Will Your Relationship Survive?: COVID-19 Edition
In this special edition of "Will Your Relationship Survive?" we hope to give you a list of games and avenues through which you can continue spending quality time with your loved ones - friends, families, and partners. This list will never be exhaustive, and we've made it a point to find options that are easy on the wallet, with most of them being friendly for non-gaming PCs. We hope that it gets you and your loved ones through this difficult time. Stay safe, practice social distancing, and for the love of everything that is good, practice good hygiene.
In these trying times, escapism is most certainly a reasonable impulse. However, as a friend recently reminded me, being able to go on virtual dates with friends in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is more than just a simple privilege, as it requires multiple Switch devices and multiple copies of AC:NH. Both of these items are priced at a premium due to the insatiable worldwide demand for the Switch and the steep retail prices of Nintendo Switch games in general.
Gamers escaping into worlds with others is not a new phenomenon, and it will always be a thing. Here at Potion Online, we believe these journeys can be enriching and enhance our relationships.
This is why we have shortlisted some games and applications on various platforms that we feel offer huge value and lots of opportunities for you to bond with people whom we should hold close to our hearts in this time. May your relationships survive COVID-19.
Note: We also recognise that, sometimes, gaming online is not free. We have included some tips and tricks to help make that a bit more easy on the wallet. Please note that all features and prices are correct at the time of publishing, and may have changed since.
When it comes to online cooperative, we honestly think that PC is the way to go if you're looking for value. On top of the fact that Steam's Remote Play function allows for virtual couch cooperative play with a single copy of any eligible game, many PC games' online features are not hidden behind the paywall of Nintendo Switch Online, Playstation Plus (PS+), or Xbox Live Gold.
Steam Remote Play Together
Steam itself has a wide range of local multiplayer / couch co-op games in its library that are available for play remotely, which means you only need to own one copy of the game across everyone in the group. All you need to do is start the game and invite your friends via Steam (making an account is free) and they can hop into your virtual couch to play games such as Cuphead, Shovel Knight, Spelunky and Overcooked!. You can find out more about this feature here.
Base game free on Steam (Expansions currently on sale). Also available on other platforms.
The Destiny franchise has seen its up and downs in the gaming community, but it has struck some gold with Destiny 2 and, at the moment, the base game is going for free on Steam. As an action-shooter, it offers loads of multiplayer opportunities in both PvE and PvP formats. Our only caveat is that it is definitely more intensive on your system as compared to our other recommendations.
SGD$10 per copy on Steam. Also available on other platforms.
If you've been watching too much Netflix and just caught up on La Casa De Papel / Money Heist and fancy yourself a good heist, Payday 2 has you covered. Group up with a team of friends and partake in a large range of robberies, choose to go loud or quiet with its mix of cooperative inventiveness and all-round pandemonium. Nothing screams "escapist fantasy" quite like becoming a smooth criminal. Though it is available on other platforms, online play is free on the PC.
Don't Starve Together
SGD$14.50 for TWO copies on Steam. Also available on other platforms.
Our pick of the crop goes to Don't Starve Together. Apart from navigating a sometimes-scary, sometimes-cute landscape that promises to throw challenges at you, the survival / crafting / rouge-like classic Don't Starve is perfect for two (or more), and challenges you to not only communicate but collaborate against larger forces of danger and starvation. Also, we particularly like the part where purchasing the game means you get a second copy to gift to a friend, a gesture which we think can help you tell your friends you are thinking about them. This game is also good to run on non-gaming rigs and lower tier broadband connections as compared to the previous two options.
We recognise that there are also lots of web-based options for playing party or mini-games online such as Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, Agar.io, and more. Many of these games are also available for play on mobile, and constitutes a section of its on later in the article.
Playstation 4 Games
When writing this article, we found it difficult to recommend console games simply because the online features of these games lie behind a paywall. However, as we will cover right after our list of games, there are sneaky ways to work around this.
Monster Hunter: World
Free for all PS+ subscribers until 21st April 2020, Also available on other platforms.
Monster Hunter: World is a great game which we wish we had the opportunity to review. The world feels grand, and the monsters epic. The premise is fairly simple - you hunt monsters either alone or in a group, and each monster has particular weaknesses. The game has excellent depth in the different ways a monster can be fell.
Until the 21st April, with just the cost of a PS+ subscription, you can pick up this great game with your friends (remember to redeem it before 21st!) and continue playing beyond the 21st April 2020 as long as you remain subscribed as a member, If you are worried about the sudden influx of work (and therefore lack of time to play the game) when COVID-19 subsides, fret not - the game will remain in your PS+ library, ready to be re-activated alongside the PS+ subscription, should you choose to cancel/suspend your subscription and then re-subscribe later.
SGD$35.70 per copy on Playstation Store. Also available on other platforms.
We've covered Overcooked! before, and there is no team-bonding activity more suitable than Overcooked!, where you will get to find out who the Gordon Ramseys of your tribe are, who the idiot-sandwiches are, and who likes to role-play as a chef ("Yes, Chef!") the most. The price is steep, and if you are hoping to play as four online, you and your friends will each have to shell out for individual copies of the game, and a PS+ subscription to play online. If it's just two of you, though, then the rules about Share Play below may interest you.
Remote Play / Share Play shenanigans
Share play gives you the ability to simulate a couch-gaming experience with a friend who also owns the Playstation 4. At any time, you can also "hand over the reigns" to your friend at a distance as well, so it is a really nifty way to play games together if you happen to not be in the same household. PS+ subscription is required for both parties in order to use Share Play with its full functionality.
While remote play for the PS4 is primarily meant for you to access your own game library from a PC or PS Remote Play-ready device, it can be jigged imaginatively to allow for two-person couch-cooperative play even when distanced. The HUGE caveat which we have to warn you about is that this requires the owner of the PS4 to basically give remote access of their Playstation 4 (and Playstation Account) to a trusted person. Both of you will also need individual Playstation controllers as well as a suitable cable to connect the controller to the device if you do not own the wireless dongle. The steps are:
Set-up and log into Remote Play to Person X's PS4 & Playstation Account from Person Y's device
Person Y assumes the main account (Player 1) via Remote Play on the device and starts the couch cooperative game.
Person X joins in as Player 2 to the couch cooperative game using a guest account or alternative account.
This method basically means that you are streaming the PS4 to another device, and so inadvertently means that there is going to be potential for network latency issues. As such, it may be more feasible for more light-hearted games that do not require quick reflexes games.
Nintendo Switch Games
When writing this article, we found it difficult to recommend console games simply because the online features of these games lie behind a paywall. However, as we will cover right after our list of games, there are sneaky ways to make the financial impact more manageable.
USD$14.99 on the Nintendo eShop. Also available on other platforms.
Stardew Valley is more than an alternative to Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, it is the standard for the genre as far as we are concerned. The gist is this: the game boasts more depth, more mechanics, more crop types - basically more of everything. It started as a love letter to the aforementioned games, but it deserves to stand on its own. The game has been multiplayer-enabled on the Switch since December 2018, and ConcernedApe continues to provide updates to this labour of love across platforms.
USD$0.09 on the Nintendo eShop until 9th April 2020. Also available on other platforms.
Drawful 2 makes this list simply because it is currently priced at nine whole cents, and we would recommend you look at the various Jackbox Party bundles available that feature loads of party games you can use to occupy your household, or find inventive ways to share screen and play with friends at a distance.
Tips for reducing online subscription costs
Nintendo Switch Online also has a family subscription at a flat rate of USD$34.99 per year for up to 8 family group members / accounts. The individual subscription goes for USD$19.99 per year per account. All members of a family group should reside in the same country, but it is stated in Nintendo's FAQs that the members of the family group are NOT required to be within the same household.
Web-based / Mobile Games / Tabletop Games
There's a plethora of web-based games, mobile games, and games made for a variety of demographics. From the more child-friendly Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (mobile) and Roblox (multi-platform), to the more millennial-popular Psyche and games on Telegram or Facebook Messenger. Last but not least, GenZ-ers have been all about that houseparty hype.
The more adventurous (but less technologically-blessed) could also consider looking up text-based MUDs, which are heavily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons style adventures. Due to the bare-bones nature of these, you can play these games on what is proverbially referred to as a "potato PC".
Better yet, you can get on any common video conferencing platform and finally start that D&D group you've been meaning to after binge-watching Stranger Things.
Dungeons & Dragons and other similar tabletop games can be also be played virtually (through platforms such as Dungeons & Dragons Online or Roll20), or by setting up a webcam over a physical game board and having a video conference. The New York Film Academy as well as boardgame communities such as r/boardgames have already begun work on reviewing and developing their advice for playing online, but we'd argue that almost any cooperative game (such as Pandemic or Forbidden Island) where there is no requirement for hands to be secret can be played this way.
We recommend anything, really. Get yourself a glass of wine (or soda) and start video-conferencing away!
While many of the previous games are available on multiple platforms, these games deserve additional mention because they transcend multiple platforms, allowing you to cross-play regardless of what you own at home.
Untitled Goose Game
Available on the PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.
Why is a single-player game in this list? Well, because Untitled Goose Game is just THAT MUCH FUN for a group of people to backseat game. Hook up some kind of screen-sharing, point your webcam at your TV or whatever, and you can have an instantly great time with your friends over Skype or Zoom. Masquerade as the world's most devious, intelligent and annoying goose. You will not regret this. It is also available for the PC, Mac, and PS4
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Free on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Google Play & App Store
Some people scoffed when it was nominated and won Game of the Year awards, because it was yet another battle royale in an already saturated market. Yet, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to play with your friends anywhere, anytime, on any platform at a grand total of $0. The game is incredibly enjoyable to play, though it is competitive, and any collaborative element to it feels different from our other recommendations due to its PvP focus. Nevertheless, it is an extremely good game that continues to build meaningful connections amongst its players through a mix of seasonal events and formidable marketing/community-building. The biggest plus for us in the context of this article is that it allows cross-platform play throughout all its platforms. You also do not need PS+ or Xbox Live Gold for online play. So, go on ahead and squad up.
Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games
Massively-Multiplayer Online RPGs are the epitome of an escapist fantasy. It's a world-within-our-world, and right now stepping out in those worlds offer much more safety and security than ours. However, the issue with most (if not all) MMORPGs is the balance between good core gameplay loops, strong community, price (subscriptions or otherwise), and longevity (grinding for all that progress to then lose it when the game shuts its servers for good is quite saddening). Not many games are able to balance all of these, and some sacrifice in way of quality of life by putting content or features behind paywalls, while others have strong community, support, and updates but run on a subscription basis.
For subscription-paid models, we recommend the classics: World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls: Online, and Final Fantasy XIV. These games have withstood the test of time and, in particular, FFXIV's most recent expansion Shadowbringers is critically-acclaimed. Many long-standing MMOs have the option of paying a premium to skip content to the newest expansion as well, if it is something you feel like doing. Ultimately, they all have the potential of running your wallet dry, though, so we also looked into some free-to-play options.
We'd like to give Final Fantasy XIV a special shout-out because it is a cross-platform MMORPG, meaning PC and PS4 players can play together. Playing online on the Playstation 4 does not require PS+ subscription.
Most of these games are free to download/start/play, which is in the spirit of this article, BUT it is impossible to ignore the fact that any mid to long-term progress in these games will be bottle-necked by the need to unlock content or features through cumulative payments or subscriptions.
However, we strongly recommend: Path of Exile (PC). We are singling out Path of Exile because all game-content comes free, but you'll have to pay to open inventory and currency tabs if you want ease of management. Many people have experienced playing hundreds of hours without forking out a single cent, but the effort in order to do so is considerable because the game seems to make it a point to clog up your inventory quickly.
When all else fails and you are unable to play against or in the same team as your friends, you can also opt to play with your friends by becoming a backseat gamer.
We've noted Untitled Goose Game in particular for this, but any game can realistically have a backseat gaming experience. If you'd like to know what types of games are great for a backseat-gamer, the lovely couple at Girlfriend Reviews on YouTube have you covered.
Personally, we've had great fun watching each other play The Outer Worlds, God of War, Sekiro, Spider-Man as well as Persona 5. On that note, a new definitive edition of the game, Persona 5 Royal, which includes whole new sections of game story, a new team-member, and additional features had its Western release on 1st April 2020, so it is a great time to pick up the franchise.
In order to let as many of your friends backseat game, we recommend using programmes such as XSplit Broadcaster. You can also set up free accounts on YouTube Gaming, Twitch, Mixer, or use Facebook Live features to stream your gaming experience to your friends and more!
If you and your friends are unable to play or broadcast games in general, you can also opt to follow any of the existing streamers who are already broadcasting and watch them play instead. We've had particular joy watching speed-runners make a mockery of games by beating them in record time, and also friendly and chill communities that are abound on Twitch.
While there are big name streamers who need no introduction, you can also scroll through games and communities to find smaller streamers who would be more likely to interact directly with you.
This was a really long editorial for us to write because of the amount of research we had to do, and we seek your understanding that we left out an Xbox Games section. We don't feel like it would be fair for us to talk about Xbox games because we don't own one, though many of the games we recommend are also available on that platform.
We'd also like to end off by saying that we know that there are a lot of other games and avenues out there, and we'd like to hear from you about what these are. If you would like to offer more tips, tricks, or suggestions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! :)
Stay safe everyone!