Up For Debate - Do open world games deliver on the experience we all want?

Written by Chad Norton on Sun, Nov 22, 2020 5:00 PM
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Open worlds have long been a staple of massive AAA titles, but it wasn't too long ago that the idea of a truly open world was just a fever dream. The idea that you could go out and do anything, anywhere, is mighty enticing to a lot of players. But now games seem to be chucking in open worlds all the time even if their games don’t necessarily need it.

We’ve covered this topic in the past, but since it's been a while we thought a revisit to the question was long overdue. So this week we’d like to ask you: do open world games deliver on the experience we all want?

When open worlds started to become a true reality in gaming, it was quite exciting. But the excitement over a huge, expansive world is slowly dying down as many start to realize that that’s not just what makes a game fun and good.

Chucking in an open world for the sake of it just because it's popular is not a good move, and as games get better and more sequels are being made, the pressure to up the ante and make the game world even bigger than the last gets bigger. Assassins Creed: Odyssey for example was heavily criticized for being too ‘bloated’ with content.

Now it seems like every big AAA game is offering up an open world of sorts, Watch Dogs Legion and Assassins Creed: Valhalla for instance have just launched and Cyberpunk 2077 is coming soon, all of which promise an expansive and engaging open world to explore.

But what makes an open world game exciting these days? For every Assassins Creed Odyssey there’s a Red Dead Redemption 2, so what really set them apart? Was it the writing? Or just better game design? Maybe a mixture of both?

Maybe games need to take it back a little, The Outer Worlds last year seemed to solve this issue a little bit by providing several open worlds to explore, each different and unique in their own ways. The beauty of this was each area felt different and unique enough to stay interesting, and you could easily explore every corner of each map to find all it's secrets. Now massive, singular open worlds can almost be too daunting to explore every nook and cranny due to its size.

So, do open world games really deliver on the experience we all want? What is it exactly we all want? And do open world games now need to change their formula to stay interesting? Let’s debate!

Do open world games deliver on the experience we all want?

Do you prefer open worlds? Smaller denser maps? Or linear worlds?

Do open world games need to change their formula?

What makes an open world compelling to explore?

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18:20 Nov-23-2020

For me, some open world games deliver well, some don't. Valhalla's literally everything I could've asked for coming off of Odyssey. Red Dead Redemption 2's main map is great with a lot of variety and stuff to see...the RDR1 map being tacked on (minus mexico) doesn't really add much though. Far Cry 5's open world was nice, but the gameplay, with the cult always hostile and very dense, made it really hard to explore comfortably. Legion's map is good, and everything's fine from what I've seen.

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14:26 Nov-23-2020

As I’ve posted below, I took a break from gaming and only started back up again in 2015. And what better way than playing witcher 3!
At the time I thought it was an “ok” game. It was only after I started playing all the mind numbing stupidity of other open world games did I realize why people were so enamored with that game..

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09:38 Nov-23-2020

For a great open world experience you need to give the player an incentive to explore it by rewarding them with unique items and activities, otherwise all the talent and time spent to make that world disappears. And I don't think there's any AAA game in the last half a decade, maybe more, that enticed me to explore.

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09:50 Nov-23-2020

This.
The act of exploring should in itself be fun. Quests can help guide a player in a direction but I loved nothing more than for example in Skyrim setting out on a side-quest but getting side-tracked by wanting to investigate an interesting looking tomb or other location.
That's when open world becomes fun.
RDR2 is another good example of that.
And it's exactly why Odyssey fails. At least for me. It's an endless quest-marker chase and ticking off the objectives list as if it were a To-Do list.

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13:24 Nov-23-2020

The quest/item marker "to-do list" is a good way to describe modern games. They are chores, rather than fun...

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18:21 Nov-23-2020

Dunno, Valhalla gives a lot of incentive to explore, there are tons of hidden minibosses and stuff, I've had fun just wandering dark ages England, hunting for cultist clues or just looking at the incredible scenery.

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09:09 Nov-23-2020

open worlds should be smaller and filled with activities (ffs, I didn't say collectibles) rather than huge and empty.
EDIT: what's the point of having a long dining table if you're gonna eat every day alone? That's an open world for devs nowdays (most of them).

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07:53 Nov-23-2020

Breath of the wild did.

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13:41 Nov-23-2020

Nier Automata also felt fun to run around in. Even though the world was "empty" it felt like it fit.

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16:17 Nov-23-2020

Mine is on Ghost Recon Wildlands and Just Cause 3.

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17:47 Nov-23-2020

I really enjoyed Wildlands, didn't bother with Breaking point as I gathered it would be more or less the same following Ubisoft trend.

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06:22 Nov-23-2020

I miss small but full,rich(in a meaningful way) open worlds like Gothic 2, The Witcher 1, Vampire Bloodlines that feel more intimate, comfortable, atmospheric these more modern huge open worlds sometimes big just for the sake of size.

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06:24 Nov-23-2020

Most of the time they are empty, boring, less atmospheric, a chore.

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05:39 Nov-23-2020

I have to say that I recently started playing Horizon Zero Dawn and Im loving it. The story pushes you to new locations literally every five minutes, so it feels awesome to explore, while also playing the storyline.

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18:22 Nov-23-2020

Horizon's a good example I forgot to mention in other comments. even if you don't go exploring at the game's behest, there's a lot to see and do.

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02:48 Nov-23-2020

I did not game for a long time and missed the era when open world became a “thing”. After more than 5yrs of getting back into “modern” gaming, I’ve figured out two things.
One: I would actually be more skeptical of my likelihood of liking a game if it’s open world vs if its linear.
Two: with very little exception, I’d actually enjoy these open world games more if I just focused on

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02:50 Nov-23-2020

...the main story and ignored most of the side quests and “open world” stuff.

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23:28 Nov-22-2020

IMO "open world" games suck these days because they feel more like a chore to explore, rather than fun. You open up the map, and it's a bunch of same-looking locations with a couple of more distinct ones. You have your little quest/item markers and you blindly follow them until completion. The quest themselves - mostly fetch quests, aside from the main story, which is almost always where all the decent quest writing ideas go. Because ALL games now must be treated like RPGs and have an "open world" slapped in there with all the above crap to pad them out.

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06:37 Nov-23-2020

After i have been spoiled with jewels like Gothic 2 Notr, The Witcher 1, Vampire Bloodline The Masquarade, S.t.a.l.k.e.r shadow of chernobyl, almost everything else made these days feels boring, bad in comparison.

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23:06 Nov-22-2020

The 3 pillars of solo gaming are gameplay, music, and story. The 4th pillar is community. Environmental design isn't an issue if the gameplay surrounding it is good. It’s only good to differ from other games to generate more revenue.


Zelda: BoW got players in the action, giving almost all the abilities in the first few hours of gameplay without grinding. This gave the developers, in turn the players, experimentation. Today, if I need to grind for most of the abilities, forget it. Shooters lack increased experimental difficulty. I'll use Halo as an example: ...

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23:39 Nov-22-2020

Grunts and some Elites wear masks, yet we have not seen them hide in water or 343 use water-based combat
Drones in the dead of night, with heavy wind, could latch onto moving trees, rain further obstructing player's view
Jackals are known for their speed, accuracy, and ability to jump. Turn this up a few notches
Hunters are made of a colony of worms. This could be better be utilized, slow player movement, firing off guns on the floor
Allow enemies to pick up better weapons
Make stealth an option
Above all, allow better enemy collective combat. Halo:6 reveal showed the banished fighting like civilians
etc...

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21:53 Nov-22-2020

Witcher 3, hell yeah. Great stories, amazing characters, choices that matter, beautiful world. Assassins Creed Odyssey, hell no. Don't get me wrong I sort of enjoyed AC Odyssey at first but now I'm about 30 + hours in and it's insanely boring, I have about 50 open quests so it's confusing as f**k and that's without picking any up, well maybe about 5 right at the start and half of them are level 40-50, I'm level 33. I have none of the DLC either. The game is just a mess and I'm guessing Valhalla will be similar. All Ubisoft games seem to be mish mash of each other. Hell, WD Legion is on sale on Ubisoft at the minute, 20% off, it was only released 29th of October, says a lot.

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20:49 Nov-22-2020

Most games just don't really try enough. Your average Ubisoft game is always the same shallow empty boring mess that's not worth exploring, while I can spend hundreds of hours just exploring in TES, FO or the Witcher.

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20:39 Nov-22-2020

Open world games with fewer abilities and better quests which you can finish without needing to complete 10 more missions before it.

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19:46 Nov-22-2020

juste to answer the question about if open worlds does deliver the experiance we want.. well most of them yes but definitely not death stranding ^^

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17:49 Nov-22-2020

the thing that makes me not like open worlds is that they are enormous and empty af... just wasting time getting from point a to point b

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17:23 Nov-22-2020

Man....I'll say one thing here: Ubisoft open world games are cool n all but they just don't put that much effort into small little details that make the world more compelling. For example; the new WD Legion doesn't have any water physics and try shooting someone off from the edge of the building and see what happens. Imagine if they put much effort into details like GTA V. Why don't they? hmm..

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18:28 Nov-22-2020

They put an insane amount of detail into the world design, not necessarily gameplay details.
For example, Valhalla has water physics (as do older AC games). Also, load up Unity on max and walk through Paris. The level of detail in that game is absolutely insane.

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06:55 Nov-23-2020

I've played Unity. Well for a pretty big name I don't see why they can't put that much effort into gameplay detail as well :( . Maybe if they're willing to spend a bit more to fund a bigger team to implement those tiny gameplay details combined with the detailed worlds then that would be the type of game I'd spend 1000's of hours on. Mostly just a matter of personal taste though

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17:19 Nov-22-2020

You can't expect an action packed cinematical experience on an open world game. Linear is the way. The story just get's lost on most open world games and after thirty hours or so it just get's boring no matter the game. I'm playing Death Stranding, and, Kojima's future looks bright!

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17:01 Nov-22-2020

Depends who makes them :P

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