In the majority of games I have played, Role Playing Games in particular, Alignment and Karma mechanics end up being a choice between the polite, indifferent and rude option. I am of the opinion that these mechanics are included to give the player a sense that ahem choices matter.
The most common example in my opinion is the very lazy
- Tie one meaningless mechanic to Karma or morality,lets say whether a companion follows you.
This can bee seen in everything from Baldur's Gate 1 (beautiful game) to Mass Effect to Fallout 3. The role of Karma and allignment doesn't shape the quests by any significant degree. The landscape and plot is barely influenced if at all. Its simply a choice of do I want x to follow me or y?
Another issue with this is the meaningless path choice.
- One or a series of decisions lead to a different ending which have no real merit or significance for the rest of the game or series. I see this in Rdr2 and Mass Effect again. I'm Rdr2 (another great game) your Karma really plays a limited role in buying a few outfits and the end cutscene. In truth the end fights and locations could be tied directly to decisions made in the final section. Your increase and decrease in Karma can be altered easily. In Mass effect yes each game ending has an effect on the next but again this is largely which character is placed where. Oh and your face gets funny I guess.
But my biggest gripe is the use of Karma and allignment simply as a representation of manners. The evil choice in many games, even the neverwinter series is guilty of this, leads to a character not helping you or giving you something important. There's no moral outcome. It's just a disguised difficulty setting.
So why not just be honest and say "if you act morally the game will be more forgiving, be an asshat and it will be harder".
You know what game does this? The Dishonoured series. The chaos system is an honest and meaningful system. Not right or wrong, but more "if you take this route you will have x consequences and if you take the other route you will have y consequences."
My preferred method of Karma and Allignment however is best represented in Deus Ex (JCD) and the early Fallout series. In Deus Ex there was no Karma. You made a decision and it affected the game later. You lived with it. The morality was implied but not strictly labeled. In Fallout 2 you also made choices which had later effects. Becoming a slaver had its own befits and hinderences. The moral choice was evident but it shaped the game and led you down a vastly different rabbit hole.
In short. Give us a complex and meaningful Karma and Allignment system or don't give us anything.
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