Best Open World
Every year the benchmarks for gaming get pushed further and the big hitters in the industry are now at the stage where they have to create entire worlds for a player to roam around in at their own pace. The Best Open World Award nominees are those titles that set those benchmarks.Developers build breathing worlds for the gamer to skip merrily through, but it is only the best that allow the gamer to bounce along with a rocket launcher in hand and a complete world of possibilities resting on their trigger finger. Mastering this field means keeping the player entertained whenever they want, without railroading them into a story arch they cannot escape, while simultaneously providing them with entertaining, relevant options whenever they so wish. No easy feat, but the year’s nominees manage to walk that ground comfortably.
We’re not ones to dwell on the inner workings of Metacritic scores for too long, but when a game comes along that’s the joint 5th highest scoring game of all time, you sit up and take notice. After years of turgid console launch lineups from all the big players, Nintendo rocks up and shows everyone how it’s done with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A revelatory change for the series, Breath of the Wild is also a staggering achievement in open worlds, systemic gameplay and joy of just messing about.
Ubisoft’s open-worlds operate a different scale to just about any other. Gigantic 1500-man studios construct these wonders, delivering unprecedented detail and authenticity. This has never been shown better than in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, a gigantic approximation of Ancient Egypt, littered with dusty pyramids, sunken treasure, bustling cities, lush oases and shimmering deserts. We’ve long called levels in games ‘worlds’, but seldom have we seen one which truly does feel like a genuine world quite like AC Origins, sat waiting on your hard drive and begging to be explored.
Proof that bigger isn’t always better, nor indeed is the rush for graphical fidelity always worth it, Nier Automata’s open-world is both compact and yet sparse, filled with oodles of charm while being eerily prescient. Each distinct area of Nier Automata’s post-apocalyptic Japan is packed with unique details, fitting soundtrack remixes and a lonesome vibe that helps Square Enix’s action epic feel unlike anything else this year.
Systemically, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s open-world isn’t an overly complex one. This is no Breath of the Wild, where constant ideas are bashing against one another in rough and tumble instead. Instead, Horizon: Zero Dawn targets environmental perfection. It boasts unbelievable visual detail and jaw-dropping weather effects, topped off by the giant mechanical beasts stomping across it. It’s one of those worlds you can just can’t help but gawp at, a gaming safari that begs to be snapped.