Adventures of a Crossclasser

I begin by openly admitting that there are extensive gaps in my RPG gaming repertoire.  Growing up I preferred platformers to turn-based RPGs.  As such I’ve never played a single Final Fantasy game; in fact, my biggest issue with Final Fantasy is why there are well over a dozen games when it was supposed to be the final fantasy.  But that leaves me in danger of digressing.  I haven’t played… well… name an RPG and I probably haven’t played it, because I’m having issues coming up with titles.

My first RPG, aside from Dragon Warrior for the NES when I was twelve or so, was Mass Effect on the xbox 360.  Prior to ME I had mostly shooters: Bioshock, Halo, Borderlands, Gears of War… that sort of thing.  My gaming library is far from extensive in terms of most anything.  So when I picked up ME I was skeptical about it being an “RPG” because my limited experience left me thinking RPGs were clunky, turn-based, and too drawn out.

But ME managed to combine the best aspects of an RPG, as far as story and character, with the aspects of a good shooter.  I found myself getting into the character development, and forging a relationship with Kaiden Alenko.  I loved the story and the exploration, and once I got the hang of the game I was in love.  My cousin got my ME2 for my birthday last year, and I played through that to the exclusion of some of my work (not my proudest moment, but it makes for a good teachable thing).  One element of the Mass Effect franchise was, however, that you need to choose a class based on how you fight.  ME has some basics, and then makes combinations of them.  It’s been awhile so I don’t recall what I am, but I think I chose one of the combo classes because I felt it afforded me the most options.

Mass Effect was my gateway to Dragon Age.  In Origins, the first of the series, you can choose your character’s backstory and a basic class: warrior, rogue, or mage.  You get to specialize between those, but in general, DA doesn’t really allow for a lot of cross-classing.  My first rogue fought mostly with sword and shield, and it was passable, but when I started using her rogue skills and and using lighter weapons, she throve.  Mages can specialize as Arcane Warriors, who channel magic through their bodies and into weapons, but they’re still mages at their core.  It’s very similar in DA2.  You’re one or the other, and very rarely can you be both.

Now, this worked for me.  I chose a class and went with it, and found ways to specialize within my class to be the best rogue or mage or warrior I could be.  I was comfortable with this system.  I generally play rogues because they’re versatile, though my mage Hawke in DA2 is quite enjoyable to play.  I specialized her as a Force Mage, which means she basically picks people up and slams them down… with her mind.  It’s a lot of fun.

Enter Skyrim.

I’ve also never played an Elder Scrolls game before this one, so please don’t chastise me about how I should have realized this, and the like.  I created my character: went through designing him, choosing his background, that sort of thing.  And when I saved, the game started up again.  “But I haven’t chosen a class yet!” I said to myself, and probably one of the cats who was sitting nearby.  I played through the opening escape from Helgen and as I followed a fellow escapee out of the sacked town I still hadn’t chosen a class.

As the game began in earnest I found myself just going with it.  I named my male Nord Cailan, after the king in Dragon Age: Origins, and thought to class him as a two-handed warrior, like his ill-fated namesake.  I started out using various axes and greatswords.  And then I hit one particularly difficult quest where no matter how much I blocked or healed or shouted I couldn’t do it.  While talking to MLHawke, she mentioned that she had a good one-handed sword and was working on strengthening her destructive spells.

Weapons+Magic?  Huh.  I’d never thought to learn to be a mage.  I was going to be a warrior!… who’d already picked a few dozen locks and upped his sneaking (also appropriate for Cailan, for any of you who know my Dragon Age fic about him).  Well, I was already on my way toward cross-classing two ways; why not go three, since I could?

Cross-classing has made a huge difference in how I enjoy the game.  I feel like I can experience a huge variety of things and do many more that I wasn’t previously able to as a single-class character.  Now, I don’t use magic as often as I would if I were going for a full mage; but the fact that I can use it as I wish, and most importantly am not limited to only using it, is what makes it enjoyable.  I fight primarily with the Nightingale Blade, though I’ve done my fair share of archery as well.  I’m good at sneaking, and have a high lock-picking rate.  And while I’m on my way to leading the Thieves’ Guild, I’m also a pretty good assassin for the Dark Brotherhood and take down dragons like no one’s business.

In short, by combining classes and skills I’m getting a fuller experience and developing what I feel is a more well-rounded character.  And I think that’s not only the key to moving forward with the game, but in life as well.  Yes, there are people who specialize in life; there are people who decide on one career path and follow it without deviation.  But then there are people who branch out and try new things.  They’re unpredictable, but it keeps things exciting.  These are the cross-classers of life.  The people who are not just professionals, but professionals who maybe game or sing or play an instrument on the side.  The ones who play sports as well as music, or do art in addition to games.  Basically, having a wide range of interests and abilities enriches the self, and enriches the world.

So maybe I haven’t really played many RPGs, and maybe I’m completely off.  But my experiences in life are translating into my Skyrim play, and my Skyrim playing is making me think more about life.  In the end, isn’t that all we ask of media?  That it makes us think, or helps us reflect on our world in a new way?  Even though my RPG experience may be limited, the experiences I have gained from the ones I have played have definitely given me pause.  Though classifying oneself into one class may be comfortable, and overall easier, cross-classing and being a little bit of everything opens one’s eyes to a whole new way of seeing and experiencing the world, both in the game and in real life.

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9 comments on “Adventures of a Crossclasser

  1. Okay, my eyes did glaze over a bit over all the gamer lingo lol but I love the point you make here. The thing is, people who specialize tend to be the ones who succeed more. “Cross-classers,” as you put them, may have a bit more fun, but they’re less likely to, oh, get that big promotion or land that coveted position. As I oh so well know…

  2. Ooops, didn’t mean to go heavy on the jargon 😦

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either, per se… I think it’s in what you do with it. I find for me, personally, I need to experience the world and interact with it in more ways than one.

  3. Speaking as someone who has played a LOT of RPGs (I came to Dragon Age from Baldur’s Gate) the ones where you could multiclass were my absolute favorites. The fact that you had to PICK SOMETHING in DA kinda bugs me. There was one game I played, a MUD (this was the text based precursor to the MMO) where there were eight possible classes, and if you were patient (stubborn) enough, you could max out every single one of them. I did. Go up against this mob. Sword isn’t working. How about dagger? No? Ok, Lightning bolt to the face, how about that? It taught me stuff about trying different things until you find something that works. Or something. Maybe it just taught me that lightning bolt to the face is fun to perpetrate on one’s enemies.

    Where I’m going with this is I’m right there with you on multi-classing. Yeah, I’ll probably never reach the top of my profession, but I’m happier this way. I write, I play games, I work in my yard. Overall, life is pretty good. 🙂

    • I think having a lot of interests and ‘cross-classing’ in life helps keep me from becoming bored with it. For people who ‘specialize’ or ‘choose one class’, that’s how they enjoy life; maxing out that skill and getting to the top of their metaphorical game on that path is how they enjoy life and what they derive pleasure from. But for me as a gamer and an individual, being able to do all different things in different ways keeps me out of a rut. Overall, it’s about what people find works best for them.

  4. “my biggest issue with Final Fantasy is why there are well over a dozen games when it was supposed to be the final fantasy” … HAH!

    Trust me, not having played the earlier RPGs you’re not missing much, stiff plots, terrible writing and poor Japaneses language translations. There were some exceptions, like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout, though, to be honest, I purchased these games but found them hard to play at the time.

    Previous Elder Scrolls games practically forced you into being a jack of all trades. You want to be a fighter? Good luck with that. In Morrowind I played a fighter/magic user who used more magic than fight. In Oblivion I just gave in and played a mage that fights with swords and runs around in heavy armor. Being an old D&D player I’m not comfortable with sword wielding, heavy armor wearing magic users. I’m kind of a traditionalist like that.

    I’m pleased that Skyrim has changed this. The only time my current toon has used magic was at the start when he was trying to make a bit of gold by turning lead into gold and for minor healing. He stopped using all magic at level 5 and has not turned back since. Best and most fun ES character I’ve ever played.

    As far as how all this translates into real life… It’s true what another poster here stated that the people that specialize tend to succeed more, but in a pinch or an emergency I’d much rather have the jack of all trades close by. Take me for example, not only can I fix your computer, I can fix a leaky faucet, properly set up your hi-def entertainment system, polish the scratches out of your marble fireplace, correct the grammar and spelling mistakes on your kid’s essay, and make a mean Reuben sandwich to boot!

    • Sometimes I feel like I should fill in the gaps, but then I wonder why I feel this way. What you said about earlier games makes sense and justifies my decision to just go forth (unless something REALLY good catches my eye; I know there are some things I do still want to try).

      I definitely think it takes all types to make this world go round; if we didn’t have specialists, there are some things that’d never get done. And if we had all specialists, there would still be things that didn’t get done. It takes all types. And the mention of a Reuben makes me hungry.

  5. Aww, I was referenced in this post, and I didn’t even realize it! I still have to get that whole lack of an email when you update thing figured out.

    But I digress.

    I can count on one hand the number of Final Fantasy games I’ve played (9, 10, and 13, plus about an hour of 8). The thing about those is that no one I know plays them for the battle systems. Sure, some of them change from game to game, but I have never met anyone (Paladin included, and he’s played pretty much all of them) who says “wow, that was awesome!” The general consensus on those is all about the stories. I know that’s what they are for me. 8 only got about an hour of game play though, because the battle system was so screwed up that I couldn’t do it. Not couldn’t. Chose not too, because I was too annoyed.

    This makes me think of the whole “Jack of all trades, master of none” expression. There are some people you want to be a master at something: The guys that build your house, your plumber, electrician, doctor, vet. There are some people that benefit from “cross classing” too: Social workers, teachers, parents, And some people are good at being specialized in one or two things, but know a little about a lot of other things: musicians, stage performers, artists.

    I guess what I’m saying is that there are places for both kinds, and it takes all kinds to make things work.

    Spoken like a true social worker, eh? =)

    • Yeah, I should go back and edit this so I can make it a link. I didn’t think to before. yay for editing!

      I’m glad to know that it’s not just me, and that in the end we do need game mechanics and fight systems to… well… make it a game. But it’s the story that brings us in and keeps us in the world. And in our world while we do specialize and cross-class metaphorically, it’s the people in the world and the life we’re living in it that make us who we are.

      I think you summed it up perfectly there at the end! 😀

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