The following article covers in-depth plot points from the game, Outlast 2.
In 2013, Developer Red Barrels released the breakout game, Outlast. Immediately well received for its intense focus on running from constant threats and mature themes, the plot of the game was a relatively straightforward narrative that detailed an evil corporation’s insane experiments and the violence that ensued. Outlast 2 could have taken the easy approach of simply building on its predecessor’s story, but instead opted for a far more complex narrative involving flashbacks and multiple, overlapping religious themes. It’s a difficult story to understand, but one whose depth is better appreciated with analysis.
The Temple Gate Plot
It should first be understood that there are two concurrent plots running throughout the course of the game, though they both influence the actions of the protagonist. There is first the immediate plot into which the protagonist is thrust into. In this first story arc, the protagonist’s wife, Lynn Langermann, is captured by an organization named the Testament of New Ezekiel. The protagonist, Blake Langermann, and his wife are investigating the murder of a young woman. They find themselves at Temple Gate, where a cult of religious fanatics assaults them. This cult believes Lynn carries the antichrist in her womb and hopes to kill it at the moment of its birth to prevent the apocalypse. A quarter into the narrative, she’s captured by a splinter faction known as the Heretics, who hope to allow its birth so that the world can be destroyed.
The overt conflict between these two groups is relatively straightforward. The Testament of New Ezekiel, led by Sullivan Knoth, wants to prevent the rise of the apocalypse. The Heretics, led by Val, hope to allow it. In the end, Lynn ends up giving birth to the child, while the followers of both Temple Gate and the Heretics slaughter one another in a final bloodbath. This leaves Blake Langermann and his child the lone survivors.
The Jessica Abuse Plot
Simultaneously, there is another storyline occurring through flashbacks Blake has to navigate. The story actually begins with this plot line. In it, Blake finds himself continuously wandering the halls of the Catholic school he, Lynn, and their old friend Jessica used to attend together. In fact, the game starts off not during the investigation of Temple Gate, but in a dream Blake is having about Jessica. In this image-less intro sequence, a young girl asks for Blake and begs for his help. This immediately suggests that prior to the start of the game, Blake is already haunted by the horrors of hi past.
During the course of the flashbacks Blake experiences, we see more and more about who this person was. Jessica once attended school with Blake and Lynn. Blake is pursued by a multi-armed monster in these visions. Close inspection reveals the creature to be balding and with a noticeable birth mark on his forehead. In one of the final visions Blake sees, we are introduced to a priest, Loutermilch, with identical features. The final series of visions reveal that Blake and Lynn were the lead roles in Beauty and the Beast at their school. Jessica asked Blake to stay late one day, where they discussed whether he liked Lynn.
After wrestling with Jessica, they attempted to leave, only to be stopped by Loutermilch. Loutermilch dismissed Blake to stay alone with Jessica, but Jessica practically begged Blake to stay with her. In this scene, Loutermilch acts uncomfortably intimate with Jessica, asking her to pray with him for forgiveness and brushing her cheek. In combination with her desperation for Blake to stay, it’s strongly implied that Loutermilch has had inappropriate contact with Jessica in the past. Loutermilch says something to Blake that could very well apply to himself: “Shame is a gift from God . . . To let you know right from wrong. And what you want is very wrong.”
That Loutermilch abused Jessica is further validated if the player takes a series of recordings during these dream sequences. The recordings produce only static, but there’s a backward voice in the audio. When played in reverse, the voice is revealed to be Loutermilch. In these recordings, the priest thanks God for killing Jessica, thereby removing temptation from his life. He also thanks God for something quite disturbing. Specifically, he says he shared in these childrens’ paths to adulthood, when children learn “those things everybody else already knows, but doesn’t talk about.” He then says Jessica was smiley and flirty. The pairing of these lines suggest that what’s not talked about is sex.
Did Jessica Kill Herself, or Was She Murdered?
Throughout the game’s flashbacks, Blake sees images of Jessica hanged from the ceiling. However, Blake’s final vision of her shows Jessica at the bottom of a stairwell, bloodied, with her neck at an awkward angle. On closer inspection, the right side of her neck demonstrates extreme redness to a degree that it looks like a massive internal wound has occurred. At the top of the stairs stands Father Loutermilch, who says, “I don’t know what . . . you think you saw.” This implies Loutermilch is already trying to convince Blake this was an accident. So, did she hang herself, or was she murdered?
The evidence favors Jessica having her neck broken and then the murder being covered up by Father Loutermilch, who hung her as a way of explaining the break in her neck. Further evidence of this is found in the final backward recording, in which he says, “You killer her, but I never told a soul.” Here, as throughout the backwards recordings, Loutermilch is referring to God when he says “you.” He then says he kept the secret between himself and God, thanking God a final time. Finally, he says that God let the “smaller sorrow of her suicide wash over the unacceptable tragedy of her murder.” From his perspective, suicide was the smaller of the two outcomes. Although we can only speculate as to the moral justifications of why, Loutermilch comes across as selfish and concerned about how it would appear if a priest was found to have murdered a student.
Is the Child Real?
Returning to the first plot line, the people of Temple Gate fear that Lynn will birth the antichrist. She does, indeed, give birth to the baby, but is it real? Images from the beginning of the game do not seem to indicate Lynn Langermann is pregnant, and she has a distinctly different physical appearance from what she looks like in the end sequence. What follows are two images from the beginning sequence of the game:
The next time the player sees Lynn, she looks like this:
In both instances, she has a relatively flat stomach. In the final encounter with her, Lynn looks like this:
A woman does not develop a pregnancy stomach of that size in the course of a single night, unless the developers would have us disregard all science. Additionally, at multiple instances throughout the game, Blake denies being a father, expresses disbelief that Lynn can be pregnant, and indicates it’s been months since they had sex. Finally, when Blake is holding the child in his hands, it doesn’t clearly seem that the baby casts any shadow, further indicating that the baby isn’t real:
However, the shadow is rather vague and blurry, making it difficult to make any conclusions on the basis of that image alone. When taken against all the rest of the evidence presented in the game however, it seems to indicate far more that there was never a real pregnancy occurring. So, was Lynn hallucinating the pregnancy? It would be supported from a document in the original Outlast, which suggests the Morphogenic Engine, which was used during experimentation on patients, caused female employees to have psychosomatic pregnancies. In other words, they believed they were pregnant, but they never really were. The author of that document concluded that these pregnancies were more often fatal than not. If Lynn was exposed to anything like the Morphogenic Engine, her entire pregnancy could have been one of these false pregnancies, ending in death.
The only reason Blake, and Sullivan Knoth, see a baby is because that’s a manifestation of their own hallucinations. Lynn doesn’t see the baby, however, we know not everyone has the same hallucinations. When Blake’s hallucinations occur, they’re of the school. When the cultists’ hallucinations occur, they’re of religious terror. Hallucinations manifest in different ways, and Knoth and Blake merely share the same hallucination of a baby, although they interpret the meaning of that hallucination in different ways. For Blake, it’s a symbol of future hope, while for Knoth it’s a symbol of the apocalypse.
“There’s Nothing There”
Lynn’s final words have been debated as either meaning there isn’t a baby there, or there isn’t a heaven she can see as she’s dying. However, the phrase does not need to mean either/or, and can actually be used to indicate both truths. While I’ll leave this point for a larger thematic analysis in the future, much of the underpinnings of Outlast 2 revolve around deceptions. There’s the deception of what happened to Jessica, the deception the Temple Gate fanatics are following in their hunt for the antichrist, and a larger thematic point about how religion plays a role in deception. Again, this is a point for a future piece that focuses more specifically on themes, but Lynn’s final statement can be a reference to both the lack of a baby and lack of anything to find after death.
Murkoff, the Morphogenic Engine, and Psychosomatic Responses
The specific role of psychosomatic disorders in the original Outlast was to dispose patients toward being capable of controlling a nanoswarm, tiny robots that could act as a violent weapon through psychic control. Psychosomatic responses made individuals more receptive to controlling the nanoswarm. Could the events of Outlast 2 have been attempts to expand these psychosomatic experiments to entire populations? It’s difficult to say with absolute certainty. However, a series of comics meant to bridge the original Outlast seems to indicate this may have been the case. In these comics, a character involved with revealing what was going on at Mount Massive Asylum suggests that Temple Gate is a larger scale attempt to replicate the procedure. Specifically, he says, “Mount Massive was a pebble in a pond, an experiment on individuals. This (Temple Gate) is where the real sickness spreads.”
Finally, the psychosomatic states induced by the Morphogenic Engines were produced by creating extreme terror in subjects. The residents of Temple Gate possess this in abundance, with their perpetual fear of the antichrist, paranoia, and willingness to murder their own children. When combined with Lynn’s psychosomatic pregnancy and the quote about Temple Gate, it seems Murkoff was attempting to induce the kind of psychosomatic responses it had at Mount Massive Asylum. In fact, we have documented evidence that Jenny Roland, a pathologist working at Mount Massive Asylum, was affiliated with an unknown individual monitoring Temple Gate. The document, “Old Traveler,” records that this unknown observer owes Roland a dinner. His duties included monitoring the religious believers at Temple Gate in relation to microwave discharges being emitted from a nearby radio tower.
The Flashing Light
The radio tower emitting the microwaves is what knocks the helicopter off course. Almost every time that it flashes, Blake finds himself thrown back into his vision of the past, when he was a child and friends with Jessica. These are the moments he’s hunted by the horrific manifestation of Loutermilch and, more importantly, the horror of what he witnessed and his own guilt surrounding it. The flashes increase in frequency throughout the game, as do Blake’s visions. These flashes produce different hallucinations. Blake’s flights through the school of his past are different from the religious terrors the local residents see. Although there isn’t enough evidence to support this next assertion, it may be that the increasing frequency of the surges indicate something is wrong with the tower. This may be proven by the final words of Sullivan Knoth, who says at the end of the game that “God is silent.” Perhaps the increasing frequency was a sign of the tower going out of control, until it finally ‘overheated’ and shut down entirely.
The Closing Moments
There are several confusing elements to the finale. First, the town is obviously destroyed, not only by the cultists slaughtering each other but by a very real storm that tears the village apart, including killing the stalker, Marta, by impaling her with a cross. The storm was real, but if it was related to the game’s larger plot, then it must have been related to the microwave flashes. From the “Old Traveler” document, we know that there’s a feedback loop close to temple gate that amplifies microwave signals beyond the initial power of the broadcast. With continuous feedback, perhaps this could create powerful environmental effects. However, the same document also notes that electrical storms occur in the region naturally. In either case, a storm did occur that destroyed Temple Gate.
Editor’s Note: It seems more likely that the feedback loop refers to everyone in the town constantly projecting their hallucinations off of one another. However, the storm remains a real phenomenon, implying it’s tied to the storms noted in the “Old Traveler” document.
Second, we see a final vision of Jessica asking Blake to sit and pray with her, saying “I’ll never let you go. You never let me go.” The second half of that statement is quite right. Blake never let go of his guilt surrounding what happened to Jessica, and perhaps now he never will escape this last hallucination of being with her, much like the cultists were trapped in permanent, horrific religious visions. The final prayer they speak is a Lutheran hymn asking to be watched over during sleep. This reflects that Blake’s horrific day is over. However, the hymn goes on to pray for Christ to wash away everything that went wrong that day. At the time, Blake is clutching a non-existent baby and claiming it will grow up to accomplish everything it should. Blake may be having some sort of psychological breakdown in which he believes the wrongs of the past can now be made up for with the future of the (nonexistent) baby.
It should be noted that just prior to this last vision of Jessica, what looks like another microwave surge emanates that envelopes him. It actually comes from the direction of the sun and doesn’t possess the white light of the radio tower’s activities. It’s difficult to say what this final light emanation is. When it occurs, it sends him into the final hallucination, and Blake lifts his hand in reaction to it in the same way he does when the microwave surges occur. However, we also know Blake doesn’t need to see a surge for him to hallucinate, at least not after the first surge. For example, at one moment during the game, he peers over the side of a well and is swallowed up by a tongue that takes him into a flashback.
Based on the fact that Blake doesn’t need to experience a surge to hallucinate, in combination with the final prayer that Jessica speaks, it may be that Blake experienced a final culminating hallucination, one indicating that he is forever trapped within this unreal world. He is now too far gone, and now Jessica (or rather his hallucinations) will never let him go. Blake will forever experience a world in which caring for the imagined child in his arms is akin to caring for Jessica, with his only future being in pursuing another falsehood not so different from the same way the residents of Temple Gate pursued their own falsehood.