Saturday, August 7, 2010

How Not to Write a Character, As Displayed by Altair

*Warning, the following will contain clips from the M rated games Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed 2, and Mass Effect 2. These scenes may contain language, violence, and blood. It will also feature heavy spoilers for Assassin's Creed, and Mass Effect 2, and minor spoilers for Assassin's Creed 2.*

I've spent the past week and a half or so playing the game Assassin's Creed. I finally beat it today, and while I will most likely review both the game and it's sequel, today I must comment on something specifically. That thing, is how Altair is exactly how NOT to write a character.

Let me give you an example.

That monotone voice, that cold, calculating attitude... These are things that, at first glance, you might think perfect for the character of an Assassin. It's not though. I know exactly what they were trying to get at here, they wanted to make Altair a, shall we say, bad"butt" (keeping it PG rated here.). They failed miserably. He doesn't seem like that because of that, in fact he seems like he's trying really really hard to SEEM like one. To borrow a quote from Mass Effect 2, "In my experience, the most dangerous people are the ones who don't act like it."

Let me now introduce Ezio, the main character of Assassin's Creed 2. Ezio is a young man (at the start at least, I'm not very far into AC2) who actually has a personality. Now, he's not going to win any awards for best character any time soon, but he's likable! He's your typical troublemaker. But you know what? He actually shows some sign of emotion. Including, obviously, when his family is hanged. He actually feels it. Unlike Altair, who shows absolutely no emotion at the end of the game upon learning that his master has betrayed the Assassins and been using him all along. He's just like, "Ok. Killing time."

But, surely, I hear you saying, I can't be complaining that the character of an Assassin is cold and calculating? Yes. I can. There's cold and calculating, and then there's robot. Let me give you an example of an Assassin who's a much better character, a much more human character, interesting since he's not a human at all.

Thane Krios. What a character. I suppose that's to be expected since it's a character from a Bioware game, and Bioware games writing is to normal games writing what the complete works of Shakespeare are to Twilight. Thane is an Assassin. A cold hearted (cold blooded, HEY-O!) killer. But he's also a complex individual. For one thing, he considers himself wicked, as you saw in that video. He considers himself a necessary evil, of course, but an evil nonetheless. He justifies what he does as that he's just a tool, a weapon, and that you don't blame a gun for shooting someone, you blame the person who uses it, and yet you have to wonder from his attitude whether he really believes that himself. He kills and he knows that what he does is wrong, but he's a very religious person as well.

Plus he's just plain cooler than Altair too.

Not to mention his relationship with his son. That's just... Well... Just watch.

Ok, c'mon, Captain Bailey is in this game for like 8 minutes, and he has more interesting of a character than Altair.

Thane is a complex multi-leveled character. He's not what you expect, and he surprises you time and time again. Thane is a good character. Heck, Thane is a great character.

Also, since I'm talking about ME2, I have to post this even though it's completely unrelated to anything.

In short, a good character is interesting. You can make almost anything a good character, and there's no excuse for not doing so. An Assassin can be cold and calculating, and still feel very human, and very sincere. Altair, however, feels like a robot. A robot with an American accent. In the 12th century holy lands. But that's a different rant altogether.

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