I don’t generally play a lot of multiplayer games. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among which being the fact that I never seem to be any good at any I try out — or perhaps it’s just that the sort of people who play multiplayer-focused games tend to play them to such a degree that they get really, really good at them and take great delight in “pwning noobs” or whatever imbeciles like to call it.
Cooperative games fare a little better but I’ve always found myself hesitant to take on cooperative challenges with anyone other than friends that I know well and trust. I have never played Left 4 Dead with anyone other than people I have been talking to and playing with for many years now. Perhaps this reflects my own idealised view of what I would like the situation to be were a real zombie apocalypse to happen — I would want to be with people I trust.
Part of the matter is due to the attitude of some people online, however. I recall givingDungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach a go a while back and liking the game a great deal, until I did a dungeon run with a party, at least one of whom had obviously done the quest before. I was still new to the game and learning how it worked, so I made a few mistakes along the way, and a rather poorly-designed platforming part towards the end of the quest caused me a bit of difficulty. Rather than having a good laugh about it afterwards, like I would have done were it someone else in the same situation, I ended up with a torrent of abuse hurled in my direction. I logged off and never went back. An overreaction perhaps, but I was in no hurry to spoil something that was supposed to be fun with the bad attitude of arrogant people who think they know best.
I don’t play much multiplayer on Xbox because I don’t like voice chat, for reasons outlined here. And also, there aren’t that many games that support multiplayer on Live that I’m in a great hurry to indulge in — the Xbox has a reputation as “the shooter console” for a reason. There are exceptions — I loved Need for Speed Hot Pursuit online, and Burnout Paradise could often be a lot of fun, but driving games were often also prone to the “everyone else is better than you” problem.
This lengthy preamble is a way of leading up to the fact that I am very much enjoying playing Trendy Entertainment’s excellent Dungeon Defenders in the manner in which it is supposed to be enjoyed — multiplayer. Sure, you can play it single-player, but you’d be a fool to do so, since it’s extremely difficult solo, and even more so with certain classes. Rather, it’s a game that is well balanced for its four player cooperative action, and features a good balance between cooperation, competitiveness and communication.
I’ve played a few games of it now, and the best sessions I’ve had were the ones where people were communicating — not in a “hurry up u noob” sort of way, but in a helpful “this is going to happen on this wave, so put that there and then be ready for it” sort of way. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I come across people like that, and I always make a point of thanking them after the game when I do so. It’s a genuine pleasure to play this sort of game in the way it was designed — with up to four people working together for a common goal and helping each other out along the way, rather than berating each other for their mistakes.
To cut a long story short, I’m of the strong belief that Dungeon Defenders will be the first game in a very long time that will see me regularly playing online with random strangers. My first experiences have been so good that I don’t feel any of the usual uneasiness about partying up with randomers to hack a few orcs to pieces. It helps that the game itself is excellent and easily understandable, too, and challenging without being unfair.
If you haven’t checked it out yet and the idea of an action RPG crossed with a tower defense game sounds like something that appeals, I strongly recommend you give it a shot. It’s $15 (or local equivalent) on Steam, and also available via PSN and Xbox Live Arcade. I haven’t played the console versions, but I will say that the mouse and keyboard controls of the PC version work extremely well
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another dungeon to defend before bed.