Let’s say you’ve never played a video game before and you decide today’s the day to change that. You’re all geared up and you choose a game that looks totally awesome. You make your way through the introduction and now it appears that you’re going to get a companion in the game. You think you’ve struck gold. Heck yeah, a minion! Halfway through the first mission with your companion you’re trying to kill your newfound minion yourself. That’s because your companion falls into one of the categories of Video Game Companion Suckage.
Category 1: The Useless Game Guide
My boyfriend somehow made it through his childhood without ever playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64 and as soon as I found out I found a copy of the game and made him play it. I had completely forgotten about Navi but it all came rushing back the first time she started in with her “Hey! Hey! Hey! Listen! You know that thing I told you 5 minutes ago? I’m going to tell you again!” and I remembered why I used to scream at the TV so much as a kid. I understand that unlike a movie or a play, video games have to break the fourth wall to give players hints and teach them the controls. It’s really hard though to get into the story of a game with companions that are ready with reminders about blocking and a summary of the dialogue you literally just listened to. Navi is the worst of the worst because she badgers you until you listen to her. At least most other game guide type characters will leave you alone unless you initiate the conversation. At least she’s useful for targeting and you don’t have to worry about keeping her alive.
Category 2: The Idiot Escort Companion
When I was in high school my friends and I were all about Resident Evil 4 for Playstation 2. We would play it to absolute completion and start over again because we loved that game and mostly it was better than doing our homework. The whole objective of the game is to rescue Ashley but after a couple of minutes with her, trying to escort her slow, dumb, ass past monsters I started to wonder if it wouldn’t be better for humanity to leave her for dead. I played through Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter with a broken controller, causing my character to crouch and uncrouch repeatedly, and it was more enjoyable than any escort mission I’ve ever played. In general, characters that are designed for escort missions are designed to be dumb so you’re forced to protect them. That makes sense, it’s become a staple style of mission in video games. It doesn’t always make sense though for the characters you’re saving to be so inept. Escort companions aren’t usually in the game very long so they aren’t very developed. In the case of Ashley more emphasis was put on making her a convincing kidnap victim than a person with natural instinct and reflexes. I still get angry every time I hear a clip of her accusing Leon of looking up her skirt. Screw mortal peril, I need to get me a look! That’s plausible.
Category 3: The Generally Useless Companion
I got Skyrim at the end of December and I think it’s terrific, especially after I accidentally killed Lydia. It’s a running joke in my circle of friends that Lydia has frequent urination problems causing her to go missing and fall behind all the time. On more than one occasion she stood and calmly watched a giant launch my corpse into the air. I can only assume she over estimated my abilities. The thing that makes her a horrible game companion isn’t just that she’s slow and sometimes unresponsive, it’s a combination of that and the chance that she’ll permanently die. All that Lydia had going for her was her usefulness as a meat shield. If a companion is too strong and efficient it breaks the game but if they aren’t useful then there isn’t really a point in including them in a game. There’s a very fine line between game breaking and uselessness as Lydia shows.
Companions in video games are good in theory, but rarely in practice. Either they’re useless, fill a useless role, or cause more problems than solutions. They really only add extra fits of rage quits to gaming. Any other types of companions or companions in particular get you riled up? Comment below or in the forums!