A little robotic helper, a smartarse psychotic tutorial or an AI that likes to slip sarcastic backchat your way at the most inconvenient of times. Instead of lavishing more attention on protagonists, some who don’t even have the manners to speak, let’s have a look at some of the helpers – good or bad – that get us through the apocalyptic, dystopian, space opera day.
So, in no particular order, let’s do a roll call of some of the sidekicks and non-organic characters that help us, whether we want it or not, to make our way towards the finishing line.
GLaDOS (Portal Series)
What better way to kick off a tribute to helpers in games than to have a look at one that wants to help you to your death? GLaDOS is like the matron of a boarding school; she wakes you up and instructs you on your daily syllabus. But instead of schoolwork and dodgy canteen lunches, she insists you traverse a series of puzzles and platforms, expecting you to fail and flogging you with sarcasm when you prevail. She’s just doing her job and in the end, at least she’s honest about her intentions.
In Portal 2, GLaDOS is still bent on offering you plenty of opportunities to turn you into a foolish cadaver. But as you reach the bowels of the Aperture facility, you also reach some truths about the company, its founders and the sarky AI lady in question.
By the end of Portal 2, GLaDOS teams up with you in the form of a potato – an event that made many of us Irish gamers yell “Finally! Told you!” – in order to take down Wheatley. And after all that time trying to lead you to a fiery, laser-lopping end, GLaDOS ends up repaying you by saving your life… from a teleportation hole sucking you into space! Bless – that girl has some love in her virtual heart after all.
Cortana (Halo Series)
It’s safe to say that, like James Bond with Q, Master Chief would have probably been a floating tinned space carcass if it wasn’t for Cortana. This intelligent, blue-hued lady AI has been with you since the beginning – along with her dodgy haircut – and has been saving your bacon every since Halo: Combat Evolved and was with you on your journer right up to when she ultimately succumbed to a virus based demise in Halo 4.
Cortana had it all – she could tell when Covenant forces were inbound, she could unlock pathways and doors and even verbally slap sense into you when it was needed. But, most of all, she was your companion and kept you from feeling too lonely as you skulked around creepy Flood-infested ruins all on your lonesome. She’s wasn’t just there to keep Master Chief from going emo either; Cortana is incredibly advanced and can take control of major vessels like the Pillar of Autumn which, let’s face it, is a useful skill when you need to take out some incoming attacks. We should all be grateful that Cortana chose us.
Claptrap (Borderlands Series)
For some reason, I never imagined that Claptrap would stick around with us for that long – but I was clearly wrong and, sometimes, it’s good to not be right. Claptrap units are blunt, friendly and excitable – but every one of them sadly suffers a lot of abuse. I can only imagine what appears if you Google ‘Claptrap’ and ‘Rule 34’. They’re also pretty aware of the suffering of other robots and will moan lines like “I’m leaking! Leeaaking!” Claptrap not only uses his desire to ‘interface’ with things to help you throughout the game, but he also serves as a companion as you traverse the barren terrain of Pandora.
Tutorial Lady (Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon)
From the moment you are placed into the virtual body of Michael Biehn – who stars as Michael Biehn in this awesome but of DLC – you are already at the mercy of your internal guide for the game. You may think learning how to look around and jump is pretty pointless, as does your Tutorial Lady – only she does it to get a kick at your expense. Blood Dragon’s humour is littered throughout the game, but it’s especially prominent in the simple text screens that pop up in front of you courtesy of a Tutorial Lady who could be GLaDOS’ even snarkier wine-loving sister.
AI/VI (Mass Effect Trilogy)
AIs are one of the most integral, integrated elements of the Mass Effect story and at the very end of your three game-long adventure, AI is the core of all things. But we’re dedicating this entry in the roll call to the VI that aids you – even if I wonder its human nature means that it’s laughing at us behind our N7-plated backs.
On the Citadel a helpful Asari hologram called Avina tells you about the various areas of the space station and hands out information pertaining to matters like local politics. She does this in a pleasant voice and always seems happy to indulge you – even when you accidentally keep hitting A. She also helps with the running and functions of the Citadel, including turning the lights on and off. Practically.
On Noveria, you need the aid of a somewhat nonchalant VI called Mira who’s got a big ass core – if you know what I mean. VIs are also used throughout the series to catalog events and history, aiding in your understanding of the world and giving hints.
Finally, we can’t leave out Vigil, the Prothean VI on Ilos who reveals a lot of the backstory about the Protheans, helping Shepard and his/her crew get back to the Citadel in order to take on Saren and Sovereign.
So who is your favorite, decidedly non-human helper or guide in gaming? Or if you are Tutoriphobic (I totally made that word up, but I reckon it will catch on) – and, if so, who do you just loathe?