Karma is a great motivator in games, and if done right can bring a new level of immersion to the experience. Sure, not all titles do it well, but when they do, it makes for some great moments. Here are five games with great karma systems.
The inFAMOUS series
The classic moral alignment scale: you choose between good or bad in this series. You *could* hover somewhere in the middle and stay neutral, but where’s the fun in that? As you play, your powers grow and change to match your karmic alignment. Are you super evil? Well now your powers will be more lethal to match; who cares about collateral damage? Alternatively, if you just gotta be the hero? You’ll get more chances to subdue your enemies and sneak around.
There are situations throughout the world to partake in, with each one raising or lowering your karma level in turn. And if you’re playing honestly, your choices could even reflect on you personally. Some actions are big and literally game changing – taking an effect on choices you get down the line. Other actions are small and actually kind of petty. I mean, you didn’t have to kill that street performer, but you did it anyway. And for what? You monster.
Fallout New Vegas
Not a fan of cannibals, or just love being a raider? In Fallout New Vegas you can choose either or. In one faction you can be a full on villain and be seen as a threat to be destroyed on sight, while in another you can be the hero and role model to the citizens going about their business.
This is further expanded upon – and simultaneously contracted – in Fallout 4. In FO4, each companion will have their own feelings towards you. Some are morally good, some evil, and some like to play both fields. How you act is reflected in how they view you. If your followers disagree with your actions, then they may end up hating you and leaving you.
Same way I lost my friends…
Editor’s note: I know Kevin personally. Don’t feel bad for him, you don’t know what he did.
As protagonist Corvo Attano, you are the Royal Protector to Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. As such, your are trained to defend your liege by any means necessary.
Dishonored lets you choose how far you take “any means necessary”. You can infiltrate places all sneaky-beaky like, and get what you need and go. Orrrr, you can kill every living thing there and leave a trail of bodies in your wake, branding yourself as a psychopathic revenge-driven killer to be feared and hunted down, only to be turned away by all your friends and allies who have become ashamed with the man you’ve turned into.
But I definitely did the first one because I’m a hero.
Spare your targets or kill them, and your associates will treat you differently – and in big ways too. I still miss Samuel… Sparing your targets isn’t even always the better option – and sometimes the outcome can be more disturbing for those not lucky enough to die at Corvo’s hands.
At the end of the day, you may feel like a good person, but Dishonored’s choices make sure you won’t remain comfortable with the results.
Mass Effect functions a little differently from the other entries on this list. Commander Shepard is an objectively “good” person regardless of your choices. The defining factor is the path you take to reach your objective. Your actions will either fall under “Paragon” or “Renegade” with separate meters for each.
“Paragon” is the super straight-edged hero type – the one clinging to the moral high ground. Whereas “Renegade” is very “ends justify the means”-esque in execution. You’ll still save the universe by the end, but at what cost? Your choices in Mass Effect are all about ethics, rather than tipping Lady Justice’s scales.
The Fable series
The famous Fable series and it’s infamous sequels boasted a decision making system that – at the time – was a fairly novel idea. I mean, it boasted a lot of other things, but that’s Peter Molyneaux’s fault.
Fable was really good about your character’s alignment being reflected in game. NPCs in the world would actually react to you with anything from reverence to fear and terror depending on your alignment. What I love most, is the player character seriously just growing horns if you’re evil enough.
Fable’s morality system is built on instant gratification versus having moral superiority in being a good person. But honestly, why be nice when you can have LOADSAMONEY. The choice is yours in Fable – be a good person and have people look up to you, or be a bastard and have people hate and fear you as soon as you strut into town.
Don’t be a dick, or do. It’s up to you
And those were five games with great karma systems. Each system in each game functions a little differently, which is good to help keep things fresh. Whether you like to be a bastard or a savior, these games have you covered. And if you like to really get into your games and role-play, then these titles have an extra layer for you to dive into.
Oh and remember, just because games have great karma systems, doesn’t mean they’ll always function exactly how they’re meant to. Maybe you are the one in the wrong ;).