I was just struck with a really random idea for how to better work the silent protagonist angle in Xillia 2.
So let’s run on the assumption that we’re using the exact same system for Ludger’s speech as a first run of the game. Wouldn’t it be interesting if at the beginning of the game Ludger had tons of opportunities for dialogue choices, was actively (as actively as he can) participating in conversations, and was just generally a more forthcoming person. Then, as all this tragedy and heartache is piled on top of him, we see him withdraw into himself more - there becomes fewer and fewer opportunities for you to select an option and even when you do have a choice, it’s only at the prodding of other members of the party. In this scenario, instead of making Ludger’s ability to choose things unchanged throughout the game, it is evolving with him and reflecting how he as a person is being impacted.
Furthermore, while the game stresses the importance of choice, really you have very little control of what you’re doing. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if Ludger as a character realizes this as time goes on and so reacts accordingly? Before he was so willing to push against his destiny, so willing to fight, but now he simply no longer sees the purpose and just allows himself to be dragged along without any kicking or screaming. In this scenario, while he’s been technically silent the whole time, it isn’t until the end of the game that he truly is. The player realizes just how heavy that silence is and what this means for his character. In my opinion, this would have been a great means of creating a tragic through-line throughout the course of the story rather than just using moments of tragic punch.
Of course I don’t think this would ever be likely to happen - after all, you’re trading away a core game mechanic and players are going to make a fuss as well as squirm. However, that’s the great thing - control of the situation has been wretched from the player, much like it has been wretched from Ludger; sure they may not realize it at the time and they may be aggravated by it, but it’s presenting a scenario that video games can present like no other sort of media. By handing the player what they expect (control and participation) and slowly stripping it away, they begin to realize just how little control they had of this situation the entire time. Those decisions that they made at the beginning of the game? Pointless.
Now if the developers wanted to tack a happy ending onto this and not have their ultimate message be that you have no control of your destiny, you could certainly do that too. Just think how much more impact there would be if at the final battle you suddenly have choices again after a long period of nothing. At first they’re quiet choices, maybe even two choices that are both nothing more than ellipses. But someone says something or does something that sets Ludger off and suddenly that fight that we saw so clearly at the beginning of the game comes hobbling back until it’s ragging full force; here is a man who had given up on choice and yet now he is reverting back to it, now he is saying to the universe “Screw all those times you showed me how pointless it is! I’m still going to fight! I’m still going to make choices for myself!”.
I’m sure if this idea were used there would be some people that would complain that they simply forgot about the choice mechanic halfway through the game only to have it resurface in the end, but in my opinion, this system can really be worked to uniquely showcase a form of character development.
And in a character driven series like the Tales series, I really, really wish they had taken advantage of it.