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SIGNALIS Endings Explained: Is Anything Real?

Explaining SIGNALIS’s story and all four endings.

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SIGNALIS: the radio station from Ariane's memory.

SIGNALIS: Explaining the Normal Endings and Secret Ending

SIGNALIS can be a confusing game. Taking a cue from the Silent Hill series, the game is set in a world distorted by the character’s memories. Explaining SIGNALIS’ ending means starting way before the end, as everything we see in the actual game has to be interpreted retrospectively to make any sense at all. Even then, something important to keep in mind when looking at this explanation of SIGNALIS’ endings is that this isn’t the sort of game that needs to be “solved” to be understood.

The world of SIGNALIS doesn’t abide by the laws of reality, its internal logic is made of symbols and emotional connections. Even the secret ending, hidden by a short ARG, reveals a scene that only makes it harder to piece everything together into a coherent story. SIGNALIS begs to be interpreted and not just understood, and the endings are no exception. Your own, unique interpretation is just as important as what the scene literally depicts, so please use this explainer as food for thought and have fun piecing out what SIGNALIS means to you.

An Overview SIGNALIS’ Story

SIGNALIS: Elster inside the ship
Image: rose-engine

Let’s begin by explaining what happens in the three normal endings of SIGNALIS. If you want to find the alternative endings yourself, you might want to check our guide on unlocking all four SIGNALIS endings.

After leaving the Penrose-512, the ship she crash-landed on while traveling with Ariane, Elster finds herself on the mining outpost of planet Leng. Almost all Replikla androids there seem to have turned into angry, violent shells of themselves. Elster fights through waves of them, reaching the lower end of the mining outpost and eventually finding herself on another planet, all to find Ariane. It’s already clear at this point that the game doesn’t care that much about consistency: falling from an elevator shaft sends her to Ariane’s old home in Rotfront, where rooms once related to Ariane become engulfed by giant masses of flesh.

Eventually, Elster confronts and kills Falke, who leaves her with a curious message: “We are not whole. No matter what you do, she will never dance with us again.” Somehow the way to the Penrose-512 is now open, and inside we find Ariane. At this point we know why she’s stuck here and why we came back: the Penrose was a suicide mission, an operation to discover new planets with almost no chance of landing and no way to turn back. Ariane and Elster were supposed to last just three years but somehow went far past that point. Elster shut down a long time ago due to a lack of maintenance, while Ariane survives half asleep in her stasis pod, all the while radiation exposure worsens her illness.

Explaining the Normal Endings

SIGNALIS: Elster and Adrian at the red door
Image: rose-engine

During the final sequence of the game, we play as Elster as she comes back into the ship. What that means is that Elster, who at this point has lived far past her expiration date, has been woken up by Ariane’s dream. We know Ariane has strong psychic powers and that she can influence other people’s minds. It seems reasonable, then, that through most of the game Elster was fighting through Ariane’s nightmares as she lays in her stasis pod, intermitted by other memories of her past. Elster wakes up thanks to the constant “Remember our promise” that we see throughout the game. Their promise is that they will die together once the ship became inhabitable.

The Elster that wakes up can be one of three types, represented by the three normal endings and decided by how the player acted through the game. The Endings are Leave, where Elster can’t bear to keep her promise and refuses to enter the ship; Memory, in which Ariane doesn’t recognize her partner and Elster rests next to her instead of killing her; and Promise, where Ariane begs Elster to keep her promise and the two die together.

All the endings are equally valid conclusions of the same story. There is only one Ariane and one Elster in this story, the first at the end of her line and the other back from her end to stop Ariane’s suffering. Elster never went outside the ship: the intro scene where she leaves to ship to explore a white, snowy planet just shows Ariane’s (white) mind engulfing her. We never see the real planet Lang: the mining colony of the game is just Ariane’s version of a place she never knew but that she dreaded going to. We never visit hospital room 512 on Rotfront, Ariane’s old home: 512 is the serial number of their ship, the place a terminally ill Ariane is stuck in, while Rotfront is where her memories wander before being woken up by Elster.

Explaining the Secret Ending

SIGNALIS: Red eye in the sky
Image: rose-engine

If you thought that SIGNALIS’ normal endings were sad and confusing, wait until you hear about the secret ending. Here you don’t fight the final boss, a Falke unit that looks just like Ariane, just woken up from her coma. Instead, the secret ending requires finding a series of keys and a radio code from various parts of the game. Vitally, finding the secret ending requires multiple playthroughs. If you want, we have an article diving deeper into how to get the secret ending. Otherwise, here is what happens before and during this final, hidden scene.

To get the secret ending you need to use the in-game radio to find 3 keys. Remember that Ariane was a radio operator herself, so we can assume that she herself hid those clues inside her own mind. The keys’ descriptions are a memory of dancing with Elster, a call not to look for answers where there are only questions, and a version of verse 8:13 from Revelation. Once the keys are used and Ariane’s radio code inserted, the real final ending begins.

Elster finds a lily plant hidden inside Ariane’s old home in Rotfront, a white symbol of rebirth. The scene immediately changes to what seems like a ritual, where multiple Elsters and the lily plant are sacrificed to create an unassuming artifact. The screen goes red as black words read, in German, “The mystery of God is complete, as she has announced to her servants, the prophets”. The female declination of “she has announced” implies that Ariane is the God and the many Elsters, the players, her servants. We cut again to show the Penrose-512 immersed in a red mist, a red eye looking down at it from the sky. The only character we know of with red eyes is Ariane herself. Inside the ship, the ghost-like figures of Ariane and Elster are seen dancing until the credits begin to roll.

The secret ending of SIGNALIS is a much less logical, much more emotional affair than the regular endings, but we can still find a resemblance of internal logic. Ariane is the God that governs this dream world, but with their collective sacrifice, the Elster units/prophets/fans that found the final ending can help this God make sense of her dreams. Using Ariane’s clues and radio signal, Elster lets the two of them live through one final dream, a happy memory of the time they spent together.

Well-rounded nerd and self identified loveable weirdo, Diana loves stories in all their forms, even though she’s too lazy for most things that aren’t games. She’d drop anything for a night of TTRPGs, and often does. You can find her rummaging trough the tiniest of indie games releases, or trying to wrap up a 50 hours long Visual Novel she regrets ever starting.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    January 22, 2023 at 7:10 am

    I don’t think the “it was all in Ariane and Elster’s mind on the Penrose” works as a theory.
    Ariane likely dreaded the mine, but that mine is depicted in minute details, with people working there having their lives, personal diaries, and there are characters like Adler and Falke who look anything but made-up fantasies. Also, a lot of the worldbuilding and leads on bioresonancy go nowhere in this theory.

    I think a much more likely interpretation is that the game is set between reality and dream, but the dream is a very real place. The game starts at the Leng mine where something powerful was indeed unearthed, and then progress into the bioresonant anomaly into Ariane’s mind who’s calling for Elster through space and time.

    The general gist of the story doesn’t even change that much, in the regular endings they’re still stuck in loops and only the secret ending gives them lasting peace, whether in the acceptance of death and reliving one happy moment together, or living eternally as spirits in the bioresonant afterlife.

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