Whenever I start a new video game, it’s always a great surprise (or not-so-surprise) when I have the opportunity to select a character class. Some games have their own fine-crafted classes you don’t see anywhere else, while others have the more traditional warrior/rogue/wizard breakdown. Whatever the case, I just love having some options. Customizing the game to my personal preferences makes the gameplay experience feel much more personal and enjoyable. And I definitely have a few favorite classes…
The mage is one of my go-to classes in fantasy games, because it typically allows for a detailed level of customization. If you have companions, you can hang in the back as the healer. Or you can rush in as a warlock in armor. With some careful skill balancing, you can create a resilient spellsword character in Skyrim or even try shapeshifting in Dragon Age.
My favorite wizarding style has a heavy focus on crowd control. I love being the first character in an enemy-infested environment, casting a paralysis glyph or dizzying enemies or creating a blizzard to quickly weaken foes. This lets my companions go in and deal damage more effectively — or it gives me time to switch to my melee weapon or pick a good attack spell. Manipulating the masses for the sake of winning a battle is a lot of fun.
It also seems like every gamer who enjoys playing as mages has a favorite element, such as fire. For me, it’s all about the cold. Freezing enemies in their tracks — and then, if possible, shattering them with a well-placed blow — is pretty much my favorite thing to do in a fantasy game. Giving a dragon frostbite is awesome, too.
My other go-to fantasy class is the archer. To be fair, this class is somewhat hit or miss. Some games have a limited skill set for archers, making the class a tad tedious and slow-paced to play. Fortunately, most games I’ve played offer some robust options for archers, and it’s often a specialized path for a more general rogue character. This lets you set up an archer with other complementary skills, such as stealth.
The first time I played Skyrim, I created a two-handed warrior who got crazy with a battleaxe. I still really love that character, but when I went back and played again with a sneaky archer, I found the game much more enjoyable. I wasn’t overwhelmed with enemies as often, because I could sneak up on people and land critical hits before they even knew I was there. It was a pretty awesome combo.
I also enjoyed creating a Bard in Dragon Age: Origins who specialized in archery and apparently singing courage into her companions. Because Origins has a very slow-paced archery set-up, I mostly played as my group’s mage character during that playthrough… but it was still a blast to have the songs giving bonuses to everyone while I jumped into other characters’ skins dealing damage across the battlefield.
I’ve also found that quite a few shooters seem to be including high-tech bows as a weapon of choice. That’s actually what got me interested in Crysis 3, a game I probably would never have otherwise thought to play.
Although I don’t usually play warriors in video games — at least not for a first playthrough — I do love melee combat. This is especially true when I can keep it simple. I like to hit once, hard. I don’t need to juggle two light weapons or switch between them throughout a battle, when with one powerful swing of a huge maul, I can crumple a bandit or get those wolves to stop chasing me. That’s why when it comes to playing a warrior, two-handed weapons are the way I usually go.
When given a choice of weapon, I tend to go for the battleaxe. Depending on the game, the swing of the battleaxe feels right to me, compared to the more cumbersome warhammer, etc. The battleaxe also has an aesthetic appeal that, for me, no other warrior weapon has. Because its wide surface gives plenty of room for decoration and variety, a battleaxe can be a very elaborate weapon. Let’s just say I’ve got a collection going in Skyrim.
I don’t play a lot of shooters. I’m just not very good at them, because… we won’t talk about my aiming. But that’s why my favorite shooter class tends to be the sniper. Being able to take out enemies from a distance — often before they even notice me — is a huge advantage. When the sniper class comes with special upgrades, such as being able to slow down time to take a few extra seconds lining up the perfect shot. There’s also no firearm sexier than a sniper rifle.
Sure, the Sentinel is a character class unique to Mass Effect, but I feel a real kinship to it after spending so many games and so many dozens of hours playing it. In Mass Effect, you can play as a soldier who’s strong and skilled with a firearm, a biotic who is able to create mass effect fields to do what might be called “magic” (but it’s science, guys), or an engineer who specializes in technology.
As a Sentinel, you combine the latter two classes, dealing both biotic damage and tech damage and being able to act as medic. It’s a jack-of-all-trades style of gameplay, which is exactly why it never gets boring. Because you always have a party with you in Mass Effect, you don’t have to worry about not being strong enough in one area. Sentinels make a great class that I wouldn’t even call “support” — it’s more like you gel with your companions to seamlessly take down baddies. I’ll admit I love to spam Warp, and I will do that forevermore when I play Mass Effect.
Although I do try out other classes in Mass Effect, nothing quite compares to my first playthrough as a Sentinel. That class is a magic formula for me.