When Ubisoft started working on Wildlands back in 2012 they wanted to take the series in a new direction. Up to now the “Ghost Recon Future Soldier” series had always leaned towards the tactical aspect of the military shooter genre. With a serious tone and heavy focus on near future military technology it was a big success with its loyal audience.
Wildlands comes as a bit of a surprise, it has stripped back the liner missions, military tactics, futuristic gadgets and serious tone. In favour of a more accessible open world, build your own adventure game. The main selling point now being that the game is fully playable from start to finish in 4 player co-op.
Wildlands gives the players more choice and freedom than ever before, you can choose who you play with, how you play, what weapons and attachments you want to use, what vehicles you want, the location to start from, even the time of day is selectable. You really are just dropped on a massive open world and let find your own path. When you do this with friends it really shines.
Having this much agency over the gameplay is a double edged sword, while it ensures that no two missions are ever technically the same. It does also remove the pace from the campaign, and missions start to all feel the same which removes the sense of urgency a campaign should have.
Set in a fictional version of Bolivia that is under the control of the Santa Blanc Cartel, the map is split into 21 provinces. The 21 zones are categorized into 4 “spheres of influence” (Security, Production, Influence, and Smuggling.) and each one has a different impact on the Cartel’s influence in the region.
The map is well populated with inhabitants, the Ghosts are faced with protecting the civilians, finding the CIA supported Rebel Forces and gaining their assistance, avoiding conflict with the Unidad Force (Private Cartel funded Army), and taking down the brutal Santa Blanca Cartel. The Cartel is well funded from their Cocaine production so are well equipped and brutal when it comes to protecting that income.
As a small team of Ghosts you need to start thinking about how you approach each mission. Using binoculars and drones you can survey the areas, mark enemies, and start planning. Do you take them out with snipers, drop in close with a chopper and go loud, wait until night and sneak in with silencers? The options are endless.
The story is playable solo or with up to four friends, much like The Division the game is fun on your own but really improves with others. You can use a similar method of finding partners, grab random online players or team up in a private group of friends. Nothing comes close to taking down a mission with your friends after careful planning and perfect execution. Match making is really simple, you can see what friends are playing online from the main menu, and be in game with them in seconds.
Completing missions and collecting supplies, skill points, and resources, allows you to buy upgrades for your character and weapons. You can improve your personal stats, your team stats, your weapon proficiency and new capacities for your gadgets. You can also pick up loot from enemies to get new attachments for your weapons. This is all pretty standard for this type of open world grind.
The game is huge, the massive open world is populated with over 100 missions, 80 weapons with almost 100 different attachments, 60 vehicles to use to get around and support your missions, and 50 skills to unlock. But the key is the almost endless opportunities to combine these in your own way offers tonnes of replayability.
Overall: Ubisoft have done a great job, the game mirrors much of what the Division does with the 4 player co-op which adds lots of enjoyment to the story. You are essentially dropped into a massive map, and left go do what you want and however you want.
With the amount of vehicles, weapons and missions available in the game the possibilities are endless, which sounds great on paper. But as with all these open world games, the lack of a rigid narrative structure to keep things moving, coupled with the distraction of side quests, means the experience can become a little long winded.
This really just comes down to if you like this type of open world game, if you liked the Division then I’m sure you will like this.