I like a bit of back story but my eyes tend to glaze over at wall of text or wall of speech cut scenes so when I saw others lauding the depth of the story in Dragon Age I thought "Yea, yea I'll probably just skip through those bits". However I am hugely impressed by a moral dilemma the game has just posed me. The basic choice I need to make is whether or not to kill a child and while it is clear that my decision will influence the path of the game substantially the choice turns out to be a many layered one whose exact outcomes are hard to predict.This in turn leads to substantial moral ambiguity as to what choices are good and what choices are evil. How far we have come from the simplistic "Paragon of Virtue" versus "Spawn of Satan" moral dichotomy that used to be the staple of crpgs.
The background to my decision is this:
[BIG WOBBLY SPOILER ALERT]After helping the villagers of Redcliffe fend off waves of undead zombies I have traced the source of the outbreak to the local lord's son who happens to be possessed by a demon. I am assured that the simplest way to end the scourge is to slay the boy child. The mother pleads for her son's life so I search further and discover that she is actually to blame because she tried to hide her son's developing magical talent from the Circle of Mages who might have taken him away and taught him to use magic safely. Instead she hired some renegade wizard to try and tutor him in secret and with disastrous results. Did I mention that this wizard was actually an assassin sent to poison her husband the lord? Well I had met him earlier in the dungeons where he was thrown after being found out but conniving me had let him out hoping to recruit him to my band of adventurers (mages are awesomely powerful in this game). He actually ran off when I invited him to join me but popped up again as I was contemplating whether or not to kill the boy with the "good news" that it might be possible to slay the demon without killing the boy if I let him use the forbidden diabolical "Blood Magic" that he practises in secret. The only problem is he will have to sacrifice a living victim to weave this spell. The tearful mother immediately offers her life to save the child's. This seems a pretty fair deal given her role in the tragedy but I make further inquiries: Can I slay the demon without harming either mother or child? Well apparently there may be a way if I can convince a whole troupe of mages from the Circle itself to intervene.
I will probably try the Circle of Mages route even though it seems like the most complicated but just to see what happens I went ahead and confronted the Demon/Boy. After an epic battle the child lies on the floor near death but my moral dilemma doesn't end here. The sobbing mother comes in and holds her dying child. She asks me to leave the room for a few minutes so that she can put him to rest peacefully. Can I trust her to go through with it? The demon is waiting just below the surface looking for a chance to escape. Should I not just deliver the coup de grace myself. Choice choices.
[END OF SPOILER ALERT]