Recommendations: co-op, distinct roles, cool powers, light inventory management, and more
Kevin J
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I was going to start a thread, but a geeklist might be more appropriate to discuss various titles.

I am wondering what sort of games are out there that hit a lot of the boxes I'm thinking of:

-Co-op: The focus of the game must be on co-operative play. A single player mode or single player with AI filling in for human teammates is fine, but the game should have a well-realized co-op mode. The game should be pure co-op, rather than team vs. team competitive multiplayer.


-Distinct Roles: Each player should have a distinct (mechanical) role in the group as a whole, rather than each player being able to do every task. The players should work together, rather than each player essentially doing what they would have been doing in a single-player game. These roles can be pre-determined by the game, or self-selected by the players.


-Cool Powers: As a corollary to the above, players may be differentiated from one another by the abilities or powers that their character has access to that other players might not (or players choose a small number of powers from a larger set which forces players to differentiate their characters).


-No (or minor) level disparities: Someone who has put 30 hours into the game should still be able to play with a new player without a huge imbalance in the game mechanics, and preferably without having to repeat a lot of the same content by starting from scratch.


-No (or minor) inventory management: Many MMOs will hit lots of these points, but I find myself often irritated by inventory management in the way of equipment, potions, crafting, etc. In-game time should be focused on the group engaging one another, not being buried in a menu comparing one sword to another.


-Players can switch up their character or role: As nice as it is to put a hundred hours into one character, I like being able to try the different roles available to play. If one person can't play on a particular night, it shouldn't leave the entire group without an integral role.


-Player progression: Let's face it: getting new stuff is awesome. Getting more powers or perks over the course of the game can open up a player's ability to fill a distinct role for the group.




If you can think of any games that might be of interest to me, post it below and make an argument for it!
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1. Video Game: Sanctum 2 [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:2979]
Video Game: Sanctum 2
Kevin J
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I haven't played this game yet, but after a bit of reading I have high hopes. Players can equip perks that will give them advantages that will put them in a particular niche. There is also a wide array of weapons and each character has some mechanical differences that gives each a different strategy to pursue.

I'm not sure that the multiplayer won't be much more than each person playing as though they were playing single player, but I can imagine that different players might take on different duties for clearing out enemies.
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2. Video Game: Trine 2 [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:725]
Video Game: Trine 2
Kevin J
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Another I own but haven't played yet. There are 3 characters with very different abilities that are used to overcome challenges and obstacles in the game. I think each also has their own skill tree to pour points into.
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3. Video Game: Alien Swarm [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1325]
Video Game: Alien Swarm
Kevin J
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I'd really like to give this one a go, after having it sit on my hard drive for a while. A party of four navigates a map while fending off swarms of aliens. Characters can be of different classes which have different weapons and abilities; players need to open or seal doors, have a rear guard, and more.
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4. Video Game: Monaco [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1464]
Video Game: Monaco
Kevin J
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I'm not crazy about the style of this game, but it certainly fits the bill. The different characters have different uses, and when played with other players, the different characters can be used to their best effect. I know some other VGGers own this, so I'll have to pick it up and give it a try.
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5. Video Game: Guild Wars [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:803]
Video Game: Guild Wars
Kevin J
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Like most MMOs, players create a character of some particular class, and can even select a secondary class to mix skills. Players have up to 8 active abilities in their skill bar (selected from all the abilities available to their two classes which are often given as quest rewards), and these can be changed freely in towns and before missions.

I'm not sure if it's viable to play much of the game solo, but the game definitely encourages parties of up to 8, and you can fill empty spots with AI allies. Party composition will help determine the skills you pick for a mission.

The level cap in this game is level 20 and should be reached well before the end of the story missions, so there is not a huge level gap if you want to play with friends at different parts of the game.
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6. Video Game: Warframe [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:1939]
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Kevin J
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I played this for the first time the other day, and was pleasantly surprised with the array of powers that I could choose from near the beginning to customize my Warframe. I can only anticipate that there will be many more to come.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure exactly how much teamwork is involved so far, and the level disparity is pretty rough (especially since starting a new character essentially requires you to pay for it).
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7. Video Game: Borderlands 2 [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:91]
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Kevin J
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The different characters in Borderlands 2 definitely have different functions with each one having a unique ability and skill trees. Unfortunately, there's the issue of level scaling, and each character having only one active ability holds it back a bit.

While one player might specialize in long-range weaponry and another might like closing the distance and blowing things to bits with shotguns, each player is likely to play as they would if they were playing alone. A few characters have skills that are useful for multiplayer, but the cooldown on action abilities means that a character can't be a full support character.
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8. Video Game: Payday: The Heist [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:3050]
Video Game: Payday: The Heist
Four player co-op game. You can play with up to three AI team mates but they are not really helpful as they can't help with objectives. They are more like cannon fodder and meat shields who have unlimited ammo. But this game is meant to be played with four people anyway.
There are four (if you have the DLC, three otherwise) lines (not trees) in which you can invest and unlock skills, weapons and other stuff. And before each heist you have to select what you want to take with you. So on one heist you can be the machine gun wielding maniac and on the next run you can play the stealth assassin.

But it is a hard game. Very hard. Never made it past the "Hard" difficulty. And still a very rewarding game. There are often situations where you are helpless and other players have to help you up etc. Similar to Left 4 Dead. There is even a cross-over map: Mercy Hospital.
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9. Video Game: Payday 2 [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1724]
Video Game: Payday 2
Payday 2 is quite another game than the first one. It is still a pure coop game and you can only have a maximum of two AI partners (who are even dumber).

Heists might take up to three days (three separate missions) with escapes in between them (if you didn't act well, short missions). The game is easier and I don't have any problems on the highest difficulty. But it is still not a very easy game.

It has now four skill trees and you can't switch freely. It costs money but after abou 40 hours of game time you have as good as unlimited money. You also have a lot of random loot after each mission and attaching stuff to weapons costs a lot of money. Even removing a silencer costs a lot of money...

The heist selection is awful. Instead of selecting "play this heist on this difficulty" you have to stare on the Crime.Net (level selection screen) and wait for the desired heits to pop up. You can't filter anything (if you want to be the host). So it can take four hours of waiting to get a desired heist on the desired difficulty. That can be quite frustrating and is supposed to stop farming. Well...

Still a good game which gets regular patches and more DLC soon.
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10. Video Game: Awesomenauts [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2752]
Video Game: Awesomenauts
This is a side-scroller 3v3 base battle. While there is levels, I don't know if that improves characters or gives you unlocks. There is very little inventory management and there are powerups which you can buy during a match.

Personally, I haven't played a lot of it, but my son loves playing against the bots.
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11. Video Game: Team Fortress 2 [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:187]
Video Game: Team Fortress 2
Kevin J
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TF2's Mann vs. Machine mode

In this mode, a team of players defends against oncoming waves of enemy bots. The standard classes from TF2 are playable, which lends itself well to team dynamics (the Engineer sets up defensive zones for teammates to reload, the medics keep people healthy, the scouts pick up dropped cash, etc), and players collect cash that they can spend to upgrade their abilities between waves. Plus, TF2 has a lot of class customization with the different weapons that can be collected for classes to slightly change how they play.
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12. Video Game: DC Universe Online [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:2106]
Video Game: DC Universe Online
Nick Reed
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Have you taken a look at DC Universe Online? It definitely doesn't satisfy all your tickboxes, but it does cover a lot. A lot of the game options are co-op (although there's nothing stopping you solo'ing them if no-one is online), characters have specific roles (chosen by talent trees at startup which drive whether you're suitable for tank, support, healing, etc. roles, as well as the exact unlocked powers you opt for), there's an interesting array of powers on offer (being a superhero game), a great level of player customisation, a minimal need to worry about inventory management (probably once every few missions it's worth dropping back to a hub point and clearing out your unwanted items for cash), and a lot of power and item progression. Playing with someone heavily higher or lower level can be slightly imbalancing, but the lower level person still gets to earn the xp, money and items, whilst the higher level person can be striving to complete some of the hundreds of point-awarding tasks which call for fast mission completions, beating a boss without using certain skills, and the like. You don't really get to do much in the way of role switching though - it's relatively defined, and near the backend of the game you can focus on PvP character path or a PvE one, but that's mostly it. Your can flush your skillset back to zero and respend all your earner skill points in different areas if you want (for a cost, of course), but it's still based on the trees you picked at chargen time.

Edit: Plus it's free on Steam, so (other than the install time) there's no reason not to give it a go.
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13. Video Game: Mass Effect 3 [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:68]
Video Game: Mass Effect 3
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-Distinct Roles: Each class has a distinctive playing style, with some being more effective against certain types of foes than others.

-Cool Powers: Want to be a sniper? Freeze enemies in place? Shock them? Use a big gun? And more!

-No (or minor) level disparities: While there is some disparity between a new class and an old timer, it is easy to have multiple characters. Levelling up is fast too.

-No (or minor) inventory management: You choose your weapons prior to starting a match.

-Players can switch up their character or role: Matches are short and you can have a large rooster of characters, switching in between them after each match.

-Player progression: Levelling a class is fast, but you keep unlocking new classes and weapons as you play.
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14. Video Game: Dungeonland [Average Rating:5.12 Overall Rank:7181]
Video Game: Dungeonland
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This and Monaco are probably the most entertaining co-ops I've played in a while. This one can have one Evil Dungeon Master basically serving as DM for up to 3 Heroes. There are 3 different hero classes, each with their own abilities, and no levelling but tons of hero-specific unlockable powers to purchase. And in spite of being a dungeon(theme-park) crawl with swords and sorcery, there's no inventory management.

(At least four VGGers own this, it was in a few bundles, and being a paradox game, will inevitably have a 75% sale in the not too distant future.)
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15. Video Game: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:525]
Video Game: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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My go-to couch co-op. Isometric tomb raiding, various weapons and upgrade, excellent puzzles, nice length. There's also a sequel Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris that does up to 4 players.
 
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16. Video Game: Resistance: Fall of Man [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1018]
Video Game: Resistance: Fall of Man
Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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Older FPS for the PS3. This one has split screen campaign co-op, you can play through the whole story with a buddy. You pick up new alien guns as you go, giving you more options. Excellent for couch co-op. The sequel Resistance 3 also has campaign co-op.
 
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17. Video Game: Portal 2 [Average Rating:8.80 Overall Rank:1] [Average Rating:8.80 Unranked]
Video Game: Portal 2
Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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Has a separate co-op campaign, either local or online. Really good. Local is split screen. There is no character/ability progression in this one though.
 
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18. Video Game: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:289] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
Video Game: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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Local or on-line campaign co-op. Works very well, except only one person can pimp their loadout at a time (unlike Borderlands 2 for example), which gets tedious.

Edit: Oh but has that character leveling issue you don't want. As does Borderlands 2.
 
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19. Video Game: Lord of the Rings: War in the North [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:2209]
Video Game: Lord of the Rings: War in the North
Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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Split screen or online co-op RPG set in Middle Earth. Haven't played it yet, but the co-op reviews are positive.
 
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20. Video Game: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:99]
Video Game: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Simon Woodward
New Zealand
Hamilton
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Uncharted 3 has a local or network co-op mode which allows you to play through a loose story based on 6 levels drawn from all three Uncharted games (1-3). You get to play as a variety of characters from the series, including some of the villains
 
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21. Video Game: Gauntlet (2014) [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1673]
Video Game: Gauntlet (2014)
Osirus
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Microbadge: Pebble of the Community - Always present, only occasionally kicked aroundMicrobadge: Dood!Microbadge: GameChat League - Swedish Meatball DivisionMicrobadge: Fallout fanMicrobadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
The hack&slash with no character levelling.
 
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