Welcome to this week’s article of The Good, Bad, and What The?, where we took a good, long look at characters in movies, video games, anime, and books and put them on the judgement table to see if they are worthy to be in their respective stories. I strongly believe that well developed characters are more important than anything else in a good story, so I always judge them hard. At the end of every character’s evaluation I will give them one of four ratings: Good for those characters that are developed and deserve their place in the story, Bad for those characters that have no place being made or interacting with anyone else in the story, What The for the characters I just can’t figure out, and then the characters who are dull as dishwasher will get the rating of Sack of Potatoes. Today on the judgement table: Artyom, the main character of “Metro 2033.”
Now, as anyone who plays the games is well aware, Artyom doesn’t talk in the games. So, I am talking about Artyom in the book. In “Metro 2033”, Russian society lives entirely underground in the old metro systems of the country. Due to nuclear war, the above ground is uninhabitable for human life. As such, life is now lived underground with great difficulty. Mutants attack the people of the metros and a race of creatures called the Dark Ones seems to have a motive to erase what is left of human life. Artyom is told by a man named Hunter that he must travel to a station called Polis and go on a journey to save the people of the metro from the Dark Ones. Artyom journeys through the horrors that the metro conceals and goes on his quest to eradicate the Dark Ones from existence.
Artyom is a young man in his early twenties who basically grew up in the metro. He was born above ground and lived there for a few years, but remembers almost none of it. His earliest memories were of him living in Timiryazevskaya station. The station was eventually overrun by rats and his family was killed by the tiny creatures of disgust. Artyom is then raised in the station VDNKh by his adopted uncle Sukhoi. This little bit of backstory already sets up Artyom as a fairly depressed character. He lost his family and his life on the surface, although many people lost that part, and he wishes nothing more than to have an easy life, which he never gets. He is a big fan of reading, but getting books that are not destroyed from the above world is quite the task. When the books do get into the metro, they are priced quite high. Artyom has a thirst for knowledge, especially because he has missed so much being stuck doing labor work in the metro. It’s like being a hard working farmer; he wasn’t given a good education, so Artyom tries to make up for it. You admire his desire to be a better, more educated person, and you feel bad because of how much of struggle it is for him. Artyom often speaks very somber about the situation, but tries to do his best. The situations that Artyom gets in, though, are the true signs of his character.
Artyom in his journeys gets thrown into a lot of really horrible and tough situations, many of them very life threatening. He gets captured, attacked by mutants, watch newly made friends get brutally murdered — he goes through the whole package. Artyom fights on, though, and that is one of his strongest points. You admire his will to fight on and continue. He is a character who often acts and is very scared, but keeps moving. He gets a lot of help and motivation from others, but he still has the guts to move himself. You get a certain admiration and attachment to his will to move forward, which is a good thing. Liking a trait about a character and their willingness to stick to their guns is something people enjoy. If a character is really smart and uses it well, then you like that trait about them. Artyom is also a very kind and accepting kind of person. He is willing to take help from anybody and work with anyone he can. He is curious about every person he meets, and will take a lesson from anybody. He is like a young kid; he wants to learn and meet people and is driven to a fault. He was given a mission that he knows he must not fail, even though a complete stranger told him to do it. These are all good traits that make Artyom likeable and a pleasant character. Artyom’s personality, however, doesn’t make you like him as much as his drive does.
In terms of a unique twist or interesting trait about him, Artyom doesn’t have any. His actual personality, aside from being curious, feels sort of bland through the whole book. He isn’t super aggressive, righteous, or violent; he is very middle of the road, calm and driven. I think this was done to make you feel more like you are in his shoes; you make a character that is simple and you can more easily imagine yourself in their position. Video games use this tactic sometimes, but in a book it feels sort of out of place or awkward. I don’t know if this was the exact intent, but it feels that way. He just feels very mild and plain; nothing about Artyom really stood out as super interesting to me. Other than his fear of rats and how he ended up in VDNKh, there just was not anything out of the ordinary or extraordinary about his story and personality. It’s kind of unfortunate because other characters you meet are much more interesting in the way they feel than Artyom. Artyom feels like a conduit to see these events through, but not a full character.
So what will be the verdict on the Russian cave dweller? Well, Artyom gets the verdict of What The? He isn’t a character who you really hate or have an issue with, but he doesn’t feel super interesting or complex. He gets into crazy situations and meets some crazy characters, but acts very simply. He has the drive and will to fight and is someone you could admire, but just feels simple. Simple is the best way to explain it in the end. I did enjoy the book, though, and I think having read the book and played the game helps enhance the other.