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  Welcome back, loyal Traipsers! I apologize for the brief hiatus in updates, but I caught an angry little illness last week that successfully knocked me on my ass for a not insubstantial period of time. It came at a most inopportune time, as these things are wont to do, but especially so for those who were waiting for today’s update and it’s impending apocalyptic showdown!

  When we last left Harry Mason, he had barely participated in the final confrontation between Dahlia and Kaufmann, who are apparently enemies now because sure, why not? After the shocking reveal of some other information we already knew, Kaufmann threw a bottle of Almanbrothersband at the newly-reformed Alessa. This took twenty seconds.

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Someone thought "tension" was literally just watching a bottle get thrown, and we get to pay for that one shmuck's tragic mistake.

This resulted in a gross violation of women’s biology and the cult’s god Samael tearing its way out of Alessa’s back.

Surprisingly, this is how many 2012 politicians thought and continue to believe women's reproductive systems worked.
Surprisingly, this is how many 2012 politicians thought and continue to believe women's reproductive systems worked.

Dahlia, who thought this shit was hilarious, was also lit on fire for her troubles. Dr. Skeeves and Harry looked on like everything kind of went all sorts of wrong. Namely because it totally fucking did.

  So, this is it, loyal readers! The final battle of Silent Hill! Samael!

Did... did he forget to spawn in?
Did... did he forget to spawn in?

Um… Samael!

Um... this is getting a touch silly.
Um... this is getting a touch silly.

Er… Sam?

You rang?
You rang?

There we go! This is the cult’s god. We know its name is Samael, because Origins let us in on that little tidbit of information, but it is never referred to as such in this game. The only time Samael is mentioned is in regards to the seals that Alessa was popping around town, but as I mentioned earlier, this is most likely due to the fact that Dahlia was lying to Harry. Why she lied to him is anyone’s guess, considering the fact that he didn’t, nor will he ever, know anything about anything.

  But whatever.

  Anyway, as you probably picked up from my screenshots above, you can’t see it 99% of the time in the fight because the camera is an uncooperative little prick. Not that it matters, because the thing doesn’t move from that position. That’s right, god/demon/Samael/dog-face just hovers there the entire time, waiting patiently to be plugged with enough rifle rounds to kill it. Now, there might be a reason for it being unable to move, as the floor has an… interesting… design on it.

Gasp!
Gasp! (It's a Flauros mark, in case the one crappy screen shot I could get and subsequently bumped the brightness up on didn't turn out.)

Now, where did we hear something about a triangle being able to trap a demon? Sadly, narrative rationales do not make for a visually engaging fight.

  The only attack the monster has is a multi-hit, Harry-murdering lightning strike. During the fight, you’ll hear a rumble of what sounds like thunder. This is Samael gathering lightning/power/Jedi-rage from the weird lightning-rod structures behind it. A moment later, a much louder crash signals the arrival of the very real hate-lightning.

Chances are, you won't see any of this except the lightning hitting Harry. Thanks, game!
Chances are, you won't see any of this except the lightning hitting Harry. Thanks, game!

This attack is the single most shit-wrecking in the entire game, capable of straight-up killing Harry if he is snagged early enough in the barrage on any difficulty level that isn’t easy. You see, there are multiple strokes of lightning per attack and, unlike every other monster/attack in the game, Harry is either not granted any invincibility frames or so few as to be useless. This will end the player up with a very dead Harry. While I can sympathize with Samael on a dead Harry being the best Harry, being a shrieking, dog/goat-headed entity from beyond space and time with intentions of destroying humanity is not cool.

  Also, anyone remember the cult’s shitty little worship nook in the Green Lion?

Wow... they got that all wrong.
Wow... they got that all wrong.

These cultists suck. No wonder Sam’s first order of business was to set their leader on fire.

  The first thing you need to do in this fight is whip out your trusty hunting rifle (or, if you’re me, the rifle you only picked up to fight this boss because fuck everything else), empty as many rounds as you can into Samael (making sure to abuse the holster/draw reload glitch to your advantage) until you hear it prime its lightning attack. At this point, you have four options:

  A) Continue to fire until the first two lightning blasts hit you. Immediately duck into the menu screen and slug back a refreshing health drink or two to get back to “full green” health. Duck out of said menu. Wait until Harry absorbs another bolt of electric death, duck into the menu and heal. Repeat until the attack ends and you can resume shooting with impunity. You’ll be able to get in about 8-10 rounds into the demon between being cooked alive. Expect to run through at least 16 health drinks or eight first aid kits if you want to do this.

  B) Lower the rifle and run in a straight line, only to dart in another direction at the last second—right when the louder “crackle” of the attack officially going off happens. This will probably make the first lightning bolt miss—whether or not the others is largely up to chance. When the attack ends, resume your attempt to turn a religion’s god into Swiss cheese.

  C) If you’re feeling particularly ballsy, wait until you hear the loud crackle. Then take off running—the lightning usually impacts the ground right at your heels. Usually.

  D) The tactic that takes the most time to get right but naturally works 100% of the time—running in a circle like a dope. Basically, start Harry running in the tightest circle you can manage where he maintains full speed. This can be tougher than it sounds—Harry drops to a saunter or just starts pivoting in place if it’s too tight of a turn radius, but too wide is basically just a straight line. Both will result in him getting turned into the nightmare equivalent of a rack of ribs at the Golden Corral. However, the sweet spot will confuse the shit out of good ol’ Samael, and the lightning will crash harmlessly behind Harry. DO NOT try to cheat and circle-strafe while running—this will work only about 50% of the time.

  I prefer options C or D, namely because A and B have one big, nasty fault—the game’s health system. You see, the game will register that Harry has died if you take too many lightning bolts. However, you can still duck into the menu and heal to full, only to have Harry fucking die anyway.

LIAR!
LIAR!

This, combined with the fact that it’s really hard to gauge just how much damage a bolt of lightning causes and how many times it actually hits means that there is a good chance that even an experienced player will get splattered fairly easily. As a result, I don’t like any plan for dealing with the final boss that basically requires you to get hit.

  Now, if you attack god in the straightforward manner, this will take anywhere from 46-56 rifle rounds to subdue. There may be an even greater spread. All I know is that in my normal play through, I killed Samael five times—the first time, I expended 46 rounds. The next two took 54 and 56. The fourth was down to 48. The final time was zero.

  Allow me to explain.

  A long while ago, I heard a rumor that if you fired off all your ammo before the fight, el diablo would muster a couple of attacks before just keeling over dead. I mean, it has to make some sense, right? Sam never touches the ground, and you can’t punish players for entering the fight without ammo considering that every other monster in the game—flying or no—can be killed by melee attacks.

   The rumor was right. It took two waves of the baddie trying to fry Harry before it just kind of gave up and flopped over dead—hardly the stuff of legends.

  Betcha can’t guess which version of events is considered to be series canon!

Pictured: The most exciting moment that officially happened, and even that's not quite accurate.
Pictured: The most exciting moment that officially happened, and even that's not quite accurate.

  Anyway, easy mode switches this up by making the boss much, much easier—it takes only about 25 rifle rounds to kill it. If you trick it into dying of ennui or whatever, it will still take about two attack waves for Sam to keel over once and for all.

  This fight… doesn’t really seem worth it, to be honest. Judging by the last thirty minutes of gameplay or so, it seems like the last chunk of this game was rushing to meet a deadline. This is especially obvious in the way that the plot crams a bunch of nonsense in at the very last minute in an attempt to actually wrest some kind of resolution out of the game when, in actuality, the game had yet to give us a reason at all to really be here. It’s all “payoff” and no buildup.

  But even on a gameplay level, this is profoundly "meh". The last boss is a demon, sure. I can get behind that. But it has one attack—the moth and caterpillar had more. The first boss of the game had more! And while Samael’s attack does indeed hit like a tank, we have a hospital’s worth of medical supplies to take the sting out of it. And speaking of medical supplies, the boss is home to the most health out of any enemy in the game, but so what? By this point in time, we’re swimming in ammo. Even if we weren’t, the thing fuckin’ dies on its own.

  Basically, this seems to be a last minute boss—just crank up the health and damage values until its tougher than everything else and call it a day.

  See, here’s what you do—between each wave, Samael falls to the earth. After all, he is “trapped” by the Flauros on the floor. Harry is then free to actually wail on the monster with a melee weapon until it gets back into the air. And give it a melee/close burst attack that limits the amount of damage you can do to him at once. Or give it a charging grapple, where if Harry is too far away, it rushes out of the Flauros’s field and attempts to drag Harry back to it—if it makes it, he dies. Make it slightly weaker to melee weapons than ranged weapons, and you have a situation where firearms are the riskier, yet faster, option, while melee can kill it faster, but it takes more patience and allows the player to focus on flight during the thunderstorm of the damned.

  Pssh. Worthless fuckin’ diety.

  No matter how it goes down, after Samael has enough of Harry’s presence, it dies.

Pick your own gag!
OPTION ONE: "Noooo! Bullets! My only weakness! How did you knoooooooooow!?"
OPTION TWO: "Noooo! Not getting shot by bullets! My only weakness! How did you knoooooooooow!?"

While it dies, it gives off a feminine scream of pain before it transitions into a more familiar grumble of the dead and dying. Finally, it falls to the floor and fucking explodes.

Warning: Supernatural entities may be filled with nitroglycerin. Please use caution when moving supernatural entities.
Warning: Supernatural entities may be filled with nitroglycerin. Please use caution when moving supernatural entities.

  In the midst of the explosion of white light, we hear Alessa/Cheryl cry out: “Daddy…”

You almost want him to say 'Don't worry, I'm here now.'

The death of Samael has returned to us the mortally wounded Alessa. Presumably dying, however, means that she is no longer able to sustain the nightmare. Or something. All we know is that the place is starting to break apart. Harry and Alessa look at each other, unspeaking. After all, what could either possibly say in this situation? Alessa starts to glow brighter, and Harry looks on.

He's just trying to understand, and it kills me inside.

After a few moments, Alessa presents Harry with a child.

Not the weirdest thing we've seen all day.

He gingerly takes the newborn. Without a spoken word, it is clear that Harry’s emotions are in freefall.

If only half the writing had been as good as this one dialogue-less scene.

Alessa points him toward a distant point of light—the real world.

Alessa's_heroic_sacrifice.png

The world collapsing around him, Harry struggles with the weight of the choice in front of him—does he stay with the woman in front of him, his daughter of seven years, or does he escape? He risked his life for his girl, a girl he no longer recognizes but still loves. Does he live for her, or spend her last minutes at her side, dooming himself and this other child but guaranteeing that Cheryl/Alessa knows that she is loved?

  Finally, heartbroken, he takes off running.

You can practically hear the heartbreak.

This moment is honestly the most powerfully affecting moment in Silent Hill. I wish—oh how I wish—Harry was a better written character in a better orchestrated plot, because this fucking moment gets me choked up. I’m not even joking here—Harry’s agony over staying or running is palpable, and there is nothing being said. It’s this moment—and one other—that cements Silent Hill as a surreal drama rather than horror. If it stopped trying to be scary and spend more time on character and story development, I would have been so much happier.

  But I’ll take my soul-crushing moments where I can get them, I suppose.

  Oh, hey Cybil.

I hate it when I wake up in a collapsing nightmare reality.

Yes, our officer friend gets up and wanders toward the glowing exit. She also was about three feet away from that weird grill/lightning-rod setup that was present in the last fight, so… um… lucky we didn’t trip over her body, I suppose.

Shuffle to freedom! Although you may want to pick up the pace!

  Oh, hey, Dr. Skeeves.

Oh, good. You're still here.

I guess you’ll be joining…

Eh. Couldn't happen to a better jerkass.

… or not.

  I’m… not sure where I come down on having Lisa kill Skeeves. I mean, it isn’t really Lisa anymore, now is it? It’s just some random monster who is wearing a Lisa skin. Unless Lisa is cognizant of her actions and this is her reaching through her damned form and plucking Dr. K off to hell or whatever. At which point, then everyone we killed in the hospital was still mostly human and oh, god, we could have saved them all.

  Anyway, it’s probably Alessa’s will or whatever pushing Lisa to do this to Skeeves, which means that she’s still not truly in control of her actions. So any kind of symbolism or irony or whatever they were going for is ultimately moot. It’s like that stupid scene in a zombie movie where some dipshit gets bitten by a friend or relative because they are a walking corpse of said relation. It could have been literally anyone else, but it wasn’t because of forced “drama” that doesn’t really make sense when dissected. It means something to us, but that meaning is manufactured rather than authentic.

  Long story short, it’s an interesting visual moment, but that’s really all it is. It could have been corrected with having Lisa’s scenes actually develop her character or going a bit further into her relationship with Skeeves, but too little, too late now.

  In any case, things aren’t looking too good for the two characters that haven’t been eaten by creatures.

So close, and yet so far.

Then, disaster! Even more disaster, I mean! A horrible crash, and the world looks like it’s about to completely collapse. Harry makes to cover the child, but it’s unlikely any of them will survive.

Harry, seen here acting like an actual person.

But then, with a blinding flash of white, the collapse stops and this starts playing, absolutely destroying this scene. In a good way.

Amazingly, they aren't dead.

Alessa, psychic murder ghost, uses her last strength to prevent the world from killing her adopted father and that weird cop he pals around with.

Alessa trying to protect her adopted father.

It’s enough.

Cybil and Harry run to safety.

Alessa, exhausted, collapses. The nightmare reality falls apart around her.

:(

Cybil, Harry, and the newborn escape into the streets of Silent Hill, the world of darkness lost behind them.

Make sure to stop at the gift shop!
Make sure to stop at the gift shop!

  And so ends Silent Hill. Painfully flawed narratively, poorly developed, and plagued with decisions with rationales ranging from “because we said so” to “fuck you”, bizarrely enough it also has one of the most affecting and dramatic endings of any game of its era. Seriously—I love just about everything about this ending sequence. It is another scene that has suspicious similarities to that stage play I mentioned a couple of times. Long story short, it just works—it’s a shame that everything else leading up to it tended to be such wank. Join me next time for the other endings and other chicanery in Ephemera, Pt. II.

BONUS: Don’t want my wry recap spoiling the presentation of events? Well, here you go!

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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