BEST REVEAL AWARD
So in order to talk about these games, I’ve had to transport you through time and space to this desolate realm that is my Tumblr blog in order to fill you in on what these moments were and why they worked so well. Obviously, there’ll be spoilers, so I’ll start each paragraph with the game title all big and bolded, so you’ll know to skip it if you haven’t played that game and might some day want to.
ASSASSIN’S CREED III wins the award for the realization that Haytham Kenway, the character that the player has been controlling the for the entire tutorial (which may well be the same as saying “the first third of the game”) is actually a Templar. While this is an amazing realization on its own, so is how all the pieces fall into place in your head as you think about what you’ve been doing as Haytham: You killed an Assassin in the theatre, you killed a friendly and resourceful Assassin in the ship voyage over, you managed to put together a posse of evil, power-seeking like-minded conspirators, you managed to kill several people who might’ve stood in the Templars’ way and you were personally responsible for accepting Charles Lee, the game’s chief antagonist, into the Templar fold. It’s an amazing “oh shit!” moment, one almost as powerful as BioShock’s “Would You Kindly?” only you didn’t have to wait until right near the end of the game to enjoy it.
RESONANCE is a Wadjet Eye adventure game with multiple playable characters. They’re all working towards a similar goal and are afforded a similar amount of screentime and development during the initial few chapters. But Tolstoy Eddings, the nerdy but passionate assistant to murder victim and mystery lynchpin Dr Javier Morales, would seem to be the actual protagonist: He’s the first character you assume, and the one most closely involved with the enigmatic Resonance technology the game is named after. But it turns out Eddings is a cold-hearted murderer who wants the power of Resonance all to himself. Or is he? Future conversations paint him a little more like a desperate man, clinging to a “means justify the ends” approach to this powerful but rife-for-exploitation technology, shooting poor Anna in cold blood just so the amazing discovery wouldn’t vanish into the ether. That the ending provides a choice, where one of the options is in support of Eddings in spite of his actions, is yet another triumph for Wadjet Eye’s mature brand of point-and-click storytelling.
BINARY DOMAIN's Faye Lee is a Chinese agent sent to join Dan's rust crew as their sniper. She's brutally effective at what she does, but is even more standoffish and distant than the characteristically aloof British operative. While the Brit's cynical and condescending demeanor is played for laughs, it takes Dan a while to wear down Faye's wall and get to know her better. Whether this arc was intentional or not, it's a great lead in to the reveal that Faye is actually a hybrid human/human-robot, gestated in a mechanical womb but otherwise human in every other respect (though genetically superior) and with this bombshell about the resident bombshell comes the game's chief concern about its robotic foes: Is she still a human? As a product of one of the game's nightmarish Hollow Children, should she be allowed to live? And this is where Binary Domain's masterstroke of team loyalty really pays off: What happens between then and the big finale is entirely dependent on the camaraderie between you and your team-mates - not developing a close-enough bond will cause them to desert or betray you as your mission has now diverted somewhat, but a grown kinship or two might just save your character's life…
CRIMSON SHROUD's reveal is taken right out of The Usual Suspects, so I don't need to get any more in-depth here if you've already seen that movie. Let's just say the game's in media res device where one of the playable characters retells the story of the game as it happens to a secondary NPC might not be all its cracked up to be…
DISHONORED choreographed the betrayal of Corvo by his erstwhile fellow conspirators with some big ol’ flashing warning lights, but dealing with the aftermath was still a satisfying conclusion to the story. Poking around the inn where you’ve made your base for most of the game, now lousy with armed gendarmes, is a neat use for its hub world and finding out just how every other non-vital member of your Gunpowder Plot-esque collective fared - from being outright executed to maintain secrecy to hiding away in the nick of time - is a neat little series of dramatic aftershocks. Dishonored has a great story, so the big reveal is just as important as the cool little details that surround it.
(This is part of the 2012 GOTY blog I wrote on Giant Bomb. I needed somewhere to stash some spoiler-filled scrutiny. Go see the rest of the article over here.)