Are The Characters In Watch Dogs One-Dimensional?
Ubisoft's behemoth blockbuster Watch Dogs has been out for some days now, garnering mostly praise by reviewers as well as selling a substantial amount of copies worldwide. Many hail it a phenomenal open world adventure, speaking with acclaim of its cover-based shooting gameplay, hacking mechanics, and a meticulously detailed recreation of Chicago.
No game is without its shortcomings however, and Watch Dogs is no exception.
All though the title is getting its fair amount of criticism for horrendous performance on the PC, lackluster multiplayer, and overall little innovation, there has been one major con that has seemingly alluded people and deserves to be spotlighted, the characters.
Watch Dogs is a narrative-based experience, a tale that is dependent on all of the people that surround the protagonist Aiden Pierce. Granted, our anti-hero is fleshed out enough, with a sufficient back story and conflicting morality decisions allowing the player to become immersed in his escapades. It does take a turn for the worst though when you do try to dive into the other characters inhabiting Aiden's world.
These characters often only serve as a means to progress the story arch at hand, only giving out a hint of characterization when necessary to show that they aren't as dull as robots. This actually makes the situation worse however, as giving out a slither of backstory only further wets the player's appetite, making them want more, instead of they had simply went with nothing.
These obvious gaps in character development can lead to conflicting interests with players. Why should I kill these people if I don't even know what goal is? Examples like that really sour the Watch Dogs experience as a whole.
Perhaps what really sets the characters in the story back is that they are always given a backseat to explaining their intentions or why they are even doing their actions in the first place.
Take illustrious Chicago club owner Lucky Quinn for instance. This horrid person had my curiosity from the first time I layed my eyes on him in Watch Dogs. He is extremely elderly and fragile looking, yet he is THE definitive mob boss in Chicago, having an iron grip on the whole city. That premise alone is already intriguing enough, and throughout the game you are always aware that he's really calling the shots behind all the evil you combat.
You would think they would elaborate on how he became so powerful right? Maybe through giving us some back story in his younger days? Wrong. Apart from a few snippets of dialogue that are much too vague to comprehend, you get diddly squat of this guy's past, as well as any other dimensions this character could have, leaving Lucky Quinn just your average villain instead of an antagonist truly memorable.
This extends to the fellow protagonists as well as. The character Aiden interacts with the most, Clara, gets absolutely nothing in terms of development or progression. She too, has an interesting premise, with her having a pretty cool accent and possessing a unique wardrobe, all decked out with tattoos and whatnot.
This is all good, it's just that Clara literally never explains her crazy attire, nor how or when she got her expert hacking skills. She is a textbook example of style over substance, having an appearance that entices the viewer but doesn't deliver anything afterwards.
I could continue to ramble about the rampant lack of dimensions within the characters that play pivotal parts in the narrative, like how for instance none of the factions are memorable in the slightest, DedSec? Viceroys? Which one wants what? Blume? Are they good?
I would continue, but that would take hours, instead I'd like to leave it off as a warning for creators of games of this magnitude - although it is essential to carve a great game out of intricate gameplay mechanics and a grand sense of scope, do not forget about the characters, for at the end of the day, they are the ones that are remembered by the player.
Watch Dogs should serve as a reminder, great character appearances only go so far unless they have the depth to back them up.Originally Published Jun. 5th 2014