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The Multiplayer RPG Experience: Part Two

Som Pourfarzaneh Posted:
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Several months ago, I wrote a piece about the potential for multiplayer RPG experiences, drawing a comparison between MMOs and single-player RPGs.  Considering classic titles like Baldur’s Gate and newer ventures such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, I posited that there might be a middle ground between co-op modes in traditional single-player games and player character story arcs in modern MMORPGs.  Essentially, I discussed the possibility of a truly multiplayer RPG, which would offer the same kind of immersive experience as its solitary counterpart, but still outside the realm of a massively multiplayer world.

Two recent opportunities have presented themselves for this type of approach: Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition (DOSEE) and Sword Coast Legends (SCL).  DOSEE is an updated version of Larian Studios’ isometric RPG from last year, with new content and gameplay modes, a rewritten story, redone visuals, and a whole lot more.  SCL is a new Dungeons & Dragons RPG from n-Space and Digital Extremes that features a full single-player campaign as well as a Dungeon Master Mode.

I play a lot of multiplayer games with a friend, and our latest enterprise is the co-op mode in DOSEE.  Although we played a small bit before the Enhanced Edition released last week, I’m glad that we waited for the new version to try it out in earnest.  It’s readily apparent how much more polished, optimized, and detailed is the updated edition, and the game is free to owners of the original game.  Furthermore, DOSEE is designed with co-op in mind, offering a number of different ways in which you and another player character can interact in the game world, such as a rock-paper-scissors minigame that appears when you dissent in an important dialogue decision.  I’ll have updated impressions of it for you soon, but I’m already liking the way that DOSEE has been developed with co-op as a core feature, rather than as an afterthought.

SCL also launched last month, and while I’ve dabbled a bit in the newest addition to Forgotten Realms adventures, I’ve only just scratched the surface of the single-player campaign.  Impatient to a tee, I started out playing SCL without paying much attention to the lobby options, and was rewarded with discovering a random other player in the game world during my wanderings.  In truly reclusive gamer fashion, I promptly exited the game and changed my lobby settings to single player only, but if I’m honest, I like the option of being able to play through Faerûn with friends.  Moreover, I’m enthused by the choice of playing DM Mode synchronously, which is a huge departure from other user-generated content that usually only allows you to create dungeons for players to check out later.  Rob’s already voiced his opinion on SCL and DM Mode, and I’m looking forward to taking a closer look myself.

To be fair, although these two titles are steps in the right direction for full-fledged co-op RPGs, I think we still have to look to MMOs for truly multiplayer roleplaying experiences.  This is particularly evident in the examples given in the original article, Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, which have each released expansions in the past month.  Both Heart of Thorns and Knights of the Fallen Empire lean into the games’ respective approaches to cooperative storytelling, upping the ante for what kind of scope is possible in epic and cinematic MMORPG narratives.  The design philosophy behind these games and their story modes seems to suggest that they’ve been developed with both single-player and multiplayer experiences in mind, with neither to the exclusion of the other.  A co-op multiplayer RPG would have to be built from the ground up in the same fashion, which DOSEE and SCL are certainly on the frontier of doing.

Do you like co-op modes in single-player RPGs?  How do you think they stack up to similar experiences in MMOs?


Som Pourfarzaneh

Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.