This topic came into my mind some time ago.
As someone who primarily plays alone, even in multiplayer games, this is actually something that should really have occurred to me considering how much it affects me. But I never really though about it until I saw someone talking about the merits of Overwatch over Fortnite.
That person claimed that the depth of gameplay in Overwatch comes from the team’s hero composition, the maps being played and the whether you’re playing on offense or defense. Leaving aside the issue that every other team-based, class-based games have all of that and Overwatch does not offer anything else in terms of gameplay, the part of his statement that stood out to me the most was on team composition. As a solo player, there is absolutely nothing I can do if the rest of my team decided to go as Torbjörn, Bastion, Mei, Soldier: 76 and McCree. Do I pick Orisa to resolve the lack of tanks in my team, or should I go Lúcio to fill in as a healer? Do I go Brigitte to try and fill both roles, or should I just pick Doomfist since they deserve nothing?
And that is my point. What depth in gameplay is there in Overwatch that I as a solo player can access, without needing to depend on others? Other players are by nature unreliable, partly because you don’t know exactly who they are and how they are like at the moment, and partly because they are not in any way obliged to share the same goals as you. If the depth of your game is ultimately dependent on other players, then to a solo player that game does not have depth.
Yes, a team-based game is ultimately meant to be played as a team. But other team-based don’t have any problems adding elements that allow players to function as individuals while still rewarding teamwork. Team Fortress 2 has a diverse weapon loadout system that allows you to adapt to both the enemy team and yours. Aside for that, it also has a high mechanical skill ceiling with explosives jumping which a solo player can access without needing to rely on others. Meanwhile, there are debuffs and buffs you can apply to the enemy team and your team respectively, and classes and weapons have synergies between each other that can make a cooperative pair much more powerful than the sum of their parts.
In Paladins, the loadout and item systems serve the same purpose. Your loadout and item choices decide how you play, and making optimal choices can boost your personal performance against others. As for team play, by ensuring that every team member buys the right items (especially for Bulldozer, Cauterize, and Wrecker), the team becomes more efficient in dealing with thee enemy team as they have sufficient coverage on all three fronts. And you can check the items that your teammates (and enemies) bought so that you can buy the right items to complement your team’s choices.
In both those games, there are options a solo player can take to optimize their performance and complement their team. It allows them to function independently from their team to some degree while still rewarding playing as a team. Overwatch, to me, lacks that first element. The fact that a large part of the game’s depth is dependent on others means that for solo players, it’s not there.
Forming groups with friends may not be an optimal solution either. There is no guarantee that they will stick with the game you want to play. And when they move on to something else, you’ll be back to square one again. And if your friends’ presence is the only thing making the game fun for you, is that fun due to the game, both the game and your friends, or just the latter?
Sure, a team-based multiplayer game is meant to be played as a team, it’s literally the first word in the phrase “team-based multiplayer game”. But to hinge almost the entirety of your game on other players is ultimately betting that the majority of your playerbase operate exactly how you expect them to, and that is never going to happen. To a solo player, such a game is just an exercise in frustration.