Today we are going to look at 3 types of stories and three games that show case these types of stories very well in my opinion. (Beware of Spoilers)
- Skyrim – fragmented player centric story
- Mass Effect – player choice driven
- Assassins Creed – linear story
While I personally have not beaten this game, I have spent several hundred hours combined playing Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Those games have similar types of story mechanics.
The fantasy games like Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim give little to no information about the player to leave it ambiguous enough for the player to fill it with their imagination. Ambiguousness is key in these types of stories because the player can be anything from a warrior to a mage and a lizard man to a furry cat like race.
Fallout on the other hand does provide some history as to who the person was. Fallout 3 you play as the hero from birth up until maturity. Once you reach maturity to leave the safety of your underground vault to explore the Washington wasteland. This game is more about taking a character given to you and moulding it the way you want to. This is similar to Fable’s story progression. You are a hero and you can either be bad or good. Fallout uses a karma system to do this. However the karma system didn’t have a huge impact on gameplay. In Fable your entire persona would be modified depending on your choices.
The story in these games are fragmented and sporadically placed. You always have a main quest objective, but whenever the player is exploring they have a chance of starting a new quest line. That is the greatest thing about this style of telling a story. Its more immersive because the player is in charge of completing tasks. In other RPG’s there are little quest statements that pop up and you must read and accept that quest.
Bethesda has made their quest system very dynamic and open. Sometimes you hear about a quest just by listening to an NPC conversation. If someone asks you to go pick up some useless item for them and you don’t want to, you can literally kill that NPC and end that quest line. There is a lot of freedom given to the player in this type of story telling.
Mass effect is known for its speech choice interactions. The player is in a social interaction with an NPC and they choose what to say. The game categorises the players choice in a karma system but they have Paragon and Renegade in place of positive and negative. Paragon would be the good intentions that are fairly selfless and morally correct. Renegade are more selfish and immoral choices.
The game does offer some grey areas that are not paragon or renegade choices. Later versions of the game have special scenes where the player is in a quick time event where they must quickly decide to do a paragon or renegade action.
The quick time events are a good way of advancing the story since they have the players first initial response that is most genuine. If someone is really annoying you, and you are trying to a nice person and do paragon actions yet you flick the right trigger to slap them in the face, it brings out your true emotions.
Mass Effect doesn’t give the player a huge role in determining the story, but the player does get to pick what path to take to reach the end of the game. Over the trilogy the choices the player makes have greater consequences. Some choices only effected the way some NPC’s viewed your character later choices affect the lives of hundreds of people and the extinction of some races. Even some of your crew members lives are at risk if the player picks a wrong choice.
This type of story telling is good when the game has a good story and world that the game designer wants to immerse the player in without using a completely open world. Many players who play open world games spend more time playing around in the sandbox then caring about the story.
This game offers a really interesting storyline in the first game that looses its meaning after the 3 sequels. They integrate their story in real world events questioning the way we look at the things around us. The plot becomes somewhat controversial not using the standard good vs evil approach. Instead they use the Assassins vs Templars approach. The Assassins fight for free will and oppose a ridged system of development for humankind. Templars believe that order is the only way for our species to realise its ultimate potential. The series is all about two shadow organisations fighting over centuries.
Assassins Creed is really good at setting up a epic story that has a lot of depth and creates several questions in the players head as to what is going on.
Granted that the first game had very linear and unchanging gameplay but they had a story with great depth and was epic enough to build an entire franchise out of it.
Thank you for reading