Wombat’s 10 most memorable computer game characters (& 5 honourable mentions)
You know what makes a memorable character in a computer game? The clues in the word – character. When you get the feeling that you’ve been in the company of real people, you’ve found a real character. One with depth. That, and of course a healthy gobbet of humour or a disregard for clothing. Here are just some of the people I’ve met over two decades of romping about in virtual worlds. Let me know if I’ve missed your favourite.
Go for the eyes Boo, GO FOR THE EYES!! RaArrGHGHH!!!
Minsc is a shining baldy beacon of light in the dark and filthy world of Baldur’s Gate. An enormous beacon, in fact, attacking evil with an extreme fervour that occasionally causes those around him to suspect his sanity. The berserker ranger’s constant companion is Boo, who Minsc says is “a miniature giant space hamster” and those who value their eyes would do well not to argue.
Would you be interested in these panties? They look about your size.
Across four point-and-click Broken Sword games, George and his on/off girlfriend, Nico, investigate Templars, Mayan gods, Glastonbury dragons and dodgy doings in the Vatican. Good natured and honest, nosey as hell, George always tries to see the best in people. And gets the shitty end of the stick for it most of the time. I loved telling him where to go, but loved more Nico’s way of breathing “Oh Georgie”.
If I were indeed hostile, you would be bleeding.
Ah, Sten! Apparently not many Dragon Age players bothered with Sten, since at first he’s very reluctant to talk about anything. Persevere though, and the Qunari giant is one of the most most rewarding companions ever. Witness his touching interactions with your dog, his embarrassment at being caught picking flowers by Leliana, his use of biscuits stolen from a nearby child to buy a boat ride. He’s really tough too, even if you dress him in a silly hat. Recognise his quote, above?
Cake, and grief counselling, will be available at the conclusion of the test.
Possibly the most lovable evil Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System ever. The honey-voiced AI that guides you through Aperture Science’s Testing Centre in Portal is always witty, and always promising of lovely cake. Ah nice, you think, as she cheers you on. Then she makes you incinerate your beloved Companion Cube, and you begin to suspect that all might not be right, and you begin to rebel. Her insults become funnier and, let’s admit it, more psychotic until you face off with her in a breathless final battle that still makes you giggle.
I’m just a humble P.I. trying to save the world as we know it.
Tex Murphy, seedy post-apocalyptic future P.I. starring in five adventures (and six radio plays) with a catchy theme tune, and a wardrobe full of fedoras, raincoats and sneakers. Voiceover heaven as Tex wisecracks about whatever you’re telling him to do before his innate clumsiness has him falling over a credenza, whatever one of those is. At such times, Tex was not above destroying the fourth wall – “Ah, to be a fictional detective. Everything would be so much simpler then”.
Boogle, can you be an axe?
Cartoony fun with Torin & Boogle in Torin’s Passage, as the titular hero tries to rescue his family from an evil sorceress. Packed with humour and invention (at one point Torin bangs his head on the Game Menu), the game’s puzzles are often only soluble by using Boogle’s shape-shifting abilities. Highlights for me were the talking grass, that helped Torin cross a slippery slope (“Negatory! Nuh-oh! Yes, there!”) , and a sequence where our heroes fall from such a height that they have to pause in their screaming to take a breath. Just one question – what actually is Boogle?
You know, if I could click you, you wouldn’t know a moment’s peace.
Morte is a floating, talking skull with a snarky attitude. While he lacks a body, he can still fight, biting with his sharp fangs and stinging the enemy with sarcastic taunts. The fact that he has no internal organs help to protect him from many ‘normal’ attacks, but also raises the question- where does he keep his inventory? The game? Planescape Torment, one of the better games based on D&D. It also featured a sexy woman with a tail. What could possibly be finer?
Nordom: Attention; Morte. I have a question. Do you have a destiny? A purpose?
Morte: Is Annah still wearing clothes?
Morte: Then the answer is yes.
All she wants to talk about is white sausage.
Gabriel Knight – New Orleans author and bookstore owner who finds his destiny as a Schattenjäger, or “Shadow Hunter”. Most notably voiced by Tim Curry, Gabriel’s louche drawl won many a heart among players, but rarely the heart of Grace Nakamura, his hot, sometime assistant. Gabriel is a rogue, a rapscallion and a womanizer, not unlike The Wombat, but is selfish and self-involved. Grace often manages to puncture his self-importance with amusing barbs. The team work was what made them attractive. Well, that and Tim Curry’s liquid voice.
And now we have a dog. And Alistair is still the stupidest member of the party.
I know, I know, two characters from Dragon Age, but how could I leave out Morrigan? The shape-shifting swamp-witch who forgot to wear a vest and is deliciously voiced by Claudia Black, while not exactly evil, is hardly anyone’s idea of a good girl. She manipulates you to kill her mother for her, and seduces you (if you’re a bloke, that is) into impregnating her for her own nefarious (and unexplained) purposes. I’m afraid in order to get on with the game, I had to dress her in a long blue dress, cos otherwise…. well, you know.
Tombs with piped in music. How classy.
Garrett. Master of stealth, archery and pickpocketing, and yet so much more than just a nefarious Thief, offering cynical asides and wry observations as he cases potential jobs. Also (and how cool is this?) he has a glass eye that he can take out and roll around corners to see what’s lurking. I adored the tension of sneaking around dark places with Garrett, trying not to be noticed at all. One of the scariest locations EVER in a game is The Cradle, an abandoned orphanage/insane asylum. Sweet Baby G, but that shook me more than somewhat. A new Thief game is under development, so YAY! (ssshhhh!)
… or “Characters that were in my top ten until I thought of someone better”
Nothing says pizzaz like a winning smile. Vault-Boy’s a bit of a cheat for this list, since he’s not really a game character. He is the Fallout series mascot, who appears everywhere, from your stats screen, to your Pip-Boy and your Bobblehead collection. Nothing says Fallout like Vault-Boy.
Conclusion: I’m going to pull your head off, because I don’t like your head. Star Wars game Knights Of The Old Republic is arguably the best Star Wars prequel to date. Among its many charms is the characterisation, exemplified by the brilliantly twisted HK-47, an assassin droid who speaks like C3PO but dryly expresses sociopathic sentiments, including a distain for organic life perfectly summed up by his repeated use of the word “meatbag”.
Your sword is blowing glue. Wait, let me try that again. I’ll bet not many of you remember Zork: Grand Inquisitor? Dalboz the Dungeon Master himself was imprisoned in a lantern and proceeds to act as narrator and guide. He calls you “AFGNCAAP”, a satirical, politically-correct acronym for “Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person”, a reference to the habit of many early adventure games of giving the player’s character no identity, name, or background.
My beak is a finely tuned instrument of love. The Longest Journey and Dreamfall are beautiful games, and we all fell in love with Zoe Castillo, but the character that sticks in my mind is the sidekick Crow, who is a… well, crow (although – spoiler – he does turn out not to be an actual crow). I think you’ll have figured out by now that I like sidekicks who crack wise, and Crow is yet another of those. An example of Crow’s wisdom –
So we get help from someone wiser and more clued in than us. Beards are a good indication. It signifies age and wisdom, and also, sometimes, poor hygiene. I think those things are actually connected.
The figures…nothing but shadows…they won’t let me go back. An extremely personal choice – Nigel Danvers, the ghost-hunting wazzock from Jonathan Boakes’ superbly spooky games, most notably “The Lost Crown”. I became a huge fan of Danverspeak – Nigel spoke haltingly, like a character from a Thirties film when talkies had only just begun. Perfect for the feel of the game.
So there you go, earthlings – who have I left out (yes, yes, apart from Guybrush Threepwood, but he was too obvious)? Who would be in your top ten? I’d love you to tell me. I hope you do.