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The Hit And Miss Track Record Of Franchises That Added Multiplayer
Adding multiplayer to primarily single player franchises has been one of the most prominent trends throughout this gaming generation. The why is simple; to limit or prevent used game sales. Having a multiplayer component keeps players coming back as opposed to trading it in the moment the single player’s credits start to roll. It can make a can experience that typically wouldn’t take you more than 8 hours last dozens more… that is, if the multiplayer portion of the game is worth actually playing.
The announcement that God of War: Ascension has competitive multiplayer will surely bring about all sorts of reactions from fans of the series, some of which will undoubtably be negative. You could argue that developers are adding features to franchises that nobody asked for.
It seems like in many instances the multiplayer in these traditionally single player franchises aren’t terribly offensive but does fail to bring what made the single player game great to the forefront. Games like Dead Space 2 and Bioshock 2 are perfect examples of games that got multiplayer, and nobody really cared. Neither game was necessarily bad when played online, but they didn’t provide what you ultimately came to those games for. Both games rely on atmosphere, audio logs and scares (Dead Space more than Bioshock,) things that are nearly impossible to achieve in the deathmatch/objective based modes they featured. I never spent much time with either game’s multiplayer mode, and it’s simply because they didn’t offer what I wanted from those franchises.
Thankfully though, the single player campaigns didn’t suffer in any meaningful way. The best thing you could really say about many of these new multiplayer modes is that most of the time you can just ignore them entirely and play the game you wanted to play in the first place. The worst case scenario though is if the multiplayer actually detracts from an otherwise fine single player campaign, and for many there is no better example than Mass Effect 3.
Having Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer interact with the main single player adventure sounded okay, assuming it wasn’t necessary to achieve the best ending. Bioware claimed that that was in fact the case, however many have found that even after doing seemingly everything that the single player game has to offer, obtaining the best ending is just not possible. Without raising your Galactic Readiness by playing the multiplayer, it would seem that at least some people were forced to play a mode they didn’t want to so they could get the “best” ending. If that wasn’t bad enough, the way the game actively encourages you to spend real life dollars to buy different “packs” which contain random unknown weapons and one use items. The entire thing feels like a free-to-play game meant to suck money from the user base. Also like free-to-play games spending real life money isn’t your only option, in game currency exists which you earn through regular play. You never had to spend a dime, but since you don’t have a choice as to which weapons you buy, just the tier of the “pack” and you routinely get stuck with useless weapons, mods, and items your character will never use… the temptation to spend real life currency will grow. Especially if spending real life money means getting new weapons faster so you can play this mode less, and get back to the single player. It’s a vicious machine Bioware has created, and it just feels dirty.
The actual multiplayer gameplay itself isn’t terrible, it’s actually a decently competent wave based survival mode much like Gears of War 3’s Horde Mode. More to the point though, what Mass Effect player really wanted this kind of multiplayer? The combat in Mass Effect was never the reason it became the mega-hit that it is, so having a mode revolve around that very specific part of the game seems just downright silly. People want story, and character development from Mass Effect (and a good ending, BA-ZING!) I know they tried to fit some semblance of a story in there with the N7 missions sorta-kinda tying into the multiplayer… but still, it’s not nearly enough for me to actually care. I’m sure just making an action heavy mode was much cheaper (not to mention easier to monetize,) but failing to capitalize on why I loved Mass Effect in the first place was a major misstep.
Assassin’s Creed on the other hand did a stellar job of translating the things I loved about that series into a new interesting gameplay mode. While the initial response to the news that Assassin’s Creed was adding multiplayer was about as cynical as you would expect, when Brotherhood actually released I was shocked at how much fun I was having online. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations further refined the formula and added a story setup that was actually fairly interesting. The “stab or be stabbed” match setup, meshed with the free running that you expect from the series, created a mode that felt unique but still very much like Assassin’s Creed. Making sure that a game still maintains its essence while translating it from a single player experience to a multiplayer experience is key, and Ubisoft should be given props that they’ve managed to pull it off. While it’s a mystery as to what Assassin’s Creed III’s multiplayer will entail, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do. I think that speaks volumes about what they’ve managed to achieve and the potential for other series to follow suit. This is how you implement a multiplayer mode into your single player focused franchise.
From the very little we’ve seen so far, it looks like God of War: Ascension is on the right track. It helps that at its core, the reasons why I love God of War are pretty clear cut and simple. Much of the series is pure spectacle with ridiculous violence and carnage littering the screen. Blood everywhere, body parts flying, heck they even managed to sneak in a giant enemy to fight which has been a mainstay of the series since you first fought that hydra in the original God of War. Not to mention I totally got a ‘Power Stone’ vibe from the gameplay video they showed… Consider me excited.
Only time will tell if God of War: Ascension can live up to the high standards set forth by its predecessors. Assassin’s Creed worked as a multiplayer experience because it’s a game about stabbing people and being sneaky, and that’s exactly what you did online. Mass Effect 3 failed to win me over because I really enjoy talking to characters more than I do shooting them in the Mass Effect series. Thankfully God of War just needs to maintain its crazy sense of scale and horrible violence I’ll likely be satisfied. Some games are a better fit for multiplayer than others, lets hope God of War: Ascension is one of them.