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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the Validation of Single-Player Gaming in 2018




In the run up to this year’s E3, rumours circulated that FromSoftware’s Shadows Die Twice teaser would be fully revealed, with analysts being torn on whether the new game would be a Bloodborne sequel or something different entirely. The developer wound up showing off Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a new IP that streamlines the Souls formula. Fans may have expected From to reimagine or cut back on certain parts of Dark Souls’s essential design elements, but few really expected the veteran developer to drop multiplayer. Bundled in with various changes, the move to a single-player  experience was seen as a core component in restoring multilayered and stable combat. Essentially, From was admitting that, to maximise the game’s potential, multiplayer would have to be abandoned; in just one trailer, single-player gaming was validated on Microsoft’s show floor.

At every corner, major publishers—even Bethesda—are itching to add multiplayer to their titles. Recently, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick made an impassioned defence for single-player titles, but belied his statement by admitting that such stories are merely a path to multiplayer monetisation. Not many major games regress from multiplayer integration, with the majority of titles ditching campaigns first; in the case of Black Ops IIII, the single-player segment was seen as a tacked-on, irrelevant distraction. The industry in the West threatens to abandon traditional campaigns for economic gain. However, with Sekiro, From displays a regression from multiplayer and a doubling-down on classic solo play.

Of course, single-player games do not have the economic potential of multiplayer-focused efforts. Larger publishers need to remain financially competitive in a rapidly growing industry, and microtransactions suit competitive play. Online streaming and eSports, too, represent major avenues for revenue, and single-player games cannot match the longevity and viewership of competitive online play. Single-player games can bring in decent amounts of revenue, though, with God of War topping sales lists in various countries, as well as boasting the most-viewed game on Twitch near release. What single-player games lose in online sales, they can make up with long-term support, DLC, and legacy sales. FromSoftware is large enough now to ignore these economic needs, with Activision’s support for the Western release seemingly not affecting Sekiro‘s final outcome.

Sekiro is important for the single-player market as it is an example of trust being put back into the format. Multiplayer could have easily been tacked on to increase the title’s longevity, with Bloodborne and the Souls series living on due to a mixture of compelling player-versus-environment and player-versus-player online functionality. Instead, according to FromSoftware producer Robert Conkey, the developer has decided to trade in this longevity and financial gain to prioritise better gameplay. Most importantly, Conkey’s admission leads to something OnlySP has been saying since its inception: single-player games offer something different; provide for stronger, more focused content; and, most importantly, are a form that must be protected.

Of course, From is likely not done with the Souls franchise, and odds are that Sekiro is merely a one-off title; perhaps it will be the final single-player project from the developer, but that will be entirely dependent on sales. Even Souls-like games such as Nioh did not dare to forgo some form of multiplayer functionality, so perhaps this move will inspire an industry-wide trend in the genre to rethink its approach to solo play. In the end, Sekiro will be defined by its sales and quality, and, with this sort of bravery, FromSoftware will likely deliver a game that succeeds.


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



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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