Morality Tales – BioWare Versus The Issues

By John Walker on August 26th, 2008 at 11:03 am.

'And so should we kill the children to save the planet?'

I’ve been playing lots of Mass Effect recently, because as a leading games critic it’s essential I stay ahead of the curve and keep my finger on the pulse. A mere nine months after buying it on 360 and then never playing it, and then blagging a PC version only three months after its second release, I’m on the case.

It would probably be controversial to say that BioWare‘s three most recent RPGs, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect, are all exactly the same game in a different setting. Because Mass Effect’s setting is quite similar to KotOR’s. But what’s rather fortunate is that they change the combat style in each, so there’s always something unique to complain about on a forum. What’s also important to note is that they’re all three flipping ace, and I love them. They just… they just tend to do this one really silly thing.

Resolve political debates with light sabres.

One thing I really want to do is go and sit down with Dr and Dr BioWare, and be having a regular chat, probably asking questions about Dragon Age or something journalistic like that, and then suddenly in the middle of it all I’d shout, “MY SISTER WANTS TO GET AN ABORTION! WHAT SHOULD SHE DO?”

When they look scared and ask what I’m talking about, I’d only offer them the very slightest pieces of information about the situation, probably saying that the unborn baby might have some sort of horrible disability and she doesn’t want it to be born to suffer, but her husband is currently away at sea and unreachable (because it’s happening in the past or in space or somewhere where radio signals don’t work) and won’t be able to have his say. I’d only give them two possible answers, and their stuttering, unprepared response would decide the fate of this unfortunate foetus. And then I’d ask them about how the Sonic license first caught their attention.

The world's slowest map.

I’m not sure, but I don’t know if RPGs are quite the place to try and resolve the most controversial and devisive subjects of our day. Well no, that’s not true at all. They could be, but perhaps in a setting slightly more dignifiied than as a result of overhearing a conversation on a street, and then immediately being given life or death decisions to make for complete strangers.

It just happened to me in Mass Effect. I’m back in Space City One (I don’t pay much attention to names – if you ask me, I’ll tell you what all the companion characters are called in my head) and trundling about the confusing bridges, popping in to see people who need to know about the contents of crates on distant planets, and I pass an arguing couple. Being a paragon of virtue (seriously, you should see my Paragon status. I haven’t quite matched my immediately being a glowy angel like in KoTOR, but my goodness-o-meter is almost full) I of course stop and ask them what’s up. Oddly they don’t tell me to fuck off, but rather immediately adopt me into their family and confidence, and explain the skeletal nature of their dilemma. They’re brother and sister-in-law, and her kid might have some illness. But she’s heard on the news that the treatment for it is potentially dangerous, and doesn’t want to risk losing her child treating him for a disease he might not have. Her husband just died, and the brother says she’s acting out of grief, and that she should just take the treatment.

'Please, make all our important life decisions, INSTANTLY!'

So we’ve got ourselves a cipher for the MMR debate. You find out the stats, and the chances of having the illness are reasonably high, and the chances of the treatment causing problems are 1 in 300. But she’s heard this news story, and she says what if her kid is the 1 in 300? DECIDE THE CHILD’S FATE!

So, as anyone with a modicum of scientific reason knows, there’s no evidence that the MMR vaccine causes harm. Utterly none. But that’s hard to keep relevant when you’re a mother of a baby, and you have to make this decision without any expertise of your own about whether the evidence is correct and there’s definitely no chance of your kid getting autism… Good grief, this suddenly got a bit heavy. Which would somewhat be my point. This is a completely inappropriate subject to appear in this jokey, silly post. And it’s far too big of a subject to decide on the bridge of a scifi game for a couple of strangers, before I carry on looking for that last bloody Keeper to scan that I cannot find anywhere despite combing the entire place three times.

HK47's approach to situations is a lot simpler.

I really love that BioWare include these tough choices, but I wish they’d include them in a slightly more dignified way. I wish they’d be part of a larger story, a continued struggle of conscience where decisions are made based on multiple conversations, varying expert and inexpert opinion, and a wealth of emotional and emotive situations. I want to be forced to contend my scientific reason against the irrational emotions of those in the throws of a situation. I want to wrestle with the toughest subjects, with data and passion from people on all sides trying to sway me to their way of thinking. I think, in these fleshed out circumstances, an RPG could be the most remarkable place for getting to grips with matters like abortion and euthanasia. I think because they’re the sorts of subjects it’s completely pointless to talk about in the pub, because it inevitably descends into people entrenching themselves in their currently held position and then hurling stones at the other side, that the RPG would be a space in which the emphasis of thought and consideration would be squarely on you.

Bizarrely, I told the bridge couple that it was her child, and her choice, and as a consequence he had the emotional breakthrough of recognising his motivations were not as pure as he had claimed, but rather because he wanted to hold onto this last piece of his brother. But that’s not what I think! I would have gone through the statistics of the situation with her, had her talk with doctors, and encouraged her to go with the scientific odds. But I was given two choices and one cop-out. Side with her, side with him, or leave them to it. Really, I think the right answer in that situation should have been to leave them to it, but dammit I’m playing a videogame and I’m going to see what the consequences of my choosing would be. I’m interested that I went against type and chose her. But that was because the situation was so peculiarly binary that I was really deciding: who has a right to make a choice about a baby, the mother or the uncle. Well, the mother then. That I want to clobber people who ignore science and risk their children’s health because of reading idiots misreporting facts in newspapers was suddenly irrelevant. And more, that I think that wasn’t challenged by the situation. In the end, the encounter oddly cheapened a serious topic.

No reason for this pic, other than its tranquility.

It is great that BioWare aspire beyond most other developers when creating their games, and I love that the worlds are rich enough to have space for recognising universal subjects. Occasionally it works – the woman who had transfered her love for her dead husband onto her missing droid in KotOR was especially splendid, but mostly because it played out as a quest, rather than a conversation, and the situation was remarkably complex. You could force the droid to stay with her, leaving her in a perpetually futile relationship and the droid trapped against what he knew was best for his master, but her apparently happy. You could free the droid, and in doing so force her to face her grief, potentially destroying her. You could even kill the droid, and then go back to her and tell her it was still alive and she should keep looking for it. Muah ha ha! But it was a droid, and unique to a science fiction world, and it gave you space to discuss and explore the subject. It wasn’t a morally ambiguous situation on which you’re forced to flick a giant fate-deciding switch before you can quicksave, which unfortunately is the more typical.

I can’t wait for Dragon Age. But I do rather fear I’ll be wandering through some remote village, searching for the missing mystic rune of Grogglefanaar, when a local baker’s wife will ask me to decide whether she should allow her sickly husband to die against her doctor’s wishes.

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150 Comments »

  1. Tom Camfield says:

    Patrick Weekes!

    Edit: by which I mean, I wonder how many developer comments are lost in threads like these rather than given their own little podium to shine on, but it was fun, at least, to find this one.

  2. kadayi says:

    Nice article, but like a few others I have to say optional sex cards aside, The Witcher is a far better RPG than Mass effect in terms of really challenging you when it comes to moral dilemmas. Everything is gray, and the pay offs regarding your choices almost always play out much later in the game, rather than straight away, meaning you can’t backtrack easily when something doesn’t work out entirely as you’d like it to. Instead you just have to live with the consequences of your actions, and soldier on. It adds a degree of weight to your decision making that Mass effect with it’s transparent caring/ruthless dynamic just doesn’t match up to. The Witcher treats you the player as an Adult, Mass Effect is still hand holding you as you cross the street. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoyed it (it was a good romp), but it is just the same game as Kotor and Jade Empire in a more shiny suit, and I don’t think there is anything remotely controversial in saying that tbh John. I’m hoping that when the enhanced edition is released, you guys might re-evaluate it.

  3. Jacob W says:

    Mass Effect had its share of plot irregularities (as any non-linear game will), but one of the things I really liked about the story was the whole arc pertaining to the Cerberus group.

    I think I mostly liked it because it wasn’t really an arc per se: Instead of having a coherent quest chain, they would show up as the surprise antagonists in a bunch of seemingly unrelated missions. Because of this, they seemed less like another boring faction, and more like a secret society that controlled everything behind the scenes.

    They’re also the only faction whose motivation remains unclear. I wouldn’t be surprised if they played a bigger role in Mass Effect 2.

  4. Requiem says:

    “But tying the quests more into the main story doesn’t fix the issue all by itself.” No but restructuring the game would. It’s this insistance on starting the player right in the main plot, or at least the prologue to the main plot that puts the side quests and main quest at odds. Shooters, racing games, beat them ups, adventure games even. They lend themselves to this style of story telling but rpgs are the literature of gaming not the summer blockbusters. Dumping the character straight into the deep end works for other types of games but in an rpg you need time to explore the setting and more importantly explore your character before discovering the plot.

    For instance if you’d started off on the Normandy doing the shake down cruise, but the shake down cruise was searching for the mineral deposits and trinkets then you would of had an opportunity to explore and find your own way to the main story. If allowed to visit the citadel and some of the other main plot planets before hand then the side quests could of been got out of the way, as both just something to do to earn experience or setting up the story and developing your character. Then when returning following the main quest you’d have the opportunity to make the player face the consequences of their earlier actions. Once the player reached a predetermined level or discovered a certain quest they could of been called back for the rogue ai quest. Which would turn out to be a set up, a test to choose the candidate for the first Human Spectre. Then start the main quest in earnest, to be honest despite the rousing music and dramatic camera angles I felt no sense of accomplishment at becoming a spectre, since it came so early and with me doing nothing to really earn it.

    Alternatively most of the side quests on the Citadel could of been handled on the Normandy. Exploring the Citadel was nice and all but given the size of it and how much we actually saw it just gave it an artificial feeling. The Normandy could of been a bigger ship (or a shuttle of a bigger ship) with a larger crew then most of the quests could of been set there. Be it a wooden sailing ship or an interstellar battleship, ship travel gives an encapsulated time frame seperate from the main story arc which also doesn’t interfer with any urgency of the main timeline as you put it.

  5. Funky Badger says:

    I think Ashely was a complex well written character. Unfortunately she was written as an fundamentalist bigot, so she, well, had to go…

    For it’s faults Mas Effect has possible the coolest moment in games I can remember, you know when LANCE HENRIKSEN says you, I mean me, I, am the only hope for the galaxy.

    Was grinning about that for days. (Also all the major plot points are fantastic)

    Can’t wait for the sequel.

  6. DSX says:

    I think the game did really well if the random silliness of moral conundrums is the biggest complaint.

    “but dammit I’m playing a videogame and I’m going to see what the consequences of my choosing would be.”

  7. Geoff says:

    Patrick beat me to the Uncanny Valley reference.
    And you explain it fairly well in your elven gardening example, but you could go even farther with stuff like Mario or Quake.
    Nobody complains that the moral choices in those games aren’t sophisticated enough, because there are no moral choices.

    So you ADD moral complexity, and people start complaining that it’s not complex enough. Seems unfair, but if you tell people “shut off that part of your brain, this is just about fun action”, they’ll do so happily. It’s if you tell them “sophisticated moral choices!” and don’t deliver, that’s when they get rather critical.

  8. malkav11 says:

    I think possibly the place where Mass Effect best handles sidequests is on the planet where the sidequests are basically “you don’t have space to rescue these colonists, but these are things that need to happen for them to be able to survive until they *are* rescued” and you have the choice to either do ‘em (nabbing exp, rewards, and Paragon points) or do the Renegade thing and ignore them on your laser-focused path towards your actual goals on the planet.

    Pity the denouement kinda throws all that away (as memorable as it was).

  9. Requiem says:

    @malkav11 yeah but that’s a main plot world and I don’t think anyone’s saying that the main plot worlds aren’t tied up nicely. The main plot might have some big holes in it but the side quests on those worlds aren’t distracting. Unlike say getting a mission to rescue some scientists as you are just about to race off to save the galaxy and have just stolen the Normandy.

    Besides that world is fairly early in the main plot, before you find out what’s going on. You’re sent there to investigate so you can look at doing the side quests there as a chance to snoop around and to earn the colonist’s good will, in the hope of finding out why they are acting strangely.

  10. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    @Patrick:

    Thanks for the insight. The “Uncanny Valley” of Plot was pretty on the ball, but as you’ll know, toeing that line between “realistic” and “uncomfortable” in plot always has its pros and cons. And the dissonance between the gravitas of the subject matter in real-life (as well as the “correct” answer to it, by most peoples’ reckoning) and the circumstances the sidequest pops up in, that’s what tipped the matter over the line, I suspect.

    Now that you guys don’t have to make an engine from scratch, you can more easily fit your sidequests into the play narrative. Also, Simon Jones is right about the “tying themes into the main game,” but you guys at Bioware do well enough that we can forgive that particular lack of icing.

    Jokes aside, of course.

    And I’m also of the opinion that Ashley is probably the most interesting of the party members because she can challenge your own beliefs, sometimes leading to a backlash as seen by Walker’s reactions to her. She was the most interesting to talk to, and judging by a lot of opinions the aliens held of humans, her opinion that humans have to look out for themselves is as much a reaction to humanity’s place in the universe as it is a prejudice to overcome.

    Second most interesting NPC: The one with four testicles.

  11. sinister agent says:

    Also, on the Deus Ex-brother-apartment thing: that amazed me. The first time I tried to fight and got exploded, so I thought “damn this is un-winnable” and ran away. It was only later I read that I could have saved him. It was great that they made it so hard that you probably should flee, but if you stuck it out and beat the enemies it didn’t break the game or they didn’t resort to infinite/unkillable baddies.

    They did, though – you can fight all the way back to the train station (though paul will mysteriously disappear if you lose sight of him in the hotel, which you will) and board the train, and when you get off, you’re confronted by Anna (if she’s still alive), and if you kill or escape her, you leave the station and are faced with an invincible Gunther and a bunch of robots. You can confront him, then run back inside and refuse to come out and just leave your pc on for the rest of eternity, but most people tend to just walk out and get inevitable captured.

    It was well done nonetheless – considering how hard it was to get that far, it’s hard to see what else the devs could have done.

  12. James O says:

    I liked Ashley’s design quite a bit; it was refreshing to see a character with a conservative viewpoint (as it pertains to the US) instead of boilerplate feel-good leftism. She’s for greater state (planetary) sovereignty, though I thought it was made clear it wasn’t a racial matter so much as a matter of pragmatism (if you have her in your party during the encounter with the Earth-First politician, I recall her chiding the guy’s xenophobic tendencies but agreeing that Earth has to look out for itself first and foremost.) Her skepticism of the galactic council seems well-founded too, considering both it’s history (acceding to complete genocide of one race and later genetically crippling another) and her family history (i.e. her grandfather being forced to surrender a human planet to aliens.) Given that and the general disdain many alien NPCs show for humans, her viewpoints seem pretty reasonable in context – in a Hobbesian galaxy, humans certainly can’t trust other species to guarantee their security for them.

    I tend to think characterizations of her as racist and fundamentalist tell you more about the player’s political views than they do about the character herself (I really don’t get the fundamentalist part – she was always in my party yet I only remember her referencing her religious beliefs once, and even then it was simply to say something like after seeing the marvels of space it was impossible not to believe in a higher power.) In any case, I was pleased to see a piece of entertainment media treating real concerns conservatives have in the real world (i.e. border security, skepticism of the UN and internationalism) with some dignity and respect (or at least, more than you’d expect to see out of Hollywood.)

  13. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    @James O: I tend to think characterizations of her as racist and fundamentalist tell you more about the player’s political views than they do about the character herself

    Precisely. I’m not even a right-winger, and I find the tendency for people to over-react to even mildly not-completely-left-of-center sentiments somewhat chilling. But that’s a thought for another day.

  14. Naurgul says:

    Okami, I think that’s the point of John’s article. Shades of grey or not, if the themes are not presented in a dignified and thoughtful manner, it’s still tacked on.

    Choices and consequences can have a similar problem. If you want to portray a world where you have to choose the lesser of two evils, then you’d better not do so by preventing the player from having a choice that would lead to a good result. You’ve got to have a situation that simply cannot have a good outcome. Drawing an example from the Witcher again (sorry about that), there’s a situation where there are some villagers that want to kill a witch but you can protect her by killing the villagers. If you don’t, they kill her. So, you have to choose to either kill her or the villagers. What pray tell prevents you from just intimidating the villagers to leave her alone or getting her with you and escaping?

    Patrick Weekes, thanks for the insight. It’s pretty hard from the player’s perspective to have the whole picture in mind and not just point out flaws.

    PS: I’d criticise Witcher for the women trading card game too, but that would be too easy.

  15. Johnny Law says:

    Props to subedii, James O, et al. for their Ashley-explication. I wonder if it’s a little disheartening for a writer who tries to make an actual fleshed-out character when they see it get pegged with kneejerk reactions like “racist fundamentalist”, the former of which is questionable if you examine Ashley’s reasoning (and the latter of which is _really_ questionable, as from what I can recall Ashley’s religiosity was pretty vague).

    Not to mention that “racism” is sort of an odd label to hang on someone for their opinion about how to deal with altogether different _species_. Although I guess most people will assume that it’s supposed to be a blunt metaphor about race relations, so I guess that’s to be expected.

  16. CooperHawkes says:

    Utterly no harm? You willing to bet that? You willing to say beyond that shadow of a doubt that absolutely NO HARM comes from injecting viruses into a blood stream? You mean no child ever accidentally developed Measles from the shot? Cause that sounds like harm to me. If we’re talking MMR versus Autism, I’m clear on that subject, but you can’t make a sweeping statement like “Utterly None.” I would clarify to mean Autism.

    Other than that tiny tiny TINY nitpick, spot on sir!

  17. Okami says:

    So I guess, that would make her a speciesist…

  18. Johnny Law says:

    Indeed. :) But of course the thing about racism being wrong is that it’s _wrong_, as in “incorrect”… it uses people’s superficial characteristics as indicators of things for which they are terrible indicators.

    Different species on the other hand actually do have differences from each other. E.g. I am confused by people who lecture about how racist the good guys are in LOTR for being anti-orc. Hell I’d be anti-orc too… orcness is a pretty reliable predictor of bad behavior.

  19. Max Cairnduff says:

    The speciesism thing is an incredibly popular argument on paper and pencil rpg boards.

    Is hating orcs racist? Someone will always say yes, it is. Someone else points out they don’t actually exist and in the fiction are irredeemably evil. Someone argues that the very concept of an evil race is itself racist. Hilarity ensues.

  20. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Remember, though, Tolkien himself had problems with the idea of an entire race being evil. After the book was written, anyway.

    Apparently, he came to realize the real-world implications of such sentiments and didn’t quite like what he saw.

  21. Sam says:

    Argh, in every story that mentions KOTOR there is a screen shot of HK-47 in Taris. (the corridor outside the starting room in the world) Whhhhyyyyyy?

  22. perilisk says:

    I pretty much agree with every thing James O said about Ashley. She’s probably my favorite Bioware party NPC yet, because she actually seems to a character unto herself, rather than a device to serve the plot or a one-dimensional archetype. I think having a setting based on real-world history helped to make that possible.

    While it’s certainly possible and reasonable to disagree with her opinions, the difference is not between whackjob right-wing and sensible left-wing, or between hate and kindness, or whatever; it’s just between optimism and pessimism — between striving to bring out the best in people and preparing yourself for the worst in them.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dorian: Indeed- my problem with Elves has always been pretty much the opposite of the Orc issue. The idea that one race is just better than people in every way just makes Elves the Nazis who happen to be right.

    KG

  24. Janto says:

    As indeed are Jedi.

    But on obscure RPG fronts, played Avernum 5′s demo recently, and I was impressed with how certain options were handled, in terms of dealing with the moral implications of hunting down and killing ‘villains’. Basically after fighting a minor villain he tries to surrender, but you’re not here to take him prisoner, so you have to choose between letting him go, to potentially cause more havoc, or do your mission and kill him. But he doesn’t fight back if you decide to kill him, which was actually quite disconcerting.

  25. Sean Beanland says:

    I’ve always thought that it would be cool to have a Bioware style RPG that wasn’t focused on saving the world/galaxy/realm but had a more local focus. Say, a family. Or a town. Something that was less expansive but had more depth. In that sort of context, a conversation like the abortion one would fit more easily I think, and could have more impact on the world around you in some way.

  26. lesslucid says:

    “Divisive”.

  27. Thiefsie says:

    Great to hear that little bit of insider writing information from Patrick! Very enlightening!

  28. CdrJameson says:

    Um, surely Hateful Racist Fundamentalist Girl is Racist because she thinks badly of characters because they’re not human?

    She’s a deliberate contrast with Mr Full-of-himself Guy, who thinks badly of characters because they’re arseholes, irrespective of species. Probably why he’s full of himself, what with that smug moral superiority.

    Maybe she sees the error of her ways in the end, but I guess I’ll never know, as she’s now Hateful Fundamentalist Racist Cinder.

  29. John Walker says:

    You should all be fascinated to learn that I chose to save HRFG over Captain Boringheadaches. I did, however, agonise over the choice for AGES, eventually concluding that he was going to die because he’d come on to me in a really inappropriate circumstance, and if I were a girl that’s the reason I would kill men.

    It was an interesting moment, because I’d not bonded with either character, and so it really did become quite a mercenary decision (she seemed more likely to be interesting later on), only hindered by my conscience being very cross with me for making even a pretend decision this way.

    Had I had to choose between Sexyblue (I saw her bum!) or Sluggy, that would have been awful.

  30. CdrJameson says:

    Captain Boringheadaches has so far failed to come on to me so far in any circumstances, so I thought I’d give him a chance to get around to it at some point. SO HE LIVES.

  31. Funky Badger says:

    You’ve been spoiled, JW. I didn’t realise one of them was going to die. I thought there’d be a last minute resucue, just like in the films…

  32. Pike says:

    Ashley was simply ignorant and misguided as a result of tragic family history. With a tolerant and wise guide she’d find the right path towards tolerance.

    Unfortunately she ended up with a jingoistic superior officer who relished the idea of squashing alien insubordination benath the jackboothed heel of human military might and who also decided to mock her religion and dead grandfather.

    A bit of bad luck there.

  33. Nick says:

    Captainboringheadaches is a brilliant name for him. I ended up only talking to Ash and .. err .. the women with the mask as I found the others all fairly dull or unengaging.

  34. CdrJameson says:

    Wowzapolawza! I’ve just played Bring Down The Sky, and although it’s got the same identikit pirate bases they’re so much better laid out (i.e. you’re able to walk through the door without being mobbed and flanked) it’s unbelievably more fun to play. The asteroid also seems to have the highest habitation density in known space.

    Which is good.

    The game they wanted to make, I suspect.

  35. malkav11 says:

    The sidequests I mentioned I brought up because I think they’re an excellent example of how optional sidequests could be presented during (fictionally) urgent primary quests without much disrupting mimesis. Even better, if a bit less player-friendly, could be forcing one to deal with real, actual time limits of some sort so that doing the humanitarian thing does have real tradeoffs as far as accomplishing your main goals. Forcing hard choices.

  36. Derek K. says:

    I’m absolutely a Bioware fanboy, but I agree somewhat. I still buy every Bioware game reflexively, though.

    On the flip side – what else is there that comes close? The CRPG is a fairly limited platform. Bioware does a pretty dang good job within the constraints of having your DM be a computer processor, I think.

    As much as liked the dialogue wheel, the fact that it was “Up-Right == Paragon” “down-right == Asshole” “Left == XP/Plot” did frustrate me at times. Occasionally, late at night, I’d just hold Up-Right and keep pressing X….

    But again, kicks the ass of most everything out there, and is a blast at the same time. So I give them a pass. ;)

    Also, the fact that the big beef most people have with Bioware being the lack of impact and the chiaroscuro (ooooh) world suggests that Bioware has done most everything right – when we’re free to complain that the moral choices lack impact on the storyline at large, it suggests that they did a pretty good job on the little bits like gameplay and characterization…

    Yeah, yeah. Fanboy. :p

    And I’ve yet to play an RPG that said “You are the only hope of the world hurry hurry hurry that enforced it meaningfully. A number of 4x games do. But honestly, I’d be *pissed* if my RPG told me “Hey, stop doing that sidequest, my artificial timer is up.” It’s my RPG. Screw you, hippy.

  37. David Long says:

    If you still can’t find the last keeper try this:
    Keepers Walkthrough

    Make some interesting points but feel that if every side conversation lead to a full scale investigation the game would be come very dull. And if the short side conversations were missing the game would be poorer for it. Sometimes it’s fun to just give ridiculous or evil responses to the most emotional dilemas.
    Tip – in mass effect bioware have kindly placed the responses in a fixed way so you can get the result you intend.
    Top right option = Paragon/Good/Kind
    Middle Right = middle ground – will get you through every conversation but not gain you much/any paragon/renegade points
    Bottom right = Renegade/evil/aggressive response
    Options on the left are to investigate further or use your charm/intimated skills.
    If you want to be goodie goodie go for top right and charm more often.

  38. The Shed says:

    Giant Fat Slug Guy, Lizard-Head Guy, Sexy Blue Girl, Facemask Girl, Mr Full-of-himself Guy and Hateful Racist Fundamentalist Girl.

    Which’s Garrus? I sure hope he ain’t Mr Full-of-himself Guy. Garrus was like my right hand man, I love that dude.

  39. animal says:

    I enjoy power fantasies as much as the next guy, but it becomes a bit boring if in every game you are the saviour of either the city, realm or universe.

    That was one of the places where Torment scored a lot of points. Essentially in the game you still had as much power as in others, but it played out a bit differently where you were your own worst enemy and the responsibility of moving forward was left up to your character’s choice.

  40. Patrick Weekes says:

    My first with-actual-game playthrough was with Tali and Gare-bear. I was a Sentinel. We didn’t have a lot of raw firepower, but man, we could debuff anything.

    I did Liara’s World at about Level 40. The cutscenes were unintentionally hilarious.

    Big massive cutscene of armature unfolding.

    Me: Oh, no, an armature! Gosh, it’s not like we’ve been fighting those on foot the whole way here just to get more experience than you get from one-shotting them in the Mako! Hey, Tali, could you be a dear and… thanks, awfully.

    Watches as AI-Hacked armature zots the geth ghosts while my team lounges against the railing and has a smoke.

    Me: Hey, armature, I have to tell you, that’s some great stuff. Listen, though, I think we might be taking this whole squad in a different direction. Best of luck to you, and all, but Sabotage Overload Stasis-that-I-can-fire-through Tali-do-Carnage aaaaaaand we’re done.

  41. Calabi says:

    @animal In Torment your character was hugely powerful. Compared to other RPGs your stats and gains, The Nameless one was for all intents a god, just without the omnipotence.

    The irony was that he only cared for himself, as perhaps a real god would. They tease you throughout the game with bigger things, like perhaps you are going to stop the war, or save the lady. In the end those were to big for one man, even an immortal, he could only influence his own fate.

  42. Klaus says:

    I’ve been playing games for a while, but Kreia is actually the only character who influenced me outside the game. I played through Kotor 2 as neutral the very first time, and light-sided the next. Didn’t have the heart to play dark-sided as I didn’t want Kreia to yell at me. :(

    The morality thing was interesting when I got started with BG, but now it’s pretty amusing. I agree very much with Kreia’s philosophy but you really can’t apply these in other games. Refusing to help someone usually results in a “Oh PC! How could you be so heartless!” from a goody-two-shoes npc, and there usually isn’t an answer to explain it other than “Shut up, before I skin you!”.

    Jaheira and I almost always come to blows when I refuse to hand over the Harper killing sword. (can’t remember if that’s mod or not though).

    I never really liked the Orcs are unrepentant evil argument, as I saw it as a nurture issue, I really do usually hate the Elves. They’re supposedly above all mortal quibbles and yet they express the same bigotry and flaws everyone else does, and they get to make more of those flaws since they live for centuries and NEVER learn from their mistakes.

    For the BG2 SOA ending, good thing they intertwined getting your soul back with saving the elven city, because I would have left those assholes to die. Argh, probably the most annoying aspect about the game.

  43. Strike says:

    Kreia only yells at you when you don’t agree with her views. Most of her influence convo are somewhat on selfish side. I believe it is much harder to gain influence on her when you are in the Light side than you are in the Dark side. Taking to account my experience of doing replays in both sides. It is easiest to gain influence is when you are neutral.
    I wish that they included the option to become Jensaaria. It is quite perfect for people who are tired of choice to become a Jedi or a Sith.

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  45. BillHWaters says:

    Leave the moral issues to philosophers and politicians. I don’t care if an alien jelly created by an ancient race of interstellar aliens wants to preach his spiritualism in a park. I want relevant plots and no politics/ethics in my games.

  46. Gregon says:

    Because Ashley believes in God that makes her a fundamentalist? That’s like saying because a guy listens to rock he must love elvis/thebeatles/creed/three days grace.

  47. BloogaBlooga says:

    Unless you have a really ignorant view of religion or faith or spiritualism, than Ashley was not a fundamentalist. Rather, she was justvocal about her beliefs.

    I actually thought her character was the best. She was different than the other rehashes-I mean archetypes- that they had done before.

  48. BloogaBlooga says:

    To add to what I just posted, I always thought it was odd that Bioware’s KOTOR had sort-of grey moments in morality. Wasn’t the original intent of the films that it was a war between good and evil? Light and Dark.

  49. Trebor says:

    “I’m back in Space City One” – can you name any other space city in this game? Or any other city whatsoever in this game for that matter?
    No?
    Such a great rpg but only one real city in it.

  50. Gordonius says:

    Welp, looks like they haven’t changed a bit… I’m most of the way through Mass Effect 3, and I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to look online to see how a “moral choice” will turn out cos THERE IS NO LOGICAL WAY TO FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF.

    The main plotline morality stuff is so often just Bioware’s imposed value-set as well: I hate how my paragon Shepherd is obliged to be all against the Genophage–I can totally see the rationale for the Genophage; the Krogans were the Reapers of their day!

    Also, the space scanning/collecting stuff is the worst kind of insultingly dull grinding. Laaaaaazy.