Al-an's personality

RoseyfieldsRoseyfields HawaiiMembers Join Date: 2021-01-22 Member: 267099Posts: 2 Fully active user
I got below zero for myself for Christmas so I first played it with the current version of the story, and while just like in Subnautica the worldbuilding was amazing, I was really interested in the story and characters below zero was introducing. I was thrilled to learn more about the lore and actually meet new characters, but as I played I found certain parts of the writing.. Lacking.

I just kinda went oh well I guess this game is primarily about looking at cool fish, maybe I shouldn’t be too worried about the story. That is until I watched some videos of the story in older updates and certain parts were just significantly better, what stood out to me most was Al-an.

I was immediately interested in Al-an, the idea of actually meeting an architect and accidentally getting him stuck in your head was super exciting, and don’t get me wrong! I liked Al-an on my first playthrough, but the whole time I felt like I was grasping at straws for any semblance of actual character from him, I kept thinking he just felt like a plot device more than a character and I was disappointed. Let’s just look at his introduction in the current verison to begin with.

I tried to take a video of this scene and it came out in absolutely horrendous quality and I can’t find anything on youtube so I’m just going to use a transcript.
Robin: Hello? Is someone there?
Al-an: In a manner of speaking. We are running out of time.
Robin: what is all of this? I can help you better if you show yourself.
Al-an: If we could show ourselves we would not need storage.
Robin: You mean you don’t have a physical presence? Are you one of them? An architect?
Al-an: We will be lost unless we find a new host. Can you help?
Robin: Can you use my PDA for storage?
Al-an: You are not with the group from before? Your cybernetic components bear their signal.
Robin: Alterra? No, my technology is.. Borrowed.
Al-an: It will have to do.
Robin: How long have you been stored here?
Al-an: Longer than hoped. Our data can be downloaded from the terminal. We may speak more when the transfer is complete.
Robin: Yes okay, hurrying.


After the transfer

Al-an: How do you feel?
Robin: Why do you sound like you’re inside my head?
Al-an: The facility identified hospitable capacity within your cerebral cortrex.
Robin: You ARE in my head?! I offered you my PDA! Get out!
Al-an: oh no, does your kind perceive a boundary between cybernetic and organic components?
Robin: My mind is not a component!
Al-an: You sound angry. We will allow you a moment to process.
Robin: Don’t you go silent on me! Hello?! This isn’t happening. This is not happening. That's the explanation! It’s not happening!

When I first played what this scene immediately screamed to be was “trap!” and I suppose in a way that is what's happening? But I felt like I was still waiting for the trap even after the transfer and all the way to the current end of the story. I was just kinda like “..That's it?”

It’s entirely possible this is leading up to something in the unfinished ending of the game! There’s really no saying what the endings going to be like and I’m excited to see! But whether it turns out Al-an was evil all along or really is just that nice and oblivious I feel like it could be done better. All we learn about Al-an from this is he's an alien and he doesn't understand human things but otherwise uhh.. he's a good dude I guess?

(Also this is a really minor and unrelated nitpick but I always felt like “That’s the explanation, it’s not happening!” was an awkward cutoff but anyways back to my essay about video game aliens)

Now let’s look at Al-an’s introduction from this video.

Right off the bat Al-an (I gotta assume it's him talking in the beginning) tries to trap Robin on Planet 456B and declares that anyone who comes for her will be trapped as well because he fears Alterra will try to forcefully harness his power because “It’s what we would do.”

This is super interesting and we’re only seconds in, it tells us not only about Al-an as a character but about the architects.

Of course he’s then unable to stop Robin from waltzing into his room and putting him in her head which I find very funny considering how much talk he talks at the start.

After the transfer Al-an says Robin has no idea what has just occurred but demands to be put back and threatens to destroy the Alterra ship orbiting the planet and/or kill Robin, who immediately calls his bluff causing him to freak out and go to sleep. I LOVE this scene, it’s funny as hell and tells us about both the characters. Robin is smart, brave and doesn’t take shit even from ancient alien architects but still asks Al-an if he's okay and says she didn’t mean to scare him. This feels like the perfect character for someone who’s the protagonist of a game like below zero, who likely swims right up to leviathans just to scan them and log them on her PDA. Meanwhile Al-an is someone who tries to be threatening despite his powerlessness, he’s arrogant and from a society that likely saw themselves as above others and took what they wanted but despite this he's eventually able to become friends with Robin. (He’s also just, EXTREMELY entertaining from this small scene alone I can not overstate how much I love this whole scene)

I can’t tell exactly how many versions of Al-an’s introduction exist because I don’t feel like downloading and playing every version of below zero I can get my hands on to check and I was only able to find two versions on youtube not including the current one. Originally I was going to go over both the versions I could find but I don’t want to be here all day so im gonna link this video and here's some honorable mentions of dialogue from it I found entertaining.
Al-an: My storage medium is failing.
Robin: You’re dying?
Al-an: I am considering my options.
Robin: It sounds like you need your independence, and you’re asking if I’m willing to help you?
Al-an: No. I am telling you what to do.
Robin: Sam could tell you how rarely that works.
Robin: How much more data do we need before we can build this medium?
Al-an: You are impatient. You dislike my presence.
Robin: No! I just value independence, for both of us.
Al-an: Then why have you not inquired about my status recently?
Robin: I’m sorry Al-an, how are you doing?
Al-an: I am nominal.
Robin: How else are you doing?
Al-an: That is all.

Anyways to wrap this up, I feel like Al-an could be a genuinely memorable character people fondly remember and talk about for ages or he could just be that cool looking alien you do some fetch quests for. I want to be clear I still think below zero is an absolutely amazing game and I'm very excited for the full release! I also understand it's somewhat nearing completion so these kind of things might be beyond changing but I couldn't get this out of my head and just wanted to know I got my feedback out there before the full release.


TL;DR: I liked it when Al-an had a discernible personality outside of alien who doesn’t understand humans

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