Ratchet and Clank (2002) is the start of one of Insomniac Games’ most famous and iconic franchises, even getting a movie in 2016, which is a big deal even if the movie wasn’t to the liking of some. The beginning of the series was successful for being a great third-person shooter/platformer, the fun weapons, the various planets, and the unlikely friendship of the two protagonists. But the protagonists must interact with many inhabitants on these planets, all of which are quirky and fun in their own ways. But what is the theming that connects all these people together? I believe that the theme in question is corporate greed. In this article, I aim to show you how greed is presented throughout the game and why it works in the context of the in-game universe.
This article will go over major spoilers from Ratchet and Clank (2002).
The second planet you get to visit in the game is Novalis, which is currently under attack by the antagonist’s robotic forces. One local you meet is a character known as The Plumber, a worker who is still on the planet, despite their being escape transports on the planet. He says that these transports require payment, as he says that only the rich can get on them, and the workers can’t be due to “social-economic disparity”, meaning he doesn’t have the bolts to leave. In exchange for some bolts, he would give Ratchet an Infobot, which is required to visit new planets.
Paying inhabitants to receive new items and find new planets is an important part of the game, as you must consider how many bolts you can spare when purchasing new weapons from Gadgetron vendors, so it makes sense that one of the first planets that you can explore would have one of these events. The fact that the Plumber only asks for 500 bolts to get off the planet also makes one question how much lower-class workers, like the Plumber, get paid in this world.
Big Al’s Robo Shack
You first learn about Big Al’s Robo Shack through an Infobot obtained on the first planet, which is an advertisement for Al’s services, presented by Captain Qwark, a superhero that you are looking for at the start of the game. In this advert, Qwark is on-screen practically the whole time, with Al barely being seen or able to get a word in. It’s clear to the players that Captain Qwark is someone who loves the fame he has.
When Ratchet and Clank arrive at Big Al’s shop, Al brings up the fact that he hasn’t seen Qwark since shooting the commercial, despite Qwark claiming that he went to Al’s for repairs since he was young, which suggests that Qwark was lying to make both Al’s business and he look good. As for Al himself, he isn’t necessarily greedy, but he does give the duo a Heli-Pack to jump higher and glide, at the cost of his service fee, which would be fine if the planet weren’t also under attack from the Blarg, the main antagonistic force of the game.
Fred the Gadget Engineer
In the Blarg Tactical Research Station, Ratchet and Clank save a scientist from a bunch of mutant frogs. Fred introduces himself as a gadget engineer that develops machines for Chairman Drek, the main villain of the game. To prove it, he shows the pair his (soon to be patented) Grindboots, which allow its users to grind along rails. To repay them, Fred decides that he will sell the Grindboots to the pair. Ratchet isn’t happy about paying for them after saving him, so Fred decides he’ll include the Employee Discount for them. There is no concrete reason indicated as to why he wants the money, but it’s clear he doesn’t want to give them away, despite being indebted to Ratchet and Clank for saving him, further enforcing the theme of greed in the game.
We later see Fred on Planet Pokitaru, where he is searching for a metal called Raritanium. To get Ratchet and Clank to help him, he tries to use his latest invention, the Persuader, to hypnotise Ratchet into finding him the metal, but to no avail. Fred claims that his invention only seems to get him a discount on Gadgetron vendors, which Ratchet claims he could use. Fred makes a deal to give Ratchet his gadget if he gets some Raritanium. When Ratchet does get the Raritanium, Fred attempts to hypnotise him again to see if he could get him more Raritanium, which still doesn’t work, but still holds his end of the deal. The fact he tries to hypnotise Ratchet not once, but twice, really shows the lengths this guy will go to create gadgets and probably make him lots of money.
The Resort Owner
Ratchet and Clank went to Jowai Resort on Pokitari to retrieve a free O2 Mask, so that Ratchet could breathe on a badly polluted planet. However, since the pollution on Pokitari got so bad due to the Blarg, the resort had to be closed, with only one O2 Mask remaining. Though Ratchet was willing to pay for it, the Resort Owner wouldn’t even sell it, but offers to give it to them if they clear out the Blarg’s ship with their starship and would let them use it if they take him to its garage. However, he conveniently left out the fact that it was protected by an unusual lock, which was installed because the owner doesn’t trust the visitors not to crash it, which could cause a lawsuit. Furthermore, the board of directors also don’t trust the owner not to use the starship. Ratchet and Clank, by this point, just want the O2 Mask and claim that the Blarg are his problem to deal with. The store owner fortunately guided them to Bob’s Robo-Shack, which is ran by Al’s brother, Bob, who sells the pair a Thruster-Pack to get past the lock. After destroying all the Blarg ships, the owner gives them the O2 Mask without any further hassle, suggesting that while he does lead on the duo for the gain of saving his resort, he will hold up his end of deals that he makes with people.
As stated in an earlier section of this article, Captain Qwark loves the fame that he has received from being the galaxy’s hero and is apparently on all forms of media in the game, from posters to radio talk shows, even having his own public training course in Metropolis that is looked after by his personal trainer. Your mission at the start of the game is to look for Captain Qwark to help stop Chairman Drek, and you finally find him on Planet Rilgar, where he presents a prize to the winner of the Hoverboard races there.
Before getting to Qwark however, the duo had to pay his bodyguard a hefty sum to get into his trailer, which was easy to do since the bodyguard only gets paid 6 bolts an hour and must listen to Qwark’s lectures. This suggests that Qwark doesn’t really care for those he works with more than himself.
Qwark explains to Ratchet and Clank that he knows about the threat and enlists their help to do so, after apparently watching them closely and being impressed with their skills. He asks that they infiltrate his own headquarters to test their skills thus far, and after they do so, he drops them into the lair of a Glargian Snagglebeast, the second boss of this game. Qwark then reveals that he is Drek’s spokesperson for the new planet that Drek has been building, using the chunks of other planets and that he can’t have them messing up his comeback by stopping him. This event triggers tension between Ratchet and Clank from this part of the story, with Ratchet especially wanting to take Qwark down for messing with him, trying to ignore Clank and Drek’s plan.
Qwark is easily manipulated by Drek, who threatens to terminate their endorsement deal if he fails again, which Qwark is horrified by as it would ruin his image. He is defeated by Ratchet and Clank in a spaceship battle and crash lands on a nearby planet. When exploring that planet, you find Qwark selling a Gadgetron PDA, under his alias Steve McQwark, despite how obvious it is that it is him. This shows how superficial Qwark is, as he feels humiliated and that he could never show his face around the public again. However, throughout the course of the original trilogy of games, Qwark eventually learns to be a real hero, despite still having a massive ego.
An antagonist’s job is to be an obstacle to the protagonist, whilst reflecting the themes of the game, and Drek is successful in a lot of these aspects. He is introduced through an infobot, specifically designed for multiple planets, that he needs to use pieces of their planet to build a new planet for his people after theirs got badly polluted. Despite clearly stating that the planets will die because of it, he merely notes it as a necessary sacrifice, showing that he will do whatever it takes to get this new planet, regardless of the consequences.
You see Drek multiple times throughout the game, advertising his plans and businesses to his Blargian soldiers, as well as ordering those under his command to salvage planets of their resources. One such instance on Planet Eudora is particularly noteworthy, as he orders his robotic soldiers to destroy all their trees, despite having harvested enough for their new planet, just out of spite for the planet. This action allows Ratchet and Clank to continue their journey, as the Lieutenant of these soldiers had an Info-Bot for the Blarg Tactical Research Station. Drek’s greed and his spite for other worlds is partially why he was defeated by the duo, which is quite fitting for a game about the corruption of greed.
When the player reaches Drek’s old planet of Orxon, it is so severely polluted that the air is literally unbreathable by Ratchet, and as the player eventually explores more of this planet, they find that the wildlife around the planet has become overgrown and look worse off than most enemies in the game, with rivers of green water flowing throughout. At this point, the players may think that Drek is doing what has done to help better the conditions for his race, despite all the destruction it has caused. However, when the players discover that Drek plans to blow up a planet just to get the optimum temperature for his new planet, they should remember why he has to be stopped, as Ratchet comes to that conclusion when watching that Info-Bot, though he still wants to get revenge on Qwark.
The planet to be destroyed in question is Veldin, Ratchet’s homeworld, which truly makes Ratchet jump into action against Drek. It is on that planet that Drek reveals the true nature of his plan, along with the fact that he was responsible for the severe pollution of his home planet. He tells the duo that he had been paid for every part of the new planet, which he then intends to pollute again. As such, he can create another planet, get paid for it and pollute the next one, in an endless cycle of destruction for the sake of more and more money. This plan is so evil that even Clank can’t find the words to describe Drek. The player defeats Drek and, as the final action of the game, activates his planet-destroying weapon to destroy him and his new planet, the embodiment of Drek’s exploitation and greed.
Drek’s plan is two-faced, much like his personality, as it exploits his own race and multiple planets for his own selfish gains, whilst disguising it to give his race a new home. As he amasses power and money throughout the game, his title also increases starting from “Chairman Drek” all the way up to “Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Drek”. These titles don’t really mean anything, which shows off Drek’s ego to be the most powerful and wealthiest person in the galaxy.
While Ratchet and Clank’s gameplay is amazing in its own right, the theming of greed shown in the characters and in their actions adds an extra layer of immersion to the otherwise jarring settings of different planets through what we experience in our everyday lives.
The actions of the protagonists and antagonists help to push the plot forward through their own selfish goals without a care for others. This was shown by both Drek and Ratchet when Qwark tricked him, showing that no one is immune to following their own desires at the expense of others, which adds more characterisation to Ratchet’s arc throughout the game as he comes out a better person, thanks to his and Clank’s actions.
Finally, ending the game by defeating Drek and destroying the monument of his greed with his own creation symbolises how greed eventually destroys you if it becomes too much, which is a good message to those who wish to pursue their own dreams. Finally, Ratchet and Clank’s friendship had finally been properly established, with them choosing to live in Ratchet’s garage together, showing how despite them saving the world, they are happy to just spend time together regardless of their living circumstances, showing that you don’t need to have lots of money to be happy with the smaller things in life.