Why I love having NPCs do my bidding


In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. This week Joe calls for backup.  

In an age where anonymous keyboard mobism culture reigns, the term “git gud” has become the battlecry of the holier-than-thou gaming elite. Can’t get past that boss? Git gud. Stuck on that puzzle? Git gud. Low-levelled? Git gud, noob. 

Gitting gud, rather, getting good is often easier said than done—what with work, family obligations, study or whichever Real Life task stands in your way of sinking hundreds of hours into the latest games to achieve such prestigious-but-actually-sanctimonious premier status. For me, gitting gud is overrated—which is why I thrive in games which encourage NPC companionship. 

While I delight in playing God in strategy games, or playing co-op with mates, I’m mostly referring here to the games which offer the backup of an NPC as a secondary thought, or as something you’re required to actively seek out. In my first playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, for example, I went against Caesar's Legion and was trumped by Lanius Legate more times than I care to admit. Quashing his army of footsoldiers en route was easy enough, but the Monster of the East proved too much for me alone—until I called upon my formidable ally Veronica Santangelo. 

Upon entering the final arena with my pal in tow, Ms Santangelo made a beeline for the bossman—without prompting, I may add—which gave me enough time to lay waste to his followers, and pick him off with a few Fat Man blasts at distance. Veronica died, which I did feel bad about, but it was for The Cause. She’d have wanted it this way, I’m sure. 

Removing personal bonds entirely is of course even better. As a high-powered mage in Skyrim, the joy of conjuring otherworldly beings to do my bidding is second to none. I remember feeling genuine joy when I jumped from summoning Flame Atronachs to Frost Atronachs as I grew more adept in the arcane arts. By the time I’d hit the 200-hour mark, I was strutting into battle four-deep behind a squad of resolute Dremora Lords, as I hung out in the shadows sipping mead. 

In BioShock 2—which is absolutely the best entry in the series, by the way—I revelled in upgrading my Hypnotize Plasmids in order to make friends with Splicers and Big Daddies alike. Most critics cite the protagonist’s propensity for dual weapon-wielding as the reason the second entry’s combat was more enjoyable than the first, but there’s nothing like charging a few Hypnotize Plasmids and taking down gangs of adversaries with your own bad-guys-gone-good army. Of course, you’ll want to stay stocked up on EVE so as to avoid being caught on the back foot when the spells wear off.  

Then there’s summoning real-life buddies in Dark Souls (seriously, I can’t tell you the last time I took on a boss fight on my lonesome), teaming up with strangers in GTA V (don’t ever pick me for your heist team), and don’t even get me started on how happy I was when the Antlions switched to Gordon Freeman’s side before following his battle orders in Half-Life 2. 

Git gud? Go git 'em suits me just fine, thanks. I’ll be back here if you need me.