I don't think any movie, TV show, or video game can ever truly have complete closure - aspects will always be left up to interpretation. This isn't a bad thing, as it leaves the audience room to ponder; however, some endings can just feel so unfulfilling, especially in video games. One reason I love to play games is to get swept up in stories that take me to an entirely different place. For me, the gameplay is always second fiddle, something to complement the journey, the struggle. The problem with video games is that they can be a significant time investment. Many games near the 20-50 hour mark, so it's especially essential to make the player feel like they've spent their time well. It's one thing to have fun with the gameplay, it's a whole other to stay glued to the controller because you can't wait to see where the story will take you. Yet, there are so many times I get to the end of the game and I find myself unsatisfied. I don't set my expectations sky high, but I want something that makes me walk away from the experience feeling good about it.
Recently, I finished up Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. I was surprised just how addicted I became to the game, because the story wasn't really drawing me in as much as I had hoped. Once I reached the ending, though, it started to matter to me - because what I walked away with was sheer anger and disappointment. The game ends on a cliffhanger because they're trying to lead into Revelations, but something about it felt so incomplete. First off, there is a huge dramatic moment in the end that is impossible to see coming (I will keep this spoiler-free, I promise). I liked the unpredictability, but the build up and pacing up to this particular moment wasn't dramatic enough. It didn't feel like there was enough at stake - it happened very quickly, without any foreshadowing or subtle hints. One could argue that this added to the moment, but it didn't feel planned, just abrupt. In fact, this is a key character development complaint I have: the game didn't feel the need to illustrate the importance of the characters and this moment. I was shocked, sure, but I didn't feel much of anything, except for a big, "Brotherhood, how could you?!" It seemed far too easy to end it that way than provide further setup. I know whenever there are multiple entries in a series, the endings of each game up to the finale should keep people wanting to know more for the next game, but I still believe there should at least be some resolution in it all. This is especially essential, because in this economy there are no guarantees that a series will make it to their desired destination. Disappointingly, Brotherhood's ending just felt like a cheap trick to get me to buy Revelations - giving no importance to the steps I'd taken to reach this point.
It's funny that this entry on the importance of endings is appearing after I finished L.A. Noire, a game that I found lacking in many areas. The ending, however, was extremely intense, unpredictable, and said something about the standards we hold for characters. What did Brotherhood's ending do? Nothing except shock and establish a cliff-hanger that could have been so much more than it was. It's hard for me to write more specifics without spoiling, so this entry has to remain rather cryptic. But Brotherhood got me thinking about endings - how many actually meet our expectations? Does there always need to be a grand finale? Just how incomplete should an ending be when leading up to a sequel? I'll admit, I like a little ambiguity, but I also want to feel like the entire journey was worth that monumental last moment. It should not only keep you wanting more, but also leave you with a sense of contentment with where the story has taken you. I think most endings aren't going to get the message across entirely as they should, but they must give the player something to hold on to - otherwise the experience was all for naught.