I've now played through Episode One a total of three times, having just wrapped up the final run with the commentary system turned on. All I can say is wow! Having commentary really adds to the game, and provides some interesting insight into what challenges the developers at Valve faced when making certain decisions. Make sure to enable this at least once if you own this expansion (and if you don't own it yet, what are you waiting for?). My main goal for this post, however, is to focus on the "what-ifs" coming up in Episode Two (and possibly Episode Three). If you have yet to play Episode One, or if you haven't watched the Episode Two trailer yet, you may wish to avert your eyes from the rest of this article. A few spoilers lie ahead, so consider yourself warned.
The trailer for Episode Two makes it appear that Alyx meets a rather early demise. Is this true? Here's a quote from a recent Episode One review:
Half-Life boss Gabe Newell has revealed that "primary characters" will die over the trilogy of new Half-Life 2 episodes. "People need to feel that characters are genuinely at risk," he says. "Otherwise they lose investment and the significance of their actions is diminished."
If Alyx truly is the character who dies in the upcoming saga, I might literally break down and cry. After investing so much in character development over the past two installments, would Valve really snuff her out of the picture? She is the one realistic female lead in computer games today; hopefully that fact alone will prevent such a travesty. Or perhaps the developers have something else up their sleeves. Could Episode Two be to the Half-Life 2 episodic trilogy as The Empire Strikes Back was to the Star Wars trilogy? The dark note before the final, brighter conclusion? At this point, only the developers have that answer. I'm hoping that Alyx lives on for another day, at least so that we might have further opportunities to enjoy her flirtatious personality.
Other questions have also arisen in my mind. The alien beings which talked with Dr. Breen at the end of Half-Life 2 are clearly on Earth (residing in those pods you run across while in the Citadel during Episode One). What are they doing there, and what will they do now that the Citadel has been destroyed? Where is Judith Mossman, and what "Project" has she uncovered? And what does the G-Man have to do with all of this? According to Gabe Newell, he might be behind the demise of whatever primary character gets killed off.
Hopefully Episode Two will shed some light on all of this. Unfortunately, we have to wait another six months or so to find out. I haven't been this riveted in a long, long time...