THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- Has Half-Life: Alyx made you want to buy a VR headset?
- What's a game that handles politics well?
- What game's end credits are worth watching?
You tell yourself this time it'll be different. This time you'll go dark side, or ally with the Templars, or focus on destruction magic, or not romance that one NPC you always romance. But it doesn't work out that way.
Maybe you can't bring yourself to be a puppy-kicking villain, or maybe it's just not as fun shooting an assault rifle instead of your preferred sniper rifle/pistol combo. Maybe a force greater than your willpower pushes you to romance Garrus again.
Have you tried to replay a game differently only to make all the same decisions? Let us know in the comments.
I've tried making new decisions in the Mass Effect series, and I've failed. Not only couldn't I alter the big decisions, like who to smooch and who to let die, I couldn't even pick an assholish response without thinking, 'Ah, well, that's just uncalled for' and going back to my standard Paragon ways. I've restarted Divinity: Original Sin 2 more times than I can remember and I always end up with Polymorph skills—love that Tentacle Lash. I can't even play a game of Civilization without building roughly the same isolated coastal fortress, and I always quit in the early game if someone builds the Great Wall of China before me—it looks so cool, I have to have it. I'm hopeless.
The first two Fallout games were renowned for letting you play any sort of character, accommodating your choices. Did you want to play a complete idiot with 1 intelligence but 10 strength? You could do that, and some of the conversations are pretty funny. "It is a pity that you are dimwitted. We will have difficulty understanding each other. I hope the others in your vault are not like you." Your only response: "Wubba-val?"
The problem is that after the first hour or two of this, it gets old. So many conversations end up with the same single response option. "Nuh-huh." "Nungh!" "Huh?" And sometimes I just wanted to get a better weapon or upgrade rather than being the village idiot. Technically, I didn't really end up making all the same decisions, but I never did finish a successful playthrough of either Fallout 1 or 2 with a low-intelligence character. The more I played, the less funny it became, which was perhaps the point.
Visual novel/text adventure 80 Days is one of my favorite games of the decade, and I've taken more than a dozen trips around the world in it. But I still haven't seen all of its many paths, because I find myself doing exactly this on so many runs. I'll take what looks like the most efficient route, only to end up solving a murder mystery once again on the voyage across the Pacific, or talking to the same automaton mechanic on a quiet day's exploration. I remember being so struck by a particular encounter in Africa that I went out of my way to take the same path, to arrive at that moment again, thinking I'd want to make a different choice... and realizing I had to go with my conscience. While I did occasionally tire of going down the same paths, I don't think this is a failing of 80 Days at all. Actually the opposite. I loved the world so much, and was so bought in, I just couldn't make choices that felt wrong, even if it meant missing out on some new adventures.
After an extremely evil playthrough of Fallout 3, I decided I'd go back through the ruins of Washington DC and be nice this time. Just be nice and helpful and do the right thing and not reduce any towns to a smouldering crater just because someone asked me to. And I just couldn't find any real motivation for being such a nice guy. I mean I grew up in a Vault where Liam Neeson lied to me my whole life and then ran off, leaving me to my almost certain death. It's hard to step out into the world and be a bright, cheerful Helpy McHelperton with that kind of backstory. It just didn't ring true (and it wasn't as much fun) so I pretty quickly veered back into playing as a bitter, angry vengeance-seeking monster.
I'm big on experimentation, so given the chance and time to explore as many choices a game offers as possible, I take it. I've played through Firewatch without selecting a single line of dialogue. I've played through Oxenfree while only choosing the most sarcastic comments possible. I've played through Detroit: Become Human several times so I could experience the different endings and see how long I could keep each character alive. (I've logged over 70 hours on that game.) I'm currently playing through Afterparty again, but only using drunken lines of dialogue whenever possible, because I want to see how much trouble I can get into. So, I guess you could say I'm a glutton for replaying story-based games over and over again. I want to experience every branch, every choice, every outcome. Oh, and I've also played Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines as every clan. I still haven't got the hang of playing as a Nosferatu.
And here I was feeling pleased with myself for finishing Bloodlines with three of its clans. I've also finished Fallout as both a sneak and a diplomat, and done the Mass Effect trilogy as both a renegade and a mostly-paragon. But I cannot play Skyrim as anything other than a stealthy archer.
Being an archer in the previous Elder Scrolls game, Oblivion, was only fun once I downloaded a mod that sped up arrows. In Skyrim arrows zip through the air by default, but buy the right perk and you can slow down time while you're aiming them and this combo of slow-aim speedy-shot turns out to be my catnip. Whether I'm a summoning wizard or an armored axe-swinger I always end up with a bunch of points in stealth and archery as well.