Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- What unreleased game of 2020 are you most looking forward to?
- What achievement did you go to ridiculous lengths for?
- What game do you keep restarting but never finish?
The incidental dialogue used for greetings or battle cries or just to give players something to overhear in passing are called barks. There's a fine line between barks that are fun, communicative, and add to the world (like everything the guards say in Thief: The Dark Project), and barks that are repetitive and make you wish you were deaf (like everything the guards say in Skyrim).
We've all grown sick of certain specific lines of dialogue whether it's Lydia saying she's sworn to carry your burdens, or the Warden wanting a ladder so we'll get off their back, or NCR troopers explaining how patrolling the Mojave almost makes them wish for a nuclear winter, or Pawns telling us wolves hunt in packs, or the Duty guard saying, "Get out of here, Stalker!"
Which NPC bark are you most sick of hearing? Which one would you most like to remove from a game and your memories? Here are some of our choices, plus a few from our forum members.
Evan Lahti: Slay the Spire's endgame-after-the-endgame is Ascension, a grueling, hardcore phase of play that piles on a new layer of difficulty each time you manage to reach the top of the spire. At Ascension 13, I have to deal with a stack of 13 negative modifiers: I start the game damaged, all enemies are tougher and deadlier, I start each run with a cursed card, bosses drop less gold, and so on. The outcome of that is I lose a lot—I think it took me about 10 hours of play to get from Ascension 11 to 13.
If these circumstances weren't enough, I have to listen to the calls of Cultists, StS's most memed bad guy. "CAW! CAAAW!" goes the Cultist. I kill them as quickly as possible. Like a lot of StS enemies, they power creep steadily each turn, putting you on a timer to deal with them. Each boost in strength is accompanied by this annoying-ass bird call. If that weren't enough, there's also a chance to drop the Cultist Headpiece, which turns your own character into a squawking facsimile over the course of your run.
"You never should have come here."
Joanna Nelius: Highwaymen, bandits, guards—every Skyrim NPC out for my blood will say this over and over again until it becomes an empty threat. I never should have 'come here?' You should have never been in my way. I can't take these NPC seriously when they all use the same threat. It just makes me want to take 'em out as fast as I can so I don't have to listen to them, but it never stops. There's always another one ready to say it.
"He's killing everyone!"
Stevie Ward: In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order the troopers say "He's killing everyone!" which not only is a dumb thing no one would say, it's also repeated constantly (you'll hear it maybe six times on the first level alone). Yes, Gary, he is killing everyone, but a line like "He's taken them out" or pretty much anything else would have sounded a bit more natural, and not like that trooper has never seen the inverse law of ninja before. You're better than that, Gary. You are.
Any noise a Temtem makes
Jarred Walton: All of the little blips the various Temtem make get annoying after the first few times. It's everything good and bad about Pokemon, only with a bunch of creature names that Pokemon fanatics won't recognize. (Note: I am not a Pokemon fanatic.) And there are so many random battles, often with the same Temtem you've already fought a dozen times. Just give me a skip key or a fast battle mode, please? I've already turned down the audio.
"Less violence, I say. More violets!"
Lauren Morton: In the main hub of Guild Wars 2 there's an NPC banker that says this ridiculous line. If you happen to be standing around organizing your bank and inventory for a few minutes or just idling nearby while chatting to friends, you'll inevitably hear this a few times. The Sylvari character who says it does so with such a particular inflection that it's impossible to ignore. Less violence, more violets? What does that even mean? I know it kind of almost rhymes but those things are not an equivalent exchange!
"Eat flaming—or possibly frosty—death!"
Jody Macgregor: Baldur's Gate has a lot of repeated lines to be annoyed by. "You must gather your party before venturing forth," isn't really a bark but you sure will hear it a lot. The precise delivery of "My hotel's as clean as an elven arse," and "Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes! Raargh!" will be stuck in your head long after dementia takes the names of your children.
But one line in particular bugs me, and that's the combat bark delivered by Neera, the wild mage companion added in the Enhanced Edition. The new companions all have more voiced dialogue than the original NPCs, but they still repeat combat barks over and over. Neera, the one who sounds like off-brand Felicia Day and casts unpredictable spells, shouts "Eat flaming—or possibly frosty—death!" at the start of every fight and it really wore down my soul after 30 hours or so.
randyl: Most of the common Pawn dialog in Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen. "Tis a troubling foe." "Soaked to the bone." a few others about getting drenched. Something something "THE BRINE!" I just want to tell them, "Less chat, more action."
I Will Haunt You: Right now, specifically, from Greedfall it would be the companion warning that I am running out of magic and should drink a potion to restore it. They remind you every single time it happens and it can't be disabled.
Bonus would be anything Skyrim right now. I've played 70 hours worth the last couple of weeks and the last 4 or so of those hours I muted the game and put on some MixHound from YouTube.
Zloth: The various drinking sounds in Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Humans do it a lot. GLUG GLUG GLUG!! SSSLLLLUUURRRRP! My ears are just inches from my throat but somehow these character's noises are louder than my own swallowing!
MaddMann: ANOTHER SETTLEMENT NEEDS YOUR HELP - Preston Garvey circa 2287
McStabStab: In Anno 1800 every time a trade is fulfilled with Sir Archibald Blake he says, "I can finally get rid of that pent-up gas!" It's fine the first 20 trades and then you're like, bro maybe it's time to see a doctor.
Ramza_Beoulve: I think the bark that haunts me the most at the moment is in Divinity: Original Sin 2. There's an NPC in Driftwood that walks up to a fish cart and says "It smells worse over here than a dozen rotten eggs dropped in a vat of vinegar," in an accent that is not at all grating.
Zloth: Yeah, you can get stuck in that location for a long time, trying to work out what to buy, too. I learned to turn off the stereo when I went in there.
McStabStab: HEAR YE! HEAR YE! QUEEN JUSTINIA EXECUTES TWO DOZEN NOBLEMEN FOR INSAHBOHDINAYSHUN!