On Class Selection

Blaugust Post #12

Q: You can excise one class from every future game. Which? Why?

A: Warrior. Replace with something more interesting than ‘guy who hits people with sharp objects’.

Thalen wrote the above this morning, and it inspired this post. A while back, the developers of Mass Effect revealed various statistics about how people play their games. (Some spoilers for ME3 at that link.) It turns out that a very large number of people play the game as the basic Soldier, which was somewhat disappointing to me. In a game that has 6 class options with varying unique abilities, the one that “just shoots people” struck me as utterly boring. It remains one of two classes I haven’t played a Mass Effect game as (at least single-player).

Unexpected Brilliance

Mass Effect 3 wasn’t just a single player game; it has one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever played. It wasn’t quite so good at launch, but by the time I actually got into the game a year later, they’d added so much to the multiplayer that it was nearly unrecognizable. You have the same selection of classes from the main game, with a stripped down selection of abilities at the start (and honestly I don’t think I like most of the starting ability sets). What later patches brought was the ability to unlock additional characters with varied power sets. They’re still divided into Soldier, Engineer, etc., but some of them are different races with different strengths and weaknesses, and even the human unlockables tend to be pretty non-standard. The differences are pretty extreme in some cases, with the N7 Shadow infiltrator having a shadowstep and being more about murder with a sword than a sniper rifle (although it can do that too).

This brings me to my earlier point: Some of the soldiers in the multiplayer bring variety and interest to what would otherwise be the most boring class. (They’re still the class about shooting things.) There are two variations on slow, unstoppable powerhouse types in the Geth Juggernaut and the N7 Destroyer. The Juggernaut is large and slow with well above average health and shields, but comes with an immunity to instant kills and the highly damaging Siege Pulse power . The Destroyer is a mobile weapons platform, with the ability to slow its own movement in tradeoff for increased damage and accuracy, while also launching homing missiles at things that come too close. At the other end of the spectrum is the jetpack-equipped Turian Havok, capable of using its stimulant pack ability to run around the battlefield faster than any class that can’t teleport (i.e. the aforementioned Shadow and almost all of the Vanguards).

Lessons to Learn

I feel like certain other games are learning from examples like this. D&D5 comes to mind immediately, with subclass-like options for all of the base classes. Even Fighters get in on the game, with options I’m going to call “Standard”, “Battlemages are fun”, and “I liked 4e’s Warlord”. (On a semi-related note, there are a bunch of ways to make a character that can both hit things and cast spells, which one is primary mostly depends on what class you’re using to start.) I’d kind of like it if other games could use a bit of this, and make the “basics” not always so basic.

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