The Open World Folley

If you are anything like me you’ve played hundreds if not thousands of open world games, be they role playing, rogue-like or simply vastly non-linear; exponential if you will. Now, these games usually hold a certain charm, in their inexplicably size conscious realms there is usually much joy to be had. These gems are filled with wonders and awe-inspiring constructs to behold. One could travel for hours on end without having ever even considered the actual story-line. Or, am I wrong? Are these games simply large for the sake of being large – smoke and mirrors? Lets discuss it.

First off, lets take a look at the recent masterpiece; The Witcher 3 The Wild Hunt. Here you had an experience where you could literally explore the world for weeks, and still you wont have discovered everything or collided with everyone that you possibly could. The game had such awesome vistas and beautiful artwork that I quite frequently caught myself simply admiring the sunset as the clouds sunk behind the outstretched landscapes.  This experience is rare, sacred even.

In contrast, lets take a look at Dragon Age Inquisition. While it is by no means a “bad” game, its open world approach is rendered a complete joke by the likes of GTA V, The Elder Scrolls Skyrim or the Witcher series. to name but a few. The game had massive open areas and while they were quite beautiful they simply held no interest in that they were astronomically boring to behold. In short, they were empty, barren spaces with no point other than filling the massive landscapes.

This is the point I want to get at in this opinion, and yes; this is only my opinion – but the notion is receiving allot of support in the gaming communities. These open world games are becoming very very dull. While this isn’t the rule it certainly also isn’t the exception. Too many games are guilty of simply adding wide open spaces to be able to call their games “open world”, which in turn is doing detrimental damage to the genre as a whole.

If a game is going to be open without boring the player in the first week it needs to add value to the areas that it is populated with. This doesn’t necessarily mean making every non player character intractable or allowing the player to enter every single building, it simply means adding life and interest into these areas that are often very lifeless. Open world games need to show character and pride in the fact that they are open world, which few are doing today.

A non linear experience is known to generally provide more playing time to the players as opposed to linear story driven games, but the issue is that this works against itself in that the player seeks entertainment and value in the actual game-play. What I’m saying is its better to have a short, meaningful and effective story driven game than it is to have a dull, extensive and utterly meaningless exponential gaming experience which ultimately lacks any and all soul.