In the midst of many games abandoning single player campaigns, find out why one writer feels as though story modes and campaigns should be included in most games.
10 years ago, it would be practically out of the question for a game to launch without some sort of story mode or single player campaign. Even games that were clearly geared more for the multiplayer crowd typically featured single player campaigns of some sort, which served to flesh out the in-game universe, develop characters, and tell a story. That has changed within the last few years, with more blockbuster games releasing without a campaign than ever before.
These games are predictably ones with a multiplayer-focus, such as Titanfall, Star Wars Battlefront, and Rainbow Six Siege. It may be true that most gamers will spend more time with the competitive modes of those games anyway, but even so, with all three of those games, I found myself thinking that there was something missing.
I felt like I wasn’t getting as much value out of these games as I would similar titles, and I think consumer trends reflect that sentiment. Take, for example, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. It launched at the same $60 price point as Titanfall, Star Wars Battlefront, and Rainbow Six Siege, yet offers significantly more content than those games. Black Ops 3 brings to the table a dedicated campaign mode that can be played solo or cooperatively, the return of the popular Zombies mode, and the critically-acclaimed competitive multiplayer that the franchise is known for. Compare that to Star Wars Battlefront, which only has multiplayer and a shallow horde-like mode, and it comes as little surprise that Black Ops 3 was the best selling game of 2015. It arguably offered more value than any of its competitors, so why shouldn’t it be the top selling title?
I’m not trying to argue that Black Ops 3 is a better built experience than a game like Rainbow Six Siege. In fact, I would argue that the core multiplayer gameplay in Rainbow Six Siege is probably one of the most well-designed multiplayer experiences in years, but the game just lacks content in general. Siege only has a handful of maps, even fewer game modes, and no single player campaign outside of a series of tutorials with challenges tacked onto them.
I pointed out in my Rainbow Six Siege review that the core mechanics of the game are spectacular, but I couldn’t help feeling like it wasn’t worth the price of admission due to having a severe content deficiency. A single player campaign could have gone a long way in remedying that issue.
Single player campaigns also have the added benefit of injecting more personality into games. Would Call of Duty 4 have been as iconic and memorable if it was multiplayer-only, and lacked characters like Soap and Captain Price? I would say no, and I think that by foregoing a single player campaign that games also sacrifice the ability to get players truly invested in their world.
Building a fictional universe is hard work, and it’s much harder without a story filled with well-written characters. This was one of Titanfall‘s biggest issues, in my opinion. Titanfall‘s lack of cut-scenes, character development, or a coherent story seriously hurt Respawn’s attempt at creating the next big science-fiction universe with the game. Hopefully the rumors about Titanfall 2 having a single player campaign are true, so Respawn can give players the exciting new universe they should have created with the first game.
While my tone so far may come across as a tad doom and gloom about the disappearance of single player campaigns – fear not. It actually looks as though this trend is going away, with talk of Titanfall 2 having a single player campaign and Ubisoft confirming that For Honor will have a single player campaign as well. When that game (which pits samurais, vikings, and knights against each other in brutal melee combat) was first revealed, its E3 2015 trailer made it seem as though it would be multiplayer-only, but I’m glad to discover that is not the case.
Maybe For Honor was originally intended to be a multiplayer-only title, and Ubisoft is adding single player as a response to the criticism directed at Rainbow Six Siege. It’s hard to say, but the news that For Honor will have a single player campaign put the game on my radar in a big way. I’m excited to learn more about its characters, story, and fictional universe, and I’m looking forward to Ubisoft’s next E3 presentation a lot more because of it.
Of course, For Honor‘s campaign and the campaigns in other games can’t just be tacked on to the experience and done with little effort, but that’s the tricky part. Developers have to figure out a way to deliver an experience that is satisfying to both those that enjoy single player games and those looking for a high quality competitive multiplayer experience. This isn’t an impossible feat, and some games have been able to achieve this spectacularly, but there also isn’t some set formula for developers to follow either.
How do you feel about single player campaigns or story modes in games? Do you feel that most all games should include them to some extent, or do you think it’s similar to tacking on a multiplayer mode in a game that’s mostly campaign-focused? Let us know your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.