Okay everyone, lets take a new direction in this sea of complaints about lack of choice. We can't just keep complaining about how Carley died. I miss her too, she was a wonderful kind woman that always had my back in the game but we have to move on.
...You know, the way she refused to take any food so that Clem and I could eat was just so kind... and now she is dead. She's just... Dead. Why did that have to... have to... It's just not... I can't believe she's...
I'm... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have broken down like that. I just miss her so much... but... we have enough posts on that (I really, REALLY, wish she hadn't died though).
Okay. Lets do this.
I want to focus on another type of choice that doesn't matter. The "moral" choice that has no negative consequences. They really irritate me. This is a game that is all about having your actions result in consequences and yet sometimes you can make the moral choice that seems like it should be a hard one but it turns out that you don't get the negative aspect that said choice should inflict.
There are four that stood out in my mind and I would like to go over them, why I think they were bad and how they could be better. I'll list them in chronological order.
1. Sparing the lives of the cannibals.
The problem: There is nothing... wrong with not wanting to kill a person in cold blood. I don't mind that Clem looks at you in horror if you stab the guy with the pitchfork. I personally took the moral action because I just couldn't stomach that level of brutality.
That said, these are not run of the mill killers. They are serial murderers that eat the flesh of their victims and they have had quite a few of those before running into my group. Even the bandits don't seem to have sunk that low. Sure they traded the farm for meat but I notice that they have never tried to kill people for food themselves. If they bothered doing that why even trade with the farm in the first place? I doubt they even know what that meat comes from.
So what to do? In cannon, they are 'told it is over' and while your group leaves, the fence conveniently shuts off and a bunch of zombies, that seemed to be waiting for the power to go down, come in and eat them. Basically, you keep your hands clean while the bad guys still die like they so richly deserve to. Such a Disney movie solution isn't worthy of a hard edge game like this.
The Solution: Simply make their fate dependent on your group, rather then destiny. While I agree that you should have the option to let them live, the question becomes, what do we do with them now? This question was NEVER answered in the game because karma took care of them instead.
This is a cop-out. Don't make it fate that does them in, make it a group decision. After beating up the last guy, have Lee go to them and, as a group, you decide what to do with them. Your choices are starkly limited. You can kill them, imprison them, leave them alone or banish them. Lets go over these choices.
Killing them is a valid option. While Lee murdering them in cold blood can be seen as inapropriate, an execution would be a rightful end for this family. Their crimes are beyond the pale and they have CONFESSED to those crimes by deciding as a group, your group elevates itself beyond a linch mob into a real jury of your peers. It's not an outrageous punishment for the crimes committed.
Imprisoning them is possible, but difficult. The cell used to hold Lee could work but that is only if the group stayed at the farm, which they won't be doing. The motel is no way to go and, besides, these people will be eating valuable supplies. Imprisonment is not a valid option.
Leaving was the cannon choice. I suppose you can go that route but in that case, I don't think it's appropriate to have karma kill them. Just let them heal up and then they can start killing people again because that is EXACTLY what they would do if given the chance. These are not people that are going to turn a new leaf. Doing this would make you realize the consequences of being too soft hearted to do what needed to be done. These people are monsters and need to be stopped.
Banishment is my prefered choice. It's a simple adjustment over the cannon version. all you have to do is do to them what karma did. Destroy the farm. Get some torches and raze the home to the ground. Destroy the generators and set off some alarm that will bring the dead running. Do that and tell the brother standing that the other one is caught in a bear trap and if you don't hurry and free him he'll get eaten by the zombies.
This way you don't directly kill them but you destroy any chance they had of restarting their grizzly business. Doing THIS lets you be moral in letting them live while also accepting that you can't let them have any opportunity to do to others what they did to you ever again.
I think that works a heck of a lot better then letting karma do the job for you.
As a side note. I'm really annoyed that they left the cow behind. Such a waste.
2. Not stealing food
The problem: You find food but it doesn't belong to you. For the sake of simplifying the argument, we will assume that the food in the car hasn't itself, been stolen from someone else. This food totally belongs to the people that were driving the car and those people are still alive, for SURE. No chance of them having died after leaving the car. Nope, nope, nope. This being the case, you decide that it would be immoral to take it. What could possibly be wrong with that?
How about... PLENTY! In case you hadn't noticed, all your food and supplies are STOLEN in this game. In the first episode, that store everyone was inside? That didn't belong to them. If anyone could lay a claim to what was in that store, it was Lee. They spend their days roaming around the city, looting everything they can. Food, guns, clothing. Their shelter is stolen. That RV they fixed up? Doesn't belong to them. Until this car, not a person has given even a thought as to whether or not they have a right to take anything they find, until now (and no one ever cared again, so far at least).
However, what really makes this a true example of hypocrisy is that Lee and Clem WILL eat that food that was stolen. Oh, they won't bother carrying it to the motel, they may look down and feel superior to the rest because they didn't steal anything but when they look at the others with full bellies while they are wasting away, you better BELIEVE they will eat it. So in the end, they get to feel good for not having stolen something (which makes no sense because everything is stolen in this game, that is why they left Carley to guard their base) while still having benefited from it.
To every person that refuses to "steal" the food. Did you really think that situation through? Imagine that it was just you and Clem and you are starving and you see a bunch of food. Are you going to walk away from it? Are you going to let yourself and Clem starve to death because you wouldn't stoop to theft? Is that how you protect the girl in your care? The ONLY reason you don't die from your STUPIDITY is because everyone else stole the food for you. Of course Clem doesn't want to steal, she is a little girl. Kids don't understand the gray area of morality. YOU DO! Ask a 5 year old if it's okay to steal if you are starving and they will say 'no' because they know stealing is wrong. Ask an adult and they will be able to give a more complex answer. You have to make the hard decisions for her own good. Because she doesn't know what's best.
Gaaa, makes me so mad. You're all morally smug hypocrites that don't bother to think out how this plays out in context to the rest of the game or what the realistic consequences will be. Yet you look down on the people that would take that food. I call bullshit on that, none of you would fail to take the food if this game made you suffer the realistic results of your choice because it would be a big, fat, game over. You would be dead/incapacitated by the time episode 3 rolled around.
The solution: Forget not taking the food. That is a non-starter. You and your friends are all starving. Even if you could resist, your companions would NOT, so the food WILL be taken. Anyone that made the other choice is lying to themselves. Instead, look at it from the point of view of, 'is there is something I can do if the people this food belongs to COMES BACK?'
The answer is to leave a note. You apologize for the theft and tell them if they come to such and such address, WITH the note AND are able to tell what other item besides food was stolen (in this case, it would be the jumper Clem got, this way a random person wouldn't be able to pretend that it belonged to him) then they would be welcome to join the group and share the supplies. The rest may gripe, but you can guilt them into agreeing.
That's about the most you can do that is reasonable to offer. Possession is said to be 9/10ths of the law even today. In a world of zombies, the only thing that matters is your ability to hold onto what you have. However, stealing is still wrong so if you want to stay moral, you can at least offer to share what you took. The previous owners may not like it, but it's SOMETHING and a much better offer then the bandits would give.
3. Mercy kill for the women being eaten by zombies.
The problem: Nothing, at first glance. Taken in isolation, this is a great example of a moral choice. Kill the woman and you don't have time to get supplies. Don't kill her and you get the supplies but have to live with the guilt of making her suffer a horrific death.
However, once you look at this incident in context over the scope of the game, I can't help but notice something odd. It could be my memory is a bit faulty but I can't remember doing a mercy kill ONCE while a person was being attacked. I've gone out to save people from time to time and I don't deny that you are given the option to kill an already infected person (that isn't currently being attacked) before they turn BUT when the zombies get them, and rescue is impossible, that's it.
The most egregious example being the guy caught in the bear trap. If you take too long you have to leave him. However, did anyone even THINK to put a bullet in his brain so that he didn't have to suffer from zombies eating him?
Basically, I object to the game trying to make you feel guilty for behaving the way you ALWAYS have until this point. Trying to guilt me into making the moral action when I hadn't even thought twice about doing the exact same thing many times before. I do NOT appreciate it. I refuse to feel even a twinge of guilt because I feel that the mercy kill option is completely out of character, with the way the story has been written up until this point.
The solution: Fortunately, the answer to this is dead simple. Just add in some mercy kill scenes. When the bear trap guy is about to be left behind, shoot him. When Doug get dragged off by the zombies, Carley should shoot him. Same for death scenes. If Lee "dies" in the presence of an ally that happens to have a gun, they shoot him right after he gets bitten. Perhaps he even shoots himself.
If this is done, it establishes the baseline morality that states 'if you can't save them, you at least put them out of their misery'. Doing this would make the dilemma of the woman being eaten fit perfectly, in context of the story.
4. Banishing/Imprisoning Lilly.
The Problem: Lilly (that bitch) just killed my main gal, Carley. However, I have killed before as well. Do I have the right to banish Lilly, knowing that, alone, she is likely to be killed by zombies? Can I make that choice even though I am not any better?
OF COURSE I CAN!!! Aside from the fact that every single person in that RV wants to do the same, the fact is that killing a teamate is a 100% legitimate reason to kick someone out of the group, period. Remember, you have been hiding your past for precisely that reason. If Carley or Larry had decided to out you right from the start, do you really think you would be a part of that group?
The fact that you were given a second chance to redeem yourself from your bloody past does not mean you can or should do the same when Lilly kills a team member. Despite being a murderer, you avoided killing any of your teamates since you joined them. You didn't even go after Larry, who almost got you killed at the end of episode 1. Note that he didn't kill you himself though, he was just trying to kick you out of the group, just like you should be doing to Lilly now.
While Lee may have a shady past, he has put the group first and has earned some trust. Lilly, on the other hand, is a basket case. Ever since Larry died she has become more and more unhinged. If she stayed, there is no reason to think she wouldn't kill Ben too. Who knows what else? Killing Carley was the final straw. Keeping Lilly as an official team member is a danger that no sane person would make.
However, imprisonment is unfeasible. It MIGHT have been possible with the cannibal family but even then, it really wouldn't. They can't keep watch over her and feed her when their resources are so scarce. The idea that they could actually hold onto to her and bring her with them is laughable, which is why every survivor said they should have just left her on the road when asked. You are not making a moral choice by bringing her along, your choice is just plain stupid.
The solution: Forget about bringing her along. Out of all the decisions I can recall, including leaving the cannibals alive, that one is the most idiotic of the lot. Plus, it lead to the false hope that being nice to Lilly would lead to an actual major change in the storyline. Which meant it gave players a disappointment they didn't need to have.
The moral options should be whether to kill her or simply abandon her. After she kills Carley, have him disarm her take the gun and then decide whether or not to shoot her. The shock of the moment would be intense, even more so then when you found your legless friend. Stopping yourself from killing her, right after seeing Carley dead, would take a big effort of will. However, it's not the same as with the farmers. The farmers were serial murderers. Lilly, killed in the heat of the moment. A lot like you did. Add a flashback showing similarities to how the two crimes went down. Make the player ask if he really has the right to go that far, especially when everyone is watching. This would be a far more effective decision.
Killing her would also, finally, put to rest any possibility of anyone finding out you are a criminal. So the whole secret killer subplot can continue.
Okay, that's it. So what do you think? Agree, disagree? Can you think of any actions where a choice only involved benefits, no concequences?