Played my Bounty Hunter yesterday, while trying to catch up in story to a level where I could help my guildie with his leveling.
Came across a situation in the game that I’ve come across a few other times: I choose a dialogue option and my character acts completely OUT of character.
It just bumps me completely out of immersion and out of attachment to my character, because THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID.
The options were, freeze, kill, or tell Mako to do it. I chose freeze.
Why? Because I chose to freeze the whiny, arrogant daughter of a Sith Lord and deliver her back to her father despite how I personally felt about the woman, empathetically deducing that they really needed to have a talk. Because although I supported Mako’s desire to see the scum dead, I believe due to my own past that everyone, no matter what they’ve done, deserves a chance at redemption. I did all this in character.
I, the player, chose that option for intelligent, empathetic, emotional reasons. I expected my character to say something to justify her thinking, or at least have a choice in what to say next to justify asking Mako what Mako would do then deciding to go ahead and do something else.
Instead, my character insulted Mako’s intelligence and professionalism, and seemed to be completely without empathy or even intelligence herself!
I’ve spent hours building this character, some backstory, some idea of how she would act and what she would say in various circumstances. She’s my main in a way that the others can’t be. But now, there was no option to say what I would have said. I couldn’t hit esc in time because I was too shocked at the words coming out of her mouth being so completely WRONG, so the choice is locked in forever.
No save game to reload to do what I WOULD have done as that character, just forced down rails that ruined everything I’ve built up. Zero integrity, zero empathy, zero intelligence. Insulting my character’s best friend in the world, because BioWare built it that way, not because I chose it.
I, the player, feel detached from the outcome of that conversation. Like it happened to someone else. Apparently I was supposed to feel that killing him would have been the nicer option, but I don’t feel that. I feel betrayed, by words put in my mouth. I feel that immersion has been completely broken. I wonder what’s the point of playing a story when I will never understand what my character’s actually about to do? It would be like going to a fancy restaurant and only having the option to pick “hungry” or “not hungry” but if you pick “hungry” you tear the tablecloth off, break a bunch of dishes, and start trying to choke the waiter with it.
The character herself? Never said that. This never happened. What she said, was that everyone, no matter what they’ve done, deserves a chance at redemption, and she froze the target to deliver him alive. Yet Mako for some unexplained reason now doesn’t trust my Bounty Hunter as much anymore. The words Mako heard were words written by someone else that said “Mako you’re too stupid to be a professional, you can’t be so emotional.”
What. The. Hell.
That’s not what I said, Mako. Really.
Story-driven games only succeed where they give the player the illusion that there IS a choice in what they say and how they build their character. That illusion is completely broken when I can’t find an option to reset for something acceptable for what my character would have actually said and done. In this case, if my option is to give him a clean death or to insult my companion, the character would have chosen to give him a clean death. But I wasn’t given those as choices, I was given the simple option of freeze or kill, with the emotional content left completely up to idiotic writers who ignore everything I’ve done in the game prior to this that proves my character to be empathetic and intelligent!
This was the strength of BioWare’s singleplayer games. In KOTOR I could load a save and replay to do what I would have done in the first place if they’d shown actual understandable dialogue choices instead of some simple line that doesn’t mean much and can often be completely opposite because BioWare decided it was sarcastic or not based on pure whim.
In SWTOR, the limited information on dialogue choices gives no clue what the emotional content of the words is going to be. I often find myself hitting ESC to get out of saying something I wouldn’t have said, or resetting the quest completely. Light or dark choices don’t seem to have rhyme or reason to them, and the emotional content of the choices is often simply arbitrary.
But I can’t reset my story quest. The defining events and choices my character makes, are now permanently set to something she never said.
So do I live with my REAL choice, of giving the guy a chance, and then find out later on that BioWare’s decided my character is an unempathetic idiot, railroading my choices later on in the story to support something she never did? Or do I reroll the entire character and waste the hours I’ve invested in background history, crafting skills, gear, pvp valor, all of it, to try to take an acceptable option from the limited bullshit given to me?
Or do I trust that BioWare hasn’t thought out how my character’s choices impact her story at all, and none of this matters, and they’re just mocking their entire playerbase with the shallow pretense of roleplaying, while taking our money?
Somehow I doubt my reaction of disbelief and disconnection from the game is what they were going for.