Preview | 2022.12.18

Elder Scrolls Online art

With Wonderlands in the mop-up phase, me and J need a new adventure. Gunfire Reborn will slot in to our short sessions pretty well, but we need a more campaigny co-op experience for the full sessions.

We've enjoyed reliable franchises like Borderlands and Far Cry. In pivoting to something totally new, we've had some success (Planetside, Warframe, Divinity) and failure (Apex, Battlefield). So here's a list of games I pulled from Co-optimus and Metacritic and /r/gamingsuggestions and Steam, sorted by how familiar the game is.

Dying Light 2 (2022)

Genre: Open-world adventure Dying Light 2
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE campaign
Metascore: 76
Notes: Familiarity: "don't kill the franchise" sequel.
One of the safer options since we quite liked the first game. The release bugs have had time to be squashed so it might be a good time to dive in.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014)

Genre: FPS Halo Master Chief Collection
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE campaign
Metascore: 85
Notes: Familiarity: "don't kill the franchise" series.
It's hard to go wrong with a five-game binge of the original Halo series. That's *checks math* 70 floors of the Library!

Aliens: Fireteam Elite (2021)

Genre: Squad shooter Aliens Fireteam Elite
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE campaign
Metascore: 69
Notes: Familiarity: squad FPS is our bread and butter.
The reviews seem to indicate that Aliens: Fireteam Elite is basically The Division but mediocre but with friggin aliens. In other words, pretty decent if you don't mind a few bugs and don't pay $60 for it. Since the campaign is ~20 hours, it's not like you're married to subpar gameplay.

The Red Solstice (2015)

Genre: Top-down squad shooter Red Solstice
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE campaign
Metascore: 74
Notes: Familiarity: Seems like Alienation/Helldivers with added depth?

The Red Solstice 2: Survivors (2021)

Genre: Top-down squad shooter Red Solstice 2
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE campaign
Metascore: 65
Notes: Familiarity: see above.
The classic question: is the sequel better but rated lower because it should be a more significant upgrade?

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (2015)

Genre: MMO Elder Scrolls Online
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE campaign
Metascore: 80
Notes: Familiarity: We've played Elder Scrolls, just not in this format.
The closest thing we've played to an MMO is Planetside 2, but we both enjoy Bethesda games and RPGs. The monthly fee was supposedly removed and there are a half-dozen expansions that can be had for $60. But can two players (maybe with an occasional rando) survive a model that may be focused on larger parties?

Fallout 76 (2018)

Genre: MMO Fallout 76
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvP or PvE
Metascore: 53
Notes: Familiarity: We've played Fallout, just not in this format. Survival elements are new to us.
The buzz is that the low review scores are due to bugs and playability issues that have largely been addressed in the last few years. Does it have a subscription fee? Is PvP avoidable?

Ark: Survival Evolved (2017)

Genre: Survival Ark Survival Evolved
Multiplayer:Cooperative PvE scenarios
Metascore: 70
Notes: Familiarity: Pretty different.
Survival games like Valheim and The Forest are all the rage. Before these was a building/crafting/fighting game with dinosaurs. It's an MMO? How does PvP come into play?
Site meta

Since I have more than a few video game posts, it made sense to formalize games as a datatype:

public enum Game {
	ACROSS_THE_OBELISK("Across The Obelisk", 
	                   "Deckbuilder roguelike", 
	                   null, 
	                   MultiplayerType.COOP_CAMPAIGN, 
	                   null, 
	                   "ato"),
	AGE_OF_EMPIRES_II("Age Of Empires II", 
	                  "AoE II", 
	                  "Realtime strategy", 
	                  2013, 
	                  MultiplayerType.COOP_COMPETITIVE, 
	                  92, 
	                  "aoe", 
	                  "aoe2"),
	...
	private Game(final String name,
		     final String genre,
	   	     final Integer release,
		     final MultiplayerType coop,
		     final Integer metascore,
		     final String... aliases) {
	

An enumeration (for non-coders, hand-crafted data rather than scraped or imported) seems like a maintenance burden, but the biggest chunk of work was (as always) retrofitting existing content. I jammed out the hundred-ish games already mentioned on this site during the first 60' of the World Cup final, so now it's just adding as I go.

There were two fields I wanted to personally enumerate because they're relevant to me, J, and probably other co-op gamers:

Field 1: Genre


Metacritic lists The Division's genre(s) as "Shooter, Modern, Modern, Action, Shooter, Third-Person, Tactical, Arcade".

So it's a 'shooter' and a 'shooter' (when you store your tags in a list and not a set). This tells me there's shooting, so hat's helpful. 'Tactical' and 'arcade' seems largely mutually exclusive. Third-person is helpful, though the FPS and over-the-shoulder experience aren't massively difference.

Tags are easy to implement/scrape but they can be very misleading. I tried to improve upon this with bespoke genres. I call The Division a "Cover shooter". The 'shooter' bit is pretty straightforward, the term 'cover' puts in some work with subtext. It implies that you're locked in to third-person view (a first person cover shooter gives me first person jumping puzzle vibes) and that it's tactical because, well, you don't need cover if you can circlestrafe all day.

Should it be "Cover shooter RPG"? Maybe. There's something to be said for the RPG elements of The Division (XP/level, skills, crafting, shops, specials). Since most modern shooters include these, there's a fuzzy line somewhere between shooter-with-obligatory-RPG-elements and borderline-pencil-and-paper-RPG-with-guns.

What I'm saying is that I'm better than Metacritic because my genres are hand-crafted, require that the reader to understand subtext, and (most of all) stored in a data structure with mutual exclusivity. (To have been read as dripping with hyperbole). My tailored genres do get reuse though. Alienation and Helldivers are both "Squad top-down shooter". Mass Effect is an "Action RPG" while Fallout is an "Open-world action RPG" to indicate that the playstyle is like ME but in a large, irradiate sandbox. I'm hoping to use this labeling structure to do things like produce lists ranked on similarity.

Field 2: Multiplayer

Metacritic:

Number of Online Players:	Up to 24 Players

Metacritic aggregates tons of data and provides crowdsourced ratings on video games, movies, and whatever else. Due to its generic charter, a lot of important details (for choosing a game) aren't represented on their site. "Up to 24 Players" doesn't describe the co-op experience very well. Enter Co-optimus, a web site dedicated to multiplayer gaming.


This is more informative, though some things like the existence of a companion app aren't especially important to me. Hilariously missing from that list is the tag "Co-Op Campaign" that can be found on many of their other games. The Division is 70% PvE/story and 30% PvP, it most definitely has a co-op campaign. The fact that you can play the entire story with a buddy is pretty important.

Source. They aren't so great for reviews, though.

The kilroy approach:

public enum MultiplayerType {
   SOLO("Solo PvE"),                             // No multiplayer.
   SOLO_COMPETITIVE("Solo PvP"),                 // PvP, no teams.
   COOP_COMPETITIVE("Cooperative PvP or PvE"),   // Team vs team, no story.
   COOP_SCENARIO("Cooperative PvE scenarios"),   // Co-op PvE, no story.
   COOP_CAMPAIGN("Cooperative PvE campaign");    // Co-op story.
}

This divides the gaming world pretty well for my purposes.

Metacritic

Comprehensive 5/5 Notes:
Review aggregator provies quality ratings. Other data is genericized, but you can click through to reviews.
Genre info 2/5
Multiplayer info 1/5
Ratings 5/5
Descriptions 3/5

Co-optimus

Comprehensive 3/5 Notes:
Provides cooperative gaming-oriented information. Community doesn't actively rate games.
Genre info 3/5
Multiplayer info 4/5
Ratings 1/5
Descriptions 3/5

/r/gamingsuggestions

Comprehensive 2/5 Notes:
Diverse, hand-crafted recommendations with details relevant to OP's request. Recommendations tend to be either the same list of (great) games like Divinity, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium. You'll also see some really bad titles either because of indie-bias or because the recommendation request is pretty narrow. Since it's a forum, searchability isn't great.
Genre info 3/5
Multiplayer info 2/5
Ratings 2/5
Descriptions 4/5

Kilroy

Comprehensive 1/5 Notes:
Only covers games that the author himself played. So it's good for opinionated information and screenshots without a watermark, but terrible in almost every other way. New categorization feature might be informative if it can be represented on aggregate (like a table). It's not a pure gaming site so you get cat pics and memes mixed in with game stuff. He goes to E3 though, so he's probably legit.
Genre info 4/5
Multiplayer info 4/5
Ratings 2/5
Descriptions 4/5