Multiplayer of Year: Chivalry 2, Valheim, It Takes Two
2021 year continued sad trends, but gaming industry is selflessly doing everything possible for the second year in a row. The best multiplayer game of the year.
Fifth place - Monster Hunter Rise
Strictly speaking, in Monster Hunter Rise (as in all previous parts of the series) it is not necessary to play with real people. All the available content, including the most difficult battles, can be studied alone without any problems, enlisting the support of two cute AI assistants: the heavily armed seal Paliko and the sled dog Palamut. However, many fans of Monster Hunter somehow agree that in the company of other players, hunting monsters brings much more fun. And there is a grain of truth in this statement. Nothing will replace companionable gatherings in the tea courtyard, joint photos, fooling around and teamwork directly during the hunt. The rules of the game in the cooperative remain the same, just cinematic moments and emotions become much more: the triumph of victory is always a pleasure to share with friends.
In addition, one of the main innovations of Rise is best revealed just in a multiplayer game. The Rampage mode offers to protect the gates of the hunters' village from waves of monsters with the help of turrets, traps and other defensive structures - it turns out a kind of analogue of tower defense. In normal tasks, even one monster is able to easily deal with a group of hunters, but here you need to resist whole hordes — a network cooperative is just asking for it. Even if only in order to rush into a desperate attack with the whole crowd in sync to the deafening sound of the gong.
Fourth place - Guilty Gear Drive
Fighting games, despite their multiplayer nature, often suffer from a variety of problems related to the quality of multiplayer. When opponents sit at the same screen during the tournament, everything goes fine, but in online matches, as a rule, real pain begins. High ping, command input delays and a poor connection to the server can easily turn a decent fighting game into a barely playable misunderstanding that quickly loses all its active online. And it doesn't matter if the game was good or not.
Guilty Gear Drive masterfully avoided this fate thanks to its excellent work with network code. Arc System Works studio managed to release, perhaps, one of the most stable fighting games of recent years: the lobbies are wildly inconvenient, but ping is practically not felt — with such high-speed gameplay, this is, no kidding, a colossal achievement. Moreover, the developers took a significant risk and thoroughly shook up the mechanics traditional for Guilty Gear. The entry threshold has become noticeably lower, but the depth of the gameplay has hardly suffered from this: even in a more beginner-friendly form, Strive has remained an extremely technical fighting game. Only now you can join the classics without any difficulties, and to organize matches you do not need to climb Discord in search of players living in the same region.
Third place — Chivalry 2
Chivalry 2 is a sketch about the Dark Knight from the cult comedy "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in the video game format. A reenactor's nightmare, where pretentious authentic battles of medieval armies sooner or later turn into a natural circus. Crowds of screaming men in armor throw severed limbs at each other, brandish pitchforks, shovels and steal innocent cattle right from the battlefield - apparently to take the trophy home. Along with a loaf of bread, a fish caught in a well and someone's bloody head.
Large-scale battles and epic storming of fortresses constantly create a lot of comical situations, but this does not mean that the game does not take itself seriously. On the contrary, Chivalry 2 approaches combat mechanics extremely responsibly: thanks to the many tactical nuances and a wide choice of weapons, it will not be easy to master fencing perfectly. Although to enjoy the game, it is not necessary to be an expert in sword fighting — it is enough just to remember which end of the sharp stick to hold on to, and which to chop enemies with. Therefore, Chivalry 2 is perfect for both strategists who are determined to win, and those who just want to turn off the brain for a while and wave a two-handed weapon until their hands get numb from fatigue.
Second place - Valheim
Valheim captured the tops of Steam like a real raider: quickly, decisively and absolutely suddenly for everyone, including the developers themselves. A modest survival game about Vikings sold an unthinkable circulation of five million (!) copies in just a month after going into early access and broke a number of records for simultaneous online, leaving behind such giants as Fallout 4 and Terraria. One of the main bestsellers of the year materialized literally from scratch and achieved success without any advertising campaigns: all thanks to word of mouth and user recommendations.
And the most curious thing is that behind the unprecedented hype is hidden… Just a good game. Not revolutionary and never a breakthrough, but obviously made with love. The Iron Gate AB Studio team clearly developed Valheim primarily for themselves: there is no other way to explain such a volume of content and incredible attention to detail. A meditative journey through the world of Scandinavian myths carefully bypasses the most hackneyed and boring cliches of such sandboxes, multiplying everything that makes this genre beautiful. A sense of adventure, the joy of discovery, surprises, freedom of action and creativity. The developers are so competently beating well-known mechanics that even now it's not a shame to spend a hundred hours for Valheim — and the game, for a second, is still very far from a full-fledged release. If the authors do not drop the quality bar and continue to work in the same spirit, then ... well, let's not think ahead. Let them take their time and calmly finish the game of their dreams without the heavy burden of expectations.
Worthy of mention
No matter how much we wanted it, there was not enough space on the podium for all worthy contenders. Therefore, before we talk about the gold medalist of the nomination, let's say a few words about those who fell just a little short of the main five.
Naraka: Bladepoint imposed the usual rules of the royal battle on the cinematic genre of wuxia — and it turned out to be surprisingly interesting. In a niche almost entirely inhabited by classic shooters, a network action about martial arts looks at least unusual.
The Halo Infinite multiplayer client has broken all charts thanks to the shareware distribution model. 343 Industries decided to release the multiplayer part of the game separately from the story campaign, and the risky venture turned out to be a success: the public accepted the good old Halo with open arms. Moreover, I didn't have to pay a single ruble for it.
Forza Horizon 5 continued to move along the same creative highway as the previous parts of the series. The revolution did not happen, but the developers did not break the old ideas that worked fine anyway — this is already pleasing.
Finally, Mario Party Superstars has collected the best mini-games of its predecessors and provided them with a modern online mode. If you are not familiar with Mario Party, then it's time to correct this omission: funny patigame is the most suitable for New Year's holidays.
First Place — It Takes Two
The essence of multiplayer games is in the interaction of players: the more reasons for interaction the game gives, the more intense the multiplayer experience turns out to be. It Takes Two requires two heroes to work together literally every minute, and that's the only reason it deserves praise. But the game does not stop at one thing and constantly invents new ways of cooperation both to overcome obstacles and to fight with opponents. Each stage changes both the environment and the rules, but at the same time the basic mechanics of the three-dimensional platformer remains unchanged, so that the levels do not feel disconnected from each other.
In addition, the authors of It Takes Two understand that it's fun not only to be friends, but also to compete. Therefore, they offer to optionally compete against each other in 25 mini-games: from snowballs to racing. And this further diversifies the gameplay — the impressions that you will get for the passage would be enough for a few less daring games. It Takes Two seemed to be specially created to win in the nomination "best multiplayer of 2021". Its creators did not cut corners — on the contrary, they gave much more cooperative content than could be expected. In a fit of generosity, the developers even allowed two to play with one copy of It Takes Two, including over the network. So if you have at least one friend, then there is simply no reason not to try it.
As you can see, 2021 turned out to be unexpectedly rich in a variety of multiplayer computer video games. Big, small, independent, big—budget, cooperative and competitive - there are so many good games that you can always choose something for the mood and a certain company among them.