These main characters are mainly characterless.
The hero or anti-hero of a story needs to be a good core for a work of fiction. The protagonist is our window into an imaginary world so it’s important we can like or at least empathize with them. We need to be able to feel pain when they lose and feel joyous when they succeed. This is especially true in a game where the player is guiding the protagonist and is vicariously sharing in their achievements. Who wants to pay 40 odd quid for the experience of helping someone you can’t stand achieve their goals? Sadly, there are some gaming protagonists whose creators massively misjudged their audience – who come across as boring when they’re meant to be moody and mysterious, or grating when they try and be funny or cool. Here we count down eight of the worst gaming protagonists.
8. Connor – Assassin’s Creed 3
When your dad is ten times as cool as you, you might not be the best protagonist for an action-packed video game. Connor was the Native American protagonist of Assassin’s Creed 3, set out on a path of revenge and discovery after his mother is murdered and his village is destroyed. Despite having an interesting backstory and cultural heritage, Connor squanders his potential by being a massive sourpuss who speaks to everyone with that same stilted, monotone lack of enthusiasm.
What really highlights how dull Connor is is that despite being a freedom-loving Assassin, he’s a stunningly glib chap. However, Connor’s deadbeat dad, Haytham Kenway, is effortlessly charming and full of life, despite being a totalitarian Templar. Haytham was so much more fun than his son, I didn’t want to see Connor kill him for being a murderously evil Templar. I just wanted Haytham to take Connor out for a beer and a night on the town, and maybe show him how to have some fun for a change.
Sadly, Connor has all the personality of a wet strip of carboard. Connor has a perma-neutral expression on his impossibly bland face and only mildly raises his voice in moments of extreme emotion. When Connor and Haytham briefly team up in the middle of the game, Haytham even chides him for being such a grumpy grouch.
The “strong, silent and serious” archetype can work sometimes, but when you’re diving into an epic 40+ hour sandbox like Assassin’s Creed, you definitely need a hero who can show a full spectrum of emotions. You need a narrator who can crack wise occasionally to break up all the murder, betrayal and misery. This is why the first Assassin’s Creed swapped out the rather blank Altair for the vigorous Italian Stallion Ezio Auditore for the Assassin’s Creed 2, Brotherhood and Revelations. The fact they forgot this lesson was part of what made Assassin’s Creed 3 a critical flop.
It’s interesting that the next game in the series: Black Flag, deals with the story of Edward Kenway, Connor’s Grandad and Haytham’s father. Ultimately, you see how Edward goes from pirate to family man who raises up Haytham to be a lovable rogue in his own mould. The biggest tragedy of Assassin’s Creed 3 is that Haytham didn’t get the chance to bestow an actual personality onto Connor.
– Jonathan Trussler