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Many modern games these days like to gloss over the villain as a mere obstacle to the player’s hero. It’s understandable since the hero is the one in which the player spends most of his / her time with. In recent years I cannot recall any wonderful video game villains at all and most seem to be either mindless world eating threat or a misunderstood grey character in which the character was suppose to pity or redeem. After finishing a modern RPG I would remember some of the companions and some of the more interesting quests but I cannot remember the villain at all. Who was the villain in Oblivion? I think it was a demon thing, but it had a wonderful Dark Brotherhood quest! Who was the villain in Skyrim? I think it was a dragon, but forget about him I can dragon shout people off cliffs! Who was the villain in Dragon Age: Origins? I think it was again a dragon…or was that the villain in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm? Anyways, I can’t think of any real memorable villains in modern times so let’s talk about some villains I do remember and they are Irenicus from Baldur’s Gate 2, Kefka from Final Fantasy 6 and the Joker from The Dark Knight.

 

Spoilers Alert if you haven’t play through Baldur’s Gate 2, Final Fantasy 6 or watched The Dark Knight

 

Irenicus

 

Irenicus does not mess around. He always had a plan and he tortures you in a self-righteous tone asking “You have such…potential.” Even after you escaped the initial dungeon and he is long gone he haunts your dreams with such command. He controls the PC. I can still remember the chilling word, “Stand” or in another dream when he goes on about a story of a woman who works hard to raise her children and then mercilessly kills her “And now she is dead.” Doing all this just to make a point to the PC about the nature of life and how it’s a world of survival of the fittest. I remember an exchange between Imoen and him after he had broken free from Spellhold.

 

“Hello, little one. You and I have a great deal to do.”

“Wh-what are you planning?”

“Not to worry, nothing worse than what I shall do to your friend.”

 

I remember hating Irenicus but along with that hatred came with certain respect. He was winning and I was always a step behind. I respected his plans, and I respected how he can lay waste to a bunch of mages in seconds. If the boss fight against Irenicus weren’t hard then perhaps that respect would have faded but the fight was hard and you needed to break down his magical defenses to even start damaging him and when he finally dies at the Elf home city, he drags you into hell with him. At the end it was so satisfying finally beating him and watch him rot in hell. He wasn’t going to hurt anyone else anymore and I put a formidable foe away.

 

Kefka

 

This crazy clown is one of the few villains who actually won. Many villains go out there and try to destroy the world. Kefka actually does it mid-way through Final Fantasy VI. Before he destroys the world, he had poisoned an entire town, enslaved Terra, killed General Leo and kicked around his corpse, killed all the Espers and finally betrayed his emperor to become a godlike being. After he already won and reshaped the world in his own image he likes to fire down laser beams on any survivors for a laugh. There was no redeeming quality to him and I loved that in a villain. It was so satisfying to finally put him down after all he did to everyone in Final Fantasy VI.

 

The Joker

 

The Joker from the Dark Knight was great. Even though he was on film and in a different medium he had both the traits of both Kefka and Irenicus. The Joker made plans, a lot of them and he lies how he’s only a mad dog chasing cars which isn’t true at all but with his appearance and chaotic nature it was easy to believe him. The Joker was genuinely funny, who didn’t laugh at least a little after seeing the pencil trick or seeing the irony of ‘let her go’ and his rebuttal of ‘Very poor choice of words.’ The Joker was both endearing in his humor but he was so incredibly intelligent. The Joker won so many times over Batman and only in the very end at great cost to himself was he able to finally put the Joker away. It was a pyrrhic victory, but that’s what made the Joker so memorable. He was a worthwhile foe that both humor and terrified the audience.

 

The traits these three villains shared are that they’re all very intelligent and had plans to get what they want. There are so many times when a villain would allow the hero a chance to escape. Not these villains, they plan for keeps and will get what they want and the hero and his companions must suffer from it. A good villain should be a viable threat that the hero must witness first hand. In Dragon Age: Origins they would build up the threat in the map and you cannot revisit a village because it was destroyed but it would have been so much better to revisit that village and see the destruction firsthand. The hero should see a companion be irreversibly changed by a villain’s evil act. Imoen changed after her encounter with Irenicus and depending on how you played; Celes was going to commit suicide. Villains should also make things personal. I know there’s the old RPG cliché of having a villain burning down your village and you have to go on a quest of vengeance. It’s cliché now but what it did do was to make things personal for a character and provides motivation to pursuit that villain.

 

Above all, a villain should not be a dragon. Dragons make wonderful boss fights and should be included, but for the main antagonist, a dragon is simply too foreign to relate unless he can morph into human being so that’s different. But still just don’t do it. Don’t make another dragon the main villain in an RPG!

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Obsessing over Sword Art Online at the moment ^_^

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I am not going to trouble myself with tropes or characteristics like wit or style or urbanity.

 

The bottom line is that the bad guy needs to do something to you that is beyond the pale. It should become, if it isn't already, personal.

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Give me some smug bastard like Walton Simons from Deus Ex.

 

I love smug bastards. It's satisfying to slap that smugness off their faces at the end.

Another smug bastard / insane villain is Luca Blight from Suikoden 2. He made a villager act like a pig in front of him and promise to free him after. He freed him by 'skewing the piggy'


Obsessing over Sword Art Online at the moment ^_^

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Villains that talk a lot, not monologuing when they should be acting, but I like it when the Joker, or Irenicus were speaking/taunting knowing they were winning.


Herald of the Obsidian Order

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I am not going to trouble myself with tropes or characteristics like wit or style or urbanity.

 

The bottom line is that the bad guy needs to do something to you that is beyond the pale. It should become, if it isn't already, personal.

 

Absolutely in agreement with this. It has to be personal if not directly to the PC but to a companion. That may lead to darker themes though. One scenario is if one companion joined you and then she / he was captured and raped. He / she rejoins your party and is scarred. Question is do we as gamers want to go to such dark themes? I mean the question is where should the line be for a villain?


Obsessing over Sword Art Online at the moment ^_^

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I agree with your points, though I must admit I've found the antagonist I remember and like in the Fallout series(so yeah, spoilers if you continue to read):

 

The Master, he thought he was never the villain, until you showed him the flaws of his plan. The thing I like about him is that you could see he was trying to save the world, his way. Though it turned out his plan could not work, I saw the point he was making, to create a new, superior race from humans, suited to face the post-apocalyptic world.

 

Father Elijah, a madman who had absolute grip of the player. The fact that he was in control, that he made the rules, was a good thing IMO. How he tried to alter the human nature, to control greed. It was in plain sight that he was, in fact, a genious, but a crazy one. I found snippets of wisdom in his ramblings and overall, I liked him as an antagonist.

 

Ulysseus, a man who had followed you, stalked you. A man who blamed you for atrosicities, who questioned your set of morals and your choices for the fate of the Mojave. And with a plan of his own to "set thing right".

 

So, to sum it up, I'd like to see an antagonist with a good plan(at least on paper, as some flaws might occur when it is applied), a hefty ammount of control over things and who makes you think about your choices.


Dude, I can see my own soul.....

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The villain above all else must possess personality traits and motives that at least make them seem like a person; their flaw(s) might be selfishness, cruelty, insecurity, hunger for power or just simple madness -- they need to be marginally relatable on some level -- but what makes a villain suck is being "bad" just for the sake of being bad.

 

Shades of grey are important.

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The bad guy needs to have soul.

 

Soul and dripping atmosphere that provides that loathing/hatred/respect that digs down and propels you forward to stop his plans.

 

It's also kind of fun to have the bad guys who really, truly don't think of themselves as bad guys. Sure, there have been some fun "i'm crazy and evil" bad guys, but the ones that felt that what they were doing made them the heroes and you the bad guy in their story.. Those can be memorable.


"Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum."

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The bad guy needs to have soul.

 

Soul and dripping atmosphere that provides that loathing/hatred/respect that digs down and propels you forward to stop his plans.

 

It's also kind of fun to have the bad guys who really, truly don't think of themselves as bad guys. Sure, there have been some fun "i'm crazy and evil" bad guys, but the ones that felt that what they were doing made them the heroes and you the bad guy in their story.. Those can be memorable.

 

Absolutely. The Joker doesn't think he's a bad guy at all. He would argue that "He's just ahead of the curve" in this dog eat dog world of survival of the fittest.


Obsessing over Sword Art Online at the moment ^_^

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The villain above all else must possess personality traits and motives that at least make them seem like a person; their flaw(s) might be selfishness, cruelty, insecurity, hunger for power or just simple madness -- they need to be marginally relatable on some level -- but what makes a villain suck is being "bad" just for the sake of being bad.

 

Shades of grey are important.

 

A villain should absolutely have motives and motivation but I disagree with villains suck at being bad just for the sake of being bad. Kefka was bad because he wanted to be god. He was insane, but it worked because he made it personal.


Obsessing over Sword Art Online at the moment ^_^

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The bad guy needs to have soul.

 

Soul and dripping atmosphere that provides that loathing/hatred/respect that digs down and propels you forward to stop his plans.

 

It's also kind of fun to have the bad guys who really, truly don't think of themselves as bad guys. Sure, there have been some fun "i'm crazy and evil" bad guys, but the ones that felt that what they were doing made them the heroes and you the bad guy in their story.. Those can be memorable.

 

Absolutely. The Joker doesn't think he's a bad guy at all. He would argue that "He's just ahead of the curve" in this dog eat dog world of survival of the fittest.

Joker does not think he is a good guy either, he just does not care.

 

He just wants to get into Batman's pants.


Say no to popamole!

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I liked Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins. He had a lot of what nikolokolus and Raithe describes... but more importantly, he was voiced by Simon Templeman! Now THAT is something I love in a villain! :p

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I liked Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins. He had a lot of what nikolokolus and Raithe describes... but more importantly, he was voiced by Simon Templeman! Now THAT is something I love in a villain! :p

And now I am once again reminded that Tony Jay is dead :(


Say no to popamole!

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What about a villain that want to bring the same pain he/she had known (perhaps from a lover/parents/sibling/children's death during war), to a world now peaceful, who has now forgotten the atrocities committed by the respectful governments. Realizing humans wont change and will never respond to anything but fear he rationalizes that universal peace can only be achieved if he holds the world hostage, that resistance is met with total annihilation so that citizens are reminded of what suffering they will know if they attempt to breach the peace.

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The villain above all else must possess personality traits and motives that at least make them seem like a person; their flaw(s) might be selfishness, cruelty, insecurity, hunger for power or just simple madness -- they need to be marginally relatable on some level -- but what makes a villain suck is being "bad" just for the sake of being bad.

 

Shades of grey are important.

 

A villain should absolutely have motives and motivation but I disagree with villains suck at being bad just for the sake of being bad. Kefka was bad because he wanted to be god. He was insane, but it worked because he made it personal.

 

I don't know who Kefka is, but doesn't your description of insanity dovetail with my inclusion of madness as a personality trait? The trick is that a villain usually doesn't see themselves as evil, the best ones usually think they are serving some greater good by serving their own ends -- i.e. saving the world from itself, purging some hated enemy from the land, etc.

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I liked Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins. He had a lot of what nikolokolus and Raithe describes... but more importantly, he was voiced by Simon Templeman! Now THAT is something I love in a villain! :p

 

I winced when I think about Loghain cause he had so much potential in the beginning and he just didn't deliver as a character. Not only is he not the main villain he also didn't do that much after the initial betrayal. He also didn't make it that personal. So his betrayal led to the deaths of almost all the wardens, I don't care the wardens didn't do that much anyway and I just joined it so why should I care and he was doing so to because in his mind was for the good of the kingdom. So I can't hate him that much either and he can join my party at the end at the expense of the whiny Alaster! Just so much potential but failed for me as a bad guy.


Obsessing over Sword Art Online at the moment ^_^

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The villain above all else must possess personality traits and motives that at least make them seem like a person; their flaw(s) might be selfishness, cruelty, insecurity, hunger for power or just simple madness -- they need to be marginally relatable on some level -- but what makes a villain suck is being "bad" just for the sake of being bad.

 

Shades of grey are important.

 

A villain should absolutely have motives and motivation but I disagree with villains suck at being bad just for the sake of being bad. Kefka was bad because he wanted to be god. He was insane, but it worked because he made it personal.

 

I don't know who Kefka is, but doesn't your description of insanity dovetail with my inclusion of madness as a personality trait? The trick is that a villain usually doesn't see themselves as evil, the best ones usually think they are serving some greater good by serving their own ends -- i.e. saving the world from itself, purging some hated enemy from the land, etc.

The villain above all else must possess personality traits and motives that at least make them seem like a person; their flaw(s) might be selfishness, cruelty, insecurity, hunger for power or just simple madness -- they need to be marginally relatable on some level -- but what makes a villain suck is being "bad" just for the sake of being bad.

 

Shades of grey are important.

 

A villain should absolutely have motives and motivation but I disagree with villains suck at being bad just for the sake of being bad. Kefka was bad because he wanted to be god. He was insane, but it worked because he made it personal.

 

I don't know who Kefka is, but doesn't your description of insanity dovetail with my inclusion of madness as a personality trait? The trick is that a villain usually doesn't see themselves as evil, the best ones usually think they are serving some greater good by serving their own ends -- i.e. saving the world from itself, purging some hated enemy from the land, etc.

 

I'm really sorry that you haven't heard of Kefka, he was such an incredible villain that really drove the plot in Final Fantasy. I suppose the problem is we need a better definition of what is insanity. To me insanity is being absolute irrational despite the consequences. You can have motivations but those motivations can be absolutely irrational at the same time. Kefka is very similar to the Joker in how he just wanted to see the world burn and he succeeded. In terms of the bests ones are the ones who serve some greater good, I don't know of any good ones. Could you name some of your best villains for me?


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Would enjoy it if there was no villain and you simply choose your sides in the game instead.

 

But if there has to be a villain, make him/her understandable, get his/her points across in a good way and have the option to join/sympathize with him/her in some ways.

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I've never had a villain I hate effectively. Usually they're sympathetic, or just generic idiots. Most well-done villains seem to be in the sympathetic range, e.g. Ravel.

 

If they need to create a villain I'd love to hate, though, Obsidian could just make a faction and model it after EA. Now THAT, I would hate with the fire of a thousand suns, and would gleefully and happily murder them and/or level up enough to murder them. Could be writing something they know, too! Ultima's done it before...


Sword Sharpener of the Obsidian Order

(will also handle pitchforks and other sharp things)

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I liked Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins. He had a lot of what nikolokolus and Raithe describes... but more importantly, he was voiced by Simon Templeman! Now THAT is something I love in a villain! :p

 

What I love about Loghain is that he was so nearly right. There really was no evidence that this was the Fifth Blight, it really was the best tactical decision to retreat from the battle of Ostagar, the Orlesians really were trying to take over (by somehow getting rid of Loghain's daughter and marrying an Orlesian Royal to Cailan), and the Grey Warden's delayed lighting of the signal flare really did look like treachery. Arl Howe was a **** but he was loyal, something the Coussland's may not have been.

 

This is what I love in an antagonist. Someone who I don't hate. Someone who I can come to respect and maybe even admire by the end of the story. Letho from the Witcher 2 is another great example of this. Yes, Letho has been working against Geralt from day one, yes, he made Geralt's life incredibly difficult, but no, he is not evil. He's the only one in the whole game who is fighting for Witchers. He's the only one fighting for the rights of Geralt's kind. Similar defenses can be made for all the potential "villains" in that game.

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