Waifu Wednesday: Elster (Signalis)

Signalis is an indie horror game that released in October of 2022 by developer duo rose-engine. Paying homage to the most classic of survival horror titles such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil but with a refreshingly endearing coat of paint with its dark anime inspired pixel art appearance made the title an immediate eye-catcher. Alongside being all things challenging, atmospheric and emotional, Signalis hits as a modern survival horror gem.

Let’s finally put it in the spotlight for today’s Waifu Wednesday by celebrating its very own badass protagonist of Elster.

Please take note that spoilers are mentioned.

Who is Elster?

Answering this column’s standard question has never been so tricky. Elster is the main character of Signalis and going any further than that of a description will immediately lead into spoilers so once again, you have been warned. As the only survivor of a crash-landing in a world unfamiliar to her Elster is in for a mind bogglingly difficult mission to see it through to the end.

Signalis is an abstract and trippy experience, one that requires numerous replays – including a secret one which is incredibly difficult to find – in order to understand its story, or at least to vaguely grasp at it.

There’s no concrete explanation to the events and storyline of Signalis due to said ambiguity but the strength and lasting impression of its main character is certainly not dampened by whatever conclusion you come to by its end point. After all, Elster is a main character who is spurred on by one single, selfless motivation and whose sheer drive to fulfil said goal is the only reason she marches onwards – no matter the adversaries she faces, hurdles she must conquer and repeated failures she will have to adapt and learn from to overcome.

Why you will love her

There’s a lot of moving pieces to Signalis where its beginning is the only bit of basic establishment to set the scene clearly enough. Elster is a Replika unit – an LSTR-512 specially – whose design and build is to assist in orbital missions. So far so good. One can assume that Elster would understandably want to check her surroundings and find a way out of her helpless situation. She’s stranded, after all. But Elster’s determination and only reason for pressing onwards has her going deeper and deeper underground and into the most nightmarish of worlds. She’s in search of one thing and one thing only – her lover, Ariane.

Elster remembers that she is to keep a promise she made to her. This is the only real bit of substantial motivation and characterisation to Elster throughout the game, a main character who is mostly mute and emotionless. The fact that she is so captivating and intriguing of a lead is an impressive feat in itself, where the player actively wants Elster to find Ariane, to find a way out of this living hell. To no longer be alone.

Before we really get into the meat of the game here, Elster was always an absolute power house of a playable character without going into its storyline. She’s both a puzzle solver and lone survivor considering how the game plays. Throughout its story Elster is reaching a certain destination despite the scarce resources, locations that muddle the line between reality and dreams which makes traversing the nightmarish labyrinths all the more challenging, and confronting and conquering Lovecraftian horrors and walking abominations of enemies.

But Elster never backs down, no matter how many times she has to keep going at this seemingly hopeless mission. Death will not stop her, slowly losing her mind and sense of reality will not slow her down and the truth of the ongoing tragedy of what’s really happening won’t put an end to her pursuit of Ariane.

Why we love her (heavy spoilers)

Much of the key attributes to Elster’s character is determined by the player’s play style. Typically, one of four endings will be reached depending on how you have played the game. This considers aspects such as playtime, amount of enemies defeated and amount of enemies avoided. Regardless of this end result of your playthrough some defining traits of Elster’s are made pretty apparent and consistent. She is evidently determined and driven, especially given the fact that recalling Ariane’s wish of her fulfilling a promise to her and not knowing what that is exactly is what pushes Elster onwards into finding her.

Elster is quite simply driven by the power of love, as cheesy as that sounds. With some of the most important information about the game just laying about as documents awaiting players to stumble upon them, this drive to simply find Ariane is made more understandable once moments of their life together come to light. They spent a considerable amount of time alone together during their expedition before the crash-landing, with both ladies providing the other one with what they so specifically desired and needed at the time.

For Elster it was the kindness and warmth of another being which was something unfamiliar to her as a Replika. For Ariane it was comradery, friendship, a connection – a bond that would undeniably become romantic despite it being frowned upon, seeing as Ariane is a human (and her superior at that) and Elster is a Replika. Considering the empty and isolating lives they had both individually lead prior to building such a strong bond with one another, their existence became immediately meaningful through their deepening romance. It all hits.

Play the game now on Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

Lilia Hellal
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