Video Games with great Character Development?


#1

I’ve been thinking a lot about characters develop in various circumstances, but, most recently, I’ve been wondering about how characters develop in our favourite games. I know there are times when I play video games and think that my character is flat, overpowered, useless or boring, and times where character development is beautiful.

Some of my favourite choice-like games for character development are the Knights of the Old Republic series, Tales From the Borderlands and Vampire: The Masquerade. I feel these really allow me to give voice to my character without breaking the narrative.

What are some of yours?


#2

You beat me to it. Expanding a little, KOTOR did an interesting thing building off of how you defined your backstory, and using that to strengthen the narrative. Giving you a choice about who you were before the Endar Spire made not being Revan more believable than if you’d been given a very specific background. This could’ve been annoying if it all meant nothing and you just reverted to Revan automatically, but the choice to be Revan or continue as whoever you’d created was probably the most interesting in the game. Are you going to accept this role in the story the game’s presenting you with, or proudly state ‘I am not Revan?’ Could have been more nuanced though – I am evil, but I’m not Revan anymore, I’m far stronger! OR I am Revan, but a Revan returned to my true self, before the war.

And KOTOR II just had brilliantly written dialog. You’re playing a character who knows a lot more about their own history and the galaxy than you (the player) do, and it somehow works. You could definitely take a lot of stances on the Mandalorian War, and shift opinions about different people groups/the force/the war through the story. Arguing with Atris was really satisfying.

Some of the SWTOR class stories had nice room for development, too. Playing a sith warrior shifting from dark to light worked really smoothly, and the smuggler could be played as heroic, cruel, or I-just-want-my-ship-back-leave-me-alone-already. The agent story was interesting in that it made not having a choice part of the plot. At a certain point, you’re essentially helpless and the decisions become more about how you react to that than what happens next (and then it’s so satisfying when you’re free again!). It’s storytelling moments like that, that only really work in an interactive game, I find especially interesting.

So Star Wars… Those are really the only good examples of this sort of thing I’ve played. What am I missing? :blush:


#3

Knights of the Old Republic
Jade Empire
the Last of us
Vampire the Masquerade

i know a couple have been said but these 4 are the only ones that spring to mind so soon after waking up


#4

KOTOR offered a unique opportunity in defining and building the character by really giving us freedom of choice. It really drew me in when I would want to extort somebody for credits and Carth would just blatantly say “No! You’re free to go.” (I did stop bringing him along after a while…) or Bastila would argue with me about the choices I’ve made and I had the opportunity to defend myself. Things like that, whether I was a smuggler or a soldier, on the light or dark, that really affected myself and the other characters gave the entire game so much more character value.

I particularly did enjoy inciting Mission to argue with Canderous. I think that option really gave me a good idea about who I wanted my character to be.

KOTOR just had a way of developing the character without telling that development. It basically said, “Here, have this fictional universe where things are happening, and do whatever you please. What happens, happens.” And the sheer volume of choices it allowed you to make was staggering. You truly had freedom of choice over your character’s morality.


#5

Vampire: The Masquerade basically dropped you into a pit and told you to fight it out. I loved how it let you develop your character through the choices you made, even if most of them were cosmetic. It’s practically on par with KOTOR, where you really have to think about the choices you make: Is this who I want my character to be? Will I be able to deal with the consequences? What is the best approach?

I really liked that about the game. Things were happening and you were drawn into it, sure, but you could really form your own story as you played it. I think those character choices we make in games really help define the characters. Are you going to seduce her, extort him, threaten her, fight your way through, resolve it peacefully. I think that’s an important part of character development for choice-like games.

I’m not really familiar with the other two. What do Jade Empire and the Last of Us do well?


#6

Dragon Age universe (especially the first one, duh)
Mass effect. I love Jane Shepard and her personality (paragon AND renegate). but not the last one - Andromeda can burn in hell.
Expeditions: Vikings. Surprisingly good game with a lot of character development.
okay, I’m just gonna say it: Dark souls. Yep, your character will never speak, but dear god the builds and powers? hell yes!
and of course Divinity: Original Sin 2. god this game is amazing. 100/10, seriously. just try it. just… just try it.


#7

Are you asking about character development in personality or skills? Rpgs or with a fixed character like The Witcher?


#8

It’s an open question. Generally just any games that give you some degree of choice over how you play and voice your character that really stand out.


#9

The KOTOR games are definitely some of the best when it comes to character development. I think Dragon Age Origins another really good one. Every character has their own unique personality, but I think what stood out most about the characters was how creative all of their backstories were. Even if I didn’t like certain characters, I was really intrigued by their backstories.

Tell Tales the Walking Dead was another one I enjoyed because it was really interesting to see a team that clashed so much. The characters all had to work together to survive the zombie outbreak, but since their personalities were so different, they were constantly turning on each other. A lot of the time the humans were more dangerous than the zombies. :yum:


#10

Dragon Age Origins grew on me slowly and painfully. I didn’t really enjoy the gameplay, and I really hated Cassandra until, well, until I realised how super awesome she was. And that goes for all the characters. KOTOR and DA really consider who their characters are and what they want, where they come from, what they have at stake and what they have to gain.

I haven’t played the Walking Dead, but I do know Tell Tales made Tales From the Borderlands as well, and that was a game that made me emotionally dependent on its characters.

So far, KOTOR has gotten all the praise. We should take notes.


#11

Oh okay! I was confused x3
Well, for me the development each companion had in the Mass Effect trilogy (every single one of them in every single game) and in Dragon Age: Origins was amazing because it actually felt natural given the circumstances, especially in Mass Effect since you spend 3 games with them. You spend alot of time talking to them, witnessed their reactions to your actions and the world around them, learning about their history and themselves and given of options to respond. It felt like talking to a friend. In origins you are also given alot of options to choose from , at least 5 even in small conversations, and form a personality. My Danish elf hated humans but got over her racism and even fell in love with a human and or my Dwarven noble got over her prejudice against the surface world and became more accepting of change. All that development thanks to those options and many character interactions. Because not only your character influences others but they also influence you. After, however, the introduction of the character wheel (I hate it) in Dragon Age it lost that freedom of choice and development. Even if your response didn’t affect the story each option had a different answer and you shaped your personality successfully. In later games and in Mass Effect 2 & 3 ( don’t get me started on Andromeda) you were given 3 options: Good, Smartass and Douche. No variety, NOTHING MADE A DIFFERENCE. At least in the first Mass Effect you said the same thing but the tone did feel different, not always, but it did, like that mission where you raid a cult. Those games did it right. Other games that gave me that satisfaction were VTMB and the Fallout games except 4 (didn’t play but I’ve seen how bad the dialogue is). I lost all hope until Pillars of Eternity came. HOLY MACARONI. ALL THOSE OPTIONS BASED ON RACE, GENDER, BACKGROUND, HOMELAND, CLASS, REPUTATION, TASTE IN MUSIC! I FELT JOY I HAVEN’T FELT IN 82 YEARS. AND NOW THAT DEADFIRE HAS CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS WHOOO B0I (let’s hope they arent tedious like DA2).


#12

KOTOR of course, but its flawed but brilliant sequel as well. G0-T0 is no HK-47 (who is?), but still indicative of the fascinating and fluid characters Obsidian cooked up. I second Jade Empire. Pre-merger Bioware was just better, in ways that are not always easy to describe. Like has been said, so many decisions in later games had less impact.

Summary

Choosing whether to free or enslave a god, now that has meaning.

Fallout New Vegas was much better than 3 or 4 in regard to characters. Which makes sense since it is the same people that made 2.


#13

As for games with fixed protagonists, the only one that comes to mind is Ezio of AC (back when Ubisoft was good). Going to a carefree playboy to a wise mentor (WHY DID THEY KILL HIM OFF THAT WAY). Also Big Boss, Solid Snake, Raiden, Otacon, Ocelot, Quiet, Meryl, that Ninja, Naomi (still hate you tho), Kaz, Eve…yeah you get the idea, Kojima is a God in every level except marketing (will never forgive him for David Hayter’s treatment tho) x3 Also Goro in Yakuza 0. I’ve never played the other games but I know he’s a complete nutjob, but his story and development in 0 is one of the best.
And…that’s it…I can’t think of other outstanding developments most remain the same (That doesn’t make them bad characters, they just don’t grow). Like Dante from DMC he remains the badass and doesn’t change much but he’s still one of the best video game characters.


#14

The Boss will always be my favourite video game heroine. You’re absolutely right, though, Kojima did it really well. From the MGS series, The characters painted the world outside what Snake and Raiden experienced. Everybody had their backstory and their reason to contribute. Just going through the games I can think of many examples: Fortune and Vamp are tragically immortal and seek death, Fatman wants to outdo Pliskin, The Boss always puts the mission first, Eva wants to help her country, Kaz dreams of a peaceful world, Dr Strangelove wants to reunite with her lover - all these character develop consequentially and aren’t ever explicitly told to you.

It really becomes something you want to know.

As for Dante… Well, I think Virgil helps him along on his character development. I think we only really see what Dante values and how that changes when he interacts with Virgil.

I can’t say I’m familiar with any of the other games, really.


#15

I wholeheartedly agree with KOTOR, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. The games are kind of a given since BioWare’s speciality has always been storytelling and heavily PC and character based products, though I’m sure we can all agree the game company is a shadow of their former selves.

Red Dead Redemption, *sucks in air * that god damn ending though. My heart, my heart…

The Last of Us, especially the main characters, they developed a lot more than expected.

The Walking Dead by Telltale Games, ‘Clementine’ enough said.

Spec Ops: The Line, while not exactly ‘character developing’ but I always think of this game when storytelling features of a video game is mentioned, and storytelling in itself plays a key role in character development.

I’d also like to mention Joshua Graham from Fallout: New Vegas Honest Hearts DLC, dude went from Ceasar’s Legion’s infamous first Legate and ruthless co-founder to leader of a peaceful tribe and heavily religious Mormon. It’s a little harder to target large sandbox games in having great character development since there are so many bloody characters. Especially since most favour quantity over quality in storytelling aspects.


#16

Oh yes you are right about that x3 He did show a softer side after MDC3 and his interaction with Virgil. Which makes it 1000% sadder after you defeat Nelo Angelo in the first game. I played the games when I was in the elementary (ON THE PS2 NO LESS! THE NOSTALGIA!!) so it slipped my mind x3


#17

As a liberal arts student who knows nothing about this game, this is really weird to read. Like, are we talking about Dante’s Divine Comedy here? Is this my literature class? :rofl:


I think an interesting theme that’s coming out is building the player character off of npcs. You develop your character by arguing or agreeing with the characters around you.


#18

Mostly, yes. The Devil May Cry series drew a lot of inspiration from the Divine Comedy, and is largely concerned with Dante - half god half devil badass - seeking redemption, at some point, and then just mostly killing demons.

I was thinking about this, and I think this theme is drawn mostly because we’re concerning ourselves with visual video games here. While the potential for worldbuilding is staggering and can be done very well, it doesn’t really offer the interactive potential of IF. With video games, I feel, we’re largely concerned about how our characters will reach their short and long term goals, while in IF, I’d say we’re more focused on how we make our characters our characters, if that makes any sense?

But certainly, opening a discourse on the intertextual and universal fundementals of characterisation gives us an academic insight.

Or an opportunity to gush about our favourite games and characters, and think about why they work.

#TheBossWillForeverBeTheBest


#19

I think you might be thinking of Dragon Age Inquisition. Cassandra wasn’t in Origins (at least I don’t remember her.) :yum:


#20

100% correct. My mistake.Thank you! :slight_smile: