Friday, 18 August 2017

Rant No. 11 RPG Text Choices Not Actually Saying The Choice

I'm playing The Witcher 2 at the moment. It's a great game, with superior visuals and combat to The Witcher 1 along with a great story and lore. Like the first game, it also has plenty of choices you can make, both in terms of who you side with and how you talk to people. The problem is, however, unlike The Witcher 1 where you see the entire text response you will give before making the decision on how best to sarcastically berate those lesser than you, The Witcher 2 only gives you approximations on the responses Geralt will pick. While the developer is usually pretty good at guessing your most likely responses and making text choices to do with them, sometimes they can think that a different emotion is being used when responding with this answer - honesty instead of keeping your options open, begging instead of sarcasm or accusation instead of questioning. It's this last one which prompted me to write this rant, and if you don't want any spoilers for The Witcher 2 then I give you three options: 'Remark: How Dare You Write Spoilers!', 'Remark: OK, if you say so', 'Remark: OK (actually meaning you're going to anyway).

The specifics of this 'Little Sister's quest start in Chapter 2 when Geralt is approached by Mavrick, a soldier who soiled his trousers after meeting a spectre. This made him the laughing stock of the camp and Geralt being the monster killing guy that he is, decides to help Mavrick. After some detective work around the site of where this spectre died, Geralt finds the spectre and her two sisters who accuse Mavrick of actually killing them. Now Geralt has one of those famous 'morally grey' choices that seem to enthral game developers nowadays - he can side with Mavrick, killing the spectres there and then, or do some more detective work and figure out who is actually lying. This is what I tried to do.

If you chose this option then you can either talk to Mavrick or go to the cemetery to look at the graves where you can find that some of the spectres information doesn't quite hold up. I decided to do the former as I thought that going to the cemetery without Mavrick would just make me kill the spectres. After talking to Mavrick and getting him to spill a little bit more information, you can ask him to accompany you or say 'the spectres say you're a murderer'. In a previous quest in Chapter 1, when presented with the similar choice of telling a human what the monster said or asking them to accompany Geralt, asking them to accompany you was a way of slyly delivering them to the monster, while saying the information allowed you to save the humans. That's what I thought these dialogue options would do as well, so I chose to tell Mavrick that the spectres think he's a murderer. Instead, Geralt decided to just accuse Mavrick of being a murderer, forcing him to face to spectres on his own and dying in the process. So a choice which I thought encouraged a release of information instead made an accusation which ended Mavrick's life and failed the quest. Not really what I wanted.

This isn't the only time The Witcher 2 has done this, for example, you can tell Henselt that you do know the Kingslayer with a choice of saying 'yes' or 'no'. I took this choice of saying 'yes' as gaining the upper-hand - you know who the Kingslayer is and want Henselt to know it, although you won't give up the information straight away. Instead, you just give up the information straight away. Again, not really what I wanted.

After thinking about it, I realised that quite a lot of RPG and choice based games don't actually give you the entire choice, just a feeling of it, from Dragon Age to Deus Ex. I realise that some choices involve a lot of text which they don't want to show first and then allow the character to speak but I still think I'd prefer that than making a choice which I wouldn't have, knowing how my character actually would react.

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

P.S. if you have any tales of choices gone bad (in video games) let us know in the comments!

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