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Editorial

What Fallout 76 Means for Single-Player Games

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Fallout 76

Fallout 76 may have released to universally poor reception, but game-breaking bugs are somehow the least of its problems. Bethesda Game Studios taking a beloved single-player franchise always-online represents a worrying trend in the games industry that continues to threaten the validity of the solo experience.

The original Fallout, released in 1997, was set apart by its deep RPG elements and unique charm that expertly made players invested in the tragic and often humorous stories of the wasteland’s survivors. No two characters were the same, and even today, the game is worth fighting through outdated controls and slow gameplay just to hear more. This format clearly worked well, and set the course for the rest of the series whose interesting characters and great music remained consistent.

In 2004, Bethesda took notice and acquired the rights to the series, and four years later, Fallout 3 was released. In contrast to the original game’s isometric, turn-based strategy gameplay, this sequel was a first-person shooter with watered-down RPG mechanics — a dramatic and jarring shift for fans. Still, Bethesda had created a relatively faithful take on the scorched world of Fallout, and fans could again overlook mediocre gameplay for its vibrant setting and interesting characters.

These are the roots of the series, and yet, in Fallout 76, they are nowhere to be seen. Bethesda, perhaps being bored with its singleplayer formula, has abandoned all traces of those NPCs and engaging stories that made the franchise so unique and replaced them with tape recordings and fetch quests to suit an always-online multiplayer experience.

In itself, this change in formula could work. Many fans have begged for a multiplayer aspect of Fallout for years, and there would be no inherent harm in being able to kill crazed raiders with friends. However, by removing the essence of the series — those things that it is loved for — Fallout 76 remains little more than a hollow shell of what it should be, and is a Fallout game by name alone.

For this change, anyone who cares for single-player experiences should be concerned. Whereas multiplayer games used to be fairly harmless, they have become more profitable and more accessible, and developers find incentive for them to replace traditionally single-player experiences even at the expense of the quality of the final product.

This change is not exclusive to Fallout 76, either: after the massive, mainstream success of Fortnite, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 abandoned a single-player campaign entirely, conveniently replaced by a Battle Royale mode that was accompanied by yet another attempt at Zombies. Alternatively, even a single-player hit like Red Dead Redemption 2 is soon to get an online mode following the immeasurable financial success of Grand Theft Auto Online — a venture which saw Grand Theft Auto V’s developer abandon its promised additional single-player content altogether to focus on more profitable online DLC.

Not all is lost just yet, however. Single-player titles saw similar success in 2018 with Game of the Year contenders such as God of War, Spider-Man, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and the aforementioned Red Dead Redemption 2, all garnering considerable praise from critics and consumers alike. The demand for traditional story-driven experiences is evidently still high, and perhaps the backlash against Bethesda’s moves with Fallout 76 and the universal hatred of intrusive microtransactions will compel companies to focus on single-player games more going forward.

Hopefully, developers are taking note of the direction games are heading with multiplayer games and how it conflicts with the obvious desire of consumers for engaging single-player experiences over shallow online ones. Still, players should remain vigilant, but if the poor reception to the latest Fallout is anything to go by, they should be safe from similar moves occurring again anytime soon.

For more coverage on your favorite single-player games, as well as new and exciting upcoming releases, stay connected with OnlySP on Facebook and Twitter.

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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