Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook. I’m talking about potions, hubs, bags, mountains, anything really – but things we ignore at the time. Then, years later, we find they’re cemented in our memory, inseparable from our experience of the game. Turns out they were important after all. So now we’re celebrating them.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. We’ve had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces. Some of you have memories like elephants!
Today’s Five of the Best…
Friends: it’s at times like these we need them, phoning up, checking in, sending us silly pictures to make us smile. Friends are a very good thing. And the characters we play in games have friends too, unless they’re monsters – do monsters have friends? – always there to help them out and encourage them along. In our adventures, as in our lives, it’s friends who make the journey worthwhile, so let’s give them the cheer they deserve.
Midna makes it very clear when you first meet her she doesn’t want to be Link’s friend. Unlike Navi who just wanted you to listen, Midna belittles Link, takes on the form of his kidnapped friends to mock him, and is open with the fact she’s only helping him because she gets something out of it.
Yet as much as the narrative in Twilight Princess follows the typical Zelda structure of good overthrowing evil, it’s also about the developing friendship between two very different people from very different worlds. Experiencing this relationship through Link’s eyes, you witness the subtle beginning, where Midna’s true feelings manage to slip through her persona, to the defining moments like when you save her life. Gradually the image of Midna as a potentially backstabbing imp erodes away and you see her for who she truly is: an overthrown leader desperately trying to find a way to save her people.
By the end of the game, you know that Midna is your friend, which is why her final decision to permanently break the connection between the worlds of Light and Twilight is so heartbreaking.
People spend a lot of time thinking about who they want to bone in Mass Effect, but not a lot of time thinking about Garrus. Which is a real shame, I think, because he clearly spends a lot of time thinking about you.
I could write a whole character study on why Garrus is clearly your best buddy throughout the trilogy. He idolises Shepard, wants to be them someday himself. He even tries, off-screen, during his moody Archangel phase. And he fails – gets his whole squad killed in the process. And it hurts him. But that’s fine. Because he’s still your number one. He is the Riker to Shepard’s Picard. The Richard to your Judy.
From his beginnings in Mass Effect 1 as a moody cast-out cop, his race only recently done being at war with humanity after we barged onto the galactic stage, to the fan-favourite scene in Mass Effect 3 where you go shooting bottles together on the roof of the Citadel, Garrus’ arc is defined by his relationship with Shepard. When things get really dark in Mass Effect 3, it is Garrus – and only Garrus – that Shepard will tell if he is forced to kill Mordin. And when it comes to the trilogy’s set of final goodbyes, amidst the rubble of London, Garrus is one of the last you can counsel. He knows you probably won’t make it out of this alive. And he’s right. But he’s already planning to meet you, should there be some kind of afterlife, for a drink at the bar.
Man’s best friend. It could be Colin the Call of Duty dog or whatever you want to call the Fallout dog, but the one which really sticks in my mind is Fido the Fable dog. This was Peter Molyneux’s big play in Fable 2, his foolproof way of getting you to care about something he could leverage later on – I can’t bring myself to spoil the surprise even all these years later.
His thinking was clear: no one can resist a dog. You may be able to deny the charms of a humanoid companion, find them a bit annoying, but you can never turn down a four-legged friend. And I think it worked.
It reminds me of the wonderful Mabari Warhound from Dragon Age: Origins. What a beast! Even when ordered to kill my companions, it didn’t turn me down. Now there’s a real friend for you.
I know I’ve made a lot of friends in video games, but for a while I couldn’t actually think of any. I’ve always struggled to really bond with NPCs in the way I know a lot of people have – and I’ve always slightly envied those people for it – but I find most NPCs and companions to be something different to friends. Something more like exposition delivery mannikins or walking storage bags. And yet, I have made friends in games.
It probably shouldn’t have taken me so long to think of because, duh, it’s Pokémon, a series about friendship and growing bonds, about foregoing strength and stats for a trusted companion that can muddle through. Of course it’s that. I want to say there’s one Pokémon that always stood out above the rest, maybe your chosen starter, but I don’t think there is. Game Freak’s success comes from an enduring ability to give incredible, disarming humanity to its little creatures. There are no exceptions. Whichever ones you choose or bump into, or get stuck with and grow to sort of begrudgingly love, are the ones that matter. A lesson that friendship isn’t always what we think it is, if that isn’t a little trite. It’s about the bond itself, regardless of the person – or Pokémon.
So I have a propensity towards liking animals which don’t talk back – sue me! But how can you deny the stalwart charm of Roach in The Witcher 3? She is Geralt’s forever companion, lugging him around the countryside into beasts’ lairs without so much as a whinny.
“C’mon Roach”: the most iconic saying in the game. It’s what I say whenever I’m pretending to be Geralt, which I do quite a lot and I bet you do too. “C’mon Roach.” Speak it and there she’ll be (in the game, that is, she’s never shown up in real life). Maybe inexplicably up on a roof somewhere, or caught on a fence or a bush, but there she’ll be, forever, dependably, by your side.