Quantum Break is the latest game from Remedy Entertainment (Max Payne, Alan Wake). If you’re a fan of the developer, you’re undoubtedly aware of how much it loves its stories. Nothing is quite as it seems, so players have to pay close attention and connect the dots to find out what’s going on.
With Quantum Break, there is a lot going on in the background, and if you’re the type who doesn’t really pay attention to cutscenes, ignores collectibles, and plans on skipping the live-actions episodes between acts, you miss out on the bigger picture. Remedy weaved an interesting tale for its latest title that hops through time as it strings important events and characters along.
Before we begin breaking down the story for you, there is one thing you should be aware of. There are choices made throughout the game at ‘Junctions.’ These alter certain events for characters but they do not change the fundamental core of Quantum Break’s narrative. For the sake of this feature, we will be focusing on the overarching story that progresses no matter what decisions you make during the game.
WARNING: THERE ARE QUANTUM BREAK STORY SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU WANT TO KEEP QUANTUM BREAK A SPOILER-FREE EXPERIENCE WE ADVISE TURNING BACK NOW.
Before we break down the story, it’s important to note who the key players in the plot are. While there are more characters than we’re going to list here for you, these are the ones that are integral to understanding what the heck is going on. They’ve had a direct hand in everything that has come to pass.
Paul Serene – Head of Monarch, friend of Jack Joyce, colleague of William Joyce. It was Paul Serene who saw the end of time and has triggered the events behind Quantum Break in his quest to survive the impending doom.
Jack Joyce – Protagonist, friend of Paul Serene, brother of William Joyce. Jack Joyce was present during the accident that leads to Paul Serene’s change and the fracture in time being formed. He is working hard to fix the damage that has been done.
William Joyce – Jack Joyce’s brother. William is the genius scientist that built a working time machine. His research led to everything happening.
Beth Wilder – Monarch soldier. Beth Wilder is working to bring down Monarch from the inside, although she doesn’t exactly know why.
Martin Hatch – Paul Serene’s right-hand man. He run’s all of Monarch’s matters and is a top advisor within the company. He is aware of everything happening, but his course of action is surrounded by mystery.
Sofia Amaral – Paul Serene’s medical advisor. She’s an expert on Chronon Syndrome and developed a treatment for the condition.
The Fracture of Time
Quantum Break revolves around the impending end of time. Thanks to an accident that resulted from an unauthorized trip through time there is now a Fracture. The Fracture is slowly spreading, messing with how things progress and causing anomalies known as Stutters. These anomalies cause time to stop temporarily in certain areas.
When time stops, only those who have been infused with Chronon Particles can move about. It is unknown why exactly, but the only two humans who have been infused are Jack Joyce and Paul Serene. This imbues each of them with powers over time. Now they can’t just rewind time or anything like that, but they can freeze things in specific locations, move like the Flash, and see things, things that both have and haven’t happened.
The Fracture itself was caused by the moment that Paul Serene went into the machine. After having called his longtime friend, Jack Joyce to test the time machine, Paul was desperate to try it out. Funding was on the verge of being cut, and he needed to prove that time travel was in fact, a real thing. After having recruited William Joyce, Jack’s brother, to work on it, he was sure there was something that could be done. So, without authorization, he decided to run the experiment that would lead to him seeing the future and all of the horrors it held.
There was something wrong with the machine, something changed from William Joyce’s initial research. After going through, Paul saw the end of the world, and everything that is wrong has stemmed from that moment ever since.
After the Fracture occurs at the beginning of Quantum Break, Jack Joyce is unaware of what just happened. He knows that his friend, Paul Serene, was trapped in the machine when everything started to collapse, and he knows that Monarch is trying to kill him for some reason. All of this changes when Jack witnesses Paul kill his brother William right in front of him. It isn’t the Paul he remembers, though. This one is older, wiser, and he sports some interesting abilities like the power to move insanely fast.
After fleeing from Monarch, Jack learns that the reason for everything is because of the Fracture that was formed by the time machine. He learns that Paul has seen the end of time and is working to survive it in order to find a fix. Thanks to emails that he reads and assistance from a mysterious woman named Beth Wilder, he begins to see the truth of the situation and decides to take a different approach towards saving humanity. While Paul believes it’s necessary to save a few so that the future as a whole can be saved, Jack Joyce is adamant about fixing the Fracture and saving everyone.
Needless to say, this puts Quantum Break’s protagonist at odds with his old friend. Paul repeats throughout the game and the live-action episodes that the past cannot be changed.
Now that we know about the Fracture, what the heck is Paul doing? We know that the moment he traveled into the future, time began to tear leading to the end of time. Thanks to Paul having been infused with Chronon Particles due to the accident, he was able to move through that land of no time. After living the horrors of that time period he fought his way back to the past.
After making it to the past, Paul tried time and time again to fix the future. With his knowledge of what was to come, he knew he could figure out how to avoid it… at least, that’s what he thought. Each attempt broke his spirit as he came to find that there was nothing he could do. Fate was in control, and if he couldn’t change it, he could plan to survive it.
In order to put his plan in action, Paul used the advantage that time travel affords people, knowing what’s going to happen, to amass a fortune. This allowed him to build his company, form an intelligent team, and even put together a small army. On top of all of that, Monarch was used for some R&D to fight through the Fracture.
That research went into two areas. The first is weaponry. Paul knew that he would have to defend Monarch from threats, so he made sure to develop weapons that could be used even during a Stutter. The second was was a safe haven. In order to survive the end of time, there needed to be an area that wasn’t affected by its never ending Stutter. This safe haven became the Lifeboat Protocol.
The Lifeboat Protocol is the core of Paul Serene’s mission in Quantum Break. You’ll hear it mentioned throughout the game by several characters, although none of them seem to know exactly what it is. The protocol entails that a list of high priority individuals rendezvous at the “Lifeboat” in order to ride out the storm. The Lifeboat is a room protected from Stutters which allows the people within it to live relatively normal lives.
Now this sounds like a good thing, until you realize how strict it is. Paul Serene does have the world’s best interests in mind, but he’s also a realist. The Lifeboat is a large room with apartments and facilities built in, but it is still just a room. You can’t fit everyone in there, so only necessary personnel are allowed. For some, this means they must leave their families behind, as they work to save the world.
What makes the Lifeboat Protocol interesting is its power source: the Chronon Field Regulator (CFR). The CFR helps to keep the Meyer-Joyce Field (essentially time itself) intact. This piece of tech, which is smaller than a soccer ball, was actually created for something else entirely. It’s this that Jack Joyce’s mission stems from. The CFR was originally a Countermeasure to the time machine.
The Countermeasure was a device crafted by William Joyce to counteract the effects of time travel. After discovering the Meyer-Joyce Field along with Dr. Elton Meyer, the appearance of Chronon particles, an element related to time and its properties, was discovered and studied. That element is what gives Paul and Jack their powers, but it is also what the Stutters are made out of. The Countermeasure has the ability to use the power of Chronons to cancel Chronons out.
It is believed that the Countermeasure can be used to fix the fracture, to prevent the end of time. Paul Serene, privy to William Joyce’s research, also knows that it can serve as a battery to protect against Chronons. Quantum Break evolves into a mission to collect this device, since whoever has it will be able to control what happens in the future.
While the genius of William Joyce is credited for making the Countermeasure a reality, it wasn’t actually his idea. In fact, it was the idea of a woman who had no grasp of quantum physics, but had managed to see the future: Beth Wilder.
Beth Wilder’s Part
When you first come across Beth Wilder you meet a Monarch employee who knows that she has to save Jack Joyce, but she has no idea why. All she knows is that time is ending, there is something called the Lifeboat Protocol that she needs to figure out, a Countermeasure is needed, and she’s the one who has to do it all. At times, the confusion in which she operates doesn’t make much sense. As you progress through Quantum Break you’ll discover notes, emails, and videos directed towards her from William Joyce although she swears she has never met him. She is both right and wrong when it comes to this.
Quantum Break plays with the bonds of time. Knowing a person now doesn’t mean you know every version of that person. There is the past, the future, and another unknown present. Beth Wilder has been through this all already. She has seen what happens and has lived through the nightmare of what follows. After watching Paul Serene carry out his plans, and helping Jack attempt to thwart him, she is sent to the end of time where Paul Serene barely made it out of alive. This is done by Sofia Amaral after being kidnapped by Beth and Jack.
Little did Sofia know that her actions as she tried to help Paul actually helped Beth to be able to set up a support system and a way to defeat Paul. It turns out that her attempt to rid the world of Beth, by sending her to the very end of it, was miscalculated thanks to the fact that Beth was wearing a Chronon harness. This allowed her to survive and move about freely. This created the first threat to Paul and Monarch.
After being sent to the future she discovered the Paul Serene from when he first got sent to the end of time. She tried to rid the world of him there and then but ended up chasing him into the past, where she followed. After making it to this time, when time travel was once again a brand new thing, she decided to help William prepare for what was coming. She told him that he needed a Countermeasure, something that can fix the broken time. She knew he could make it because she’d seen it already.
While that was being done, she found herself in that time period, when she was just a little girl. She gave the little girl a notebook filled with all of the events that would happen so that she could know who to help and when to help them. Having to deal with the insurmountable mountain that is fate, she resigned herself to putting all hope into Jack Joyce.
This, unfortunately, leads to her death in the loop of time. Although she helps put everything that Jack needs to succeed in place, she is not the only person who can move through time in order to achieve goals. Paul Serene follows and ultimately kills her in order to obtain the Countermeasure. It is this act that shows Jack where it is, and how to find it since it is now known as the CFR.
William Joyce is one of two people who discovered the Joyce-Meyer Field. This field is the very fabric of time itself. After years of research and tinkering with the discovery, William created a working time machine. Now, the one he created isn’t the one that caused the Fracture. This part of the story can become a bit confusing since it’s contained to certain collectibles and only briefly mentioned during gameplay.
The first working time machine was used many years before the Fracture, and it was what allowed Paul to build Monarch. When time traveling, you can only go as far back as the first time somebody time traveled. Will’s experiment was over 10 years before the Fracture was formed when Jack Joyce and Paul Serene were trying out the new machine. This allowed Paul to make a sort of preemptive strike on the end of the world.
It was this machine that the one that caused the Fracture was based off of, although there were changes made. Some of the components were altered or removed altogether, something that William became aware of. This is the reason why he was so adamantly against the experiment. He knew something was wrong, but many thought that he had just lost his mind.
Coupling the knowledge of the error along with the fact that a future Beth Wilder had informed him of events to come, it made it seem as if William was unhinged throughout a majority of Quantum Break. The reality of his situation, though, was that he was just an awkward genius. His looking like a maniac wasn’t random, however. Everything was orchestrated by one man, Martin Hatch.
What’s the Deal With Martin Hatch?
Martin Hatch is not a man to be trusted. While Paul has aspirations of saving the world via the Lifeboat Protocol, Martin is aiming for something far different. He too would like to get a hold of the Countermeasure, but he doesn’t want to use it. In fact, he doesn’t want the device to do a single thing. He welcomes the end of time because he believes that it will bring a new beginning. This is because of an accident that happened to a close friend of his. After it occurred, Hatch’s eyes were opened to new possibilities.
This doesn’t become clear until very far in the story, and even then, it isn’t exactly explained. When you first begin Quantum Break, you’ll find an article that speaks of Dr. Kim, an employee of Monarch, and William’s old professor, who passed away. It turns out he didn’t actually die, although he can no longer exist in our realm. An accident turned him into something called a “Shifter.” These are beings who can move through Stutters with incredible abilities.
Apparently, while working on the time machine for Monarch, Dr. Kim suffered a horrible accident that transformed him into this new being. Monarch didn’t want the news to get out so they said he was dead and sealed him away in a Chronon container in his old office so he could be studied. Martin Hatch hid his hatred of what was done to his friend for years all so that he could also reach that state and be free in a new world.
This is most likely the reason for why Martin Hatch uses Chronon eye-drops. It’s never stated why he uses them, and he doesn’t seem to have the ability to see into the future. What is known is that those infused with Chronon particles have the potential to become a Shifter. Seeing as how Martin Hatch is the only person who takes them willingly into his body, this is the most logical reasoning for it.
In order to ensure that the end does come, Martin does a lot more than just covet the Countermeasure. He tries to frame Sofia Amaral, another trusted adviser of Paul Serene, something that can prove to be successful depending on your choices in the game. He commands a section of Monarch’s security which is loyal to him alone, while also sabotaging Paul’s moves at every turn. He works from the shadows, keeping his cool throughout Quantum Break in order to never betray his true goals.
During the final episode of the show he is shot in the eye no matter what decisions you’ve made up until that point. Yet, at the very end of the game, you can still see him. Was he successful in his plans? That is a very strong possibility.
What’s Wrong With Paul?
Paul Serene is sick. It’s why he has trouble controlling his time abilities at times and why he’s on edge so often. He has something called Chronon Syndrome. When exposed to large quantities of Chronon particles, a human’s body is changed. The first time it happened to Paul, he was given the powers he has; the same ones that Jack Joyce employs. The second time he was exposed, he was made very sick.
This sickness causes the Chronon particles within his body- the same ones that give him his abilities- to become unstable. This pushes him closer and closer to the Shifter state. As time moves on and Stutters become more frequent, his body is losing its connection to the world as we know it.
As the syndrome progresses, the inflicted begins to transition to a state of quantum superposition. In other words, they live like Schrodinger’s cat, both alive and dead. It’s why you see his features start to slide and “shift” towards the end of the game.
Some other side effects are the ability to see multiple timelines at once. You’ll notice, specifically during the live action episodes of Quantum Break, that Paul sometimes sees other things happening in front of him. This is his mind seeing multiple possibilities at once making it difficult for him to make sense of what is actually happening. It’s nearly impossible for him to focus solely on his current existence in these moments, and that makes him exceedingly dangerous.
How Does This All Play Into the Final Encounter?
How did Paul Serene and Jack Joyce end up at the exact same place right before the end of time? Well, it wasn’t a coincidence.
Throughout every twist and turn, and as Jack jumped from timeline to timeline, he was able to piece together the bigger picture. Paul’s plan, Beth’s mission, and his brother’s research all centered on one thing: the Countermeasure. Every move that was made by each major party ensured that the device would be in one place: Monarch HQ. This made it possible for Jack to retrieve it and to head back in time once more to save his brother in order to learn how to use it.
At this same time, Paul Serene’s condition is growing worse. Jack’s interference throughout the game served as the perfect distraction for Martin’s sabotage to take hold, even if he ultimately failed to obtain the CFR. This leaves Paul in a weakened state where he is at his deadliest. He pinpoints Jack’s next move through the multitude of timelines converging on him.
Now, Jack and Paul are both headed to Bradbury Swimming Pool. This was the extra Time Machine that was built thanks to Beth’s advice to William after traveling to the past. It contains a place for the Countermeasure to be used. All of the pieces have fallen perfectly into place for this very moment.
Just like dominoes, everyone’s separate motive created a chain that all fell together. Either Paul would win and activate the Lifeboat Protocol, or he would ensure the end of time (depending on your choices in Quantum Break), or Jack would win and fix the Fracture. The confrontation was decided the moment Paul made the first move when he traveled to the future and saw hell.
The Ending Throws a Loop
After the final encounter, Jack defeats Paul and activates the Countermeasure. The Fracture is sealed and time is able to continue on normally. Unfortunately, those who were lost throughout all of the time hopping remain dead as the Meyer-Joyce field is whole once again. The bright side is that humanity will be able to live on and Stutters are no more, though.
This is something that many playing may have suspected. From the very beginning of the game, it’s clear that Jack is participating in an interview. The entire game is actually told through flashbacks, hence the voice overs you sometimes hear. Yet, there’s something odd about the whole affair. Why is the interview being conducted by Monarch, and why is Jack Joyce fine?
This is broken down by two scenes. The first occurs right after you defeat Paul. Time is fixed and both Jack and William are celebrating until Jack realizes that he hasn’t changed. He is still suffering from Chronon infusion and is able to see events in both the past and future. Even worse, he’s starting to shift. Everything should have been corrected, including his warping of the Meyer-Joyce field, but that isn’t the case. If anything, he’s reached the level that Paul Serene had. This proves that Paul was partially right; you can’t change fate, or, at the very least, it will still find a way. Something that is shown after the credits roll.
Once the credits are done and the rock music comes to an end, Jack Joyce is back at the interview, wrapping it up. It seems the purpose of everything was to find out if Paul Serene was right all along. After many attempts at trying to fix events, Paul was finally killed and Monarch was on a new path. Surely, things were different now, right? Those who died were still dead, and all was moving forward. That is what everyone believes, but there are a couple of people who know otherwise.
When Jack Joyce exits the interview room, he is greeted by Martin Hatch. You know, the man who was shot in the eye and killed. He stands before you, alive and well, remarking on your “abilities.” He has seen things that only a special few are privy to and has managed to thwart the threads of fate somehow. He also knows that you are more than you let on after having fixed the Fracture. He presents to you a proposition; he’ll help you save the woman you love if you help Monarch shape the future.
At that point, a Junction appears right before the screen goes black. Jack has not prevented fate, he’s just switched his role in it. He is now Paul Serene and he will stop at nothing to keep his promises and reshape the future.
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