What would you do?

So this was going to be the first Skyrim LP post, but then I got the following message from RipOffProductionsLLC:

Cut Beta Quote about the 7 hour war:

“There was an illusion of safety, for a time. And then the Citadels appeared. It happened in a split second, all over the world. A chunk would disappear from the center of a city, to be replaced an instant later by one of these… headquarters for the Combine. Invasion Central.”
-Eli Maxwell (later renamed Eli Vance, after General Vance[whose role in he plot was taken by Barny] was cut)

This also talks about the Citadel’s arrival on Earth, whether or not it’s still cannon is unknown but it makes sense.

Another peace of cut content said that the UN asked Breen to negotiate the surrender of earth, but that is on vary shaky ground.

But now let me ask you something, wouldn’t you do the same? To save the humanity from extinction at the hands(or whatever) of an alien empire? ‘The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.’

Well. For all my blustering about hating Breen and wanting to shove my (sadly non-existent in this game) M-4 up his rear end, I was NOT expecting to be confronted with the moral quandary he faced. I mean, Breen wasn’t a bad guy, or he wasn’t at Black Mesa. He’s not a bad or evil man, although I think he’s thoroughly misguided by this point. Whether he’s taking advantage of the situation or simply being misled by the Combine, I don’t know.

But as for what *I* would do in his shoes? Well, I’m not sure. Having to negotiate the surrender of my entire planet/species is a little beyond my ken. However, I have had to entertain this kind of moral dilemma on a much smaller scale in the military. As an officer, it’s my job to lead my soldiers, and let them know when and where we need to fight. I should qualify that by pointing out that I’m not in the Infantry, obviously–combat arms branches are still closed to women. But given the nature of the current conflict we’re facing, it doesn’t matter all that much. The bad guys attack anyone and everyone–there are no ‘front lines’ and no ‘safe’ places to be.

I’m in the Signal Corps–my job is to set up computer and radio communications to make sure that people can talk to each other. Let’s say I have a communications relay set up on some hill top that my Platoon and I are in charge of setting up and running. And let’s say that suddenly, and without warning, we’re absolutely overwhelmed by the enemy. So overwhelmed that it’s clear we’re going to be overrun, with no way out, and no reinforcements that can get here in time. What do I do?

Obviously there are a ton of variables involved–just how overwhelmed are we, how tactically sensitive is this communications relay, etc. But this is a hypothetical morality exercise, not the real world. Let’s assume that we’re just as overwhelmed as Earth was during the Seven Hour War. And let’s assume–charitably–that the enemy has offered us the option of fighting to the death, in a very clearly losing cause, or surrendering. Well under those circumstances, I’d make the same decision the UN made in Half Life 2–you’re damn right I surrender. Throwing away lives at that point won’t do anyone any good at all. So from where I sit, surrender was the right–really the only–option. No fault of Breen’s that it came to that.

But here, it gets tricky. Breen didn’t just negotiate the surrender to the Combine. He became Earth’s liaison with them. That makes sense to me too. And NOW he’s their mouthpiece, feeding the masses the information–and ONLY the information–that the Combine want them to hear. He’s gone from negotiator to active oppressor. The equivalent (very roughly) of keeping my soldiers alive in my hypothetical military scenario by allowing them to fight for the bad guys. Or more accurately, by keeping them alive by fighting for the bad guys myself.

Could I do that? Maybe. If you held a gun to my head, probably not (I hope), but if you held a gun to an 18 year old Private’s head? I bet I could. The question is, IS that the actual dilemma that Breen is facing? Are the Combine telling him, “say and do these things, or we’ll annihilate your world”? Or has he been given more freedom than that? I honestly don’t know–nor am I intended to at this point in the game, I think.

What little I can tell comes from his voice actor (who is very, VERY good.) I don’t think Breen is making up–or even being told to say–anything on those Breencasts. He genuinely sounds like he believes what he’s saying–the last one, where he started talking about the One Free Man started getting near-religious in fervor. I think that whatever Breen’s motives were in the beginning, he is SOLIDLY in the Combine camp now. I don’t think he just wants to SAVE humanity anymore; I think he honestly believes that the Combine are genuinely GOOD for humanity, and that what they’re offering represents a step forward.

If that’s true, then the question becomes this: is it worth fighting the Combine and dying–possibly wiping out our entire species–to stop the kind of oppression they’ve saddled us with? Now think about that–pretend this isn’t just a video game where you know Freeman will prevail thanks to Hawk’s quick thinking (and reload spamming). Could you genuinely take up arms against the Combine knowing that not only will YOU die, for sure, but that the rebellion you’re a part of might lead to the extinction of all humans?

Rough call. I don’t know that I’ve seen enough yet to be able to make that choice, honestly. The only REAL kind of oppression I’ve seen so far is fairly basic; it’s really no worse than what humans have been doing to each other for thousands of years. The Dampening Field is disturbing, and that, coupled with everything else, might be worth giving up my OWN life–but I don’t know if what I’ve seen so far is worth risking the species.

I dunno. Without spoiling any big revelations yet to come, what would you do?

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12 responses to “What would you do?

  1. And that’s the great dilemma at the heart of the games. In the end, is what Breen does justifiable? Do the ends truly justify the means?

    I know this is a bit farther on that what you are (getting into the Episodes), but eventually, there’s places where the fighting between the Resistance and the Combine has been very strong, and… well… life is not easy there. Those areas have become infested with headcrabs (not necessarily because the Combine were shelling places, either) and antlions (which you haven’t met yet but will), and it makes you think, well, maybe the Combine are the lesser of two evils here.

    Ultimately, I don’t necessarily disagree with what Breen did. He did what he had to, and I believe he believed he was doing what was right. But in the end, I mean, the Combine are still evil. They do terrible things, and not just to humans. So that’s why, although I hesitantly accept what Breen did originally, I think the time is right for the Resistance to rise up and try to kick the Combine out once and for all.

    It’s been ten or fifteen years. There really aren’t all that much in the way of Combine forces left on Earth (relatively speaking, anyway), for the very simple reason that there doesn’t need to be–we’ve already been conquered. So I think this is the time to fight for Earth, even if we couldn’t before. But Breen’s standing in the way of that. He’s not pretending to help the Combine but secretly helping the Resistance (or at least not in any way you’ve noticed yet), so I think yeah, we’re justified in continuing to fight at this point. We certainly aren’t going to get any help from Breen.

    This is a bit rambly. I guess the tl;dr version is: I don’t disagree with what Breen did in the beginning. But now time has passed and we actually have a chance at fighting back against the Combine–how can humanity (and Vortigaunts, for that matter) NOT take that chance?

  2. There’s always the risk that the Combine will decide to wipe us out anyway. If they leave the suppression field in place for a few more decades, that’s what’s going to happen. Crushing victory in the 9-hour war notwithstanding, it’s possible they prefer slow genocide to fast. There is resistance in place, but based on your performance so far it mostly kills (human) civil protection officers. A slow genocide that prevents all-out resistance and allows a collaborator government might minimize casualties among the Combine itself.

    On the other side, it’s not clear that the Combine really are prepared to annihilate the species. Clearly, they’re here for a reason. It might just be Earth’s natural resources, or perhaps eliminating a potential threat, but then you have to wonder if they plan to let us live at all (as I said above). But they teleported citadels in, not bombs. I have to wonder if they didn’t plan on an occupation from the start, in which case they clear want something from humanity, not just Earth. And they’re clearly prepared to tie up considerable resources to get it. If that’s the case, they probably aren’t willing to wipe out humanity lightly. If your resistance is just spitting into a hurricane, you’re only gambling your own (and your fellow resistors’) life, not all of humanity. And if you’re actually facing extinction, then perhaps that means humanity has a decent chance of actual victory.

  3. It’s possible that the Combine were in contact with Breen for some time before the invasion. There was some dialogue in the original Half Life suggesting that “the administrator” was particularly interested in the experiment that caused everything to go straight to hell. And it seems awfully convenient to me that it was Breen who suddenly stepped up to surrender Earth – why not a general or politician? Why the former administrator of a ruined research facility?

    But as to your question, I’d like to think I’d fight. Bowing down to the Combine might save our species from extinction, but I don’t think we could be called ‘human’ anymore after a generation or two of Combine control. Would we have any culture? Art? Technology of our own? I doubt the Combine would be interested in preserving any of that. Even the most oppressive regimes in Earth’s history had at least some sort of culture, but the Combine appears to be utterly soulless.

    I’d argue that there are worse things than extinction. You’ll see what I mean in the later parts of HL2 and in Episode One. Assuming you make it through Ravenholm, that is…

  4. Well shoot.
    I didn’t expect quite this mutch thought to be spilled out at once, or start a debate on Dr. Breans morals… but what the hell, I’ll bite!

    Well, in the end Brean did whatat the time was the right thing. He saved the Earth, and in the end Humanity’s resitence has a better chance than in The 7 Hour War.(becouse combine tech was addapted for use by humans now, and the main invadion force is not here any more)

    Now for the deep thinking:

    We don’t know if he asked for his place as Administrater of Earth in the negosiations, or if the Combine gave it to him becouse the though he would make an exolent pawn for them.

    How mutch infulence did the G-Man have during Invadion? He had a hand in the Black Mesa Incident, he could have bin the one to place Brean in a possion to negosate the surender, meaning G-Man wanted Brean incharge(?).

    Regardless of wether that’s the case, the G-Man could have bin wispering in a few ears (liteal and figuritive) to have Brean, Eli, Kliner, and Barney and others all in City 17 now.

    No one could have for seen the Combine being what they are as all we had seen was their milatery might, and that is still all we’ve seen of them. Though Brean might be priviy to some information on Combine “culture” out side of war and conquest, if there is any.

    regardless I think that with current information it can be conclued that Brean is eather horrably misgiuded or bin corrupted my power(or both).

  5. I personally think this correlates to why the g-man didn’t deploy you during the combine invasion. i honestly dont thing gordon can face the megafleets of the same species(according to laidlaw himself) that drove the nihlanth and other xen species to hide in xen in the first place. This information cant be found in the game yet so it isnt a spoiler.

  6. Maybe breens been implanted by the combine. Another theory is that maybe the combine itself thinks that they are truly helping the humans.

  7. I think Breen did the only thing he could: save the human race to fight another day, rather than instant annihilation. yes, he caused the death of many, but he saved even more, even if now the Combine does seem to do most of the controlling. so, does that make him a hero, or just a pawn in the Combines master plan?

  8. I think you should wait until the end of the game (at least) to answer this question. Breens motivations and whether surrendering to the combine was right are explored in more detail.

    Personally, Gordon amd the G-man notwithstanding, I think surrendering was the wrong thing to do albeit understandable.

    • It is an interesting speech (probably my favorite Breencast, actually), but I don’t think you can necessarily take it at face value. The Combine has plenty of incentives to lie to Breen, and Breen has plenty of incentives to lie about what the Combine is telling him.

      • True, but there are some things said there that I don’t think are lies or at least are half-true. There is also that one line thay implies… well, that would be telling.

        (it’s the same thing implied by that one line in “Dark Energy” if you’re not sure what I’m talking about)

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