Thursday, 10 September 2009

It's Good To Be Bad

But I wanted to be the Big Bad!

Lately - by which I mean over the past several months - I have been increasingly ludologically indulging my more villainous personality traits. I started with Overlord but oppressing a land of gamboling 'sheepies' and peasants who demanded I pop down to the shops for them quickly grew tiresome no matter how awesome the tower the job came with. I considered seeking out a true castle with Neverwinter Nights 2 but I couldn't stand playing through all that again. Mass Effect came and went - when the 'evil' choice equates to 'be a dick' there is little fun to be had.

Finally the penny dropped. What better game to choose but one who's very title is only spitting distance from Anti-Christ: The Game and just a quick jog around the corner from My Year With a Sucubbus.

If you're not familiar with the plot of Dark Messiah the basics are this: you are an orphan born in mysterious circumstances (probably) tasked my your Master to assist in delivering a powerful crystal to a wizard in a distant city. To aide you in your task a spirit - showing rather too much cleavage to be believed - is bound to you, to speak as a voice in your head. It soon becomes clear however that things are a little more complicated than that - you are the Dark Messiah, the son of a great and poweful demon and prophesied to herald the end of the world as we know it. Naturally the spirit is more than exactly what she appears to be and is a sucubbus.

(That's not the sucubbus)

Anyhoo, there is... essentially no oppertunity to make a moral decision either way until the very end at which point I became exceedingly confused. Besides a terrible bit of game design where I had to consult a walkthrough just to realise the simplest way through a knot is with a sharp blade (or a few fireballs I had neglected to learn until that point) it was the ending choices and cinematics themselves that left be scrabbling for an explanation amongst the internet.

You see, once you reach the end and defeat the final boss you have a choice to either free your demon sire or keep him locked in his magical prison. Yet I could have sworn blind, and still would if not for evidence to the contrary, that the first time I had completed Dark Messiah I had left my 'father' to rot within his prison or destroyed him outright and taken his place as the great arch demon in charge of the legions of hell itself and, soon, the entire world!

My own early-early-early-onset senility not with standing, this does not seem like how a game should end. If you choose the 'good' ending it makes the potential rise of the Dark Messiah a damp squib. If you choose the 'evil' ending, all the glory is taken by Daddy. Excuse me but when I have just finished a 10-hour slog through legions of the zombies, hordes of goblinoids and taken out half a dozen monstrous beasts including cylocpss and dragons both alive and undead I want to feel on top of the world! I want to feel as if I am the greatest, most powerful and most influential being in the story world. Instead I am forced to stand in the shadow of the one whom it had been heavily hinted I would have the oppertunity to overthrow? NO!

On a more general note, games are missing a trick if they do not explore the experience of being the bad guy or dangerously morally grey. This should not be limited to having evil options in roleplaying games, or campy wallpapering of old ideas like Dungeon Keeper or Overlord - as great as they were. Imagine playing Silence of the Lambs from Lecter's perspective; playing word games with an investigator while dropping enough hints to give them a chance. Imagine playing an action-packed super-budget shooter where you are subtly given more and more extreme and more uncomfortable targets - perhaps you are asked to use a rocket launcher to take out a minaret above a mosque where people may be praying or taking refuge. Your commanding officer doesn't mention it, you have to think for yourself. How far would you go? Would you want to play a game dealing with problems like this?

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