8 Great Protagonists that Aren’t One-Dimensional Killing Machines

Far Cry 5 could stand to learn a thing (or eight) from other recent games.

Far Cry 5 has come under fire from reviewers for its storyline. Obviously, this has lit a spark under gaming Twitter’s virtual butt, who say that these critics are mad the game didn’t take a hard liberal stance like its promotional material led many to believe. In some instances, this is the truth. From what I’ve heard, though, Far Cry 5 has numerous tonal problems. Its main villains aren’t written as strongly as those in previous games: Pagan Min in Far Cry 4 and Vaas from Far Cry 3 are both interesting, complex, and screwed-up characters. The newest head honcho, Joseph Seed, is reportedly a “dude-bro” who spouts vaguely Christianic euphemisms.

Another issue stated in common is that its main protagonist is lifeless, silent, and utterly serves no purpose in the story other than being a conduit for the player. Of course, some games can be pure fun and don’t have to create complex stories for entertainment. Yet in many cases, these grounded plots can further enhance the experience they’re presenting. A good, interesting, human protagonist can go a long way in that regard. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of eight fantastic protagonists from recent titles, all of which have much more personality and intrigue than the sheriff of Far Cry 5. Sheriff, take note.

Chloe Price, from Life is Strange

On the outset, Chloe Price seems like a typical, rebellious punk. Cigarettes, baggy jacket, ripped jeans, bright hair—yep, she cares about nothing and no one. But as we get to know Chloe, through both the original Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm, we realize that first impressions aren’t everything. Chloe deeply cares for everything around her. She’s always willing to protect her friends and family, and seems to deal with lingering depression due to some trauma from her past. The punk scene is definitely Chloe, but it’s also a front to protect the more sensitive, caring side of her.

Lara Croft, from Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider

Lara Croft has a strange background. Yes, she technically mows down hundreds upon hundreds of enemies. And yes, she used to be a sex symbol in the gaming world. But with 2013’s Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics characterized Lara in the best way possible. They adjusted her previously unrealistic body proportions and grounded her as an up-and-coming archaeologist doing whatever she can to survive. She puts on a brave face because she must; otherwise, her and her shipmates could very well die on the island of Yamatai. Though Lara tends to shoot her way to victory when she’s surrounded, she’s far from one-dimensional.

Kazuma Kiryu, from the Yakuza series

As the Yakuza series has begun to rapidly grow in popularity since the release of Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, Kiryu may be a newer face to many players. However, he should also be a refreshing face. His personality has many facets: he’s a Yakuza, so of course he’s tough when he needs to be, and spends most of his time trying to change the Yakuza clans for the better. But he also has a sweet side—a side that’s willing to help a metal band that’s secretly not metal at all. Kiryu’s the kind of dude who will help practically anyone that asks him, likes to know the full story of a situation, and can’t help but shout with excitement when he finds a rad new fighting style. He may be Yakuza, but Kazuma Kiryu is just a buff dork.

You can also read: How Yakuza 0 Exceeds at Mixing Moods

9S, from Nier: Automata

Though 9S’ first impression paints him as a young kid burnt by unrequited love, Nier: Automata’s second protagonist evolves to become one of the most complex characters in the experience. His combat style reflects this: instead of going head-to-head with enemy robots, this android prefers to hack them from afar. Thus, 9S gathers intel from unlikely sources, slowly piecing together his own truths about the world and constantly questioning and reforming his own opinions. In the end, he ends up a fascinating case study as to how different knowledge, events, and trauma can lead to varying viewpoints on every situation the world has to offer.

Bayek, from Assassin’s Creed Origins

As an Assassin, Bayek is most certainly a ruthless killer. It’s kind of his thing. But he’s also a Medjay, a sort of police officer and protector of the Pharaoh and nation of Egypt. Justice and kindness are woven into his DNA: he takes on just about any mission he sees, whether its for an elderly man or a group of rambunctious kids. His sense of duty towards the latter may stem from the fact that he’s also a father. Bayek is unique because we only see him after he’s settled down and started a family, and it’s heartwarming to see these character traits hop into the spotlight throughout his adventure.

Madeline, from Celeste

Madeline isn’t a climber, nor is she even remotely good at mountain climbing. But she does it anyway. As she hops and dashes though Celeste, we see Madeline struggle against the mountain and her own emotions, creating layers upon layers of metaphor. She’s doubtful, self-conscious, depressive, afraid, and despises parts of herself. She can’t let the past go. Yet despite all this, she’s arrogant and determined. She’s not a mountain climber—but she knows that there are some obstacles she just has to get over before she can truly be happy.

Aloy, from Horizon Zero Dawn

Unlike most of the members of the Nora tribe, Aloy is curious about the world around her. She grew up without a mother in a culture dominated by women, making her an outcast that views the world a little differently than everyone else. This curiosity leads her out of her tribe’s Sacred Land and into “cursed” territory to find answers. Who is she? Who is her mother? Why is her world filled with sentient machines, and what was it like before? We, as the audience, piece together some of these answers long before Aloy does. But it’s interesting to view them through the lens of such a confident, capable, brave young woman—an experience most of us will never otherwise have.

B.J. Blazkowicz, from MachineGames’ Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

B.J., known recently as “Terror Billy,” has been around for decades in one form or another. He was in the original Wolfenstein and many of its sequels, normally seen as just another one-dimensional killing machine. But with Wolfenstein: The New Order, and especially Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, B.J. has transcended to be a real person. He kills because he enjoys killing, yes. But he’s also fighting for a better world. He wants his fiancée and children to live in a safe nation, free from Nazi tyranny and slaughter. More importantly, The New Colossus portrays B.J. as a kid who misses his mother, angry at the father and world that stole her from him. He’s consistently shown to be a man who simply wants happiness for his loved ones, and he’s afraid he’ll die before that’s achieved.

More importantly, B.J. is living proof that a game all about tight gunplay and pure fun can still have a thoughtful protagonist and tactful storyline. Your move, Far Cry 5.

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