Monday, August 7, 2017

Advent Rising: Stars Wars meets Halo, starring Mary Sue

Every now and then I play a game or watch a movie or experience something that rattles me to the core, and I must share it!

Back when Gamestop sold PC games, and when one could buy used copies of PC games, at least two boxes of this title would be in the used section, every Gamestop, every time. Naturally I've been curious why it did so badly.



Advent Rising begins with first contact. An alien race named the Aurelians visits humanity’s homeworld (not Earth) and warns humanity that another alien race, the Seekers, is coming to destroy them. Minutes later, they arrive, and destroy the planet! Our hero, Gideon, survives.

The game had only just started when I reached my shark-jumping moment: the Aurelians teach Gideon how to use the power of telekinesis, something all life forms have the ability to do to some extent.

Queue montage: Gideon learning how to levitate objects.

...it’s the Force.

Yeah, it's a ripoff of Star Wars.

Gameplay does not improve in the later levels. It's just wave after wave of aliens, no real difference between the guns, no reason to change guns, no difference between any of the enemy types. Each doesn't attack you in any different way, no strategy, no thought, they just stand still and shoot you. All you have to do is shoot everything until it dies, or levitate them and throw them off the ledge. (You can do this without limit!) If there is no ledge, the lifting ability is useless because you have very little control over what you can do with objects once you levitate them.

Half the time the game tells you to go to point B but not where point B is, and the path is not obvious. It doesn't even give you a hint for where you need to go. "There's a civilian airstrip just north of the med-labs." Ok, but which way is north?

I haven't played Halo, but from what I've seen of it, Advent Rising simply copies its gameplay. It's Halo meets Star Wars, and if the sum of the parts equals the whole, then this game is nothing more than a total copycat. Halo at least had a good reason to have a regenerating healthbar: Master Chief has a shield to protect himself in battle. Gideon does not wear armor, so how can he take direct hits from missiles and regain health by taking cover?!

It is outstandingly acted and animated (except for Gideon’s appearance changing between cutscenes for no apparent reason), but as ambitious as Advent Rising looks, it took no risks with story or gameplay, which means it is not ambitious at all. The only good boss fight is at the very end, and even then I don't understand the twist.

I like the design of the Aurelians (the friendly aliens), but why didn't they help when humanity’s homeworld was about to be blown up?? Why didn't they do anything about it? Don't they have advanced technology, too? We find out later they're subservient to the Seekers, as is everybody in the Senate, but we don't learn more about that. I was more interested in the nature of this relationship. Instead, the story is about Gideon rising to godlike status. Yes, that’s the story: aliens worship humanity, thus they worship Gideon, and Gideon gets used to the idea that he's a god.

I was more interested in the Aurelian religion. Why do they worship mankind, having never met a human? Why do humans have the latent power to levitate objects and shoot exploding ice particles from their hands? Apparently every species has the potential to do this, so how are humans different? Why are the Seekers destroying human planets to keep mankind from rising up and challenging them for supremacy? (And was that element stolen from the movie “Titan A. E.”?) Why just humans and not all the other species who can learn about the totally-not-the-Force? No doubt all of this would have been answered in the sequels, but it should have been the focus of this story, not Gideon.

And on the same topic, why didn't the aliens take video evidence of the Seekers blowing up mankind if they wanted to prove to the Senate that the Seekers are genocidal maniacs? Why are the Aurelians waiting for humans to save them all from the Seekers? They have weapons, clearly the Aurelians can fight back, so what does Gideon do for them that their freakin' guns and swords cannot?!

The way the Aurelians worship Gideon even though he hasn’t done anything reeks of pandering to a power fantasy. Gideon is someone's Mary Sue, but not the player's.

I think that's what pisses me off most of all: the Aurelians worship Gideon and treat him with reverence, but what does he do to deserve it? What is he contributing to this fight that the Aurelians are not?! One character outright tells Gideon "It is not easy being God." Second shark-jumping moment. Gideon does not deserve their respect! His powers are not that impressive, there is no justification for Gideon having them, and the aliens could have waged this rebellion without him, so why the fuck do they treat him this way?!


It’s not just the aliens who worship him. From the very beginning of the game, the human characters revere and respect Gideon because he’s a famous pilot and brother of a famous pilot, too. Yeah, even the humans worship Gideon, and this means the entire story is about how awesome Gideon is!

It's insulting to the audience because it feels as if someone told the writers the demographic profile of a typical gamer and to write the script to appeal to that. Apparently they believe gamers are insecure and powerless and want to live out their power fantasy and feel godlike, so they wrote every character to reinforce this as if it were a fetish video.

Or it could be Orson Scott Card was merely hired to expand a story outline, and this is in fact the director’s Mary Sue.

No wonder it ended up in the bargain bin.

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