The title does seem a bit generic, so I’ll clarify.
When I’m talking about a ‘multiplayer (with friends)’ game, I’m talking about a game that can be played as a single player game quite easily — It’s designed in such a way that one person can progress normally. But the design is also in place to make the experience infinitely enhanced with the addition of your friends playing with you, either as allies, enemies or neutral parties (Read: Potential backstabbers).
So how about starting with a game where a friend can go through all three of those positions?
Sid Meier’s Civilization V (or Civ 5 for short) is a 4X strategy game1 where the end goal is “to build a civilisation that will stand the test of time”. You do this through various means — Researching new technology, developing your culture to build social policies and, when it comes to it, nuking the ever loving hell out of anyone who wrongs you.
Playing Civ 5 with friends is an interesting experience, to say the least. You can act amicable at first, sharing embassies, helping each other out through simple trade and maybe killing some barbarians, with the threats being only very vague and passive-aggressive in nature…
…then you’ve declared war on every AI player and your friend, just so you can say you’re at war with everyone.
Those are just the two far points of the spectrum of evil deeds during multiplayer in Civ 5 — You’ve also got imposing taxes on your friends to use your borders, or giving salt after a brutal war to, well, rub salt in the wound and — possibly the most brutal act your friends can commit — of nuking your capital city into the dirt when you’re playing as Venice, so that the only city you have left standing is a little city state that has nothing in it.
Salty? Me? No.
As much as I’d like to ramble on about when you get backstabbed by an ally, even during all-out war, I still have this element of joy flowing through me. Thinking about what move my friend will make next; what soldiers may be coming out from behind the frontlines; are the frontlines just a ploy to distract me? Combining that with all the previously mentioned elements, Civ 5 is a multiplayer game that can consume literal hours with a group of good people.
And now, to give my editor flashbacks.
Ahh… only a few people are going to get that, and that makes me happy.
Terraria should be familiar to quite a few people reading this, due to its similarities to Minecraft and how both games shared a good amount of popularity during 2011.
The advantages of Terraria come in the form of more of a set structure, with more armour tiers to advance through, biomes becoming harder as the game progresses and an incredibly diverse selection of boss fights.
As someone who has spent a small time…
…playing Terraria, I can vouch that the game has a veritable gold mine of possibilities for multiplayer.
Of course you can progress normally by gathering materials and building a large castle, all to slowly carve your way up to the Moon Lord, the Cthulhu inspired final boss.
However there are also options for PvP modes, with plenty of maps available online to download for these purposes, alongside inventory/character editors so all your friends are as powerful as each other, regardless of whether you use a mage, fighter or ranger build.
A random game to play in multiplayer that I made up involves mining. You get a Spelunker Potion (which reveals ores and treasures with a glow for a brief time), a Teleportation Potion (which teleports the player character randomly once around the map) and a high level pickaxe/drill.
The objective? Mine as much as you can before the Spelunker potion runs out. The person with the most ores and treasure wins. Simple, yet surprisingly competitive.
With the previous two games, the amount of players in a single session can go up to sixteen and even higher. The next game is a bit smaller by contrast, on a scale as grand as the starry sky.
Being one of the more obscure multiplayer titles to pick, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky, is a JRPG developed by Level-5 and released for the Nintendo DS. The game follows the classic four person party composed of different classes with different abilities, going through a large open world completing quests, delving into dungeons and battling giant spear wielding cucumbers.
The difference here is that the four-person party doesn’t have to be party members recruited at a tavern. They can be your friends in local multiplayer (recruiting these at a tavern is optional).
DQ:IX handled multiplayer through a drop-in, drop-out system. In the main hub tavern of the game, there is a portal which you use to start connection with nearby DS systems, either opening your world to other players or trying to find the world of your friends.
This system is downright amazing — and honestly I believe it’s the best way to play the game, even during the campaign.
Sure, it is possible to soft sequence break your own world, by going into a friends world with more towns open and buying the better equipment there.
But that ignores how ridiculously fun and satisfying it can get exploring the world as an actual party; the conversation you share in real life being the snarky comments actual adventurers would have in the face of monsters.
Martial Artist, Armamentalist, Luminary and a healer character from that persons own party made up my band of adventurers, meeting up on the weekends to take on the harder bosses…
…only to take up a lot of turn time using an attack with a pointlessly long animation, which, at the end of the day, didn’t even do that much better damage than a regular attack.
That’s been my summary of a few multiplayer games I’ve enjoyed over my life. I’ll admit, I don’t play these with other people much these days, so a lot of my thoughts and ideas are from pure memory.
But that’s the point of playing games with your friends; creating the memories that last.
Be it sitting in a living room, making sure not to move too far away so the DS infrared connection doesn’t break, sitting in bed as suggesting Terraria as a game night idea goes horribly wrong, even to the people who prefer tabletop, gathered round a table playing Magic and D&D for hours on end.
We’re all geeks here, building a community around these sorts of things is why we’re here.
Thanks for reading, this was a good article to write because it reminded me of a lot of good times in my life, if you’re one of those people who I shared that time with, thank you. Got any multiplayer stories you’d like to tell? Or maybe you’ve got a game in mind which is just perfect for this kind of multiplayer? Let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit.