Readers discuss the most difficult moral decisions they’ve had to make in a game, from Fallout 3 to The Walking Dead.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was inspired by reader billystanley71, and asked about which in-game decision you’ve found to be the absolute toughest. We also wanted to know whether you always stick with your decisions or go back to try and change them.
These kinds of decisions have become common in all sorts of games, although Life Is Strange, Mass Effect, and Bethesda’s role-players were mentioned a number of times. It was interesting to see the split though, between people that were always good and those that liked to indulge their dark side…
It’s sad what Telltale Games has become today but back in the first season of The Walking Dead they were amazing. The last episode though with the final fate of Lee… that just destroyed me. I’m man enough to admit that I shed a tear when I finally made my decision, although that probably wouldn’t have happened without also the excellent voice acting from the two main actors.
I’m always impressed by a game giving you a key decision in a game. I hate it when all the story happens in the cut scene and you’re left sitting there thinking, ‘I wouldn’t have don that!’ You’re meant to be the character, they shouldn’t be doing anything unless you’re okay with it.
This I think is the problem with the Naughty Dog games, where you’re basically just playing the action in between the story that cannot be changed. I find this increasingly unsatisfying and if The Last Of Us Part II is going to be as grimdark as it seems I just know I’m not going to enjoy it. I want to make the decisions in my game, not be stuck with what I’m given. I might as well just watch a movie in that case.
The wrong Shepard
I didn’t struggle with the ending of Mass Effect. I had stopped the Genophage and saved the Rachni, so of course I was going to save both humanity and synths. Also, it was the middle choice, a good rule for life and Eggheads. The end of Life Is Strange was easy, I didn’t much care for Chloe at all. Although Before The Storm has completely changed my opinion and now I understand Chloe so much more.
However, there is a decision I didn’t much think about and regretted for the next five years or so. That was picking MaleShep. I don’t know why I did it, I normally always go for the female option be it Blaze or Chun-Li.
Several hours in, hearing other gamers, and my trusted GC, bang on about how great Jennifer Hale was I knew I should change, but I was quite far into the game and couldn’t face starting again. When Mass Effect 2 came out I heard you could change your Shephard. Great I thought, but alas Cerberus’ cloning process or whatever it was did not extend to gender re-alignment.
ThePowerFeeling (PSN ID)
Fallout 3 and my decision of brinkmanship at Tenpenny Towers that ultimately led to the annihilation of Megaton and my own form of reprisal.
I never really thought Tenpenny would actually blow up Megaton, but when he did I immediately sunk a bullet in his head, then let the ghouls loose in his tower.
My missus still occasionally refers to my destruction of Megaton, even all these years later. I don’t particularly regret my actions but, in that great role-playing style, learnt to deal with the consequences of my actions.
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For me, true role-playing in games is almost impossible; I find it very difficult to do anything other than what I would do myself in any given situation. Consequently, I have never harvested a Little Sister in BioShock, never nuked Megaton in Fallout, and my Commander Shepherd is the most virtuous of paragons. I always choose the ‘good’ option because I can’t bring myself to do otherwise. Of course, this is made easier by the fact that most choices in games are really obvious, black and white choices, such as BioShock’s ‘save or murder this little girl’ example.
Sometimes there are decisions to make which I either don’t think are difficult, or don’t care about the outcome, such as Mass Effect’s Kaiden vs. Ashley. Kaiden won that one, mostly because being Captain Boring isn’t as bad as being a space racist, but either way neither of them was in my regular squad so I didn’t really care who lived or died. I can’t even remember what choice I picked for the ending of Mass Effect 3 Although I’m sure I wouldn’t have wiped out the Geth, it didn’t stick with me in any way.
Then along comes Life is Strange. I wrote in here after the release of episode five about how the ending of that game was the hardest choice I’ve had to make in gaming, and I don’t think this has changed since then. Logically, it’s an easy decision to make but I’d grown attached to Chloe over the course of the five episodes and I sat staring at the screen for a good five minutes before I could bring myself to make what I knew was the right choice.
I have yet to play Before The Storm, as I am waiting for all three episodes to be released before I start but it has a hell of a pedigree to live up to.
Eiichihoba (PSN ID)
Played by the game
Far Cry I think is underappreciated with this sort of thing. The stuff with Citra was very good in Far Cry 3, especially as it looks like the game is being a bit dodgy in terms of the whole ‘white saviour’ thing and then it actually manages to subvert that at the end (trying to avoid spoilers). The fact that I never liked or trusted Citra is the only thing that made me not making what I assume was meant to be the obvious choice.
Far Cry 4 also had an interesting one in that you could basically bypass the whole game right at the beginning if you chose not to get involved. I love that in the game. So many times, particularly in Japanese games I notice you’re presented with a choice, but then it turns out the game is just going to ignore it and carry on anyway. I appreciate it when that’s not the case.
I know this will be one GC agrees with: naming my pokémon. There are so many but I can’t use a captured one until I’ve thought up a decent name for them and that can be hard! I could probably beat all of the games twice as quickly if I didn’t bother, but then you lose all the fun of them seeming like your pokémon. The choice of starter pokémon is also a tricky one, but at least you have weeks to chew that one over.
To be honest I’m like this with most games though and can take an eternity on character customisation before I even start. Mass Effect in particular, and I think the thing that put me off Andromeda the most is I spent ages creating my character and then only when I started the game did I find it was animating their mouth so it look like they were wearing clown make-up. Such a disappointment.
Making decisions in a game can be a moment I may regret if I seem to have gone down a route which leads to the death of a characters of which I have gotten fond of. Or going down a path which could mess up the morality of your character and you get disliked by many a faction, like in Western open world role-players. Sometimes, if possible, I would save a game at an important decision and go back to the save at a later date and choose a different choice to see the outcome, and it saves me starting the game again just for this and other moments of decision-making.
Of course, the most annoying thing is if you can’t save and hope to heck your choice is good and you have to hope it’s the most exciting choice you have chosen. I suppose you could check YouTube to check out other decisions, but mainly I hope whatever you choose ends up being equally exciting as all the other options you dismissed.
My top decisions are ones in the Mass Effect trilogy, like the ones where an entire race depends upon you and could be new allies or the end of a species as you know it. I also did not check to see if by not choosing any of the others what the outcome would be like (I did in Elder Scrolls and Fallout), as I wanted this to be my story and journey and this is my Mass Effect and none others exist – if you know what I mean.
In Japanese role-players I find the story is more of a linear path and the emotional content is whatever the story turns out to be, rather than decision-agonising. There are no doubt Japanese games in which decisions are paramount but I have not played many which leave me thinking of what if scenarios, unlike the Western role-players. Of course there are different endings, like in the Persona games for example, but I felt like it’s more you may have missed something rather than a decision to be made or something which could result in an OK ending or the true ending.
My top moral decision is in Dragon Age II, choosing between the templars and mages. I painfully sided with the templars due to the blood magic involved in the mages’ power, which had devastating effects if trust and consequences happen to force them to use it. This was proved when the head of the order in Kirkwall used it to defend himself. I really did not have anything against the mages, and my partner was a mage too which I agonised over in my decision. As I took down the head of the mages order no hate was felt, only pity as I saw him defeated. I am sure he was a good guy and blood magic is something he would not have used if possible.
Either way it was proof a decision can feel real and I don’t regret the decision but do think of what would be, or if I would regret going against my gut feeling for a choice which would seem more morale. I think, as I have said before, well thought out characters and well-designed story mechanics gives you the sense of realism that will always make choices that more real, and something you remember always.
PS: Thanks to TheRunawayTrain for the heads up on the Zelda concert in London, I’ll keep a lookout for it.
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