Most games with a story, whether they are single player or multiplayer, have a habit of dragging someone with you for a while. How games do this, well it varies greatly, so I’m going to talk about the few games I’ve placed recently.
Sometimes, followers, companions, whatever you want to call them, are bloody awful. Sometimes you forget they’re there. Often the game developers want you to have some sort of attachment to the morons you generally have following you around. One of my favourite examples of a follower done right is that of the security guards and scientists in Half-Life. They’ll probably die, but they’ll do their best to help out and the game isn’t ruined if they’re caught in the crossfire between you and a bunch of strange army guys who appeared out of nowhere. Still, they’re not really that good, but since Half-Life is an old game, I can look past that.
Most of the time though, followers are bloody horrible. You can’t stand them. They are lifeless nothings who get in your way, or they’re non-stop whingy chatterboxes who are still in your way. Developing AI smart enough to not piss off the player is an art form, and I congratulate anyone who manages to get it right. Many people have tried.
Borderlands 2 is an odd one. There’s actually not that many followers at all. Most of the time, your job is escorting someone or something around while they do an important job. The start of the game consists of nothing BUT this tedious job. And what makes it worse is that you have to accompany the last Claptrap unit ever, all the way to his bloody boat. I don’t know what it is that makes Claptrap so damn annoying, but he is such a grating character, that you want to hand him over to Captain Flynt, despite Angel’s insistence that you need him. On top of all that, once you kill Captain Flynt and get to his boat, Claptrap ditches you until you make it to Sanctuary! The ONLY bonus is that he can’t die, which is better than some of the other escort/protect missions later on.
Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row 4 are a bit better when it comes to followers. The biggest issue is their pathfinding. Unlike Borderlands 2, where the majority of the landscape is static, there’s cars and guns and dead bodies all over the place in the Saints Row games, and the AI takes a while to work out where it’s supposed to be going. But to its credit, followers can work out when to get in your car, or go and find their own car to follow you. What generally puts people off being accompanied by anyone but another human is Pierce. You often find yourself being followed by this one guy who’s completely useless, and goes to prove his uselessness by constantly getting downed in fights and stuff. Which is a shame because most of the followers are alright, and Oleg is nigh unstoppable.
Skyrim, being your typical RPG game, has hit and miss followers too. They are mostly capable though and you can give them basic instructions. They’ll fight for you and die for you. You’ll often end up accidentally killing some of them if you’re not careful, but some followers are marked as essential (i.e. they don’t die, they fall down and don’t get up until they’ve regained health) and there’s also a really nice perk in the Dragonborn DLC that makes followers immune to damage. Overall though, Skyrim followers are very basic and don’t really say much unless they’re Serana the whiny little vampire with daddy issues. Honestly, the only reason Skyrim’s followers are good is because of the myriad of mods that have come out, bringing both new followers and complete overhauls to how followers work.
In conclusion? I don’t know. I’ve always found followers annoying, especially if they die to a stiff breeze, something all the above games manage to avoid. They’re often just a hindrance though, which you don’t want in your video games. You’re there to play, not to babysit some bad AI.
If only every game was as easily moddable as Skyrim was…