Author Topic: FS2 is a cosmic horror story  (Read 1392 times)

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Offline Rhys

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FS2 is a cosmic horror story
If you boil the plot down to its elements: Plot starts in the middle of a conflict with rebels/terrorists/whatever, antagonist opens a pandora's box for knowledge/insight/power and unleashes a horror that everyone vastly underestimates the unfathomable scale of the mysterious destructive aliens. At some point in the plot, they think they're getting the upper hand and are overconfident before having to come to terms with an incomprehensibly powerful force that at the end is revealed to have the ability to destroy stars. The story doesn't resolve beyond successfully sealing themselves off from what was a major population center and not being completely annihilated. The consequences of that aren't canonically explained but user-made campaigns have addressed it pretty well.

It only dawned on me when I was older that FS2 was kind of a dark game. I also liked how grounded and gritty the universe was compared to other space games.

 
Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
I also liked how grounded and gritty the universe was compared to other space games.

Such as?
Shivans view most other species the way we view infectious diseases. They think they are doing good by curing the universe of them. After all, no one mourns the fate of smallpox.

The Final War For The Multiverse

 

Offline Luis Dias

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Yeah... that's like... what the game is!

 

Offline Rhys

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
I also liked how grounded and gritty the universe was compared to other space games.

Such as?

Wing Commander, X-Wing, Freelancer, etc

 

Offline Iain Baker

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Yup, all of this.

What first made me sit up, take notice and take FS seriously was when I first heard a Vasudan 'talk'. After Starwars, Trek, B5 etc it was refreshing to hear an alien that didn't speak perfect English. They were physiologically incapable of creating human sounds, just as we were incapable of replicating theirs. Hummm... I thought to myself. looks like we have something that takes itself seriously, where the creators have actually put some thought and effort in and it isn't aimed at kids.

Then it had political factions, traitors who were wiser than their loyal peers, religious zealots and aliens that were truly Alien. Its notions of good and evil were a good deal more 'grey' than the childish 'black and white' portrayals in most popular sci-fi franchises of the time. I also liked how it was not at all clear until the last second if humanity was going to prevail, and even when it did, it didn't exactly 'win' it just survived at great cost. I also liked the fact you were a simple and largely nameless pilot, who wasn't special, wasn't the chosen one, wasn't the son of some military hero, and the war didn't centre around you. All these too got my attention and kept it ever since. 
 
If FS had been like most other franchises which were hard to take seriously, such as Wing Commander (Cat people, seriously???) then I doubt I would have remained interested, regardless of how well it played.
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Offline Rhys

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Yup, all of this.

What first made me sit up, take notice and take FS seriously was when I first heard a Vasudan 'talk'. After Starwars, Trek, B5 etc it was refreshing to hear an alien that didn't speak perfect English. They were physiologically incapable of creating human sounds, just as we were incapable of replicating theirs. Hummm... I thought to myself. looks like we have something that takes itself seriously, where the creators have actually put some thought and effort in and it isn't aimed at kids.

Then it had political factions, traitors who were wiser than their loyal peers, religious zealots and aliens that were truly Alien. Its notions of good and evil were a good deal more 'grey' than the childish 'black and white' portrayals in most popular sci-fi franchises of the time. I also liked how it was not at all clear until the last second if humanity was going to prevail, and even when it did, it didn't exactly 'win' it just survived at great cost. I also liked the fact you were a simple and largely nameless pilot, who wasn't special, wasn't the chosen one, wasn't the son of some military hero, and the war didn't centre around you. All these too got my attention and kept it ever since. 
 
If FS had been like most other franchises which were hard to take seriously, such as Wing Commander (Cat people, seriously???) then I doubt I would have remained interested, regardless of how well it played.

With the amount of medals and promotions Alpha 1 gets in the span of a month (presumably) I think they have to be somewhat distinguished and not just a cog in the machine, but Alpha 1 is definitely just a cog in the machine and that's the best part. I can't think of any other games like it at the time that had those huge capital ship battles with powerful beams. Plus compared to its contemporaries, FS2 has been continuously modernized and expanded upon with user-made campaigns that flesh out the universe as a whole.

 

Offline 0rph3u5

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
The Shivans are not unfathomable per se, the GTVA just fails to fathom them.

This makes them an unknown. Which is in no small part because of the presumption of the GTVA, which is that they have developed the technology to bring sufficent violence and force to counter the violence and force expected of the Shivans. That's why the centrepiece of the first antagonist's, Bosch, plan is creating the option for a non-violent encounter with the Shivans - it highlights, in concert with the failure to stop the Shivans until they impose a hard stop to the confronation on their terms, that the GTVA has been travelling down a road to nowhere without realising it.
"As you sought to steal a kingdom for yourself, so must you do again, a thousand times over. For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The terms of Nyrissa's curse, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

==================

"I am Curiosity, and I've always wondered what would become of you, here at the end of the world." - The Guide/The Curious Other, Othercide

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"...because they are not Dragons."

 

Offline Firesteel

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
On my replay this past year, the amount of medals you get at the end of FS1 is truly absurd and the person I was playing it with pointed out just how obviously this was a ploy to boost morale.

and like many people have said, FS2 is a reckoning about the limits of the GTVA's perspective as an extension of the lessons they took from the events of FS1.
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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
So Bosch was right? Possibly. Possibly he just used the common fears among society to manipulate them into civil war, but in the end the grand plan was to sacrifice millions to save billions.

FreeSpace 1 is also rather deep, and our main hero who saves Earth also makes it cut off, so it's effectively dead for all outsiders.
There also is a traitor who assists the Vasudans, knowing the bigger picture that Command is trying to hide.
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Offline CP5670

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
I don't think I have seen any other game or movie with the same kind of Lovecraftian cosmic horror feel that Freespace (especially FS2) had back in the day. Mass Effect 1 maybe, but the later games ruined the Reapers and made them lame.

Also, the fact that so many things are left unexplained and open to interpretation is the reason this community came out with all these mods and campaigns. That open endedness inspired people to fill in the gaps themselves.

 

Offline Iain Baker

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Yup, exactly this. In some ways, the fact that we never got FS3 is a blessing. We wouldn't have had Inferno, Blue Planet, Exile and many other great campaigns if we had.
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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
The Shivans are not unfathomable per se, the GTVA just fails to fathom them.

This makes them an unknown. Which is in no small part because of the presumption of the GTVA, which is that they have developed the technology to bring sufficent violence and force to counter the violence and force expected of the Shivans. That's why the centrepiece of the first antagonist's, Bosch, plan is creating the option for a non-violent encounter with the Shivans - it highlights, in concert with the failure to stop the Shivans until they impose a hard stop to the confronation on their terms, that the GTVA has been travelling down a road to nowhere without realising it.

So Bosch was right? Possibly. Possibly he just used the common fears among society to manipulate them into civil war, but in the end the grand plan was to sacrifice millions to save billions.

There's several issues I find with this line of thinking - and in general how I feel about a lot of the "Ends justify the means" line of reasoning.

Bosch's plan involves:
  • Starting a rebellion with as stated goal secession from the GTVA and the annihilation (or at the very least the subjugation) of the Vasudans
  • Using this genocidal rebellion as a cover to plunder Ancient sites for research.
  • Opening a portal to The Shivan Dimension and launching the entire NTF in there in a bid to get to them.
  • Talk to the shivans.
  • Victory!

Throughout FS2 we see Bosch carrying out all the steps in his plan. He has built ETAK, he uses this to contact the Shivans, and the Shivans listen. As a result, his entire crew is killed and he is kidnapped, never to be seen again. Bosch's plan succeeded. It's just that the outcome of that plan didn't have the result he intended it to have. The end is just that more people get killed. Bosch's plan, which uncharitably can be described with "If only we could talk to the Shivans", has a massive flaw that his ego can not see: It assumes that the Shivans are willing to listen to him. He proclaims himself a messiah, but doesn't understand the divine.

So the end is bogus. We see that. But if we assume that the plan did work. Then we'd still have to talk about the means.

Aken Bosch is an admiral in the GTVA and was a pilot flying for the winning side of the GTI rebellion1. Given that he went from enlisted to admiral and that he's able to start a pretty big rebellion by himself means that he most likely has considerable reputation and political connections. He could leverage those to get access to the resources he needs. The GTVI is interested in his research, he could've worked for the GTVI in the first place!

His plan also involves opening the portal to begin with. Bosch is so sure of himself that he doesn't even wait for apocalypse to happen once again: He triggers it. Immeadiately. He triggers it and waits until the GTVA is stretched out enough that he can make a beeline for the gate. All the while, both the NTF and the GTVA's soldiers suffer.

The means don't make sense if Bosch's only objective was to actually talk to the Shivans. A more patient, less self-centred person then Bosch could've created Etak through co-operation and simply have waited until the Shivans came again. Bosch instead chooses the fastest, maximally destructive way possible to achieve his "End".

Bosch talks about how it was his love for the Human race, not his hatred for the Vasudans that made him do the things that he did, but he betrays quite a bit of his thinking with that statement: He doesn't deny his hatred for the Vasudans even in his self-centred monologues, and it's obvious that his plan involves their annihilation. Although he never talks about his version of Generalplan Ost, we see the consequences of his policies first-hand. One of the ends of Bosch's plan is mentioned less, but the point is not to just from an alliance with the Shivans: It's to replace the Vasudans with the Shivans. The Vasudans must simply go away.

And as much as Bosch proclaims his love for the Human race, it's clear that he cares more for a concept that exists entirely in his head rather then him loving some actual examples of it. Bosch's death march for the Shivan Dimension leaves all of his followers dead.  It's notable that aside from the crew of the Iceni, all the NTF's losses and all the damage the NTF has caused were part of the plan. Bosch isn't willing to sacrifice millions to save billions. He's willing to sacrifice billions for what looks to be just the people closest to him, and most likely only himself.

Bosch doesn't have a non-violent encounter with the Shivans, in that way: The path he took to get to the Shivans in the first place is full of violence. Violence against the Vasudans most of all, but the only reason we encounter the Shivans in FS2 is because Bosch send the Trinity to open the portal in the first place. It's Bosch who has been travelling down a road to nowhere without realising it, the GTVA simply followed in his footsteps, and permitting the blood sacrifices that he made along the way. His path to "Neo-Terra" both physically just moves him as far as any Terran has gone from Terra, and separates him from humanity entirely. Everyone who loved him is dead, and he walks straight past the Knossos portal that actually could restore "The Lost Grandeur of Earth". He doesn't care: He doesn't want humanity to form an alliance with the shivans. Aken Bosch wants Aken Bosch to form an alliance with the Shivans.

The GTVA is complicit in this, as we see throughout FS2. It too massively suffers from hubris: Hubris in thinking they could control Bosch, hubris in thinking they could contain the Shivans, but ultimately the GTVA also keeps its options open and its ultimate objective is more measured and inward looking. This is reflected in the price they pay: The NTF is destroyed entirely, the GTVA at the very least gets to live.

1 There's historical precedent of people who fought for the unambiguously evil losers still getting cushy positions in the victor's government, but that doesn't change the overall argument: If the GTVA is willing to give a member of the Hades Rebellion the admiralty, he could just be the GTVI's Wernher von Braun.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2022, 06:13:01 am by -Joshua- »

 

Offline DefCynodont119

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Joshua, that was the best post ever,  holy bleep!

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Offline Mongoose

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
That is fantastic.

 
Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Heh, thanks.

 

Offline DefCynodont119

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Quote
. . . and he (Bosch) walks straight past the Knossos portal that actually could restore "The Lost Grandeur of Earth"

This line hits so hard, I never realized that Bosch totally missed the potential use of the Knossos,

That's really strong evidence right there that Bosch was thinking about himself and not humanity, or perhaps more accurately for a madman: that Bosch conflated his own wants/needs/ambitions with humanity's.
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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Quote
. . . and he (Bosch) walks straight past the Knossos portal that actually could restore "The Lost Grandeur of Earth"

This line hits so hard, I never realized that Bosch totally missed the potential use of the Knossos,

That's really strong evidence right there that Bosch was thinking about himself and not humanity, or perhaps more accurately for a madman: that Bosch conflated his own wants/needs/ambitions with humanity's.

He saw the power of the Shivans and wanted to wield some of that power. Nothing else mattered.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2022, 12:19:36 pm by -Joshua- »

 
Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Quote
. . . and he (Bosch) walks straight past the Knossos portal that actually could restore "The Lost Grandeur of Earth"

This line hits so hard, I never realized that Bosch totally missed the potential use of the Knossos,

That's really strong evidence right there that Bosch was thinking about himself and not humanity, or perhaps more accurately for a madman: that Bosch conflated his own wants/needs/ambitions with humanity's.

... or it simply means that Bosch in his mind came to the conclusion that the true of the extent of the Shivan threat was far greater than whatever GTVA command with its Colossus project could ever contain before the Sath armada showed up in person, and that a fair chunck of humanity being behind a (hopefully) locked door was the best mankind could happen at this point. Idk if he had gone to such lenghts if he considered the Lucifer the most deadliest thing they could throw at the Terrans.

---

FS is much like an ontological mystery imo. You have 35 or so systems containing less than 100 stars connected by a highly unpredictable medium (subspace) in a galaxy of several hundred billion stars. What ever we've seen of the Shivans is what they wanted to do in this tiny space over a small timespan. If during FS2 the escorts had driven off GTVA units by a few systems and the Sath armada had taken a different star outside of GTVA space through unknown nodes we wouldn't even know Saths exist.

 
Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Quote
... or it simply means that Bosch in his mind came to the conclusion that the true of the extent of the Shivan threat was far greater than whatever GTVA command with its Colossus project could ever contain before the Sath armada showed up in person, and that a fair chunck of humanity being behind a (hopefully) locked door was the best mankind could happen at this point.

Notable though that the GTVA didn't even know about the existence of the portal until the NTC Trinity opened it - and Terra was behind two locked doors before that.

If the point was to keep the Shivans away from Terra, not opening up the portal would be the best option. Bosch only cares about Knossos in so far that it can bring him closer to the Shivans.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2022, 07:53:15 pm by -Joshua- »

  

Offline DefCynodont119

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Re: FS2 is a cosmic horror story
Quote
... or it simply means that Bosch in his mind came to the conclusion that the true of the extent of the Shivan threat was far greater than whatever GTVA command with its Colossus project could ever contain before the Sath armada showed up in person, and that a fair chunck of humanity being behind a (hopefully) locked door was the best mankind could happen at this point.

Umm, to be blunt- that line of thought makes very little sense with Bosch's actions: opening the Knossos and grating access to shivan space thus putting humanity in danger, and what he says in his monologues: The Neo Terran Front was just that- a Front, he did not care about making Neo Terra, so he probably would not have cared about going back to earth either- he wanted his alliance with the Shivans regardless of whether or not it was a good idea or even possible, he may have even ran on the assumption that he would be successful and that would stop the Shivans attacking and everyone would thank him, or maybe he wanted only to ally the NTF/himself with the Shivans and they would both crush the GTVA for his own benefit.

Also, and this is a side point, his last monologue is borderline delusional when paired with what we see in that mission where the Iceni is found, so I would suggest he's so blinded by his own objectives that he's no longer able to rationalize how much a threat the Shivans pose.

But uhh, I think what Joshua said puts it better:

Quote
Notable though that the GTVA didn't even know about the existence of the portal until the NTC Trinity opened it - and Terra was behind two locked doors before that.

If the point was to keep the Shivans away from Terra, not opening up the portal would be the best option. Bosch only cares about Knossos in so far that it can bring him closer to the Shivans.
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