Detroit: Become Human, a new game from developers Quantic Dream, is headed to the PlayStation 4 next month. Similar to it’s predecessors this game will be based around Choice Gameplay. Throughout the game, players will control three different androids in a futuristic Detroit. And it is the choices that players make as these androids that will not only affect the situation, but the world of the characters. Throughout history, the mechanism of Choice-Based Gameplay has been implemented in a number of games, but what makes Choice Gameplay successful? Lets’s examine a few games and find out.
In the open world of Fallout 3‘s Post-Apocalyptic Washington DC, players have hundreds of choices at their fingertips. From helping out dwellers to joining up with the Brotherhood of Steel, each of these choices has an affect on the player and the game. One unique function within Fallout 3‘s Choice Gameplay is it’s Karma system. Players receive Good Karma for doing good deeds within the Wasteland, and Bad Karma for, well, not so nice deeds. Each time you finish a task, a Karma notification appears on your screen immediately rewarding you for your good, or bad choice. And these karma levels have perks, including specific followers, gifts, or enemy engagement. This function really allows players to create their own story in the vast Wasteland. Are they a wandering do-gooder, fighting for the best of humanity? Or are they a reckless rouge, who, when faced with a final redeeming choice, chooses to sacrifice others? This extensive and immersive Choice System in Fallout 3 is one aspect of what makes the game so brilliant. You can replay Fallout 3 several times, with hundreds of different choices, and experience the game in a whole different way.
Undertale remains one of the most popular indie games to debut in the last few years. While this game is known for it’s witty dialogue and quirky characters, it’s gameplay is one of the most impactful things about it. During the game’s combat, players can choose Fight or Mercy. With Fight, players will ultimately kill the monsters that they’ve engaged with. However, Mercy spares the monster’s life. These choices not only affect your interactions with characters, but how the environment changes, and even some of the boss fights. And trust me, this game TRULY makes you feel bad for killing. If you’ve killed enough monsters, you’ll receive 4th Wall-breaking messages, and even a secret boss fight that is extremely difficult. Undertale itself is a game about relationships, determination, and ultimately human kindness. Thus, the choice to be kind is incredibly important in the gameplay. The simplistic yet impactful Choice system in Undertale makes the game memorable and equally haunting.
A game whose Choice system can be questioned is, in fact, Bioshock. I know this comes as a shocker, especially since it is my favorite game of all time; however, that does not exempt it from dissection and discussion. In Bioshock, you have the choice to Save the Little Sisters, or to Harvest them. By Saving, you will only receive half the Adam from the Little Sisters, but you are given special gifts and rewards, including the “Happy Ending.” When you Harvest, you obtain the full amount of Adam, and can either obtain the “Neutral” or “Evil Ending” to the Game, depending on if you have a change of heart. With the gifts and perks you receive for Saving, it ends up not being a huge difference Adam-wise which choice you make. Thus, the gameplay is leveled out, but does that make the Choices impactful? If the game been more difficult due to Saving the sisters (without any extra benefits or abilities), it would have made the “Happy Ending” that much more sweet and satisfying. I understand the allure of adding choices for players in games, but in situations like Bioshock, sometimes the Choice is more of an extra, and not as essential.
And finally, we examine a game where Choice is really all you have. In Until Dawn, players are introduced to “The Butterfly Effect.” The game repeats how important your choices are, and how each decision will impact the next. Even the collectables in the game, Butterfly Totems, are essential in making the best choices. I know so many individuals that “do not like Horror games, but really enjoy Until Dawn.” I believe this is because the Choice gameplay and the narrative. You are the force in saving these teenagers lives, or dooming them to death. The choices in Until Dawn range from spying on your friend’s cellphone, to resisting the orders to kill another character. There are so many endings, and they all come down to the slightest of choices. That is the power of Choice based gameplay. Until Dawn excellently utilizes Choices to create a memorable and terrifying experience.
Choice gameplay can create really impactful moments and game experiences – if it is employed strongly. This playstyle makes the player’s actions meaningful, and have consequences as well as benefits. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see Choice gameplay implemented in the future. Sadly, Fallout 4 did not contain a Karma system, and Bioshock Infinite did not include Choices like it’s predecessors, but recent games like Until Dawn and Undertale give me hope for the future. In the end, only time will tell. For now, I look forward to exploring the storytelling and Choice gameplay that Detroit: Become Human will offer.