Question Weekend Question: When's the last time a game gave you a tough moral choice?

PCG Jody

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Dec 9, 2019
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I ask the PCG staff a regular Weekend Question and post the answers on the site. If you'd like to throw in an answer here, I'll squeeze the best into the finished article!

This week the question is: When's the last time a game gave you a tough moral choice?

Star Wars: The Old Republic has hit Steam, and that's got us reminiscing about the light side and the dark. The classic tough moral choice seems to have gone out of favor in the last few years, with a few exceptions in games like The Outer Worlds. When was the last time a game hit you with an actual "makes you think" moment?
I was playing Mass Effect as a complete paragon. I don't even remember if this was in the first or second game or even what the context was, but I remember having to choose between sparing someone and killing them and my finger hovered over the renegade button for a while, knowing my time was running out, not being able to make the decision.

I don't remember what decision I made. I do think I made one before the timer ran out. I think I might've actually chosen the renegade option and reloaded to change it, but I'm not sure. I really only clearly remember that moment of indecision about whether this guy was worth sparing.
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Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales had some tough decisions that made me wonder how another playthrough might go. Also Frostpunk. You’re often choosing one evil over another, trying to balance resources, hope, and what’s left of humanity. The first time you mix sawdust into the food or execute someone over the steam vents you may start to feel your conscience nagging you.
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Pathfinder: Kingmaker had a good one. Nok-Nok built a statue to his deity, the Mother of Monsters. The city folks were NOT pleased about a statue to an evil deity being built, even if it was outside of town. My neutral-good character certainly wasn't going to be happy, either. The thing is, Nok Nok was far and away the best character in my party. He had saved us countless times already and would do so many more times in the coming months. He had earned the right to some autonomy!

I stared at the screen for a good while on that one but eventually made him tear it down. I reasoned that, if Nok Nok didn't tear it down now, some mob of city folks would try and sneak in to do it and probably get themselves killed in the process. My city could tear itself apart over something like that, so down the statues went.
In The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners the very first quest giver asks you to kill her turned husband, and bring his wedding ring back to her. She's lost contact with her children and once in possession of the ring hopes to set out and find them. When you complete the quest (SPOILERS, but again, it's the VERY first quest of the game really), you discover a letter written by the husband, a shotgun, and two small bodies covered with bloody sheets. Even without the confession on the letter, the implication is obvious.

When you return the ring you're given the choice to tell her about the children or not. If you tell her she becomes furious with you and demands proof, which you can provide with the letter. If you don't tell her, then she simply thanks you and gives you your quest reward.

It's a harsh introduction to the world of The Walking Dead (for someone who has never bothered with the show at least) and made all the grim when you realize you can kill NPCs. Now on top of your initial choice you might just grapple with having to commit an additional act of violence that you might feel justified in doing, regardless of if you told her or not.

Sinner: That ring looked like it might be worth something after all.

Saint: "Tell me about the rabbits George..."
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It has to be Tyranny. The game is full of tough choices, if you prefer to play as a good character. But one moment owns it all. In one of the chapters you have to decide about the fate of a newly born child. The Kyros's will is to kill it. The player has an option to do a workaround, but it's still an extremely hard moment, especially if you're playing a character which doesn't oppose Kyros. I couldn't do it and decided to go with the workaround. It's only a game, but it felt so bad! The mind is not that easy to reason if you're fully immersed in a game.
The one that comes to mind at this point is on Phoenix Wright 2 final case. In it you have to extend the case for as long as you can because the life of your dear friends are on the line and need time for a friend/antagonist to rescue them. The game was brilliant in making me suffer through all the trial to get a little more time and you get to the point that there is absolutly no more ways to drag the case, no more clues, discussions and/or questioning. and you have to make the decision to end it one way or another. It was horrible to decide if the fuc%&$ was going to walk away or my friends died
The last game that made put me in a tough moral dilemma was Prey. In fact there was 2 situations that made you decide the fate on survivors lives. That's not counting on the people who you could rescue or kill them.

If you don't want to know, look away now:

The first was in the testing lab where you had someone who was stuck in a test chamber who was a live subject to a horrible experiment. If you spare him, he would give you the code to the armory where a prize shotgun, mobile turrets and ammo awaits. Kill him and you get valuable crafting resources. What makes it tricky? if you read the volunteer's record before hand you'll discover that he is apparently a pedophile that lies through life selling drugs and trafficking or kidnapping people. Scum of the earth. Can you trust this man? Does this man deserve to die? he does plead for his life, but can you trust him or is it another act?

My decision: Spare him. There was only humans and aliens and i would trust humans over the alien threat that couldn't be reasoned with. Plus i already raided the armory without his help. I managed to shoot a plastic dart at the lock and open it from the other side. if he wanted to betray me, i already had the shotgun ready to deliver swift justice.

The second one is slightly more detached but no less harrowing. A space shuttle left just minutes before the carnage on the station began. The shuttle wasn't properly checked and its about to land on Earth! it might be ok, after all nothing turned up on security scans... But then again, they weren't searching for typhon...

Do we scuttle the craft killing everyone innocent onboard or do we pray its safe and let it return to Earth but risk it spreading uncontrollably?

my decision after a bit of thinking? Scuttle it. The risk was too great. Better to be safe rather then sorry.
Jul 26, 2020
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I made an account to answer this question. Guys, it's Fable 2. Remember at the end when you have to choose between saving all the souls lost building the tower, or getting your dog that you had since the beginning of the game? You know, the one that jumps in front of a bullet to save your life? (Or having a ton of money but what kind of sick person would choose that.). As a kid that was probably the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life so far.
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(Or having a ton of money but what kind of sick person would choose that.).
Me. You are the Chosen One... key word: one. Why just one? The power seems to be some sort of genetic thing, handed down through the family and some how you're the only one that ended up with the ability to fight the ancient evil. That ancient evil is going to be showing up again in the future and, if nobody gets that gene, it's Game Over.

Now you might be thinking you'll just revive your spouse and kids. However, if your spouse has some sort of genetic defect that's going to put the kids at a disadvantage later in life then there's a serious risk of having nobody around to fight the good fight way down the road. You need a bigger genetic pool. What's more, those kids need to be well established so they can continue the line which isn't going to happen if you just take a tour of the world's whore houses. You're going to need to flat out flaunt the monogamous traditions of your culture, crank out as many kids as you can, and make sure the kids aren't going to up and starve on you - at least not before having kids of their own. To do that you need money, and a LOT of it!

This way, when the ancient evil comes back around again, it will won't be facing the Chosen One, it will be facing the Chosen Army!

-- Doctor Strangezloth
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