Looking for a new electronic timewaster
March 18, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Looking for PC game recommendations. Something big, open-worldy or sandboxy, and non-twitchy—a virtual world that I can spend hours exploring (in terms of both discovering new places, and experimenting with different game mechanics). Snowflakes inside.

I really like games that give you a massive open world, full of diverse stuff to find/collect/do, that let you explore freely and make your own goals. Skyrim (and Oblivion), Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress (and kin), Don't Starve, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas: these are my jams.

The "massive open world" part is probably less important than the "full of diverse stuff to do" part—whether I'm exploring the countryside in Skyrim or planning the minutiae of my fortress in the more confined world of Gnomoria, it's the depth and freedom that I like.

As you can probably tell from my examples, procedural generation and other roguelike(-like) elements are welcome (but not required).


No MMOs. Their sauce, it is weak.

No GTA or Saint's Row type stuff, either—I've never played them, but I've seen plenty of gameplay, and they don't appeal to me at all.

No "early access" games, unless they're either free, or far along in development.

Nothing that takes control away from me every four minutes to show a scripted cutscene.

Games in this vein I've already tried (other than the aforementioned): Cube World, Rust, State of Decay, Terraria, DayZ, The Dead Linger, Mount & Blade, Dead Island, Far Cry 2, Miasmata, Project Zomboid.

posted by escape from the potato planet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Dungeons of Dredmor and FTL seem right up your alley.
posted by griphus at 1:52 PM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: Have played (and love) FTL. Not as big a fan of DoD. I should have mentioned that I've played pretty much every traditional roguelike (i.e., standard dungeon-crawler) under the sun.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:53 PM on March 18, 2014

If you liked Oblivion and Skyrim, you might want to try Morrowind if you haven't already. It's less forgiving than Oblivion/Skyrim, but I think that helps your choices seem more meaningful. You might want to look up a quick summary of the leveling system before you get too far into it.

And if you haven't checked out some of the more elaborate mods in Minecraft, I think you'd find a lot to your liking there. You can download the Tekkit or Feed the Beast launchers to give yourself a good selection of multi-mod packs that can really give you a lot more to do (e.g. automatic farms, logistics systems, magic, creation of spacegoing rocket ships)
posted by burden at 1:57 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is there some reason you haven't played the Mass Effect games? ME2 and ME3 are a little more on-railsey than ME1, but they've all got tons of stuff to do and places to explore. They're also totally non-twitchy—you can pause the game at any time to line up shots, use skills, etc. Completely up your alley and highly recommended.
posted by aparrish at 2:38 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might look at Factorio. It's a game about setting up logistics and manufacturing chains in the middle of an ever-increasing alien threat.

It's still in development, but I've watched hours of gameplay on YouTube and it seems pretty full-featured.
posted by mikurski at 2:40 PM on March 18, 2014

It's a bit of a different genre, but the Anno games (2070 and 1404) scratch that itch for me. They're basically infrastructure simulators, but you can drill down on making optimal supply routes, or on exploring the map, or setting up optimal trades. Very non-competitive and chill.
posted by Wulfhere at 2:44 PM on March 18, 2014

I didn't see you mention any of the Fables. Have you given them a try? Sounds like they might be up your alley if you haven't tried them already.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:52 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Papers, Please recently got a lot of hype for how un-fun it sounds: You're a customs agent at the boarder between two fictitious ex-soviet states. You play for about 30 days (I think at most 3 1/2 hrs game time) and there are 20 endings.

You are given a lot of control and morality decisions through-out the game: letting people cross the boarder, siding/killing an insurgent terrorist group, being a good citizen or fleeing the country...
posted by wcfields at 5:19 PM on March 18, 2014

Far Cry 3 far exceeds Far Cry 2 in every possible way. It's the first thing that came to my mind.
posted by Chutzler at 5:44 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I must re-recommend Starbound; it's like Terraria, but in infinite space, with tons of worlds to explore, weeeeiiiird stuff to discover and (at the moment) a relatively robust progression/discovery experience, even though it's still officially in beta.
posted by Shepherd at 6:13 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been playing Cube and Star lately. I'd call it a surrealist exploration game. The gameworld itself presents something of a puzzle, if you'd care to find out how it all works, but the game refuses to pressure you into doing anything apart from looking around.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:30 PM on March 18, 2014

Thirding Starbound – I like these kinds of games too.
posted by furiousthought at 6:31 PM on March 18, 2014

Boarderlands and Borderlands 2 came to mind immediately.
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 7:30 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Civ 5 is kind of like that, where you discover a world and see it evolve in every game.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:03 PM on March 18, 2014

X3 sounds like it would fit the bill. Massive universe, different races open world. There is a plot but you can completely ignore it. You can take part in battles or just trade. It has an amazing dynamic economy. You start of with one ship but can use it to build a huge trading empire (with fleets of battleships if you want).

It does take ages to play. There is even an in-game fast forward button. But once you get it patched up and start playing it is fantastic.
posted by drugstorefrog at 2:39 AM on March 19, 2014

Ah--given the Project Zomboid reference--may I recommend Don't Starve? It's a procedural death labyrinth that de-emphasizes combat in favor of detailed resource management strategies, many of which are indeed to do with food. Also it's adorable.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:16 AM on March 19, 2014

Response by poster: Great answers so far.

Can someone please explain to me how Cube and Star manages to tessellate squares onto a sphere? That's geometrically impossible, isn't it?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2014

That's not really a tesselation. That's a video filter. The game world loops, yes, but it isn't really a sphere, it's just mussed up to look that way.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:31 PM on March 19, 2014

The way that Cube and Star loops the world is consistent with a toroidal shape, which I think you could tesselate squares onto, if you wanted? But thus far I've never seen the curvature go the other way.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2014

derp, you already said Don't Starve

It's still Early Access but: Sir, You are Being Hunted will do you fine if you can tolerate FPS type controls. You can play the game like an FPS if you are really determined but it's more of a survivalhorror thing?
posted by LogicalDash at 1:14 PM on March 20, 2014

Here's an unorthodox answer for you: Active Worlds. It's not really a game, per se, but a virtual reality platform that had its heyday in the late 90s/early 2000s. It's started as an empty green square the size of California where anyone could construct anything they wanted using a broad assortment of walls, doors, windows, images, models, etc. Think Minecraft, but with a slightly steeper learning curve, and all in the same shared universe. It filled in quickly and chaotically, with activity tapering off slowly over the years to nearly zero today. The service is still around, amazingly -- and who knows for how much longer.

Exploring it now is an experience that's not really comparable to anything else available. Starting from the historic Ground Zero -- where most structures not only predate 9/11, but were erected during the Clinton administration -- you can walk or fly in any direction and encounter an endless sprawl of insane and imaginative architecture, all eerily abandoned (for a decade or more in most cases). It's like a virtual Burning Man with no limits on what's possible to build: towering skyscrapers, haphazard mansions, gardens of sprite animations, disco cafes blaring vintage MIDI, collaborative villages designed by middle school classrooms, Buddhist learning centers, sprawling forests, artificial mountains and lakes, entire planned regions, and countless more eccentric and obscure projects that are impossible to describe. You can also teleport to any random set of coordinates to find something new.

The fact that all these locations coexist in the same vast virtual space lends a since of realism and permanence that's hard to describe, while the pervasive loneliness and neglect tinges everything with wistfulness, nostalgia, and an eerie sadness. It's dreamlike, surreal, deeply arcane, and endlessly fascinating.

If you want to check it out, the Active Worlds Browser is free and fairly low impact on modern PCs and internet connections. The default world is AWGate, a small welcome center, but the landscape described above is found in AlphaWorld (AW), the oldest, largest, and primary world. There are dozens of smaller user-created worlds on a variety of themes, such as Mars, Yellowstone, and cyberpunk, each with their own unique charms. For a guided tour, see the comprehensive post I did on the topic back in 2010.

I urge you to give it a whirl -- I'm baffled at how they're still afloat in 2014 with free access and an active userbase in the dozens, and would love for as many people as possible to experience it before it eventually shutters forever.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:14 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

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