The idea of choice in video games has been touted as a desirable feature for some time, and even though your choices don’t always have meaning, it doesn’t look like they’ll be going away any time soon. As much as some games give you the choice to be delightfully evil, most people will still feel the urge to do the ‘right’ thing. Just this week, many have been intrigued by Fallout 4’s ‘sarcastic’ dialogue option — while not everyone actually dares to press it. So here for your benefit, I’ve rounded up some of the top moments where making the ‘wrong’ decision actually results in a more interesting experience.
Warning: This post may contain spoilers.
Bioware is a studio that is notorious for enabling players to create evil characters — the morality system in Knights Of The Old Republic let you join the dark side just like Anakin, Mass Effect had its paragon and renegade system, often giving renegade players the option to punch a wide variety of characters, while most of the Dragon Age games straight out let you be a dick without even measuring your morality.
Knights Of The Old Republic
This is an easy one. Turning to the dark side in KOTOR will let you ultimately usurp the Sith Lord Darth Malak, taking control of the remaining Sith forces. While the light side Jedi are all well and fine, they’re all a bit boring when it comes down to it. Mastering your emotions, avoiding attachments, it really must suck. Besides, who wouldn’t want to shoot lightning out of their hands?
Dragon Age Inquisition
While the most recent instalment in the series was a bit disappointing in the lack of truly evil decisions available, it was also the first Dragon Age game to include two unique and mutually exclusive quest paths depending on the decisions you made — unfortunately, most people picked the wrong one. Throughout the series, the Templars are seen as one of the ‘evil’ forces of Thedas, usually pitted against the oppressed minority of mages. In Inquisition you are once again given the choice to choose between the mages and the Templars, and while there are no official stats on which side most players chose, some fansite polls suggest less than 30 per cent went with the Templar storyline. Putting the mage vs Templar debate aside, I found the Templar storyline to be far more interesting — despite being the option that a majority of players will never experience.
Why is it so good? To begin with, you get to encounter a super creepy Envy demon. It looks like something straight out of Silent Hill, and it wants to get inside your Inquisitor to use the Inquisition as a force for evil. The quest involves an alternate future (just like the mage storyline — but better), showing what harm an evil Inquisitor could do to the world. What’s more, you get introduced to Ser Barris, one of the most decent Templars you’ll ever meet. This guy is a wonderful human being, and if you complete the Templar quest, he gets put in charge of the Templar order.
Siding with the Templars also means that way down the track you’ll meet one of the best characters in the entire game — Calpernia, Corypheus’s 2IC and the leader of the Venatori, who replaces the Red Templar Commander Samson.
She’s a former Tevinter slave and powerful mage who has been travelling through Thedas, freeing slaves left right and centre. You don’t even have to fight her if you play your cards right. She’ll turn on Corypheus, going to confront him on his treachery and risking her life to buy your Inquisitor some time.
Dragon Age 2
A similar dilemma happens in Dragon Age 2. Act 3 asks you to choose either mages or Templars to support, and while this decision ultimately has little impact on the gameplay, the ending is different enough to warrant choosing the unpopular option — which, again, is the Templars.
If you side with Meredith (at least until the point when she goes lyrium-crazy and turns on you) the game ends with what remains of the Templar Order bowing down to Hawke and ultimately making her/him the next Viscount of Kirkwall. Kirkwall is still a bit of a shithole, it’s true, but who doesn’t want to wear a cool crown and order everyone around?
Dragon Age: Origins
And then there’s Dragon Age: Origins. This was a game where you could shank a wounded soldier just because you couldn’t be bothered to help him back to camp, or kill a man in a cage just to steal some low-level loot. It’s a game where, over the course of the storyline, you’re given the chance to kill at least half of the people in your roster of companions.
Opportunities for mayhem in Origins are ripe, and all of it tends to lead to some interesting dialogue options. One of the best ‘evil’ decisions, however, was convincing the werewolves to attack and slaughter the Dalish — whereby you gain the cursed pack as allies instead. Not only is it a completely immoral option, it also required a certain level in persuasion, and thus was one of the rarer decisions that could be made. If you do it, nobody really wins. The werewolves don’t get cured, the Dalish are slaughtered — but the Warden gets a sweet army of werewolves to join them for the final battle.
Oh Mass Effect, how I miss your renegade interrupts. Despite how very satisfying it is to sass the council, Udina, multiple random NPCs and pretty much anyone who dares to question Shepard, Bioware has revealed that only 35.5 per cent of players played a renegade Shep. If you’re among the majority who chose the wrong alignment, here are a few key moments that you may have missed out on.
To be fair, this first, infamous scene was one that a lot of paragon Shepards also overcame their better nature to experience — really, who could resist punching that nosy and obnoxious reporter, Khalisah al-Jilani? In fact, it was such a popular option that Bioware let players do it in all three games:
Mass Effect 2
A lot of the renegade options throughout the series were fairly violent, but that isn’t always a bad thing in this universe. While taking Grunt to Tuchanka to experience puberty in Mass Effect 2, one of the renegade interrupts in a conversation with a doubting krogan allows you to interrupt him mid-sentence — with a headbutt. Rather than pissing them off, this actually gains Shepard the respect of many of the krogan. It’s gotta hurt, but Shepard plays it off, true to form.
Mass Effect 3
The ultimate renegade action of the Mass Effect trilogy comes at the very end of the series, however — and it wasn’t even available in the original cut of Mass Effect 3, only being introduced in the Extended Cut DLC. The so-called refusal ending has Shepard shooting the Catalyst, denying the choice it has given her/him and deciding not to decide at all. For your average renegade Shepard, this ending could actually be considered far more in character than any of the red/green/blue choices. The Catalyst’s pissed off “so be it” is pretty satisfying too.
While some people have complained about the vague nature of Fallout 4’s dialogue system, whereby you have absolutely no idea what the ‘sarcastic’ response is actually going to entail before it comes out of your characters mouth, some of the best dialogue comes from taking a chance and picking this option. After all, what better time to be a sarcastic arsehole than in a post-apocalyptic world gone to shit? NOTE: There are no spoilers in this video, though it does show some early dialogue.
Far Cry 4
This is an interesting one. By going against what the game wants you to do, you can actually get an entirely different ending smack bang in the intro segment. Far Cry 4 starts by giving you an objective to sneak out of main antagonist Pagan Min’s house when he leaves, saying he’ll be right back — but if you stick around at the table for 15 minutes, things take an entirely different direction.
It turns out Min isn’t actually the bad guy: he wants to help you scatter your mother’s ashes as you intended to do in the first place. He even reveals that he is the father of player character Ajay’s half sister, Lakshmana, and leads him to the shrine where her ashes are kept. Ajay leaves his mother’s ashes there as well, and Min invites Ajay to join him to “shoot some goddamn guns”. Pity the poor player who left their game unpaused for 15 minutes to make a cup of tea and returned to find the game already over.
To me, Until Dawn is a prime candidate for a game where the good ending is not actually the best ending. What kind of horror movie has all the teenagers living through to the end, after all? As something that is arguably based more on the decisions made than the actual gameplay, Until Dawn has many more interesting moments hidden within the labyrinth of its butterfly effect system. With the ability to turn on ‘global stats’ and see what percentage of people chose (or didn’t choose) a certain option, it’s also possible to pinpoint some of the most unpopular decisions.
One of these comes early when Chris and Ashley are exploring the basement. At one point, Ashley has the option to split off from Chris and investigate a figure she saw walking around another part of the basement. By all the rules of horror this is a bad, bad, bad idea, but it actually leads to a cool little scene where Ashley spies on the psycho in his workshop. Even though the scene isn’t dangerous — with no decisions or even quick time events, only 22 per cent of people chose this option. Because you miss out on seeing the doll on the meat hook through the main door, Chris will also scare her with it when she re-enters the main room. Jerk.
One of my favourite true arsehole moments in Until Dawn comes when you’re playing as Matt, however. When Emily is hanging off the edge of the fallen fire tower with a huge fall into the mines beneath her, Matt can either comfort her, or confront her about her overly close relationship with her supposed ex-boyfriend, Mike. Surprisingly, only 29 per cent of people made Emily suffer before abandoning her to her death. If you do decide to push her about it, here’s how it goes down:
While some of these options have included doing some pretty nasty things — even if the recipients are only video game characters — but there’s one virtual dick move that easily trumps the rest of them in pure malevolence. That is, of course, Tabletop Simulator’s table flipping option:
While I’ve covered a few examples of this phenomenon here, there are a plethora of games out there that reward you in some way for being bad. What are your favourites? Tell us in the comments!