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Let’s talk about the strange disappointment of a Stray ending

Let's talk about the strange disappointment of a Stray ending
Written by admin_3fxxacau

A cat prepares to jump between two pipes in Stray.

Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku

Wander, a post-apocalyptic adventure game about a cat, is quite excellent. Two of us at Kotaku recently propelled through his puzzlesdevouring her dense and mysteriously post-apocalyptic environments and generally enjoying living a cat’s roleplay power fantasy. Next, we hit the credits. Of course, we had to talk.


Ari Notis: John, we’re both done Wander. Tell me: did you like the ending? Or did it…deviate from what made the rest of the game so great?

John Walker: I knew we were only a hair’s breadth away from a pun. No, I would say my experience of Wander was a straight diagonal line, starting high, then getting lower and lower until its absolutely terrible end.

Ari: I’m not quite the same – more of a very high plateau that hastily fell off a cliff at the end – but I totally agree, this ending is horrible. In fact, I had to warn people IRL: it’s so sad!

John: And yet, I’ve had so many people so furiously tell me off for suggest the ending completely forget THE WHOLE REASON I WAS PLAYING THE GAME. But I think a lot of that is a reluctance to admit that the cute cat sim had long since become another third-person gray robot game, so the defenses against reality are already very high.

Spoilers follow for Wander.

A yellow banner prevents readers from accidentally seeing spoilers for Stray's ending.

Ari: Ah, yeah, this blog has rubbed some people’s fur a bit, hasn’t it? But yeah, all the reason to play Wander is quite simple: you want to reunite the cat with its friends. And you go through all those adventures – including those robot shooting sections, the merits of which we disagree on but in a way that I totally respect your opinion about – to not even have a clue that he sees his friends again. It’s a very strange ending for a game that’s otherwise so preoccupied with hope.

John: They’re not even just friends, are they? They are brothers and sisters who love each other. They are an abandoned litter of kittens, survivors of an apocalypse, and then one of them falls. This sets up a game that is, of course, solely about getting back to your siblings. And instead, it’s as if they completely forgot. They got tangled up in a vile sacrifice that was completely meaningless.

B-12 speaks while hovering over a computer in Stray.

Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku

Ari: Yeah! For a game about a cat, it got too caught up in the drama around a human. Do you believe B-12 is really the last living human? And more importantly, did you think he was going to suddenly turn his head (sorry, sorry, I can’t help it) and decide, within minutes, that every trace of humanity isn’t worth not worth continuing?

John: Well, it’s a human consciousness trapped in a machine. This is a small urban neighborhood, so as far as we know there could be millions of humans living happily elsewhere in China, Sweden, Bangladesh or Australia. And none of this explains the reason for his apparent “sacrifice”. He obviously uploads his consciousness to the computer, so there’s no sacrifice anyway, but beyond that, what was his purpose? Release a cat, a creature that has no interest in anything other than itself, outside, what for? What is the point ? If this was the end of humanity, as the game wants to imply, he did it so he could…let the cat out?

Ari: Aw, man, no way, chat has definitely evolved beyond pure self-interest! (My own cats should take note.) In the prison scene, for example, he escapes with Clementine, then he says “Meow, meow meow meow, meow”, which I believe translates to ” We can’t leave yet, we have to stage a risky operation and save my friend B12, who is trapped in this cage guarded by lasers and laser shooter robots.

John: I was very confused throughout as to whether I was supposed to buy the cat understanding what B-12 was saying, or like with my own cats, just watching where the noise is coming from and then hoping there is food on the way. I played it as a game in which an indifferent cat accidentally keeps flipping the right switches or bumping into the right person.

But all that aside, I would have forgiven any amount of nonsense of indulgent and appalling fake sacrifices if, in the end, my cat had emerged into the bright sunshine to hear, right next to the camera, a “Meow? !” That’s it. That’s all I needed. I didn’t need to see a meeting, to see them fall on each other. I just needed to know it was about to happen.

Ari: Exactly! And I kinda get what they wanted, leaving an open ended ending so they don’t neatly tie up the story for the audience. But all it took was the slightest suggestion that a happy ending might occur, which a little off-screen “meow” would have accomplished.

John: What’s even weirder is that they made such a “Maybe!” end. Except it was the fucking human! The computer light came on, which I guess suggested B-12 was still alive.

Ari: So what does this mean for the future? All robot-shooty parts, no cute cat stuff?

John: Of course, I hope they don’t follow up. They are talented, but Wander revealed that they had absolutely no idea what to do with the idea they came up with. I either want to see their next fresh idea or focus on creating the cat sim everyone really wanted in the first place. God, those microscopic sightings they showed in the beginning. And the joyful moment when the cat puts on the saddle for the first time ridiculous. We had to put one of our kittens in a protective sock after she was spayed, and she did the exact same thing, collapsing like a building was on top of her. It was joyful to see these details so well done. Which ends a boring robot who may not have killed himself for the dumbest reason ever, a bummer.

Ari: Poor kitty! Please tell me you have pictures of this.

John:

A cat dressed in a jacket rolls on a rug.

Photo: Kotaku

Ari: Awwwwww. But yes, Wander absolutely nails the feeling of being a cat, down to waltzing on a keyboard and screwing up people’s chess games and such. And I think it carries that feeling mostly to the end. (Even shooting segmentswhich flashed through my mind – I actually found myself wishing for an extra chapter or two.) But unlike a real cat, the game didn’t land on all fours.

John: Before I wrap up, and you’re a bit more wrong about the shooting sections, let me tell you how the ending went in our house: Toby, my 7-year-old son, invited some friends over as I was finishing the game on the living room TV. Toby had totally lost interest in the game once he stopped being a cat, but wanted to be there for the meeting. As it was clear that the game was about to let me out, I said to him, “Toby, what do you think is going to happen?” He sat down, “Kittens!” And so we all waited for the inevitable glorious moment… And there was nothing. And we looked at each other in shock. It was so awful. And Toby continued to lament that oversight for days after. And when a 7-year-old criticizes your story structure, you know something is wrong.

#Lets #talk #strange #disappointment #Stray

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