View Poll Results: Whichdo you prefer - good characters or story?

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  • Characters

    7 77.78%
  • Story

    2 22.22%
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Thread: Characters or Story?

  1. #1
    Gamecrafter Recognized Member Behold the Void's Avatar
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    Default Characters or Story?

    If you hear an RPG has great characters, do you buy it? If you hear an RPG has a great story, do you buy it? What if you can only have one? Which do you pick?

    Narrative, be it RPG or otherwise is an interesting beast. A great cast of characters can elevate a generic plot to greatness, and a sweeping and unique story can make you forget that most of the characters are cardboard cutouts with angry faces drawn on. But which of these is more important? Or at the very least, which of these do you value more?

    My answer is a bit complicated since it depends on how bad the other aspect is. For me, if the other aspect is DECENT, then I'll absolutely pick characters over story - characters with a fun dynamic and interaction in my eyes really make even a mediocre or run of the mill story really shine. I enjoyed FFVIIR a whole lot more than I ever enjoyed FFVII in part because a lot of the expanded character interactions were just so much fun. I admit wholeheartedly that I've never really been a huge VII fan in general, but because the characters are written so well I'm absolutely gonna punch my next ticket for Mr. Nomura and Mr. Kitase's Wild Ride. It's also why I preferred Last Story over Xenoblade Chronicles, two games that came out at roughly the same time (well also the fact that Last Story had far superior gameplay but that aside...). Last Story had a really likable cast with a lot of fun banter and excellent localization. The storyline was basically typical JRPG fare but I was on board because I loved these idiots.

    That said, if one of the aspects is going to be bad, then my answer is unequivocally story over characters. In terms of media consumption, I've never seen something earn so visceral hate from fandom as a garbage story with fantastic characters. You see this a lot in the more transformational fandom engagement and expression such as fanfiction where a beloved cast will be "saved" from the trash fire that is their original work and given new life by writers eager to do them justice. But if I had to pick game with either bad characters or a bad story, I'm gonna pick the bad characters pretty much all the time - at least I won't spend the entire experience in incandescent rage at the director's absolute wastefulness.

  2. #2
    GO! use leech seed! qwertysaur's Avatar
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    This is a really interesting question. I'll be back tomorrow with a more thought out answer.

  3. #3
    Do Myself a Mischief Vermachtnis's Avatar
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    Ekhi Ysengrim (Brynhildr)

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    It's always been characters over story for me. If I don't like the cast, why should I care if they win or whatever. Like take Tales of Legendia. People hate it, I get it. The combat is meh and the story is weak, especially for a Tales game. But six of the main eight are fantastic. They each got a character arc in the second half to flesh them out. Even made Jay somewhat likable.

    Then there's 4 Heroes of Light. The main cast are a bunch of assholes and I didn't get very far.

  4. #4
    The Alpha and the Omega WarZidane's Avatar
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    Cattleya Paphia (Sargatanas)

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    Characters. Taking Tales of Graces f as an example, the story's pretty bad, I'll never deny that. But I love the characters, their interactions and banter. Tales in general is a pretty good example for me really, there are a couple of exceptions but most of their stories are very bland, saved by the characters.

    Of course, ideally just have both

  5. #5
    Radical Dreamer Fynn's Avatar
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    A'nutoh Tia (Sargatanas)
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    Forgive my being pedantic, but I’m going to interpret this as characters versus plot because characters are part of the story, as is plot

    But yeah, while I definitely mostly gravitate towards characters than plot (I guess that reflects my focus in media in general because I have a much easier time coming up with character conflicts than laying out plot in my writing), I still think both things need to be handled well to really pop. But then I also think amazing characters can carry a weak plot while the most intricate plot probably won’t grip me without cool characters.

    However, I need to disagree on The Last Story versus Xenoblade. The Last Story has a great cast of secondary characters, but the blandness of Zael and Calista actively hampered my enjoyment of the game. Meanwhile, Xenoblade isn’t character heavy, but it also isn’t plot heavy and I actually like both the plot and characters a lot. They’re cool, well developed, and you get a whole affinity system to get to know them better. Xenoblade is just one of those games where everything clicks for me even though nothing stands out in particular. Except maybe the world design.

  6. #6
    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    You need both to be good on some level for an enjoyable experience, but for me, it has to be story. Being told a cast is great is not going to inspire me to check out your game if the basic premise of the plot isn't interesting. There are always exceptions of course, but I won't check out a game if the plot sounds a bit too generic or boring, which is largely why I've avoided certain cult franchises like Tales of and likely Trails series. It's why the original Xenoblade will always be a bit more special for me over the sequels/spin-off entries because the initial premise was just too intriguing to ignore.

    I feel like this is a large part of why I've been able to really get invested in games that tend to forego having a characters based cast. Dark Souls and SaGa certainly have some fun and quirky characters, but the games are more about exploring the lore and world and piecing together an intriguing plot than about any personal character investment.

  7. #7
    Witch of Theatergoing Karifean's Avatar
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    Characters for me are the heart and backbone of any good story.

  8. #8

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    There are a lot of fantastic character-heavy games that I love but just never finished. Maybe it's the story. Likely it's really the pacing. I haven't beaten any Persona game, and very few visual novels. Which mostly put characters first. So while my gut reaction is to say characters can drive a bad story and make it bearable, it also doesn't gaurantee I'll stick around for the whole thing. Then again, 90 hours for a Persona game or Xenoblade Chronicles, and stuff is really just asking a lot

    I'm trying to think of games that I've enjoyed that had pretty good stories, but bland characters. Maybe Shining Force? Or Neir Automata? Actually, Dark Souls is a pretty good example. Aside from the gameplay aspect, a lot of people adote the lore and story behind everything. The characters are almost completely forgettable on a personal level. You remember them because of their stories for the most part

    So or me it's probably that thing where people say they prefer a dark roast coffee, but in reality mostly drink creamy coffee, just because they prefer the idea of a robust dark roast with good character. I prefer the idea of great characters, but probably fair better with great story and plot

    But in reality, I think pacing is probably the most important part. If there's too much down time, you get tired of both the plot and the characters. If there's no room to breathe, you can quickly get burned out on either

    But my favorite games have it all, so I'm just a snob



  9. #9
    *permanent smite* Spuuky's Avatar
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    Neither as as important to me as world-building and atmosphere.

  10. #10

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    I find it a tough choice.

    I guess I would say a great plot can carry rough characters and great characters can carry a rough plot.

    I learn towards plot as being more important though - it's tough to get interested in the human element of a character and then see it wasted on a bad plot.

  11. #11
    CimminyCricket's Avatar
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    Characters for sure. As some have already said, if I don't care about the characters, I'm not going to care about their adventure.


  12. #12
    Nulli Secundus Primus Inter Pares's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spuuky View Post
    Neither as as important to me as world-building and atmosphere.
    Oh this is a good point, if we consider world-building as separate from the Story/Plot then good Characters, especially a good villain, are definitely more important than a good story. However the world-building is really what makes or breaks any RPG, other genres need good gameplay but RPGs need a compelling world to want to spend time in.
    :joey:

  13. #13
    Radical Dreamer Fynn's Avatar
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    That’s an interesting point because honestly, to me, good worldbuilding relies first and foremost on good characters

  14. #14
    CimminyCricket's Avatar
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    I've sacrificed story, characters, and atmosphere for gameplay. Star Ocean 4 was horrible, but I love me that gameplay.


  15. #15
    Shlup's Retired Pimp Recognized Member Raistlin's Avatar
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    I agree with WK and Fynn that both are a priority for me. If forced to pick, I think I would pick characters, but it's close. I go with that primarily because good characters and character development are probably the most important parts of any good JRPG story. For example, Lunar SSSC has a solid, if a bit cliche story, but it really shines to me because of fantastic characters and interactions.

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