A Monster is You: Ambiguous Morality in Always Sometimes Monsters
Always Sometimes Monsters is an RPG that might look familiar, thanks to its RPG Maker origins, but it's unlike any RPG I've ever played. Within minutes of the game beginning you find your character alone, unemployed and on the verge of homelessness. The story is set in a not-quite-now United States of America with all the opportunity and peril that that entails.
With a single day to get $500 to save your apartment (and potentially your own ass) you are given a series of choices. Do you head down to your job at the club, hang with the band? Your friend's drug addict girlfriend turns up, should you drive her away before he sees her and risks all the effort he's put into rehab? If you take drugs off her, would you later sell them given the opportunity? You need a quick buck (or 500), after all.
Or should you help the little old lady next door, who will pay you for a little time helping her around the house? If she gives you her bank card and PIN to go shopping, would you empty her account?
These are the kinds of choices you'll encounter in the first twenty minutes or so of playing. Or you might take another path and be offered completely different options. Rob a grocery store. Save a lost dog. Rig an election. Win back the love of your life. Starve to death in an alley. One thing I really enjoyed about the game is that it always gives you a choice, even for the key events that seem fixed in the story there's leeway to follow your character's own personal morality.
The toughest part of Always Sometimes Monsters is that there are no right answers. And rarely any breaks. The NPCs will respond to your character in different ways depending on your gender, ethnicity, or sexuality. You can be the biggest White Knight in the world, but have the wrong face and you'll never get ahead. NPCs that claim to be your friends will turn on you, purely because their motivations have changed, or maybe just because they're a crappy person. In this world, "altruism" is a dirty word.
The first time I played I made my character choose the options that I thought were the right thing to do. I lost my apartment, slept on the street, ate out of dumpsters, got called a deadbeat a lot. And then, right when things looked like they'd go my way, I was betrayed by my closest friend and I died.
Next time I play through I'm planning on being a little less 'pure'. My gut instinct is that I'll die in-game sooner, but... honestly, I don't know. Maybe I need to be a little more monstrous.