Question Mid-Week Question: What game has the best NPCs?

With Bethesda having finally come to its senses and added fake people to Fallout 76, seems a good time to talk about NPCs in general. What game has the best NPCs?

Not necessarily meaning companions or major figures, but the random, generic kind of AI controlled characters. GTAs random citizens are entertaining, Bannerlord's creepy staring NPCs are weird, Half-Life's nerdy scientists and helpful Barneys are nerdy and helpful.

Cast your vote with a paragraph of explanation as to why they're the best! Naturally I'm late with the question but would like to post your answers and ours Thursday morning.


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If my memory was perfect, I'm pretty sure I would pick Planescape: Torment. But it ain't so I'll give it to Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Jack, the streetwise guy who (probably) helps you out so much, Jeanette and her crazy twist, Beckett, Heather - your pet ghoul, Chunk, oh, and there's a stop sign that still has a beating coming. BioWare has some companions that will easily show up any one of V:tM:B's but, when you total up the greatness of all the characters in the game, I think V:tM:B wins.
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It's hard for me to quantify "best", especially since each game would have different needs where NPC's are concerned. I've often been happy with the NPC's in various BioWare titles, from the Mass Effect trilogy to Dragon Age (yes, even DA2), but even long before that, with Knights Of The Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights.

In terms of NPC's I really cared about, I was surprised at how much I cared about some of the NPC's in Life Is Strange. (Also the prequel, Before The Storm.)
I'll put in an early bid for Witcher 3's generic NPCs, especially for the impact in Novigrad - literally fleshing out the city.

It must be one of the trickiest choices to make in creating a new game world. Do you do a Skyrim and have almost every NPC (beyond guards) be a named character with their own life, even where you have little interaction with them? But the price is that you have to limit the scale of the city and its population as a result. Every city's beggar - token in their uniqueness - just reminds you of an entire, missing, underclass.

Do you do a Far Cry where 2s or 3s of nameless NPCs, whose raison d'etre is to dive under your truck, pop the heck up out of nowhere? And gleefully they dive, because their AI tells them to run around like headless lobsters when a car appears?! (I'm playing Far Cry New Darwin Award currently)

Witcher 3 nails it. The choice to use generic NPCs lets CD Projekt Red build and populate a huge, huge city - and make it feel alive. Think with disdain, if you must, of Novigrad and its flocks of NPCs called Strumpet, and the recycled faces. But then think of Novigrad without them or their cohorts. It would just be empty, soulless stone - as PCG has previously noted I think.

The NPCs are also a crucial background. They're the little people, the cattle who simply don't matter to the characters who shape the story - whether white-knight Geralt or someone like Orianna. Plus it's refreshing not everyone instinctively knows you can be the demi-god hero who can fix all their problems. It's not that Unnamed Strumpet #714f/c doesn't have problems (I expect), she just doesn't take you to be her personal Odd Job Protagonist.

The presence of generically-named NPCs that you can interact with (e.g. Blacksmith, Merchant) helps blur what could otherwise be a too-harsh contrast between named (Get Your Quest Here!) NPCs and the nameless sheep, too.

It's also contextual. Wolfenstein Youngblood's Paris felt conspicuous for the total absence of civilians, but it worked for gameplay. As for Geralt knowing who to talk to and who not to bother with, he has Witcher Senses and is very worldly-wise so if he just knows who to talk to, fine.

More than a para, but only a few replies so far, and I'm bored, so apols :)
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Nov 25, 2019
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Mass Effect 2! I still have fond memories of those dialogue trees and all the side quests. The writing was so dang good. Ah, the good old days of space opera RPGs.
Apr 1, 2020
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Any non-voiced game as hearing over and over the same dialogue is annoying as hell and usually if you take the time to look at the transcripts people compile online the average games "witty" dialogue reads like mediocre fanfic at best
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Dec 17, 2020
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Summoner had the best NPC ever. They didnt get in the way, and they would actually tell you important things to know in the form of gossip. Normally to keep you orientated on a quest that took place in that city area.
The wildlife in Far Cry from FC3 on. I loved that I could tell what type of animal a running-away getting-smaller-on-the -map critter was, they were so well animated.

The people in FC5, nice move by Ubi to have various ones scattered across the map provide you with your objectives.
I really liked Assassins Creed: Odyssey. Lot's of historical characters and the setting was great.
Fallout 4 had good NPC's. I liked them more than Outer Worlds, again because I preferred F4's setting.