I’ve played Monster Hunter World and Dauntless. Both are based on the same model of killing big monsters and upgrading your gear to take on tougher monsters. Dauntless is more akin to arena combat, it’s always in a 4 player group, and most battles are over in less than 10 minutes. MHW is much larger, where you enter a biome to hunt a target. Biomes that have multiple monsters, quests, traps and of course – fishing. You can play alone or in a group. Larger fights can take 50 minutes, and short ones really require you to be OP, or in a supremely efficient group.
Both games have tremendous longevity, based on the repeatable tasks and increased difficulty spikes. There’s always a larger challenge across the horizon, and nearly every activity you take provides some measure of progress.
MMOs have this model, where there’s plenty of repeatable activities that increase your power – though they are confined to seasons/expansions. There is purpose, and often a larger goal. A goal that is both defined by the player, and offered as a choice by the developer. You can have the best gear score, or the most pets collected, or the highest PvP rank. Where games focus on the storyline rather than the player… well there’s a point where that story ends.
Which brings me to single player games. Those that focus on stories often put in some tough end-game challenges/grinds for show. Spider-Man and God of War have these, to varying levels of success. Maybe they add a new game+. Yet, there’s a level of balance between these side activities and the core game goal. It’s rare to find a “good game” that has more side activities than main ones.
One notable exception is Assassin‘s Creed. Or more specifically, the latter games. Ubisoft has a problem with maps and icons, and putting in absolutely meaningless content. Valhalla has this in spades. The settlement, aside from 3 buildings (blacksmith, assassin’s quarters, Valka) has no impact. You have some minor decoration options, but it would be hard to tell another player’s settlement from yours. The map has hundreds of icons (dots in this game) for things that provide minimal value to the game’s goals. Roman masks give you 1 settlement decoration per ~10 that you find. Cursed idols do nothing. Altars have you give items for 1 skill point (which only matter for about 50% of the entire tree of points). Hunting rare/tough beasts gives you settlement decorations. I won’t go into normal animal hunts. Chests give you things with which to upgrade your gear, but only your weapons matter. I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t have the materials on hand.
There are some good, if not great bits though! The side quests here are mostly amazing. Flyting increases your charisma, allowing for more dialogue options. The main quest is well done as well, though it’s about 30% too long. The limited items mean that you’re never really looking for drops…a bearded axe is is a bearded axe. That one increases damage by 1% after a dodge, or another increases critical damage by 1 – that doesn’t matter.
The skill points are a way of putting stats outside of gear drops and a reward for completing game activities. There’s about 350 total points to get. By the time you have 200, you’ll have received every thing that provides a key benefit – increased damage or increased health. I mean ALL of it. You’re essentially a walking god for the rest of the game.
I do want to state that Valhalla is objectively a better game than Odyssey, and that was miles better than Origins. Ubisoft seems hell bent on stuffing as much as humanly possible into their games. By trying to do more rather than less and doing it extremely well, the AC series is losing a lot of focus. Had they simply cut the overall game size by 30%, heck maybe even 50%, it would be a much more focused and enjoyable experience. As it is now, if you only play the main quest and nothing else, it’s quite good. Weird to actively ignore the other 75% of the game.
Side note: this is the 3rd open-world game from Ubisoft in 2 months. Legion, AC: Valhalla, and now Fenyx Rising. ALL of them have this issue.