Cognition: Season 2 Speculation

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a 2013 adventure game developed by Phoenix Online Studios. It follows the eponymous Erica Reed, an FBI agent with the power of Post-Cognition, the ability to touch things or people and see past experiences.

Season One ended last September, and since then Phoenix Online moved to the development of Jane Jensen’s Moebius and Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition, the former only a month away from release and the other planned for later this year.

While Season Two is not likely to happen anytime soon, I think the chances for it are very good. Since finishing the first season, I’ve been slightly obsessed with the game, even coming up with rules for a Cognition RPG, and anyone from Phoenix Online Studios can tell you I’ve been pestering them about Season 2, even when the answer is always the same.

Sometimes I’m too passionate for my own good. So instead of bothering them, I’ve decided to channel that into my own theories of what Season 2 will bring, of what mechanics, plots and even killers we could possibly see. NOTE: The following represent only my crazy ideas and are in no way tied to Phoenix Online…unless they want to, in which case I say let’s talk! (And yes, some of these mechanic ideas will go into the Cognition RPG rules, which will probably never see the light of day :P)

WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED THROUGH SEASON 1, SPOILERS AHEAD!

Erica’s Profession: At the end of the first season, Erica’s left the FBI behind, to look for and help other Psions like her. So, what possibilities does Erica have to help other people and that work for someone with her skill set? Below are the professions I’ve considered, including how likely or not they are.

  • Social Worker: Being a social worker, Erica could get to Psions and other people before they become killers or victims, and have a more direct contact and influence on other people. Likelihood: Not very likely. With the rules & regulations tied to social work, it could make some of her efforts more difficult and she could get into trouble. Also, it’s not unusual for there to be a degree of mistrust towards social workers, which could make things considerably harder for her.
  • Private Investigator: A classic for ex-law enforcement is becoming a PI, and Erica already is hardboiled enough to do the job. Private Investigation would put her in a more reactive role once more, depending on people coming to her for help instead of looking for them, but its mitigated by Rose, who could send people in need to Erica. Likelihood: Good chance. Her background gives her a way in with law-enforcement in murder and other investigations, but not being tied to an organization means she has the freedom of choosing her approach to any given situation. Her network, both official and in the Psion community can help overcome the reactive nature of this profession. This profession also opens up the world, allowing Erica to move beyond the borders of Boston and go to wherever someone needs here.
  • Law Enforcement (others): It’s not unusual for Law Enforcement Agents from one agency to move to another. Erica, despite her clashes with authority figures, is a pretty fine agent and has a good record, which would help her get a job in another Agency, including Boston PD. Likelyhood: Unlikely. Law Enforcement Agencies do give her enough authority to force certain issues, but the strict regulations and the fact some of her solutions and insights have no logical explanation could actually hinder her. Boston PD, however, offers a slightly higher likelihood than the rest, with her father being a (retired) Police Officer.
Non-Law Enforcement makes crime scene investigations rather compicated

Non-Law Enforcement makes crime scene investigations rather complicated

Erica’s Powers: Erica’s powers developed a great deal over the course of Season One, but does that mean that’s the end for her? Probably not, Erica’s powers can develop a great deal further, maybe not in new powers but in new ways to use them or lifting previous restrictions. Here are a few things I’ve considered. Unlike the previous point however, consider all of these Unlikely until Word From God says otherwise (i.e. Katie Hallahan and Cesar Bittar):

  • Summon: At the end of season one, on the actual ending, we see Erica summoning an image of John, her deceased partner, and talk to him as if he were there, and while we don’t know how that worked exactly (more than it being a more powerful version of her Projection power), there’s the chance that power will make it into the 2nd season, allowing Erica to “make contact” with the owner of an item and interacting with them, opening a whole lot of options, including talking with victims to find out more about their deaths, or talking to a past version of a Psion on the run she’s trying to find and figure out why he’s running. Then of course is the downside, dramatically, for this power, with Erica maybe getting hooked on it and using it to contact her dead brother or even John. It makes for a very strange but very interesting addiction.
  • Hijack: With Cordelia and Erica’s power connected, we played as Erica playing Cordelia and using her power. What if in Season 2 we get to see this power expanded greatly and Erica can inhabit a past version of someone in her visions and use their powers? Imagine playing as Rose and using her telepathy, or even finding a new Precog Psion and mimicking the Cordelia gameplay. The latter is of course more likely to happen than the first in terms of the in-game universe.
  • Unbound: Projection requires you to touch 3 or more items and Synergy requires two or more, but what if Erica could learn to trigger visions or projections without needing so many, if she could just touch one item and get a vision? Maybe not a clear one, but enough to lead her to the next clue, with which she could then use the power as in Season One and get the full vision.
  • Cogition-Chain: This was the first thing I thought about to be honest, and it’s one I think if used could make some puzzles pretty damn hard and clever. It’s gone through a few name changes, because every time I think about it, the previous name sounded ridiculous, but this one is holding for now. What does Cognition-Chain involve? As the name suggests, it’s chaining together several cognition powers in one go. It would be a natural way for Erica’s powers to grow. For example: Erica touches an object and gets a vision of the victim before he died. Then, she “touches” the victim and uses Regression on the vision and after building the memory she uses Projection on three items in the environment and then “regular” Cognition on another item in the Projection or use Regression on someone else in that vision going further back to a point where the victim met the killer or a time when we can see why he was targeted. Cognition Chain adds another layer to the powers, letting you dive into visions as they do with dreams in Inception (and yes, the name Cogception did occur to me…it was quickly discarded).
You summon John and then use Regression on the Projection!

You summon John and then use Regression on the Projection!

Psions: So far, we’ve seen Telepaths, and Pre and Post Cogs, but the Cognition universe is still untapped in terms of how many powers there are and how many applications for those powers. What we might see on Season 2 depends entirely on how far they want to take the universe, how “out there” it is. From comic books to fantasy novels, we’ve seen some pretty insane uses for mental powers, with “These are not the droids you’re looking for” being the tamest among them. The following are a few grounded (and not so much) examples of where the series can go next in terms of powers:

  • Telepathic Nightmare: We’ve seen telepathy used at its basest form, reading thoughts, but there’s a lot more there to tap into, the simples example being projecting thoughts into another person’s mind. Then come the really nice or nasty ones, depending on your point of view:
    • Plant suggestion: What if instead of transmitting their thoughts, the telepath instead planted a suggestion in someone’s head? Changing how they think about something, or how they’d react to another.
    • Mind Control: This is the upgrade from the previous one and another step towards the Dark Side of the Force. Instead of planting the suggestion, you completely override his thought patterns and force it to act according to your wishes. Usually it means the victim blacks out and doesn’t remember doing it, unless the telepath is really evil…
    • Dreamwalking: Like the name suggests, with this you’d have a telepath invading someone’s dreams, and if powerful enough, shape them. Just imagine a serial killer creating nightmares until the victims kill themselves.
    • Illusionism: What if instead of walking and shaping dreams, you create waking ones? Mirages to outright living fantasies are what the illusionist could conjure, and it’s a very nice power to have.
    • Possession: Take Mind Control and turn it up to eleven. Possession would mean the telepath is in direct control of the victim, seeing and hearing through them, sometimes even feeling. Imagine the possibilities…they’re quite evil.
  • Telekinesis and Mind over Matter: Telekinesis is the most obvious candidate for a new power for Season 2. With Telepathy, it’s one of the more common mental powers portrayed in media. Then there are the weirder ones like Pyrokinesis (create/manipulate fire), Cryokinesis (create/manipulate cold/ice) to the extremely weird, out there, and definitely unlikely Gravitokinesis (manipulate gravity itself). There are a ton of Kinetic-powers, and depending on the weirdness threshold they want to maintain, some of these might make it into future seasons and some will definitely not.
    Then there are the weird applications of Telekinesis, such as Teleporation, which could be argued to simply be moving something (including people) to a remote location instead of a visible one. It could even be considered a separate power altogether.
    I can see Tele and Pyrokinesis making it in, being the most “grounded”.
    Then there are those powers that work on a Mind Over Matter concept, such as the ability to consciously trigger bursts of adrenaline resulting in Super Strength (as seen on Alphas), or switch of pain receivers and at least appear invulnerable.
  • Beyond The Mind: This is the unlikeliest of cases, powers that go way out of the mental spectrum and well into X-Men territory, and also encompassing the rest of the powers seen on Alphas, such as tapping into the internet at will, or radio signals or phones, or the ability to prioritize and strengthen one sense over another or just true invulnerability. So far we know of Psions, meaning mind-related, so unless there are other “types” of powered individuals, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any of these.
Imagine if this was a Psion using Pyrokinesis on Erica!

Imagine if this was a Psion using Pyrokinesis on Erica!

Serial Killers or Other Criminals: The Cain Killer, The Wise Monkey, The Hangman and The Oracle were Season One’s killers, one per episode, with both The Oracle and Cain playing bigger parts in the story. Season 2 doesn’t need serial killers necessarily, or even murders, but they’re still compelling villains. Here’s a list of possible choices, plus a couple of killers from of my own twisted creation:

  • Dumpster Diving: In a recent interview, Katie Hallahan mentioned there was a Shakespeare-themed Serial Killer proposed for Season one that had to go; well, Season 2 provides the perfect opportunity for the Tragic Romantic (yes, it’s a terrible name, I know, but it’s funny :P) to have his turn at killing people. In fact, mix in a Psion with Illusionism as either the killer or an accomplice spouse, a pathological relationship based on guilt and co-dependency and an unhealthy appreciation for the Great Bard, and you have yourself a Serial Killer with plenty of human drama to go with the outlandish kills and refined speech.
    What if there are more concepts like these, discarded during early design? Season 2+ could provide many opportunities to explore them from other points of view.
  • Death isn’t everything: Not everything has to be about killers. Kidnappings, Disappearances, Assault, Robberies and even Rape if you’re going dark enough, are all possible crimes to explore depending on what Erica’s chosen profession is. Some of them work with a Social Worker scenario; others work amazingly for the Private Investigator and Cop/Agent, while others work just as well for all of them.
  • Psions or Normals: The Oracle showed just how dangerous a Psion criminal could be and in some cases, she was guiding you, leaving clues for you. How dangerous, and exciting, would a truly evil Psion be? Someone really committed and not giving you an inch?
    Then again, the Cain Killer was completely normal and he was still the most dangerous individual in Season 1, and normal people are just as capable of evil as Psions, they’re just more creative to make up for the lack of powers, Cain’s traps prove that.
    Normal also has another meaning, not just lack of powers and that is Sanity. Imagine an Episode Criminal who’s “sane”, completely rational and still committed the crime. It’s hard to think of a serial killer being completely sane, as even a rational one could be labeled a Sociopath, but it’s a very good concept to explore, and Cognition could do wonders with a Hannibal Lecter (completely bonkers but functional and even rational) styled criminal.
  • My Killers: As I said before, I’ve come up with a couple of serial killers, including names for them, which would work wonderfully within the cognition universe and both are normals, though they could become Psions and still work under the same concept, their powers only making them more dangerous and hard to catch. The first I’ve worked on more extensively and I’ve even come up with a psych profile, and the second I’ve just thought of while writing this piece, so I’ll keep the descriptions short and just talk about the general concept. I’ll get into details in another piece, maybe one dedicated to potential criminals in the Cognition universe.
    • The Homesick Killer: “Home is where the heart is” is the saying this killer takes literally, targeting people who’ve recently moved to a new place and who have displayed (in the killer’s eyes) regret over the move, or in other words, their heart isn’t in the new house. After killing them, he takes their heart, places it, along with some of the victim’s possessions, in a custom-made puzzle box of his own creation, and leaves it at their previous property, buried in the lawn for example.
      As a Psion, this killer works best as a Telepath.
    • The Collector: An example of the rational serial killer, the Collector doesn’t take trophies from victims and in fact doesn’t seem to do any collecting at all, unless you count Serial Killer Names. If serial killing could be considered an art, they’re a master, knowing just when to disappear and when to change his MO. There is an overall pattern and the choice of victim never changes, but the thread connecting them is so fine, a detail meaningless to anyone but the killer, that it’s hidden beneath the diverse methods of murder. The Collector has been killing for a long time now, and has collected many names in the press, but no one ever suspects there’s one person behind all those titles, especially when a well-placed patsy takes all the blame.
      The Collector is a perfect serial killer for a Psion with Post-Cognition to tackle, and as a Psion himself, he works best as a Pre-cognitive, knowing the authorities’ moves before they do.
No powers and Cain was still the MacGyver of Serial Killers!

No powers and Cain was still the MacGyver of Serial Killers!

Cognition Season 2 is ways away, something we’ll probably see in a few years, but it’s bound to be fantastic, even more if it does something I haven’t even thought of, and as you can see, I’ve give this a lot of thought!

For now, I can only dream and plan and replay, and convert some of these into a set of RPG rules I can use to build my own stories in this Universe I’ve come to enjoy so much.

Hit me up in the comments with your thoughts, good and bad about this, and tell me what your predictions are! Where do you think Cognition, and Erica, will go in Season 2?

4 responses to “Cognition: Season 2 Speculation

  1. Pingback: The Weekly Puzzle – Future Past | The Mental Attic·

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