The Ten Worst BioWare NPC’s

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about BioWare games is the strong sense of camaraderie you get when you’re kickin’ it with your NPC buddies. Whether they’re intricately tied into the main quest, a sword or gun for hire, a devil may care traveling with you for excitement or treasure, or simply a bodyguard sworn to watch your back because they owe you a life debt, the NPC’s in BioWare RPG’s are usually quite enjoyable to hang out with.

Usually.

Admit it, there’s always at least one NPC in a BioWare RPG you neglect. Sometimes you just don’t need another specialist class on your team, or maybe you don’t care for the character’s stats, powers, or equipment restrictions. That’s all well and good, but in some instances the character in question gets ignored because they annoy the bejesus out of you and you can’t bear to be in their presence for one second longer than you have to. BioWare seems to have a pretty good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) track record of coming up with, shall we say, divisive NPC’s for your adventuring parties.

So ready your crossbows, blaster rifles, and Kessler pistols — here is my take on the most annoying and/or useless party members in BioWare RPG history.

10. Amy Rose (Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood)

Granted, this character was originally a Sega creation, but I’ll take any opportunity I can get  to bash the horde of horrible furries hanging on to Sonic’s coattails. Yes, there are actually worse characters that have been added to the Sonic canon over the years (Charmy Bee anyone?), but it all started to go downhill when this pink furred Jezebel showed up trying to woo our intrepid blue hedgehog away from his bro-mance with Knuckles and his Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson relationship with Tails. She’s already sullied Sega’s brand with her presence, now she sullies BioWare’s too.

09. Sky (Jade Empire)

I think I was against Sky from the start because he’s voiced by Cam Clarke. If you don’t know who that is, he’s the guy who does the samey, monotonous voice for every other random NPC villager or merchant or brigand in every RPG ever made featuring a voice cast. Inflection, cadence, nuance — these are words that have no meaning to Cam Clarke.  I hate to advocate putting a person out of work, but seriously game studios, stop hiring this guy. He can always fall back on the six hundred billion anime shows he does voice-over work for.

Regarding the character Sky specifically, well, he’s a bland goody two shoes. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: he’s a ‘dashing’ rogue with a heart of gold. How very original. To make matters worse, he’s doing this grieving widower trope which has popped up in one BioWare game too many for my liking. When I think grieving widower out for justice, I think of Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies, not some whingeing douchenozzle cosplaying as unmasked Sub-Zero.

08. Valygar Corthala (Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn)

He sounds like he’s taken too much Dramamine. And he’s intolerably dull. And if you happen to favor the evil or neutral path, he decides to start making veiled threats at you later in the game. As if he’s going to put you down with that wussy sword he’s packing.  Uhh… I’m the spawn of the Lord of Murder, buddy. You really want to mess with the Slayer? Really?!

07. Grunt (Mass Effect 2)


Grunt is a poor man’s Wrex. He wishes he could be as cool as Wrex. He wishes he could be as badass as Wrex. He wishes he was 1/10 the sexy Krogan beast Wrex is.

He’s not.

06. Juhani (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

Juhani is one of the most pointless characters in all BioWare games. Although she doesn’t annoy me like other characters on this list, she is wholly unremarkable and serves no purpose in the overall plot (the character and her small amount of content was originally cut from the game before being reintroduced very late in production for some strange reason). Her big drawing point that we’re all supposed to stop and marvel at is that she’s gay. Oooh! How very edgy and adult of you, BioWare!

The first time I played KoTOR, I completely missed recruiting her into the party. That’s because I killed her. So mundane is the initial encounter with her, I mistook her for just another red shirt destined to be cut down with my twin vibroblades. It was only later that I figured out she could be ‘redeemed’ and recruited into your group. You’re not missing much by leaving her behind though.

05. Garrick (Baldur’s Gate)

Listen here, Garrick. I only took you on because I had an empty spot in my party early on and I need all the sword blockers I can get. But I swear, if I ask you to move over there or use your wimpy bard song ability and you respond with that smug “Yes, siiiiirrrrrrr.” one more time I’m going to sell you to the nearest temple of Cyric so you can be sacrificed in the most horrific, bloody, barbaric fashion imaginable. Capice?

Oh, and while we’re at it, lose that “Once more, unto the breach, dear friends!” battlecry you’re always blurting out. King Henry, you are not.

04. Haer’Dalis (Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn)

Speaking of an annoying voiceset for a bard… Click on Haer’Dalis for the first time and you’re likely to be greeted with something along the lines of:

This sparrow is ready to fly. At your command, of course.

Uh? Say what? *clicks again*

Readier than a red-cheeked maiden, my friend!

What?! Get out of my party, you poncy tiefling prat! You fight like an anemic newt and need to be resurrected every five minutes, anyway.

03. Carth Onasi (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

For a long time, Carth was the epitome of whiny BioWare characters. Pick an option that favors the Dark Side, and Carth whines about your decision.

Okay, you say to yourself, I’ll try and appease the guy — here’s a nice Light Side decision.

Nope. Carth still whines at you about it being dangerous or ‘not having a good feeling about this‘ or some nonsense.

Geez, what’s with this guy? Alright, I’ll take the middle, neutral path and see if he’d prefer that. He is the lamest of wannabe Han Solos, after all. Scoundrels like dealing in shades of grey.

AND YET CARTH STILL WHINES!

How is this wussy a war hero, exactly?

02. Minsc (Baldur’s Gate & Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn)

Much to my chagrin, Minsc is perhaps the most popular NPC in the Baldur’s Gate games. This boggles the mind. I get that people like him strictly from a gamer’s perspective. He has great stats for a warrior class and you can equip him with damn near any two-handed weapon and armor set and watch him wade through beholders and liches like there was no tomorrow.

That’s great and all, but has no one ever noticed how goddamn annoying this guy is? I find myself reaching for the mute button every time Minsc starts waffling on about what Boo says he should do, or “Butt-kicking for goodness!“. The ‘crazyman talking to his pet space hamster’ routine is cute for about five minutes but it gets old FAST. He’s like that kid in junior high school who sits at the back of the room making fart noises under his armpit and doing stupid voices every time the teacher tries to speak. You might find yourself giggling on the first day of school despite yourself, but when the stupid kid is doing his routine six weeks into school, you find yourself dreading going back to that class.

01. Alistair (Dragon Age: Origins)

Oh, Alistair. How I hate thee.

In short, the biggest Gary Stu man-child dipshit you’re ever likely to come across in a BioWare game. I’m convinced he exists solely to draw in fawning teenage fangirls who think characters like this are so dreamy.

This guy irritates me to no end. Whether it’s his shitty immersion-breaking jokes, his holier than thou attitude, or his incessant moping over the loss of his mentor Duncan (a guy he knew for all of six months), there’s not much Alistair can do right in my eyes. But for me the final straw, the act that pushes him firmly into the land of whiny, crybaby emo wieners is towards the end of the game, when you finally come up against pseudo-nemesis Loghain (I say ‘pseudo’ because the real big bad is the Archdemon).

Personally, I think Loghain is just a misunderstood general. There’s plenty of throwaway lines of dialogue in the game to suggest that the field was clearly lost when he turned the rest of the army around and left King Cailan to rot. (And just as an aside, the king deserved to have his army routed and get slaughtered. What kind of fucking idiot leader has a massive fortress designed to withstand siege and decides to just blindly charge out of the front gate into the oncoming swarm?) Loghain is not an evil man, he’s just got a bad case of tunnel vision when it comes to the best interests of the land. In that respect, he’s kinda like George Dubya, isn’t he? Unpopular wartime decisions with the belief it serves the greater good? Yeah, I can see Loghain in the President Bush role.

So if that’s the comparison we’re going for, then Alistair is a prick of the highest order like Michael Moore, so blindly outraged he won’t accept that ‘the Man’ could possibly do any good, even if the evidence slaps him in the face. Say you manage to defeat Loghain and, being a chivalrous sort and all, you spare his life. Well, that doesn’t sit well with baby Alistair, who throws a hissy fit of epic proportions.  He claims that you can’t allow a tyrant to live. The alleged pious and noble ex-Templar demands blood! Revenge in the guise of capitol punishment! That’s not being a hypocrite at all, is it? A suggestion is then made that perhaps Loghain could be inducted into the Grey Wardens. He’s still a highly skilled warrior and brilliant military mind, after all. And he’d be under oath to serve the Wardens no matter what. Wouldn’t that serve the greater good, Alistair?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!” Alistair says, now throwing his rattle out of the pram. “I WON’T STAND NEXT TO THIS MAN AS A BROTHER, WAAAAH!!! I’M LEAVING!

Uh… the fuck you are, Alistair.

WHADDYA MEAN?!!! I THOUGHT WE WUZ BUDDIES?!” Alistair whines.

You’ve seriously tested my patience for the last time, you little turd. And apparently you’re too dangerous to leave alive. Rebellions could be raised in your name to besmirch the honor of the good Queen Anora. Or something. Whatever. Have this brainless meatshield taken to the dungeons to be executed. Make sure to cut his balls off first. If he has any.

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Just to show I’m not anti-BioWare, next time I’ll be running down a list of some of my favorite BioWare characters. Stay tuned.

Favorite Games of 2011

This won’t be your typical best games of the year type of list. I don’t work in the games journalism industry (such as it is), so I’m not afforded the luxury of free copies of all the latest and greatest releases. I freely admit I didn’t get around to playing everything released in 2011, either because of disinterest on my part (see Battlefield and/or Call of Duty) or because I’m dirt poor and have to occasionally use money for silly things like food instead of gaming. So with that boring disclaimer out of the way, here’s the rundown…

A Few of My Favorite Games of 2011:

Honorable mentions: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Football Manager 2012, Gemini Rue


Mortal Kombat

Yeah, the Mortal Kombat series has seen its share of ups and, well, mostly downs since its heyday (MK II, according to most), but last year’s revival put the series back on track. First and foremost, it’s a solid fighter. Abandoning the unpopular shtick of having multiple fighting styles, the latest MK sticks to the routine that brought it to the dance: mindless violence, boobs, “Toasties”, and the ability to spam your special moves to your heart’s content. If you remember Scorpion’s spear move or Raiden’s pulverizing Superman dive, you’ll quickly feel right at home with MK9. Individual fatalities are back and are more ridiculously bloody than ever (albeit in a silly B-movie kind of way, which is perfectly fine by me). Different play modes, including intense multiplayer tag team matches, adds life to the game.

The story in the MK games has always been fairly interesting and seemingly important to the developers over the years. MK9 brings the plot full circle with a complete story mode, separate to the arcade mode, which explains the magic reboot of the MK-verse in a manner that should actually please fans instead of enraging them (as reboots are wont to). Some have said story mode is the best thing about this game, a notion I don’t necessarily agree with (once you finish it, you more than likely won’t play through it again), but I do agree that it’s some damn good gaming while it lasts.

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Batman: Arkham City

I only recently got a copy of this game for X-mas, but it was definitely worth the wait. I love a good beat ‘em up, and these recent Batman games are bringing the classic genre back in some style. It helps that Arkham City is hands-down the definitive statement on the Bat-universe. Even great comics like The Killing Joke or The Dark Knight Returns had little niggles or points of contention here and there that fans could take issue with. The same could be said of the Tim Burton or Chris Nolan movies. But I can’t find a single fault in Arkham City‘s presentation of the Batman property. The music, the foggy neon glow of the city, the gadgets, the tremendous voice acting, the attitude and ambiance… I could go on. Everything from top to bottom in this game is firing on all cylinders. I somehow doubt it can be topped by the inevitable sequel, but no need to dwell on that now when we can spend hours gliding around the wintry Gotham night.

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Jamestown

I happened upon Jamestown thanks to the Humble Indie Bundle #4. I had no idea what it was beforehand but found myself pleasantly surprised to discover a very solid shoot ‘em up with vibrant graphics and a kickass soundtrack courtesy of Chilean composer Francisco Cerda. What really sold the game for me though was the fun multiplayer mode, which allowed me some bonding time with my fiancee (who is more of an RPG player but still seemed to enjoy it).

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FIFA 12

My favorite sports game in quite some time. The action in FIFA 12 can sometimes come eerily close to matching the ebb and flow of a real game, and the new tactical defending system has completely reinvigorated what had become a stale franchise. No longer can a player abuse the sprint button or simply mash on the A button to have a defender home in on the player in possession like laser beam. Now it takes real skill and patience to win the ball back for your team. Completely maddening at first, but once you finally get the hang of it…

Also — for some reason, perhaps because I’ve seen others praise it on message boards (much to my astonishment), I feel compelled to point out that this game has the worst soundtrack in the history of the series. No, really. It is AWFUL. Song after song of droning, warbling, indie rock drivel that eventually forced me to turn off the entire playlist. Thankfully, EA has wisely retained the custom soundtrack feature from FIFA 11, so you can put your own crappy tunes into the game to play in between matches. I’m partial to this track from Pro Evolution Soccer, myself.

Favorite Older Games I Just Discovered This Year:


VVVVVV

A friend showed me this game one night. I bought a copy for myself less than an hour later. I stayed up until about 4 am playing. When I couldn’t sleep, I got up and played some more.

ADDICTION!

I never had a Commodore 64 growing up, so this game allowed me to experience just a little bit of what I was missing out on. VVVVVV also evoked some fond memories of Mega Man games, believe it or not. Those sections where you have to guide a falling Mega Man through narrow drops whilst avoiding annoying life-ending spikes? Yep, that’s what certain rooms in VVVVVV brought to mind.

However, the best thing about VVVVVV is PPPPPP, the glorious chiptune soundtrack by Magnus “SoulEye” Pålsson which has been on regular rotation on my iPod for the last six months. No joke, it’s some of the best electronic music I’ve ever heard.

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Alpha Protocol

I played this over the summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. Does it have some flaws? Sure. All games do. It certainly isn’t as awful as the gaming press made it out to be — not even close. Perhaps if Sega or Obsidian had bribed the major magazines and websites with huge chunks of advertising dollars like other game companies do it might have fared better. Oh, but that’s a rant for another blog posting, I suppose.

I came into Alpha Protocol fresh off a second play-thru of Mass Effect 2, and even though AP isn’t quite in the same league as Bioware’s blockbuster, they’re still very similar games. Dialogue choices, some light run and gun action sequences, branching storylines, goofy romantic sub-plots — this is what Mass Effect could be if it were set in a James Bond styled world instead of science-fiction (and I am a sucker for a good spy yarn, even if they are frequently implausible and absurd). I’m also quite impressed that Obsidian had the balls to allow the player to guide the main character down a path that sees him essentially turn traitor on the United States, and also that none of the potential storyline outcomes are plainly ‘good’ or ‘evil’. This is a game that deals in shades of gray and it does it very well. A shame all that negative press killed any chance of a sequel.

Disappointments of 2011:


L.A. Noire

It saddens me to no end to say I was disappointed in L.A. Noire. I’m a big fan of pulpy noir anti-heroes — from Lew Archer and Phil Marlowe in print all the way up to Detectives Vincennes and Exley in L.A. Confidential. As far as aesthetics go, L.A. Noire gets it right. The cars, the fashion, the lingo, even the near-perfect radio stations with period jazz really goes a long way in attempting to transport the player into the Valley circa 1947.

However, I’m also a big fan of point and click adventure games and this is where Noire really let me down. While I was well aware the point and click aspect was being pushed very far into the background to account for the tastes of ‘modern gamers’, I still believed we’d be getting a good, modernized re-imagining of the genre where you had to use at least a little bit of brain power to think your way through the game. What we got instead was a whole lot of hand-holding and questionable design choices, a game where you pretty much just walk around waiting for a chime to tell you to pick something up and then watch some cut-scenes. You’re only allowed to fail a section a couple of times before the game offers to just magically transport you through it, and the less said about the awful interrogation sequences and the laughable facial reactions of the witnesses/suspects, the better. Puzzles are virtually nonexistent, but the few that did slip through the cracks are about as challenging as what you’d find in a cheapie Flash game online. (Figure out which piece of pipe is missing from the air conditioning unit! Thrilling.)

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Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

I rather enjoyed MvC 2, so I had high hopes for this one. Hopes which were dashed rather quickly once the shiny luster from the spazzy, flashing graphics wore off. There’s no story to speak of whatsoever — and I realize you don’t play a fighter for its story mode, but look at Mortal Kombat and the effort the developers put into its tale of time travel, betrayal, and well endowed chicks wearing the tattered remains of bandages. Hell, even Tekken 6 has a very detailed backstory (although you do have to be high on paint thinner to understand any of it). I don’t think it’s unfair for fans to expect a game featuring the involvement of MARVEL COMICS, the masters of convoluted crossover stories, to have just a modicum of plot.

I’m also not convinced this is a very difficult game. I’m utterly baffled at those who claim it takes genuine skill to master MvC3, because to me it’s the ultimate button masher’s delight. Any newbie can grab a controller and convincingly button mash their way through a match against another human or the computer and quite possibly pick up a victory.

Finally, I believe MvC3 has been sullied by Capcom’s general douchebaggery. I can’t say I was very impressed with the glut of DLC releases and then the announcement of the Ultimate edition of the game, which includes new characters, new stages, and an attachable toaster oven with stereo speakers. Or something.

Games I’d Still Like to Try from 2011:


Catherine

I’ve never had much time for Atlus games in the past, nor do I usually spring for games with the anime art style, but the bizarre mash up of Catherine‘s gameplay sounds very appealing to me. Part puzzle game, part dating sim. You just don’t see this kind of game come around very often (in the West, at least). Plus there’s a super easy mode for wusses like me!

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GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

Sure, it got lukewarm reviews from those still stuck on the N64 original (Psst! That game hasn’t aged very gracefully!), the multiplayer community was seemingly dead on arrival, and it has the eternally dour Daniel Craig instead of charming pretty boy Pierce Brosnan in the starring role. But I’m a Bond fanatic. The 007 aficionado in me wants to play it despite the apparent flaws. Hell, I still want to track down a copy of Rogue Agent even though I’ve been warned off it countless times.

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Rayman Origins

Mostly because I’m slowly but surely starting to get back into platformers, but also because my fiancee and I are always on the hunt for quality co-op games we can play together. Screw online! Bring back local multiplayer!

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And that’s all folks. What are some of your favorites (or biggest disappointments) from 2011?

Abobo’s Big Adventure Is Better Than Sliced Bread

Abobo’s Big Adventure is the best game of 2012. I don’t care that 2012 isn’t even a month old yet. Any game that features a Balloon Fight level, a mock dungeon from The Legend of Zelda, and a match from Pro Wrestling against the nefarious Amazon (complete with run-ins from Roddy Piper, the Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, and the Ultimate Warrior) within the confines of the same game is a winner.

There are secrets galore. Cameos aplenty. And the opportunity to turn the tables and punch the bejeezus out of Little Mac. No, I’m not kidding.

It happens.

If you’re any kind of NES fan, you’ll want to play it now. Do so here.

Presenting…

Otherwise known as that awkward first post. If I had my way, I’d just play some cool music like a video game title screen.

Ah, wait… it’s the internet. You can do whatever the heck you want.

(“Presenting VVVVVV” by Magnus “SoulEye” Pålsson)