I've been playing Overlord, which I'm mostly enjoying, but I'm struck by the other problem with choice.
I talked about choice when I did my posts for Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic, and how it's most often handled quite badly, those games being the exception. Overlord handles it badly.
When you attempt to put meaningful moral choices into your game, there are three ways you can go wrong.
One: The choices aren't meaningful. Either the choice has no substantive effect on the story and gameplay, or the player is provided with no information on which to base their choice, effectively making it arbitrary.
Two: The game clearly indicates that there is a right choice and a wrong choice, where players who take the wrong choice are suckers. This can be due to an imbalance of in-game rewards, a less interesting plotline connected to one choice, or simply by the game making the player feel like a complete tool for picking the "wrong choice".
And three: the other problem with choice. Which is that "a wide range of moral conundrums" often just boils down to one decision, repeated ad nauseum: are you a good guy, or a bad guy? Sometimes it's whether to kill the prisoners or release them, and sometimes it's whether to bully the villagers or defend them, but they're not different choices, it's just the same one twice.
Games rarely make the middle ground interesting. Contextual morality isn't rewarded by game mechanics. If you look at Overlord's list of achievements you'll see one for "maximum corruption" and one for "minimum corruption" but there's no points to be had for "a fascinatingly complex character with an off-beat but internally consistent moral code". Once you've made your first decision to kill a peasant, you'd better stick to it or you'll be missing out on a lot of what makes Overlord worthwhile.
Overlord probably isn't the most appropriate target of my ire here; it's something of a special case, where it feels like the ability to not do evil was only inserted to make the core gameplay of "slaughtering every man-jack you see" feel more punchy. It's kind of the reverse of Mirror's Edge in that respect, where the ability to kill makes the choice not to more satisfying.
I'll have a full post about Overlord coming soon; I know you readers are slavering for my opinion of a two-and-a-half-year-old second-stringer game, and I intend to deliver. Stand by for updates.