Content Type: Gaming News
Date: November 18, 2022
The Callisto Protocol’s launch trailer was released yesterday. Playing over the visceral action and dramatic bombast is Kings Elliot’s “Lost Again,” the newly-revealed theme for the game. In it, melancholic piano chords and bombastic, minor-key orchestral sweeps accentuate Kings Elliot’s performance and wistful lyrics. The down-tempo song is certainly a unique choice, being a far cry from what many expected for the main theme, and it seems to indicate that there may be more emotional depth than meets the eye.
But what if “Lost Again” isn’t just an unconventional choice for the main theme of a space-horror game? What if I told you that it might have just spoiled the ending of The Callisto Protocol, two weeks ahead of launch? In fact, in the trailer for that launch? Let me explain.
Setting the Scene
I can explain. But first, we need to know that Kings Elliot (and the other three composers and lyricists that worked on the song) actually knew the ending of the game in question. Even though we know that “Lost Again” was composed for The Callisto Protocol, we don’t actually know the extent of Kings Elliot’s knowledge of the game’s plot, nor where the actual theme will be used in The Callisto Protocol. Or do we?
Actually, we do. In a quote for UDiscoverMusic.com, Kings spoke on what it meant to her to write the theme song to a video game, which she has wanted to do since she was a child. The brief statement ended with her saying “I wrote it as much about the characters as I did about my own life,” which confirms that Kings Elliot must’ve surely known about the characters prior to writing the song.
But that isn’t proof. No, what is proof that Kings Elliot was writing for a specific story moment comes from an “Origins” discussion with the artist done by Consequence Sound, Kings Elliot spoke much more extensively about the influences that inspired “Lost Again,” and has this to say:
“I feel like such a tease, but I was also really inspired by the scene that the song scores in the game, which I can’t say anything about!! I tried to put myself in the shoes of the characters and do the story justice. You’ll have to play the game to see what I mean because I’m literally sworn to secrecy!”Kings Elliot, in a discussion with Consequence Sound
And there we have it. This reveals that the song was written for a specific scene in The Callisto Protocol. It doesn’t just appear in the opening or closing credits, and it wasn’t just written to loosely fit the themes of the game: it was written for a specific part of the story, featuring specific characters. That confirms, then, that “Lost Again” was made to cater to that scene, and might just reveal something about that scene.
But my claim is not just that “Lost Again” might have spoilers for some part of the story, but that it might have spoiled the ending. And, again, we can look back to the same quote to see why. After all, what kinds of scenes would force someone to be “sworn to secrecy”? Well, anything far enough into the game to constitute spoilers, where explaining the scene in question would ruin reveals and story beats. Again, this doesn’t prove that the song is used in the ending. But here is where we turn to the song itself to do the rest of the work.
Hidden in the Music
Let’s see what we think we know so far, based on what Kings Elliot has said. We know that “Lost Again” was written for a specific scene in the game, and we know that the scene has to be late enough in the game that the singer would need to be “sworn to secrecy” regarding it, presumably to prevent spoilers and leaks about the story of the game.
And now, let’s give the song a cursory listen. Not to pick it apart (yet), but just to get a feel for it. Try to figure out what kind of scene it might work in, in an epic space-horror that has mostly been priding itself on bombastic action, terrifying monsters, and grotesque visuals.
“Lost Again” starts slow, with waxing piano chords, slow and in minor key. Kings Elliots voice comes in, emotional and melancholy. Almost pained. Even without delving in deeply, the lyrics seem to be about regret and loss, but they carry a message. The song progresses, slowly building to an emotional crescendo where, eventually, the piano gives way to powerful, orchestral hits, though they never leave the somber wistful tone behind. Kings Elliot is now passionate, yelling in dulcet tones in lounge style. The whole thing is highly produced and cutting, with strings overpowering the rest of the orchestra and Kings Elliot’s mysterious vocal lines begging to be interpreted before, finally, fading softly away, back into piano and soft singing.
All this to say… “Lost Again” doesn’t sound like the theme to a Dead-Space-inspired horror game, does it? No. It sounds like a theme to a James Bond movie (with special similarity to Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die”). But there’s a snag, apart from the difference in genre and medium: those themes are played at the beginning and accompany a psychedelic montage of relevant iconography rather than a proper scene of the film.
At least, that would pose a problem, if we didn’t already know that “Lost Again” doesn’t play in the beginning, and does play during a specific scene (with characters! And story). And, since we know that, we can make some inferences. This style of music might be eerie, but it isn’t great for tension. It is too slow, too reflective. In a horror game, where the only ‘non-horror’ scenes hinted at so far are either high-octane action or intense personal drama, there isn’t much room for slow reflection. After all, what is Jacob going to do, sit in a quiet room in a space prison infested by alien zombies and wistfully contemplate himself as a person?
No, I don’t buy it. Not in a game directed by Glen Schofield, who has gone on record talking about the importance of tension in horror. Because “Lost Again” might have many strengths, but it would bring any dread the player is feeling to a screeching, emotional halt. Rather, this is the kind of song that can only work once things have slowed down (and the lyrics will only further prove this). It has to come when the tension has subsided, and when all that is left is the consequences of a story. When there is something to be wistful and regretful over.
“Lost Again,” if my analysis so far is right, must be a song that plays during one of the last scenes of the game after the climax of the story has quelled the need for tension. It was written to maximize the impact of that scene, to serve as a capstone for a character’s emotional journey.
If that is the case, though, then what does it actually say about the ending? What can we actually learn about The Callisto Protocol‘s ending from it? Well, for that, we will need to examine what is being said.
Breaking Down The Lyrics
In order to get the most from the lyrics, let’s break down the most important lines for this analysis, and figure out what they might tell us about the story. These will be analyzed not in the order they appear, but rather in the order that best serves my speculation at the ending. Without further ado, let’s begin.
"All of my nightmares are coming true And I've seen beyond the darkest side of the moon."
In case there wasn’t enough evidence that this song has to play toward the end of the game, we have these lines. Here, seeing “beyond the darkest side of the moon” might be more literal than it seems, given that the “Callisto” part of The Callisto Protocol refers to the Jovian moon where the game takes place. With that in mind, seeing beyond the literal moon only seems relevant if you’ve actually been to or seen the moon first.
As well, “all of [a character’s] nightmares” coming true only seems like useful information if we know what a character’s nightmares might be. While I’m sure the characters in Callisto will come with some serious baggage, I’d also be willing to say that the worst nightmare they’ll have ever experienced will be the alien-zombie outbreak in the sci-fi gulag. That line about nightmares also alludes to a darker ending, where things are still going wrong but… More on that later.
Am I so lost again?
Here we get the song’s title. While it seems vague and metaphorical, let us not forget that the premise for The Callisto Protocol sees the main protagonist, Jacob Lee (played by Josh Duhamel), stranded on Callisto before being taken and tossed into Black Iron Prison, where he is literally going to be lost navigating through it, trying to find his way out. It stands to reason, then, that being lost “again” would require him to get… Well… Unlost first, and to find himself lost somewhere else, or in some other way. The only way to do so, naturally, would be if he escaped the prison.
Well, here’s my first concrete guess: Jacob Lee will escape Black Iron Prison. But, as the “nightmares” line alludes, Jacob surviving might not be the same as Jacob having a happy ending. To that effect, see these quotes:
"Why is it always mistery that I chose?"
"Am I only climbing so I can fall?"
"I would leave this life to find another."
Yikes. Not painting a pretty picture. Jacob might live, but he might not be very happy about that. Why, though? What would cause Jacob to be so miserable, to “climb” out of the prison only to feel like he “fell” again?
"Cause the world outside is going under."
Wait… The world outside? Outside of Jacob Lee’s head or, more ominously, outside of the prison. Here is our first hint at the ending for not just Jacob, but for the universe at large. And it doesn’t paint a nice picture either: this line, repeated throughout the song, suggests that the biophage (read: killer alien zombies) outbreak that overtook Black Iron Prison isn’t contained, and that, to quote the song, “the world outside is going under” as well.
But what of the other characters? We know Jacob survives, but what of Dani Nakamura and Captain Leon Ferris (played by Karen Fukuhara and Sam Utvier), two other characters we’ve seen in promotional material? Do they survive as well, or —
"Say I don't need anyone But I do."
"I would leave this life to find another If there's a universe, Even a reality, Where I'm enough for me."
Oh. Oh no. It certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of song that goes with a jovial group of newfound friends making a daring escape. In fact, it sounds a lot like Jacob will be alone. All alone. As in, “the only Survivor” alone, since he now has to “be enough for him” and has to confront “needing anyone.”
That is enough to form the basis for what we need to know, but there are a few other small things worth mentioning, which might reveal some more specifics about the ending as well.
"You can turn my only hope into my hospital."
While it might be a bit on the nose, it is not out of the question that this song might play specifically in a hospital after Jacob has escaped. While one’s first assumption might be that Jacob would be getting much-needed rest at this (purely speculative) hospital, the remaining lyrics we will look at paint a different picture.
"How do I run from monsters in the mirror I'm afraid that I've become?"
"So why do I run for the flames? Cause there's no way back, And they're all I have?"
Both of these lines, to me, seem to imply that Jacob Lee will see himself as a monster, and will feel that he is left with only the traumas and horrors he’s witnessed at Black Iron by the end of the game. Considering that a line in the trailer alludes to the Prison “changing you,” (presumably talking about Jacob Lee), this could be the “change” in question: to end up viewing oneself as a monster, leaving nothing left “but the flames”. I’d wager that we will see a Jacob utterly destroyed by his experiences in Black Iron, and perhaps even one who is completely mentally unstable, recontextualizing that earlier line about turning “hope in my hospital.”
This is especially interesting because of who The Callisto Protocol‘s director is: Glen Schofield, who also directed the Dead Space series. In that series, protagonist Isaac Clarke also survives his first encounter with the alien horror, only to be wracked with schizophrenic delusions and paranoia, and who ended up in a straight jacket in a mental hospital at the start of the second game after hallucinating the presence of alien monsters and hearing voices in his head.
Given the numerous similarities to Dead Space that The Callisto Protocol already has, it’s definitely possible that this game might retread that old ground, this time set to Kings Elliot’s “Lost Again.”
But where does that all leave us? Now that we’ve thoroughly torn apart a piece of trailer music, examining all its possible references to the scene it might score in the game (which we assume, with evidence, will be one of the last scenes), what can we speculate about The Callisto Protocol‘s ending?
My Predictions, Based Entirely Off a 2-Minute Song
Let’s assume that all my speculations are correct, including the interpretation of individual song lyrics. If they are, here is what the end of the game will look like.
Jacob Lee will live to escape Black Iron Prison, but he will do so alone. The other characters, including Dani Nakamura and Leon Ferris, will have perished before or during the escape, despite Jacob’s best efforts. Jacob, the only Survivor, is left devastated by this, perhaps even witnessing the death of someone he grew close with.
What’s worse, the fight isn’t over yet: the biophage outbreak, previously-thought confided to the Prison, has actually spread (or is spreading) well beyond it, threatening humanity everywhere.
Jacob, traumatized by all of this, finds himself in a mental hospital after his escape, where he is dealing with immense guilt over failing to save others at Black Iron or prevent the broader outbreak. The game ends with Jacob, in despair, trapped in a new kind of prison in the form of this hospital, alone and forced to ponder what it means to be lost again.
Fade to black, credit roll (with a post-credits scene to bait a sequel).
So there we have it: the ending of The Callisto Protocol, based on the song used for a launch trailer. Keep in mind that this is all just speculation, and that I might be entirely wrong about anything (or everything) here. After all, the best arguments in the world won’t change reality.
That said, what do you think? Could I be right about what the game’s main theme saying about its ending? Or do you think I’m way off the money with my rampant speculation? What do you think the ending will be? Let us know, so that way you’ll be on record in advance of The Callisto Protocol‘s release on December 2nd.