No More Mr. Nice Guy

Ceiling cat is watching you!

You may have noticed that more and more games are including a morality system, where you can forge your own path making right and/or wrong along the way. The majority of games that feature this method of play are all role-playing games — most notably the Fallout series and the Fable trilogy. When I’d first experienced it in the original Fable, I had welcomed it as a way for me to really play the game the way I wanted to — especially when you didn’t really get this level of freedom with any other kind of game. Morality would be rather silly in, say, a golf sim anyway — who wants to gain evil points for sinking too many of the wrong holes?

Personally, I’ve always been the good guy during my morality driven gaming escapades — the shining beacon of hope in wasteland America, the pinnacle of humanity in Citadel space or just the nicest gorram outlaw in the Old West. I find it nigh-impossible to play as anything less than a perfect gentleman. I tried. I really tried! I got about an hour or so into Mass Effect in arsehole mode and just couldn’t bring myself to progress past the point where I was just a grown space man punching space children for their space money.

Now what developers have started to do, is make it harder for you to make these moral decisions. I can understand that they maybe want the consequences of your actions to have more impact — which is something I can appreciate. What I can’t appreciate however, is that all these difficult decisions have been lumped onto good characters. If you’re inclined to be evil, you’re going to pick the evil route anyway, regardless of consequence. But if you’re a good character, it can feel like you’re being punished for making the “good” decision.

Take Dragon Age for example. I played through that making new friends everywhere I went and lending a hand where I could. With the exception of a dreadful mishap with the Dwarfs, I’d more or less affected everyone for the better. Or so I thought.

I can’t remember exactly what happened to everyone but I remember that it wasn’t good. In some way, shape or form every race and city (except one, as I recall) had in some way been metaphorically shafted – I wasn’t happy! I felt like I’d gone through a whole game doing good deeds and dishing out street justice only for it all to be thrown back in my face. Imagine you were walking down the street with a box of cookies and you innocently handed one to everyone you passed by. Imagine later discovering that each cookie was laced with anthrax and everyone you handed one to is now choking on their own intestines. A selfish person would have kept all the cookies for themselves and as a result done more good, albeit without knowing it.

Well, ain't that cute! BUT IT'S WRONG.

Skip ahead to Fable 3 and it’s déjà vu all over again. Later on in Fable 3, you become the Ruler of Albion after having set out near the very beginning to do so. King or Queen, depending on which gender you chose at the start. Once your rear-end is planted firmly on the Throne (the royal one, you dirty minded person) you have some tough decisions to make, though Fable 3 at least has the audacity to let you know what the general repercussions of your actions will be before you make the decision — something Dragon Age doesn’t do until it’s too late.

As Ruler of Albion you have three choices: be a tyrant and get loads of money from people or I be a nice guy and give the people what they want — doesn’t sound difficult, right? Wrong. The money you take from the people is used to build an army to protect the people so in actual fact, it’s harder to be good because as a tyrant you at least have enough money to protect your people. Good players are forced to scrounge money from other sources in a bid to protect as many people as possible. Admittedly, that’s easy enough if like me you just bought every business in Albion and left your game running overnight, but I shouldn’t have to do that.

It’s at this point you’re probably expecting me to say, “I’m never playing Fable 3 or Dragon Age again” but I’d never do that. These tough moral decisions are actually why I loved both Dragon Age and Fable – experiencing the consequences of my actions is as rewarding as any actual reward that could come of them. I just wish I didn’t have to be so cruel to be kind.





3 responses to “No More Mr. Nice Guy”

  1. Simon avatar

    I know where you’re coming from. What I will say is that sometimes you have to go to quite some effort to be evil. In Fable 2 it took me a good ten minutes to round up a weighty group of followers and lead them to the execution chamber.

    And I had to swing the execution lever twice! The first time it just changed their genders.

    It was time that could have been spent making children cry.

  2. jsepter42 avatar

    Someone else remembers Two Stupid Dogs? Surprising! It is cute, but oh so wrong.

  3. Nice Guy avatar
    Nice Guy

    Loved this read .

    I can not separate myself …..Real life as in fantasy , I want to try though as nice guys finish last ……. It is the balance I stive for and I am glad some games offer this option .
    what I find myself doing lately is being naughty or rude then reloading the old save and carrying on like nothing ever happen .

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