Hacked Off: When Games Have Terrible Character Creation

When a game has character creation, I jump while both fist pumping the air and wailing in despair. The reason being that I love creating my own character, even though it’s going to take me around two hours. This isn’t to say I want to see all games give me the tools to make the protagonist, but some games work better when we’re allowed to spread our creative wings. It’s just there are games out there, like The Division, which only let you make a character that induce nightmares to all the children in the neighbourhood. Which is good for some I’m sure, but I personally don’t like playing games as Frankenstein’s monster. Before you say, ‘You don’t even see yourself that much, stop making mountains out of mole hills’, I’ll know that I look awful, and that’s all that matters.

This week’s frustration is brought to you by The Division, unsurprisingly. This was the game’s first problem, I thought it’d be one of few but it really wasn’t. I still have flashbacks of the day I decided to buy it and my friend said not to. There are only a handful of mistakes you really regret in your lifetime. If a game has a set number of faces and features to choose from, I’m fine with that. But they have to actually look decent. There were more choices for war paint and tattoos than hair and face shapes. At least it meant you could cover up their generic faces. And why on Earth are sunglasses a permanent choice? I didn’t know I was signing a lifetime contract when I put them on. I suppose I don’t have to worry about that glaring November sun poking through the snow clouds.

A game that got it right was Mass Effect. They had the great idea to offer the illusion of character customisation. Sure, you could make your own character, but they all looked terrible compared to the default male/female Shepard. This meant players who liked to look like a character from a George Romero film could, while everyone else looked decent. I couldn’t imagine playing the Mass Effect series as someone other than the default characters, as they are iconic. Having character creation normally ruins this, as they can’t push a character if everyone looks different. So, having default characters and then offering people the chance to create characters works. Andromeda will likely have the same system, with Ryder having a default appearance but with customisation available, and hopefully it’s just as bad as before.

What makes games like The Division’s character creation even worse is that they are outshined by FIFA. Now, there is nothing special about its customisation, but you have free control, even though most are 5 ft., speedy afro guys. Most people make characters that are hideous, but at least it’s their choice and aren’t forced to. There are more dials than I know what to do with in the game, and I barely derive too far from the random one I’m given, as it’s FIFA and I’m there for football not character development. I would much rather play The Division with one of my FIFA characters than what I’ve got. Then maybe people need to feel a closer connection to a game of football than protecting humanity.

There are a couple of games that come to mind in recent history of good character creation, namely The Elder Scrolls Online and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Sure, there are other ones that do it just as well, but these stood out for me. This is because each of my characters are worthy of Miss/Mr. Universe awards. They offer the right amount of customisation. There is enough to get your creative juices flowing, but not too much that you can shape features you never knew humans even had. In ESO my friend couldn’t decide on what species, class, or alliance to join, which meant I had to make around six characters, and not one looks like the other nor as the ugly friend. When you create a character, you’re happy with it, which makes the game much more pleasurable. It allows for a closer connection. I haven’t finished Dragon Age: Inquisition as other games took higher priority, but I’ll get back to it. Not for the game but for my character.

Now for Destiny, as is tradition. Recently I decided that after around 440 hours, I shall make a Warlock. I have nothing against the class, but for some reason I’ve never gotten around to making one. Now, the creation is minimal, and most of the male characters look awful, like real awful, as if they’ve been hit with trucks and then set on fire. The women don’t fare much better apart from the Awoken, who can actually look good. My final character is set to be a male Exo, which doesn’t grab me, but is the lesser of two horrors. If the men had better hairstyles, I’m sure I could make do. Hopefully, they’ll add more in when Destiny 2 rolls out, I wouldn’t mind taking a weekly trip to a hairdresser. I suppose I only see the character in the Tower, and I can put my helmet on there anyway. Everyone else seems to, but for some reason I still want them helmetless, besides, they need the fresh air.

Before a game is released, everyone involved should use the character creation and make something they are happy with. If everyone can honestly make a character they are happy with, then it’s fine. If most of them would rather play the game with Jar Jar Binks’ face, then maybe add more options.


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