Let’s not beat around the bush here — Ubisoft does have what it takes to roll out genuinely compelling protagonists. Only, nine times out of ten, they often fall flat when standing next to the lesser-known, though more inviting characters on-screen. And let’s face it, when that usually happens, we’re immediately drawn to follow another leader and discard whatever is happening with our hero. And that’s bad. At least most of the time, anyway.
It’s fair to say that the protagonist should never fall from the spotlight and become a puppet to another story. Unfortunately for Ubisoft, they’ve made their fair share of poor leading roles over the years. That said, they’ve also created a well-rounded roster of underdogs too. And it’s those very underdogs that we want to praise for a moment. So, setting aside the hero for a moment — here are the five Ubisoft characters that actually managed to upstage the lead. And then some.
5. The Animus Folk (Assassin’s Creed)
It’s become a known fact that not a great deal of players enjoy the present-day segments in Assassin’s Creed. Desmond Miles, Layla Hassan — and essentially every other associate that stokes the modern-day fire are, without a doubt, a rather underwhelming collective that can quite easily be overshadowed by the main bulk of the game. Protagonists aside, there just isn’t a great deal that keeps us entwined with the world that revolves around the latest generation. And that’s sort of why we’re quick to discard them whenever the opportunities emerge.
Almost everything that happens within the Animus is enticing. The worlds we’re able to see, the historical figures that beckon to be found, and the overall experience of living and breathing in a unique era. It’s all there, and we’re always urging to see more of it and shrug off the events outside the Animus. However, when Miles or Hassan come knocking and it’s time to ‘take a break’, we’re never usually compelled to take more than two minutes before sinking right back into the dream world.
4. Vaas (Far Cry 3)
Far Cry has had a long-standing history of pouring far more effort into establishing its antagonists than its heroes. Of course, one of the most standout examples of this is Vaas from the third instalment in the Far Cry timeline. Sure enough, Jason Brody, as per the Ubisoft formula — wasn’t exactly a compelling character to enrol as. His thoughts were pure, and his goal was set in stone from the get-go. The only problem was — we didn’t care a great deal to see how it concluded.
Vaas, the pirate kingpin that drove a great portion of the game to admirable heights, is still to this day considered an icon in the villainous domain. Yielding both an unpredictable nature and a downright unsettling outlook on insanity — it was clear from the beginning that the enemy would be what kept us hooked through to the closing chapter. Unfortunately, Ubisoft has struggled to replicate that award-winning recipe ever since, meaning Vaas, in essence — is still the staple that has yet to be replaced.
3. Wrench (Watch Dogs 2)
There’s no denying the fact that Ubisoft struck gold with Watch Dogs 2. Unlike the first chapter in the timeline, the San Francisco story brought the whole world to life — without the incredibly dull monochrome palette to capsize it. Overall, it was a major turning point for the franchise, and perhaps even the second life the series needed before succumbing to the flaws of the predecessor. However, a big part that helped sway the platform to success was the shift in characters. But hey — don’t even get me started on Aiden Pearce.
Don’t get me wrong, Marcus is a fantastic protagonist and an absolute joy compared to Pearce, but that doesn’t change the fact that some characters truly did outshine the hacking guru. Wrench, who evolved into not only Marcus’s best friend — but also a standout sidekick in the Blume takeover, was one of the many reasons players kept returning to fill the shoes of the DedSec kingpin. His devotion to the hacking team was one thing, but then, of course, there’s the witty remarks, the colorful personality and the overall comradery between friends. And it’s because of these favourable characteristics that I’m drawn to saying that he was, without a doubt, a far more intriguing character to follow.
2. Everyone (South Park: The Stick of Truth & The Fractured but Whole)
Farting vigilante or not — being a silent hero can have its downsides, no matter what game you’re playing. Of course, it has been a strategic move for developers for decades now — and the money saved on having a mute for the main character has definitely paid off for the most part. However, when it comes to both South Park games, humor is the force that drives both adventures. That said, however, our hero has literally no part in either and, as a result, resorts to playing a shadow on a stage brimming with comedy.
It’s fair to say that South Park is ultimately narrowed down to Stan, Cartman, Kyle and Kenny — all of which play crucial roles in both video game chapters. It’s also fair to say that, as the new kid on the block, you’re going to be an outcast from the community. However, after two lengthy RPGs and a whole ocean of hilarious storytelling, it’s sad to say that our farting menace never really had the inning required to compete with the others. Sure, farting on cue is great — but is it enough to stand out in a place like South Park? Meh.
1. Dalton Wolfe (Watch Dogs: Legion)
It doesn’t seem fair to post another Watch Dogs entry on this list — though it also doesn’t seem right to give Legion a free pass from the slew of criticism we have in store, either. Of course, Legion, as a whole, is a pretty good game, and in no way is it something we can attack for all the wrong reasons. That said, Ubisoft did make a pretty risky move in sidelining a genuinely interesting character after a mere thirty minutes in place of a wooden roster with zero qualities to boot.
Off the bat, being able to play as anybody in London seems like a fantastic concept. With millions of potential characters to recruit and play as — it almost feels like the perfect game that puts customization at the apex of the experience. However, considering 99% of the population are emotionless meatbags with literally no personality traits or unique characteristics — it doesn’t take long before we’re missing the one hero that was dropped a little too quickly for our liking. Watch Dogs: Legion definitely had a hook with Dalton. It’s just a shame they traded it for an overly ambitious recipe that left a rather bland taste on our tongues.