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My Favorite Open Worlds


"I don't like open world games"

Would be a silly thing for me to say, considering how many open world games I like.

It is however a very common thought in my head, ubisoft and its unendind barrage of boring games are probably at fault, and of course, it's many clones in the AAA game industry, many which are not that bad really, especially some of the "clones", but its still a "genre" that immediately generates distrust in me, it's little more than a buzzword now, completely consumed in mindless tasking, enemy camps and boringly beautiful maps.

To make a big piece of land the setting of your videogame will mean that, ultimately, some sacrifices will be made; repeated geography, uneven pacing, very structured gameplay loop, repetition, predictability..., but it also allows for many situations that can not be achieved in more linear structures.

In the following list (of no particular order), I will talk about the open worlds of some of my favorite games, you may not even consider some of these as "open world games", but the fact that they have a big open level™ is undeniable, and its interlinked with some of the games' most important aspects.

Mira from Xenoblade Chronicles X

Mira is not our home, this is the central point of XCX, Humanity's desperate last gambit for survival, escaping from a war that destroyed the earth. The result is a game that puts you in a very strange planet, and in contact with many peculiar alien species, with the main meat of the game's storytelling being how humanity converges with their new neighboors, be them friendly or hostile.

The main plot of the game actually suffers greatly and feels quite incomplete, most likely from rushed development to supply the wii u with actual games, but the side quests tend to paint a very interesting picture about humanity, this is a very "communal" jrpg, with less focus on main characters being chosen ones and more how humanity moves forward after such a catastrophic event as the loss of our home, and the relationships they make with the other aliens, there are natives, and also new arrivals like humans.

Another important aspect of Mira is its scale, this is a massive planet that is also beautifully designed, both structured and wild, and how that impossible drowning scale is completely shattered once you obtain flying mechs, letting you fight against previously impossible enemies and making once previously enormous landmarks very tiny as you overlook them from the sky, its incredible.



The World of The Witcher 3

The most this list will get near "ubisoft-like open worlds", TW3 has somewhat bland combat and shallow role playing mechanics, but while mechanically the role playing is quite meh, role playing as Geralt is a fantastic time, and the stage the game paints for you is glorious.

More than an rpg, I see TW3 as a telenovela, the over-the-top stories Geralt finds himself in, the drama that ensues, the blood and the wine, its just extremely fun to experience, to get on your horse and see what can happen next, or how the next quest might end, the world of the books already provides the game a very good setting to boot and they manage to build on it in great ways, for both old fans and new people getting into the franchise.



The Forbidden Lands from Shadow of the Colossus

Simply put, true loneliness is what SotC achieves, there is simply nothing here, just you, your horse, some tiny lizards and the massive colossi that you have to hunt down.

Your horse makes galloping around the incredibly somber valley an integral part of the experience that isnt particularly tedious or boring, the landscape is vital to fully show how towering the colossi can be, its a vast and quiet place, making the action all the more exhilarating, an absolute artistic achievement.

Shinning the sword also makes for a fantastic diagetic UI waypoint arrow of sorts, and the extremely simple gathering of items makes the whole experience feel very stripped back, its a very focused game with just the elements it needs to function, it all adds to the lonely minimalistic adventure.


Santa Destroy from No More Heroes

Travis Touchdown's hometown is a miserable city that serves no purpose to the game other than to help ground travis as a character, this is his shitty city, this is his boring grind to get money to pay for the next fight, and get to the true meat of the game, some of the best bosses this medium has to offer.

One could say Santa Destroy is the worst part of the game, and it probably is, it just has boring minigames not even travis enjoys and barren streets, and in all honestly I was happy when it got completely cut from NMH2, and its minigames reworked into fun retro versions, but going back to it on NMH3 made the original pain all the more worth it, to be "back in the hood", to see how Travis has grown, how he now enjoys the little things, it wraps things up excellently.

It may be a boring place, but its not a place for the sake of gameplay, its a place for the sake of a place, a motorcycle is useless if you dont have streets.



Proceduraly generated lands in Minecraft

Gonna keep this one short, this is minecraft, its more of a sandbox, but the way the sandbox gets constructed is one of the factors that makes the game so incredibly fun, and its probably the game that defines true freedom the most, there is nothing more open that the infinite landscapes MC provides.



The Mojave Wasteland from Fallout New Vegas

Heading into the desert with some vague directions in the loose search of vengeance should not be this good, but it is, trekking through the desert is an experience, a journey if you will, but thats a different desert.

Its also one of the most linear and well directed "open world" games, you can definitely take quite some detours but the structure the game wants you to take is rather clear and makes for a very fun guided story, the locals and factions really make it a fun place to be, even if you have to walk half a desert to get to it.

The DLC also has excelent self contained stories themselves too, in some smaller but also rather open-ish maps, topographically its not one of the best maps, nor is it blindingly pretty, but the actual design of the game's areas is extremely solid, making it smaller and more linear works a lot in its favour, and it keeps delivery cool narrative moments one after the other



Eos from Final Fantasy XV

FFXV is a disaster, it's a lot of style without substance, the combat does nothing, the plot is segmented unnecesarily, and its all sorts of unfinished, the world is filled with boring people, quests are terrible, and it makes no sense to have chill modern cities next to the incredibly big and wild monsters.

I still greatly enjoyed my time with it, as unbelievable as the world is, the time I spend in it with The Boys was great, the 4 protagonists are great, and even when it makes no sense plotwise to be on a roadtrip after what happens a few hours in, it still feels like that, camping by the stars getting some homemade grub, driving down the highway next to a gorgeous view, whacking some monsters or imperial fools, no other game does this, this level of "hanging out with the bros", genuine kinship, its truly special.




DS is a game that puts the term "walking simulator" to shame, THIS is a walking simulator, nothing that came before even gets near.

The game's world being the USA makes no sense, being modeled after iceland, but the progression of DS is mindblowing, this is truly a game about traversing the world, managing one's weight, walking properly, preserving your cargo, and the unlockable gear and tools that makes your life both easier and harder, moving from point A to point B was never as engaging as this, at least to me.

How to optimally make a trip when the game asks so much of you is like a puzzle on its own, the whole game is a puzzle, how to move is a puzzle, how to tackle enemy encounter when you're carrying so much, what to sacrifice if you have to, your mind is constantly making tiny decisions the whole game, its layers upon layers of management on the backspace of our heads, and the land is carefully designed to make it as engaging as it is, and the game slowly but surely expands its repertoire of tricks, giving you more and more things to consider as it goes on, so it never runs out of steam in more than 40 hours of walking.

The way you interact with players with simple non verbal signs, left tools and encouragement, also beautifully transmit the theme of the game, its goofy and unrealistically hopeful, but damn it puts me in a good mood, playing online makes the game way easier than offline, but and that's a good thing, the actions of others are felt, and they feel so good you want to help in turn, truly empathic gameplay, its a joy.



The Lands Between from Elden Ring.

While the communication features of the game are as endearing as ever, and death stranding actually feels like an upgrade over the classic From Software messages system, ER gets to new heights in what an open world can be, with a very simple trick, it provides true exploration.

The level of wanderlust in this game is unreal, while the game is as good as expected, considering its basically a new dark souls, what I did not expect was that making the map so big could work so well for it, more than in any game ever before, I feel like Im adventuring, more than in zelda, or any metroidvania, I got a true world to see, to decide what my character is gonna be, to aquire more weapons and armor and magic and just...stuff, that makes the world all the more richer and interesting to explore.

Even when the limitations show up, and you notice trends and patterns, those can be shaken at any moment, those can be twisted very naturally by the developers, its surprise after surprise, and im so glad they nailed it like this, since wandering about about and stumbling into things was something the child part of my always wanted to do, like in the old 2D zeldas, always craved more.

And while not nowhere as big as some other games, it feels gigantic, the game knows how to mess with your expectatives, you keep filling the map and it gets bigger and bigger, then you go underground and feel like you've barely seen anything, while still being very dense on meaningful content.


Honorable Mentions

These are also all games that I enjoy in general, some maybe deserve to be on the list but i just didnt feel strong enough about how the world works with the game that I decided against.

Retro City Rampage / Shakedown Hawaii, my favorite "GTA-likes", they're really fun and well made

Zelda Botw and Sable, lots of climbing around, very pretty and neat, also kind of boring, they also give me a good sense of wanderlust, but I dont feel as excited about the rewards of the exploration, unlike Elden Ring, which had both the exploration and a payoff.

Batman Arkham City, flying around gotham is sick, TW3 is the superior batman game imo.

Pokemon Legends Arceus, roleplaying as a pokemon researcher is incredibly fun, the best pokemon game in a decade.

Nier Automata and Metal Gear Solid V, games I like a lot but not really because of their open worlds (nier more than mgsv really, mgsv is kind of a mess too)

GTA Vice City, honestly a vibe, but im just not a big GTA Fan.

Assassins Creed Black Flag, sailing around was fun af, but it gets boring and repetitive fast, also lame parkour.

Fortnite, its kinda open world in a way, right? its also pretty fun and chill with friends, but im not gonna shill to FN, i just dont feel so strongly about it.

Outer Wilds, honestly deserved a spot really, but i havent finished it yet lol, its pretty excellent, but i dont have my final thoughts yet.

Paradise Killer, deserved a spot too easily, I just forgot lol, an investigation sandbox, truly unique stuff,

- Umbasa

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About Necrowondoone of us since 6:51 PM on 08.17.2020

where Wondo's remains rattle

I pester my friends about the games I play, and also I draw sometimes.