Lonely worlds: there are singleplayer games!

The premise and ongoing topic on this blog are MMORPGs and my journey through them. In the last couple of days, though, i (re-)discovered singleplayer games, albeit a very special breed that’s only resurged recently: the isometric solo RPG. A friend bought Wasteland 2 in this weekend’s steam sale, and he liked it despite not really being an RPG guy (more a turn-based-combat player). So i read on and on about that and finally, when i ran out of time, i purchased Wasteland 2, as well.

WL2logo-800x600

Although i wished he’d bought Divinity: Original Sin, so that we could play together, i can kind of see where he’s coming from: there’s shooting instead of magic, and there are no orcs. Playing Fantasy MMOs almost exclusively since about 2007, i can relate to the annoyance in what seems to be the same setting, every time.

Now, if you’d want my very first impressions of Wasteland 2, i’ve got to cut it short and say: it’s so very relaxing. I spent yesterday’s evening with creating my party, talking to the first NPCs i met and setting out to travel to the very first “mission scene”. Since it was late, all i really wanted from travelling out there was an encounter- i got that, fought, won, saved and quit the game. There’s a lot of reading involved in Wasteland 2; it’s a game that takes (your) time- and if you’re in the right mood- that would involve a willingness to read and take your time- it is a great experience.

Gameplay-wise, i don’t know- to me, it seems to be what i’d expect the enhanced versions of Baldur’s Gate to be like- it’s just so….90s. This can be a bad thing, especially if progress is what you aim for- there are a lot of little annoyances pointed out in different reviews (like many clicks to perform some action, clunky inventory management etc.), but i think some of them stem from the fact that these reviewers are, for sure, in a hurry. They need to get their review out there, so they want to see what the game has to offer. That criticism, at least to me right now, isn’t so prevalent when you play on your own and take your time.

Divinity: Original sin is both similar and totally different. I feel like dialogues make more of a difference in D:OS than in Wasteland 2, where they are mostly used to bring the story along.

It’s huge fun when you really “roleplay” your characters, when you assign different personalities to them (you can also set an AI to that personality, so that you’ll choose the dialogue options for one character only) and get to the rock-paper-scissors minigame that decides which character will have their way.

DivinityOriginalSin

D:OS also plays a lot better- it’s what you would expect a game to play like if someone would decide to bring those isometric RPGs back into this decade. As a sideeffect, it feels a bit quicker than Wasteland 2. It also features an open world instead of the “travel map” of Wasteland 2 (and boy, this travel map is oldschool, even more so than in Shroud of the Avatar).

When trying to decide whether to buy Wasteland 2, i looked around for advantages WL2 has over D:OS, and i couldn’t find any. The setting is mentioned, and it is said that your actions have more consequence than in D:OS, but i can’t vouch for that yet. So far, my experience has been the same as the experience of my friend. In D:OS, my latest attempt at starting the game is already vastly different than my first one. For one, i kept the rain scrolls, so i could fight the fire on a boat in the first city. Then, this time, after an argument between my two characters, i killed the drunk guards on the way into that city instead of letting them bring me to a mage. I don’t know what difference this makes in the long(er) run, but it sure feels impactful.

There are advantages for Singleplayer games, especially this kind of games:

  • session length doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll get more immersed when you play longer, but really, it doesn’t matter if you play 10 minutes or 10 hours
  • you’re always into something- in MMOs, when i log in, i always take a few seconds to look where i am and what my current goals are. In Singleplayer games you load up your savegame and continue what you were doing
  • sometimes, it is relaxing to be alone. I used to have “secret alts” for this in MMOs, but there are still other players around and in some ways, this leads to, well, unrest. The other players are there, they’re maxlevel, there’s an expansion coming and so on- even when playing alone, MMORPGs don’t stand still. This can be an advantage, and i think in the grand scheme of things, it is. But sometimes, it’s also very convenient to find something the way you left it

Needless to say, i’m kind of glad i’m a one-mmo-guy in the moment, because i can see some lonely time ahead of me, as well: with these two games, Cities: Skylines arriving today and Pillars of Eternity also looking quite rad, there’s bound to be some me-time coming in.

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4 thoughts on “Lonely worlds: there are singleplayer games!

  1. I bought D:OS a couple months ago but still haven’t spent much time with it. I loved Baldur’s Gate when I was younger, which is why I bought Divinity but I’ve actually found it difficult to play the slower paced, exploratory isometric RPG again. I think I’m use to speed and efficiency and abundance of combat from my MMOs, I have to change my mindset and expectations of a gaming session to play a classic RPG. It ended up being a situation where nostalgia convinced me I wanted something that I may actually not be interested in anymore.

    So I haven’t touched it in a couple month but I plan on coming back to it eventually and at least giving it one more try, it still looks like a great game. It doesn’t help that I purchased ESO around the same time. The truth is I have more games I want to play than I have time to commit, most of them MMOs. And with D:OS not being the trip down memory lane I expected it to be, it will never be the forerunner on my list.

    1. It is the same for me- time constraints and some strange urge to stay in MMOs often prevents me from playing Singleplayer games when i have some time to spare- especially when i have 2 or 3 hours to play, i’ll think they’re best spent in MMOs.
      Usually, when i have some time in the evening, i equal playing to “logging in to an MMO”, and i think this might not be the right approach, because more often than not, i’ll opt out of playing altogether, instead surfing, reading and/or doing some household chores. Singleplayer games mix better with that kind of mood, when i am kind of willing to immerse myself, but also don’t want to go through the “effort” of doing so in an MMO. There was a forum post on WoW’s forum discussing what’s “wrong” with the garrison feature, and the author had an interesting concept- there’s some kind of effort involved in playing an MMO- and sometimes this effort (the author had a better word) prevents you from logging in. I’ve found that it is considerably easier to fire up a SP game. Also, the slow approach really is very relaxing.
      D:OS is great, i hope you’ll give it a shot some day. Feel free to add me to your Steam friendlist, if you like.
      One other note: i’ve found that buying two games at roughly the same time often ends bad for at least one of them.
      There’s something else that’s strange: i kind of feel “guilty” for playing something different than an MMO. I don’t know what makes it so- maybe it’s this blog, the coming expansion, the subscription, the nature of MMOs…possibly all that combined. But i think that’s not the way to feel when one’s having fun.

  2. Completely different genre, but I too was pretty surprised recently at how leisurely paced our older (or influenced by that style) games are.

    I got it in my head to play the remastered Grim Fandango, thinking I’d crank through it in a day or two.

    Took me at least four nights, because immersion and wanting to enjoy the experience mandated that I needed to sit through all the NPCs talking, listen to the music, explore the dialogue trees, and so on.

    The pace was a lot slower than our bite-sized ‘get something done and feel accomplished’ in half an hour or less MMOs of today.

    1. True. But at the same time, i feel like playing half an hour in these games is “easier” than to log into an MMO. For Final Fantasy XIV, i could, of course, go to the Grand company, craft a few things and get good XP for different classes as well as the GC currency. It’s a worthwhile activity that rewards this half hour in the MMO way.

      But in the light of “collect experiences, not experience points”, it’s actually nothing- i wouldn’t learn a new mechanic, wouldn’t go to an unknown place- i’d just do something for, in reality, quite arbitrary XP. Now, i love to do that, i really like FF14 for what it does and i’m looking forward to my next session, moving forward in levels and dungeons, visit new places etc.

      But sometimes, spending half an hour just to explore an inn in Divinity: Original Sin feels both more relaxing and more rewarding.

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