- Hogwarts Legacy features fully-voiced custom characters increasing its immersive value.
- Adding more variety in protagonists would increase the draw of the RPG genre. Giving custom characters their own voice is one way of achieving this.
- There are risks associated with voicing custom characters, such as the quality of the voice work or the facial expressions that go along with it.
- Silent protagonists have their own unique charm, but it requires skillful writing to be able to fully deliver on that front.
The role-playing genre of video games has evolved tremendously over the decades. From its humble beginnings in the eighties to the expansive open worlds brimming with life seen today. With the release of Hogwarts Legacy, it has grown not only from a visual perspective but as a whole.
From storytelling techniques and narratives to audio design and gameplay mechanics. From intricate map concepts to worlds that stretch far beyond the horizon. The genre has continued to provide exceptional experiences throughout its existence.
Another element that has contributed to the genre’s growth is voice acting. In the past, games used different techniques to convey a certain emotion or the gravity of a situation. This involved specific music tracks, well-written dialogues, and images.
As the generations passed, voice acting was introduced to gaming, adding a whole new layer of immersion to these experiences. However, role-playing games still tend to go down the silent protagonist route, which has been a topic of debate in several spaces for various reasons.
The Attraction Of Role-Playing Games
The main draw of a role-playing game is to experience the story of a character as that character in an entirely unique setting. Usually, RPGs involve a custom character creator that allows you to create your representation within that game.
This representation serves as a proxy allowing you to interact with the world as you experience the story. Conversing with NPCs and making choices that impact the story and the world, all these immersive elements, are things that make the genre special.
And since it is our in-game representation, the element of voice is often discarded for dialogue options and a bunch of sounds. Some RPGs in recent times have given the custom player character a voice of their own. As with everything else, however, there are pros and cons to having voicework in these games.
The latest example of such an RPG game would be Hogwarts Legacy. Players who preordered the deluxe edition got a headstart in the game. It’s worth noting that Hogwarts Legacy has a custom character creator and fully voiced cutscenes. But what does that add to the experience?
Hogwarts Legacy’s Heightened Immersion
On top of having access to the vast lore of Harry Potter, Hogwarts Legacy has added more to the experience to increase its impact. The breathtaking visuals and top-of-the-line art direction combined with energetic characters play in favor of the game’s capabilities.
Within minutes of starting the game, you are greeted with a major twist that instantly pulls you in and glues you to your seat. Of course, I am not going to add any spoilers here, but Hogwarts Legacy kicks things off right. You’ll find yourself wanting more of it with each hour you spend at Hogwarts and beyond.
However, Hogwarts Legacy goes a step beyond for the sake of its immersion. Instead of opting for the traditional silent protagonist, the game features fully voiced cutscenes. The catch here is that there aren’t many voice options, but you can adjust the voice’s pitch.
This isn’t a setting where you’re playing as a character with its own lore. You are the protagonist, and you create your own character, unlike games such as Persona 5 and The Witcher 3. Having it come with a full voiceover that is actually done well is deserving of praise.
Breaking immersion is extremely easy and severely impacts a game’s overall experience. Any single element of a game can break the deal for a player. But while it’s easy to break immersion, the same can be said for projects made with a certain passion.
The Impact Of Voice
Before I go over what makes Hogwarts Legacy stand out, we must first look at how voiceovers have impacted other games. Forspoken serves as a relevant example. Square Enix‘s new IP received negative feedback for a multitude of reasons. Most notably for its script and delivery.
You took control of a default character and had to reach the conclusion of her story. In this scenario, it’s paramount that the player feels connected to the protagonist. If they can’t relate or aren’t fascinated by the protagonist, it instantly puts them off and breaks the immersion.
Add to that a script that is bland and repetitive, along with questionable voice work, and it is pretty obvious why the player would feel disconnected. Plus, there were other factors, such as downgraded visuals and an empty open world that just didn’t feel grand. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is another good example of bad voice dubs.
Silent protagonists aren’t inherently bad, but it takes skill to properly convey the story through them. One wrong expression or gesture can have an unintended effect on the player and impact immersion. An example of this is the infamous nodding in Final Fantasy XIV.
Imagine yourself playing an RPG, and an NPC asks your character a question in a life-threatening situation. You are given a few dialogue options, and upon selecting one, all your character does is nod.
This gesture somehow conveys your thoughts to the NPC and progresses the plot forward. Normally, one would question this, but it’s often overlooked.
FromSoftware handles this masterfully. With last year’s Elden Ring and the line of souls games, the way they tell their story is such a distinct experience you don’t even notice the mute nature of your character.
Cyberpunk 2077 is another example of how voiceovers can increase immersion in an RPG with a custom character. CD Projekt Red opted for a first-person camera for the game. Imagine how weird it would have been to interact with Johnny through a mute protagonist and a first-person camera.
The Pros And Cons Of Voiced CACs
And like everything else in life, even voiced custom characters have their fair share of pros and cons. Whether one side outweighs the other depends entirely on your outlook and preferences.
As I mentioned previously, voice acting requires effort and budget. There have been numerous examples of shoddy voice work, and it actually subtracts from the experience. Imagine Leon from Resident Evil 4 with the voice of a 12-year-old. This may not be the most accurate example, but it gets the point across.
Another disadvantage can possibly be the lack of immersion. Now, I know I said that voice acting adds to it, but the opposite is true for a lot of people. Considering the fact that the way you handle silent protagonists determines whether the immersion is broken or not, this topic would be up for debate.
But if I were to talk about some of the pros of giving custom characters their own voice, it would definitely be the life that’ll be added to the world. Being able to vocally convey your thoughts with fitting facial expressions would definitely be a welcome addition.
Considering the strides gaming has made in its graphics, I believe the next stages of advancement would be based on immersion and creativity. Gaming is slowly reaching a point of graphical stagnation, and the only thing that is introduced nowadays are minor additions to visual fidelity that you’d have to squint to notice.
While Hogwarts Legacy has been able to deliver a unique experience not far from what Elden Ring did, it’s not without flaws. It pains me to say that a game this good is once again held back by the lack of optimization.
While the issues are less prevalent on consoles such as the PlayStation 5, the PC port of Hogwarts Legacy is in a tragic state. This is regardless of hardware strength which makes it an issue on the game’s end. I’m hoping this will be fixed on launch day or within the first week.
There may be a lot of factors that impact immersion, but when talking about modern gaming, there’s only one king among them — bad ports and optimization.
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