Wait a minute, don’t most games reward you for grinding? Hasn’t Ubisoft made a career out of getting people to grind? Well, actually, the “Ubisoft Sandbox” method is the reason this article is being written. There are some serious offenders when it comes to getting people to grind, and Ubisoft is slap-bang in the middle of it.
There have been other offenders in the past, such as when “Middle-earth: Shadow of War” put a massive grinding wall before the final act, which pretty much-forced people to spend real money in order to finish the game. Nevertheless, Ubisoft and various others have made it grinding – Frustrating – Annoying – Time Wasting and Fruitless.
Games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, and Marvel’s Avengers (Crystal Dynamics) have made grinding something we endure with a heavy heart. Here are some games that make grinding feel rewarding.
The Problem With Elden Ring
To quickly smush the elephant in the room, Elden Ring isn’t at the top spot, nor does it appear in this list (as an entry). The grind in Elden Ring is great, but it is only great because it is tied with amazing organic open-world discovery. Like “Breath of the Wild,” the grind is only fun because it is linked so effortlessly with the free-roaming open world in which exploring is rewarding and fun. The people who go out of their way to grind the exploits in Elden Ring are the ones who have the least fun.
StarDew Valley and Minecraft
Perhaps unfairly lumped together, these two make grinding fun simply because there is always a chance you will find something amazing. Getting the garbage hat after 400 hours of playing is pretty fun, as is finding Emerald ore in Minecraft.
The hope that you will find something useful is what powers the most exploitative loot box mentality, but you honestly feel like you have achieved something when you find those rare-but-random drops. Even in games like Rimworld and Oxygen Not Included, when you find the automatic Chemfuel generator or a water geezer, you feel like you have found something special and achieved something.
The Surge 2
It is becoming a bit of an obscure game at this point because it was lumped in as a Dark Souls clone by the popular press, so now it sits ignored in places like Playstation Now/Plus-hybrid. Yet, it was always more than a “Dark Souls in the future” game. With a turn of the heel, the game went from Dark Souls to something of its own. The Surge 2 is difficult unless you grind, but when you do, you actually start to stand a fighting chance.
The way they made it rewarding to grind is by artificially walling off areas where you may grind to become overpowered. They allow you to push it a little and become overly strong, but they never let you get too powerful, and they do it without level gating. If you do push it and take down tougher enemies, you are rewarded with items you can use to make yourself stronger. With very careful balancing, they have ensured that grinding is rewarding without being game-breaking.
Though not a typical grinding game, you can actually open up several areas pretty early (especially if you sneak under the bridge), and if you wish, you can take down all the bosses in succession. Or, you can take down those gosh-darn run and guns and get just a few coins in order to become that little bit stronger. It may not have a typical grinding loop but completing a “Run & Gun” just to get a single coin still feels like a victory.
Far Cry 5
An example on its own because it is the exception that proves the rule. Far Cry 5 is the last game Ubisoft actually put any effort into, and they made it so that grinding was broken up by plot and story points. The more you did in each area, then the more likely it was that a boss would scoop you up and force you through some story points. Working the systems this way actually stopped people from becoming bored of the grind. They allowed you to dip your paw in the honey pot but would routinely slap your hand away and force you to actually play the darn game. As a result, not only did you feel privileged when you were able to grind, but its results were always that much sweeter.
Some Final Fantasy Games
The Final Fantasy grind has always been a mixed bag. In some games, it works, and in others, it doesn’t. In Final Fantasy 7, you grew in levels, you got Gil, and your Materia matured, so grinding felt tied with progression. In Final Fantasy 10, you didn’t really feel like grinding was necessary (it was also difficult to do for the first 50% of the game). In FFXIV, it is probably the most mixed bag of them all. They have added a nutty number of ways to earn FFXIV Gil and EXP, though it seems the most time-efficient way to get it is through daily and weekly bonuses.
Why not the Fallout Games? Well, whether the grind is fun for you in the Fallout games is very subjective. Some people love hoovering up items like a mid-century trash collector in Fallout 4, whereas others hate the inventory and weight limit system. Some people claim the grind is amazing in Fallout New Vegas but are blinded by the rich world of Fallout NV because the grind is very similar to Fallout 76, and most people hate that game.
The reason Fallout Shelter is special is that you are rewarded for grinding quests and objectives, but you are also rewarded for leaving the game alone and coming back later. The joy of returning after a few hours to see rooms full of stuff to collect is amazing and is probably one of the reasons why this untalked-about game still has a solid fan base nearly eight years after being released. There are very few other Freemium games that fall into that category.
Monster Hunter and Elite Dangerous
These are lumped together in this list because they require a certain type of player. Calling these games esoteric is a little unfair, but there is a certain subsection of the gaming community that loves them for the grind. In their minds, it is the grinding loop that ties everything together and makes the games so addictive. If you don’t “Jive” with this type of ground loop, then you probably won’t enjoy these games. But, if you are the type of person who likes this type of grinding, then you can lose hundreds of hours of your life playing these games.
Suffice it to say that if you do enjoy these games, then you enjoy the grind because the grind feels like it has an impact. You are not playing Borderlands, where the next weapon gets you a 0.0005% upgrade in bullet speed. You play so that you can craft a blade out of a monster’s tail and then go back and knock the shells off of all its friends that were stomping on you earlier.
To WOW or Not To WOW
The final entry in this list is World of Warcraft, and there is a good chance that it doesn’t belong on this list. The truth is that nobody really knows why WOW is so addictive, and where many people claim it is the grinding that makes it addictive, it is very difficult to prove. The fact that WOW has been so difficult to copy is a testament to the fact that people don’t know what it is about WOW that makes it so popular and so addictive. It is possible that the “Group Grind” is what makes this game so popular. It is not just that you are completing quests to earn EXP; it is that you are earning it with a bunch of other real people (some of whom you know), and it may be that very social grinding element that makes this game so popular…or, it could be something else.