A Tale of Two Post-Destiny Games
Destiny is a unique game, in its RPG-ification of the console shooter genre Bungie created with Halo. With its focus on co-op, the game rapidly became something that rivaled MMORPG's such as World of Warcraft. And so, every eye in the industry turned towards "Destiny-style" games.
Many have compared the game to Borderlands as a "looter shooter," but I'm not a fan of the comparison. Destiny's grind economy of materials and activities is far more important than its gun collection game, so the comparison between the two is so reductive that it misses most of what made Destiny 1 great. In fact, I'd argue that Destiny 2 is a worse Destiny game for leaning into the "looter shooter/collection" game.
More accurately, The Division and Warframe are Destiny-style games, and games like Anthem and Cyberpunk 2077 look to follow that path. They take commonly enjoyed gameplay, add RPG elements, and place co-op at the center. What differentiates them from "MMORPGs" is that co-op is individual activity focused, and there's less of a reliance on parties or larger collective groups as part of the gameplay or economy.
Bungie prefers the term "shared world shooter," and while I have no intention of naming any genre something that rote, it's not an inaccurate description. A "Shared World-X" is something games like The Division and Warframe haven't excelled at being, and I don't think intend to.
Players who are coming off of Destiny 2, but aren't attracted to games like The Division or Warframe may find enjoyment in two "Shared World-X" games that incidentally, can be enjoyed starting this week.
Monster Hunter World launches this weekend, and Rare's anticipated Sea of Thieves is entered Closed Beta tomorrow.
Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter is a franchise I haven't paid a lot of attention to previously, but the series is extremely popular in Japan. Its core gameplay is frequently praised, as well as its attention to sandbox mechanics. Like many franchises this generation, Monster Hunter is making the leap into open world gameplay, and I'd argue it's doing so with many advantages that other games haven't had.
First, Monster Hunter is entering with a gameplay loop and sandbox that's already great. While even terrific games like FFXV and Breath of the Wild had to abandon much of their predecessors' gameplay to make the transition to open world, Monster Hunter has no such problem. Like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the game's core gameplay and sandbox are endlessly variable within linear environments, so an open world just creates a wider sandbox for the gameplay to shine.
Monster Hunter games have always been equal parts action game and RPG, soaked in fantasy. It's strong gear game keeps players invested to maximize both damage and defense. Sound familiar? Well, if you've played Destiny, this should sound familiar.
Not only does the game scratch all the same itches as Destiny, it's also implemented co-op this time around. Co-op action has always been Destiny's strong suite, and what set it apart from the competition. But Monster Hunter World allows players to fight dinosaurs and monsters with a four-man squad.
Destiny's own co-op is a bit limited by its activities. Raids and Strikes have players relying on teammates, but because of how repetitive they are on the fourth, fifth and sixth playthroughs, players aren't getting memorable experiences on a long-term basis.
There's a reason Player Unknown's Battlegrounds' player-count is unrivalled. The core gameplay loop that game created means that every session plays out wildly differently. Memories keep players invested. The best co-op games create those memories.
Tracking a dinosaur across a jungle, setting traps for it and then fighting it to the death is a memorable experience that delivers co-op gameplay that rivals Destiny's Raids. Not only does it have the same gameplay depth, but it has significantly superior variety. I don't doubt that once the game launches, you'll see thousands of gameplay clips, each terrifically unique.
Ultimately, Monster Hunter World may have cracked Destiny's unique gameplay offering in a way that The Division never did. It combines compelling moment-to-moment gameplay with a deep RPG system and sets it in a sandbox that's bursting at the seams. We'll have to wait until the game launches to see if it can deliver, but it's a game that lapsed Destiny players should seriously consider picking up.
It releases on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this week, and on PC this Fall.
Sea of Thieves
Rare's long-awaited pirate game immediately became one of Xbox's most anticipated games upon its announcement in 2015. At E3, Microsoft announced 'Sea of Thieves' with a succinct, yet memorable trailer.
You play as a pirate, with your friends, on your own pirate ship, sailing through a shared world with adventures and treasures under the waves and peppered throughout islands. But of course, the real adventure is between these. Sharks! Skeleton Soldiers! And if hints are anything to go by, even squid monsters that eat entire ships.
But what sets Sea of Thieves apart is what it doesn't do. There's virtually no scripted events, or limits on what can or can't be done. There are no objective markers. No questlog. You have to literally man the sails, man the cannons and mark things on your map with a pencil.
Looking for treasure? Yeah, you're not going to find it marked. Read a parchment that tells you to walk eleven paces and dig. Then do that. The game is deliciously open ended, and free of restrictions. Danger and accomplishment alike are real.
Of course, pirate battles have to be the most fascinating thing we've seen so far. Players will battle other players, with complete control over their ships. A player has to steer the ship while others man the sails, and others fire the cannons. If your enemy punches your ship full of holes, your ship will sink. If you punch your enemy's ship full of holes, you can make them walk the plank, and get eaten by sharks.
Destiny isn't the first game to offer co-op adventure experiences, but it's hard to say that it isn't one of the most notable examples. Bungie's title opened the floodgates to co-op adventure experiences, and Sea of Thieves looks like a delightful step into this genre.
Rare and Microsoft have been remarkably tight-lipped about explaining what exactly is in the game. Their policy seems to be that players need to find everything in the game on their own. But so far, rumors seem to indicate that Sea of Thieves will have its own Raid.
This Raid has been hinted out in multiple E3 demos, and is said to be a fight against a Kraken, or a giant Octopus monster of legend.
Sea of Thieves sits at an interesting place. Its systems are simple enough to be accessible to the most casual player, but it has seemingly endless possibilities to master the game's systems, and no limit on what players can do.
I imagine this game will be hilariously fun to play with friends, and perfect for players who've run out of things to do in Destiny 2. The game is Xbox and Windows exclusive, but has crossplay between both platforms. It releases in March, but there's a Closed Beta tomorrow for those who preordered or are in the Insider Program.
Players disappointed with Destiny are looking for new distractions. But the appeal of Destiny is something that's hard to find in other games, and its unique co-op adventures are something I've come to love. Monster Hunter World and Sea of Thieves are both must-buys for fans of Destiny-style adventures.