Spoilers for some side quests in AC: Odyssey
Well, this’ll be a day. Sick Nugget.
As for games….
I keep getting good people killed. Did the Dagger. Smiled ruefully when, on the way to the Dagger, met the pirates you met (or must’ve met. Stupid pirates). Stopped off to do the weird quest where the slave wants you to lie and say that he did it so he can stay a slave (you do that one? How’d you play it?).
Then did the Dagger and of COURSE told the guy “Only you an save your brother…go to it.”
I’m sure you did the same. But I’ll wait for you to confirm.
I have thoughts.
Ah, poor Nugget!
The guy who wanted to remain a slave…I didn’t want to lie! Besides, what if the ‘master’ got mad and said “no way you’re staying on in my house!”? So I just said bandits took the vase. Then I said, “by the way, this guy really wants to stay on, you might want to hire him once he’s free” or something, and it all worked out.
And yes, OF COURSE I also said “go try to save your brother” (because obviously one does!) and got the decent guy (Agapius or something? OK, internet says Agapios, I was close) killed. But then I died in the ensuing battle and it reloaded before that entire conversation, so I tried “your brother can’t be saved” and that worked out better. Agapios even accepted it and wasn’t angry with me. So yeah, turns out sometimes the right thing is the wrong thing.
Oh you cheated! Cheater!
So what happened if you did that? I’ll wait because I’m curious and it will affect the thoughts I have.
Cuz I have thoughts.
But I will start by saying this: That was a well written, well acted scene. I really did think, for a few moments, that it was going to end happily. When the two brothers were talking, I got to the point where I bought that they were going to be ok. Then they weren’t. That’s not often the case in cutscenes. Very well done stuff.
But how’d it end for you? I have thoughts.
I did the same thing with the slave, and I was going to say here that “And I was surprised it worked out ok because so many other times we did the ‘right thing’ and it didn’t,” but then I realized I was being rather presumptuous that what we did was the “right thing.” Sure, lying is bad, but, almost always, in games when the downtrodden, weak, helpless person asks you to do something/say something to the person in power, you do it. It’s the right thing. Here’s a powerless person saying “Please do the thing I am powerless to do,” and, well, that’s “right” cuz video games and video games are all about doing things other people are powerless to do.
So in real world terms, yes, we did the right thing. But in game terms, maybe “doing the right thing” would have been lying for the slave, and I’m starting to think that might have been a bad outcome.
I didn’t cheat! I died, and it reloaded me before that scene. It’s not cheating to be handed an opportunity to make a different choice, and try it out. But it would have been cheating if I’d reloaded on purpose, yes.
And extremely borderline if I’d intentionally fought poorly so I’d die and have it reload. But I was ready to live with that result, it was just stupid combat choices (“I can totally stay in melee with this guy for one more hit instead of running off to heal!–oops, no I can’t”). That’s not cheating.
But dude, I’m the one who lived with my first choice when it got the theater people killed. I didn’t die in that battle, so I didn’t reload anywhere, and I just kept it. You’re the one who tried repeatedly to save them. YOU cheated!
Let’s just agree we’re both cheaters and move on.
Speaking of reloading and choices and cheating, this leads directly to a point I’ve been meaning to raise, which is that I don’t know how I feel about the fact that one of the load screen tips says “if you’re not sure what to do, try quick saving and trying out different choices to see which one you like better.”
I mean…first of all, we already know that trick and we’ve all done it, and also, it’s cheating! Why are you encouraging people to cheat, game?
And obviously in both these discussions it’s not REALLY cheating, it’s perfectly allowable within the rules and structure of the game, but in an RPG…we kind of instinctively feel that part of the point is that we live with the consequences of our decisions. Trying out different things to see which one you like best is cheating! You can’t do that in real life, and you shouldn’t do it in an ‘honest’ RPG. (You could never do it at the D&D table, where our gaming morals were forged.)
Which is part of the reason that it’s especially interesting when the consequences only become evident much later on, long after it’s practical to go back and re-do something even if we wanted to (even if we do still have a save from that point). We often leave morally complicated scenes with a sense of foreboding, no matter what we do: “THAT’s going to come back to haunt me.” And we respect the game when it delivers on that! I’m not psyched about the fact that I unleashed malaria on Kephallonia, but it’s pretty great that that decision actually made a difference.
And maybe games are investing more in long-range consequences because they know how easy it is to ‘cheat’ and check out the short-term ones, and they figure everyone will, so why not just be clear about it and tell them to? Which if true would be cool.
But I still don’t do the ‘try different things’ even though this game explicitly says to. Only if I die, man. Death earns you a do-over.
Oh, and as for the slave wanting to stay a slave, you’re right, usually the ‘good’ choice is to help the underdog in a situation. But if thing he wants help with is remaining the underdog…is that REALLY helping him? Sometimes what people want isn’t actually the best thing for them. And obviously, who the hell am I to make that decision for this guy who is a grown adult and whose life I know nothing about? If he thinks he’d be happier as a slave, and if slavery is legitimate in this society, who am I to be all “slavery is bad, I’m not helping you be one?” That’s a modern reaction: slavery is bad, I’m not helping keep some guy a slave!
But in the context of the time, if this grown adult wants that and asked for help…
No. Still not helping keep some guy a slave. Certainly not telling lies to do it. If he wants to be a slave, he can tell the guy himself. Which I know is not a slave’s place to do, apparently, but you can take your freedom for two minutes and speak up to disavow it if you feel that strongly about it.
It would be interesting to know how it worked out the other way, but, like you, I didn’t cheat to find out.
And the bit with Agapios, it was basically the same outcome except that I said “no, he can’t be saved,” and Agapios sort of reluctantly accepted that “after all the terrible things he’s done, is he really still my brother?” and the brother sneered at him and said something like “you’re the one who shamed the family, you became a slave,” and then we had a big fight.
And then at the end Agapios said something about being a slave and his master said “you’re not a slave, you’ve earned your freedom.” He seemed happy about that.
There’s definitely some interesting point in here somewhere about slavery, though. Like, it’s not always the worst thing that could happen for people, and it shouldn’t necessarily be a shameful thing because one can be an honorable slave…I don’t know.
Fair. Very fair. I take it back. Not cheating.
Let’s agree we’re both not! We’ll feel better that way.
Funny, cuz something like this came up last night with Junior.
Junior has helpfully started watching silly youtubes about this game (I’ve already told him that if he spoils, he dies). Junior is one of these people that likes mods, likes doing things like playing Legend of Zelda with Link wearing a nintento switch T shirt, trying to get that special trick that makes Lydia say “I love cheese” in Skyrim (made that last one up, but not the shirt in Zelda). He was telling me yesterday that he saw a way in AC:O to get a special overpowered sword that makes you do %500 Assassin damage but, like, spits chickens if you try to do warrior damage, silly armor, etc. and I said “Look, Junior, those things are just to customize your game experience” (at which point he looked at me as if I was saying something as obvious as “Food makes you not hungry”) “and I don’t really WANT to customize my games. I want to play them as they were intended by the developers” (at which point he looked at me with the horrified confusion as if I had said “And I never get hungry, and, even if I did, I’d never, ever eat food.”).
We forget there’s this massive percentage of gamers who want their games completely customized to them. They don’t care about what the developers intended artistically. They want Link in a modern T shirt. They want ridiculous overpowered swords. They want voice mods so that every NPC sounds like LeBron James. And, I suppose, they want the plot to play out exactly as they want it to.
Which is totally not an honest RPG! But then, I think that being able to play with a ridiculous sword or idiotic cosmetics isn’t “honest” either.
I guess the silver lining is that you can cheerfully ignore all the “dishonest” stuff and play the game the way the developers intended if you want. There’s all that “Check out the new gear in the store!” stuff in this game that we are cheerfully ignoring. But we have to accept that there’s that “I want it the way I want it” crowd that’s gonna do everything they can to get what they want, and Ubisoft knows this. Ubisoft is even profiting off of this!
To each their own.
I have a feeling the alternate ending with the wanna-be slave would’ve been “You helped them! DIE!” which wouldn’t have been a great outcome. But my feelings have been wrong before.
Plus, I kinda think it was in character for Kassandra. She’s into freedom, at least that’s how I’m playing her. After Agapios died, the Magistrate was all sad and she said “At least he got his freedom for a few moments….that’s worth so much…” or something. She cares about freedom.
Well, maybe they’re trying a twist on the Assassin (freedom)/Templar (obey) deal. Muddying the Templar waters.
But I saw some other themey shit, at least in how my game played out.
Here, we had the godless dude (The Dagger is all “Poseidon didn’t save me. I DID!” He obviously into the divine) do the same thing that Kassandra’s very godly parents did to preserve their own status/wealth/power: Throw a family member off a cliff. Well, maybe not to keep his status, but certainly to represent that he had no intention of giving it up.
We’ve been talking about the themes of “family is complicated” and “Should you believe?” for a while here, and to have a very similar scene (family members, cliffs, etc.) play out in a totally godless way, juxtaposed against Kassandra’s childhood was interesting.
Because they were both ooky. Throwing people off cliffs is bad. But this was interesting given that we’ve seen the Oracle lying so that people die, Kassandra’s family “killing” her and Alexios because the gods, we’ve seen the cult be bad (and, let’s face it, cults are just religions gone to the extreme). Very religious=bad through the whole game. To have the Dagger be just as bad, do the same things, and be overtly secular was an interesting choice.
Hm. That’s an interesting thought, that the urge to pick exactly the result you want may be related to the urge to have a highly customized game experience full of whatever goofy touches you personally find entertaining. That if you’re used to adding personal touches that have nothing to do with the original game, you may also find it quite reasonable to pick and choose from a variety of consequences, because why not? That’s the way it’s most fun for me!
I want to replace all the dragons in Skyrim with trains from Thomas the Tank Engine! I want the mods where everyone is naked!
And, indeed…why not I suppose? If that’s the way it’s most fun for you. I’m not going to argue that there’s some objective determinant of the Best Way to Have Fun in Video Games. As we’ve often stated at length, different people play different games (or the same games in different ways), and that’s cool. The fact that that’s possible is one of the cool things about games.
I think we’re certainly not wrong to prefer to stick closer to the original version of the way the game was designed. This obviously gives you a much better sense of the game’s story, mood, themes, etc. (if applicable). On the other hand, toying with the story, mood, themes, etc., by introducing your own touches is…arguably an expansion on the original art, if done well. Not better, but a variation on a theme, which can also be interesting.
Me, I just don’t have the time to get into that. But it’s an interesting area for exploration.
I think it goes to the difference between looking at games as art and looking at games more as toys. It’s not that much of a stretch to say “toys.” We play games. They’re sold at toy stores. Lots of people still look at it that way. And that’s ok! I like toys! But that’s not how I want to look at an art form.
To go back to food, you and I both like the idea of going to nice restaurants, ordering off the menu as is to enjoy the skill of the chef. But look at the rise in popularity of chains like chipotle and blaze pizza. These places essentially have no menus at all. You go, you tell them exactly what you want from a ton of toppings and sauces and whatever and boom. Their customers are not at all troubled that the restaurant puts no thought at all into creating dishes. If anything, their customers like that. It makes getting food a creative experience, not one where you enjoy the creativity of others.
Lots of folks play games that way.
I personally don’t get it. If you want to create, go for it. Cook at home. Learn to paint. Write poems. There’s lots of ways to create on your own. Why warp the art of others?
But to each their own.
Also an interesting idea! Along those lines, one could suggest that we play with toys to tell our own stories (generally, though of course kids also play out scenes from movies or whatever with their toys), but that we turn to art to experience someone else’s story.
And video games in some sense are kind of straddling the line there: are they art, telling us a story? Or are they toys we can move around and make our own stories with?
RPGs have always had this question, as I suppose all interactive art does. Is this MY thing, or am I just participating in someone else’s?
Perhaps relevant to this, have you looked at all at those blue markers on the map for player-created adventures within this game? I have completely ignored them, but Mr. O’ did one. He said it was an interesting concept but that the story he tried was not that great, and the visuals were not as smooth as in the main game. (I guess you can make your own story and use pre-created animation clips for it? Or something? I should probably look at one of them just so I have some idea what I’m actually talking about.)
“Here, make some of your own art inside our art!” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s kind of a cool idea. I’m sure some people have really good thoughts about stories and so forth, and make some cool stuff. I just can’t be bothered, either to make my own, or to care about someone else’s if it’s not part of the thing I actually paid for. I’ve got enough work just following up on stuff that was intentionally put into the main story of the main game. Don’t talk to me about random timed quests or fan content! Life is too short!
Yeah they added that feature and I’ve ignored it.
It’s not a new concept, really. PC modders have made content forever. Some dude made a twenty hour fully voiced quest line in Skyrim. Shit, Buttons got his start making Quake levels in college.*
Ubisoft is just kinda sorta allowing that in this game.
I dunno. Always seemed rather amateur. I don’t have time to play all the stuff the pros make. Don’t really have time for some dudes fetch quest.