In early Zelda games, Link had little personality, but he did have a role to fulfill, whether it was as an adventuring son or a fairyless boy. His silence let players more readily identify with him… or so the Art of Gaming 101 puts it.
Over at PopMatters, Kevin Dickinson argues that “silent” protagonists usually aren’t a blank slate, and aren’t all that great for storytelling. Rather than the yes or no options of games like Chrono Trigger, he argues that increased interactivity through better dialogue options makes for a more interesting game.
Increasing interactivity [through branching dialogue and its effects] leads to greater immersion for the player because they are witnessing and dealing with the direct alteration of the game based on their input, an agency that does not simply determine how they will get from part A to part B but what exactly part B will become as a result of their actions. Here we see that true immersion in a gaming experience is a middle ground between developer and player agency, not the “all or nothing” approach supposed by the silent-versus-talking protagonist.
Silent protagonists do provide a wonderful means of accessing the play mechanics and narrative of a game, but it’s just simply not a means of increasing interactivity and immersion in and of itself.