Having played through Virginia and taking time to properly digest its plot, I definitely disagree with a few of the reviews that talk about how incredibly disjointed the game feels and how the story (if there is a story to them) is too convoluted to understand. Personally, I think there’s not only a pretty detailed story here, but it’s fairly deep. Even though the game is just two hours in length, it kept me thinking for several hours after it, even to the point of doing a bit of research to see what others thought of the game after finishing it.
There are obviously spoilers ahead, so if you aren’t ready to read them yet, STOP!
So, here are some basic conclusions I reached:
In short, there are two investigations that Anne is conducting, but the primary one is on Agent Halperin, who seems to have been religated to a Fox Mulder-like status of having an office in the basement of the FBI headquarters. The Assistant Director tasks Anne with conducting an internal affairs investigation on her, so Anne ends up having a cover as her new partner as Halperin begins a missing persons’ investigation in the nearby town of Kingdom, Virgina where a teen named Lucas Fairfax has gone missing.
The investigations into Lucas and also Halperin may be the main meat of the story on the surface, but it all ends up being moreso about the corruption within the Bureau as well as the local government of the town of Kingdom. We know that Halperin’s mother uncovered lots of misdeeds within the FBI (and possibly the town, even) in the late-1960s and early-70s, which resulted in character assassination and her dismissal from the FBI, and Halperin herself is carrying on in her mother’s footsteps here.
We never find out everything that’s going on, but we can piece together that the Assistant Director, the sherrif, the mayor, and the Air Force were involved in something back in the 1960s, possibly involving a UFO landing, and a big cover-up is going on.
Although the game’s central story revolves around finding Lucas, it seems that the reality is far less sinister than you would think. Lucas seems to come from a broken home: his parents don’t even share a bed with each other, his father (a Reverend) seems to be involved with a potentially underage teenage girl, and his mother may have actually been unfaithful herself as it is implied the town’s sheriff might be Lucas’s real dad. Lucas has taken up photography as a hobby and catches his father with the young girl in his personal study, taking their picture.
Some think that perhaps the father had something to do with it, possibly even killing him, but this feels unlikely. Another theory, based on the LSD trip near the end, is that he was abducted by aliens and the whole case is a huge cover-up.
Personally, I think the ending we see at the close of the game is very telling (more on that next).
Near the end, Anne considers turning in Halperin to save her own career. She gets a “flash forward” type of scene where she imagines how her career would turn out. She would work a successive series of internal investigations, throw countless colleagues under the bus, and eventually rise to be the Assistant Director of the FBI herself.
Then, she takes the LSD that Halperin gives her (Halperin’s mother was accused of using drugs as alternative aids in solving crimes) and has a series of telling visions. In one vision, there’s a scene involving a cult with all the major players in it, though this seems to be more of her mind telling her potentially about the cover-ups that had been going on in the town. Then, near the end, she sees Lucas getting abducted by a space ship, though oddly enough it’s Lucas’s mother that emerges from the bright light and takes him by the hand (suggesting that maybe Lucas just wanted to run away and be with his mom, not his dad). However, as the drug is wearing off, the UFO vanishes and we see Lucas actually just running off into the woods. This seems to be Anne’s mind suggesting that nothing sinister really happened – he was just in a broken home and wanted to run away.
Here, we see that Anne has left the broken key (which we understand went to a lock-box with evidence her father wanted her to burn, thus representing her “baggage”) and her FBI badge on the table of the diner she and Halperin visited, and Halperin is there too. She pays the bill and the two ride off down the road together, leaving Kingdom, VA. On the way out of town, they see Lucas walking down the side of the road (both women see him). They don’t stop, though, and instead keep on driving.
To me, this suggests that the two were arrested by the sheriff and the FBI as a warning not to get involved in things they should stay out of. It seems like the cover-up dating back to the ’60s and ’70s that may have involved a UFO and internal corruption within the town and the FBI was a big deal to the sheriff, to the Assistant Director, and to the Air Force Colonel we see throughout the game. He even visits the FBI office on one occasion, presumably to warn the director that he doesn’t want the agents getting too close to whatever it was that Halperin’s mother had discovered those decades ago. However, realistically they have nothing to hold either woman on and they are forced to let them go.
Halperin and Anne both decide to leave the FBI, and seeing Lucas leaving Kingdom on the way out of town they realize that he, too, was leaving a bad situation. In the end, it kind of ends up being about getting away from toxic situations and new beginnings – freeing yourself from your ghosts and the baggage of your past.
Whatever really happened back in the 1960s and 1970s at that Air Force Base and in Kingdom itself is something we can only get a glimpse of, but it certainly has left those involved feeling wracked with guilt and yet still wanting to protect themselves at almost any cost. Thankfully for Lucas, though, his story is more about running away from his broken home, and the alien abduction vision seems to be more symbolic than anything else.
Anyway…Those are just my thoughts on it all after having played the game through and given a bit of thought to the events that transpired.
I definitely think that Variable State and 505 Games did a commendable job with this one!