Please, Shut Up

March 3, 2016

I used to say that the biggest difference between JRPGs and Western RPGs (besides geography) was that JRPGs wanted to tell players a story, whereas WRPGs wanted to give players the tools to tell their own stories. And there are no better examples of this than the Fallout series. In most any Fallout game, rolling a character with an extremely low Intelligence stat allows the player some… interesting dialogue choices. NPCs will treat your character like a complete idiot, wont give you the same rewards as they otherwise would and most quests wont even be available.

There are other, less severe, ways that your character build dictates your dialogue options or how NPCs treat you, of course. In standard RPG fashion you can talk yourself into or out of battles and conflicts based on your stats and skills. In Fallout: New Vegas the amount of variation that dialogue has depending on your build almost makes it feel like you’re playing a different game each runthrough. The same goes for Dragon Age: Origins, where your character’s race and class leads to a unique first hour of of the game and then influences both your dialogue options and how other characters react to you. The amount of unique dialogue strings in all of the games I’ve mentioned so far was great, and, honestly, probably wouldn’t have been there if the protagonists of those games were voiced.

Dragon Age 2 introduced a single choice of protagonist, a human named Hawke, who could be of either gender and any of the three classes. But other than that, that was it. Other characters pretty much treat you the same as they would any other player’s Hawke. The dialogue HUD that showed you the full text of every option is gone, replaced with a dialogue wheel much the same as the one in Bioware’s other cash cow, Mass Effect. One of the biggest issues that I personally had with DA2 was how completely it removed the creativity that the last game allowed players to have with their character.

Fallout 4 also seems to have given up dialogue choice in favor of a fully voiced Sole Survivor. Disappointing.

I’m in no way saying that fully voiced RPG protagonists are a bad thing, but voice actors cost money. Lots of money. Especially if they’re good. So, financially, having them record less lines seems like a pretty good decision. I mean, Fallout 4 and Dragon Age 2 were still enjoyable games.

Except, full voice acting didn’t make them enjoyable games. It didn’t even make them much better than their predecessors. I mean, sure it was nice to hear my Sole Survivor talk, but it didn’t make Fallout 4 all that much greater than New Vegas. In fact, I think New Vegas has some of the best dialogue in video game history, and not hearing anything my character said didn’t take away from that.

I just don’t think it’s worth it.