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Editorial

EA is Overlooking the Value of Battlefield V’s Single-Player Offering

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Battlefield V

The clash between EA and Activision for the prime shooter of the holiday season returns in 2018, pitting Battlefield V against Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. However, the traditional conflict has been upset by the success of PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds and Fortnite, ushering in a new era where Battle Royale dominates the multiplayer market. Furthermore, with Black Ops IIII, Treyarch has opted to forego a traditional single-player campaign. While DOOM Eternal and Wolfenstein: Youngblood will fly the single-player shooter flag in 2019, Battlefield V, for now, is the only AAA FPS with a dedicated campaign set to release across the remainder of 2018, and EA is failing to capitalise on that marketing opportunity.

Wisely, EA and DICE have positioned Battlefield V as something distinct from its primary competition. A Battle Royale mode was promised at E3, but the game’s advertising has led with the epic Grand Operations mode—whereas Black Ops IIII has lionised Blackout as its key new feature. By virtue of focusing on attempted innovation rather than a tendency to ape emerging and existing trends, Battlefield V offers a unique value proposition. The series’s primary audience is the multiplayer market, so the advertising strategy has been targeted in that direction, yet has still overlooked the game’s unique selling point this holiday season.

The competition has abandoned traditional narratives, leaving Battlefield V as the only late 2018 FPS promising an engaging story. New World Interactive cancelled its plans for an ambitious campaign for Insurgency: Sandstorm early this year, while the Specialists Missions that replace Black Ops IIII’s story mode are intended to provide some background lore to the events occurring between the previous two entries of the subseries. As interesting as this latter approach may be, without clearly defined characters or even time frames, these disparate missions seem poor consolation for the lack of an engaging central narrative, particularly as they have been described as primers for multiplayer. In contrast, by following the segmented ‘War Stories’ structure found in Battlefield 1, DICE aims to tell heretofore untold, human stories from both the primary theatres of World War II and the occupied home fronts. Thus far, only one of those tales has been revealed—called ‘Nordlys’ and focusing on a Norwegian freedom fighter—but, even of that story, few real details have been forthcoming.

nordlys

Two massive promotion opportunities for the campaign in the initial unveiling and E3 have already been squandered. Worse still, during the EA Play conference, DICE promised a single-player reveal to come during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, the entirety of which was a detail-light one-minute-long trailer. The publisher has said that more information will be unveiled as the release date draws nearer, but that may be too little, too late. By taking this approach, EA seems to be hoping solo players will default to Battlefield V in the absence of any other big-name single-player shooters. If so, the publisher is displaying a dangerous amount of hubris. Given the plethora of narrative-focused games launching across September and October—Valkyria Chronicles 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, to name only a few—solo players are spoiled for choice. None of these titles are of a kind with Battlefield, but several are close enough to make suitable alternatives.

The series’s history is another factor suggesting the folly of the apparent assumption that players will gravitate to the game simply because it features a campaign and its primary competition does not. Battlefield 1’s ‘War Stories’ were well-received. Otherwise, with the exception of the Bad Company subseries, franchise campaigns have typically been excoriated for being uninteresting and banal. Even Iden Versio’s tale in last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront II and Faith’s narrative in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst were widely regarded as mundane. The developer is yet to definitively prove that it has the storytelling skills to provide a compelling campaign, which is sure to leave gamers wary. Such doubts may not be entirely set aside by a marketing campaign tailored to the stories set to be told, but that approach would display a confidence in the quality of the narratives that, at present, seems lacking. Thus far, EA has provided only cursory glimpses of the story, and that, simply, is not enough to convince single-player gamers that Battlefield V will be worth their time and money.

Of course, suggesting that the teams responsible for advertising the game should fundamentally rethink their current strategy is ridiculous. The multiplayer market has, for a long time, driven the sales of first-person shooters, and Battlefield V will be no exception to that rule. However, the title this year enters the enviable position of having no direct competition for its single-player offering, and the failure to take advantage of that may well be to EA’s detriment.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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