I’ve been playing a lot of Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2) lately, and it really got me reminiscing on the original Phantasy Star Online (PSO) and on Phantasy Star Universe (PSU). Both of which I feel have some very fun and amazing offline campaigns.
So I wondered “what would it take to turn PSO2 into a good offline game?” Except, that was met with a slap in the face when I realized it could ship as is and be a great offline game.
Which got me thinking, “How come PSO2 doesn’t have an offline mode?”
The more I think about this though, the past ones were at their best in an online environment and likely only had the offline option due how few people had internet access on consoles in those days. I mean, how many people do you know who went through all the trouble and money to get their Gamecube capable of going online?
So how come I’m yearning to play this game in an offline, single-player environment, even when I realize that it is better in an online one? I think the answer I’ve found is that Phantasy Star Online 2 does an amazing job at appealing to so many different types of gamers, including that hermit that lives inside me.
The casual and the hardcore
The balance between these two is something I find that PSO2 does very well. For the most part, you can get through just fine by being a casual player. I can’t think of any content you miss out on completing for being a casual player. However, if you do min/max your skills and stats, you will still be rewarded. This is done primarily through a ranking system in certain missions, where MVPs get more rewards at the end. This is something I find many games, especially MMOs, to suffer with, which I find to be best seen with Final Fantasy XIV and their constant changes in difficulty. With every patch FFXIV seems to rubber band between too hard and too easy, and they never find quite the right balance - leaving a bad taste for many players. It can also be seen in World of Warcraft, which also has rubber banded quite a bit in difficulty between expansions until it was ultimately left to be so easy that it has become a joke in the MMO world, despite at one time being quite challenging.
Yet, PSO2 has such a simple fix that I feel works very well. You won’t get casual players that are upset about being unable to do content, and also won’t get the hardcore players upset that they aren’t being rewarded for their extra efforts - making for a wonderful experience for both hardcore and casual gamers.
This is part of why I’d love to see an offline mode, like we’ve seen in PSO and PSU. I tend to get very competitive. If I see other players around, I naturally want to contend with them and feel as though I’m on the top. However, with my busy schedule I don’t always have the time to devote to doing this. So, if that competitive side of me is just itching a bit too much and I realize I can’t quite compete at the moment, I’d love to turn into offline mode and just kind of play on the more casual aspect and kind of forget about everything for awhile.
The immersive world and the hub
Generally, I’m not a huge fan of hub-based games. I like having an expansive world that I can get lost and immersed in as I explore. Yet, despite being very much so hub based, PSO2’s world appeals quite a bit to me. The idea of the hub being a space station, and the different missions being planets you travel to helps kind of keep the immersion. On top of that, as you progress you unlock “free explorations” of these planets. It’s still a hub-based system, but having the ability to just go and roam freely in these areas with no clear mission at hand I found to be quite appealing.
Yet, being the hub game that it is, it allows for the instant satisfaction aspect one can expect. Only have a half hour before you gotta go? Not a problem! Pump that mission out and have some fun. With PSO2 being on not only the PC and PS4, but also the PS Vita, the hub parts sound great to me even as lover of the more open world styled. It’d be great to turn on my Vita when I’m on the go and play a mission, but that involves tethering to my phone since I need to go online, which really starts to just become more of a hassle than it’s worth at that point - not to mention all of the connection and data issues that comes with it.
While I imagine the reason for their not being an offline version of the game is primarily due to it just providing a better experience online, as well as with how commonplace the internet has become, it would still be nice to have that offline alternative that was provided in the past with Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe. I would also say this is due to it being free to play, so they’d make no money if there was an offline mode, except you can already go and buy a physical copy for the Vita (which also has the free download on the PSN, if you don’t wanna fork out the money for the physical copy), so I don’t really see why they neglected to provide the offline experience and I hope to see it in the future, because I would drop the money for that so fast.