More Games Should Let You Destroy Empires

More Games Should Let You Destroy Empires

I recently finished Crackdown 3. While it wasn’t the best game ever made, I had a great time jumping around and blowing stuff up. But it also let me take down an evil corporate empire. I love taking down empires. More games need to let me topple regimes.

In Crackdown 3 players are tasked with taking down Terra Nova, a large corporation that controls a dystopian hell of a city. To do this, your agent needs to systematically take out all the checkpoints, bases, warehouses and other assets the corporation owns. I love doing this shit.

One by one I would check off buildings plus other locations from my list. From monorail stations to labour camps to prisons, each location was another bit of the empire removed. It’s like taking an axe to a tree and chopping it down.

Each swing making the whole thing more unstable until finally, everything crumbles to the ground. However, unlike a tree, video game empires tend to put up a fight and get very angry as you chop away.

In Crackdown 3, the corporate leaders will begin to bicker and in-fight as you slowly, but steadily destroy their empire. There is nothing more satisfying to me than blowing up a weapons cache, then hearing the arsehole who ran it yell on the radio at his security team. This could even influence my next target. Sometimes I would focus on the especially annoying bastards just to hear them complain.

As open world games have become more and more common, it seems many are using the empire destroying blueprint. It makes sense. A great way to get players to complete tasks and check off items on a large list is to tie it all into a system about power and revenge.

I would have probably stopped playing Mafia 3 or Wildlands long before the end of the game if it was just a series of missions without any powerful organisation to destroy.

A bad open world game is one in which you never feel like you are impacting the world in any meaningful way. Sure you finished a bunch of missions, only did you actually change anything? Having players topple an evil government or underground criminal cartel is a great way to keep players invested in the world because they get to actually change it.

It also serves as a better reward for progressing in a story. If after completing a series of missions all I get is some cash and a new gun, I usually feel like I didn’t do much beyond kill some time. But if after finishing a chunk of missions I get to watch a giant mansion explode or take out some evil leader who supports genocide, then I feel a much better sense of progression.

For all of the shortcomings and issues Crackdown 3 has, it nailed this feeling of destructive progression. I would play for hours more than I planned on in some sessions because I was so close to taking out another part of the big evil machine.

Some open world games, like Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, allow players to take over territories without knocking down any powerful group. Taking some turf from the Ballas isn’t nearly as compelling as wrecking every part of the Cartel’s empire in Wildlands.


Part of the problem is that in a game like San Andreas there isn’t anybody really yelling at you about what you are doing. That is a big key in making the empire destruction feel rewarding.

Taking some turf is fine, though taking some territory and getting to hear the enemy general or leader yell about it is so much better. Again Crackdown 3 does a fantastic job at this. Each member of Terra Nova will get more and more angry or frustrated as you ruin everything.

I think my brain is just wired to enjoy this type of progression. I’ve always enjoyed clearing a map in games like Far Cry. So getting to clear a big map while also having people get angry about it, people who are often evil, makes my brain just light up with pleasure.

Maybe in a past life, I was some rebel fighter, pushing back against an evil government? Or possibly I have problems with authority? Or I just like annoying powerful people? Whatever the reason, toppling kingdoms is something I get endless joy out of.

What are some other games that let players destroy empires and does anyone else out there like knocking down these big organisations?


  • More games should let you be the bad guy and destroy everybody. Let the bad guys win!!

    • Aren’t you the bad guy in every game though? Mercilessly gunning (or hacking) down every enemy in your way as you seek to assert your own form of justice on a perceived enemy merely because they think differently to you. By the end of the game you’ve often racked up a higher body count than the people who were supposedly the bad guys.

      • Vigilante justice is not legal, no matter how justified. And unless you’re playing a Judge Dredd game, use of lethal force as a first choice is generally illegal anywhere.

        In a post apocalyptic world, I doubt the law enforcement will do anything about it, but you’re still generally in a country that has a set of laws people should keep. Nothing in that world will have removed those laws, so technically they’re still probably legit.

        So yeah, I can see how you’re the bad guy in most games. General society wouldn’t be parading someone that violently killed several hundred people as a hero, they’d be asking questions, distorting facts, and dragging his name through the mud.

        That level of destruction would always have something people could point to as illegal, and hence worthy of the death penalty.

  • I say there are too many games about destroying empires and should be used less. It’s such a cheap and lazy way of designing game flow to have the player go from one area to the next doing the same things you did last time except with a few differences. Sometimes it’s done well but often it’s just an excuse to copy, paste and recolour. (Irony alert! I am a huge JRPG fan.)

    Admittedly I do love systematic destruction though and the slow tightening of my (often) gauntleted fist around the enemy’s neck.

    • I say, let the Empire destroy itself a la FFVI! (Well, with the caveat of preferably not allowing a crazed psychopath ascend to godhood in the process.)

  • I destroyed an ant empire once, and felt really bad about it later. Little buggers got their fair share of bites in before succumbing to my vigilante justice, but the ones that survived still had no home to live in after that.

  • Just Cause comes to mind as the obvious example. Mercenaries as well (R.I.P. Pandemic).

    • Honestly, the narrative far out reached the gameplay experience.
      It would’ve made one hell of a movie/series but as a game it was a a bit of a chore to get to the next bit of story.

  • I’ve always disliked the plucky group of rebels vs the evil regime stories. Personally I want more games where you play as a member of that evil regime.

    • This is why I loved TIE Fighter. You were part of the ‘evil’ empire but it was written so that the Rebels were the bad guys and you were simply ensuring galactic stability. The Rebels were kidnapping scientists, looting convoys and destroying infrastructure and you were just protecting the empire.

      • And why Battlefront II Single Player was disappointing. Yes, you did start out playing an elite Imperial, but then she switched sides, and became a Rebel.

  • Star Wars KOTOR, best time overthrowing an Empire 😛

    But anyway, it is infinitely more fun for a gamer to be the bad guys. Most games will never do that though. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days did that and it was a great concept just very poor execution.

  • Currently playing Just Cause 4. You are fighting a big evil corporation and you save all the people by blowing up their entire country.
    Pretty much every Assassin’s Creed game is destroying a giant secret empire. Starlink is taking down a big empire/corporation. The Watch Dogs games. I feel like almost every open world game (or at least every second one) is about taking down a big empire and it’s getting really really old.

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