The balance between having the player agency and the story the author wants to tell?

There was this old game (dont ask the name of it, i can barely remember it. Suffice to say, it was one of those "abandonware" games that needed more than DOS Box to make it work) that was about a creature trying to make its own way on life by making up its own moral code and stick to it (they even said "┘bermench" in the intro. Maybe an ┘ber in training?) And, just like a roleplaying game, you could choose between adopting an existing philosophy (Utilitarianism, Pacifism, Gnosticism, etc)you want to play as, in hopes that the Strong Will of the protagonist will revitalize them and give them a new meaning (like for example choosing Utilitarianism, a philoshopy that Nietzsche hated for being a rehash of the same (Christian) version of good and evil in a secular society (e.g., Immanuel Kant's Categorial Imperative, and Utilitarianism), instead of facing the amorality of the modern science-oriented world), or you can do something like The Elder Scrolls, where you get a bunch of questions and depending on how you answer a "moral class" (so to speak) is selected from you selections.

Enemies can be killed in a tons of ways, but if you want to stick to the moral you selected then you have to defeat them a certain way that doesnt break your rules.

For example, if you are an Utilitarian, you will have to make deal with the enemies in order to make everyone happy as possible (the happiness of one group cannot undermine others in the WORLD, and viceverza) or you can either study their biology in order to strike a part of their body that, if applied a precice strike (like Fist of The North Star), it can release constant pleasure on the body, making them happy and harmless for the rest of the game. Some enemies are just mindless creatures that are scared and want to be back home or near the element they feel safe, so you can use some magic on (lets say fire on a fire elemental) in order to make it stop harming people and you.

If you are a Pacifist, you will have to intimidate them into surrendering, steal their weapons to make sure they dont harm anyone, or charm them into abandoning their ways (you can even make them join your quest by sticking to your morals)

If you are Gnostic (or a made up version of it, because ┘bermench are supposed to make their own path rather than seek being "one with god"), then you have to practise philanthropy to the point of personal poverty and sexual abstinance. You try to convince others of seeking enlightment by choosing their own path in life (so you are kinda an ┘bermench with the moral code of making the world a better place by enlighten people into becoming ┘bermenchs too)

Yeah, its one of those games.

What has ALL of this to do with the title? well....remember how a game like Super Metroid gave you one objective for the whole game and it was up to you to get there? this game is sort of like that but it thinks that we care about the protagonist just enough to follow the moral you choose. Ignoring the moral bullshit its actually more fun because you already have all the spells, weapons and wealth at the beginning of the game, but you are just not using them because the protagonist wants to follow its own path in life (i suppose that, since the protagonist is the strongest and smartest (as we are told) it can affort it). Its basically what Dishonored had as a problem, the High Chaos is more fun because you can kill everyone in ALL sort of manners, but Low Chaos needs you to be stealthy and use non lethal methods that are both poorly designed and not as fun (at least not compared to Thief)

But guess what? if you dont do that you get the bad ending. It may seem obvious but the game doesnt penalise you for dissobeying your own rules, it doesnt even tell you that you are doing something wrong, so you may think that the game doesnt actually care about it and the "moral" thing is just roleplay for the sake of roleplay. But then you get a point in the story where someone was actually following you around, overpowers you, and feels the need to "judge" you if you actually are worth a damn depending on how strong willed you are by following your rules. Fuck up at least once and bad ending for you (it is basically the same thing that old Sierra games had, the "you forgot to bring this one item? sucks to be you, the game is unwinnable")

It is clear that the author WANTED us to care about the protagonist and be charmed with its intelligence and skills to the point that it will make US, the audience, a willing participant into making the protagonist a better person by stricking to his rules. They wanted us to experience what it means to be someone that lives by its own rules and how sticking to those can be a tedious work for that kind of people. The problem arrises when the character development and character moments that would theorically charm us into obedience (like all ┘bermenchs are supposed to do, as the masses are supposed to follow him/her naturally with its charisma) are optional.

That is right, instead of having a cutscene and take away control from the player to establish the character so we can care about it, they leave everything optional. Basically, you can use the command of "talk" applied with yourself, to enter a Soliloquy mode where the protagonist talks to him/herself and elaborates on various topics that you can choose. The current situation, a character he saw, the enemies, what the solution of a puzle may be , so on and so forth.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soliloquy
Imagine a dialog box like Planescape Torment that appears with lots of options that you can talk to yourself, and gets updated depending of what you have written on your Journal. It reminds me of Edgeworth from Ace Attorney: Investigations "Logic Mode", but you dont have to use it to progress the plot, you can just use the old Point And Click Adventure game of "use everything in the inventory to see if it works"

Now, in this day and age, the mere idea of the author taking control over the cool parts or the story so we can pay attention to their beloved Magnus Opus (because we are totally incapable of paying attention without someone flashing something in front of us, for we evolved from the Goldfish apparently) is irritating. But here, i have to agree that, if the player doesnt feel like it, they will have no reason to adhere to the rules other than being a completionist and wants to see the endings beyond, because they dont care about the character enough to even indulge in the optional stuff. It will be like playing Mass Effect but nothing is explained to us and everything is in a log somewhere or in The Codex, because the story is tampering the shooty bits apparently.

They went out of their way to establish the protagonist as an ┘bermench and yet it failed convince us into adopting its mentality because its too boring, and even if the protagonist suffers like a motherfucker and we are supposed to feel sorry for it, we wouldn't care because no character was shown to us until its too late for us to notice the soliloquy feature, or we already made up in our head the character that this "silent" protagonist has and now is clashing with the one that the author intended for each "moral". And if we do it, then it wouldn't be because we agree with that mentality, it will be because there is nothing else to do if we dont follow it to a "T" and see the rest of the game.

Would you at least have a bunch of cutscenes telling you what to feel or the optional way it is handled here is the proper way to go, since videogames are supposed to let the audience choose their own experience? should the author take your control at least once in order to have the protagonist talk at least once, so we end up curious enough to indulge more into it?

PS: Sorry if this seems insufficient to dictate what game it was, i can barely remember how it was. The best i could do now is try to make sense to how or why the story was told the way it was.

EDIT1: Forgot to mention, doing quest or favors to people doesnt reward you at all. You do it for its own sake rather than obtaining a reward (why would you need a reward? you have everything but you just dont use it because of reasons)

 

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