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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Editorial: Top 5 Bioware Characters.

Editorial: Top 6 Bioware Characters.

Bioware has an impressive and diverse range of characters, the product of nearly a dozen highly story-driven RPGs, all of which have been met with at least some manner of success, whether it be commercial, critical, or both.

So, it makes sense that amongst those characters, there'd be a fair few gems, right? Characters that stick in your mind, that are engaging and fun and interesting to play with. A few terrible characters, too, but shhhh, that's for next week.

6. Sun Li, Jade Empire.

Spoiler alert: Sun Li, your old and wise dojo master in Jade Empire, is not a good guy. And actually, the foreshadowing for that comes pretty early, although you'd definitely be forgiven for missing it - the angry spirit you battle in the depths of the Spirit Cave is actually the murdered former dojo master, after all, driven mad and unable to clearly explain himself, and if you ask around the dojo and town, nobody is really sure how he came to be the dojo's master. That's not even getting started on how Li will only lift a finger to help people in danger when your life is at risk, or how everyone will remark that there's an almost imperceptible flaw in your fighting style (which Li later exploits).

Sun Li is a great character for me partly because I adore the treacherous mentor trope, and I have adored it ever since that one television miniseries about time travel that I've currently completely forgotten the name of; partly because of the fact that when you discover that Li is evil, his manner towards you doesn't change at all; and largely because after an entire game of having every villain follow the dark and chaotic Way of the Closed Fist, Li is very much a follower of the Way of the Open Palm, espousing order above all.

5. Varric, Dragon Age.

I'll be honest, I don't have a lot to say about Varric. He's fun, and that's the most important thing, but across two games he always comes off as a consummate equal to the protagonist, an honest voice amidst a sea of agendas and innuendoes, and that's very refreshing.

That's really it for Varric. Fun guy. I would have a drink with him - and so would everyone else, I think, whereas some people might be a bit more reluctant to take Sun Li down to their local pub, lest the establishment's entire staff and patronage end up embroiled in a twenty year evil scheme.

4. EDI, Mass Effect.

There was a bit of a battle between EDI and Garrus for this third spot, but EDI won out, by and large because I think that Bioware is often better at writing AIs than they are at actual fleshy people. What that says about Bioware, I don't know.

EDI is initially your ship's AI, a calm and friendly voice who absolutely doesn't want to kill everyone with a deadly neurotoxin. Over time, she ends up as a party member (one of my - less favoured plot turns), but more importantly, she also ends up developing more of a personality, developing a wicked and deadpan sense of humour, and a penchant for creative revenge (such as flooding the computer of someone who tried to hack her systems with porn).

EDI's development feels very natural (with the exception of her suddenly gaining a Conventionally Attractive Gynoid Body), and she ends up being one of Mass Effect's most memorable characters.

3. Mordin Solus, Mass Effect.

AKA: The reason why this is a list of six instead of five.

I had actually nearly forgotten about Mordin - it's been a while since I played any of the Mass Effect games, after all - but Mordin is definitely one of the most interesting characters of the lot. A fast-talking Salarian scientist whose character can best be summed up when he remarks "Lots of ways to help people. Sometimes heal patients. Sometimes execute dangerous people."

Mordin is a lot of fun, cheerfully giving Shepard advice about dalliances with different species, rambling at length about biochemistry, and occasionally singing Gilbert and Sullivan. He's also probably one of the most layered characters of the series, as his fast-talking all-about-efficiency slightly nervous scientist exterior hides a slightly more tortured scientist interior, as he is conflicted over his role in the creation of the galaxy's most infamous biological weapon.

Also, if you say that you didn't cry over "Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong," you are lying, and you have to stop lying. 

2. Vivienne, Dragon Age. 

A lot of people don't like Vivienne, and thus I do not like them, because Vivienne is amazing. She's a haughty, somewhat severe, regal Orlesian mage who is also a staunch supporter of the Circles, something that several other characters scoff at despite the fact that she's also a staunch supporter of sweeping reforms to that very same Circle system. 

Vivienne, naturally, is unaffected by said scoffery. In a game known for its cast of snarky, witty characters who oftentimes seem barely able to stand each other, Vivienne is the snarkiest and wittiest of them all, easily cutting down practically everyone who tries to insult her with a few well-placed remarks. Best (or saddest) of all to watch are the interactions between Blackwall and Vivienne - unlike, say, Solas or Dorian, Blackwall has little reason to dislike Vivienne, and yet he is constantly directing clumsy, spiteful remarks at her, only to be thoroughly humiliated every time.

What really puts Vivienne on this list, though, is not her wit. Rather, it's the fact that she's a deceptively warm person: While she's all jagged edges on the outside, she forms close and protective bonds with almost your entire party. Sweetest to watch are her interactions with burly qunari Iron Bull, who she becomes an almost motherly figure towards.

1. Legion, Mass Effect.

If you know me, then you knew the moment you saw the title of this editorial that this was coming. Hell, I even made an editorial months ago about how awesome Geth are.

Legion has everything I like about a character: A unique and interesting cultural viewpoint, a beguiling vulnerability hiding frightening competence, over a thousand different personalities working in tandem, and an enduring goodness to him. It. Them. Them, sorry.

It's impossible not to adore Legion, and I'll be honest, I did find myself wishing that they were a love interest. Legion is also one of the most apt demonstrations of something very odd but very true about Bioware: They do their best work when writing characters who aren't remotely human.

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