Silent Hill Origins Part 6: Cult of Travis

By Shamus
on Nov 6, 2008
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

39 comments

In earlier posts I was careful to mark spoilers, but since this is the end of the game nearly everything will be spoilers. You can go here to skip to the conclusion without reading the rest of the story if you treasure your ignorance.

How to make a really scary monster:  Take an existing scary monster and make it <strong>bigger</strong>! Of course, if the original monster wasn’t all that scary to begin with…
How to make a really scary monster: Take an existing scary monster and make it bigger! Of course, if the original monster wasn’t all that scary to begin with…
Throughout the game, there have been two plot threads: One is personal to Travis, where he lets a few of his skeletons out of his closet and gets to know them. The second is the plot where Travis is gathering up these mysterious magical gnib-nabs for the spooky little girl. The former is just tacked on – Travis is sort of working out his issues by running into his past by accident. The latter is a largish retcon where the writers are trying to add a new character and new events to the origin of Silent Hill.

The Half-Life games did this same thing prior to Half-Life 2. There were several expansion packs to the original Half-Life, but since the main story was self-contained the writers didn’t have room to add anything new for Gordon Freeman to do. So instead they grafted all these other characters onto the game. You play as a security guard, some scientist colleagues of Dr. Freeman, a soldier, the guy who delivered pizzas to Black Mesa, Dr. Freeman’s pool boy, etc. These add-on stories had to be written in such a way that their protagonists did things which ran concurrent with the events of original game. In short, nothing new could happen. We could only learn more about peripheral events. Pretty soon it gets pretty hard to justifiably cram in new characters who don’t conflict with any of the others.

This isn’t storytelling. It’s adding cruft to the plot.

Travis seems to remember everything in black and white.  And in third person.  Here he is with dad, checking in to the Riverside Motel.
Travis seems to remember everything in black and white. And in third person. Here he is with dad, checking in to the Riverside Motel.
The events at Riverside Motel wrap up the personal story for Travis. Through flashbacks we learn that Travis’ father brought him here as a boy. Mr. Grady was distraught over the loss of his wife, who was obviously insane. He brought Travis here and checked in to room 500. He gave the boy a little money to go play pinball, and then hung himself in the room. Evidently Mr. Grady wasn’t a forward thinker. Young Travis eventually came back and found his father hanging, which dealt 10d6 SAN damage to the poor boy.

Back to the present. Travis makes his way to room 500. This is about a hundred times more difficult and convoluted than I make it sound. There he confronts this memory of his father. He has a conversation with his dad as the old man swings, and then (because this is Silent Hill) the old man turns into a big freaky boss monster with devastating attacks and a slight susceptibility to bullets.

Reaching and entering room 500 is a task of ridiculous complexity. I’ve seen movies about casino heists that were less complicated than what Travis has to do to travel a hundred yards and open a door.
Reaching and entering room 500 is a task of ridiculous complexity. I’ve seen movies about casino heists that were less complicated than what Travis has to do to travel a hundred yards and open a door.
This seems to clear the bats out of Travis’ belfry so he can get on with the more important business of rehashing existing Silent Hill locations and events for fans of the earlier games.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out (and I am by no means an expert on Silent Hill lore and am likely missing or misunderstanding details) the town is ultimately corrupted by a death cult. They have it in their heads that they can bring about the existence of a new god, who will bring them paradise on Earth. In order to birth this god, they need an appropriate vessel: a young girl who has been, basically, tormented her entire life. Alessa Gillespie is their chosen victim, and that’s who Travis has been seeing on his sightseeing tour through the cursed realm of Silent Hill. I’ve never been clear on whether or not their plan “worked”. Certainly the town is not paradise, but is that due to the faustian nature of the bargain, or were their plans actually thwarted? (You could also argue that their plans worked and that Silent Hill is now the conduit to a world where your dreams become real – but flawed human beings keep dragging their own personal baggage into the place and inadvertently crafting themselves their own custom-built version of hell. Since each person sees the cursed Silent Hill differently, this actually makes sense to me.)

But whatever. Any group that will torture a little girl for her whole life to bring about paradise cannot be the good guys. Alessa Gillespie now haunts / rules / controls the spooky version of Silent Hill. Travis’ efforts seem to have unleashed her, and she begins transforming the town into the super-evil version. (It’s a very cool cutscene, very much in the style of the transformation as portrayed in the movie.) Travis runs to escape the town and is hounded by monsters along the way.

Travis Grady.  A man. A legend.  A clueless boob.
Travis Grady. A man. A legend. A clueless boob.
He ends up at the ceremony where the cult is trying to do their thing to Alessa. The girl is strapped to a table while the robe-clad cult members surround her and do their nasty cult stuff. (Always with the burlap robes, these cults. If I ever start a death cult our ceremonial garb will be sweatpants and black T-shirts that say “CULT MEMBER” on them.) This seems to be the ceremony where the town was first corrupted, the big moment that started it all. Except that we just saw her in some sort of spectral form, floating around the town and lowering property values at a record-breaking pace. Perhaps there is more to it than I’m seeing, but I’m suffering from Plot Comprehension Fatigue.

When Travis enters the room one of the cult members addresses him, “I’m surprised to see you. We had assumed you’d just leave.” Which was kind of what I thought as well. His personal problems are sorted, but Travis just can’t get enough of this place.

We’re now embroiled in a four-way conflict: Travis vs. Cult vs. Alessa vs. Summoned Demon God. Guess who ends up doing all the heavy lifting.

A bunch of freaky stuff happens that’s really too abstract to explain. He visits some locations from the original Silent Hill game and eventually fights the Demon Guy. The thing looks more like something from Doom than Silent Hill. It’s just horned demon thing. Seven feet tall. Bipedal, two arms, three attacks. Fire, brimstone, roaring, etc. Pretty standard stuff for a videogame, and sort of unimaginative compared to the freakish stuff we fought earlier. I can’t fault the game too much for this, though. Final boss fights have never been a strong suit of Silent Hill.

But we can fault the game for the weapons. By now Travis has an unbelievable collection of guns. A couple of pistols, a shotgun, a hunting rifle, and an assault rife. This is in addition to his half-dozen typewriters and TV sets, as well as the (hang on let me count) twenty-four blunt weapons. No I am not kidding. It’s enough of a load to make Gordon Freeman stagger. This is a ridiculous armory for any game, and completely bonkers for a survival horror game that’s otherwise trying so hard to be taken seriously.

I know I made fun of the plot, but the game did squeeze a smile out of me when I saw the truck again.
I know I made fun of the plot, but the game did squeeze a smile out of me when I saw the truck again.
In any case, I never fail to be amazed at how non-bulletproof demons are.

The battle ends and Travis wakes up outside, in the daylight. Travis manages to dust himself off and amble out of town without ever understanding what was really going on. He walks back to his truck and drives out of town with a smile on his face. Roll credits.

Origins is the runt of the Silent Hill litter, but after an awkward start it did manage to deliver some thrills before it devolved into tedium and frustration. It’s not a bad survival horror game, it’s just bad compared to what it could have been in the hands of someone less ham-fisted in their approach. I can’t help but wish they would fine tune it a bit let me write one of these things.

Thanks again* to Kevin for sending it along. It was not the crowning jewel of the Silent Hill franchise, but this series more than made up for that. This was a lot of fun.

* It wasn’t until I typed those words that I realized I never actually thanked him in the first place. So I’ll do it now: Thanks Kevin! Also, did you know Kevin has a fantasy roleplaying comic? I’m just sayin’.

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201939 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Er..

    My brain hurts. That story was quite painful, but I imagine it was five times painful for you. I am so sorry.

  2. Tizzy says:

    Word! Any walkthrough or plot outline can never quite convey how long it takes to do any basic moving around, between the weird plot doors, the monsters and the “where next?” moments.

  3. Mari says:

    Wow. I’m stunned speechless by the absolutely convoluted plot. I kept hoping they would wrap it up in a tidy little package so that this last episode of your review would be “Cool. Now it all makes sense and works fine.” Obviously my hopes are made to be dashed to the sharp pointy remarkably Pyramid Head-like rocks below a cliff of despair.

    *note to self: do not buy Silent Hill Origins. Just watch some lame teen gross-out flick instead. They’re scarier*

    *note to Shamus: white is spelled “wHite” so you might want to correct that caption typo at your leisure.*

  4. Oleyo says:

    “As you climb back into your trusty Semi, you think back fondly on your time spent wandering through Silent Hill. As you drive away, you notice a raccoon with a mysterious gleam in its eye skitter across the road and bound into the woods. Your instinct compels you to abandon your truck in the road and follow it. It seems to be heading for a spooky and dangerous abandoned mine…”

    Silent Hill: Origins: Part Deux: Travis’ Family Desperately Tries to Get Him the Help He Needs

  5. Kevin says:

    You’re very welcome, Shamus, and thanks big for the plug.

    Possibly my favorite line of the whole series: “A bunch of freaky stuff happens that’s really too abstract to explain.”

    Thank you for making this one so much fun to read. It was completely wonderful. I was entranced.

    (Though it still didn’t seem like an “origin” to me. They summoned the demon, but then Travis shot it up and sent it back to hell. I guess Alessa is the real power in town, and the demon — supposedly the source of the town’s evil — is sort of beside the point. Stoopid writers.)

  6. Woerlan says:

    I think the whole thing went downhill the moment they decided to make the main character a trucker. I do believe I’ll place Origins in that tidy non-space I normally reserve for sterling entertainment products like Highlander II and Dungeons and Dragons the Movie.

  7. karln says:

    So, um. How do we get from here to SH1? The god was ‘killed’, OK… we’d need for Alessa to survive but not escape the town, and Dahlia to survive and not get captured and imprisoned — is that how the game tells it? And for Travis not to come back and stop them from tormenting Alessa for the next few years until Harry shows up. Or is this kind of replacing SH1 to an extent? The ending seems awfully familiar :/

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well,it still doesnt sound as bad as the end of fahrenheit.

  9. Alleyoop says:

    So, not so much horror survival as theater of the absurd?

    That monster in the first pic looks like a caribou with its head jammed into the sidewalk, perhaps trying to escape Travis and his gigantic rectal thermometer…”Heeere, moosie moosie moosie!”

    I had no plans to get this game, so I really appreciate your writeups here and have really enjoyed them, thanks. I hope you had as much fun writing them as I did reading them. :)

  10. Sitte says:

    Thanks, Kevin.

  11. Arthur says:

    Does this game not have the multiple endings characteristic of the series?

  12. Old_Geek says:

    Shamus, nobody explains stupid quite like you. (That was meant as a compliment.)

  13. DaveMc says:

    I’d love to hear some expansion on the line “Reaching and entering room 500 is a task of ridiculous complexity. I’ve seen movies about casino heists that were less complicated than what Travis has to do to travel a hundred yards and open a door.”

    I’m trying, and failing, to imagine what sort of thing you might mean.

  14. Mari says:

    @karln – SPOILER ALERTaccording to my exhaustive research (I hit it up on wikipedia) the game ends with Travis defeating the demon thingy which causes Alessa to “give birth” to a part of her soul (which is Cheryl). Then Travis hops back into his truck and drives away listening to Harry and his wife find Cheryl and decide to adopt her on his radio then listening to Dahlia and Dr. Kaufman plot a “summoning” to force Cheryl to return – someday…*cue suspense sting*

  15. Shamus says:

    DaveMC: There are several wings to the motel, which have gates between them. You have to gather up items from one wing to get the thing to get the key to get into the room to get on the other side of the blocked door to you can get into the next wing, where you will find a mirror so you can reality-shift so you can get into the… etc.

    And of course, all of this hassle is because Travis can’t scale a six-foot fence. I can’t fault SH for this though. I mean, most games are infected with this sort of stupid.

  16. Funkula says:

    In System Shock 2, the amount of effort required to get the elevator to go down one floor is absolutely absurd. That was what I immediately flashed on.

  17. Sam says:

    If I ever start a death cult our ceremonial garb will be sweatpants and black T-shirts that say “CULT MEMBER” on them.

    If only more cult leaders followed your…lead…

    A spectacular end to a very strange-sounding game. I certainly won’t be purchasing it, mostly because I just read the entire plot, but also because it sounded ridiculously frustrating to play. Also…24 blunt weapons? Truly a beacon of realism this game is.

  18. R4byde says:

    Thanks for suffering so we don’t have to. ;)

    So, what next, Fallout 3 perhaps?

  19. Shamus says:

    Fallout 3 is on the way, but I doubt I’ll have logged any meaningful hours into the thing by the time I start writing next week’s posts. We’ll see.

  20. Loneduck3 says:

    The game could’ve ended worse. I was expecting that this Travis fellow would become the Pyramid-Head monsterman. A bit of a downer, but then you just show some girl walking happily out of Silent Hill, and you have an ending.
    Of course, I don’t play Silent Hill games. I may pick up Silent Hill 2 some day, but the other games don’t have much draw for me.

  21. Clint says:

    Sorry to have to do this, but I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a warning about fantasy roleplaying comic Shamus linked to at the end of the article. I just finished reading through it, and it has got to be one of the most mind-numbingly bad comics I have ever read. At one point, the story degenerated so much that the players tricked the GM into leaving, then promptly declared themselves gods and started engaging in the kind of yuh-huh, nuh-uh fighting you’d commonly expect out of toddlers. (Well, my character turns your entire domain to lava! Well, my character collapses the entire world on top of you! etc.) Granted, that sort of thing can be funny if played right, but I don’t think I came close to cracking a smile once in the comic’s 300+ strips.

    Some of my favorite comics got off to a rough start, so I kept reading this one, thinking it would get better. If anything, it fell apart as it went on. As a webcomics junkie, I don’t often regret reading a site, but this was definitely the exception to the rule. Don’t make the same mistake as I did — give this comic a miss.

    For reference:
    Players become gods
    Players argue as gods

    Clint

  22. Jabor says:

    Clint

    It must just be your sense of humour. Or lack thereof. Those two pages you linked got a couple of grins from me.

    ~ Jabor

  23. Zerotime says:

    Funkula: The amount of effort required to then go up two floors after you’d gone down one was, to my mind, slightly more ridiculous.

  24. yd says:

    I am definitely looking forward to you covering Fallout 3. It’s one of the few games you’ve (or will, rather) reviewed that I’ve played. I still enjoy reading your dissections even without playing them, though.

  25. MRL says:

    That monster looks to me like nothing more than half of a dog.

    The rear half. Honest. Look at it! Look at the way the arms bend! …those are arms, right?

  26. briatx says:

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this series. Strangely, it got me to dust off Origins and give it another go.

  27. ehlijen says:

    Maybe this is some paralel universe where there is a strong taboo about touching motor vehicles that have been left with their headlights on and their engine running? It would explain both why Travis’ truck is still there and why he refuses to use that car he found…

    This was a very entertaining review, thanks. I’m looking forward to fallout 3, especially your take on the end…

  28. Matt K says:

    On a Fallout 3 note, Shamus if your system fits in the minimum specifications then you may want to reconsider getting it. Just trying the leave the Vault I had 2 crashes which were preceded by horrible lag for most of the escape. I even turned down the settings even further and no luck. Luckily I borrowed a copy or I’d be pissed. Especially since I was able to run Oblivion at medium to high settings with little problem.

  29. Cuthalion says:

    I always remember stuff in third person, too. But I think I’m smarter than Travis… I hope…

  30. Zaxares says:

    Running late, so short reply, but I seriously laughed my ass off at the 10d6 SAN damage reference. Hey, you never know, it might explain Travis’ eerily calm disposition to everything he sees; he’s ALREADY frickin’ insane!

    Also, I’m posting an open call for somebody to post up a video clip on YouTube of Travis beating that demon boss using only TVs and Typewriters as weapons. :D

  31. MuonDecay says:

    The “origins” tag does sort of add a bit of humor to this overall messy game then, doesn’t it?

    Silent Hill was messed up by a cult, yes… but then it was really messed up by, of all things, a retard.

  32. Daath says:

    Fallout 3 doesn’t seem to be particularly heavy on the hardware, but it certainly is horribly unstable. Worst I’ve ever seen, certainly. I’m getting CTD:s so often it’s utterly unplayable – sometimes it even crashes while loading! Some have managed to fix this problem by running the game in windowed mode, and it does seem to make it stabler on my machine as well, but it also slows it down to 2-3 fps for some inexplicable reason. I’m shelving this “product” until some patches come out.

    Apart from the killer bugs, I definitely liked what I saw.

  33. yd says:

    I’ve been playing it on Vista 64bit with almost no stability issues. Last night I did have a quicksave reload me inside of a wall, and I had to resort to cheats. Other than that, it’s been dead stable. This machine is on the high end of what the game wants, though.

  34. Richard Smith says:

    It wasn’t until I typed those words that I realized I never actually thanked him in the first place. So I’ll do it now: Thanks Kevin!

    Not to be too ObsCure about it, but there might have been others you haven’t thanked yet, even though the game they sent along merited only two articles… snif

  35. ehlijen says:

    To Daath:

    Actually running the suggested scandisk and defrag before playing Fallout 3 can improve your performance and reduce crashes. It won’t eliminate them, but it did majorly reduce the freeze on loading I had a lot with that game.

  36. MadTinkerer says:

    “The Half-Life games did this same thing prior to Half-Life 2. ”

    I 100% disagree with you there Shamus, because when Gearbox made the HL1 spin-offs they were all awesome(with the exception of Blue Shift, which was merely very good). Opposing Force had almost a dozen new enemies and half a dozen new weapons. Decay was a cooperative 2-player prologue(short but neat). Blue Shift didn’t have much new content but prototyped the next-generation of companion AI and polished up various miscellaneous issues.

    In other words, it’s like comparing the fifth movie in a series of horror movies (take your pick: I don’t think there’s any [horror movie] #5 that’s good) to say, Star Trek II, III, and IV.

    Just a fanboy nitpick.

  37. MuonDecay says:

    Actually running the suggested scandisk and defrag before playing Fallout 3 can improve your performance and reduce crashes. It won’t eliminate them, but it did majorly reduce the freeze on loading I had a lot with that game.

    Well in all fairness defragmentation is just a great thing to do regularly regardless of what you use your computer for. All-around performance is often noticeably better when the hard drive is doing a lot less searching around for what you’re trying to access.

    Do it once a week, folks! Schedule it to happen while you sleep and just leave the computer on that night. Nothing to lose but part of those loading times!

  38. […] that.  Yes, this started out as a joke post, but I realized that I’ve been reading some Silent Hill reviews by Shamus over at Twenty Sided, and figured that there’s a serious bit of game design […]

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