by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 18th April, 2019
There are lots of looter shooters around and none of us has the time to play them all. So, which one to pick as your looter shooter to go for 2019?
Ever since Borderlands introduced the, then called "role-playing shooter" subgenre to the world of video games, other developers tried to catch the magic of the ultimate loot shooter of them all, Borderlands 2.
The extremely catchy loop of intense gameplay combined with frequent loot drops established itself as one of the major gaming trends of the last decade with games like Destiny, Warframe, and The Division expanding upon Borderlands 1 & 2 formula by adding online elements and constant influx of new content (a package known as Games-as-a-service) in order to keep players hooked on as long as possible.
That long-term engagement formula, previously utilized only in MMORPGs, means that most of us simply don't have enough free time to play two looter shooter titles at once.
So, which one to pick? Established titles such as Warframe or Destiny 2 with hundreds of hours' worth of content and multiple expansions under their belt? A newcomer in the form of Anthem?
Or the latest hit that is The Division 2? Good old Borderlands series before Borderlands 3 comes out? The decision is tough but we're here to help you pick your daily shooter to go for this year. Each title (yes, even Anthem) has reasons to be played so there's something for everyone. It all depends on what you expect from a looter shooter and how much time you're ready to invest. Let's start.
Warframe is a free-to-play looter shooter that predates the original Destiny. Yes, the game came out in 2013 but for long it struggled to find the audience and was dissed by many critics as a cheap Destiny knockoff (even though its design foundation dates back to 2000). But since then the game massively evolved and is now one of the best looter shooters you can find and play.
The gameplay revolves around eponymous Warframes, which are basically suits of armor characters wear during combat missions. The game offers fast-paced gameplay featuring both ranged and melee weapons as well as lots of cool parkour moves that turn any boring mission into an explosion of ninja-styled jumps and wall-runs combined with excellent gunplay and visceral melee attacks.
While the game is free-to-play nothing is placed behind a paywall. Players can grind for any piece of equipment, or trade with other players (and there are lots of active players, with numbers reaching as high as 50 million since the game is available for every major video game system, Switch included) with only certain cosmetic items being sold for real money like in other, paid looter shooters. No loot boxes and no pay-to-win mechanics.
There are lots of missions, which rotate on a weekly and daily basis, and those are procedurally generated areas that come with random goals (kill a certain amount of enemies, stay alive for a certain amount of time, etc.).
Gameplay is based on PvE model, with 4 player co-op (the game can be played solo) being the main way of playing Warframe (again, the game's 4 player co-op idea predates both Destiny and Borderlands).
The game received lots of expansions that introduced story missions as well as semi-open world hubs like in Destiny 2, where players can explore, do side missions, free play activities, bounties, and more. This made Warframe more suited for its looter shooter roots and finally enabled players to spend time in free play instead simply grinding daily and weekly missions.
Today the game has two open world hubs, lots of story missions, an incredible amount of content that can be enjoyed for hundreds of hours.
Since it is free-to-play there's really no reason to not try it. This is why we featured Warframe first - you are free to try it and if you don't like it there are other, paid options when it comes to looting and shooting.
And if you like it well, there's no reason to spend your hard earned money on big-budget AAA games since Waframe offers the same things as those premium titles without the $60 ticket price. Further, the game is filled with loot in the form of weapons and Warframe modules and it also has the usual offer of various armor and weapon mods, crafting blueprints, and many missions and bosses to farm for better gear.
In general, Warframe is for fans of action-filled third-person shooters.
Its combat is similar to Anthem's, with the mixture of ranged weapons and abilities but Warframe spices things up with its melee combat, which feels phenomenal.
The game also sports excellent visuals and the fact that it launched way back in 2013 means there's a ton of content. You can play PvE alone or with friends or strangers, dive into PvP modes which are better than in all other looter shooters sans Destiny 2.
As a package, Warframe is quite generous and stuffed with things to do, it has multiple open-world hubs to farm materials and mods, there is plenty of loot and the game is very generous when it comes to gear drops, and it looks stunning. It's perfect for Sci-Fi fans, ninja aficionados, gamers who like playing Titanfall with its crazy parkour movement mechanic, and for players looking for a game that's stuffed with content.
Next up is Destiny 2. It launched a couple of years ago and its first year was basically Bungie trying to balance the gameplay and to create a viable in-game economy.
It took them more than a year to balance things right. Players had to wait for the first major expansion dubbed Forsaken in order to experience Destiny 2 in the way Bungie imagined from the start. On the flipside, the game can now be snatched for about $30 along with every expansion, which is a great deal since Destiny today offers tons of content and great gameplay.
The main strength of Destiny 2 is its unmatched gunplay. Every weapon feels different and even different guns of the same type feel unique. This is probably the only game that feels better when played with a controller than with a mouse and keyboard because rumble effects add so much to the overall enjoyment of shooting big guns and killing various alien species.
On top of that, there are lots of different guns with plenty of exotics that are worth the grind needed to obtain them.
But shooting isn't everything Destiny 2 excels at. The story is pretty good, better than in most other looter shooters, and solo players can do everything sans raids (you need a team that cooperates and does voice coms in order to beat those).
That means at least 20 hours of story missions which, when combined with large maps and lots of side activities, can double in no time.
Then there are a plethora of other game modes such as the excellent PvP multiplayer called the Crucible (the best in the class really), PvPvE mode called Gambit which sees teams of players battling against NPC enemies, special daily heroic missions, Nightfall strikes, and raids.
Destiny 2 is a first-person shooter and, like all other loot shooters, is based on 4 player co-op groups. You can play with friends of strangers and indeed, some parts of the game such as Nightfall Strikes and Raids simply require for players to band together. But the great thing about Destiny 2 is that, if you desire so, you can play it all by yourself.
Story missions are designed for solo players, open world hubs are teeming with players who are there to join you in doing events, and PvP modes don't require for players to know each other.
On the other hand, Nightfall strikes require 4-person teams (but they can be finished without problems by teaming up with strangers) to be played and if you want to tackle any raid you'll have to find a team of people ready to do voice communication because these humongous endgame set pieces can last for hours and hours and require high levels of cooperation and coordination.
And Gambit also prefers teams of people who actively communicate. But overall, Destiny 2 can be enjoyed solo and it is much better suited for lone rangers than Warframe.
When it comes to loot system Destiny 2 isn't perfect but it is much better than it was back when the game launched. You can expect a steady and relatively rich influx of new loot but we would like just a bit more of it to drop behind enemy bosses.
On the other hand, there are plenty of ways to get new loot so that negates the not-so-perfect loot drop frequency. Also, Destiny 2 has the best selection of exotic weapons and if you want to hunt for exotics, this is probably the best choice of the bunch.
Endgame is rich in content and the game has enough stuff to do to keep you playing for months, years even. If you search for a game that can be played on a daily basis over a long period of time Destiny 2 is a good choice and Warframe.
Daily events, rotating heroic missions, Nightfall strikes, excellent PvP modes, Gambit mode, story campaign, and lots of open world hubs that hide a fair amount of side missions. Destiny 2 can devour hundreds of hours and it is set to receive future updates that will add even more content.
Poor Anthem. So much hope, so much hype and in the end, we got a half-baked product that simply had to spend at least a couple of more months in the oven to feel finished. But, as bad as it is Anthem has certain qualities that won't turn it into the game of the year but that are enough to keep some gamers interested, at least until they reach the endgame, which is virtually nonexistent.
Combat is great. Explosive, adrenaline pumping, with lots of elemental combos and various play styles depending on your class. Unlike most other looter shooters, Anthem offers a unique gameplay experience with each of its four classes.
While Rangers, the default class every player starts with, are a bit boring and represent a classic shooter amalgam between occasional usage of abilities and classic gunplay, the other three classes are much more exciting and interesting to play with.
Colossus is a tank class that is a blast to play. You can play with the grenade and rocket launchers, can use a selection of explosive abilities or can simply run around stomping enemies in the ground, which is extremely enjoyable. Then we have Interceptors, a rogue-like class that prefers melee combat (and that feels like it came out of Warframe) which is done superbly.
Interceptors also have access to a selection of devastating abilities made to be used in close quarters. And finally the Storm class is some kind of far future wizard that casts all kinds of elemental spells and is probably the most exciting class to play in the whole game.
On top of its superb combat that is miles away from the classic shooter formula seen in most other similar titles, Anthem also offers a solid campaign and amazing visuals (this one is probably the prettiest of them all).
On the flipside loot system is problematic, to say the least, and it isn't as enjoyable and rewarding like in other games. And the decision to not be able to see and equip new loot before returning to your base is beyond strange.
Next, the endgame is virtually nonexistent and once you finish the story campaign there's not much you can do aside from grinding strongholds over and over again. Also, Anthem is neck deep in load screens so be ready to see tons of them, over and over again.
And if you like playing these games solo, simply skip Anthem because the game literally forces you to play with other people. Freeplay and even missions simply have to be played in 4 player teams without the option of tackling those on your own.
But, Anthem can be great fun for players who put combat in front of everything else. The game can be a good choice for players who want to play a loot shooter but don't have hundreds of hours to spare on the endgame.
Simply finish the campaign (about 30 hours or so) and that's it! So, while the game won't get any GOTY award, it can offer lots of fun for some gamers and that's cool. And yes, the game should receive new pieces of content in the near future so there's a chance for Anthem to become much better than it currently is.
It's another live service after all so there's still a chance for this one to become an enjoyable looter shooter that's rich in content.
The Division 2 arrived in the middle of March and the game is probably the first live service loot shooter to offer a spotless experience from the start. No bugs, no server-side issues, no broken systems, zero loot system issues, and a ton of content from the get-go make The Division 2 the most successful and well-organized loot shooter as live service launch till date.
The game doesn't offer as exciting gunplay as Destiny 2 or Anthem but its cover-based gameplay is where the game shines. Each set piece plays different, each encounter plays like a standalone game of chess, each boss encounter requires from players to think a bit and to plan their moves in advance.
Missions follow this fabulous design; each is a standalone chess table where you and your teammates have to cooperate in order to cover your flanks, to close dead angles, to lure enemies into choke points, and to use the environment to push forward and kill enemies.
This is why The Division 2's combat simply cannot grow old. Each encounter is unique and exciting, which keeps the game fresh even after you invest a hundred hours or more into it. Yes, the story is poor and without any impact, accompanied by forgetful characters and chewed up Tom Clancy elements that are seen million times before but the open world design is phenomenal for a looter shooter and here's why.
Ubisoft's open world with hundreds of activities and numerous side missions can be a chore in Far Cry or Assassin's Creed but it's flawless in The Division 2.
You have dozens of finely crafted main missions and a ton of excellent side missions, each bursting with explosive combat. Next, you have control points and open world activities that bore you in other games but here they are welcome because each comes with new loot. And the loot system is the star of The Division 2.
You get loot non-stop, Chests dot the map, each activity awards new loot, control points give you new loot every day, main missions burst with loot rewards, and the game actively gives you a new piece of gear every couple of minutes.
Farming missions will give better and better gear and when you play this game you get the feeling that you are constantly showered with loot that isn't made of thrash. No, in The Division 2 you get better and better gear, no matter which activity you partake in.
The game, even though it is fresh out of the oven, offers a plethora of content. The main campaign can be played for 40 or 50 hours because the game's world rewards exploration like no other looter shooter. And the openness of the map makes The Division 2 a wet dream for gamers who like to search every nook and cranny and for those who simply like to wander for hours without doing any mission.
Endgame is also rich in content and you can spend about 30 hours before you reach the final stronghold, and that's without grinding missions and without doing many open world activities.
If you count an occasional grind for exotics, clearing the map from activities, doing every side mission, and taking down each control point we can talk about spending 50-60 hours in endgame before finishing the final stronghold. That's more than 100 hours of content for a game that came out a month and a half ago, which is awesome.
The Division 2 looks amazing and the Washington D.C. is the best open world environment seen in any looter shooter. Everything is saturated with colors, everything looks so alive and inviting, and the game really shines when it comes to visuals.
The game is also great for solo players. You can freely finish the campaign and tackle each side mission, control point, and open world activity without playing with other people. And while endgame strongholds require team play, matchmaking is great meaning that you can finish the whole game, endgame included, with groups made of strangers.
And the future is bright for The Division 2. The first raid that will require groups of eight people and that will last for hours is slated for the end of April and by the end of 2019 the game should receive more raids, new story missions, and new endgame content and all of that will be free for everyone, which is great to hear.
The Division 2 is the best looter shooter you can play right now and is perfect for players who love for their loot shooter to have plenty of RPG elements.
And finally, all those who don't want to play a live service loot shooter can simply wait for Borderlands 3, which is slated for September 2019. And what's better than to wait for the game by playing the original trilogy.
My suggestion is to check out the original Borderlands (which received a noticeable facelift in the form of the GOTY edition) and Borderlands 2 (which recently received HD texture pack) and skip the Pre Sequel because that one is way below the quality of the original two games.
The unique cell-shaded visual style of Borderlands games aged pretty well making both games still pleasant to the eye even though many years have passed since they came out. And they both still offer superb gunplay coupled with great humor. Gunplay is great, explosive with each weapon behaving differently. It isn't at the level of Destiny 2 but is pretty close.
Both games feature 30 hour long campaigns that can last even more if you play every side mission and explore every map. That's plenty for every gamer and most boss missions can be farmed for better gear, making each game even longer.
And the main antagonist of the Borderlands 2, the Handsome Jack, is one of the best bad guys you'll ever see in a video game. When it comes to loot there's still a game that can match the sheer generosity of loot drops seen in Borderlands games.
You will be showered with loot and each encounter will end with the whole ground being covered in weapons and other gear. Even The Division 2 cannot match this level of generosity.
Further, each game offers four different classes and each feels unique with their different abilities and use of different weapons, so it's not strange to play both games multiple times, just to check out different classes.
Both games are great for solo players, especially those who want to complete the whole game on their own, without even matchmaking with random players, since every mission and level are designed to be played by solo players. Even bosses can be farmed on your own, no need to team up with others even for a second.