Morality, otherwise known as karma or honor, has been a system best used in video games for a good couple of decades now. Its purpose is simple: to give players the choice to become whoever it is they want to become. It also adds layers to what would otherwise be a one-and-done experience, too. What we mean is, a well built morality system can provide a good amount of replayability—something every studio strives to achieve.
Sure enough, we've seen countless morality and karma systems come to flourish over the years. Curious to know which ones have had us hooked the most, though? If so, read on for all of our highest ranking good cop, bad cop titles.
5. Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 employs one of the greatest morality systems in gaming, a statement that has been supported by millions for the best part of four years now. Honor, as it's known, is something that can be either gained or lost depending on the choices you make as Arthur Morgan, the rebellious cowboy who sits on the right hand of Dutch's Boys. It's with said Honor that, depending on which side of the scale you sit on, determines the ending. So, quite clearly an instrumental part of the overall narrative.
Like a lot of things in life, certain activities reward you with Honor; the more morally righteous the deed, the higher the Honor output. It's because of this that the fifty-hour campaign can be experienced not just the once, but twice. And it's because of the vast array of outcomes that bind to each mission that no two sessions are identical. Bottom line is, for a $70 game, you get way more bang for your buck than most triple-A titles—and it's mostly thanks to its all-powerful morality system.
4. Fable (Series)
Fable has long been a fan of morality systems and basing its worlds around the choices players make throughout its journeys. As the Hero of Albion—a magic-wielding warrior with the power to shape the future of the continent—you can choose to pursue one of two paths: a pure one, which gradually wins over the hearts of the people, or an evil one, which does the polar opposite, effectively making you the most hated person in all the land.
Fable 3, as an example, gives you the chance to play as either the King or Queen of Albion. As such, you have the power and resources to either make or break promises; each one you act on will either transform Albion into something prosperous, or whittle it down to a cesspit of greed and misfortune. It's your role, as its leader, to carve the future that best suits your style. Question is, would you rather the halo, or the horns?
Infamous is best known for its two winding pathways, both of which alter the general aesthetic of the open-world setting. In the campaign, you find yourself both blessed and cursed with electricity-based superpowers shortly after the world succumbs to a citywide explosion that leaves its districts without power and left in constant turmoil. It's your role during the immediate aftermath to restore both power and balance to the gridlocked metropolis. Again, how you decide to shape the world around you all boils down to the actions you make and the powers you pursue.
As you progress deeper into Infamous' story, Cole McGrath's actions slowly begin to morph the city into either a revitalized haven for the community, or a cesspit for the narrow-minded and morally bankrupt. It's because of how well the world evolves around your actions that Sucker Punch has really built something worthwhile. And honestly, if you're a fan of playing the evil supervillain in an alternate reality, then you'll definitely enjoy Infamous.
2. Mass Effect (Series)
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, then scrub through Mass Effect and you'll see just exactly how heavy said world is. This is simply down to the fact that every choice you make as Commander Shepard is strewn with consequences, both good and bad. As you progress deeper into its intergalactic tale and unravel its primary narrative points, each of these actions will lay the foundations for the next chapter, and so on and so forth.
Mass Effect, in its entirety, is arguably one of the greatest sagas in the history of gaming. What makes it the bastion of pride for the community, though, is its dynamism; its ability to adapt. As no two sessions are ever the same, you'll never grow weary of the stories or characters it portrays. In short, it's an open book, and its numerous chapters are so loaded with script that you'll never read the same story twice. Is its morality system one of the best of all time? It's certainly up there, for sure.
1. L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire delivers a solid morality system that is, quite frankly, superior to a lot of games on the market. It's superior simply because, well, it doesn't rely on mere repetition to steer it in either direction. On the contrary, the morality slider is dependent on a number of factors, most notably the suspects you choose to incarcerate and the dialogue you select during interrogations.
Unfortunately, L.A. Noire won't let you know whether or not you've made the correct decisions, but it will rank them at the end of each case. It's your role as Los Angeles' primary detective to navigate your moral compass and do what's right by the citizens. How you go about doing that, of course, depends entirely on your intuitive mind and ability to read emotions. Question is, are the two strong enough to make a real difference in a predominantly crook-filled city?
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five morality systems? Are there any games we missed out on? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.