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Tear Jerker: Wild Star
Queen Myala Everstar. Imagine the highlight of your first years on the throne being the complete destruction of your homeworld, forcing most of your population off the planet and leaving behind several unfortunate communities, all because you dared to help out someone in need. It gets even worse when you realize the Living Crown allows her to maintain a connection to them, which means she feels their pain and suffering constantly.
Just hearing her talk, you can see all shades of Stepford Smiler. She's generally cheerful and tries her best to be positive, but when things go to hell once more like Elderroot's death, the scars start to show.
Eldan almighty, the Exile Tutorial. To really hammer in the fact that their very lifeline is a rustbucket falling apart at the seams, you open to a shot of major cryobay failure, with frozen and defrosted corpses everywhere. You can see scores of people mourning the dead, half-thawed Exiles begging for the pain to end, and medical personnel desperately trying to control the situation. And then, if you follow the Human/Granok path, you get to watch as Deadeye Brightland's wife and newborn child who you've been working to save in the tutorial get blown to bits by Dominion artillery.
Stick around. It was sabotage. Exiles don't cut corners with their cryopods.
Whenever a civilian is attacked in the "Ravenous Rescue" event in Celestion, they plead with you to save them, oftentimes mentioning they have a family. If they die, they make depressing requests for you to tell their family goodbye, chide you for failing to save them, or say, with relief, "At least the pain is over now..."
Drusera. How long has been alone with all the knowledge that she's the only one keeping the galaxy safe from the Strain? Not to mention her failure in saving the Eldan from such a horrific fate.
Then you learn her past. Not hard to see why the poor girl just wants to make some friends, locked up for so long...
Help us, Lightkeeper. Help me. Guide me to courage, for I have no courage left.
The entire Northern Wilds arc. You are bound for a new life in Thayd, the Exiles's capital city! Then the ship is shot down, crash landing into that frozen hellhole. Though you ultimately escape, the first rescue ship is also shot down, and Sadie Brightland and Brightland Jr. die.
The Brightlands were going to name the kid after you, too.
In Tremor Ridge, after Sadie is killed, there is a holo of her with Deadeye's pet Dagun staring at it.
As a Dominion player, having to fight Kevo after he is augmented. Artemis Zin's reactions are simply heartbreaking. He survives, but still.
As an Exile its not any better. Artemis, weakened from beating you to the Cube only has enough strength to plead with you not to kill Kevo. After Dorian Walker arrives to see what happened she allows you to go with a respectful tone for not killing Kevo (despite Kevo being perfectly able to kill you both), and all this after nearly getting the Cube yourself! note Artemis is very arrogant and self-centered in general, and calls you Walker's lap dog the entire time, so for her this is a grand gesture. The extra dialogue option you could choose after you get back to the Protostar town essentially is Walker comforting you over being a second to late to get the Cube proclaiming:
There are other legends to chase, kid...
In Wilderrun for the Exiles the Strain infected area has a quest were you go hunt down researchers that Lazarin sent to attempt to study the Strain, you find two of the researchers at there own camp both infected and Lazarin wants one captured to study for a cure. One of the researchers is a fully infected Mordesh who makes his sole intent to try to kill you while the other is a human cowering in the corner frightened of what he is turning into and saying that he is starting to hear voices. (He and a few other unfortunate souls end up back at camp, begging for a cure, after you finish the quest. You find out later that not even Lazarin can find a cure to the Strain...)
The Mordesh researcher did not have it easy either. You find a log made by him that details his experience of being infected in horrifying detail. He mentions near the end, fully aware that he is forgetting his family and even his own name and that he doesn't wish this fate on anyone (This includes the Dominion).
At the Squirg Apocalypse area in Winterrun for Exiles you find a injured Aurin soldier who requests you to search for his lover. Expect to find her dead right? Well turns out she wasn't dead...but instead turned into a mutated monster that actually remembers her lover and is willing to go see him. This makes it all the more worse that during her Creepy Cute reunion with him that she lapses into a hunger craze and precedes to eat him alive with his last words being terrified pleading.
Honey...? Thorns and bracken no!
The Dominion get a Draken with roughly the same story. All of this is made worse by the affectionate beckoning of the hologram lures, oftentimes telling their lovers how they feel so empty without them.
Celestion Settlers in Slyvan Glade can help build the Arborian Memorial Garden, a tranquil spot filled with native Arborian Wildlife. The Arborian Tenders oftentimes tell you this is all they have left of home. The end-result is beautiful, and you get a quest from an Aurin girl to invite her adoptive family back to the garden so they may all enjoy it's beauty. (Her original family was killed during the Ravaging.) They're all dead, defending Hijunga Village from chompacabra, ambushed by the ICI, or ending the Caretaker's clone army. You give her the bad news over the datachron.
This troper manned up and gave it to her in person. You find that all three of her adoptive family's spirits are with her in the garden.
The ending of the Digstone Excavation episode. The crew is saved, but Professor Digstone is dead and Sue just mourns him for the rest of the game.
Trooper Renzo's journal, found right next to his body. It details the new life he and his family were going to have, till their ship got shot down over the Northern Wilds.
Think that's bad? Try giving his wife in Thayd the bad news.
And then there's Trooper Bronson and his wife. He's never coming back in time for dinner.
The Casca Homestead episode has you trying to find the family of a girl who's survived the Hycrest Plague. Her brother is insane, her father is dead, and her mother is reduced to a gibbering idiot.
On the Exiles what happens to the Male Human explorer, Female Aurin scientist, and Male Granok soldier that you are escorting to Nazrek's Squirg Factory. The human explorer stays behind after you reach the factory and goes to base camp. You enter to pick up data on what happened here and why Nazrek created the brain-sucking Squirg with the Aurin scientist in tow. The Granok stays behind to guard the entry way to the facility. After you retrieve all the information you need you get a call from the Human explaining that he just found the Granok wandering into camp with a strange creature attached to his head. After hearing this it does not matter how fast you rush back to camp with the Aurin, you will be too late to save the Human from being torn apart. Right after you find the poor guy's body the Granok now turned zombie ambushes you and immediately tears the Aurin apart with you powerless to stop it with her pleading the entire time to him to fight the squirg's control. It was pretty obvious this was not just a random crew but trio of friends whom were systematically killed even with you protecting them.
In Celestion as a Scientist one of the path first quests you get has you tapping into the Weave with your scanbot. The Weave shows you all the lost Aurin souls that died by burning to death in the Embertree, and they are all confused about what exactly happened to them. Now here's a reminder that Queen Myala is tapping in to the Weave everyday and likely has to see all of her dead subjects wandering around confused and broken. How can she not be a Stepford Smiler?
Its actually even worse then that, the scanbot specifically mentions that all the Aurin seen there died from unfortunate causes. It leaves it vague enough for you to remember the fact that this could be Aurin from Arboria, Aurin that died during the attack that killed Elderroot, and the Aurin that were killed by Everstar Grove's wildlife. Myala has to see these subjects that she has failed to protect everyday and that is not even getting into the trees and wildlife that died in all those events either....
The fate of Tresayne Toria and her swordsisters. The datacube "Unexpected Longevity" in Wilderrun is particularly heartbreaking.
Elyona: I recently learned that Tresayne Toria and her "swordsisters" are still alive in this jungle, preserved for hundreds of years by the intense energies of the Focus of Life. They have also pledged their eternal allegiance to Vitara, although what possible use the creature might have for these humans is well beyond my comprehension. I try to imagine their lives, helpless victims of circumstance torn from their homes, living forever on a hostile alien world from which they can never escape. Their story, although the stuff of legends, is incomparably tragic.
The Heroic Sacrifice of Lukov, a Mordesh Reaper. After working your way to him through the entire questline, you find Lukov too late. His squad have all perished, and his own Vitalus tanks have ruptured. Knowing he is succumbing to the Contagion, he gives you his speeder, and tells you to escape the Grimhold Quarantine Zone while he remains behind to detonate the explosives. You can plead with him to come with you, but he won't listen.
PC: I won't forget you and your squad.
Lukov: Remember us with fondness. We died so others may live.
The fate of Drusera's village. This was a cute town of friendly animals you helped create... and it all gets corrupted and killed.
The death of Lucy Lazarin. Especially painful is when you finish the quest by finding Victor solemnly sitting by a tree on a hill overlooking Blighthaven, the jabbit Lucy thought was the answer to the cure for the Contagion right beside him.
The man is distraught and alone. He seeks your counsel because it seems you really ARE all he has left in the world... which is bounds more depressing.