Can Portal 2 Ruin the Portal Universe?

Portal 2 is less than a week away, which is a little bit further away than it has any right to be. Valve releases are the fabled unbelievable phenomenon of our videogame-obsessed generation. Their actual dates are rarely definable, and they either take what seems like millennium (Half-Life 2: Episode 3, or possibly Half-Life 3), or they come sooner than we have any reasonable expectation to believe (Left 4 Dead 2). One thing that is always consistent, though, is the quality of the games. Valve creates some of the finest virtual experiences available to our greedy, jaded, videogame-absorbing minds.

The original Portal was phenomenal. It snuck its way into our culture by appearing as an extra in The Orange Box, and ended up being the most talked about game on a collection of quite literally some of the best games ever. To be able to set itself apart from Half-Life 2 and its follow-ups, and even overshadow Team Fortress 2 is not an accomplishment to be taken lightly.

portal 2

Portal was a product of being in the right place in the right time. Expectations for the original Portal were as indefinable as a Valve release date. No one knew what this thing was supposed to be, but we knew it looked cool, and we knew Valve made a habit of not disappointing.

The experience that resulted from Portal was one that was atypical from the usual gaming experiences. It felt like as much of an experiment as the obstacle courses featured in the game. The complete lack of preconception lended itself to the narrative in that even after finishing the comparatively short experience, there were still a million unanswered questions. What exactly is Aperture Science, and what is its relationship to Black Mesa? Where is everyone? Who is Chell, and why is she wearing an outfit usually reserved for people who aren’t talented enough to get away with their committed felonies? And perhaps the biggest quandary — who or what is GLaDOS exactly? There is also the question of the cake and its ability to exist or not, but after appearing completely unsolicited and inappropriately in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, I think we can stop talking about it. We’ve heard enough about the cake.

The mystery of the Portal universe is one of the main draws of the original game. The sense of discovery (or lack of discovery depending on how you look at it) behind each quantum space hole lends the game an air of mystery that even gives Lost a run for its money. I would not be surprised to open a portal to a cave filled with polar bears in Portal 2.

Portal 2 is going to be a different experience simply because of the way we experienced the original Portal. We now have expectations for Portal 2, which, when it comes to enjoying creative media, is the worst thing to have. It’s not worth worrying about, though, because Valve has proven itself over and over again with amazing sequels that take our expectations and beat them to death with a crowbar. It’s very likely that Portal 2 is going to be a great game.

portal comic

The thing that is concerning, though, is the expansion of the Portal universe. In order to move forward with the story of Aperture Science, questions need to be answered, and some already have been. The recently released online comic shows a little bit of history behind Aperture and the creation of GLaDOS, but is that something we really want to know? We have asked the questions out loud, we have even hypothesized in depth about what is going over at Aperture, but ask yourself: Do we really want to know? Won’t finding out more about Chell and her history ruin our ability to characterize ourselves onto her? Won’t discovering the history of GLaDOS make her merely a machine, as opposed to the god-like presence that reigns over the abandoned Aperture labs? If we find out that the cake isn’t a lie, will we even want to eat it? If finding out more about the world of Portal means a stunted appreciation of the original, is it even worth it?!

I can answer that question.

If it means that we get to spend more time in the Portal playground universe, then hell yes, it is absolutely worth it.


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Author: Kyle Hilliard View all posts by

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