Every now and then I come across a game that tries to implement some sort of morality system, only instead of building it on a foundation that involves making actual choices with consequences it ends up coming off as completely arbitrary or even preachy where you almost feel as if the writer is trying to guilt-trip you for making choices they themselves consider wrong by their authority as the writer. I'm not even talking about the kinds choices that were intentionally made out to be morally ambiguous but rather the kinds of decisions that operate on some sort of moon logic completely devoid of actual meaning or context. Here are some games that I have some serious issues with the way they try to handle moral choices or just try to guilt-trip me into playing a certain way:
-The Metro games are the biggest offender I've seen to date, primarily because their karma systems have no effect on the game besides the ending…but the main problem is the completely vague and esoteric nature of it all. Now some of your choices actually make sense, such as saving a woman from being raped by bandits or giving a man money so he can buy medicine for his family — but then you'll find yourself receiving karma points for doing completely mundane things like playing a guitar, drinking vodka, listening to people chatter or just for exploring the level and finding some secluded spot off the beaten path. There were even instances where I received karma points completely oblivious to the context of the situation — and I've played these games so many times that even on repeat playthroughs I still had no goddamn idea what I did. Sometimes I didn't even get those karma points even though I did nothing different in the previous playthrough.
On 3 separate occasions the game will reward or penalize you for either sparing or killing someone respectively; one of those people is an off-duty soldier who's completely unarmed and surrenders as soon as he sees you, the other one is working directly for the bad guys and is responsible for a viral outbreak that killed an entire station and the last one sold you out to the enemy on top of also working for the bad guys. 2 of these 3 people you have no reason to let live, neither morally or practically, yet the game will still penalize you for killing them. One time the game even penalized me just for giving money to a dancing hooker, for god's sake. You'd think the most important thing about a morality system would be transparency or even actual morality…
-Metal Gear Solid V doesn't have a moral system per se but it quite clearly loves to rub it in your face should you choose to act on your violent impulses. Every time you perform a violent action such as killing or even hurting someone, you receive "Demon Points" that'll cause your character's appearance to grow progressively more grim until he becomes permanently drenched in a coat of blood. The problem here is that 90% of your arsenal consists of lethal weaponry so the idea of being penalized just for "hurting" a soldier seems a tad hypocritical. The game will deduct demon points for doing things like recovering animals or abducting soldiers for your private army, which is OK in theory, except at some point or another you'll just find yourself abducting truckloads of mediocre soldiers you have no use for, who'll inevitably get kicked off your base, for no reason other than to avoid making your character look he waded through a river of blood. Never mind the fact that this being a prequel to the first Metal Gear game — where your character Big Boss is revealed to be the villain and a bloodthirsty warmonger — and the fact you know how things are gonna end way in advance, it's safe to say Kojima was taking the piss outta this one.
-Mass Effect, specifically the second and third one. In the first game, your Paragon/Renegade choices were directly tied to your speech skills, not your actual karma meter. If you didn't have enough skill points, you couldn't pick their respective dialogue options — which is how an RPG works. The second and third game flipped this entirely on its head by removing all speech skills and now your Paragon/Renegade choices depend entirely on their respective meters. Simply put: acting like an asshole or a boy scout will accumulate points that'll allow you to keep acting like an asshole or a boy scout.
-Agony. You're a guy who wakes up in hell, meaning you must've already made some "questionable" decisions back when you were alive, yet you can make moral choices — in HELL. Did anyone even think this through?
-Amazing Spider-Man 2's Hero or Menace system. If you don't go out of your way to stop crimes via vigilante justice, the game will spawn a police task force that'll hunt you down for not doling out vigilante justice.
-Watch Dogs' Reputation system. You gain points for doing vigilante stuff, giving you no benefits whatsoever. You lose points for running over pedestrians and killing cops, resulting in people being more inclined to report you when you do something shady…even though a bullet to the head is just as effective at keeping them quiet as having good reputation.
So yeah, those are games that try to have moral choice systems but instead they just come off as nonsensical ways to railroad you into doing something. Know any others that you'd like to share?
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