Jade Empire for the PC has once again caused me to question the way RPG's handle alignment. In the game you have two path's. Open palm and closed fist, with the ingame explenation being that neither are by themselves good or evil. That is all very nice but during the game itself that is never realized. Open palm is the nice hero, defender of the weak. The closed fist follower is little more then a pathetic jerk.
It is all the sadder because the main antagonist is such a true work of pure evil while he appears to be an open palm character for the main part of the game.
Master li, the grand strategists at first seems to be the one who opposes his evil brothers path, saving your own live and given you a home as well as countless other students, as well as siding with you against the bully Gao the Lesser.
When his true intentions are revealed this show that all his kindness was no more then acts to serve his own goals. True evil, BUT structured, sensible evil. Not the complete and utter madman/jerk/psycho your own closed fist options make you out to be. Follow the closed fist and not once do you even come close to his kind of grand evil. You will just be petty and small minded. Bah.
It ain't much better if you play a good character. You have to be polite! Who says politeness == good?
Actions count, not words.
The problem is with the limited amount of reactions you can show. One quest involves a mother and daughter you first meet leaving a town fallen upon hard times. You can warn them about slavers in the woods but they leave regardless. Later you find them captured, the daughter in the process of being broken for he new master.
What options could there be?
- NOT MY PROBLEM. Simple, what do I care about these people. Or is it? After all I warned them, told them to stay in town, a town I saved by the way so the problems they were fleeing went away. They not only did not listen to me, but also put no faith in me. So we have two decisions. One is, that I look out for number one and do not involve myself in things that don't affect me. (problem with this path is that it would make an amazingly short game "villain threathens the kindom", "not my problem" THE END). The other is that I did my part, if they will not listen they deserve what they get.
- The path of greater profit. What decission will gain me the most money. The slaver? The mother and daughter pair? Killing them all?
- The open palm/good path. Free the slaves, sure they remain weak because of it, because every wich way they turned, someone is willing to get them out of the effects of their own bad choices but hey, that is what being a good guy is all about. NWN2 has this to an extreme were you keep rescuing the same couple. BUT should I just free the slaves OR kill the slaver as well?
- The closed fist path. Have the slave girl kill her slaver. Freedom comes to those who are willing to fight for it. BUT again this can be deeper, do I step in if the fights goes the wrong way? After all there is a difference between being willing to fight for your freedom and actually being capable to do so. God helps those who help themselves BUT that doesn't mean you can't give a hand. Would letting the fight be fair, in wich case a large adult male slaver would probably win over a small young girl be fair?
Ah decissions. And what of the after effects. Would helping them out now, just lead them to get into yet more trouble later on? What effect has killing her slaver have on a young girl? It could make her strong, tell her that you can affect your own destiny and make into a person who will fight for justice and freedom. It could also tell her that everything can be yours at the point of a sword.
No wonder CRPG's take the easy path of just giving the player two simple choices.