In theory, open world games are amazing. Rather than giving us a rigid story and small viewpoint at an universe, it gives us the universe and says: “go play. There’s a whole world or city out there for you to enjoy. Oh yeah, we’ve included a few stories and missions if you want to follow them, but you can get to that at your own time.” For a gamer, it is great. I have already written an article about how San Andreas, my first open-world game experience, was amazingly innovative and how the small details an open world map offers can save a game.
Of course, San Andreas was a long time ago and since then, we have been treated to several open world games. In fact, I think this decade will be the time for open world games, as several more franchises are exploring the possibilities of this genre (see the new Tomb Raider game). However, while we might be blinded by this new realm in gaming, I would like to interject and be the usual cynic that I am. Feel free to argue in the comments below.
3 – GAME TIME IS SPENT TRAVELLING
The obvious flaw with giving us a world to play with is travelling across that world. One of the biggest flaws I had with Fallout 3 (and this is coming from someone who loves that game), was the fact that to progress through the game, there are several points, where you had to make long-winded treks through abandoned cities and lengthy subways that resemble mazes. Obviously, I am not the only one who has a problem with this flaw, as Fallout: New Vegas made their map a lot smaller, but just as enjoyable.
Sure, Skyrim has some beautiful landscapes to travel through, but I will call you a liar if you tell me that you haven’t groaned, as soon as you realised that you couldn’t fast-travel to where your mission asked you to go. Most of the missions in Grand Theft Auto involve driving long distances to introduce you to another part of the map. As I get older, I have far less time to spend on playing games and it is a depressing feeling when the only progress I have made in a session of gaming is getting a little closer to the next waypoint for my mission. I stopped playing Red Dead Redemption for that reason alone.
As much as I love open world games, I have a fear that game developers are trying to outdo each other, when it comes to size. They need to remember that size doesn’t matter, as long as the developers use what they have well (*reads that back to himself and groans, carries on regardless). Batman: Arkham City is a fairly small open world map, yet it has so much detail filled into every gap of the game that hours of fun can be had out of it, without travelling to a mission miles away. Just some food for thought, if any game developers are reading this.
2 – YOU WILL BECOME OCD
Open world games also tell me that there will be items to collect. Several items. I cannot stand watching my little brother play anything like Borderlands or Skyrim, because he spends hours rooting through crates and barrels, looking for any item that could come in handy later in the game. It’s almost as though the game is trying to get its fans to waste their time with this kind of behaviour. A feather is never going to be needed anywhere in the Skyrim game: why even give us the option to carry it around?
All that happens is that we get too sidetracked to focus on the real beauty of the game. Assassin’s Creed’s strong point is the unique story: why make the player go around buying real estate? Don’t get me wrong, as I said a few articles back with Bloodstone, a game can benefit from a few side quests to boost time spent on the game. However, trying to buy every tailor shop in Italy is not a good use of time. How long will it take a player to find every snow globe in Fallout? LA Noire actually wants you to run around Los Angeles and find 100 different cars. It is getting absurd.
1 – THEY ARE EVERYWHERE
But my biggest problem with them is the fact that they are everywhere now. It’s almost as though game producers think that to be classed as a good game, you have got to become an open world game. Every Rockstar game. Assassin’s Creed is slowly involving into a bigger open world game. Even the zombie genre has become an open world game with ‘Dead Island’. As fun as they are, I am getting sick of them.
Sometimes the open world theme doesn’t come up till midway through. I was happily playing Silent Hill, which as a horror game benefits from a linear storyline and as soon as I reached the actual village, I was bombarded with sub-objectives and bonus missions. I do not want that from the game. Even first person shooters decided to move away from the fast-paced action (you know, the thing we love most about first person shooters), and go open world, like Operation Flashpoint. And no one actually likes that game, do they?
Look, I love open world games. Fallout is one of my favourite gaming series. I am just worried that this craze will spread, until all of the petty problems I can ignore by playing Bulletstorm instead for a bit, will get everywhere. And then my entire gaming downtime will be spent collecting f***** Templar flags. WHY ARE YOU EVEN COLLECTING THEM, ALTAIR?! WHY?!!!