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How do you interpet the story and ending?

I just finished the game, having played it for the first time ever. And I loved it! It's truly a great game in every way, and I mean that.

Since I beat it, I've been thinking about the ending, what it means, what really happened. It's got me thinking! I can think of two possibilities that the ending and story may be.

1. It's Adam's delusion. He invents it all in his mind, using people he knows from the mental institution in his delusion.

Bad Guys:

The doctor is Belial. When you first meet him in the game, he is dressed as a doctor. Since he is a doctor in the institution, he appears as such when first met in the delusion of Adam. He talks rather emotionless and uncaring, you could just sense that attitude coming from a doctor. He always talks as if he knows the best interest of Adam, he also tells Rebecca that she should talk sense into Adam. Since Rebecca is a nurse and Adam is the "patient", Rebecca would be the one administering the drugs to Adam, as shown at the end of the game, in other words, she would "talk sense" into Adam. He is also known as the demon of lies, if you had a doctor telling you that you were always wrong and that he was always right and knew what was best for you, you'd call him a demon of lies too.

Elias is Adam's father. He's the one that sends Adam to the mental institution. The entire story and series of events starts with Elias, he's the catalyst for everything. He's dressed and poses as a priest at the beginning of the story. A priest can be seen as someone that gives guidance through faith, someone to be there for you. But Adam learns that Elias is not a priest after all... "there was no priest" Adam said. Turns out his father had no guidance or love for Adam, he was someone else, not a father figure.

Gaul is another patient(?) that plays with his cards all the time at his table, he isn't a friend of Adams. He smiles a lot, because he's crazy. Adam doesn't like him or his cards, he thinks he's a bit smug. In the game at the end, he loses all his cards, just like what Adam would love. Or perhaps the cards tell who he really is, I'm not sure.

Good guys:

Rebecca, possibly the only woman Adam might see, she is friendly towards Adam. Adam creates Rebecca in his delusion turning to good, as once being on the side of evil. Just like in the institution, she is on the wrong side, the "other" side with those doctors and those that torment Adam, she is not on Adam's side, but in his delusion, Adam brings her to his side. She was on the side of the doctors and his father, always giving him his "medication" and telling him what was best for him, but in his delusion, her smile and warmth bring her to his side. There are several sexual and close moments between the two in the game, one part Adam even mentions touching Rebecca in a playful sexual way. Adam sees her on the other side, but he wants her to be on his side desperately, out of loneliness and the idea that she's the only one that really cares for him. The smile at the end she gives Adam could do that, in a place of cold faces, a smile may be your only sanity.

Aelf, another petient with Adam. He is rather emotionless, drugged up with sedatives to calm him down. He is a friends of Adams in the institution.

The guardian of the tower, the same guy as Aelf. Aelf and the Guardian are the same in the insitution, Aelf has multipe personalities, and Adam plays them out in his delusion.

Aelf and The Guardian could also be Adam's older brother. He plays a protector of Adam in the game. He gives Adam his armour and weapons. He helps him in life when no one else would. He appears in the Tower and in the house, as a resemblence of him being in Adam's life inside the institution and outside it's walls in the real world. A figure in Adam's life that offers him words that help Adam weather the storm he's going through in the institution.

Hawk, another patient that is a friend of Adams. He is also rather emotionless, perhaps drugged up just like Aelf. He is the complete opposite of Gaul, someone Adam trusts, just like Ailf.

The Gnarl? The Gnarl gives Adam the masks to leave the mental institution and travel outside, but who is the Gnarl? I don't have a clue who the Gnarl may be.

Adam's father in the game is a real priest that visits the institution, but he is not Adam's real father. Adam creates him in his delusion as his own father. A priest is someone that can offer guidance through faith, Adam uses this guidance in his delusion to help form his father, because his real father wasn't much of a father figure.

House: The house is the institution. There are many locked doors, even the front door is locked. Just like in the institution, Adam is trapped. Belial also tricks Adam once and traps him in a small cell that's like a one in an institution. Even the chair is bolted down. There are 2 doors to this cell in the Delusion though, an oddity that must mean something.

I'm sure there are scenarios and instances in the game that could be used as more examples, but I'd have to play through it again to find them, I only played it once.

2. The other thing that could have happened is that the story is real.

Everything that happened in the game is real, except for the ending. Belial did not die. He is the demon of lies, he wanted Adam to get the sword back so Adam could defeat Elias, he faked his own death. Why was it so easy to get the sword anyways? Belial wanted Adam to get it back. Hawk said that some evil would still remain, even after the balance had been restored, that evil is Belial. Hawk and Rebecca kept secrets from Adam, whose to say they didn't keep more secrets?

Hawk, Rebecca, Abadon, they all knew the prophecy. They knew a lot that Adam did not know, they knew events that would unfold, but they did not know the way they would unfold, just that they would. If they knew, so did Belial. He knew from the beginning, he had set out to trick Adam's mind from the start, appearing as a doctor when he first met Adam, so he'd have ammunition later on to trick Adam. He knew the prophecy just like the others, he himself had to prepare for it. If he couldn't stop the prophecy of the balance being restored, why be doomed to his fate when he can save himself from it. As a demon of lies, he has his tricks, and he used them.

At the very ending, the doctor you see is Belial, you don't see his face, but it is Belial. He already had Adam locked up and fooled before, and he did it again, this time using a lie to convince Adam that he was crazy. Another lie of Belial. If you see how Adam looks at Rebecca at the very end, you know the truth. Adam gives Rebecca a look of surprise and mistrust when she appears and presents the drugs for Adam. If Adam had a delusion of Rebecca in the way he did, he would give her a more trusting look, a smile, he would ask her to get him out of there, every time Adam would see Rebecca, Adam would hound her to get him out. Adam knows it's all a lie though, Belial posing as a doctor to fool Adam, Rebecca a lie too, and not the real Rebecca.

Believing that people could disappear and reappear in different planes, and that you were a savior of humanity, isn't going to make you stop believing just because you see Rebecca as a nurse. After all, you were just telling Belial himself your story, so why would the sight of Rebecca mean all of a sudden you're crazy. But that's Belial's plan, he did something, something happened in the thread, he's creating another lie, he's the evil that still exists. He even wants you the player to believe it all was a lie, that's why his face wasn't shown ;).

Those are the two endings I can think of, I am sure there are more clues and stuff around, I'd have to play through the game again to see and find them. That look that Adam gives Rebecca tells me what happened, that the evil that survived was Belial, and he somehow trapped Adam again. It would be good for a sequel! Show that ending video in a sequel, except it pans up to show Belial's face. Realms of the Haunting 2!

So for me, my number 2 is the ending that I believe. I also like it more, it's more of a happy ending, because it means there's more monsters slay and puzzles to solve! That look that Adam gives Rebecca just says it all to me.

How do you see the ending and interpret the story? I'm curious how others see the game's story. I really love the game, and it just seems like there's so much more going on and so much there, no doubt tons of stuff I miseed. To me, the story and ending is not so simple as it seems!
First of all, my hat's off to you for this exhaustive and intriguing analysis. Game designers often pull this kind of scenario with the unreliable narrator, where everything turns out to be a dream or schizophrenic episode, like in Silent Hill and Sanitarium. Some things can indeed be interpreted as clues to support the fact that it's all in Adam's head. For example, the pacing of the plot: you play through the dreary mansion (perhaps the asylum, as you put it), the beautiful realms of Raquia and Arqua (drug-induced bliss, he is lost in it as if in a maze; when the demons invade it near the end of the level, it's the drugs wearing off), and the darkness of Sheol (Adam's descent into psychosis). The brain level, Adam's meeting with his doppleganger, seeing demons emerge from his reflection in the mirror – those are all clues for mental illness and repressed id. The Dodger represents Adam's darkest repressed memories. The breaking of the Seven Seals means actually breaking Adam's sanity, which now holds on a thread.

Aelf is here the voice of reason, perhaps super-ego, as he represents a mentor and father figure who tells Adam what to do for the forces of good to win. His artifacts make Adam more secure in his fight against the dark forces.

Rebecca is probably just the nurse or therapist who helps Adam through his mental illness.

When the plot is resolved, and the demon defeated, the house disappears and Adam wakes up in the asylum, in a lucid state for the first time since the game began. He has fought a long battle against mental disorders, reconciled with the death of his father, and he is perhaps cured.

Definitely an interesting way to look at it. I'll think about it some more. I wish I knew more about Freudian or Jungian psychology, though. :)
Post edited May 17, 2013 by Charon121
Just completed the game, a really good one that was. Well except for the mazes and too many puzzles in the last chapters.

I was wondering about the sword myself. Belial took it, I thought it's going to be some epic battle to get it back, but then I just find it laying around on some pedestal. Definitely Belial wanted Adam to have it back. Why he took it in the first place then, I don't know.
Presuming your first scenario The Gnarl and his masks, are precursors to true memories. Gnarl, a knot in a tree, from a severed limb or damage... possibly The Gnarl has a dualistic effect. It signal where a true memory becomes warped in the fantasy.

Personally I figured it all to be true. The doctor and nurse having familiar faces is proof that Belial's long game, may be so much broader in scope that it doesn't even matter if he dies. His will be done. If you're an optimist you can believe that Rebecca is going to break him out, the Rebecca he knew up to this point was a psychic projection (she's more powerful than the foes realized). If you're a pessimist, than Belial's death was a lie and the truth of the prophecy was co-opted by Belial to cheat death - he even brags about never having faced death if I remember right - and Adam will be kept around in case he can be useful. If you're a cynic, well, then, your second scenario you describe fits best. A delusional psychotic who broke into the house of an eclectic old man who may also have been crazy... I mean that house had to be pretty weird to help Adam's delusions along to such grandeur.
Sorry for the bump but I just wanted to say this.

The answer was in front of you the entire time.

You don't see Rebecca in the reflection of the mirrors because she doesn't exist.

I was thinking about why she never showed it since the start of the game and after beating the game it pretty much confirmed my theory I had.
Post edited December 29, 2019 by Lord_Tony
one more thing

after the final confrontation when Rebecca congratulates Adam that he didn't attack Elias, Adam answers "I'm not crazy" (to do something like that) and then Aelf says "I'm not so sure"

really I don't know what to think

p.s. omg this game is great
Nice discussion. Played this game numerous times in several decades and read all the magazines and designers comments as far as accessible. My guess is it is all "real". The twist with it being a delusion at the end is a common one. It basically means nothing because they had the sequel allready planned and figured out.
So you may argue that Adam is delusional and has been in the asylum for a long time, which makes the whole story a bit lame -that's why I do not like these Deus Ex Machina (twists/solution).
And if all was real and he left the House why in the first place did he end up in an asylum? Makes no sense.
These games tend to host a multitude of illogical twists. Makes it possible to always come back and do some more and continue with sequels.
And if they had allready planned a sequel, it would probably be with the same protagonists, wouldn't you think?
They had to cut an extra HOUR of gameplay because of number of discs/space and sellability.
You can still see some areas and things that would probably have played a role in that, such as the 3 masks, quill and ink, eyeglass, large house at the graveyard with closed up door and so on.

It still remains one of my alltime favourite games that still gives me the creeps even after playing it for decades.
And yes, I definitively do NOT like the option that Adam was delusional and all is unreal. The option that he was tricked again by Belial/the doctor and Rebecca is a nice one but why would the nurse at the endscene look at Adam so filled with empathy and even pity? Lame twist, however likely it may be. Would be nice to ask the game developpers. Probably the same ambiguity as with my other favourite game/movie Blade Runner: human or replicant? Sane or insane? Or something inbetween?
Post edited February 06, 2021 by albertix