A new developer’s diary showcasing the Heresy level of Dante’s Inferno has raised what is one of my biggest concerns- the morality of the game.
Not about the content, mind you. You can stack babies on scythes all day long for all I care, but I’m talking about the morality (or karma) system inside the game. Earlier this year when I went to the studio to play the game and talk with the developers, one thing that concerned me more than anything else was the simplified good/bad mechanic.
As you can see in the video below, at various points in the game you’ll run across various souls and will be able to choose their fate by simply pressing a button. All of the souls are either from Dante Aligheri’s real life or historical figures from the book (such as Pontius Pilate in the video) and while there should be a real moral question of whether you should Punish or Absolve them… there isn’t. While it’s similar to Bioshock‘s Kill or Save the girl dynamic where you pushed a button to determine the fate of the child (and your future powers), at least Bioshock had the sense of mind to make them otherwise adorable children. It was incredibly successful in manipulating you into feeling atrocious the first time you run across one and are presented with the choice. Here, it’s simply pushing a button with no real consequence besides your own selfish wants.
They’ve tried to drag this mechanic out into the rest of the game now, as combat will affect how good or evil you are as well. It also seems like they finally figured out what to do with the (then somewhat-useless) cross by incorporating it into the story- use it for the finishing move and you will absolve souls, rather than condemn them- ie, stack them up on your scythe.
Does this seem like a moral decision? You’re still destroying demons and lost souls by chopping them up with ridiculously gory and flashy moves, so are you going to feel better about obliterating them with your cross and knowing they’re in a better place?
It just feels half-assed. We all know that there’s not going to be much a chance of a moral decision when you’re playing an action game involving a Crusader who’s fighting off all manner of beasts on the way into the bowels of hell, but it could have been something special. It could have incorporated the characters more into the story, given you a reason for choosing their fate, instead of your own selfish reasons.
Don’t feel like I’m being completely down on the game. While the mechanics obviously completely ape God of War 3, the imagery and character design is amazing, some of the boss fights downright fantastic. The game plays very well and they’ve actually just announced that a demo will be in your hands next month, so you can see for yourselves.
It’s just sad that they aren’t trying to take it to another level with the story.