“Freedom of Choice” in Video Games

June 8, 2014
Photo credit: Sean Davis via Flickr

Photo credit: Sean Davis via Flickr

Recently, I finished up Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords for the Nintendo DS. I may be late for finishing this game, but better late than never, right?

Past that, the game offered me a choice early in the game. I had just finished a quest with a companion, and the game gave me two choices. Either I could bring the necromancer we had just caught to the jail and collect the reward there, or I could release him and get a sword. This sword wasn’t all that good in comparison to the weapons I already had, but I figured it would be easy money, so I released him.

Flash forward to the end of the game. I was about to face the end boss, and I was feeling uneasy. The defenders of the final boss were necromancers, and they were asking me to join them since I had released their brother. I didn’t get it at first, and then I had a little flash back, and realized they were talking about the guy I had released. I felt my stomach drop, but I continued fighting.

After all three of the necromancers had been defeated, it opened up a dialog between me and the companion who had helped to capture the necromancer. It showed him being really angry, and I lost him as a party member. That was a hard hit, as he did a lot of damage to Undead creatures, and the final boss was technically Undead.

After that, I cringed, but I went on. Then, when I arrived at final boss’ place, he told me of a power that could help me. I was skeptical, but it was a quest, and I was going for 100%, so I went with it. It made me point my sword, and then the infuriating thing started.

The moment I pointed my sword, another companion of mine had a dialog with my character, telling me that if I followed the sword, I would lose her. That bugged me, but she wasn’t really worth it in the end, so I followed the sword. The same thing happened for five more areas, and one by one, I watched my companions leave me. When I finally reached the end of the nightmare, I got the objective to drink from the source of the Lake of Blood. I drank it, and it gave me Immortality. That sounded great until I realized that it was +10 Cunning.

+10 Cunning.

I was livid. The stat for helping me go first and a CHANCE at getting an extra turn for matching Gold. I had lost a lot of companions who did a whole lot of good things for that? I nearly turned off the game.

Mind you, it did make the final boss harder and all the more satisfying to beat, but this opened up a discussion about games that I had been considering: when you’re given a choice, are you really given a choice?

I’ve heard of other game decisions doing pretty much the same thing. Some games have a whole lot of decisions that lead to the same thing, while other games have decisions that lead you to a dead end. And then there’s the whole “good vs evil” thing where you can’t actually choose evil if you’re not great at the game. I prefer to play the evil side of games (though there are times when I don’t), and I would appreciate if that side could be different, but still at least somewhat fun to play. Back to the Puzzle Quest final boss, I lost to him more times by the damage a companion would’ve given him than I could count.

Now that I’ve finished my rant, what do you think? Do you think games truly have a “freedom of choice”? Do you think that good and evil are equally represented?

Your thoughts?

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