Character Select Screen

It sometimes depresses me to think about how different a game experience can be depending on the singular decision you make at the character select screen.

As you might have seen down in the Now Playing sidebar, I have playing Borderlands 2 (BL2) for the past couple of weeks. While it might be easy to think that the character select problem would be worse in MMOs – by virtue of spending 100+ hours instead of 30-70 hours – I actually think it can be more important in shorter, single-player games given you are less likely to replay them.

Right now, I am level 40 in the New Game+ Mode as Zer0, the assassin character that can basically focus either on sniper rifles or melee attacks. While my power to go invisible while projecting a holographic decoy has been useful (I have literally one-shot a few boss fights with a melee attack), I am finding it significantly less useful when all the enemies seem to have 10x more health this time around. Also, the power is pretty useless against the larger bosses with their instant-kill melee attacks¹.

I could technically respec to a more sniper rifle-focused build to get around this problem, but it occurs to me that BL2 characters sans their special move are basically all the same. In other words, a sniper-built Zer0 that doesn’t use the Deception skill regularly is just a gimped version of a sniper-built Axton/etc. Plus, it really annoys me that Zer0 is the only character without a passive health regen talent, meaning one of my equipment slots is permanently taken up with a health regen relic.

In other words, I have a pretty big case of Other Class Envy at the moment.

Does it really matter all that much? No. But that is kinda the problem, too. I went ahead and created new characters for all the “classes” and leveled them up enough to unlock their special abilities. But the thought of plowing through the entire game on normal again, which I have already started via Zer0 with New Game+, was just too much to bear. The gameplay would be different with a different class, but not that different. Hence the unlikelihood of ever seeing how the other classes play out. The waveform has collapsed, and there is just the one timeline.

Which got me to thinking: does anyone else worry about picking the “wrong” class at the character select screen in a new game? And the followup question: how do you end up picking a character?

For me, I try to do a little research on how a class is supposed to function by the end of the game before I even start, including looking at every talent tree. Then, I usually get over my inevitable decision paralysis by just picking whatever sounds interesting to me at that moment. My first WoW character was a warlock because I heard they were rare but prized members, crushing their enemies under the weight of a thousand DoTs; I abandoned it somewhere in the Hinterlands, and rerolled my namesake paladin on the basis of always liking D&D paladins but chaffing at the Lawful Good requirement. With BL2, I chose Zer0 because Lilith’s special ability in the original Borderlands was handy in escaping otherwise certain death, and Zer0′s sounded the closest to that.

Around 70 hours into BL2, I kinda wish I would have just picked Maya. Or Axton. Or… yeah.

I would settle for being allowed to start new alts out at level 20ish. Gearbox, make it happen.

¹ I am aware that a level 50 Zer0 with a few specialized pieces of equipment can solo the 4-player raid bosses. Unfortunately, that does not particularly help my enthusiasm gap right now.

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Posted on November 12, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ironically, I’m playing Axton (albeit early in normal mode) and wishing I were Zero – right now I’m finding that either I snipe stuff or it gets close and I struggle to deal. Moreover, I’ve reached largely the same conclusion that you have about the similarity of the classes – I don’t see the point in re-rolling if I’m just going to snipe everything, but the melee would actually be different.

    More generally, I have generally been very bad at predicting which class will work for me in an MMO – I often hate the one that I thought sounded the most interesting, and end up playing something that did not sound fun or interesting. This can be a real issue in that sometimes I think I dislike a game when I actually dislike the class – in EQ2 I went through six characters during the free trial and nearly gave up until the seventh stuck and became my main.

    (What I’m finally learning after playing so many MMO’s is that the big X-Factor is generally how long each individual mob lives. I’m willing to kite on special occasions (e.g. bosses) but not every single fight, and I find playing a range that hides behind an NPC tanking pet boring. So, I tend to like ranged classes in games where individual mobs die quickly enough to minimize kiting (e.g. WoW, Runes of Magic), and otherwise default to melee. SWTOR was an odd case because every pull is 3-4 mobs versus you and your NPC companion – being melee can be a pain because you finish killing your current target only to find that the rest of the foes have run off behind you to fight your companion.)

    • I have a feeling you will like Axton better once you progress a bit further. Zer0′s melee can be pretty powerful, but you end up being a huge glass cannon that gets owned by flying mobs and many large bosses.

      Six classes, eh? That is some serious dedication. I get that feeling too sometimes, where everything seems fun except how a class plays, but I have limits beyond which I start blaming the game.