In this article, I’ll take a look at some examples of committing crimes in games and what punishment occurs. How are the jails and prisons depicted and does the punishment fit the crime committed?
Stop! Thief! Come back with my bread roll!
In many RPGs, there will be some punishment for stealing. Often, that will involve a stay in a jail or prison. Sometimes, it will just involve death. With stays in prisons sometimes resulting in you losing Attribute Points or Skills and death meaning losing game progress, you can be forgiven for trying to escape justice. Here’s a look at how some games handle crime and punishment and depict jails and prisons. First up, Divinity: Original Sin.
1) Divinity: Original Sin, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC
I’m rather late to the party with this one, having only just started playing it this month. So far, I’m loving it. It’s an incident that occurred whilst playing Divinity: Original Sin last night which inspired this article. I was just heading back to Lieutenant Selenia to collect a quest reward. Accidentally, I pick up the book on the desk in front of Lieutenant Selenia instead of clicking to speak with her.
I’m immediately frozen and then approached by a bunch of guards. I calmly explain to them that I accidentally picked up the book. However, they still demand 230 Gold as compensation for touching it. 230 Gold – for handling a book for a few seconds?! That’s a bit steep. I didn’t have 230 Gold on me, so I was sent to jail.
Whilst in jail, I see the option to offer the guard a 1000 Gold bribe to look the other way. I don’t have 1000 Gold on me. If I did, I would have paid the fine. I also don’t have any lockpicks. The guards were at least bright enough to take them from me before throwing me in jail.
After exploring the jail for a means to escape, I find a prison demon by examining a skeleton. He offers to release me if I’ll sacrifice a stat point. It took me a long while to earn the extra attribute points, so I’m not prepared to do this. I look for a way to just serve my sentence but lying down on the bed doesn’t trigger this. So, I find another solution: I bring my other three adventurers to the prison, kill the three guards on duty and free my imprisoned character. What started as a genuine accident has now escalated into murder.
Once I’m free from the jail, I wonder if somebody is going to say “Hey…aren’t you meant to be in jail for picking up a book?” or “Oh my God – he just killed some guards!” but nobody does. It is only the next day that I realise that I could have just teleported my jailed character to one of the waypoints. In my defence, it was late at night when I was playing this and I was too tired to think clearly. But such a defence will come as no comfort to the deceased guards’ family members.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Maybe it’s “If an adventurer says it’s just an accident, let them go.” Or perhaps it’s “You may need to hire more than three prison guards.”
2) Oblivion & Skyrim, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC
In the Elder Scrolls games such as Skyrim, both the guards and the civilians can go crazy over the slightest thing. I remember one time I accidentally stole some bread. Suddenly, the shop keeper drew a two-handed axe on me. The guards arrived. “Oh, good! They’re going to tell this psycho that he can’t chop of my head for taking some bread.” But no, the guards were on his side and asked me to pay a fine. After I refused, I was chased through the town. As well as every guard in the town turning on me, some random civilians join in.
I manged to escape the town but the guards don’t give up! I’m pursued for miles over some bread that I didn’t even want in the first place! If all the guards took arrows to the knee, how come they can still run so fast? It took a while but I finally managed to lose them. When the law is this extreme, is it any wonder that so many people join the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood?
3) Prison Architect, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Android & iOS
In Prison Architect, the tables are turned. Instead of being locked in a prison, it’s up to you to construct and run a maximum security prison. Will you be a nice prison that’s more like a hotel, where each prisoner gets a games console? Or will it be a tough prison with even tougher guards? With a limited budget, decisions such as how many guards to hire and cameras to install can be key. But cut too many corners and there may be a riot…which could be messy and expensive. It’s a challenging title and a fun little indie game.
4) Criminal Girls: Invite Only, PS Vita
Criminal Girls: Invite Only tells the story of a young man who is sent to hell as an Instructor to save the souls of criminals who have thrown away their lives to sin. The seven delinquents each represent one of the seven sins. Each of the criminals is female and the main character teaches them about trust, love, and healing through acts such as spanking, whipping and electrocuting the girls. It seems like such acts can only be performed when the criminals have removed some of their clothes. Wait – what? Are you sure that it’s an effective method of rehabilitation? Couldn’t we offer them some counselling instead? No? Well, if there’s really no other way…
5) Batman: Arkham series, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC & Wii U
I had a discussion with my wife about the morality of Batman the other day. In Gotham, it seems that the prisons are all rubbish, as is Arkham Asylum. Batman captures dangerous criminals such as The Joker and Bane. They break out and kill a load more people. He captures them again. Rinse, repeat. No matter what lengths you go to in order to kill the criminals in the Arkham Asylum games, when you examine the bodies it says they’re unconscious. What – I just threw him off a tall building! How did he survive?!
With criminals so dangerous, a corrupt police service and prisons and asylums incapable of keeping prisoner locked up, wouldn’t it be better if they were just killed? Either Batman could do it himself or if he’s too squeamish then they could have the death penalty in Gotham City. Should you let them live if you know they’ll kill a load of people again? Please note that in real-life I’m not an advocate for the death penalty but in real-life you’re not dealing with super villains and prisons with a revolving door policy. Perhaps The Punisher has the right idea after all…
Can you think of examples where the prison game mechanic worked well? Do you have a favourite prison in a game? Please comment below and let us know.
So, I hope that you liked this article. If so, you may be interested in the Darkest Dungeon: The Color of Madness DLC article. Alternatively, you could read the Divinity: Original Sin 2 – 10 Changes We Want article instead.