For the most part, games with multiple endings can be pretty easy to telegraph. You save the people, help the needy and refuse the villains inexplicably asking you to join them—or you don’t! You’re either red or blue, renegade or paragon, have devil horns or dainty cherubic wings As for me, when given the choice, I’ll always be a goody two shoes. Which is why I’ve sometimes been flummoxed when making what I’ve thought to be a ‘good’ moral choice. Whether a result of inarticulate writing, flawed design or the warped mentalities of their creators, some games offer morality so long-winded and incomprehensible that they actually reward you for doing some pretty heinous sh*t. Case in point:
Resident Evil Revelations 2's best ending is granted if a child commits murder
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a game of two halves. In one, series regular Claire Redfield wakes up a zombified prison and is saddled with a bratty teenage sidekick: Moira Burton (her de facto partner, Chris Redfield, is too busy starring in the woeful Resident Evil 6). Claire shoots her way to freedom whilst Moira blinds the undead with a flashlight—but both are forced to wear a Saw-esque bracelet that explodes if their fear level is too high. In the other half of the game, Moira’s dad, Barry ‘Most Quoted Character Ever‘ Burton goes off to rescue her. As a coping mechanism, Barry befriends a much younger girl, Natalia, before traversing an overgrown facility— starting up power generators, moving crates and trying not to provoke the terrifying Last Of Us Legal Department.
The story is of course, absurd. Resident Evil’s Big Bad, Albert Wesker, has a sister who wants to transfer her consciousness to Barry’s sidekick, little Natalia. This pre-pubescent transition, for whatever Dumb Plot Reason, will allow her to take over the world. In one ending, Moira shows up and saves Barry, while Claire rescues everyone in a chopper—a satisfying and hugely empowering moment that Capcom understandably thinks you’d want to re-visit with an unlockable bra & hotpants costume. Barry meanwhile reconnects with his daughter and goes back to wherever aging fat men with beards go. The other ending it’s a bit more bleak. Moira is crushed to death, Claire is in a coma. no one saves Barry, leaving Ms. Wesker to become a seven year old girl. Barry can’t bring himself to kill her and lose another child he’s bonded with, thus dooming the world.
All of this comes down to who killed the previous boss. If you let Moira Burton kill her previous employer, Neil, you get the good ending. If Claire kills him? Bad ending. Neil by the way, has no relation to the overall plot or indeed Wesker and Natalia. The setup goes like this: at the end of the third chapter, Neil knocks the wind out of Moira and swipes Claire’s gun away before pinning her down with his giant black tentacles (thanks to his recent mutation into a demonic hentai rotisserie chicken, because Resident Evil). You see a QTE button prompt to have Claire reach for her gun, and mash said button accordingly. However, after a few seconds, the game politely reminds you that you can change characters. Now, here’s the moral “quandary” Revelations 2 posits—let an inexperienced teenager fire the gun, or leave it up to the two-time apocalypse survivor and resident (evil) badass, Claire.
The clear choice is Claire, as giving guns to kids is never a good policy. Thematically it makes more sense—Claire and Neil went on a few dates, it didn’t work out (presumably the hentai tentacles are bit much when it comes to foreplay), while Moira has had a firm stance against guns throughout the entire game, on account of accidentally shooting her sister that one time (it happens!). Even just practically, Claire makes more sense, as she can grab the gun in under five seconds—whereas Moira has to crawl over, have traumatic flashbacks, load the gun and make a one liner:
It’s got to be Claire, right?
No. It has to be Moira. Because if not, a whole episode later and with zero foreshadowing, Moira Burton will be trapped under some inconvenient rubble. Remember those dumb exploding bracelets? Revelation 2 suddenly chooses to as well, with Moira succumbing to her fear and dying, horribly. In pieces. But if you let Moira kill Neil, this entirely unrelated event several hours later never occurs. Moira continues to favor her trusty overpowered crowbar (heaven forbid this choice marking a shift in her character’s arc) and goes on to win the day.
So the moral is… let kids play with guns. Did the NRA write this? You wouldn’t see this in a Silent Hill game, that’s for damn sure. Oh. Wait a second….
Silent Hill 3 condemns you for forgiving someone
Silent Hill 3, the last decent game in the now pachinko series, stars Heather Mason. She’s been lured to Silent Hill because (and stick with me here) she is secretly pregnant with God, so the town’s creepy cult obviously want a piece of that. The game ends with Heather forcing an abortion that causes her to vomit up the fetus of God (I must have missed that sex ed class). The villain then eats the fetus and becomes God herself, forcing Heather to dive into a massive vagina to battle God/her daughter/her abortion, angering fundamentalist Christians everywhere.
This actually happens.
The first time you play Silent Hill 3, Heather will kill God, leave the town, reconcile with her Dad, presumably move to somewhere with absolutely no fog and either hires a therapist or starts a nice little drug habit. On every other subsequent playthrough, however, the game introduces a morality meter. Perform badly enough, and you’ll get a different ending where Heather kills God, but then instantly kills her policeman buddy—implying that God has taken control of her and will bring ruin to the world, fulfilling an old prophecy and yadda yada.
So how do you get the bad ending? Well, you need to lower your morality— by killing things, getting killed or cheating at certain puzzles. This makes a kind of sense, at least as far as Silent Hill ever can make sense. But the murky morality rears its head when you encounter a confession booth. Inside is a grieving woman. She’ll spin you a horrific tale about her child being murdered, and her lethal revenge upon the culprit. This clearly distressed woman knows she’s going to hell, but just wants you to forgive her—Heather, you’ll recall, is considered a deity of sorts.
You can empathise of course. Yes, she killed someone. And yes, that’s a sin. But he was a child murderer—dollars to doughnuts we’d probably do the same thing. Your choices are either ‘forgive her’ or ‘say nothing’. If you forgive her, the woman starts crying with relief—you’ve brought some light to the otherwise very depressing Silent Hill. Or you say nothing, leaving her convinced that her priest (and by extension her God) have turned their back on her. Literally. So forgiving her is the good option, right?
You see, by Silent Hill’s twisted metric, this is a Very Bad Thing. Only a priest has the right to forgive someone their sins. By impersonating a priest you are ostensibly pretending to be someone that you’re not. Not only that, you’ve given forgiveness to a violent crime, and as such, makes you more malleable to God’s possession at the end of the game. Best thing to do apparently is just to walk out and ignore a woman’s desperate cries.
Well, no, the best thing to do is to kill 30 bad guys with the alien weapon during Silent Hill’s opening. Doing so will net you the ending where Heather’s dad is still alive and you sit to have tea with an alien and James Sunderland, the hero of Silent Hill 2, before nuking the entire town.
Fable 3 rewards you for genocide—as long as you keep your promises
In Fable 3 you play as a young Prince, with your brother Logan reigning supreme as king. Trouble is, Logan is voiced by Michael Fassbender, so he’s obviously evil. You hightail out of there with John Cleese and decide it’s time to overthrow Michael Fassbender and claim the throne for yourself. The first part of the game is spent Trumping it up, as you trek across the land making promises to rally the support of the masses. The neighbouring country wants an alliance. The library wants more funding. The factory workers want better conditions. The army led by Simon Pegg want you to rebuild their fortress, The Forest Folk want their sacred tree to remain sacred, and that’s what you promise to their leader, a Welsh midget voiced by… Sir Ben f*cking Kingsley?
Anyway, turns out Michael Fassbender has a very good reason for being such a dick—a Lovecraftian horror is coming to kill everything in exactly one year. All this time, Michael Fassbender has been trying to save up enough money to fight off the coming darkness—although, despite his years of planning, he’s only raised a pitiful 400k in gold. You on the other hand, need to find 6.5 million in order to save all 6.5 million inhabitants. Fassbender only decides to tell you this interesting nugget after you’ve taken his crown (so he’s still a bit of a dick!)
This is where the second half of Fable 3 takes a turn for the complex, offering up some interesting dilemmas. Do you lower taxes, or raise them? Outlaw child labour, or increase it? Drain a lake for the resources? Build a school or a brothel? One makes people happy, one keeps them alive (apart from the brothel, that’s a win-win.) Furthermore, your subjects now come to you and ask you to keep your promises. Do you keep the forest, or cut it down to make a profit—and save millions? Build an alliance, or enslave them? The game will inevitably end with either everyone’s dead and happy or alive and miserable. There is no good solution.
Except, Fable 3 decides there is!
Yeah, those 6.5 million gold I mentioned? Irrelevant. Forget about it. If you want the good ending all you have to do is keep those promises and let everyone die. Just save the forest, rebuild the slums, help your allies and open a library—that’s all you need to do to get the good ending. How many people you save is completely and utterly irrelevant. Putting aside the relative expense of keeping your promises and the baffling design decision to rob you of five in-game months, the point remains. 95% of the population dead? Not a problem, no one cares. Sure, your short term thinking has meant genocide for your countrymen, but while they’re breathing, they’ll love you!
Fallout 3 punishes you for problem solving
Elder Scrolls: Brown Edition is all about trying to restore clean drinking water to the radioactive wasteland. After hours (and hours) of running around and whacking mutated scorpions, you’ll eventually encounter a ‘Make Water Un-Radioactive’ (Plot) Device’. But there’s a snag: it’s flooded with radiation, ironically. Whoever turns it on will die. The game gives you a choice: do you do it, or does your commander buddy do it?
If you’re anything like me, at this point you’ll be saying ‘It’s alright, I’ve stockpiled hundreds of Rad X and Rad Away for exactly a situation like this. Let me just inject them and I’ll get right on it. In fact, I think I’ve a Hazmat suit back at my house, if you just let me fast travel—’
Nope, that is not an option. Fallout 3 has mandated that you either let a friend die, or sacrifice yourself by radiation. In a world, need I remind you, that has had to adapt to constant radiation for two centuries. It’s like a bird forgetting it can fly. What’s especially daft is that inside the lethal chamber is a dead scientist, next to which is ten handy Rad X and Radaways. Now, you could pick them up before you input the code. You could inject them—but you still die.
But it gets worse! In Fallout 3 you can recruit a number of companions. Many are optional. One specifically is not, and just so happens to be immune to radiation. Enter Fawkes the Supermutant. Seeing as Fawkes is basically The Hulk with an Infinite Ammo Laser Gatling Gun, there’s a 95% chance you brought him along with you for this final battle. What does he have to say on this?
To be fair, Bethesda eventually came to their senses and released the Broken Steel DLC, which changes the ending and allows Fawkes to enter the chamber for you:
Hurrah, we solved the problem. Everyone can drink, and nobody had to die. Well yes, but Ron Perlman still regards you as a coward. In the ending speech he criticizes you, saying that ‘The child refused to follow the father’s selfless example, instead allowing a true hero to venture into the irradiated control chamber.’ You know what Ron Perlman? Fawkes wasn’t heroic there, at all. He went into a room and hit a switch. Secondly, we think our Dad is happy we didn’t kill ourselves when there were numerous other sensible options. To the writers over at Bethesda: you’ve got a real messed up vision of what heroism is.
Still, I guess all they wanted was a hamfisted Jesus analogy—it’s not like they’re kidnapping women or anything.
Dishonored rewards you for kidnapping women and giving them to a stalker
Dishonored begins with the Queen being murdered by royal advisors in front of her bodyguard—both failing quite spectacularly at their job description. The advisors then kidnap the young heiress, Emily, and frame you, Corvo Attano, for her murder. While there are many moral choices to made throughout Dishonored, the game’s narrative remains broadly the same—Corvo breaks out of jail, rescues the Princess and murders the conspirators via snazzy time manipulation powers, a lot of stabbing and uh, inhabiting the bodies of rats (think Bioshock meets Animorphs). There is, however, a variety of endings. In one, the princess Emily ascends to the throne and becomes a noble, respected leader, while in the other she’s a tyrant and ruling over a land where a plague is reaching extinction levels. These endings are dictated by how many people Corvo kills. If his kill count is low, Emily learns compassion and mercy. If it’s high, she learns murder is the best solution to her problems.
Now, it’s possible to complete Dishonored without killing a single person—even key assassination targets can be dealt with using non-lethal and thoroughly ironic methods. The decadent pope who lives a life of luxury? Brand him with the Mark Of Shame so he has to live as a pauper. The leader of the conspiracy who inexplicably records all his conversations? Broadcast the recordings where he admits he’s an evil little sh*t. The twins who own a barbaric slave mine? Sell them into their own mines! And then there’s Lady Boyle. She’s the rich aristocrat who is bankrolling the whole rebellion. As with the other conspirators, you have to take her out. And so I think to myself—what could be her ironic undoing? She’s the one flush with cash, so the non-lethal option should be something tangentially related, right? Maybe you unleash the plague in those new luxury apartments she’s building? Replace her diamonds with worthless fakes? Start a hostile takeover?
Nah, you drug her and give her over to a stalker.
He confesses his secret love for her and asks you to knock her out, then take her to the basement. Okay, you might think. Maybe he’s an old flame, or a spurned—
No. No. Just, no. There is no way to justify this—you are complicit in an abduction. We fully expect Liam Neeson to come in and punch you to death. The alternative is murder. ‘Is that so bad’ you ask? Well, upon delivering her—
Yes. That is worse than death. A woman is kept drugged inside a vehicle, being taken to god knows where, by god knows who, to do god knows what. At best, AT BEST, she’s in a cell waiting for Stockholm Syndrome to set in, At worst she’s being violently and repeatedly raped. And this is the heroic choice! This is what dear little Emily takes note of when becoming a stalwart Queen.
To be fair to developer Arkane Studios, they later said that she probably wrapped him around him his finger.
Guys, you’re sounding a lot like Cosby. That’s never a good sign.
Call of Duty supports burning POWs at the stake
Despite its frat boy image, Call of Duty actually has some deeply poignant scenarios. Both Modern Warfare‘s nuke and Modern Warfare’s 2 “No Russian” have things to say about the futility of war—with nary a teabagging in sight. But as with all military shooters, it can be a tricky balance to strike between “F*ck yeah! That headshot was SWEET!” and “Oh, this is based on terrible real-life conflict”. This means that when Call of Duty occasionally strives for moral complexity, it can be lost amidst the shower of high-definition gore and giblets. Other times, it’s just straight up mishandled.
In World at War, you play as a Russian soldier who survives Stalingrad and takes the fight back to the Germans, eventually capturing Berlin. Spoilers! However, when your good friend Chernov dies before the last mission, his diary is read aloud (apparently in war, privacy is another casualty). What he says about you changes based on your actions. In one version, he’ll call you a noble hero, while in another he’ll call you a brutal savage. So what affects this? Simple. At two points your commander will ask you to kill a group of surrendering Germans. If you kill them, you’re a savage, if you let them live, you’re a hero. So what’s the problem?
Letting them live, in both instances, causes them to have agonising painful deaths moments later, something that you’re fully aware of beforehand. In one choice, you encounter injured soldiers who are bleeding out and are told to either let them live to die in horrible pain (good) or mercy kill them (uh… bad?) That is already somewhat dubious, but the other choice is so much worse.
So you’ve rounded up some Germans. To be clear, they are surrendering and begging for mercy, surrounded with lit Molotovs. The intent is clear: they are going to be burnt to death. And so your choice is either to kill them with a bullet or do nothing and be responsible for them burning to death. Now, here at Ground Punch, we don’t support the slaughter of POWs—infact it’s a war crime. But I’ll forever argue that an execution firing squad is infinitely preferable to burning at the stake.
But World At War disagrees. Letting men burn to death is the good option here, apparently. Which is backward to what your commander says. He says mercy is the right option. The game can’t keep track of itself. Which is why there’s not a single Lets Play on YouTube’s first initial search results has the good version—they’re either neutral or savage. Call of Duty is all about camaraderie, brothers in arms, team spirit and shooting those different from you. But this is just a bit too nasty. Thankfully, Treyarch’s next outing would chiefly focus on having completely batsh*t plotting instead.
So there we have it! Six games with incredibly f*cked up ‘good’ moral choices. Of course, all this nitpickery is all for fun. Sure, it’s unfortunate that more often than not they are flawed, unfair, and brainmeltingly stupid—but I applaud any game that strives for such complexity. If you’re looking for examples of excellent (sometimes harrowing) branching decisions, off the top of my head—The Walking Dead Season 1, Witcher 2 & 3, Dragon Age: Origins, Planescape: Torment and 80 Days.