Ending - Earth wins? [Extreme Spoilers]


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#1 Hobbes

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 07:01 PM

There's a lot of details revealed at the end about the aliens and their intentions but I have the feeling that there's also something... ironic, creepy and dark about Earth's victory, when you combine it with many other aspects.

"You hear our voice, New One, now listen well... Long have we watched...and waited. So many promising subjects, so many failed efforts. And now, after untold trials, the new one emerges to face the rigors of our collective... An enduring physical form, paired with an equally adept mental capacity - the rarest of traits, finally withing our grasp."

According to the High Ethereal (keep in mind that it can be a blatant lie), the are abducting and experimenting to achieve the union of physical and mental powers. However:
a) Despite the abductions/experimentation they hadn't achieved yet before any worthwhile results with humans-
b) It presents the invasion as a 'test', like other races were tested before being conquered and changed to serve the Ethereals on their quest.

"Behold the greatest failure... of the Ethereal Ones... We who failed to ascend as they thought we would. We who were cast out. We who were doomed to feed on the Gift of lesser beings... as we sought to uplift them... to prepare them... for what lies ahead.

The Ethereal's quest is that they 'failed to ascend' by their creators/conquerors and were discarded and without their creators they were 'forced' to conquer less powerful races to prepare them for the future (sequel), either meeting their creators or some uber race.

The hunt draws to a close. It was not a vain undertaking... but a necessity, as our physical form has grown... ineffective. Our search for the perfect specimen was driven by our own crippling limitation, and now, at long last...

The implication is that they were discarded by the 'Ascended' because of their physical limitations and they're looking for perfection. However, following this logic the perfect specimen should be superior to the Ethereals and prove it by defeating them.  

This is not your path! This is not your propose! You need our guidance to hone this power... without us, what are you?

This would mean that either the High Ethereal would be expecting for mankind to fail the test or if it proved to be the superior species to acknowledge and accept the role of the Ethereals in the process. Or, as it says, we can be superior to the Ethereals but we're nothing without Alien Materials, Elerium, etc., and from Shen's and Vahlen's comments there's already a lot of considerations about the good and bad effects of such advanced technologies on the hands of mankind. Or even your own Psionic soldiers cruel laughs when killing aliens with Mindfray and how the High Ethereal's comment that the Psi powers made the Sectoids cruel. And without an external enemy after the defeat of the aliens...

Now, take this a step further: when XCOM goes on its final mission it has unknowingly been following the aliens' plan to determine the value of humanity. It was anticipated by the aliens for Earth to create such a force that would challenge them. After the Ethereal conquest XCOM's research on armor, weapons, psionics, etc., would be most invaluable for the Ethereals to use humans as frontline troops. And if Earth defeated the invasion, now they know humans have what they need but are left powerless with access to alien supplies - the explosion of the Temple Ship is meant for humanity not to have access to its technology, unless all of the Ethereals in the universe were present in the ship or the rest of their forces can't react on time.

This is a lot of speculation but that last phrase from the Ethereal really made me think about it the first time I heard it. What do you think?
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#2 Ki-tat Chung

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 01:26 AM

Nice insight.

I think Uber is just a pansy getting whipped. :P
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#3 Zombie

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 03:17 AM

View PostHobbes, on 29 October 2012 - 07:01 PM, said:

The Ethereal's quest is that they 'failed to ascend' by their creators/conquerors and were discarded and without their creators they were 'forced' to conquer less powerful races to prepare them for the future (sequel), either meeting their creators or some uber race.

This reeks of a Star Trek episode. Posted Image

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#4 Hobbes

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 06:35 PM

View PostZombie, on 02 November 2012 - 03:17 AM, said:

This reeks of a Star Trek episode. Posted Image

- Zombie

Or something taken right out of Stargate SG-1. Or even the Old Testament with the story of the fallen angels cast out of paradise.

But the disconcerting tidbit about all of this still is: in order to defeat the aliens, we have to become like them, as Shen mentions in one of his comments. We have to use their weapons and mental powers to prove to be the superior species. And the game also is set that after the Alien Base things go a lot easier for the player so you really start feeling superior to the aliens.

This 'superhuman' logic can be a bit scary and controversial (and led to very tragic events in the past)... and you have to apply it to win the game. And it's one huge addition to the original game, putting this kind of moral questions.
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#5 Pete

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 08:51 PM

My problem is that first time through the final mission I could hardly hear what he was saying over the bloodshed I was causing ;)

I did get the same feeling that they were going somewhere with it, but the "this is not your path" thing sort of didn't fit with the rest for me unless it was meant as something else like you say.

I think that the whole dialogue would have been better in a cinematic as with other dialogue in the game - I remember all the other bits, but as I'm always in the middle of killing something when he's talking it sort of detracts/distracts from the impact. If they'd re-written it so that as soon as you enter the final room he goes on for a few minutes with all that dialogue (talking past-tense about the aliens you just killed if needs be) then that would make sense and have a bigger impact I feel. It would also be more reminiscent of the original game's ending where the Brain tries to talk you out of killing it - essentially this is an echo of that ending when he gets to the "this is not your path" line and I think he should be pleading with you or trying to win you over to his side at that point rather than getting angry - you've managed to kill most of his army so he should know that even with all the aliens in that room that there is going to be a chance of his demise!

I like the way it seems to hint at a sequel and since it's still selling well I'm sure we'll see one, but I'm hopeful that the story will play more prominently in the sequel - maybe even to Silent Storm levels of story that you can choose to read or ignore as you uncover new information across new missions.
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#6 Hobbes

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 09:28 PM

Had the same problem as well with understanding it the first time - for a moment I thought it was actually The Brain talking, not an Ethereal. From looking at the game demo files there are references to 'Elders', which refer to Ethereals for the game but the different names present in the code gave me the idea that at the end you'd face one of those Elders at the end as the final boss. My guess is that they removed the Elder to use on the next game.
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#7 NoXTheRoXStaR

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 03:35 AM

I had the same problem as Pete regarding -

Quote

My problem is that first time through the final mission I could hardly hear what he was saying over the bloodshed I was causing

Then I turned on captions :)
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#8 NKF

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 04:58 AM

No wonder my experience felt like a meet and greet, I stopped still to listen to the dialogue whenever the new enemies popped in and both sides were staring down each other.

This evolution hobby of the Ethereals was present as Ufopaedia entries in the original, but I guess they play it out as a major part of the storyline.  If there are higher ups, it might be along the line of the Cydonia Brain.

On a different note, since important characters (major heroes or villains) tend to get a chance to survive catastrophic events in SF/Fantasy as a general rule, I hope that should there be sequel that Volunteer doesn't turn out to be the aliens' next uber badguy like what happened to the hero with the head pokey sharp thingy in a certain Blizzard super-series. Posted Image

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#9 Space Voyager

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 09:03 AM

View PostPete, on 25 November 2012 - 08:51 PM, said:

I'm hopeful that the story will play more prominently in the sequel - maybe even to Silent Storm levels of story that you can choose to read or ignore as you uncover new information across new missions.
That would be awesome.

#10 Hobbes

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 04:56 PM

A couple of things I noticed last night on my game:

1) After the Alien Base mission, Dr. Vahlen says that she does not understand why the aliens are still fighting if they weren't expecting this outcome (of losing their base). Follow the good doctor's logic and the aliens wanted XCOM to find the base and the Hyperwave Beacon.

2) Apply the same logic to the Ethereals and the Psi-Link. If the aliens didn't want XCOM to get it, why were they flying it from one place to the other since it is so important and those pesky humans are shooting down your UFOs and just invaded your base?

Now the whole invasion is posed as a test - for humans it's a test of survival, for the aliens it's a test to find the ultimate race. And both are quite compatible - terrorize and invade a planet to see how the natives react while giving them at the same time access to the technology you have and see what they accomplish while fighting for their lives. And let the fittest win - at least the aliens have some sense of fairness.
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#11 Pete

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 08:36 PM

Well Hobbes, that does also go some way to explaining why they don't just throw battleships and dozens of terror sites from you at the start - can you imagine a map with a hundred Chrysalids? Can't think why the Ethereal says they weren't all that great when all they needed to do was field larger numbers (okay, I get they were fishing for advanced intelligence) ;)

The more I think about the story the more it does explain the diversity of the alien species - they're clearly not all related.
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#12 Hobbes

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 08:37 PM

View PostPete, on 26 November 2012 - 08:36 PM, said:

Well Hobbes, that does also go some way to explaining why they don't just throw battleships and dozens of terror sites from you at the start - can you imagine a map with a hundred Chrysalids? Can't think why the Ethereal says they weren't all that great when all they needed to do was field larger numbers (okay, I get they were fishing for advanced intelligence) Posted Image

The more I think about the story the more it does explain the diversity of the alien species - they're clearly not all related.

I just got a bit of confirmation - I've just had a peek at the game's audio files. Two of them caught my attention - ELDER_TempleUltimateEtherealWounded and ELDER_TempleUltimateEtherealNearDeath - I don't think they are used in the game (there are no subtitles for them) but the message is quite clear:

"The search, the trials, this is how is ends. Our question answered but the New One and its kin are doomed without our dying hand"

"No this is not the way! So much time, so many failures and now our greatest success, our only success, we failed to grasp the consequences..."

So, through XCOM, humanity becomes what the Ethereals were expecting (through a leap in human evolution caused by Psionics) and more, with the invention turning against its creators. The only question is: what it meant by 'doomed'...
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#13 Space Voyager

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 05:44 AM

Interesting... I didn't think your theory was correct, but now, with these two additional pieces of info, little else seems possible.

#14 Hobbes

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:16 AM

View PostSpace Voyager, on 03 December 2012 - 05:44 AM, said:

Interesting... I didn't think your theory was correct, but now, with these two additional pieces of info, little else seems possible.

I just developed it a bit in the 2K forums:

Now if the Ethereals had failed to develop a human Volunteer, why did they stick around? There was clearly something not working with their process since they had abducted thousands and thousands of people with no visible results (there's also absolutely no mention of how long the process has been going on, unlike the OG, so they could either be doing it recently or for thousands of years). Nor are they interested in conquering Earth since there's no invasion, only terror and abduction raids, so they aren't making any visible effort to turn Earth and humanity as part of their war mongering empire.

So you're the Uber Commander of an advanced alien species that wants to find the perfect species for a special propose. What do you do? You make a series of tests: first, if the species is intelligent enough to master your technology and our forces. You set a monitoring and research base on Earth to perform attacks and see how the native species react - and if they are smart/capable enough to defeat those teams. And you keep increasing the difficulty - the more capacities the native humans reveal, the bigger and better armed the alien combat teams and UFOs you'll be sending. You are looking for the best so you send your best to see how they manage it.
Eventually, if the native species is proving that it can use and adapt your technology then they will sooner or later discover your base and try to take it out. If the natives are successful, go for part 2 of the plan: give the naked apes an Ethereal device and see what they are capable of doing with it. Oh, and in the meanwhile, park your massive UFO Temple Ship on the planet's orbit to make them realize the issue is getting really big and remember it's their survival at stake. We have been practicing the survival of the fittest before you could even make fire, so we know that a species will fight better when threatened with extinction - that's the whole point of the abductions and terror sites - to make humans prepared for the testing by sending their elite soldiers (XCOM) to fight your own elite soldiers.
If the natives also finish part 2 then you prepare a final test on the Temple Ship to be sure, otherwise if they fail it's just a matter of blowing up Earth before they are a threat since we have already thousands and thousands of abducted human slaves ready to serve us on our quest and we can leave for the next planet and more testing. And if they are successful on the final test they will understand our necessity and join our cause, either willingly or unwillingly...

Oops. I think I miscalculated something...


Bonus question (and paraphrasing Dr. Vahlen): what was the Uber Ethereal communicating with when XCOM enters the room? And what instructions was it receiving? (Outsider Shard leads to Sectoid Commander, Hyperwave Device to Ethereal, Psi Link to Uber Ethereal, unknown device to ? Maybe the testing isn't over. Maybe it is in their plans for the Volunteer to touch that device...
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#15 Ki-tat Chung

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 05:23 AM

Teehee, they want us to touch their device... :D
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#16 Space Voyager

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 07:33 AM

:D

Things fall into place nicely, but frankly the gamble they are taking seems FAR too big. I'm not saying your deduction of the game story is wrong, it just seems very unlikely things would go this way "in reality". You want the weapon developed under laboratory conditions and under complete control - or not developed at all. Making it likely to fall into wrong hands - and sacrificing a helluva lot of people, ships etc. in the meantime - is rather far-fetched IMO. Still, it seems like the story Firaxis went for.

#17 Hobbes

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 05:23 PM

View PostKi-tat Chung, on 05 December 2012 - 05:23 AM, said:

Teehee, they want us to touch their device... Posted Image

"Would you like to touch my monkey? Touch him! Love him!"  (check around 1:50)

The theme of reaching out to touch something new completely reminds me of the scene of the ape touching the Monolith on 2001: A Space Odissey


View PostSpace Voyager, on 05 December 2012 - 07:33 AM, said:

Posted Image

Things fall into place nicely, but frankly the gamble they are taking seems FAR too big. I'm not saying your deduction of the game story is wrong, it just seems very unlikely things would go this way "in reality". You want the weapon developed under laboratory conditions and under complete control - or not developed at all. Making it likely to fall into wrong hands - and sacrificing a helluva lot of people, ships etc. in the meantime - is rather far-fetched IMO. Still, it seems like the story Firaxis went for.

Well it is a good story because it kinda breaks the 4th wall and it's self-ironic, something nice to see - The Ethereals (Firaxis) created a test (the game XCOM: Enemy Unknown) to see how humanity (the player) survives (completes the game). You also see a bit of it with Dr. Shen's comment about Alien Entertainment ("Is this what the aliens do for fun? At least they are not playing videogames").
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#18 silencer_pl

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:37 PM

Funny though out of two alien base layouts only in one he says that.
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#19 Hobbes

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 10:03 PM

View Postsilencer_pl, on 05 December 2012 - 06:37 PM, said:

Funny though out of two alien base layouts only in one he says that.

You mean the quotes I've put about the Uber Ethereal from the game sounds? Because those files aren't used in the game. A guess could be that they removed them (but forgot to take out the audio files) because of a possible sequel.
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#20 silencer_pl

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:00 PM

No I meant Dr Shen talking about Alien Entertainment :P
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