A form of gameplay non-linearity, found mostly in Role-Playing Games
, wherein the player can beat individual levels or subquests, or even the entire game by sticking to one of the three playing styles:
Compare Fighter, Mage, Thief
. Contrast RPGs Equal Combat
and Useless Useful Non-Combat Abilities
, where non-combat paths are available in theory but rendered useless by the game design.
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- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey occasionally offers you the choice of talking, fighting, or sneaking around, especially when playing as Zoe (the other two protagonists are more action-oriented). However, the faulty implementation of the combat and stealth gameplay results in these options being generally harder to follow through.
RPG — Western
- The Fallout series was among the first games to have offered all three paths in most quests.
- In Deus Ex (and its sequels) you have the option of sneaking past enemies or fighting them and can often bypass areas by saying the right thing to the right people.
- In Planescape: Torment, Diplomacy is king, but Combat and Stealth are also available, because your starting class is always the Fighter but you can switch to Thief later on to bypass most of the fights.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has the three playing styles mentioned above, plus Magick and Technology, which allows your character to either cast spells or build and maintain items that complement those playstyles.
- Most quests in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines offer just stealth and combat paths, but diplomatic skills earn you a lot of other nifty bonuses.
- The Elder Scrolls mechanically offers Stealth and Two Flavors Of Combat. Diplomacy skills (the Speechcraft and Mercantile skills) are rolled into Stealth. While high Speechcraft can bypass some parts of some quests, most of the game will require that enemies end up dead or dodged. Speaking purely technically, it is possible for almost all combat to be replaced with "diplomacy" in the form of various spells (e.g. Calm, Charm, Command, etc.). In practice, any mage capable of usefully employing these on most opponents is likely capable of chain-nuking the entire building into ash anyway, as they are far more expensive and high-level than plain combat abilities.
- A Dance with Rogues usually offers all three paths, though stealth is preferred to combat (because you can only play as a rogue) and attempts at diplomacy more often than not inevitably lead to Sex for Services.
- One quest in Drakensang: The River of Time has you deal with a group of not-completely-evil pirates who plan to raid the local elven village. The Elves ask you to find a way to get rid of them—non-lethally if possible. Your three companions offer three solutions: kill the pirates (you get to loot all their stuff but the elves won't speak with you anymore), deceive them (the fastest and easiest way, requires a lot of charisma) and finally, negotiate with the elves (the longest but ultimately the most advantageous alternative).
- Comes up in the Geneforge series quite often. The diplomacy and stealth options often blur together and usually include use of the Mechanics skill to disable or subvert devices and pick locks, but there is almost always a way around combat for plotline quests and many sidequests.
- In the Hitman series, most missions/conflicts give you the options of run-and-gunning (at the risk of killing civilians), disguises (which sometimes let you access areas or talk to people whom you couldn't otherwise), or avoiding or evading conflict in the first place via stealth. However, as you are a Professional Killer, you will be expected to kill people at some point.
- The No One Lives Forever series generally encourages you to stay stealthy but the penalties for breaking stealth with guns blazing are not as high as in other stealth games, and at some points you are outright forced into open combat. All diplomacy is, however, delegated to cutscenes.