Archives in Video Games: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
[SPOILER WARNING FOR RATCHET & CLANK: RIFT APART]
I haven't heard the names Ratchet and Clank in a long time. It was a video game title I was aware of but never played. The last gaming consul I owned was the original PlayStation and I had to cut myself off from gaming, at the time, because my frustration levels were getting dangerously close to unmanageable. Throwing controllers is not a good look. So, when the first Ratchet & Clank game came out in 2002, I was a freshly graduated high schooler bound for university who hadn't touched a video game in a few years.
So, here we are in the year-of-our-Donkey-Kong 2021 and there's a new game, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, that features an archives as part of the story, gameplay, and a feature of the finale. Huh. That's cool!
The story goes that during a celebration of their previous victories, I assume, Ratchet and Clank are being honored when they're attacked by their nemesis, Dr. Nefarious. The villainous robot is after the newly repaired dimensionator, a gift from Clank to Ratchet, and wants to use it to find a universe in which he's won. Such a universe exists with its very own Emperor Nefarious, but it also features heroic female analogues in Rivet and Kit. Working together and apart, our quartet of dimension-hoppers must fix the reality-altering anomalies and stop Nefarious once and for all.
Or until the next game.
There's also a subplot about Ratchet and Rivet finding another lombax, a species of feline/fox beings renowned for their engineering skills. Unfortunately, lombaxes were banished from the universe for reasons and the species was previously considered all but extinct. The only remnants of the lombax civilization and culture are the technological creations left behind.
One of those remnants is the Interdimensional Archives located on the planet Savali. As part of the story, Ratchet travels to the planet to find the blueprints for the dimensionator in the hopes that Clank can build another one to fix the universe. On Savali, he meets The Prophet Gary, who Clank met earlier in the game, and is directed to the archives just as it's being attacked. But, unlike your typical archival institution, this one protects itself - by sprouting mechanical legs and slowly moving away from the danger that continues to follow it because the villains have jet packs and rocket boots.
Ratchet also meets Kit, Gary's robot apprentice, as she's thrown from the archives and convinces her to help him in his quest. She guides him (and the player) to rescue the captured monks who're the archives' caretakers and directs Ratchet to enter the archives once the baddies are defeated for the area.
The interior of the archives, however, is beautiful yet stereotypical in that the inner sanctum looks unused and sports a fine sheen of dust hiding the lombaxian language. It's a bit of a contradiction of exposition vs visuals. If the archives is important enough to Gary and Kit to utilize, as well as have a contingent of monks acting as caretakers, then why does the archives look so neglected? Do the monks just stare at everything and hope for the best? Later on in the game, Clank comes across Gary again and inquires about his title of Prophet. Gary reveals the monks gave him the title in a show of appreciation for him helping them decipher the archives. When asked what that entails, Gary replies:
"Oh, just a lot of pointing and saying stuff like, 'That's a Blargian phone booth, that's a Kerchu tooth, that's a Terraklon love poem...'"
I am now genuinely curious about the Interdimensional Archives' collecting policy because a phone booth, a tooth, and a love poem are all wildly different things that makes me think Gary is talking about a museum more than an archives. Additionally, this explanation heavily implies that Gary didn't research anything. He just pointed at things and labeled them without doing the due diligence. Again, I ask, what are the monks doing? Because it sounds like a whole lotta nothing. Bestowing titles is all well and good, but what's the point of having these monks as caretakers if they're not actively working within the archives? By the Savali Monk Metric (SMM), I'm an Oracle of the Highest Order.
On second thought, maybe I'll just add that to my profile and business cards.
The archives "appear" again towards the end of the game as the quartet return to Savali only to find that the archives have been destroyed by Emperor Nefarious. While fighting to get back into what's left of the archives, Ratchet fights off minions and the undead, apparently. Ya know, like ya do. And after you fight through all that, there's a brief cut scene in which Ratchet and Clank determine the interdimensional blueprints and map are gone, stolen by Nefarious. Which we already knew because he destroyed the archives.
But then more fighting ensues on the Rivet and Kit side as Dr. Nefarious goes on about all the "treasures" to be discovered and pilfered from the archives including weapons and lost episodes of whatever Lance and Janet is. Again, what is the collecting policy?
It's actually quite sad that the archives were destroyed since previous cut scenes show the player Ratchet's internal conflict when he finds more proof of his species' existence. While the dimensionator is responsible for him being flung into another reality, it's also given him more hope of seeing and interacting with his people again. The archives is a literal walking reminder of lombax ingenuity and engineering. Destroying it is akin to Nefarious wiping out lombax culture and denying Ratchet and Rivet access to those cultural touchstones.
But the ending implies that Ratchet and Rivet will do some recreational dimension-hopping to go find other lombaxes so I guess it all works out in the end, right?