There are a lot of RPGs out there, but very few where taking an evil route is actually a viable option. Most of the time in a video game taking the evil route is tantamount to ruining the entire game. At best, some video games allow you to make supposed evil decisions that make no difference at all. The best games allow you to be a truly despicable character and the game experience changes to match. Your decision to play an evil character should change the game, but not make it unplayable. It would be better if a game made you always play a heroic character instead of allowing you to play an evil character and then making the game more difficult or even unfinishable. I want to be able to occasionally play a truly despicable character and not suffer from a tripled difficulty.
I have played loads of role-playing games over the years, either as a video game or a traditional pen and paper game. Video games always fall short in the choice department, but here are a few that come close to the mark. My criteria for my evil game list is; it must allow an evil route for nearly every quest, your decision to play evil must make a difference or have consequences, the consequences should not make the game significantly more difficult than the heroic route, there should be some advantages to play as either hero or villain.
Fallout 3 is a great example of allowing you to play an evil character. It even has different dialogue and different endings based on your decisions. There are many side-quests where there is no advantage to being either hero or villain. There are even quests where either hero or villain receive a different reward based on what methods they use to accomplish a quest. Fallout 3 has a karma scale that shows you just how evil (or good) you are, but I found it to be unreliable at best. You gain karma everytime you kill an “evil” creature or NPC, and that includes raiders and supermutants, who are everywhere and try to kill you no matter who you are. It would have been better if you could bribe or even join the raiders, that would have been truly evil.
Fallout 2 is another good video game for those looking for an opportunity to play an evil character. There are some overbalanced consequences, but they are few. Most of the time, you can choose the evil route and expect similar rewards or advantages. There are even times when choosing evil leaves you better off than a hero would be. Lie, cheat, steal, murder and pillage your black heart out in the wasteland. The ending will change, and you’ll have bounty hunters after you, but the hero gets the same sort of treatment from the villains out there.
Another good example of a video game that makes evil viable is Fable. The choice between good and evil is at the very core of the entire game. Your appearance changes based on how good or evil you are, and even your skill choices are influenced by your alignment. There are mutually exclusive quests where you can choose one side or the other and even side-quests where you can choose an evil option to finish it. Much like other games however, killing monsters nets you points of good alignment. I guess killing monsters is a good deed whether you’re doing it for the people or just to survive. Overall, a good game to play an evil character.
Morrowind is yet another game where being an evil character won’t ruin the game. It just makes it play differently. In Morrowind you can even choose to be an assassin, there’s a guild for it and even a deity that will reward you for evil deeds. Add in that there is no alignment or karma and you get a game where playing evil is purely a matter of preference. You can finish quests in any way you can come up with, just be careful not to kill the wrong people. You never know when the person you just assassinated could have paid you more to kill the person who hired you. This is a great game for those wanting to be a true evil overlord, it even lets you wipe out some entire towns. Guards tend to re-spawn, but anyone else is fair game.
Champions: Return to Arms is another decent example of a game where evil is a viable option. It forces you to choose between a good or evil route right at the beginning. There aren’t any other times during the game when you make a moral decision, but it deserves a place on my list. The evil route through the game is more difficult than the heroic route, but only slightly. Many of the quests are exactly the same with only some changes in dialogue, but a few are completely different. The endings are different, and your home base is different, but at least playing evil is a viable option.
There are a lot of other games out there with an evil route but they don’t get a place on my list for many reasons. The most common reason is because while they may offer an evil route, it makes the game harder than anyone wants to deal with. Playing an evil character should be a choice that is just as viable for finishing the game as playing some goodie-two-shoes hero. I don’t mind being chased by authorities, so long as the hero gets chased by assassins. As a final word, I am aware that there are many more games out there with evil as a viable route, but these are the ones I have played and will recommend. As I play more, I’ll expand my list to include others.