Characters can often make or break the game. In the same way that I find it baffling when devs say that story doesn’t matter, I find it hard to wrap my idea that some people don’t think characters matter, because for me at least, they’re almost always one of the most important elements in any game. Whether your character is well-developed and full of personality like Geralt of Rivia or a vessel in which to place yourself like Gordon Freeman from the Half Life series or a little of both, one thing’s for sure – who they are matters. It’s the person whose eyes you’ll be seeing through (for first person povs) or whose perspective you’ll be viewing the world through (for third person) and personally, there’s nothing worse than an irritating or lacklustre main character. I don’t think that simply because the character doesn’t talk or the game doesn’t go into detail about their past, that automatically means the character’s uninteresting. Gordon Freeman might a silent protagonist, but rather than being boring he’s actually the more mysterious for it. You gain snippets of insight into who he is from how his long-time friends and acquaintances interact with him and what they say about him. Also, being able to put yourself in his shoes makes the game all the more immersive.
The same can be said for all the other characters in a game. A game with mediocre gameplay can be livened up with some interesting characters, whereas an otherwise excellent game with dull generic characters won’t really stick with me. Of course, I don’t mean to say that character development matters for every game, but even games like DotA 2 can be made better with interesting looking characters. So, here’s a list of my personal top 5 favourite characters of all time. These are characters that were invaluable in making the game a memorable experience in some way.
1. Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)
I bet this one comes as a huge shock to you doesn’t it? Obviously ‘Shepard’ encompasses many different choices and backgrounds, so your Shepard is probably pretty different from my Shepard. One thing’s for sure though, whether s/he is renegade or paragon and whatever decisions you made throughout the game, s/he is a badass. Being the saviour upon which the whole fate of the galaxy rests, you better believe Shepard can kick some ass. Shepard has become one of the most iconic video game characters ever created and the title is well deserved, in my opinion. Personally, there’s no character whose more inspiring to me than my Shepard (of course, I played paragon). There was a lot to look up to in the guy – he’s determined, kind, personable and just the kind of guy you’d want at your side when everything you know is about to end. Of course, the heroics and ass-kicking are all well and good, but its Shepard’s human side that made him or her truly endearing.
As you probably know, there are tons of characters I love from Mass Effect, so I’ll keep it at that, because otherwise this list would turn into ‘my top favourite characters from Mass Effect’. There are just too many amazing characters from that series and it’s too difficult to pick a few.
2. Vaas Montenegro (Far Cry 3)
Vaas is one of the main antagonists from Far Cry 3 and by far one of my favourite villain ever created. He’s the charming psychopath you love to hate, except it’s difficult to really hate him. The more you find out about his past, the more you pity him. He clearly has a disturbed mind, but it’s not hard to see that underneath it all is a great deal of raw pain. He’s reminds me of a rabid animal, except much more dangerous. What I love about him is that unlike other villains, he’s not afraid to show his vulnerability and it doesn’t take much to see that he’s incredibly insecure and deep down, a really sensitive person. In many ways he’s the mirror image of FC3’s protagonist and perhaps that’s why Jason hates him so much and why Vaas is so fixated on Jason, because they can see so much of themselves in each other.
Vaas feels like the essence of what Far Cry 3 is really about – you could take him at face value, but like the rest of the game, to get to the really interesting stuff you have to dig a little deeper. Vaas is one of the most well-developed and genuine villains that I’ve yet to come across. He has his own motives, thoughts and interests and he feels like a real person that you can find try to understand, although you’d probably fail.
3. GLaDOS (Portal 1 & 2)
GLaDOS is definitely another favourite antagonist of mine. Portal 1 & 2 wouldn’t have been what they were without her. It’s hard not to love her. She’s clever, cruel and brutally funny. In Portal 1, hers was almost the only voice you heard in the whole game and yet it never got boring. Her hatred for Chell and her constant digs at her weight and lack of parents made for some the sharpest burns I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. Her dark humour set the whole tone of the game and of the franchise. Portal 2 had an expanded cast, but GLaDOS continued to shine. In fact, I thought her lines were, in general, even better in the second installment.
At the same time, GLaDOS is an enigma. Does she feel real emotion? Should you feel sorry for her? Just keep in mind that she’s a super intelligent and extremely manipulative AI, so you’d better watch your back!
4. Atton Rand (Knights of the Old Republic 2)
Atton is one of the first people you meet in KotOR 2 and initially, he seems like your usual wise-cracking narcissistic smuggler (Han Solo anyone?) He’s a talented pilot, but seems fairly empty-headed. Predictably he’s into drinking, women and gambling. He’s not the most reliable person, but he’s pretty solid in a fight. Soon though, you discover that Jedi mind tricks don’t work on him – an unusual skill for a regular pilot. And the more you learn about him, the more interesting he becomes. There’s more to Atton than meets the eye, if you care to find out. Although he’s only one of many on your squad, I wouldn’t underestimate or ignore him. Also, even though he tends to hide behind bravado and humour, he turns out to be good friend and even a lover if you choose to go that way.
5. Smiling Jack (Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines)
Jack could not look more unassuming. In fact, he kind of looks like a bum. He’s also one of the first people you meet and he tells you much of what you need to know about being a vampire and his involvement in your life doesn’t end there. You gradually begin to learn he’s not what he seems and he might have more of a hand in the politics of the vampire underworld than it at first appears. He’s a loner and doesn’t play by anyone’s rules and although he could easily take over a leadership position, he chooses to watch from the sidelines. He’s also rumoured to have been a pirate in his human life and to be extremely old. In fact some of the those rumours seem to imply that he could be one of the most powerful vampires in existence. Is that true? You’ll have to find out for yourself! All I’ll tell you is that he seems to turn up in the strangest places and know everything. Jack’s always watching…