Not So Massively: Comparing looter shooters, from Destiny 2 and Division 2 to Anthem and Warframe

    
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The vestibule.

Looter shooters — online games with shooter gameplay and loot-based progression — are all the rage these days. But maybe this trend has passed you by, and you’re not sure where to begin. I thought it might be helpful to do a breakdown of the top titles in the field.

This is not meant to determine the best looter shooter — you probably already know which one is my favorite — but rather to provide a relatively objective look at what each brings to the table. Let’s dig in.

Anthem

Because it’s a BioWare game, Anthem is unsurprisingly my favorite when it comes to lore and story. Now, its plot is relatively weak for a BioWare game, but that still puts it comfortably ahead of the competition in the looter shooter field. The story’s greatest strengths are its unique science fantasy setting, its colorful and charming characters, and the sense of fun and adventure that runs through it all. In an era when everyone is trying to one-up each other in grittiness and cynicism, Anthem is a feel-good story.

Anthem also sets itself apart by making movement such a joy. With its flight, triple jumping, gliding, and more, it puts even Warframe‘s parkour to shame. You’ll never have so much fun just going from point A to point B, to say nothing of the options it opens up in combat.

Of all the shooters on this list, Anthem involves the least shooting, which could be good or bad depending on whether you prefer shooter or RPG mechanics. In Anthem, the active abilities of your Javelin suit are very powerful and with short cooldowns, making the role of guns closer to that of filler for when your spells are on cooldown.

Anthem is buy-to-play with a sparse cash shop. In theory, all of the cosmetics can eventually be earned through gameplay, but it is a slow process. So far all content updates have been free, and the plan seems to be for this to continue being the case going forward.

Destiny 2

I have to be honest: When I think of Destiny 2, the first word that comes to mind is “thin.” Its RPG mechanics are perfunctory at best, the story doesn’t even make a pretense at any kind of depth, and everything about the game is simple and easy. On the other hand, it’s also probably the most flashy and polished option on the market. It’s the best-looking of the looter shooters; others also have good graphics, but Destiny 2 makes the best use of its visuals with a variety of colorful and exotic locations to visit.

And just because something is mindless doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Sometimes you don’t want to think; sometimes you just want to blow crap up. When that’s what you’re going for, Destiny 2 is one of the better options. It’s easy to get into, it’s low stress, and it provides plenty of pretty vistas and big explosions to set your mind at ease.

Destiny 2 is also the only entry on this list that uses a first-person perspective instead of third-person. It jumps into third-person only rarely with certain weapons and abilities. I prefer third-person myself, but for those who feel otherwise this could be a big mark in Destiny 2‘s favor.

Destiny 2 is currently buy-to- play with paid expansions but will be going free to play when it launches on Steam this autumn. It has a fairly extensive cash shop focused on cosmetic items, with some limited potential to earn stuff through gameplay.

The Division 2

Unlike the other entries on this list, The Division 2 is not a sci-fi game, or at least it’s a very soft near future sci-fi. This could be a major selling feature if you want something that’s more grounded than magic robots fighting aliens on faraway planets.

It is also in my experience the most challenging game on this list. That’s not a high bar to clear, but being shot actually hurts in The Division 2, and soloing can be a bit of an uphill battle at times. As in Destiny 2, the RPG elements are minimized. Character builds are scarcely a thing, and the focus is on shooting much more than active abilities.

Of all the shooters I’m examining today, The Division 2 puts the least effort into story, barely paying lip service to the concept. It’s a game of looting stuff and shooting people, and that’s about it. It does, however, present a very detailed and immersive game world, even if it doesn’t do as well on that front as its predecessor.

The Division 2 is buy to play with paid DLC and a small cash shop.

Warframe

One could see Warframe as the opposite extreme of Destiny 2: the simplest game in the field versus the most complex. Warframe is a game that likes to throw you in at the deep end. The story and world-building is rich, but nothing is explained to you off the bat, leaving you flailing to understand what’s even going on. Its progression mechanics are equally deep and equally arcane from the perspective of a new player. This can be a barrier to entry, but for the game’s fans this depth is precisely what makes it special.

Warframe skews a bit more toward “spells” and abilities rather than straight shooter gameplay, but it’s not quite as far toward that end of the spectrum as Anthem. It does, however, offer more variety than Bioware’s shooter, as it boasts more than 30 playable frames, compared to Anthem‘s relatively paltry four Javelins.

Warframe‘s art style would best be described as “odd.” On the plus side, it truly has a unique personality, which is a rare thing among games like this, but the alien-looking frames and gritty environments tend to be less than appealing to my eye.

Warframe is free-to-play with an extensive cash shop and free content updates, and it’s also the most MMO-like, such that we even maintain a regular column on it called Warframe of Mind.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.
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mpandu.nky

This is a very good article. Thank you.

To add:
– Warframe & Destiny 2 are very instanced. Div2 & Anthem are more open-world.
– Warframe has the shortest loading time (important if u only hv 15-30mins to play).
– Warframe & Anthem have wide melee options. You can in fact play Warframe 95% melee.
– Div 2 probably the most solo-friendly. You can play the most content without parties.

Personally Division 2 is my fav. If only loading time is shorter and it stops stuttering.

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Nick // Genghis

My main choices in how I spend my time gaming as a primarily FPS and MMO game player come from enjoyable gameplay loops > polish of the game and engine and connectivity > aesthetics.

I dislike Destiny a great deal. No clue why. All my friends have gone back for the last month or so and have been “having a blast” getting through their 300 pvp matches and whatnot for that one sweet exotic they NEED. I had a ton of fun during launch and through a couple of raid play-throughs and teaching my friends, but once the shiny wore off and I realized the raid and general gameplay itself wasn’t that enjoyable, I uninstalled and I doubt I will be back for Shadowkeep and the F2P. Felt like a discounted knock off fantasy themed Halo. Wasn’t into it once I saw it and I couldn’t unsee it. I know it’s gotten better as literally all of my friends say, but something about going back and trying it several times for the first 2 DLCs since launch without access to the Gambit after those and all these other ‘better’ things, the game in general is extremely… meh all around albeit, incredibly polished, really decent gunplay, and some decent aesthetics.

Warframe was cool, it was different, it honed in on the experience of the space ninja theme, but the floaty as hell combat and the aesthetics of enemies and armor turned me off quite a bit. Pair that with a forceable ‘buy our currensy’ to increase your inventory slots was also a big turn off. I know that I can hunker down, learn the secondary market, and then grind for mods and blueprints and/or relics or whatever they are trading these days, but that is so third party intensive and energy demanding just to continue to enjoy the game, I just can’t be bothered. As much as I like that game and hit it up every blue moon when I’m super bored.

Anthem was supposed it be the one. My friends and I as hardcore Global Agenda, Firefall, Lawbreakers, Tribes, UT, and Quake fans all LOVED the idea of another big title sci-fi jetpack/flight based looter shooter. We would do Ultra Maxes in GA on the limited map rotations until our eyes bled most nights back in the day. But everyone knows the issues with that game and I’m not even sure there’s a horse to go beat on at this point that hasn’t been already. Great aesthetics, cool world and backstory despite being way way way too content light all around, hyping us with a Blomkamp led cinematic/show type universe for more lore and character development, and the promise that the game would captivate us for a long time with the gameplay. We all know how that went. Loved the gunplay, class combat, and aesthetics.

Of all of these, I’m currently playing Division 2 in a very casual manner. There’s tons of stuff to do in the open world, achievement hunt, raid, run heroics, try the new drip fed content which is relatively meh, but by gosh the environment team is insane over there. They get an A+ from me. Tons of details and little pieces of the Snowdrop engine just make me incredibly happy to spend time in their world. However, the game overall has stagnated, and many of the folks I formed my clan with are now long gone, and will likely only return in serious force when an Underground 2.0 and Survival 2.0 release. Both are what the game desperately needs to continue to thrive imo. They’ve been doing good work since launch and it’s improved greatly from launch. But the stats and some the crafting and the min/maxing aspects need to be approached differently and I miss my Div1 recal/optim benches. Very polished, I like the gunplay a lot and enjoy the aesthetic since I have a milsim background as well as family that live in DC and I’ve been to pretty much all of the locales in the game in real life so I’m probably highly biased, but it’s a good game non the less. The lvl1-30 experience is phenomenally well done compared to Div1 and the WT1-5 is a smoothe progression and overall you can easily get 50-100 hours of content invested with plenty of room for 100%ing and dicking around trying different stuff with guns and loadouts.

I won’t even touch on Borderlands 3 (and I know it’s not in the article, but it definitely should be on here as an IP) because I just never liked the games and never liked the aesthetic and never enjoyed the gunplay at all even after several hours of my friends and I going through the story of 2 together. Enjoyed the humor because I’m a manchild sometimes.

We just need more game mode diversity within this genre. It can’t just be horde modes or running linear storybased missions with increasing difficulties, and shouldn’t for the sake of a game’s longevity and goodwill within it’s playerbase have an intertwined monetization/grind/RNG/convenience system of some sort seeded deep within EVERY facet of a game. Unfortunately, that’s where we’re at with the market.

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Axetwin .

Warframe is a shooter, but is it a “looter shooter”? To the best of my knowledge, 99% of the game is built around grinding for mats and blueprints with ungodly low drop rates. Does that really qualify it to be called a looter shooter?

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Bannex

Destiny 2 is by far the most playable on the list. It’s polished and almost everything is fun/ rewarding. There are plenty of things I’d change but overall it’s really a great game at this point of its life.

Division 2 was a wasted opportunity. I didn’t enjoy this game much at all and I actually really liked the first one.

Anthem is a stupid game made by 2 completely different teams and one idiot of a boss. The gameplay is awesome and the potential is there but it’s just rotting with a shitty story, pointless fort tarsis and a general lack of direction. The monitor was a super cool villain that was fumbled worse than Disney’s star wars.

Warframe is a deep game full of menus, timed unlocks and really floaty/ unpolished combat. If you like cheap Amazon crap that kinda resembles what you’re looking for then you’ll love warframe.

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Akagi

I think Warframe is the worst of them all.

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IronSalamander8 .

I appreciate the article and the rundown on these games. All of these games have some appeal for me but I have yet to get my feet wet with any.

I love shooters but never played any of these. I have played Borderlands (1, 2, and the pre-sequel), but most of my shooters are not looter shooters, instead they’re either focused on multiplayer matches (both garden warfare games, Overwatch, Paladins), or on strong single player campaigns and may or may not have strong multiplayer aspects (Dusk, Doom, F.E.A.R., Half- Life, Heretic, etc.).

I do have 2 friends that were playing the Division 2 but one got sick of the grind (his words as I never played so can’t say), the other is going to unlock some class skills or something and will probably stop then. That 2nd friend also tried Destiny 2 but wasn’t exactly thrilled. He was also in the Anthem alpha or beta and didn’t hate but didn’t get so I skipped that one.

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Bhima Jenkins

I’d also add Fortnite Save the World to this list as it is a loot shooter as well. Epic has no idea what to do with it, but the building mechanics/tower defense aspect of it is pretty entertaining.

Mitzruti
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Mitzruti

Is it actually out yet? under the impression it’s still in “early access” hell.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

And just because something is mindless doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Sometimes you don’t want to think; sometimes you just want to blow crap up. When that’s what you’re going for, Destiny 2 is one of the better options.

Yuppers.

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Shawn Davis

Destiny 2 is packed with lore and story, and it is some very strong stuff. I feel like people just brush that part of the Destiny games aside because it’s too hard to find or understand, but it is there. There is way more to Destiny than mindless destruction, and I’d say in my opinion 100% more lore and story than Anthem. Just my thoughts 🤷‍♂️

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EmberStar

Warframe has interesting lore too, but like some of the game mechanics its sort of all over the place. Sometimes building a new weapon or warframe gives you a codex entry with descriptive backstory. And sometimes you get “This is a gun that shoots bullets that explode.” :( Once you reach “The Second Dream,” the missions have a lot of really interesting things going on, but it can take up to (or over) 100 hours to unlock all the things you need to get past to even start that mission.

There are hidden lore fragments you can scan, with Inception levels of layers to even experiencing them. You have to scan multiple pieces to unlock the codex entry, which gets you a piece of concept art and a paragraph or two of flavor text. And often a hidden audio log that you can activate. The game never mentions those audio clips, ever. O.O But they exist if you want to find them.

It’s not perfect, but at least most of it is in the game. And in a weird way it kind of fits – the Tenno have been in cryo-sleep for so long that they’ve actually forgotten nearly everything about their old lives except their fighting skills. And since the Orokin Empire was almost totally wiped out and civilization fell apart for centuries, nobody else knows much more than they do. The lore exists in bits and pieces even for the characters in the story. Granted, it’s because they’re making it up as they go, but it leaves them lots of space to drop new things in.

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rafael12104

Hmm. Ok. I like this article. Thank you for comparing them. Look forward to other articles comparing similar games. Write-ups like this are very informative.

I can’t quibble with what you have laid out for the most part. I would simply add the following.

Best for the money? Warframe. Heh. F2P for the win, but it is also the most fleshed out in general terms. There is a lot of content and refinement.

Most improved? Anthem. Cat has been great, but there are many improvements beyond that and more on the way. It has great potential

Most curious? Destiny 2. Now that Bungie is running things their way I’m really looking forward to what comes next.