Ark Survivor – Rage
The Ark Survivor’s presence on this list is due to two factors: the use of a silent protagonist gone wrong, and the overall poor presentation of the story. It’s similar to the ‘no motivation’ problem that existed with Hawke, but on a completely different scale. Really the only time you have even the slightest sense of a goal in this game is at the very beginning. After you’re rescued by Dan Hagar, (voiced by John freakin’ Goodman, of all people), he asks you to clear out a bandit hideout. This is because, he says, the two bandits he killed saving you were part of a clan he was afraid would attack his settlement. Shaky grounds for an all-out extermination, Dan, but fine. After this comes a series of quid-pro-quo missions, where you do as you’re told (clear out bandit hideouts), in exchange for help to get to Wellspring, which they assure you is what you want, but you’re given no indication why. Moreover, after you get to Wellspring, eventually you wind up as part of a rebellion against the Authority: an apparently oppressive group that you haven’t even seen yet. Why the hell is this silent protagonist doing all this? I suppose waking up one hundred years after a disaster could hurt anyone’s sense of judgement, but this guy is involving himself in an all-out war with a heavily armed militaristic operation, all because a few people are telling him too. Talk about jumping through hoops. The poor characterization could have been alleviated by giving the Ark Survivor a voice, but it doesn’t even need that. Just tell the story a little better: make us hate the Authority. Give us a reason to want to join up with a rebellion. Any reason will do. But no, you’re just thrust fully into a conflict that makes no real sense to you that never really plays out, and that (spoiler) ends in an extremely disappointing way. Maybe the era of gaming where you could effectively use a silent protagonist is drawing to a close. Even Link, the most well-loved of all silent protagonists, is starting to seem a little passé. In the case of Rage, though, it’s poor presentation coupled with a lack of vocals for the protagonist that make the Ark Survivor seem just a wee bit ridiculous.