As I’ve expressed before, I’m not a big fan of sequels as a concept. Continuity driven series are fine and all, but video games have a dearth of self-contained experiences. So, if I were asked if I’d want to see a sequel story in the world of one of my favorite games of last year I would have said no. I would have begged against it.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more complete whole in a video game than Primordia. Yet, so many fans of the game apparently wanted to see a sequel in that world filling in all the cracks ignoring that they were A. largely unimportant and B. there to lend an air of mystery and a sense of a larger world. That second part is so integral to game’s success and focus on what is important to the game. Too much of one thing can dilute the impact of any further material in that universe. Ask Marvel and DC about that. I honestly couldn’t see how any further excavations into that world would do anything, but harm the thematic integrity of Primordia by diluting it. I like a complete whole. What I like even more, however, is to be surprised.
Writer Matt Yohalem was kind enough to send me an advance copy some time ago as a kindness and a courtesy. It was later piecemealed out one section a week for three weeks. Now that it is fully available, I would like to publish a few thoughts on it.
Yohalem and artists Tamas Szathmary and Victor Pflug have created an intriguing second foray into the world of Primordia in the form of a “graphic novella.” It isn’t a comic, but a prose stories with a few gloriously gorgeous images to highlight it. I stand to eat my words above in regards to this. I could suppose, with regards to the creators, on so many factors with why this game and subsequent novella feel so fresh, so grand and so brilliant, but instead I feel only better qualified to lament that neither will reach the larger audience that both deserve. Games have inherent limitations of their medium in our current culture, but the novella also seems to be held back by how much it relies on the game to understand it. In an earlier time when stories of such length were revered and highly sought after it could have reached the audience it deserves. Now it lives in a culture where it will only reach the faithful, those already sold on the material – the fans.
Fallen flips the proverbial script on Primordia’s premise. Instead of being from the point of view of a builder and a robot, it is from the point of view of a destroyer and a human. The worldview is turned upside down from the philosophies debated in the game to one asking a more fundamental question, a question whose answer all the old gods of Metropol and the wastes accepted as their base premise. Even the framing of the battle between Metromind’s individual collectivism and Horatio’s collective individualism is discarded for a much less nuance take of an individual’s place in society to ask an individual’s place in the world.
Mcllven and Autonomous 8 view the world is so fundamentally different they have trouble communicating. Mcllven can see what each of them are with her more expanded viewpoint, but at the same time it can seem limited in different aspects for what the world now is. The story follows Mcllven, but in a way the story could also been seen as Autonomous 8’s journey more than hers. In the end Autonomous 8 is the one with the question and his sense of self in a state of flux. Mcllven knows who she is and does not change or learn. She encounters the world; a world that has changed and left humankind behind at their own hand.
It isn’t a problem based plot or conflict oriented story arc. The novella is an existential travelogue akin to McCormic’s The Road. But unlike The Road, fate is not unkind. It is indifferent. The balance in question isn’t between freedom and life, but between whose freedom and whose life will continue: human or robot. Fate is indifferent for the world will exist for either of them once they’ve sorted it out – paralleled neatly with Milton’s Paradise Lost quotes at both ends of the text. The world will exist in the image of whoever won the war.
I’ve long since lost my ability to judge prose on its own merits of craft of brilliance. I don’t know if you could call it exceptional writing. I can only judge the worthiness of the writing as a whole and in regards to my taste. With that in mind, I think it is some of the finest writing I’ve ever read. Fallen managed to reach over and grab a hold something inside of me. I fell silent as the words staring back at me. Both the prose and ideas conveyed through it humble me. Primordia feels like a game tailor made for me and Fallen continues that path.
To me this is how to do an add on or an extension to already created fiction, something that expands the work not just physically, but thematically. Most sequels just tack on more plot without adding further meaning to the whole. In the end they are either empty or repeating their brethren. Primordia said so much and explored so many point of views that to add on anything would seem an insurmountable task without falling into the pitfalls. Maybe that’s why Fallen is so short, for its length matches the new material perfectly. Primordia couldn’t have sustained a second full length game, but it can sustain this nice companion piece. I am grateful for what the team put together and how they did it. But you’ve listen to me go on long enough. Read it already. It also comes complete with a GoG copy of the game.