When it comes to playable characters I have a very definite type. I don’t mean blonde or brunette, lithe or curvy. I mean the type of characters I choose to play or create usually fall into one very certain set of parameters, personality types and skills. It doesn’t matter if the game is a turn based strategy RPG, an old-school isometric, real time/turn based, action RPG or FPS hybrid, I usually choose to play exactly the same kind of character. Or at least I did, up until about a week ago.
The characters I usually play are, for the most part, rogues (in the D&D definition of the word), both in personality and skill set. I like to open every box, unlock every locked door, move quickly and quietly and kill swiftly, preferably from a long way away. In more traditional RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights this means that I create a straight thief character or a multi-class or dual-class thief/something hybrid. In action RPGs it means I choose the nimble characters with avoidance or dodge skills, like the Demon Hunter in Diablo III or the Outlander in Torchlight II.
With FPS RPG hybrids, my character type is even easier to fall into – all it takes is either choosing some stealth skills or, failing that, picking up a sniper rifle and keeping to the shadows. I ghosted Deus Ex: Human Revolution and my first two play-throughs of Borderlands 2 were with Zer0 and Axton, the former using the sniper tree and the latter with a longbow nuke turret and a massively overpowered sniper rifle.
There is definitely an element of expediency that factors into my rogue-like choices. One of my goals in any game that allows for exploration is to see everything there is to see and discover everything there is to discover. Being able to pick locks and sneak makes achieving this goal much easier than having to fight your way through every obstacle that may be standing in your way, but it’s more the sense of familiarity and certainty that attracts me to these characters, both in style of play and the general personality type that either goes with them or I impose upon them: good natured rogues doing wrong things for the right reasons, opportunistic and mercenary but not villainous.
I’m not going to play pop-psychologist and extrapolate anything about my own personality from my game choices, but I’m sure someone else probably will. The reason I mention all of this is because, about a week ago I deliberately set out to play a character that I normally wouldn’t, nominally to give me fodder for this very column, but mostly to see if I would enjoy it as much as my usual style of gaming.
Salvador in Borderlands 2 represents the opposite of what I usually play. Short range, skills factoring more towards brutish run and gun survivability than finesse and he’s an idiot (though a good natured idiot) to boot. Surprisingly I’ve found myself enjoying my third time though Borderlands 2 more enjoyable than my first two precisely because I’m not falling into my comfortable old patterns. I’m finding myself having to approach everything in a different manner. I can’t hide at extreme range and pop off head shots or turn invisible when things get too tough.
Changing up my typical choice of character or play style has, in essence, redefined my play experience. Not exactly a revelation, but I’m definitely surprised at the extent to which my enjoyment has been heightened by stepping outside the familiar and comfortable.