From the start of its plot, Ghost Recon: Wildlands tells you “Do whatever it takes” and follows in that philosophy until the very end of its 45 hour runtime. Giving players complete freedom in approaching its objectives, this tactical sandbox shooter drops you into a representation of Bolivia with one overarching objective to work towards – destabilize the Santa Blanca cartel. The game is bad at plot exposition, but that isn’t really what you’re here for. Instead, you’re dropped into a massive sandbox filled with missions, and choose how to approach each objective in whichever way you prefer, co-op or single player. Ghost Recon Wildlands has a few strengths, but ultimately falls into a generic sandbox experience that does little to engage the player with either its world or story bits. Its main course relies on co-op play, where up to four friends can team up to mess around its sandbox and create thrilling personal experiences. By yourself, you just wouldn’t find as much fun in the game’s repetitive sandbox missions, which often feel like going through an extremely long to-do checklist. While it’s impressive in scope, Wildlands falls short on many gameplay aspects, and this isn’t quite the direction I’d want a Ghost Recon game to take in an open-world setting, although it can engage on gameplay level.
The world of ARK: Survival Evolved is a strange place, one where you can seemingly co-exist with various prehistoric species of dinosaurs. You wake up with a weird artefact in your arm and nothing on your person, tasked with surviving the environment and its many dangers while gradually clothing your character, building a home, and setting out to explore. The premise follows the process of many open-world survival games, except here you’ll likely get killed by a velociraptor within a first couple minutes if you happen to be unfortunate enough to spawn in a danger zone. ARK is a massive sandbox filled with different biomes, countless species of dinosaur and other creatures, as well as a few technological wonders that almost feel out of place in this prehistoric world. If you ever wanted a survival sandbox like this to be playable on the go, the developer Studio Wildcard now has you covered with ARK: Survival Evolved on mobile platforms. While the game experience is naturally limited in areas of graphics and controls, this port fully recreates the world of ARK apart from expansion packs on compact devices.
Dying Light: The Following sets an example of how game expansions should be done, and almost feels like a proper sequel rather than DLC content. Set in the outlying countryside of Harran, it provides a vast landscape entirely different from dense urban regions of the city. With vast stretches of open road, the expansion leans on its newly introduced vehicle gameplay, which sets it apart from main game’s parkour-focused action. Players are free to jump into it at any point in time, as The Following is accessible from the main menu screen, however I’d recommend diving into it at least halfway through Dying Light. Progression carries completely over, so time investment in the main game pays off, and provides you with better equipment and skills. With addition of the buggy, The Following integrates well into the existing framework, and new elements feel like they’ve always existed in the first place. An interesting plot and a vast open world set the back tone for this expansion, which proves to be an excellent improvement over the main game’s central mechanics. With a diverse set of additions, this expansion is worth taking a look if you enjoyed Dying Light’s diverse set of action and survival mechanics.