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Why Gravity Rush 2 Is Elevated by Its Amazing (and Still Flawed) Final Act

Caty's rushing through her 2017 backlog before the year is through, and first up is finally dusting off Gravity Rush 2.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

Caty's currently working through her 2017 backlog in the weeks leading up to our Game of the Year discussions. Over the weekend, she finally finished Gravity Rush 2.

I imagine for the average person whose job isn't to play video games for a living, their backlog after this packed year is even greater than my own. Somehow, even comparing to friends and colleagues, I still manage to have a pretty steep backlog, despite feeling like I was on the ball (in terms of playing new games) all year long. But when I gaze at my own list, I see a wealth of big games and small games; all things that seemed to slip in between the cracks.

But I'm basically free this month. Aside from Okami HD and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on the horizon, both games that I doubt I'll finish (the first for the third time) before 2017 is through, I'm free to clear out that pesky backlog of mine. So I'll be doing so over the next couple weeks, writing these teensy little blogs all across my journey. On my current docket (concerning games I either missed, or started and never finished) are: Assassin's Creed: Origins, Prey, Resident Evil 7, Battle Chef Brigade, Everything, Observer, Hellblade, Dujanah, ECHO, Rain World, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and Oikospiel. Totally feasible, right? (Not.)

My gravity meter is almost out because it definitely took way too long to take this perfect screencap.

Over the long holiday weekend, I returned to a game that I abandoned long ago in favor of greener pastures. I lept, or rather gravity-shifted, back into Gravity Rush 2.

Spoiler Warning: Vague spoilers describing elements of the Final Act of Gravity Rush 2 ahead.

When I last left off with Kat and her galaxy-imbued kitty cat, we were back home in Hekesville, which apparently was enough to make me bounce off the game entirely. Hekesville, for those who missed the flawed original game on PlayStation Vita, is the same town from the original game. It's very beige and French-inspired, and thus quite different from the entrancing tiered city of where the game drops you in its opening hours: Jirga Para Lhao. While here in Gravity Rush 2 the town feels vaster and thus more interesting, it still just felt a bit too much like deja vu. Despite the game's increasingly endearing side missions, which had me do everything from playing fetch with a dog to attracting customers to a local ice cream shop to being a makeshift photographer, the main missions weren't enough to hold my attention by the time act three rolled around.

But this weekend I returned to it. And I'm so, so glad I did.

The story has always been the least interesting part of the Gravity Rush games. Their worlds, and the many angles you can explore them in, was always the highlight. Especially in Gravity Rush 2. Cities turned upside down, explorable from every wall and angle, with secrets to uncover at every nook and cranny. Cities dense with people, livelihoods; barred by the steep lengths of the sky and troublingly separated according to wealth (starkly similar to reality).

That's probably why when the game took me away from the city I was so immensely invested in about two thirds of the way through the sequel, I felt bitter about it. I wanted to go back to those floating islands with skyscrapers rooted onto them. I wanted to hang out on the side of a building, watching the city from a horizontal angle, as if it had folded onto itself. But then as I clumsily glided through the familiar territory of Hekesville again in my return, I remembered why I admired the series—flaws and all—in the first place.

Gliding and falling across cities is wondrous in Gravity Rush 2.

And then its story got properly weird. And I mean, really weird.

Technically, the credits roll after act three. Kat and company have a happy ending. Hekesville is suddenly within flyable distance to Jirga Para Lhao. I could return happily to its colorful, impeccably designed areas and clean up the few side missions of delivering newspapers and such that I abandoned. Then there was another story, buried in its epilogue-esque final act. Except, the story there feels hardly tethered to everything that came before it. It felt like the third entry in the series overall, packed into a hyper-condensed final few hours.

While it definitely suffers because of it, and yet, the final act is the most engaged I ever felt with Kat's story beyond her inherently naive, do-good personality, beyond the side missions she weathered in the past. The game goes in bizarre directions, including a monotonous, action-free sequence that lasts around a half hour, showing Kat's new daily routine as things slightly change and veer in increasingly odd directions. Later, Kat finds herself in a series of puzzles, gathering her memories from centuries past. To get there, she navigates the lifesize puzzles, utilizing gravity too. The puzzles, oddly enough, felt like they were stripped straight out of the mobile series Monument Valley. I wonder if that was the inspiration behind it.

The sequences are seemingly constructed to be purposefully uncomfortable, like how Kat feels in the moment: a far cry from Kat's errand running or monster fighting. She's adjusting to this change, but feels confused while doing so. She's not shifting gravity at every turn, she's not walking on ceilings and walls; nor gliding across island-cities either. She's just Kat without the Kat we know. Then she reclaims herself.

The compact epilogue took risks where the main campaign, that is the first three acts beyond a very cool boss at the end of act three that was reminiscent of the end of Akira, did not. While the world and exploration are still Gravity Rush 2's shining achievement, Gravity Rush 2 finally gave me a reason to care about the lore behind the game's lovingly detailed world. Which, honestly, is what the series always felt like it was missing in the first place.

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Comments 7

  • Avatar for Suzusiiro #1 Suzusiiro 13 days ago
    The final act feels like a story that they were planning to eventually tell since the series began but not in the second game, but at some point in development they realized that the probability of them getting a third game was low (maybe GR1 remastered underperformed and the call was made then?) so they crammed it into the end of 2. Seeing them fire all of the Chekhov's guns they had been loading since the start of the first game was quite a sight, but it certainly would have been better if they had paced it the way they intended from the start. Like that video of a fireworks show where they accidentally set all of them off at once.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #2 Roto13 13 days ago
    I wanted to get all three sets of gravity powers before exploring the first city and doing side stuff, but the second I got the third set, it sent me to Hekesville, which I thought was pretty cool at first. I didn't realize the entire city from the first game would be in it. But then it forced me into Unwanted Stealth Story Mission #48: This Time With A New Obtuse Mechanic and just gave up. It broke my heart. I loved the first game but the second game's stealth missions completely ruined Gravity Rush 2 for me. Maybe I'll go back and suffer through that crap to get through the rest, but I sort of doubt it.
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  • Avatar for catymcc #3 catymcc 13 days ago
    @Roto13 that is EXACTLY why I bounced off of it months and months ago. I think it's worth pushing through, at least for the cool boss at the end of Act 3 and how weird Act 4 gets (and you get to go back to Jirga Para Lhao post-Act 3), but it's definitely sometimes a chore, which is a bummer. @Suzusiiro I agree! It definitely felt like the sort of thing where they finished the game, then realized Sony probably won't greenlight a GR3, so they were like "well, guess we'll do that story here but also leave it sorta sorta open for a possible sequel just in case!"
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  • Avatar for link6616 #4 link6616 13 days ago
    I guess I'll give that final arc another go. When I saw the main credits roll I was so tired of the game I just couldn't be bothered with the 4th chapter. But it's pretty compelling that you give it such praise, and your own thoughts outline mine enough that I think I'll enjoy it just as much.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 13 days ago
    Played it recently and gave up at that weird, trippy tunnel bit where you fight versions of yourself. I never really liked the combat, and this bit is just a bit top hard to be fun. Will hopefully give it a go again sometime though. Classic game.
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  • Avatar for johnpading95 #6 johnpading95 12 days ago
    I think everything about Gravity Rush 2 is an A+... except the game parts itself. I love the art direction, I can hear the music in my head when I think about the game, the characters are very endearing, the falling/flying mechanic thrills... but it has these momentum-killing, clunky missions every now and then, I dunno. I love this game and it's stuck with me way more than most games I've played this year, but it really is a mess. I don't think it earned the emotional beats it wanted by its end... but I still found it affecting for some reason. Talking about its faults isn't making me like the game any less, it just makes me want to replay it at some point. I love the game, but totally understand the criticisms it's gotten.
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  • Avatar for jmsebastian #7 jmsebastian 10 days ago
    I really should give Gravity Rush 2 another shot. It started out really strong for me, but a lot of the challenges through the middle portion of the game are incredibly frustrating due to the cramped environments and strict time limits. It's easy to get confused on where you are in relation to everything else. It felt like a chore compared to the first game in many ways, which is a shame because the original was such a breath of fresh air compared to its contemporaries.

    Sometimes stepping away from a game and coming back to it can work out, though, so hopefully that'll happen.
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