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Friday, 21 August 2015

Editorial: The 5 Worst Bioware Characters.

Editorial: The 5 Worst Bioware Characters.

Look, they can't all be winners, right?

Bioware games have, when taken all together, a cast numbering hundreds - that's hundreds of personalities, agendas, goals, et cetera - and it's really only natural that some of them would be irritating, uninspiring, or just plain enraging. 

In honour of that, here are the 5 Worst Bioware Characters, to go along with that whole editorial we did on the 5 Best Bioware Characters.

5. Sera, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Sera sounds like a good idea on paper: An elf archer who not only despises all other elves and always seems about a hair's breadth from claiming that other elves deserve to be oppressed and/or the target of numerous religiously motivated genocides, but who also, in a game heavily concerned with politics, has a childlike and simplistic view of - wait, what am I talking about, Sera sounds like an utterly terrible idea on paper.

I'm not sure what Bioware was thinking when they wrote Sera, to be honest. Her 'let's look after the little people' angle is filled a lot more effectively by fellow rogues Cole and Varric, and even by - god help us all - fellow elf Solas and fellow party-member-I-don't-like-and-who-very-nearly-ended-up-on-this-list Blackwall. The remainder of her personality seems to have been filled out with 'lolz so random' humour that would probably be appealing to a fourteen year old. I mean, that's fine, there must be some fourteen year olds playing, right? 

(Oh, right, the game is, er, rated M. Never mind, then.)

It's a shame, because in battle she's probably one of the more useful party members. She and Varric occupy very similar niches, but Sera has an advantage over him in that she can actually use different bows, rather than the player being forced to use the rather odd, convoluted, and confusing upgrade system in the game. For many people, Sera might well be their go-to team rogue.

If they can tolerate her, which is, um. Up in the air?

4. Sagacious Zu, Jade Empire.

Sagacious Zu is the reason that Blackwall managed to escape this list, because I'd be saying much the same thing about them, seeing as they are, in essence, the same person. 

Like Blackwall, Sagacious Zu is an older gentleman who presents himself as a source of wisdom and pragmatic good reason, and is also incredibly, painfully boring and needs to leave post-haste. Like Blackwall, Zu has a dark secret in his past, and is not all he appears to be - and like Blackwall, the revelation of that secret utterly fails to make him interesting, and could probably be easily missed by a player if, like me, you used every cutscene involving the man as your prescribed time window for brewing coffee.

Zu ends up on this list instead of Blackwall for four reasons: Firstly, you have to have him join your party, whereas you can, if you so choose, never recruit Blackwall or actively turn him away; secondly, he's the original, predating Blackwall by a decade; thirdly, he is at least twenty percent more boring than Blackwall; and lastly, the game has the audacity to expect you to be sad when he dies.

I was not sad when he died. I'm not sure I even noticed on my first playthrough.

3. Javik, Mass Effect 3.

Javik, a DLC character for Mass Effect 3, is the last Prothean. Exciting, right? The last of an ancient, advanced alien civilisation. What can he tell us? Well, most of Javik's dialogue is devoted to sneering imperialism and vague speciesism, which is pretty disappointing.

I do recognise that that's kind of the point - that the Protheans, who were set up as great and wise forebears, turn out to be just as petty and flawed as anybody else. I get that, I do! What I don't get is that in a universe occupied by colourful and interesting species, Bioware decided that their one Prothean was going to be extremely boring.

I mean, if I wanted a few hours of humourless, sneering imperialism, I'd just contact the office of the local Tory candidate. I would do that. I don't have to start up my Xbox 360 and load up my copy of Mass Effect 3 for it.

2. Henpecked Hou, Jade Empire. 

Henpecked Hou, as you might guess from his name, is a man with a farm of particularly angry and violent chickens who regularly - ah, sorry, I accidentally turned over two pages there apparently. Henpecked Hou is actually a man with an overbearing wife (hence being 'henpecked' - you keep on being charming there, Bioware) who has forced him to become a bun seller, after crushing his twin dreams (fighting in the deadly arena and alcoholism) by poisoning him.

Because that's marriage, right? Just a ball and chain on your ankle who will spike your addiction of choice and then compel you into a life of servitude.

I wouldn't be so annoyed, save that that's Hou's entire character. He's as shallow as a child's paddling pool - he has that one joke (and it's not an especially new or original joke, let's be brutally honest here. It doesn't even qualify as an 'old classic', it's just an old joke that's never been particularly funny unless you get your comedic kicks out of people's lives being crushed, with an ample dosing of misogyny on top) and that's it.

That's not exactly the makings of a solid character, guys - and especially not when that character is functionally useless as a party member, as he doesn't fight and will just throw bottles at you that equip you with a 'drunken boxing' mode that's pretty much useless. I feel like I've ranted about this before on this blog? I have a tremendous feeling of deja-vu.

Oh, right, it's because he was on my list of most useless party members. Yeah, that's still true.

1. Anders, Dragon Age: Awakening and Dragon Age II. 

Look, I'm not saying that nobody likes Anders, I'm just saying that nobody should like Anders. Ever. 

Oddly enough, my reasons for thinking of this are largely not to do with the fact that his big, defining action in the games is blowing up a building to kill a metric ton of people, including the one person who had both the power and inclination to help the mages, and not including any of the people pushing for further violence against mages (like, for example, Meredith, who was decidedly not caught in the blast). 

No, no, my big problem with Anders is that he's clingy, jealous, spiteful, and obsessive. When you turn down the romantic advances of any of the other companions - including socially stunted, angry Fenris and spoiled rich boy Sebastien - they will back off without any hard feelings other than some generalised sadness. Not so for Anders, who is the only character in the game who will gain rivalry points with you if you do that. Not only that, but if you reject him early on in the game, he will hint at unrequited romantic feelings for you later on in the game, in a kind of doe-eyed, passive-aggressive fashion.

It's interesting that in a game where 'you can cleanly stop any romance at any time' is a game mechanic, Anders is the only character who it's impossible to just reject, but it fits: If you do romance him, Anders will admit that he has basically been obsessing over you since you first met, and hasn't said anything about it. That's pretty creepy all on its own.

Then there's the fact that Anders' views, on everything, are totally extreme - and I don't necessarily mean his views on the mages and the templars, which are, after all, shaped by Kirkwall's excessively brutal and abusive system. I mean that Anders very openly takes the viewpoint that anybody who doesn't agree with him deserves to suffer: If Fenris, who as a former resident of the Tevinter Imperium and a test subject for a magister rather dislikes mages, is returned to a life of slavery, do you know what Anders will do? He'll laugh and make jokes about it. 

(In fact, there's every suggestion that Anders actually doesn't like elves much at all, given that the boy will quite happily preach Chantry mythology at a Dalish elf as if it were fact.)

'But Murphy, how much of that is Anders and how much of that is Vengeance?' Well, in all honesty, I think it's pretty much all Anders - Anders is the one who corrupted Justice into Vengeance, after all, and while Vengeance might be exacerbating Anders' personality flaws, Anders was like this even before he was possessed - this is the person who proclaimed that he wanted to be able to hit people with lightning bolts at will (still not clear what percentage of that was a joke and what percentage of that was serious), and who repeatedly and obviously flirted with someone who wasn't interested (and another elf, at that).

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