Destiny is a walking anomaly. When it landed on store shelves last September its release was met with lukewarm critical response and widespread disenfranchisement as audiences came to understand that Bungie’s overly-promised next-gen shooter just wasn’t all that spectacular. Yet here we are, almost a whole year into Destiny’s life, and the game, despite all odds, continues to dominate the minds of gamers worldwide.
Everyone loves to speculate what it is about Destiny that managed to capture the loyalties of so many for so long, but whatever that secret ingredient might be, there is no denying that Destiny is a polarizing experience. For many, it’s a great way to kill a weekend with some close friends, grinding reputation or trying your luck in the ultra-competitive PVP Trials of Osiris game mode. For others, Destiny is a frustrating reduction of every negative aspect plaguing contemporary MMORPG design; a mixed bag of half-baked ideas stitched together by a terrible story and an endless and painfully transparent gear grind.
Whatever your personal take on Destiny is, the good news is that Bungie’s big seller doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If you’re sick and tired of working your way through the uninspired content or just wanting to get a taste of something similar, we’ve rounded up several games that will like fill that hole in your heart.
Warframe – PC, Xbox One, PS4
If you want everything that makes Destiny special but divorced from the practices that make it so unpopular, Warframe is the game for you. If Destiny is all about wizards in space, then Warframe is all about ninjas. Of course, the biggest seller here is that, unlike Destiny and its premium price on content, Warframe is free to play for anyone—something that already elevates this third person action game to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bungie. Warframe had a troubled start but few can argue that the developers, Digital Extremes, have hit a stride that sees an almost constant stream of content.
While Destiny has certainly stolen the spotlight with its unique blend of shooting and RPG aspects, the truth is that Digital Extremes got there two years prior and staked their flag on that formula. The result is that both games are shockingly similar in design, but still maintain a distance in terms of execution and aesthetics. Like Destiny, Warframe is all about customizing your Tenno (your character) by equipping them with a variety of gear and weapons. More uniquely, however, is the gear that gave the game its namesake, Warframes. These suits of armor are basically analogous to Destiny’s different classes, except you are free to purchase or unlock new suits and swap them at will.
In my time with both games, my personal opinion is that Warframe definitely has Destiny beat when it comes to gear customization. The options available to a player are almost overwhelmingly large, and new content seems to arrive at a much more rapid pace than Destiny.
Both games feature a similar multiplayer setup which involves completing repeatable missions in order to accrue wealth and items that can be used to help increase your character’s strength and powers. Unlike Destiny, however, Warframe features a robust crafting system that players will want to utilize, as opposed to grinding drops through replaying missions or relying on elements of random number generation.
But if it sounds too good to be true, well, it is. For one, Destiny has a level of polish that Warframe can just never hope to achieve. Destiny’s content, thin as it may be, is always passed through levels of quality assurance that Warframe simply cannot match. That isn’t as negative as you might think as Warframe still maintains an excellent level of playability. Secondly, Warframe is a free to play title and, at higher levels, can become quite the grind if you’re entirely averse to dropping a little money down. Destiny can also be a pretty brutal grind at times, so this might not be a major issue. That said, being okay with plopping some cash down now and again on Warframe will certainly help you shake off any stagnation you might be feeling down the line.
At the end of the day, Warframe is the perfect alternative if you’re ready to abandon your quest to unravel the mysteries of Destiny. If you’ve ever wanted to slice your way across the galaxy as the universe’s coolest ninja, Warframe is absolutely what you need. There is a ton of content to play through, and all of it can be just as engaging as anything Destiny has in store. When you boil it all down, it really reduces to what you enjoy about each game; similar as they may be, both have a unique angle on a single formula, and both excel where the other falls short.
Planetside 2 – PC, PS4
Planetside 2 is best served if you enjoy the social element of Destiny and are wanting to find a game just as eager to host a night of shooting things to death with your friends. The biggest key difference here is that while Destiny ultimately emphasizes its cooperative player-vs-environment content, Planetside 2 is all about the massive 100-man battles unfolding in real time. If you enjoy the feeling of being just a small cog in a big machine—one soldier in a battle of hundreds—Planetside 2 has you covered.
By signing up with one of three armies, you are almost immediately thrust into the dynamic conflict between the three sides taking place on four separate continents. Many criticized Destiny for its poorly implemented social elements and the way the game seems to discourage meeting other players in game. Planetside 2, by comparison, embraces your social tendencies with open arms. By design, Planetside 2 rewards groups of players who work together as a team to conquer the enemy fortifications. Joining a squad or an outfit is a crucial aspect of fully enjoying the game, and it should be the first thing you do when you sign up.
Unlike Destiny, Planetside 2 has less of an emphasis on gearing your character. Each class (you can switch freely) has their own role they serve in combat, but you won’t be equipping different pieces of armor that have any effect on your character’s progression. Guns and a few utility items like the Combat Medic’s Medical Applicator tool are really the only weapons that can be upgraded, or in a few rare cases, swapped out entirely. You won’t be finding these guns just lying around on the battlefield either, you’ll need to unlock upgrades through collecting certs (awarded for completing objectives and playing the game) or through dropping cash on the game.
Like Warframe, Planetside 2 is free to play and, like Warframe, the game is actually quite friendly if you enjoy pinching pennies. Great news: most classes already start off with the best guns in the game, meaning the need to upgrade is rather nonexistent. Furthermore, much of what requires lots of grinding is purely visual in nature, like new camouflage for your armor. That isn’t to say you won’t eventually feel pressured to drop a few dollars, but Planetside 2 is a game easily capable of giving a casual player a great deal of fun..
Any negatives with Planetside 2 tend to come from the quality of the experience you can expect from the game. For starters, the dynamic nature of Planetside 2 really requires two opposing sides to work together to invest in an epic battle, and you should be prepared for the odd night of running around feeling like there isn’t too much to do (especially if you play at a time that is different from your server’s prime time hours). Battles can also end up being “zerg” fests, with each side steamrolling the other in what effectively amounts to a giant land-swap. Fortunately, Daybreak Games have worked tirelessly to mitigate these issues—but they still persist.
Planetside 2 is definitely worthy of your time, even if you use it as a supplement to Destiny rather than a replacement. Watching two massive armies collide in a bid to contest a massive factory is an incredible experience, and Planetside 2 manages to capture the feeling of a far-future conflict almost perfectly. The shooting is great and the social underpinnings are great; if that’s all you really enjoyed about Destiny, Planetside 2 will meet those needs for free.
Borderlands Franchise – PC, Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3
Oh, what’s that you say? You actually hate being social and just loved Destiny because of all the sweet loot? Well then, what if I told you about a game that puts Destiny to shame with the staggering amount of things to grab off of murdered enemies? I’m talking, of course, about the Borderlands franchise: where loot is the name of the game.
Combining RPG elements, shooting, and an insane (and often hilarious) science-fiction-meets-old-west setting, Borderlands is easily one of the more memorable games of the last few years. Each game in the series is pretty solid, but if I had to choose I would say go for Borderlands 2 (or the Pre-Sequel if you’re on next-gen consoles). Either way, the franchise has made its mark with its juvenile humor, quirky enemies, and nearly endless combinations of guns and gear to find and equip.
Better yet, the game can be played with up to 3 other friends or random players, which is honestly how you should play it. Things are better with friends and Borderlands 2 is no exception. While it strays from the realm of MMORPG by quite a wide margin, Borderlands actually hits enough of the same notes that you probably won’t notice the hub zones aren’t crawling with other players.
Borderlands biggest flaw is that, arguably, the shooting just isn’t that great—certainly not as top-notch as Destiny’s. That said, the amazingly off-beat story and nearly endless supply of content to work through easily help you forgive and forget any misgivings with how the game handles. You might also want to avoid this game if you’re not a fan of low-brow humor. Borderlands certainly has its moments, but there is also quite a few jokes that will fall flat during your time with it, which might aggravate some more than others.
Shootin’ and lootin’ are two concepts that have enjoyed a long and lovely romance. While the crossover might be more popular than ever, that isn’t to say there haven’t been plenty of attempts that will scratch that itch if, for any reason, none of these games get you thrilled. For starters, take a look at the post-apocalyptic MMO Fallen Earth, which isn’t perfect but might strike you just right. Other shooters that blend MMO concepts include Firefall and Defiance, which also have their share of flaws but might serve under the right conditions. If you just want loot, Diablo 3, Path of Exile, or Marvel Heroes will hit the spot in ways few games ever could. If you just want online shooting, well, that is a massively successful genre and you’re probably already aware of all the good stuff waiting there. If, for some reason, you still don’t know, go play Halo, Mass Effect, or Titanfall.
Destiny has divided gamers and critics alike since it launched last year. If you’re dying to see what all the fuss is about without jumping two feet first, any of these titles are a perfect match. Of course, I would love to know what games you’ve played that evoke Destiny in their own special way, so sound off in the comments!Related: Borderlands, Column, Destiny, Games Like, Planetside 2, Shooter, Warframe