GameCentral readers discuss the most memorable non-player characters, from Half-Life 2’s Alyx Vane to Mimir from God Of War.
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Xane, who wanted to know which NPC you like the most and why. What makes a memorable NPC and are there any that have elevated an otherwise mediocre game, or one so annoying it’s almost ruined a good one?
We had plenty of different answers but while it wasn’t always the same character from them, Uncharted and Mass Effect accounted for a sizeable number of letters. That and the Merchant from Resident Evil 4.
I’ll buy it at a high price
I was legitimately terrified nobody would offer this suggestion, so I had to write in to talk about the Resident Evil 4 merchant.
The hilarious absurdity derives from his unexplained appearance, his brilliantly delivered but small repertoire of classic lines, his various ridiculous locations, and the fact that he must only realistically have one customer in this game’s world. Which suggests Leon is being stalked by a sleazy faux cockney market stall reject who can’t seem to catch an entrepreneurial break for extremely obvious reasons. I’d love to see him on Dragon’s Den.
Runners up include Patches from the SoulsBorne games (sadly no treacherous cameo in Sekiro), Malo from Zelda: Twilight Princess (another merchant but one who’s a lot more cheeky and miserable), and the ultra camp builder in Zelda: Breath Of The Wild who insists on only employing people whose names end in ‘son’.
Since the sequel is coming up I’m going to go with Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2. For some reason some people don’t seem to like her, but I always found her hilarious. The voice-acting might have been kind of grating but that was kind of her character and I thought it worked really well. Especially as there was a tragic backstory underneath all the bravado that made here more than just a joke character.
I understand she’s going to be a lot older in the new game, so I’m interested to see how that works and if she’ll be just as crazy or perhaps more cynical.
I also really liked Claptrap, purely for the jokes, but they’d changed his voiceover this time. I just don’t see it being the same thing. These actors are the characters to me and I don’t think it ever works when you they’re just chopped and changed as if it doesn’t matter.
This might seem like an odd choice, but for some reason the first one that came to mind was Hank from Detroit: Become Human. But I think even GC, who didn’t really like the game would agree with me on this. The reason I pick him out is that it shows what a difference having a great actor makes, when you compare his performance with that of the other main characters.
You could argue that a lot of them are robots and whatever but Hank is so much more entertaining and emotional that it’s almost like he’s from another game. He also has one of the most varied set of fates available and I ended up getting him killed on my first run through. I felt so bad I went and did it again with different choices, which I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t Hank.
I think that’s the sign of a good character, when you’re playing a game you otherwise would’ve stopped with just to see them again and interact with them. If there’s a sequel it should be just Hank: Become Sober.
GC: He was definitely the best bit. Clancy Brown is always great.
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Everyone loves Garrus
I’d be surprised if I’m the only one to mention him, but I thoroughly enjoyed any and all of the interactions with Garrus from Mass Effect. It helps that I always thought the Turian species was the coolest looking in the game universe (although I also quite liked the Geth), but I liked the way the character’s warmth still came through, despite his often dry sense of humour and finely ‘calibrated’ delivery. The little Garrus/Shepard story mission in the Citadel DLC really made me feel like I was just hanging out with an old friend I’d know for years.
He was also pretty handy on the battlefield. I’d always like to take him with me for missions and felt genuinely guilty when I automatically selected him for the final assault in Mass Effect 3, unknowingly condemning him to an untimely and undeserved demise. I’d have happily marched all the human squad mates to their deaths if I’d known it would have meant a universe where Garrus could have lived out his days in peace, although that’s possibly just because I found Kaidan so annoying…
I’d also give a special mention to Farah from Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time. I’ve always felt like that whole game was almost perfect and regularly used to play through it in one sitting, just taking in the great level design and traversal mechanics, not to mention the sights and the atmosphere.
Unlike it’s unpleasantly angsty, law-of-diminishing-returns, sequels it was the character development of the initially brash and arrogant Prince that gave The Sands Of Time that extra dimension for me. His banter with the feisty and capable Farah made that feel believable. If memory serves she wasn’t just some scantily clad eye candy either, but felt like a vaguely believable person who was genuinely intrinsic to the game and the story it told.
I’d say my least favourite NPC in a game would be whichever main protagonist features in any given Metal Gear Solid: just press ‘X’ or wiggle thumbstick to watch another cut scene…
I didn’t want to be too obvious here so I will go for Sigrun Engel, the daughter of the main villain form Wolfenstein II. I love the new Wolfenstein games and Sigrun is the perfect embodiment of their bizarre mix of comedy and serious subject matter. She’s dressed in national dress and is initially played like comic relief – a cowardly, overweight idiot who her mother obviously despises.
But she joins the resistance and you see that she is actually a very sensitive and moral person and after taking one too many jibes from Grace I loved the bit where she fought back and demanded her respect. All the resistance characters in Wolfenstein are both absurd caricatures and surprisingly touching and realistic and I love how it all comes across.
Also, Sigrun’s sex scene is hilarious.
So many possible choices but I think I’ll go for Mimir in the new God of War. Not only were his stories really interesting but he had a great voice actor and he even managed a sort of character arc as he explained how he was power hungry when he was younger but was now much wiser.
I really liked him and looked forward to travelling over the lake just so he would start talking. God OF War was great at storytelling in general, that’s why it won all those rewards, and the only shame is there weren’t more of them. But I also really liked the two dwarves and Freya. They seemed like real people, not just because of the animation and acting but because they had proper motivations for what they were doing.
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Friend or foe
Ah, now what does that mean – best non-player character in a video game? Because that could technically refer to villains. I mean, just so long as the player can’t play as them, right?
If the Merchant from Resident Evil 4 does not at least get another mention then that will have been a crime. Just as criminal as Capcom having ignored one of their most iconic characters for so many years. You could almost accuse them of making him… a stranger! Huh? Huh? Do ya geddit?
I also loved Professor DJ K from the Jet Set Radio series. I don’t believe he has a real doctorate, nor is he the man to go to for advice if you should ever have a cockroach infestation, but that fool sure does play some sick tunes. Yeah, that’s right – sick.
But my absolute favourite goes to Sheogorath, your boss in the Shivering Isles expansion for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It’s cheese for everyone as you meet the Prince of Madness in his paradise for the insane and save it from turning into a grey, crystalline wasteland. Why, he’s so happy to see you that he could tear out your intestines and strangle you with them!
A slightly more benevolent version of the Joker – you hope – with the powers of a god, you feel he might at any time chop off you head just to see the expression on your face. To paraphrase another lovable, psychotic tyrant (Queen Elizabeth I, Blackadder II).
I can never wait to return to him to receive my rewards, my faint praise and veiled yet hopefully empty threats to my life. What an amazing character he is, you only had a small taste of him in the parent game – which was so bland and generic. But suddenly, the Shivering Isles comes along and you have humour, a world and people I actually want to save from harm, and a genuine feeling of belonging after drifting aimlessly through Cyrodill.
An amazing achievement, and still my favourite DLC expansion – though I haven’t played Citadel from Mass Effect 3. Just never got round to buying it. Though I doubt that it can compete with Shivering Isles, which was a whole new world to explore – and a fantastic one at that.
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