Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth
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:
- Combat: Using in-game combat skills and battle tactics to kill every enemy in the way.
- Diplomacy: Using in-game social skills and Dialogue Trees to manipulate NPCs.
- Stealth: Actively avoiding the enemy and completing objectives from the shadows.
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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.
- 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.
- E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy most storyline mission involving human characters can solved with either speech (often by bribing or accepting another sidequest), combat, or stealth/combat.
- 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.
RPG — Western
- The Fallout series was among the first games to have offered all three paths in most quests. The playstyles are later refereed to Combat Boy, Science boy, and Stealth Boy.
- 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. Notable for the possibility of finishing the entire game with only one unavoidable combat (which is the zombie in the very beginning providing the combat tutorial).
- 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 (including seduction, subterfuge, intimidation and supernatural powers of Domination) earn you a lot of other nifty bonuses, as do hacking and security skills. Right up until the last levels where all your fancy skills become useless in endless dungeon crawls filled to the brim with enemies.
- 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.
- Divinity: Original Sin often offers the choice of sneaking past enemies who don't let you talk your way out of fighting them. However, combat is still the biggest source of XP in the game, and you will need those character levels for the endgame bosses.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition literally applies this trope in the form of the Inquisitor's War Table Advisers. The ex-Templar Commander Cullen Rutherford serves as Commander of the Inquisition, Lady Josephine Montilyet serves as Ambassador of the Inquisition, and the Left Hand of the Divine, Leliana, serves as the Inquisition's Spymaster. You can complete missions on the War Table by choosing an adviser to handle each one.