Both Baldur’s Gate and Starfield have protagonists that have a lot of conversations with a lot of people about a lot of topics. I’ve mostly been playing Baldur’s Gate III and it has a leg up on Starfield. I can see my character in the cutscenes. In Starfield I can’t. The expressions of the face of my character in Baldur’s Gate III brings at least some emotion to the table. In Starfield, I have nothing.
In both games, however, I feel like I’m missing a voice.
Look, I’m a game dev. I worked at BioWare. I know how expensive it is. But I also know how important it is.
There are few games that live up to BioWare’s from an emotional impact perspective, and one of the reasons why that is, I believe is related to having a voice, or borrowing someone else’s voice, to be more accurate. I want the emotional range a voice can provide. Not only because it makes my character in the world more present, but also because it gives me as a player the occasional delight of expressing something I wasn’t entirely certain I needed to express.
Take the moment in Mass Effect 2 when Shepard walks up to Mordin and goes “just once I’d like to ask someone for help and hear them say, ‘sure, let’s go. Right now. No strings attached.'” Because BioWare’s conversations consist of short descriptive intents rather than a full sentence, sometimes what comes out of the character’s mouth is a surprise. In the instance above, it was a delightful one.
Voice also brings emotion. And you can’t really compete with that.1
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey got it right. Stray Gods definitely got it right.
To be frank, I live that the entire industry hasn’t fallen victim to the “everything needs to be multiplayer” plague. I also like that not every game features a gruff dude with a testosterone issue and no way to influence what comes out of said dudes mouth, but I do miss my Commander Shepard, my Hawke, my Freelancer and my Inquisitor.
I want more Kassandra.
I think part of it is that in real life, sometimes you don’t know how to do a quick comeback, or flirt, or voice anger. On occasion you need a little help. On occasion you need ot borrow the voice of someone else to embody yourself in a more true way.
It’s like, look, Baldur’s Gate, I appreciate the thought behind the genitals, although possibly not the genitals themselves (I’m ace, I have no use for them) but instead of having a vulva, a penix and nipples I would have preferred a voice, I think.
Still. I appreciate that the games are there.
- Okay, just to clarify and reinforce something I believe in with all my heart. If a dev team has to choose between voice acting for the player character and accessibility, I will in every instance recommend accessibility. Every time. In other words, I acknowledge that there are players who can’t hear and who can’t catch the nuance. On the flip side, there are also players who have limited vision and won’t be able to see text or read responses, so I guess it evens out.