2015 has been a great year for games. Like most gamers, we tend to spend the end of the year thinking back to what we really enjoyed in terms of graphics, stories, gameplay, villains and heroes. Today we wanted to talk about our favorite Non-Player Characters in 2015. To be clear, we always prefer playing coop. When that's not an option, however, a great NPC can give you that coop experience (though often in a more scripted fashion). We met some great NPCs in 2015, here are five of our favorites.
Number Five: The Bloody Baron
The Witcher contains a load of terrific characters who act as both allies and antagonist (and admirers) throughout the game, but arguably the most memorable one is the Bloody Baron. In a game that's pretty loaded with themes of masculinity as Geralt juggles his demanding duties, numerous relationships and (adoptive) fatherhood. As an example of how badly someone can screw up balancing these roles, you meet The Baron early in the game. He seems like an ordinary ruler and comes across as ruthless and intelligent but genuinely concerned for his missing family. Geralt soon discovers that the Baron has driven his family away with his excessive alcoholism and violent outbursts, putting Geralt in a complicated position. Helping The Baron find his family requires forcing him to face the consequences of his actions and......things don't end well. The Baron is a shadowy lesson for Geralt; he's a man who loves his family but whose violence and appetites have driven them away. You meet a lot of characters in this game and hear a lot of stories, but one of those you'll remember is The Bloody Baron.
Number Four: Nathan Fillion (from Halo 5 & Destiny)
Nathan Fillion has been an amazing character in games this year. His enhanced presence in Destiny: the Taken King, provides the laid-back, self-aware humor that Peter Dinklage was probably envisioned to provide. In Halo, he does the best he can to humanize the John Noble, the game's primary protagonist who has about as much personality as the butt of his gun. Fillion's presence makes the fact that Master Chief is absent for almost the entire game almost bearable, and he delivers his dialogue convincingly and keeps the cutscenes fairly interesting. Fillion seems to excel at conveying quiet confidence in serious situations and the humor he brings to both titles greatly enhances both. We're hoping we'll see more of him in 2016. (Is it too late to cast Nathan Drake's brother? Is it possible for Drake to have TWO brothers?).
Number Three: The Joker
To be clear, we called it months ago: the Joker most definitely appeared in Arkham Knight and we're thankful he did. Arkham Knight was a solid game but it wasn't the game we were hoping for this year. The Joker, though, was an excellent presence throughout the game. He pops up in surprising places, sometimes to reveal the next plot point of the story and sometimes just quietly watching you from a rooftop or from a distance. Arkham Knight tried to add some new things to the series that didn't necessarily gel very well, so thank goodness they also played to their strengths and kept the Joker in the game. He added a sense of levity to an exceedingly dark game and a sense of continuity to the rest of the games in the series.
Number Two: Fallout 4’s Nick Valentine
Fallout 4 has an astounding amount of content. The map is sprawling and loaded with quests. The customizability of weapons, armor, food, and settlements is pretty impressive. And the number and variety of sidekicks who can join your quest is pretty fantastic. While there are a lot of great ones, our favorite is Nick Valentine, cybernetic detective. Nick's dressed (and works) as a 1940's style detective and provides some needed help throughout your quest. Nick's dialogue is pretty top notch, and his world-weary experience is a welcome counterpart to my character's seemingly endless cheerfulness (seriously, for a guy who saw his wife killed and world destroyed, he's surprisingly upbeat). Our favorite thing about Nick is his ability to spot the Mysterious Stranger and his seeming endless quest to bring him to justice (for some fun fan theorizing, click here).
The Number One NPC of 2015: Chumbucket
Mad Max's 2015 game should have been subtitled Mad Max: The Tragedy of Chumbucket. Poor Chumbucket: a gifted mechanic, an loyal sidekick, and a hardworking follower, he has the misfortune of joining forces with Mad Max, easily the worst protagonist of 2015. Roaming the wasteland in search of fuel and ammunition is nobody's idea of a good time, and the prospect of spending the game with silent and surly Max is deadening. Thank goodness for Chumbucket's endless cheerfulness, ceaseless support, and heartbreaking vulnerability make him the perfect foil for Max. How many times did we hide out from an apocalyptic lightning storm while Chumbucket huddled on the hood of the car, repairing the damage caused be flying debris? Chumbucket deserved better than Mad Max, and by that I mean he deserved a better hero and a better game. Above all, he certainly deserved a better ending.