Solo vs. Squad

Role-playing games have an amazing ability to put you into the shoes of a hero and in control of an adventure that you get to live. Generally, you are acquainted to the main character, whom you will be playing for the rest of (or most of) the game, and then you continue along in the perspective of that character, controlling his or her actions as much as the game allows. I’m willing to bet that every game out there includes more than just one character, though, and games vary in how they treat these characters.

In the game The Legend of Zelda, specifically Twilight Princess, you play as Link for the entirety of the game. The focus is on Link as the sole hero in the adventure. He’s the only one who gets the glory, the only one who fights the bosses, and the only one whom you ever have the chance to play. Yeah, he’s got his sidekick Midna, but her role is really just the peanut gallery. The fact is, Link fights alone, only interacting with other characters briefly and on a relatively insignificant scale, and that’s what he’s known for.

In the game The Last Story, on the other hand, the character you play as–Zael–does anything except fight alone. With his five other mercenary companions, his lovely lady friend Calista, and sometimes other tag-alongs, he always has a team to back him up. The focus is still mostly on him as the game progresses and he becomes the most famous of all the mercenaries, but his friends become no less important to him as time goes on. The Last Story encourages teamwork and cooperation, and even sometimes lets you play as one of the other starring characters.

Though the two gameplay styles don’t necessarily have an impact on the mechanics or enjoyment of the game, they do have an effect on the dynamics of it.

Solo:

Examples: Okami, Legend of Zelda

Pros:

    • Sense of independence
    • Larger claim to glory–more focus on you
    • Greater sense of achievement
    • Control more aspects of the game
    • Epic one-on-one boss battles!

Cons:

    • Can get boring
    • Limit to size and overall difficulty of battles
    • No interaction or cooperation–can be lonely :(
    • May cause repetitive strategy

Squad:

Examples: The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles

Pros:

    • Lots of variety–never a dull moment!
    • Larger-scale battles
    • Strategy and cooperation
    • Can play as other characters
    • Emotional attachment to other personalities

Cons:

    • Less independence–sometimes others steal the spotlight
    • Small battles can be too easy
    • Can be frustrating dealing with artificial intelligence
    • Can lessen the feeling of accomplishment

I enjoy the feel of playing the lone hero in Legend of Zelda. I think it is because most of my daily life centres around myself–but not in an egotistical way. I’m a quiet person and so I think a lot, meaning that I interact with personalities and thoughts that are entirely my own, not anyone else’s. I also spend a lot of time doing personal activities–writing, reading, drawing–that don’t include interaction with other people. So when I walk in Link’s shoes, I take a role that is as personal and independent as my everyday life, creating a stronger connection and letting me feel more like a hero. And there are few moments in gaming that I find cooler than the image of Link squaring off alone with Ganondorf. Fighting alone makes me feel pretty awesome and lets me do epic things.

Despite this, I can’t deny that there is huge appeal in fighting with a team. Most of what I do, as I said above, is personal and independent. As a result, the moments of interaction I share with my family and friends are very powerful and special to me. I like knowing that there are people who care about me and who support me, and I have a whole cast of friends willing to do just that in The Last Story. Finding unique ways to solve problems with others and building off of their creativity and genius is something I find really cool, and I love how it translates to strategy and teamwork in-game. Plus, the conversations are priceless in The Last Story. What would I do without my daily laugh from Lowell and Syrenne? Fighting with friends makes the game more emotional and entertaining for me.

I like both styles of gaming for different reasons and will gladly play and enjoy both of them. If I had to choose a favourite, though, I would choose squad. Nothing compares to the richness that a team connection can bring to the game and I love the world of opportunities created by cooperative gameplay. In my adventure, I like to have friends to help me out and share the glory.

Which do you prefer?

May you always have the strength to walk alone, or the loyalty to fight with friends.

-Alex

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