Question Co-op games for mixed skill level groups?

Mar 14, 2024
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Hi there.

The group of people I play with mostly consists of very casual gamers. However, some of us (myself included) are a bit more hardcore. That said, even though I play at a higher-than-average level, I still prefer to play with a casual mindset. Even so, I can’t erase my gaming ability and I can’t help but want to engage with things at my level. This creates friction within the group. For example, games that require team coordination are problematic because my friends can’t keep up with the coordination the game demands, let alone the coordination I am used to from things like MMO raids, and this negatively affects our ability to progress in those games. One solution to this is to play games where experienced players can “carry” less experienced players. We’ve also played games like Risk of Rain 2 and other action rogue-lites. The problem with those, however, is that my friends die and then just get stuck watching me play.

So, I’m looking for some games where experienced players don’t feel held back by inexperienced players, but at the same time inexperienced players don’t just get overwhelmed and end up not being able to play the game (due to dying or otherwise just being left in my dust).

Now, since this is a pretty tall order for a game, it’s worth noting something: I play for fun, not loot. That is to say, as long as I feel engaged with the game and don’t feel held back, I’m perfectly happy to handicap myself or skip out on material rewards. For example, one game that I personally think fits the bill is Vindictus, because it’s somewhat possible to handicap myself (i.e. bring Lv.1 gear to a Lv. 80 fight). It’s also nice because they nerfed the early game so hard that even my friends struggle to die. That said, it’s kind of a complicated game for them. They don't understand how to fight. That kind of fast-paced action combat might be a bit much.

What do you think? Are there any other games you know that allow a single player to carry without ruining the experience for the rest of the team?

Thanks.

~Noct~
 
Hi there.

The group of people I play with mostly consists of very casual gamers. However, some of us (myself included) are a bit more hardcore. That said, even though I play at a higher-than-average level, I still prefer to play with a casual mindset. Even so, I can’t erase my gaming ability and I can’t help but want to engage with things at my level. This creates friction within the group. For example, games that require team coordination are problematic because my friends can’t keep up with the coordination the game demands, let alone the coordination I am used to from things like MMO raids, and this negatively affects our ability to progress in those games. One solution to this is to play games where experienced players can “carry” less experienced players. We’ve also played games like Risk of Rain 2 and other action rogue-lites. The problem with those, however, is that my friends die and then just get stuck watching me play.

So, I’m looking for some games where experienced players don’t feel held back by inexperienced players, but at the same time inexperienced players don’t just get overwhelmed and end up not being able to play the game (due to dying or otherwise just being left in my dust).

Now, since this is a pretty tall order for a game, it’s worth noting something: I play for fun, not loot. That is to say, as long as I feel engaged with the game and don’t feel held back, I’m perfectly happy to handicap myself or skip out on material rewards. For example, one game that I personally think fits the bill is Vindictus, because it’s somewhat possible to handicap myself (i.e. bring Lv.1 gear to a Lv. 80 fight). It’s also nice because they nerfed the early game so hard that even my friends struggle to die. That said, it’s kind of a complicated game for them. They don't understand how to fight. That kind of fast-paced action combat might be a bit much.

What do you think? Are there any other games you know that allow a single player to carry without ruining the experience for the rest of the team?

Thanks.

~Noct~
I would suggest getting away from pure shooters like Risk of Rain and moving to combat focused survival games like Abiotic Factor, Nightingale, V Rising and Enshrouded. You can carry a team in these games and still expect the rest to survive in many cases. Also, there are other ways that they can contribute to the team than just combat, like gathering resources, cooking, farming, crafting. You can do as much of these extra activities or as little as you want, and in most of these games the actual survival part of eating isn't very punishing. These games also allow for melee builds, which means anyone not good at shooters doesn't have to shoot.

Survival games have really transformed. These games are nothing like the survival games of old where you are just camping at a base most of the time, struggling to get food and punching trees. These are full-fledged AA games with stories, missions, tons of combat, etc. The survival part is very light, although it may seem heavy at the very beginning of the game before you get established.

Also, all these games except for Enshrouded let you customize the difficulty to a level of detail not seen in most non-survival games.
 
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My guess would be PVE games. L4D,deep rock galactic or the like might be a good option. The stronger players take the lead and delegate roles accordingly. The key advantage is probably communication and as they get better and gets to grips with stuff they can develop accordingly. make sure to watch each others backs and its normally easy street. play on lower difficulties if needed.

i wouldn't recommend anything competitive though, if like me, it brings out the very worst in me. So i recommend facing a faceless enemy like the AI as its something we can all get behind.
 
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Thank you for your suggestions.

In terms of genres I like, I'm at least open to almost anything, with the one major exception being anything PvP, which I avoid like the plague. In general, though, I like action, adventure, and puzzles. I'm less into things like civ builders and 4X. However, I do dabble in them from time to time, especially if it's to play with friends. I've played Stellaris before, which is another game that I think could work fairly well. Everyone could play at their own paces and there is really no way to lose the game. However, it's also not really direct cooperation; we would be controlling our own civs, playing separately, but also together.

Since I haven't played many of the games people have suggested, I'm not sure, but from what I know, I think there are some death concerns in some of those? Like, what happens when you die in DRG and L4D? I personally like combat-focused survival and we have played V Rising before (PvE). However, even though V Rising has been quite fun, the combat remains an issue insofar as my friends keep dying. We don't want to just nerf the bosses into the ground because that takes the feeling of achievement out of the game. However, my friends need to be able to practice. And that means they need to be able to revive/be revived easily. The trouble we’ve had with combat survival is that they can't just get up and try again. V Rising, for instance, requires me to kill the boss first and then spend half of my blood to revive someone. Many other games have similar limitations. For example, mid-combat revival in Outward is fairly easy, but the player revives with max HP/stamina so low that they can't fight. Meanwhile, Vindictus allows mid-combat revival with no penalty, but I’m limited to 3-4 feathers per dungeon. We're looking to do activities together, so ideally we move as a team rather than having them build a castle while I go off and slaughter the bosses for them. We played Raft last night, which was decent, but there were some issues with progression being too difficult to carry. For example, I couldn't easily fend off shark attacks by myself, though perhaps that was because I was also new to the game.

What are the death mechanics like in Enshrouded, Abiotic Factor, and Nightingale?
 
I've played Stellaris before, which is another game that I think could work fairly well. Everyone could play at their own paces and there is really no way to lose the game. However, it's also not really direct cooperation; we would be controlling our own civs, playing separately, but also together.

I would suggest Crusader Kings (2 or 3) over Stellaris, as it is easier to just exist without having to worry too much about being defeated. Especially if the more casual players play as vassals of the more experiences players. It does have a pretty steep learning curve, but in my experience with CK2, especially if you have all the DLC, there are enough events happening to keep people busy even if they don't really know the game.

As for a Survival game, I can recommend Don't Starve Together. When creating a world you get a ton of options to tweak the difficulty and there is a mode (endless I think) where players can just respawn back at the starting portal whenever they die.
 
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I would suggest Crusader Kings (2 or 3) over Stellaris, as it is easier to just exist without having to worry too much about being defeated. Especially if the more casual players play as vassals of the more experiences players. It does have a pretty steep learning curve, but in my experience with CK2, especially if you have all the DLC, there are enough events happening to keep people busy even if they don't really know the game.

As for a Survival game, I can recommend Don't Starve Together. When creating a world you get a ton of options to tweak the difficulty and there is a mode (endless I think) where players can just respawn back at the starting portal whenever they die.
Hmm, I've never played Crusader Kings, so it'd be a heavy learning curve even for me. I'll definitely raise the option with them, though.

We tried Don't Starve Together recently, but found it really brutal in terms of just surviving and even learning how things work. That was playing the default Endless mode. My friends were able to revive for free, but it does mean we can't move away from the respawn point. I tried alone with the Long Day setting and surviving was a lot easier. I'd like to give it another shot with them and see if we can figure it out. The trick is with keeping the game engaging, though. When I was playing in Long Day mode, I got bored of playing on my own and quit after about an hour or two. There wasn't enough pressure to keep me invested, but exploring was still a pain. Perhaps I should fiddle with the settings some more. One of the other big issues is that I get 20 days to prep for winter and yet have no idea how to find the necessary resources. The pressure to figure out how to survive is actually the fun part. However, the constant pressure to find food and the consequent difficulty of exploring the world limits our ability to fiddle around with things, explore, and ultimately find out how to make those preparations.

Overall, games like Don't Starve and Raft are generally pretty good experiences for us. Just, as a group we always end up simply treading water instead of progressing.
 
To be honest, I don't think I've ever survived past winter either in Don't Starve Together, even with winters set to short. Resurrecting for free doesn't help much if you just freeze to death within a minute. Though we also often started a new game instead of continuing with a previous save, so we didn't even get to winter very often.

I have two more suggestions:

Monaco: it's very easy to pick up, as the controls are extremely straightforward, and each player chooses a specific role to fulfill, with some roles easier than others. So it should be fairly easy for everyone to contribute according to their skill level.

Magicka (2): it's more complicated that Monaco, but it's still easy to learn, just hard to master. However, you don't really have to master it to get through the game, most of the time you can get by with spamming the same attack over and over, especially if at least one of the players does know what they're doing and makes sure to resurrect anyone who dies. Resurrection can be done at any time, even during combat, and is pretty easy (except when it rains).

I have a copy of Monaco and two copies of Magicka 2 in my Steam inventory if you're interested. I bought a 4-pack for each a long time ago and ended up not using all the copies (in fact, I haven't even played Magicka 2, I've only played the first game).
 
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Like, what happens when you die in DRG and L4D?

In L4D it depends where a character gets eliminated. if you die before you complete the stage, you either respawn later on in the map or get revived at the safehouse when you start the next section with 50% health. Which ever one comes first. If however you die on the final encounter/battle there is no respawn. if you all wipe, you start the encounter again.

So the good news is that until the final encounter, you can all carry on and at least start each stage as a team. Tbh, apart from expert difficulty, its pretty easy. hell, if you lose all your health you are merely "downed" and you start bleeding out and you can pick up them up again and carry on (with less health). go down x3 times and 4th time you're dead for good. Even then, if you use first aid kit you regain health and reset the counter.

Not sure about deep rock galactic not played it.

Another game, perhaps stardew valley? Build a farm together, divide and conquer tasks. One person could be harvesting, others could go foraging others can do dungeon crawling.
 
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I have two more suggestions:

Monaco: it's very easy to pick up, as the controls are extremely straightforward, and each player chooses a specific role to fulfill, with some roles easier than others. So it should be fairly easy for everyone to contribute according to their skill level.

Magicka (2): it's more complicated that Monaco, but it's still easy to learn, just hard to master. However, you don't really have to master it to get through the game, most of the time you can get by with spamming the same attack over and over, especially if at least one of the players does know what they're doing and makes sure to resurrect anyone who dies. Resurrection can be done at any time, even during combat, and is pretty easy (except when it rains).

I have a copy of Monaco and two copies of Magicka 2 in my Steam inventory if you're interested. I bought a 4-pack for each a long time ago and ended up not using all the copies (in fact, I haven't even played Magicka 2, I've only played the first game).
Thanks for these suggestions! I passed them on to the group after checking them out myself. They look interesting, and aren't overly expensive, either. Monaco might be a bit chaotic since my friends are likely to set off alarms and stuff, but Magicka looks very doable. I may take you up on the offer if my friends are interested in it, but I wouldn't want to inconvenience you.

I also gave Raft a shot solo last night and got really into it. It seems like there's an early bump to get over that was causing us difficulty as a group, especially since I need enough experience with the game to be able to pull above my own weight to support the less experienced players. Now that I know how to get over that bump, it should play a lot better.
 
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In L4D it depends where a character gets eliminated. if you die before you complete the stage, you either respawn later on in the map or get revived at the safehouse when you start the next section with 50% health. Which ever one comes first. If however you die on the final encounter/battle there is no respawn. if you all wipe, you start the encounter again.

So the good news is that until the final encounter, you can all carry on and at least start each stage as a team. Tbh, apart from expert difficulty, its pretty easy. hell, if you lose all your health you are merely "downed" and you start bleeding out and you can pick up them up again and carry on (with less health). go down x3 times and 4th time you're dead for good. Even then, if you use first aid kit you regain health and reset the counter.

Not sure about deep rock galactic not played it.

Another game, perhaps stardew valley? Build a farm together, divide and conquer tasks. One person could be harvesting, others could go foraging others can do dungeon crawling.
L4D sounds like it has the same problem that Risk of Rain and Gunfire Reborn do. My friends would die and get stuck waiting until the next stage, or until I have enough time to revive them. I'd need to see exactly how it works to be sure, though. That said, L4D is honestly not the aesthetic I go for. I'd play it if my friends asked me to specifically, but it's not the kind of game I'd buy otherwise. I tend to prefer less gritty aesthetics.

Stardew would probably work. I have never played it... which is mostly down to my own bias against hyper-popular games and fads. I tend to feel that they are overrated due to mass popularity. In truth, though, a game's popularity doesn't immediately mean it's a bad game. Still, I've bought some games based on popularity that I felt were a total waste of money. *cough*breathofthewild*cough*
 
I wouldn't want to inconvenience you.

It's no inconvenience at all. Now it just feels like I've wasted the money on those extra games, if I can share them at least they're being used.

Stardew would probably work. I have never played it... which is mostly down to my own bias against hyper-popular games and fads. I tend to feel that they are overrated due to mass popularity. In truth, though, a game's popularity doesn't immediately mean it's a bad game. Still, I've bought some games based on popularity that I felt were a total waste of money. *cough*breathofthewild*cough*

Stardew Valley is a very good farm life sim, so if you like farm life sims you'll almost certainly like Stardew as well.
 
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Thank you for your suggestions.

In terms of genres I like, I'm at least open to almost anything, with the one major exception being anything PvP, which I avoid like the plague. In general, though, I like action, adventure, and puzzles. I'm less into things like civ builders and 4X. However, I do dabble in them from time to time, especially if it's to play with friends. I've played Stellaris before, which is another game that I think could work fairly well. Everyone could play at their own paces and there is really no way to lose the game. However, it's also not really direct cooperation; we would be controlling our own civs, playing separately, but also together.

Since I haven't played many of the games people have suggested, I'm not sure, but from what I know, I think there are some death concerns in some of those? Like, what happens when you die in DRG and L4D? I personally like combat-focused survival and we have played V Rising before (PvE). However, even though V Rising has been quite fun, the combat remains an issue insofar as my friends keep dying. We don't want to just nerf the bosses into the ground because that takes the feeling of achievement out of the game. However, my friends need to be able to practice. And that means they need to be able to revive/be revived easily. The trouble we’ve had with combat survival is that they can't just get up and try again. V Rising, for instance, requires me to kill the boss first and then spend half of my blood to revive someone. Many other games have similar limitations. For example, mid-combat revival in Outward is fairly easy, but the player revives with max HP/stamina so low that they can't fight. Meanwhile, Vindictus allows mid-combat revival with no penalty, but I’m limited to 3-4 feathers per dungeon. We're looking to do activities together, so ideally we move as a team rather than having them build a castle while I go off and slaughter the bosses for them. We played Raft last night, which was decent, but there were some issues with progression being too difficult to carry. For example, I couldn't easily fend off shark attacks by myself, though perhaps that was because I was also new to the game.

What are the death mechanics like in Enshrouded, Abiotic Factor, and Nightingale?
Based on what you are saying, I'd guess that Abiotic Factor may be too difficult for them, but Enshrouded and Nightingale should be good. Revives aren't too difficult in either. I only remember one boss from Enshrouded that you'd probably have to finish up on your own, and Nightingale has a lot of combat, but not too many bosses, and everyone gets their own NPC companion who will revive them.
 
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L4D sounds like it has the same problem that Risk of Rain and Gunfire Reborn do. My friends would die and get stuck waiting until the next stage, or until I have enough time to revive them. I'd need to see exactly how it works to be sure, though. That said, L4D is honestly not the aesthetic I go for. I'd play it if my friends asked me to specifically, but it's not the kind of game I'd buy otherwise. I tend to prefer less gritty aesthetics.

if it helps, you can share resources when it comes to pick ups etc so if someone uses up all his personal medication, feel free to heal your colleagues up to keep them going. On normal l4d is a cake walk (friendly fire damage is negligible) provided you stick together, combine your firepower and don't run off you should be fine. The only threat are the 4 - 7 special infected but they are easily prey if you're watching each others backs. The tank is the only real threat, but on normal 4 users with combat shotguns make mincemeat out of them. Failing that, throw a molotov and let it burn to death.

A thought occurs, what about cook, serve delicious series? you work together to complete food orders . There are a whole load of similar games that do the same thing like bomber crew so theres plenty to pick.

Dare i say viscera cleanup detail? Honestly i found it bloody boring but i guess a problem shared and all that. All share in the boredom of cleaning.
 
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