I love the fast pacing and moment-to-moment excitement of multiplayer shooters such as Team Fortress 2 or Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (which is incidentally six dollars on Origin), but I often want ways to contribute to my team other than focusing directly on combat. This is in large part for the sake of a change of pace–it’s not that I don’t do well offensively or that I don’t enjoy having my abilities tested as I seek victories over my opponents. It’s that sometimes I want my contributions to others’ enjoyment of a game to be more “constructive” than just tearing things down, which can also be quite fun in its own way.
So what options are there for like-minded players who want to benefit their teammates but are looking for more creative ways to do so than simply blasting their enemies? I think of this style of play as not necessarily being “pacifistic” but instead being more of a “life-first” approach to multiplayer. Across a variety of games in which I’ve gotten some significant play time, these are some examples of “life-first multiplayer” characters that appeal to me for a variety of reasons and that have their own unique qualities and drawbacks.
Team Fortress 2′s lovably macabre practitioner, while not much to speak of when on the attack, is a highly capable asset in an offensive or defensive role: his primary function will be to use a healing device known as a “medi gun” (picture here) to keep his teammates alive. The Medic cannot use this gun on himself, but in a game with multiple Medics on a team, the two of them can indeed heal each other as well as their teammates.
The Medi Gun itself has several abilities, the first of which is to heal teammates to a level of health half again as much as their normal maximum. This is as much of a help for bulky but slow Heavies as it is for fragile Scouts. Another, which must be readied over time by healing friends and must then be deployed by using the device’s alternate fire, is known as an Übercharge. When the Medi Gun’s primary fire is used while an Übercharge is deployed, both the Medic and the person he is healing will be invincible to damage for several seconds, making this strategy useful for overcoming enemy defensive bottlenecks, such as a collection of Sentry turrets deployed by Engineers–or perhaps even another Medic/Heavy combination.
The Medic is a highly suitable choice for beginning healers, as his game costs nothing to install or play, and as a class he is available immediately from the start. Unfortunately, in my personal experience, the scoring system’s treatment of Medics (when I play as one) seems to depend primarily on how many kill assists they are able to get–meaning that the Medic’s end-of-round appraisal seems to be based in large part on how well his teammates performed under his care. That being stated, most teams I recall being on had very few Medics if any at all, so I generally have plenty of opportunities to contribute as this class without feeling redundant.
Team Fortress 2 is free to play on Steam.
Mass Effect 3 introduced a multiplayer component that quickly became my favorite form of play in that series: instead of navigating a series of scripted, sometimes linear (even if broad) environments while using one of six character classes, the environments were made open and designed for exploration, with multiple means of getting between points A and B. The character classes themselves were given a large variety of subclasses, often as distinct from one another as their parent classes (such as the weapon-focused Soldier and the highly defensive Sentinel) were, and the selection only grew with several free packs of add-on multiplayer content. This component is not player-versus-player except in the area of scorekeeping; players work together in teams of four to defeat successive waves of enemies in order to earn in-game money and experience points.
The volus is a small, fat alien among many races playable in Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer mode once they are unlocked (the first two Mass Effect games had alien party members who could be given orders but were not directly controllable by the player). These volus have an ability known as Shield Boost, which restores not only the user’s shields but also those of nearby teammates, and my preferred volus is an Adept, which means that he can use special biotic abilities, essentially the series’ version of magic, though it runs on in-universe scientific principles.
In my experience Shield Boost, while useful for quickly regenerating my second layer of “health” and others’, does little to protect against powerful or sustained attacks from enemies, as my shields and health aren’t very high to begin with. It does help to protect me or my allies if either are killed, as revives happen only between waves or with the help of teammates–and certain powerful attacks make the latter impossible, at which point the player is forced to spectate until the next round begins. Three defensively helpful volus characteristics are their small size, their fast running speed, and their pressurized suits’ built-in tactical cloaks. Offensively the Volus Adept is capable of producing easy combos with the help of two abilities, Stasis and Biotic Orbs. The first ability freezes unarmored enemies in place, setting them up as excellent targets for the second ability, which deals direct damage and is, other than the long recharge time, a decently reliable one-two tactic.
The biggest issue of Mass Effect 3′s addictive and compelling randomized unlock system for additional weapons and character subclasses is that getting anything very specific can potentially take a long time, though the Volus Adept has the unorthodox benefit of being marked as one of the few ultra-rare characters–making it remarkably easy to pick up with in-game currency or real money from Premium Spectre Packs, which boast a higher chance of including collectible ‘cards’ of such rarities.
As for the character himself, while he’s enjoyable to play as, my personal experiences of using characters focused on defense or support has usually turned out very negatively in end-of-match appraisals, as the in-game scoring system seems to heavily favor aggressive teammates over assists and healing. The built-in tactical cloak does not keep you from regenerating your health or shields like the Infiltrator’s version does, making it remarkably useful both for boosting shields and reviving allies. In the end the volus makes for a highly defensive character who isn’t exactly simple to use defensively, as he survives primarily on his agility and repeated shield boosts, not on possessing much of any tolerance for damage (one-hit kills are hardly unheard of). As far as offense goes, I have seen other players do well with volus equipped with sniper rifles, whose low rates of fire make Biotic Orbs’ significant recharge period somewhat moot, and the tactical cloaks only help. The biggest issue I’ve found is that if my enemies want me dead enough, it’s not hard for them to cause this, and having to be revived by my teammates over and over makes me feel like a liability.
Mass Effect 3 is currently ten dollars on Origin, and an interactive single-player demo is available. (In-battle gameplay for the following video begins at around forty seconds.)
Hawken is a free-to-play, first-person robot combat game with individual and team play that features mechs with a variety of combat abilities and armament ranging from deployable turrets and rocket launchers to EMP items and machine guns. It has very quickly become my game of choice for enjoying a “life-first” approach to multiplayer, as the Technician class, which must be earned (with in-game currency available) but is absolutely worth it, plays a defensive role similar to that of the Medic from Team Fortress 2 but has plenty of offensive ability in its own right, even if it serves and is served best when it works alongside its peers.
The Technician’s initial primary and secondary devices are a Redox-02 projectile weapon, which causes enemies to take increased damage for a short period of time, and a Helix Repair Torch that serves twin purposes: as with the Medic’s Medi Gun, this device can heal teammates and bring them back to health almost as quickly as their own repair drones will (health does not regenerate in this game; you must find a safe place to hide and then hold a button while your repair drone heals you), but with a middle click, the torch can deconstruct enemy mechs the same way it heals friendly ones, and both functions restore the Technician’s own health at the benefit of its friend’s or the expense of its enemy’s. Care must be taken not to overheat the mech’s weapon systems while healing, however. Given a few earned character levels, however, the Technician gains access to an incredible weapon known as the Hawkins-RPR automatic rifle, which is excellent at finishing off wounded enemies alongside the health-leeching abilities of its partner device.
To add even more bonuses and rewards to the mech’s already impressive healing abilities, the Technician can massively increase the rate at which it heals itself and others for a short time; being a light mech, its thrusters allow it to shoot across the battlefield easily, effectively making this doctor into an ambulance; the game’s scoring system generously rewards healing and has resulted in me being the most valuable player in many of my games; and the community seems great so far and is more than happy to thank me for my healing roles. Given the rate at which I’ve been leveling up, I’m beginning to wonder if simply healing friends (which tends to make me a lot of friends) adds to my character experience alongside my numerous assists and competent kill counts. It is a tremendously fulfilling blessing to see my teammates blessed by my actions in such a readily apparent way, and it feels wonderful to see the positive effects of my working to serve them, which often does more even in pragmatic game terms than I could have accomplished on my own (and yet I feel like I could perform capably with this mech in standard deathmatches, though I’ve not tried doing so yet). But it really is in serving that we find ourselves rewarded, and it is in blessing others that we find ourselves blessed.
Hawken is free to download and play at the game web site.
Another way to play
Players who enjoy team-based shooters have plenty of options, but it’s a delight to see that players who want to participate in these games yet aren’t interested or skilled in a standard combat role can still enjoy the thrills of battle and survival while being an asset to their teammates in other ways, given the right roles. It’s fun blowing enemies away, and I’m thankful to be able to test my skills and strategies in a context where no one is physically harmed; for players who want alternative options, however, healing classes are an others-focused and even life-affirming means of providing a unique and invaluable contribution to any team.
“Building Bridges” is a topic that explores how games with tried-and-true mechanics are sometimes willing to explore the freedoms of what can be done with stories, settings, and even with the mechanics themselves. These titles expand or improve upon their genre in notable ways without sacrificing time-tested game-play models or alienating players who prefer them.
Medi Gun. (2013, April 29). Team Fortress Wiki, . Retrieved 16:02 UTC, June 14, 2013 from http://wiki.teamfortress.com/w/index.php?title=Medi_Gun&oldid=1340958.
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