Welcome back to another Top 5 Tuesday.
Let’s be honest; there have been some really great single player games that have come out over the years. Here at OnlySP, we embrace the essence of the single player experience. Single player games have a deep story and game play experience, and even co-op stories can be great. I will admit, more often than not single player games have an inherit weakness of lack of replayability in the fact that once you’ve played through the single player mode, there usual isn’t much to call solo players back to the game. Multiplayer has always been a great inclusion in games to increase the replayability and warrant gamers picking up the game a second or third time after the initial playthrough. However, some games just fall short when it comes to multiplayer or include such disappointingly dull multiplayer that it shouldn’t have been included in the first place. Developers tend to “tack on” a multiplayer experience to a game in order to get gamers playing their game longer and not returning it after they have completed it. I love multiplayer games as much as I love single player games, but including a multiplayer mode onto a game with a great single player experience just to have multiplayer is not what developers should be doing. Below is my Top 5 list of games that did not need multiplayer.
#5 Dead Space 2
This game has placed on lists for really bad multiplayer time and time again. The premise of the multiplayer is cool in theory. It has one team playing the humans and one team playing the necros in a deathmatch scenario. While the human side plays the game like Dead Space is normally played, the necro side gets to pop out of vents and relentlessly attack the humans. It has a cool concept, but the multiplayer feels clunky, unpolished and tacked on. There are times during the multiplayer that one side feels stronger than the other, and other times where it sucks either way. The truth of the matter is that like most other games on this list, Dead Space 2 has such a compelling single player experience that the multiplayer is lost and feels tacked on to try and increase replayability more than anything. It doesn’t make my top spot, but it deserves to make this list for sure.
#4 Tomb Raider
For such a newly released game, I honestly didn’t think I would be putting this on my list. After all, Tomb Raider is one of those games you look at and say, “Wait, that had a multiplayer mode?” Well yes, yes it did and it wasn’t very good. The Tomb Raider games have always had pretty sweet single player experiences. Although the newest addition to the family got some rave reviews, the multiplayer experience falls really short. It’s sad to see a game that people enjoyed so much fall flat in any aspect, but the Tomb Raider multiplayer is clunky and unpolished. There are tons of people who compare the multiplayer mode in Tomb Raider to the multiplayer mode in Uncharted but the reason that I chose Tomb Raider is because it feels a bit more tacked on to the story. You play a weird deathmatch mode of the game in third person but the arenas that are constructed for each fight do not lend itself to the overall experience. If anything, it makes the game feel more clunky. The graphics in the multiplayer mode as well are just sub-par to the single player mode. It honestly feels like they devoted 98% to the overall game and single player, but only 2% if that to the multiplayer. As most of these games on this list go however, you should buy them for the single player experience. If you view multiplayer as just an extra feature to kill a couple hours with your friends then you’ll be fine. However, if you expecting a deep and rich multiplayer experience to come from such a polished single player game, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
#3 Spec Ops: The Line
Now, Spec Ops: The Line’s single player and multiplayer were developed separately by two different companies. While this game once again had a fairly good single player, the multiplayer experience fell flat. The developers of the single player experience even went so far as to call the mode “cancerous growth” and a “low quality Call of Duty clone in third person.” When the developers of the game think a mode in their own game is junk, people take notice. Now that’s not to discourage people from playing the single player experience. The game has been widely accepted as a great single player game, but to have a mode in the game that serves essentially no point and purpose other than to claim that their game contains multiplayer is a waste of time and resources. The game was shipped out with the idea that people would play the multiplayer and continue to play it, but the fact of the matter is hardly anyone played it to begin with. Developers and publishers should assess their game and decide if it needs to have multiplayer or not. When multiplayer modes are designed from the ground up and at the start of the development process they usually turn out good. However when games add multiplayer because they feel that their game should have multiplayer, then the multiplayer generally always turns out mediocre at best. This is another game that I would recommend you play for the single player experience, but don’t hold your breath for the multiplayer. If you actually want to try the multiplayer out for yourself, good luck finding someone to play with because no one is playing it.
#2 Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
I really like Metroid games. There is something satisfying about exploring alien spaceships and blasting your way through each level. Even getting lost using the games overly complex maps can be fun. But the multiplayer in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes just feels wrong. What starts off as a really cool idea to pit your skills against your buddies turns out to be a janky mess. Split screen multiplayer is awesome and always makes me remember shooting my friends in Goldeneye: 007. However this game feels like a less polished version of that childhood favorite. Not to mention that hitting a rolling ball is infinitely harder than shooting Odd Job in Goldeneye. The controls are clunky and at times there is so much stuff going on on the screen at any given point that you have no idea what you are doing and just hope that you can manage to hit something. Once again, it is a game that holds a pretty solid single player experience, but when the multiplayer takes its turn to shine, its just feels rather dull.
#1 Star Wars: The Old Republic
I realize what you’re gonna say, “Isn’t SWTOR an MMO? How can an MMO not need multiplayer?” Well bear with me for a moment and let me explain. The precursors to SWTOR, Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords were awesome and compelling single player experiences. The depth and richness that came from the story and the excitement that you could feel while playing KOTOR and KOTOR 2 was immense and carried with it a huge following. When KOTOR III was announced several years ago, fans of the series were immensely excited by the idea of the series continuing. Unfortunately the game was cancelled and “transformed” so to speak into Star Wars: The Old Republic. Before I go on any further let me preface this by saying that the multiplayer in SWTOR isn’t bad by MMO standards. The combat feels responsive and the gameplay is pretty solid. It’s just that even when playing it online with your friends it still feels like a single player game. It has a robust story that is compelling to play though, but when you party with other people you just get frustrated in dialogue sequences when another player chooses a response that you didn’t choose.
It is fun to see all of the characters interacting in a particular scene, and the other players’ choices don’t effect your loyalty to the light or dark side, but they do impact how you play through the game, and if someone in your group doesn’t want to listen to people talk then neither can you. The ability to choose classes like traditional MMOs and grow that character like other RPG’s is really great as well, but having to pay (originally) 15 dollars a month on top of a 60 dollar game in order to play a single player experience is unheard of. The game has long gone free to play, but the game restricts your ability to play it as a free single player game by severely limiting the content and items you have access to. So if you want to play the game to its fullest, you’ll still have to pay. When the game was in development stages, they should have just released another single player experience and stayed away from the multiplayer realm all together.
There you have it, my Top 5 List for this week. I couldn’t cover all the games I think didn’t need multiplayer, but let me know your opinions in the comments below. Disagree with my list or think I should have included another game? I want to hear about it. As always, keep it here at OnlySP next Tuesday when we tackle another Top 5.
“The Perfect Canvas To Build a Game World On”: Talking Hand-Drawn Horror in the Hills of Mundaun
The Swiss Alps are best known as a holiday destination. Snow and skiing dominate the public imagining of the region, but horror lies in all hills. The folkloric horror game Mundaun promises to subvert the usual perception of the area.
The horrific twist on an idyllic locale is accompanied by an eye-catching art style like no other in gaming.
With Mundaun being such an intriguing prospect, OnlySP reached out to the game’s director Michel Ziegler to find out more.
OnlySP: Could you please begin by providing a brief description of Mundaun for any of our readers who may not be familiar with the game?
Ziegler: A [while] ago, I came up with the description: a lovingly hand-pencilled horror tale. I like the word tale, because it emphasizes the type of narrative the game is going for. It’s a first-person adventure game inspired by the dark folklore of the alps. The aesthetic is really unique, since I combine hand-pencilled textures with 3D. It’s kind of hard to be brief about what makes the game unique. I think it’s the combination of all the things in there, some pretty well hidden. Mundaun should be a mystery, an enigma.
OnlySP: Curiously, Mundaun is a real place. How accurate a recreation of the landscape is that found in the
Ziegler: The levels are a condensed interpretation of the real thing. It’s more about how that place feels than accurate topology. The steepness of it, the objects and architecture you encounter that is very specific to that place. It wouldn’t be possible to meaningfully populate a large sample of the real mountain range. I want the give the player the feeling that in every corner there could be some small and unique thing to discover.
OnlySP: Do you have any personal connection to the real place? Why did you settle on it as the setting for the game?
Ziegler: My family has had a small holiday flat there since before I was born. I spent many summers and winters up there and so it became like a second home. Especially for a child, the nature feels huge and full of wonders. I would spend my days finding well-hidden spots and imagining adventures. I chose this setting, because it is dear to me and it is full of buildings that are many centuries old. It always felt like a timeless and mysterious place. The perfect canvas to build a game world on. Four years in, it still inspires too many ideas to ever fit into one game.
OnlySP: I’ve seen the game described as ‘folk horror’—following the likes of The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn. Would you consider that to be an accurate assessment of Mundaun?
Ziegler: I think so, even if my game isn’t inspired by those particular works. But I think there is a certain ambiguity to the scenario that makes people immediately think of fiction that has a similar feel in their cultural circle. Even if I draw much inspiration from things that are specific to where I live, I find that the world and tone of Mundaun resonates with people from all around the globe and from different cultural backgrounds. That said, the haymen that haunt you in Mundaun make the comparison to The Wicker Man an obvious one.
OnlySP: If so, what sort of local legends are you drawing on for the source of the horror?
Ziegler: Not really any specific ones. If I had to name one story that influenced the plot of Mundaun, it would be Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider. The oppressive mood it conveys has always fascinated me. Also, I loved collections of small folk tales as a child and I think, I’m remixing elements from those, creating my own folk tale. I’m not restricting myself to only local influences at all though. I take everything that I think is interesting and fits the world and universe of Mundaun.
OnlySP: How does the monochromatic art style contribute to the player’s sense of tension?
Ziegler: For one, it invokes the aesthetic of old movies and photographs. For me personally, those often have a sinister quality, hiding something in the dark shadows. In addition to that, the hand-drawn textures give the game the quality of a darkly illustrated picture book.
OnlySP: Speaking of the art style, it certainly is one of the most intriguing elements of Mundaun. How did you come to settle on it, and what is the process by which you bring these hand-drawn artworks to life in the game? When you began, did you have an idea of how much work would be involved?
Ziegler: I just love drawing on paper. I’ve never gotten into drawing digitally much. For a small game prototype (The Colony) I made before Mundaun, I also applied a hand-made approach. I love the combination of hand-made textures with 3D, it’s a strange thing. Pencils just seemed a perfect match for a more dark aesthetic.
The process is similar to the usual 3D process, but with a small detour. After unwrapping the finished 3D model, I print out the UV maps. I trace the outlines to a new drawing paper and then I fill in the actual drawing with pencils. After scanning them back in, I apply them to the models. I probably didn’t properly anticipate, how many drawings I would end up making, because I underestimated, how much Mundaun would grow.
OnlySP: The puzzles that appear in the trailers seem to draw from an older tradition in games wherein they don’t necessarily feel realistic (although that interpretation is, admittedly, based on brief snippets taken out of context). Nevertheless, do you have any concerns that that approach might turn away some players?
Ziegler: Yeah, it’s a concern. I try to make the puzzles quite logical. Playtesting seems to be the key here. I’m not trying to break the flow of the game, the puzzles are just a great way to add detail and flavour to the world. I try to integrate them into the world and make them feel organic and unique to this place.
OnlySP: Aside from the puzzles, what else will players be doing in Mundaun?
Ziegler: Encountering, avoiding, or fighting off different types of enemies. Finding and talking to some of the eccentric native folk. Making coffee, smoking a pipe, carrying around the head of a goat. Driving a chair lift, a hay loader vehicle and a sleigh. There’s a whole lot of different things to discover. I think, the mix of high-stakes death threatening situations with more mundane activities is one of the most interesting qualities of Mundaun.
OnlySP: “Explore” seems to be one of the keywords of the game. Does it feature an open-world design, or is it more of a level-to-level affair with expansive levels? And, in total, about how big is the game world
Ziegler: It features three discrete levels, each with their own flavour. You start in an area with meadows and trees and then make your way up to a more sparse, stony area. Then there’s the snow-covered summit region. The levels are quite sizeable and the player is given freedom to explore them, but it is not an open-world design per se. Each part, activity, and task is unique and lovingly hand-crafted.
OnlySP: How long do you expect the average playthrough to last? Or is it still too early to be able to say?
Ziegler: It is a bit early, but I think it’ll be 4-5 hours.
OnlySP: Speaking of, we first came across Mundaun about a year and a half ago. How long has it been in
Ziegler: It has been in development for 4.5 years now.
Ziegler and his team at Hidden Fields are currently targeting a Q1 2020 launch for Mundaun on Mac, PC, and Xbox One.
If your interest is piqued, let us know either in the comments below or on our community Discord server.
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