Shadow Realms, Evolve, Fable Legends, Dying Light - Is 4v1 gaming's next trend?
With Shadow Realms and Dying Light both announcing 4v1 gameplay at Gamescom this week, I think it’s safe to say we have reached peak 4v1 going into 2015. What was once Evolve’s unique concept is now shared by at least three other 2015 games. Even Fable is getting in on the 4v1 action with Fable Legends. So why are all these 4v1 games popping up all of a sudden?
Blame Dark Souls... and Left 4 Dead
Few games have inspired developers as much as Dark Souls, a game that reinvigorated the industry in a lot of ways. The way it mixed a hardcore, massive, single-player RPG with unique online features like co-op and invasions was truly special. Some players finish the game, and then go on to focus on PvP, crafting their character specifically to invade other players’ games and ruin their days.
The idea of letting other players invade story content isn’t new though, with older games like Perfect Dark allowing a second player to jump into the shoes of enemy soldiers, or Left 4 Dead, which let an entire team of four fight against the humans as special infected. It isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it’s easy to argue that it’s been underutilized until now.
Evolve is, of course, a natural stepping stone from that Left 4 Dead versus mode, considering it came from the same studio. With the other 4v1 games, though, I see their 4v1 concepts falling more in line with Dark Souls. The idea in all of them is that you are embarking on a big adventure, leveling up your hero, and along the way, facing off against real online opponents.
A playstyle for whatever mood you’re in
Why 4v1 though? Especially when Left 4 Dead offered a 4v4 mode, Evolve may come off to some as a step back. But I think the reason for this more asymmetrical style is that it caters to multiple moods. Are you joining up with a group of friends for a night of gaming? Then you’ll probably want to play as the heroes, coordinating and communicating together as a team. If you’re on your own for the night, though, there’s an option for you too. Playing as the enemy means no need for teammates, yet you have a fulfilling objective to take on. And best of all? No spending a night getting saddled with dumb pubbies.
It will be interesting to see how this aspect of choice actually plays out in the final games. After all, we haven’t seen how Evolve handles it’s online matchmaking. Will you be able to spend a night playing as the monster, or will the game match up groups of five and have then take turns? For this 4v1 concept to work, these games will need active communities with lots of people willing to play on both sides. A co-op team will likely always be able to play against bots, but if the bad guy wants to play and can’t find a team to fight, they may be out of luck.
However it turns out, this 4v1 concept could be a really nice breath of fresh air from the standard online games we’re all playing now. Having options to suit your mood, yet having them all blend together into a cohesive game where the entire community is engaged is an exciting possibility.
Digital Dungeons & Dragons
Shadow Realms and Fable Legends take the concept a step further, offering up a 4-player action RPG on one side of the coin, and a sort of dungeon master role for the fifth player to take on. The result is akin to a D&D campaign, where the heroes embark on their journey while a fifth player takes on a sort of director role, deciding what traps and enemies will get in their way.
It will be really interesting to see how Fable, a previously single-player/two-player co-op experience; and a BioWare game, typically full of plot and choice, have their concepts applied to this 4v1 multiplayer experience. I hope we see the same level of investment and world building these games tend to have, both for the players who get together with their friends and the enemy players taking them on.
Four games using the same concept may seem like a lot for one year, but each of these titles are coming at the concept from a different angle. Evolve divides its 4v1 encounters into individual matches, while Dying Light seems to be using more of a Dark Souls-style invasion concept. Meanwhile, Shadow Realms and Fable Legends offer an entirely different way to play, with the enemy taking on the role of a dungeon master. With any luck we’ll be looking at four very different takes on competitive multiplayer that will be a breath of fresh air from the standard 8v8 shooters we’ve been playing for years.
Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!