Paige FTW: Insert Story Here

Despite my qualms, I am playing Soulcalibur VI, as I mentioned a few weeks ago. I do like the structure of the game’s story mode, even if I feel like the story itself is still a steaming hot mess.

One thing that bugs me, though: the Libra of Souls mode. You create your own character that crosses paths with other fighters as your fate is entwined with that of the two legendary swords, blah blah.

It’s a nice idea, but does this conceit ever really work? In how many titles has a “blank slate,” player-originated character ever really been exactly the storytelling clincher it was advertised to be?

Well, Mass Effect and Dragon Age, you could argue.

And sure, the whole entire appeal of Shepard or the Warden is that they are … you. But I would argue that they aren’t really you because you’re still following a script. You can make Shepard’s decisions, but Shepard still ultimately conforms to a script out of your control (he’s not going to have nuance behind his decisions when he lets the Quarians vaporize the Geth, you know?). They let you shape the story in very tangible ways, yes, but you’re not truly embodying it. You’re just slipping into the role of several possible Shepards.

Games like Soulcalibur take it to the other extreme, which is to say they give you an avatar with no personality and expect you to enliven your decisions on your own. Obviously, this doesn’t work either because a skeleton without flesh is hardly a person.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, why not just write … really good characters? Good role-playing is about identifying yourself with another character. It doesn’t always have to be a blank slate. Sometimes, it’s more important that it have … a soul.