The next day, Leo is atop the tower when he imagines his father talking to him (or is outright visited by his ghost, it’s hard to say). At first, Epitav seems to be insulting his son, calling him a crybaby (which the game has always used as an insult), only for him to turn around and call Leo’s empathy a quality that he lacks, which prompts some visual frustration from Leo. It’s a rare, genuinely effective emotional moment between the jackass father and his abandoned son, but I should note that it’s hampered by the fact that Leo is basically a silent protagonist.
When you want a character to communicate, your options are to have them to do so directly (through speech, sign, writing, or other methods), to have them express their feelings through animation, or to have others comment on their behaviour. Leo doesn’t do the first, has barely any of the second (less than a dozen?), and the third is an extremely shaky and arbitrary route to begin with, and would take extremely skilled hands to handle! Suffice to say, MLK doesn’t manage it in my eyes. All Leo’s qualities, like empathy, are just informed attributes that don’t actually show up in his actions.
Now, there is a fourth way to communicate your character’s feelings, but I don’t know if I should be bringing it up: the things your character does through regular gameplay can be seen as an expression of their character. It can be seen like that, but not only is the industry as a whole bad at this angle, but Square Enix in particular is so preposterously bad at this that it’s been one of my running jokes for years! Is MLK better than the curve? Well, I guess Leo talks to his citizens every single day in our playthrough, but the devs can’t guarantee you do that, and Kyle and I had long since stopped actually listening to them, which doesn’t seem very empathetic!
And worse than all the above, as the scene goes on, Epitav tries to say explain that he’s a gung-ho, bullheaded idiot who charges off to war at the drop of a hat, but this makes him a terrible sedentary king. Okay, good point. But Leo, he says, will be a good king because his personally is totally opposite of his father! Right? Oh wait, that’s right: everyone keeps reminding us that Leo has to be forced into this role with a hydraulic press, because he’s actually a gung-ho, bullheaded idiot who’d rather be fighting! Yeah, Leo’s portrayal has actually been closer in line with his headstrong father, and he has to be practically restrained into the role Epitav is now claiming he’s great at!(more…)