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Michael Bitton: Co-Op in Story Driven RPGs

Columns By Michael Bitton on August 24, 2017

Co-Op in Story Driven RPGs

I’m almost always eager to find ways to co-op any videogame experience I can. I should be in good company here at MMORPG.com since that notion is what brings a lot of us together in our interest in MMOs. Heck, even when I went out to cover Star Wars: The Old Republic for us at EA many years ago, I convinced my peers in the press that we should tackle it as a co-op experience. After all, one of SWTOR’s main features was the ability to experience the game’s story as a group.

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I’ve actually held up SWTOR’s story co-op as one of its best features when writing about the game over the years, but for as much as I love playing things co-op, I’m not too sure about the idea when it comes to story driven “singleplayer” RPGs. It worked for me in SWTOR because the game delineated your class story from everything else. I knew that when grouping up in a party that the decisions made when doing side quests or Flashpoints were basically self-contained and that I wouldn’t have to worry about the impact of my party’s decisions on the main story for my character.

Then there are games like Divinity: Original Sin and the upcoming sequel, Divinity: Original Sin 2. I never finished the first game, but I had friends basically campaign for me to play the game in co-op and I could just never get into the idea. There’s so much that could happen that’s out of your control that the chaos of it all just put me off. I recall one instance where a friend of mine went out and had an entire (important) conversation with an NPC without me being involved at all. I completely missed out. Now, with the sequel’s release coming up soon, I’m getting the same pressure from friends who also enjoy playing games co-op together, and I find myself completely apprehensive at the thought.

The latest trailer from Gamescom highlights the way you can troll your fellow party members and that definitely hasn’t done anything to reassure me.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to play a story driven RPG while having to be vigilant about my party’s antics. It’s one thing already to worry about what their decisions will do to impact the direction of the game’s narrative, but enabling my friends to troll me with the game mechanics just sounds like a nightmare. I’m down to play games together as a co-op experience, but I really want the story to be my own, at least on my first playthrough. And maybe I could tackle these sort  of antics on a second playthrough where I don’t care as much, but so far all of this is turning me off from the idea, not getting me excited to jump into an RPG with my friends.

How about you? Are you a fan of the idea of playing story driven RPGs alongside friends? Or do you prefer to keep that sort of thing for games like Borderlands, if at all? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site''s Community Manager.