Few games have inspired as much devotion as Valve’s Team Fortress 2—which is funny considering how much more expansive it is now than it was at launch. Team Fortress 2 started out as a relatively fun class-based shooter, but once Valve reworked its in-game marketplace and started monetizing many of the cosmetic items and weapons, Team Fortress 2 exploded.
But what’s even more interesting is how little competition Team Fortress 2 faces. Considering it was released eight years ago, few developers have attempted to jump on the money-laden bandwagon to produce their own versions of Valve’s mega-popular shooter. As someone who spends a significant amount of time covering MMORPGs, I find this absolutely astonishing.
But, eight years is a long time, and even more recently, it seems that developers are scrambling to toss their hats into the ring where Team Fortress 2 has strutted its stuff for a while now. If you’re looking to experience some different takes on class-based shooters, here are just a few that are like Team Fortress 2.
Looking at Planetside 2 and then looking at Team Fortress 2, you probably think I’m crazy. These games look nothing alike. That’s true, but underneath the surface, Planetside 2 and Team Fortress 2 are much closer siblings than you might expect, and not just because both are free to play.
But there is no denying that Planetside 2 is a much more serious game, both in tone and in execution. Whereas Team Fortress 2 has mastered the art of bombastic arcade fun, Planetside 2 takes the same formula and dresses it up in something a bit more serious. But at its heart, it is still a class-based shooter with a lot of things to love.
Unlike Team Fortress 2, where battle is centered around timed matches with a variety of objectives to work towards, Planetside 2 pits you in the center of a massive three way battle for planetary domination. The four continents that you’ll battle across are huge, and the fights are frequently of a scale unseen in most modern shooters.
Vehicles are a core component of Planetside 2 and will form the backbone of your faction’s military power. Whether you take to the skies in a Hornet or engage in flanking maneuvers with a column of tanks, Planetside 2 has a ton of potential for thrilling experiences.
But, Planetside 2 will always be about the classes. Like Team Fortress, there are several different classes to choose from—many of them having analogues back to Valve’s shooter. Infiltrators which can cloak and use powerful sniper rifles, Heavy Assault which, like Team Fortress’s Heavies, use massive guns to suppress the other team, and loads of others.
Okay, so maybe I’m a bit crazy; Planetside 2 is pretty different from Team Fortress 2. But if you’re fond of the classes behind Team Fortress 2 and don’t mind a game that takes that formula in a totally different direction, you might just be surprised what a great time Planetside 2 can be.
Okay, okay, now that we got the out-of-left-field recommendation out of the way, let’s get to something a bit closer to what Team Fortress is all about. Dirty Bomb is a free to play shooter currently in open beta set in a post-apocalyptic London. Billing itself as a highly competitive shooter, Dirty Bomb is definitely for those who prefer shooters that rely on twitch reflexes to survive. Dirty Bomb is fast.
Another unique aspect of Dirty Bomb is how it handles map objectives. Instead of fighting back and forth on a limited portion of real estate, Dirty Bomb implements a mode similar to Battlefield 4’s Rush mode, and Team Fortress 2’s Attack/Defend. The general gist is that maps are massive but you only experience them in small segmented stages as you work to complete objectives. By taking a pair of control points, for example, one team will open up the next stage of the map. Of course, the idea has been around since the original Team Fortress, but Dirty Bomb deserves recognition for using it extremely well. The maps are all fantastic.
Furthermore, whereas Team Fortress only has a handful of classes to play as, Dirty Bomb has 19 currently. While they don’t synergize with each other nearly as much as they do in Team Fortress 2, each one offers you an awesome amount of diversity so you can really find the class that speaks to you.
If you enjoy the cartoonish comedy behind Team Fortress 2 and want to play a game that evokes that same style rather well, Loadout is absolutely worth looking at. Available on both PC and PS4 (though we highly recommend playing it on the console if you can), Loadout takes the charming character of Team Fortress and amps it up to 11. It’s gorier, louder, and, in many ways, dumber, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Instead of obsessing over hats, however, Loadout is all about the guns. The crafting system is incredibly robust and offers you a ton of options for customizing your perfect weapon. By combining several components, you’ll craft an absurd array of guns that do everything from fire lightning bolts to spiky balls—you get the point. Oh, and it is insanely violent. It’s funny. But violent.
If you love your shooters absurd, Loadout is a perfect match. It really taps into the same loot-driven fever dream of action RPGs like Diablo 3, and blends it nicely with frantic third person shooting action.
Okay, now we’re moving onto the games that you’ll want to look out for creeping over the horizon. While the others above are absolutely capable of stealing dozens of hours away from you, these next two are ones that you’ll want to keep on the radar as they get closer to launch.
First up is Overwatch, Blizzard’s bid to steal back all the money Team Fortress 2 has made over the years. While Blizzard was once known for their amazing strategy games, nowadays their business model involves finding what’s popular and then creating a game in that genre that absolutely sucks all the air out of the room. Overwatch is looking to really put out Team Fortress 2’s fire.
The big fuel driving Overwatch, however, is that Blizzard’s foray into class-based shooters seems to pull a few pages from popular MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends. There is a diverse and constantly growing cast of characters to play, and each one has their own set of unique abilities that you’ll use to tilt the scales in your team’s favor. Unlike Team Fortress 2, where the unique elements of each class are baked into the shooting rather than triggered abilities, Overwatch seems to really make the differences in each character very visible. Even with classes whose main objective is to keep their team alive, there is a surprising amount of variation in how each hero can achieve that.
But the details on Overwatch are pretty scant right now. Like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, we can expect Overwatch to likely enter into a closed alpha test to start with hopefully this fall. From there, as they fine-tune the experience, we’ll hopefully get a wider public beta by spring or later winter of next year. Blizzard has a track record of creating some pretty excellent games, so Overwatch should definitely be one you can hope will live up to that.
Now that Smite has firmly cemented itself as a mainstay in the MOBA genre, Hi-Rez studios seems like they’re setting their sites on the closely linked class-based shooters. Paladins is an objective-focused first person shooter that brings some promising elements to the table that will hopefully help it stand out from the pack.
The biggest of these features is the new deck-building mechanic which will shape the way your character evolves over the course of a match. The idea behind it is that, going into a fight, you build a deck of potentially useful cards that you would want to activate to augment your abilities and make your hero a bit tougher to kill. At each level, you can choose a card from several that are drawn that then comes into play during the rest of the match. However, each card has five tiers of effectiveness that makes them stronger the higher level you are when you draw them. Some cards will be perfect as a level one pick, while others you’ll want to skip in hopes of drawing them later in the game when their effects are more pronounced.
Honestly, the idea really excites me. I like the layering of random chance and strategy on top of character progression, and I think, as a whole, the system really evokes the way characters progress over time in other MOBAs. Some might start out really weak but by the end of a match be totally unstoppable.
Furthermore, Paladins has a few other things to get excited about, like the inclusion of mounts for example. Maps are apparently so large that heroes need alternative transportation instead of just running everywhere. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays into the game (and of course, all of the awesome cosmetic mounts you can find/buy).
Paladins was a bit of a surprise, but I’m feeling more excited by it than plenty of upcoming games. Hi-Rez has shown us they know how to build good games, so hopefully Paladins falls right into place.
Team Fortress 2 is still very unique and still holds the crown for this specific brand of shooters. But the options above are all equally worthy of your time and attention. Have you played any of these suggestions and have some thoughts? Excited about the upcoming ones I listed? Think my opinions are bogus? Let us know in the comments!Related: Column, Dirty Bomb, Games Like, Loadout, Overwatch, Paladins, Planetside 2, Team Fortress 2