I've spend a lot of time exploring single-player video game worlds. I wanted to reflect a bit on what I've experienced in the last few months. Of course most of these are early access, but from my experience that doesn't mean a game will change significantly once they once they remove that label.
Not one of the 8 and obviously not new, but the benchmark. If you want a tenuous connection for this series to pen and paper gaming, Minecraft is the D&D of open world games and the rest on this list are fantasy heartbreakers. Which, actually is a pretty good fit because I think most of these games are trying to fix one of two traits of Minecraft -- making the world less cartoony and making survival more difficult.
7-Days to Die
Set in something like a post-apocalyptic Arizona, you scavenge, gather resources and try to survive. It's a voxel based world, so you can dig up every block. It touts its building physics which requires building with adequate support to prevent structural collapses (unlike Minecraft's floating blocks).
It's fun to go through the modern buildings looting, but there are way too many zombies for me. I think this might be because it's aimed at multiplayer, so they expect you to have help. Ammo is limited, weapons wear out and do less and less damage as they do, gathering and cooking meat brings more zombies down on you. But worse, for a game that includes building, it undermines any kind of building you do. You can't prevent zombie spawns in an area, so walls are useless. Zombies will dig at anything in front of them, so ditches or moats will just mean they eventually end up digging up through your floor. Worst of all, the dead flesh hands of zombies can break through anything given enough time, even reinforced concrete. In my play-throughs the only viable strategy has been to build an underground bunker, which is kind of boring.
I finally got frustrated and turned zombies off completely, which turned out to be a lot of fun. It felt oddly peaceful being the last person on earth. I was quite surprised, then, when I came back from a short break to find out I'd been killed. Apparently the zombie sieges are coded separately from normal spawns and there is no way to turn them off.. Hah, how's that for hardcore, you get monsters even when you specifically turn off monsters.
So anyway, this heartbreaker succeeds in being more realistic than minecraft, but over-does it on the difficulty aspect. Unless you enjoy killing infinite zombies forever and living in a hole, it will lose it's shine quickly.
The other 7
I'll talk about these in future posts:
the Long Dark