OK, Bioware is a Stretch
This list will actually only contain characters from Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I’ve never played Baldur’s Gate or Knights of the Old Republic. If I do in the future, I might add to or amend this list. While I am mostly focused on companion characters, I have included one non-companion who has a prominent role.
I don’t expect anybody to agree with me. I just fancied writing this out. Do note, I’m not criticising writing or even saying I hate these characters. Most have their place in their respective stories. This is merely my criticism of their actions, personalities or a combination thereof. Naughty language, throughout. Also, spoilers for Dragon Age and Mass Effect games.
1Anders (Dragon Age 2)
Ah, Anders, where did it go wrong? My Warden liked Anders. He was a funny bloke with wit and charm. It did seem wrong for him to be trapped in the Circle. She liked him so much she gave him a cat. That’s friendship. And then, sometime later, he hopped a ship to Kirkwall and met Hawke. Oh, for fuck’s sake, Anders.
Hawke met an Anders who had willingly turned himself into an abomination. Yeah, Blondie, you tell yourself that you were doing your friend a favour but the fact is you gone done fucked up. Not really caring that Hawke had only been in the city a year, and had a fellow apostate in her family, Anders requests the Fereldan refugee aid him in allowing his mate to escape the Circle. This goes South, as does pretty much everything Anders touches in Kirkwall. Anders is annoyed at his friend being made Tranquil, yet still makes creepy sexual advances towards Hawke. Did Justice turn you into a massive pervo?
Over the years, Anders becomes a brooding, miserable git. You could attempt to talk to him about field hockey and he’d find some way to bring up the oppression of mages. We get it, we do… but could you imagine this man’s Facebook timeline? Yeesh. Fine, most of this is Justice’s doing but Anders is still the bonehead who let it happen. I always execute him at the end of DA2. The simple fact is that Justice and Anders become the catalyst for injustice and suffering on a continent-wide scale. Nice work, jackass. It turns out, Anders should have stayed in the Circle after all. I suppose we should also blame my Warden for this.
2Jacob Taylor (Mass Effect 2 & 3)
Since my Shepard has always ended up with Liara or Traynor, I’ve not had the pleasure of romancing this berk. I’m amazed anyone has had the pleasure of romancing Mr “I’m not big on these forced conversations” – fuck you, bud, I’m the Commander. At least Garrus makes up some shit about calibrations when he can’t be bothered to talk to you. Jerkob just tells his commanding officer to fuck off. I can see why that whole Alliance military thing didn’t work out for him.
Let’s just run with the romance angle for a minute. If you do romance him, the moment you’re not around he hooks up with someone else. Good going, chump. He then gets her pregnant. Smooth. Now admittedly, that someone else sounds a lot like Hawke so you can kinda understand. However, when he announces he’s going to name the baby after Shepard things become weird. What type of utter douchenozzle names their kid after their jilted lover? And does he think his current lover isn’t going to think this is all sorts of wrong?
When you take him on the Suicide Mission, he volunteers to go in the vent solely because it sounds like a suicide mission. That is just what you need, isn’t it? You’ve brought a small team to infiltrate an enemy base on which you have almost no intel. One of your lieutenants decides it is the perfect opportunity to be a gung-ho idiot with a death wish. Bravo, clown.
3Vivienne (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
The Grand Enchanter isn’t too bad if she’s friends with the Inquisitor, but she’s a bitch to everybody else. Vivienne is one of the few characters in Inquisition that doesn’t learn anything and fails to grow in any meaningful way. She joins the Inquisition due to her hunger for power. Her hope is to use the fledgeling organisation for her own ends. However, for someone so accustomed to the ways of Orlais, she is none too bright. Vivienne belittles the bulk of your companions, calls Leliana an idiot and displays classism and elitism that even Jacob Rees-Mogg might think is a bit much. Constant digs at the Inquisitor’s inner circle is not necessarily the way to win the Herald’s heart and mind.
Vivienne barely gives a shit about anybody but herself and though angling to be made Divine, she will settle for becoming Queen of the fucking Mages. Even her relationship with Duke Bastien seems to be more based on how it furthers her own position. Although she does try to save him and seems genuinely sorry for his loss, she’s quick to return to her Iron Lady stance. Although likely a protective veil, her scheming nature still trumps emotional attachment.
In truth, she’s not the most irksome character on this list if you can get high enough approval with her. However, the fact that she sincerely believes she is better than almost everybody else is not the most endearing character trait. I will cut her some slack, though, simply due to the wonderfully talented Indira Varma’s amusing skit:
One thing I did find strange about Vivienne is that when exiling the Grey Wardens, she approves if Blackwall is allowed to remain with the Inquisition. Given her open hostility towards Blackwall and the Wardens, I wonder whether this is a slight indication that she realises Fakey McWarden does have value?
4Admiral Hackett (Mass Effect series)
Not a companion but I’m having a go anyway. I have a theory about Stevie-boy. Either he was part of an old boy’s club, or he hung around the Officer’s Lounge stealing ideas to work his way up the ladder. The man is thoroughly incompetent, seemingly permitting Commander Shepard to run the bulk of off-world Alliance operations in the Reaper War. Ground-based operations have been handed over to Admiral Anderson, who at some point, lost his fucking mind and can’t stop talking about how he was born in London.
With non-existent leadership skills, Hackett defers to Shepard on almost everything. It is conceivable he phones the Commander to ask for grocery advice. I can only imagine that he’s using his pull to keep Shepard at Commander level in fear that if she ascends any higher, she’ll show Hackett up for the imbecile he is. Even when Shepard is given command of the Normandy SR1, no attempt is made to formalise her new position with a promotion to Captain. In accepted naval terms, Shepard, as the highest ranked officer is now the Captain of the Normandy anyway, so why not make it official?
After Shepard destroys the Alpha Relay, kills some Batarians, and returns to Earth, she’s arrested and imprisoned. Hackett couldn’t even be bothered, again, to use what sway he had to get her assigned to desk work or something with a tad more freedom. Perhaps the colossal corrupt clown is afraid that it’ll come to light he sent Shepard on that mission? I imagine he’s happy enough for Shepard to take the flak for working with a proscribed terrorist organisation but doesn’t want anybody looking at his grubby hands.
5Sebastian Vael (Dragon Age 2)
This guy irks me mostly because I had to pay for him. Damn my completionism! If you’re going to add DLC characters they need to be more like Kasumi Goto (Mass Effect 2) or Shale (Dragon Age: Origins) – not this boring bastard. I’m with Varric on this one, Sebastian isn’t particularly bothersome more than he is dull and indecisive. The bulk of his character arc is whether he will remain in the Chantry or run off to Starkhaven. Since all roads lead to Starkhaven for him, this “ooooh I don’t know what to do” jazz is meaningless.
The thing I don’t get about Vael is why is he even hanging around with Hawke? The Champion’s friends include a blood mage, an abomination, a promiscuous pirate, a brooding elf who hates all mages and a Guard-Captain who is only really there because she feels she owes Hawke a favour. Sebastian doesn’t really fit in with this crowd. Perhaps he too feels he owes Hawke a favour? Hawke did whack a bunch of mercs for him, only for him to then decide maybe he should deal with the ones who hired them?
One thing about Hawke’s band of merry misfits is that despite their constant bickering, there is a sense of friendship and looking out for each other. Vael, on the other hand, just stands at the back, casting aspersions on everyone’s lives. I’d prefer it if he was preaching Andrastrian nonsense. At least then he would have some purpose to wandering around Kirkwall with Hawke. But no, he’s just there.
I feel sorry for the Inquisitor if she takes up Varric’s offer of an estate and title in Kirkwall. He’ll probably want to meet her. Hopefully, Varric can get Aveline to ensure that doesn’t happen.
6Liam Kosta (Mass Effect: Andromeda)
The Tempest is supposed to be a scout ship as part of a civilian initiative. You could, therefore, accept that while Ryder is ex-Systems Alliance and her dad was a badass N7, overall, Ryder will run the ship casually. Kosta takes advantage of that. Desperate to shape Andromeda the way he feels it should be shaped, Liam hands intel to an angaran he likes and causes quite a few other problems. He’s not a bad guy; in fact, he’s a pretty stand-up guy. You know he’s got Ryder’s back as Nomad conversation between Peebee and Liam reveals that due to his distrust of Peebee, he positions himself as Ryder’s protector (even though Ryder could clearly plough through a million Kosta’s in an afternoon).
It’s Liam’s corner-cutting that causes the most issues. He doesn’t run anything he’s doing past Ryder. Instead, the Pathfinder is regularly ambushed by one of Liam’s attempts to build bridges. His complete lack of thought for others is his main problematic characteristic. Let’s face it, Ryder already has enough trouble with the bureaucratic aspects of the Andromeda Initiative. If Tann got word that one of the Pathfinder’s crew was out of control, how much trouble could that cause for what Ryder is trying to do? Sure, Ryder eventually disobeys direct orders but she at least shares what she’s doing with her team. Liam, while admonishing Peebee for not being part of that team, is more than happy to keep the squad in the dark when it suits him.
If Alec Ryder had survived Habitat 7, Liam would probably have found himself on toilet duty for the foreseeable future.
7Merrill (Dragon Age 2)
Despite how it might seem, I enjoyed Dragon Age 2. Most of the characters, I get along with – Varric, Isabela, Aveline, Bethany, even Fenris, to a point are all characters I like. It just seems DA2 threw in the largest collection of those that don’t sit well with me. So, here comes Merrill. She’s an idiot.
It isn’t her social awkwardness but her obsession with that fucking mirror. When your Keeper is telling you to leave it alone, when the rest of your clan is telling you to leave it alone, and when you must make a deal with a fucking demon, maybe you should leave it alone?
Merrill wants to preserve Elven history; I get that. The Dalish have had a shit time of it with so much of their history lost in the Exalted March of the Dales. Merrill, however, pursues this bloody mirror at all costs. Even when she is effectively kicked out of her clan, she refuses to believe that possibly her Keeper might know a thing or two about Eluvians? Or, at the very least, might understand why they should not be trifled with. But nope, Merrill’s right and everyone else is wrong.
Her single-minded pursuit of this Elven technology that she doesn’t even understand can result in her entire clan being killed. At the very least, Keeper Marethari is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for Merrill. When this happens, Merrill still acts as if she’s the wounded party in all of this and that Marethari had no right to sacrifice herself to save her from her own stupidity.
8Honourable Mention: Cora Harper (Mass Effect: Andromeda)
Cora Harper is Andromeda’s Kaidan: dull. While technology has allowed humans to travel two and a half million light years in just over six-hundred years, we’re still some way off being able to species-change humans to asari. Hence, Cora is glum. She laments not being the new Pathfinder after the death of Alec Ryder but settles for being Sara Ryder’s fist. I never actually offered her that role.
The problem with Cora is that her entire storyline is wrapped up in her wish to be asari. Even her personal quest is the hunt for the Asari Ark, something which you’re likely to be doing anyway. While it’s understandable, given her connection to the asari and Sarissa, the personal quest should have been something else. Like Sebastian Vael, she’s just there, lingering in the background and hardly fitting in with the rest of the group. I imagine Cora would have thrived under Alec’s leadership but not so much under Sara’s.
On a positive note, she does at least recognise that she is not leadership material and that Sara Ryder is the best available choice for the job. Cora also displays loyalty, determination and other admirable traits. She is a commendable woman but lacks that certain something. Sara would much rather chug a few beers with Drack, or explore Remtech with Peebee than sit around listening to Cora prattle on about battle manuals or huntresses. In truth, Cora would be suited to the Normandy under Shepard; a place with a purpose. She left the Milky Way searching for a purpose and despite some personal growth, even her friendship cutscene on Eos doesn’t give the impression she has found one.
It’s sad, in a way. Being booted from the Asari Commandos robbed her of her sense of identity and perhaps, finally, by Andromeda’s end, she does find an identity on the Tempest. It’s that reason why I list her as an honourable mention. She’s less irksome so much as she is tragic, but unlike other Bioware tragic characters, she lacks that humour or drawing power that invests me in a story. I don’t hate her. I don’t even dislike her but she’s the least noteworthy companion in Andromeda.