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Spoilers for the end of Nick Valentine’s quest

Butch:

Finished up with Nick. Interesting. He’s a good character.

Made sure I went in gun down to talk to Eddie. I sorta kinda felt bad, for a second. He did say I was easy on the eyes. His good bye tape to Clare was pretty awful. “You’ll probably be dead, but hey?” Nice guy.

Interesting counterpoint to Croup manor. Here, again, we have a ghoul who’s locked away, waiting for his chance to start over (or continue) right where he left off. Both are delusional. Just like Croup would come out to a world where no one cares what damn fork you use to eat your gourd, Winter would come out to a world where his “organized” crimes would be laughed at. Imagine his methods with mutants. But neither ghoul knows it.

Considering we, too, play a character locked away who is coming out to a world we don’t get, are they us? Are we just as stupid? More on this in a second.

Remember way back when when we found that club with the rich dudes who killed themselves? In all this, can we say that they got it right? I mean, they knew that their way was over. Their power was gone (like Winter’s), the time of caring about forks (and feeling special cuz you know your forks) is over. At least they knew that.

But back to coming out to a world that you don’t get when your world is over:

Nick’s reaction. He’s lost now. He says his one tie to the past, to “who he was, who Nick was” is gone, and he doesn’t know what to do anymore. He doesn’t know who or what he is, or how he fits. His world is over. But it’s my reaction that is interesting. You have a lot of choices. You can say “That was selfish,” you can cheer, you can say a lot of things. What I said was “You’re free now.” “You can be your own person.” I said this enthusiastically, and smiled.

Now a couple things:

If we take that a future where America is obliterated gives us a chance to rewrite the rules, to redo who WE are, the lines of US/THEM, is that good? SHOULD we be smiling? This game started with our world being COMPLETELY obliterated. Our house, our child, our spouse, gone gone gone. And here’s us, later on, smiling. Saying “Hey, man, the past is gone so you’re FREE!” I’m not sure how that sits with me.

Second, it’s interesting that we use “You’re free” to a synth. We’ve talked a lot about the RR, how the “freedom” they offer is a mixed blessing (or is it?). Nick seems just as confused and lost with his “freedom” as anything. I sort of felt patronizing. “Be happy! You’re SUPPOSED to be happy!” is always something I hate saying. Who the hell are we to tell Nick he SHOULD be happy?

I don’t know. This wasn’t that happy an ending to poor Nick’s quest.

Feminina:

Yeah, Nick is a good character. And as you say, his story ends on a melancholy note. He’s succeeded, but his success is kind of hollow, not only because one always feels a bit empty at the end of a long, all-consuming project, but also because it was really someone else’s success. He did all that for Nick, and he finished the job, but Nick’s still long dead.

It IS an interesting counterpoint to the Croup Manor guy, but also to all the other figures we’ve seen who are sort of stuck in various versions of the past. The rich dude club, yes, and also Ironsides and that BoS guy come to mind because I just posted that discussion yesterday, and as you say, we the PC are also emerging from–and to some inevitable degree basing our decisions on–things we knew that were true only in a long-dead past.

I also tried to cheer him up by telling him he’s free. And yeah, it felt like an odd fit.

Butch:

Even Winter’s disbelief stung him. “Who are you, robot man?” “You’re not Nick, you’re a robot.”

Nick obviously was looking forward to this confrontation that he THOUGHT would go:
“Time to pay Winter!”
“Oh no! Nick Valentine! I remember you! And I’d kill her again!”
“No way, Winter, time to pay!”

And instead got Winter pretty much saying, not just “Who the fuck are you?” but “WHAT the fuck are you?” Even when Nick tried, and tried, and TRIED to get Winter to get it, Winter was just dismissive. And you could hear Nick getting more and more disappointed and desperate.

And Cabot. And and and. And each time we meet one, we roll our eyes more and more about how delusional they are. Ironsides and the BoS guy are starting to look saner and saner by comparison.

Wasn’t it odd, the feeling of telling him he was free? Good ending.

Feminina:

Yes! Poor Nick.

“I am a wronged party here to take my long-delayed revenge! REPENT EVILDOER!!!!!”

“You’re who doing what with the what now?”

Not quite the satisfying “my well-deserved doom has come upon me!” response you’re looking for.

Very relevant to previous discussions of the problems with hanging onto the past. Even when you find it (and Eddie Winter was as close to meeting Nick in the past as anything we’ve seen), it hasn’t necessarily been hanging onto you in the same way you were to it.

Those two had the best shot yet of actually resolving something from history–it was really Eddie Winter, it was really Nick’s memories of the crime–and yet they don’t share enough of an interpretation of that history to actually finish anything. From Winter’s point of view, he was killed by some crazy robot–no particular significance to it. From Nick’s, he was denied the satisfaction of being recognized as the person for whom he was seeking this revenge in the first place.

And if that story ends so unsatisfyingly, how can any of the other characters who are clinging to the past hope to achieve any meaningful resolution? How can Ironsides’ war ever finish in way he’ll recognize, how could the Croup Manor guy ever come to terms with his family’s changed fortunes…and by implication, how can the PC ever expect to reach a satisfying conclusion to the search for a lost child.

And yet, “be happy, you’re free now–forget the past!” didn’t seem to be the right answer either.

Butch:

And Winter not even caring was an awesome twist. I mean, that was a LONG quest. Ten tapes, each making you hate Winter more and more. You WANTED revenge on this guy. There was a great, slow build up and then he’s all “Well, you’re hot, and you’re a robot, and why do I care about you?” I was even wearing my (upgraded to awesomeness cuz my Kent lived) shroud armor, which is all ABOUT revenge, which made his rebuff sting even more.

But nope. He barely remembered. “Oh right…..that cop….huh.” See also the Jamaica Plain time capsule. “Oh….a bowling pin…..great.”

Also, at least in my playthrough, Nick is the one that instigated the final fight. HE got tired of listening, not me. I decided to finish it (thank you WCS), but I could have just watched Nick. And he STILL felt empty. Even emptIER. He liked having revenge to cling to. Now his drive, his history is gone.

And yes, the PC can’t really have a satisfying resolution. Even if we “succeed.” I mean, if Ironsides ever does get tot he ocean, he’ll never find a Chinese battleship to fight (we think). Croup will never go out to eat salad with his ghoul family even if they learn their forks. And Shaun is, at least, grown enough to not be a baby. Remember finding his crib really, really early in the game? Saying “I’m coming, baby.” Even that feels rather empty.

“Be happy” felt wrong, but then, would “That was selfish” be better? Cuz it wasn’t selfish, either, really. So what was it?

It’s even an interesting take on gaming. We’re left, at the end of this quest, thinking “Why did we do that?” and sitting there with an NPC thinking “why did we do that?” Cuz it was there. And there’s no good ending. That could apply to twelve billion video game quests.

I’ll even add a personal wrinkle: at the end there, when Nick was all “here’s where it happened,” I looked around. I looked for a body (even after 200 years), some loot, a secret thing, something. And there wasn’t a thing. I was so conditioned to think “end of quest, must be something here, something tangible.” And there wasn’t. It was just….over.

Feminina:

It really was a beautifully low-key, moody, and complex conclusion to what seemed like a fairly straightforward story initially. It hit all the customary buttons of a standard revenge quest, and ended up with the standard bad-guy-dead conclusion…and yet.

I also waited for Nick to start the final fight. I was just sort of standing by, letting them talk…not my vengeance, after all. Like you, I shot Eddie once, I think, just to indicate my support for Nick (you know we’re friends because I help you kill people!), but it was really his fight. And still it wasn’t enough, really.

I also don’t think any of the other dialogue choices would have turned out “better”…I agree, telling Nick “that was selfish” (though true, I suppose) wouldn’t have given him any more of a sense of conclusion than optimistically telling him he’s free.

Any more than telling Ironsides “you’re free! the war’s over!” would give him any satisfaction, even assuming you could somehow convince him it was true (reprogramming?). Certainly another character telling me “you’re free! Turns out Shaun’s dead, no need to look for him!” wouldn’t give my character any sense of closure.

Maybe in some ways we CAN’T be free of the past. Holding too tightly to it is futile, but trying to escape it is also futile? You can’t live in the past because it’s gone, but you also can’t be free of it because it lives in you?

Maybe the whole thing is about trying to find some elusive balance, some ‘healthy’ way to live with the past. What do we do with our history?

Deep, man.

Butch:

Indeed…and yet. (Insert comment about why the interwebs hates on the writing of this game).

I shot cuz Nick was getting hurt. I figured, if he went down I’d have to shoot anyway. Might as well get it over with.

Was it true that Nick’s quest was ‘selfish’? Was it any more selfish than what we do all the damn time? At least he was going after a genuine bad guy. Winter is probably the least sympathetic dude we’ve met. Even Kellogg had some humanizing backstory. So can we judge Nick?

Deep indeed. Not bad for a game we thought had no themes. I tell ya, Bethesda CAN tell a great story. Fucking Skyrim.

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