It's finally time. Welcome to the last Kotaku Game Club discussion of Shadows of the Damned. Today we're talking about Act 5, the game's ending and our final thoughts.
It should go without saying, but since we're talking about the ending here, we'll be extra careful: Do not read this post or the comments below if you haven't completed the game! Everything on this page is loaded with spoilers!
Let's cut to the chase: Shadows' ending was, in a word, perplexing. While it was a logical conclusion and had a beautiful sentiment, the game's climax didn't seem fitting because it didn't embrace the game's crass and outlandish nature. Given the standard set in Act 1, The last 30 minutes of Shadows should have been nearly incomprehensible. Instead, they tied the game off with a sentimental ending that, while solidifying the game's underlying theme, betrayed its spirit.
That said, the ending pulled the curtain off Shadows' underlying maturity. If Shadows' hell is the land of tragic fairy tales, then by going there Garcia condemned himself to a tragic end. From the beginning, Garcia brands the journey as a story, his "road movie". Most of what we learn about hell throughout the game is told through stories, whether they're the books about hell's VIPs, Johnson's anecdotal stories about himself, or general description of "what happens" to people when they arrive. For the most part, all of those stories end tragically. By that notion, when Hotspur entered the world of hell, even as an outsider, he condemned himself to a tragic fate. Of course, as determined as he is, he doesn't accept his fate, even when it's clear that Paula has already become a demon. It's a dark notion that didn't really come together until the end. The game's fairy tale theme didn't really make sense until the game's final moments, when you watch Garcia and Paula descend into darkness.
That moment, where Hotspur and Paula are dying, was particularly divisive. When Hotspur's health bar appears and begins to drain as he sits in the darkness, my first response was to try and keep him alive: The health bar is there, so I automatically reacted as if it was a gameplay moment, not a cutscene. Once I pressed all the buttons frantically and found that it was no use, I felt a brief sadness, because I was forced to accept that this is Hotspur fate. In that moment I imagine that my feelings and his were one and the same: Moments when the player and protagonist can be that in-sync are few and far between. It's something that video games constantly strive for, but rarely achieve.
Thank you everyone for participating in this chapter of the Kotaku Game Club! In the past, we've waited a long time between Game Club chapters, but this time around we're going keeping a more steady schedule. In other words, instead of waiting six months, we'll be starting a new chapter with a new game in the next few weeks. We'll let you guys know what game we're doing as soon as we know.