interest in Alyx in Episode 2.

What they did here was perfect and fits in extremely well with everything setup in the series so far.
Have to agree. My (long-formed) impression of G-man and the Vortigaunts is that they are both creatures that see and interact with time as though past and future could be traversed fluidly... albeit at great cost (to which Gman has had to contend with bureaucracy that neither often agrees nor is often willing to expense such). Specimens like the All-Knowing Vortigaunt and the reversal of Alyx's mortal wounds all underlined that notion to me.

Not only that, but a lot of folks judged the ending before they had time to see much of anything that preceded it. HL: Alyx literally opens by returning again to the established fact of Eli's death, and it foreshadows from the start that her fear of his coming to harm is an obvious vulnerability, including to the very first Vort that she meets. He confusingly speaks to her of present and future as though they appear the same to him, and warns her that she alone cannot change the death he already sees as having come to pass. As with his guidance to seek The Northern Star (Hotel), she takes him to be speaking symbolically, but here again his meaning is quite literal. This is underscored later when the Vortigaunt saves Eli from falling to his death before Alyx's could reach him. G-man is another compatible piece, and the course of the game essentially confirms to him (and to the superiors whose approval he relies upon) that she is a worthwhile acquisition to replace the one that the Vortigaunts have compromised. He offers her a reprieve from the loss of her father... but it is no more lasting than the intervention that took place earlier that same day.

It's deeply unfair to the writers to suggest this was an ass-pull, a cheap twist, lazy, or that they've somehow disrespected Laidlaw's work. Ya'll need to check yourselves.
 

EatChildren

Wonder from Down Under
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Oct 27, 2017
3,594
It's deeply unfair to the writers to suggest this was an ass-pull, a cheap twist, lazy, or that they've somehow disrespected Laidlaw's work. Ya'll need to check yourselves.
This is silly. Many have articulated why an ending that introduces retconning time travel disrupts their understanding of the lore and events as known, and they're allowed to critique the writers for this inclusion. Even your own argument, which is completely valid in the same subjectivity as everyone else, is more fixated on how the events themselves emotionally resonated with you personally because of their context and does not counter argue the fundamental issues others have with the implications.

Nobody needs to check themselves. People are entitled to an opinion of writing and tropes and how narratives are handled. And while I won't speak for others I will say again, entirely for myself; retconning an ending that had emotional brevity via a character death, and introducing the ability to alter the events of the future to the betterment of a new character, complicating the concept of paradoxical timelines, is poor writing. It introduces unnecessary ambiguities that were not present in the lore despite what some are arguing (nobody is yet to give me an example of a similarly enormously consequential set of events) and undoes established narrative by others for no good reason.

End of the day this kind of shit matters to some and not others. Whimsical, poorly defined and deux ex machina-like time travel and event altering is enough for some people if the emotional brevity of events lands well. For others it's not enough, and is perceived as haphazard use of established rules and conventions of a grounded narrative by introducing unnecessary complexities that rob the narrative of this exact emotional brevity.

For some the idea of Alyx being moved to the future and changing a person's fate, literally unwinding the passage of time in that moment, and bringing the dead back to life, is emotionally poignant and handled beautifully, and the implications of such an event are acceptable.
For others it undoes a poignant emotional beat that by virtue of its events had its own implications and consequences, robs the sequence of its original meaningfulness, and does so using one of the most haphazard and ambiguous narrative crutches a writer can insert in a story; time travel and space magic.

"It's all a dream", because if reality can be rendered everything but concrete and consequential, of causality is irrelevant because all events can be undone at any moment, then nothing really matters at all.
 

Triscuitable

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Oct 27, 2017
3,789
It's not disrespectful, when you're lead writer, the guy who basically created the narrative for HL leaves then things are going to be different. When Drew K. left Mass Effect we got Mass Effect 3's ending. When James Cameron isn't writing and directing Terminator, we get garbage. When Sam Lake isn't writing Max Payne we get Max Payne 3's narrative.

So yes, the specific writer matters. You can be a talented writer in your own right, but when you take over from someone else's work then things hardly ever feel the same. It can potentially be good in its own way, but it won't be the same.
You're only using examples of writing changes that negatively impacted their respective franchises (and Max Payne 3, which I feel was a fantastic end to the trilogy) to criticize a series that, by all accounts, improved (or remained of the same high quality) with the original lead writer's absence. I don't feel that provides a very strong counter-argument to my point, which is that Laidlaw was not the sole person in charge of the direction of the Half-Life series.

Besides, what about franchises that improved for the better with new writers, like Alien to Aliens, Star Wars to The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Trek TMP to The Wrath of Khan? A change in lead writer does not suddenly spell doom for the series, and based on critical reception, certainly didn't for Half-Life.
 

Sibylus

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Oct 25, 2017
2,758
Nope. My point, as before, is that it's an unfair critique (and honestly some of it here and elsewhere is bordering on the sort of crap that drives devs away from posting here to begin with) because so much of this criticism rests upon a selective experience with the game and assuming the worst of the writers' work and relation to the original solo writer. One of them was a co-writer on the episodes, and they all did a ton of legwork to set this ending up, for fuck's sake.

Presuming that the past is inaccessible in Half-Life is just whatever. It's not really a big thing, just seems silly to presume it was a fast and hard rule before now given the multiple points of ambiguity.
 

Crushed

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Oct 25, 2017
4,594
I don't like the ending because

-It's confusingly told, even for a time travel plot. Are there two Alyxes now? Just one - if so, which one? Did they merge? What did Gordon and Eli see? In a future game will we just meet Present Alyx, who suddenly remembers that one time five years ago she went on this adventure and met G-Man and forgot about it up until the ambush in the hangar?

-As mentioned, vortigaunts and the G-Man have the ability to manipulate and/or perceive reality and time differently from humans, but being able to... retroactively/proactively change the future-past has never been a thing, and is a remarkably large jump in power that raises the question of why this has never been used before.

-The active introduction of multiple timelines or history rewriting is a deeply tricky one, and one I greatly dislike for how it not only confuses plots (see above) but removes stakes. When everything is possible, everything becomes meaningless.

-Every Half-Life has a dreary bummer ending where you win the battle but whether you won the war is uncertain; this one not only literally undoes the previous ending, it completely shifts the focus of the cliffhanger. Episode Two stood out among all the downer Half-Life endings because:
A) it set up a concrete goal (the Borealis and its never-quite-defined technology),​
B) it set up a major character development (Alyx having to cope with her father's death),​
C) it set up major potential conflicts (Alyx wanting to honor her father's last wish of destroying the Borealis while Mossman wanted to use it, and whether her loss would cause her to do something rash; whether the Advisor sucking Eli's brains gave them some kind of secrets of the Resistance movement that makes things much harder; whether the G-Man would replace us with Alyx a ala Epistle 3 or we'd be forced to return to his clutches in exchange for his assistance), and​
D) we had so many years to stew on those exact questions, while the prospect of the Next Half-Life Game became more and more of an impassioned dream.​
Now so much of that is thrown out or lessened, and the conflict is refocused on something else that, frankly, is much less interesting. Alyx's connection to the G-Man isn't, as in Episode Two and Epistle 3, something that began in Black Mesa, but is now closely tied to... an adventure five years before Episode Two that Alyx has never mentioned or seemingly forgotten about (or "our" Alyx never even experienced? See the first bullet point). Her character arc is no longer tied to becoming a leader and making decisions while dealing with grief, but being kidnapped because a past/alternate(?) version of herself five years ago made a rash, sudden, and uninformed decision based on a magical vision of the last game that was never hinted at before this game. The central conflict is now longer dealing with the Borealis while wondering what the G-Man's scheme vis-à-vis Alyx is and coping with Eli's death: it's Princess Alyx being kidnapped by the evil dark lord G-non - but don't worry, King Eli has been revived by the Triforce, and he hands you the Master Crowbar! Save my daughrer, Gordon! Oh, and that Borealis thing is still there too, maybe, I guess.


It just feels completely deflating. "Deflating" is a deliberate term on my part, because it feels exactly like this big balloon of tension was being blown up and this ending just unceremoniously lets all the air out slowly.
 
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EatChildren

Wonder from Down Under
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Oct 27, 2017
3,594
Nope. My point, as before, is that it's an unfair critique (and honestly some of it here and elsewhere is bordering on the sort of crap that drives devs away from posting here to begin with) because so much of this criticism rests upon a selective experience with the game and assuming the worst of the writers' work and relation to the original solo writer. One of them was a co-writer on the episodes, and they all did a ton of legwork to set this ending up, for fuck's sake.
Plenty of people are offering concise and specific critiques of why they dislike the inclusion of time altering events and the retcon of Episode 2's emotionally poignant ending, and outlining why history altering time travel is a messy narrative device that robs stories of their emotional brevity. You're hand waving the articulated points of some because you don't like the reactionary and hostile opinions of others. I couldn't give a shit what Laidlaw's intent was, or his contributions. This might have been his idea based on his guidance. And if it was, it's a poor one. He wasn't the only writer on Half-Life. He wasn't the only person penning their best work. And none of this matters, because my critique and many others is not "Boo hoo it's not Laidlaw", it's that retcon power time travel is boring, haphazard writing that excuses away existing causality and emotional brevity by making a character god. It is literally deus ex machina.

I don't like the ending because

-It's confusingly told, even for a time travel plot. Are there two Alyxes now? Just one - if so, which one? Did they merge? What did Gordon and Eli see? In a future game will we just meet Present Alyx, who suddenly remembers that one time five years ago she went on this adventure and met G-Man and forgot about it up until the ambush in the hangar?

-As mentioned, vortigaunts and the G-Man have the ability to manipulate and/or perceive reality and time differently from humans, but being able to... retroactively/proactively change the future-past has never been a thing, and is a remarkably large jump in power that raises the question of why this has never been used before.

-The active introduction of multiple timelines or history rewriting is a deeply tricky one, and one I greatly dislike for how it not only confuses plots (see above) but removes stakes. When everything is possible, everything becomes meaningless.

-Every Half-Life has a dreary bummer ending where you win the battle but whether you won the war is uncertain; this one not only literally undoes the previous ending, it completely shifts the focus of the cliffhanger. Episode Two stood out among all the downer Half-Life endings because:
A) it set up a concrete goal (the Borealis and its never-quite-defined technology),
B) it set up a major character development (Alyx having to cope with her father's death),
C) it set up major potential conflicts (Alyx wanting to honor her father's last wish of destroying the Borealis while Mossman wanted to use it, and whether her loss would cause her to do something rash; whether the Advisor sucking Eli's brains gave them some kind of secrets of the Resistance movement that makes things much harder; whether the G-Man would replace us with Alyx a ala Epistle 3 or we'd be forced to return to his clutches in exchange for his assistance), and
D) we had so many years to stew on those exact questions, while the prospect of the Next Half-Life Game became more and more of an impassioned dream.

Now so much of that is thrown out or lessened, and the conflict is refocused on something else that, frankly, is much less interesting. Alyx's connection to the G-Man isn't, as in Episode Two and Epistle 3, something that began in Black Mesa, but is now closely tied to... an adventure five years before Episode Two that Alyx has never mentioned or seemingly forgotten about (or "our" Alyx never even experienced? See the first bullet point). Her character arc is no longer tied to becoming a leader and making decisions while dealing with grief, but being kidnapped because an alternate(?) version of herself five years ago made a rash, sudden, and uninformed decision based on a magical vision of the last game that was never hinted at before this game. The central conflict is now longer dealing with the Borealis while wondering what the G-Man's scheme vis-à-vis Alyx is and coping with Eli's death: it's Princess Alyx being kidnapped by the evil dark lord G-non - but don't worry, King Eli has been revived by the Triforce, and he hands you the Master Crowbar! Save my daughrer, Gordon! Oh, and that Borealis thing is still there too, maybe, I guess.


It just feels completely deflating. "Deflating" is a deliberate term on my part, because it feels exactly like this big balloon of tension was being blown up and this ending just unceremoniously lets all the air out slowly.
This is a beautiful articulation of the problems myself and others have with the ending.
 

Jellycrackers

Member
Oct 25, 2017
191
Surprised to see so many people displeased with the ending. I thought it was absolutely amazing to experience. Everything in the vault was so cool, it made me feel like I was in an Alex Garland scifi movie. Thought it was very clever how they tied it in with the Ep2 ending.

Also THIS MUSIC FROM THE END 😳
 

Sibylus

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,758
Plenty of people are offering concise and specific critiques of why they dislike the inclusion of time altering events and the retcon of Episode 2's emotionally poignant ending, and outlining why history altering time travel is a messy narrative device that robs stories of their emotional brevity. You're hand waving the articulated points of some because you don't like the reactionary and hostile opinions of others. I couldn't give a shit what Laidlaw's intent was, or his contributions. This might have been his idea based on his guidance. And if it was, it's a poor one. He wasn't the only writer on Half-Life. He wasn't the only person penning their best work. And none of this matters, because my critique and many others is not "Boo hoo it's not Laidlaw", it's that retcon power time travel is boring, haphazard writing that excuses away existing causality and emotional brevity by making a character god. It is literally deus ex machina.

This is a beautiful articulation of the problems myself and others have with the ending.
And I don't agree with those conclusions, because it really (still) comes across like we saw fundamentally different games. Divergence of opinion is always applicable, but at the same time so much of this debate seems couched in terms that betray a lack of familiarity with it beyond the ten minutes of the ending clip... eg: It is literally not deus ex machina when it was literally developed for a dozen-odd hours and emerges from a fairly uncontroversial reading of the series! Calling it lazy or cheap is similarly disingenuous, because a lot went into setting this thing up. You and others dislike it, that's a given, but a fair chunk of the discourse around it isn't making sense.

Now, I disagree that it robs the story of its gravity, or that it subtracts or negates episode 2, but that disagreement is different to my peeves above.
 

EatChildren

Wonder from Down Under
Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,594
And I don't agree with those conclusions, because it really (still) comes across like we saw fundamentally different games. Divergence of opinion is always applicable, but at the same time so much of this debate seems couched in terms that betray a lack of familiarity with it beyond the ten minutes of the ending clip... eg: It is literally not deus ex machina when it was literally developed for a dozen-odd hours and emerges from a fairly uncontroversial reading of the series! Calling it lazy or cheap is similarly disingenuous, because a lot went into setting this thing up. You and others dislike it, that's a given, but a fair chunk of the discourse around it isn't making sense.

Now, I disagree that it robs the story of its gravity, or that it subtracts or negates episode 2, but that disagreement is different to my peeves above.
Fair enough. I disagree with the notion that it's not cheap; as effort put into delivery does not take away the perceived irrelevance of its implementation. But I feel we're at an impasse there. I'm disappointed this is the direction the series has taken with the lore, and how it resets Episode 2's ending, but it is what it is and it obviously worked well for others like yourself. And it wouldn't prevent me from being interested in the series future. After all, I was excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda, and will still be excited for a hypothetical Mass Effect 5, even with the enormity of bullshit set before.

[B]Crushed[/B]
's summary is a far more concise articulation of the issues I share than I can pen, if anybody feels I'm not getting my points across well. I fundamentally loathe time travel as a narrative device when it permits futures or pasts to be retconned, unless a serious amount of work is gone into making the implications of such actions and abilities part of the narrative and lore in of itself. And though others feel this is more than fitting for the series, I'll die on a hill that the extent of these abilities and their implications has never been present in Half-Life before and now introduces a number of clumsy complications.

But yeah, that's it. Folk are probably tired of my whining now, so back to business as usual haha.
 

Sibylus

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,758
Fair enough. I disagree with the notion that it's not cheap; as effort put into delivery does not take away the perceived irrelevance of its implementation. But I feel we're at an impasse there. I'm disappointed this is the direction the series has taken with the lore, and how it resets Episode 2's ending, but it is what it is and it obviously worked well for others like yourself. And it wouldn't prevent me from being interested in the series future. After all, I was excited for Mass Effect: Andromeda, and will still be excited for a hypothetical Mass Effect 5, even with the enormity of bullshit set before.

[B]Crushed[/B]'s summary is a far more concise articulation of the issues I share than I can pen, if anybody feels I'm not getting my points across well. I fundamentally loathe time travel as a narrative device when it permits futures or pasts to be retconned, unless a serious amount of work is gone into making the implications of such actions and abilities part of the narrative and lore in of itself. And though others feel this is more than fitting for the series, I'll die on a hill that the extent of these abilities and their implications has never been present in Half-Life before and now introduces a number of clumsy complications.

But yeah, that's it. Folk are probably tired of my whining now, so back to business as usual haha.
My opinion of time travel as a narrative device is that I'm cool with it... if it's "expensive". G-man isn't omnipotent, nor do his superiors seem to be, and he is reliant on their blessing and their resources, on top of whatever costs or difficulties he isn't at liberty to divulge in achieving such "nudges". The Vorts certainly aren't omnipotent, and seemingly reliant on extensive preparation, amplification (they can't work their miracles alone), and rare and easily spoiled resources (such as antlion extract).

The other expense, of course, being that the scale of the change should itself engender wild divergences in difficulty. Eli was spared a death in a given moment from a given Advisor, and G-man made no illusory promise that he could provide more than that. Rather, he made it sound like temporally displacing the Combine off Earth could be beyond even for his superiors, which tracks with longstanding theories that Freeman's insertion was in exchange for some manner of payout (from the Resistance, likely on behalf of the planet). If this mighty feat were a cinch for them, have to ask why wait, or ask payment when it could be taken.

Edit: Forget the ironic expense. You don't rub the lamp without consequences spinning out beyond just the immediate term.

Fluid, but not free, in other words. I hope I'm right.
 
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Casker

Member
Oct 25, 2017
548
You don't see it in the video in the OP but in the scene at the end, the G-Man is actually there to the left. He looks at us and disappears right after.

Really curious how timelines work in the HL universe now.
 

HylianSeven

Community Resetter
Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,800
I just finished the game: I liked the ending.

I like they're subverting expectations and not doing the Epistle 3 thing.

This raises a lot of questions, but definitely gives a continuation on what happens at the end of Episode 2 and I'm excited to hear more.

I have to wonder though...where does the Gordon that G-man replaced with Alyx from HL Alyx go? The first time they went back to the final scene from Episode 2, the first thing I thought was "where's Gordon? Pretty sure this is exactly where he was during that, where I'm standing now..." Then it hit me I was put in Gordon's shoes during that. Having Alyx being "status: hired" was clearly a reference to HL1's ending.

I'm really excited and optimistic for the Half-Life franchise, and I think Valve really is committed to doing this.
 

Mariolee

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
5,026
It's all the same Alyx and all the same Gordon. It's just a rewind. G-Man saw the progression of Episodes 1 and 2 and let time naturally take its course up until the moment Eli dies, then uses this for past Alyx to see and thus change the future, enlisted her, and then past Alyx lost her memory of this conversation and eventually became the Alyx we knew from Half Life 2 and then was taken by G-Man at the end of that.

It's like the rewind at the beginning of Half-Life 2 Episode 1 where the Vortigaunts ended up rewinding before G-Mans appearance and blocked him from saying what he was going to say at the end of Half Life 2.
 

HylianSeven

Community Resetter
Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,800
Oh yeah, one other thing: Surely the woman talking to someone about what was in the vault was Mossman, right? I feel like with the silhouette, and that she was likely recast, surely it had to be her, right?
 

Vilam

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,157
They seriously retconned the cliffhanger that we've been waiting over a decade to resolve? LOL, fuck off Valve. I knew they were full of shit when they were being coy in their FAQ about moving the plotline forward. Garbage.
 

Crushed

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,594
It's all the same Alyx and all the same Gordon. It's just a rewind. G-Man saw the progression of Episodes 1 and 2 and let time naturally take its course up until the moment Eli dies, then uses this for past Alyx to see and thus change the future, enlisted her, and then past Alyx lost her memory of this conversation and eventually became the Alyx we knew from Half Life 2 and then was taken by G-Man at the end of that.

It's like the rewind at the beginning of Half-Life 2 Episode 1 where the Vortigaunts ended up rewinding before G-Mans appearance and blocked him from saying what he was going to say at the end of Half Life 2.
There wasn't a rewind at the beginning of Episode One. The vortigaunts rescued Alyx in the same stopped time moment after G-Man and Gordon were gone, and G-Man is re-entering the stasis void he left Gordon in, presumably either to send him on his next mission or he somehow detected the presence of someone else with Gordon and came to see what was happening.
 

Mariolee

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
5,026
There wasn't a rewind at the beginning of Episode One. The vortigaunts rescued Alyx in the same stopped time moment after G-Man and Gordon were gone, and G-Man is re-entering the stasis void he left Gordon in, presumably either to send him on his next mission or he somehow detected the presence of someone else with Gordon and came to see what was happening.
Dang I guess I misinterpreted that scene. Yours makes way more sense. Fair.
 

Cindres

Member
Oct 28, 2017
630
If it's all the same Alyx then what exactly would Gordon see at that moment in time at the end of Ep2? How would she take out the advisor without the gloves?

Honestly I'm fine with the retcon and Eli not dying, I like how it sets up for a new story with Gordon going ahead, potentially with Eli, but it's the way it's muddied the waters in terms of how many Alyxes, timelines, etc, there are and I still haven't seen a satisfying explanation.
 

Fooftin

Member
Mar 24, 2020
2
I just realized that the vortigaunt you meet early in the game says that Eli is dead or will be and that Alyx alone can't prevent his fate. I thought he was talking about saving Eli from the train but he was actually foreshadowing the ending.
 
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Naga

Naga

Member
Aug 29, 2019
5,062
To, uh, expand on that, wow. Half-Life has been near and dear to me for a very long time, and Alyx is both a fantastic Half-Life game AND continues the journey in ways that set my mind spinnin' and my body tremblin'. Spectacular job from everyone at Valve.

... Alyx as the protag of VR SP HL and Gordon as the protag of flat co-op HL? A girl can dream.
Why co-op? HL3 or whatever it's called should be solo with Gordon.
If they want to go the Portal 2 route, it'd be different characters again (Barney and Shepard for example).
 

Rygar 8Bit

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,782
Site-15
Just beat it about 10 minutes ago. Holy fucking shit that ending, and the after credits. Masterfully done. Lol at everyone that was saying this is just going to be a prequel. This game completely changes the course of HL3.
 

peppersky

Member
Mar 9, 2018
764
Ok, having given up on avoiding spoilers (since I don't see myself having the means to buy a VR headset anytime in the next few years) and having seen the ending, I'm really just happy that they are confirming that they are going to continue the story. And it also really seems like they expanded the universe in some key ways without losing any of the soul. I was always more sad that we never got another game from these specific people than that we never got another Half Life game. I love Half Life, but I would have also taken any other singleplayer game from valve tbh.
 

Zonal Hertz

Member
Jun 13, 2018
775
I do wonder if HL 3 will be VR or not. It kind of made sense for Alyx to be in VR - the smaller confrontations etc.

But how can Gordon go from doing everything he has done in the past - to only ever taking on a handful of enemies.

I don't hate the ending. Just keen to see where things go.
 

Rygar 8Bit

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,782
Site-15
I do wonder if HL 3 will be VR or not. It kind of made sense for Alyx to be in VR - the smaller confrontations etc.

But how can Gordon go from doing everything he has done in the past - to only ever taking on a handful of enemies.

I don't hate the ending. Just keen to see where things go.
Why would he only have to take on only a handful of enemies? They could go back to something more action oriented, and faster paced. We already have things like Serious Sam in VR, and that's even faster then HL1 or 2 were.
 

Mondo

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,919
ResetERA
Well I sure hope they follow it up with something, since waiting for 13ish years only to basically be back at the EP2 cliffhanger except that Eli's death + Epistle 3 is retconned isn't gonna be enough for me.

Like I'm glad to know we got another Half Life game, but after waiting for EP3 for so long I'm sorry to be pessimistic but I just struggle with getting my hopes up again after waiting so long. Sales and so seem good however so I really hope at least now Valve does strike while the iron is hot.
 

MechaBreaker

Member
Jun 26, 2018
2,942
After that ending there's no way in hell they aren't working on it.
Just like after Half-Life 2: Episode 2... oh wait...

I could honestly keep going down this road with you, but that's not really going to go anywhere.

I'd like to say I've long since stopped caring about Half-Life, but I haven't... though I've certainly soured on the whole franchise because of how they've handled HL3 (leaving people hanging for years upon year without even cancelling the damn game, etc.), and considering this game, that I can't even play, actually changes nothing about that outside of 30 seconds of seemingly pointless retcon, I can honestly say I'll probably continue to disapprove of how they're handling HL3 in perpetuity.
 

HylianSeven

Community Resetter
Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,800
Just like after Half-Life 2: Episode 2... oh wait...

I could honestly keep going down this road with you, but that's not really going to go anywhere.

I'd like to say I've long since stopped caring about Half-Life, but I haven't... though I've certainly soured on the whole franchise because of how they've handled HL3 (leaving people hanging for years upon year without even cancelling the damn game, etc.), and considering this game, that I can't even play, actually changes nothing about that outside of 30 seconds of seemingly pointless retcon, I can honestly say I'll probably continue to disapprove of how they're handling HL3 in perpetuity.
I feel exactly the opposite. I think part of it was the fact that Black Mesa was finally finished and turned out to be incredibly good (even though that's not Valve, it does sort of have Valve's blessing since they're letting Crowbar Collective sell it on Steam...for money). Given they chose to directly address the ending of Episode Two, and this being more than a simple retcon (they gave explanation on HOW and WHY it changed rather than just changed it silently), I'm confident they are going to be working on whatever the next Half-Life is, whether they call it Half-Life 3 or have some subtitle for it like Alyx and it's Gordon's next story. I think we will see it within 2-3 years.

Yeah, it's entirely possible they pull the same stunt again and we have to wait 15 years. Valve works on what they want, if things don't get off the ground, we could be waiting like that again. I don't think so though, I feel like they are actually working on it and we will see it within 2-3 years. There's no way in hell they turn around the next game within a year, and that's fine.
 

rustymonk

Member
Oct 28, 2017
33
They're talking in interviews about how they want to work on Half Life again immediately after this, it's coming in the next few years. And there are so many advancements with VR etc they have lots of toys to play with.

Also people are assuming you play as Gordon in the next one to save Alyx. It would be way more interesting if it was following Alyx's next adventure though or, and I could totally see this happening/most likely, switching between Alyx and Gordon's pov.