GameCentral readers discuss their favourite open world video games, from Grand Theft Auto V to Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.
The subject for this weeks Hot Topic was suggested by reader Gilo, who wanted to know what you think makes a good open world game and which games use the concept the best in terms of design, interactivity, and new ideas.
Open worlds have been going for a long time now, and we had plenty of suggestions stretching from the 8-bit era to the recent Red Dead Redemption II. Grand Theft Auto got the most mentions in general, but no one was able to agree on which one exactly was the best…
I assume a lot of people are going to vote for Red Dead Redemption II, since it just came out, but while the graphics are amazing I dont think it does anything particular new for the genre. I much more enjoyed Horizon Zero Dawn, which looks almost as good but is filled with a lot more surprises and has a much more original storyline.
People always talk about the giant robot animals, which are obviously supercool, but the world itself is also pretty amazing. Stealth and hunting are big parts of the game and the way the worlds designed really helps that. Its also extremely diverse in terms of the landscapes, with desert, ice, jungle, city, and lots more besides.
For me every element of the game seemed perfectly designed to support the other. You needed the big open areas to fight the animals properly and the wilderness areas really sold the strange post-apocalyptic story. I cannot wait to see what a sequel might look like.
I feel almost like a sellout saying this at the moment, with Fallout 76 ruining its legacy, but I think I like Fallout 4 the most. In terms of hours spent its definitely the one Ive spent the most time with and I love that although its one of the smaller open worlds its dense with things to seen and do. So many sad little stories dotted around and unlike most open worlds absolutely everything is interactive.
From what I can gather the problem with Fallout 76 is that it doesnt have much of a story or any interaction, which seems crazy as that was the best bit about Fallout 4. The crazy characters you met and could team up with, it was great taking them with you as you explored everywhere.
I can only hope the failure of Fallout 76 will mean Bethesda double down on what did work in Fallout 4 and we get an even bigger world with more characters and more interactivity. Because thats what makes the series fun.
Its sad how the game has kind of been forgotten nowadays but I think Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was an amazing open world game. You can argue that Metal Gear didnt really need but it absolutely worked and I feel gives much more freedom than most games like that.
Its not the size of the map that matters its what that size does for you. In The Phantom Pain you were able to take on mission without any pre-set way of beating them and I really appreciated that. Scoping out a base from a cliff edge before sneaking in and out without anyone even knowing you were there.
Which is completely unlike Red Dead Redemption II which tells you exactly what to do from every step of ever mission, from where to stand to what to shoot. I like that Kojima trust his players to be a bit more inventive and intelligent.
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These days Grand Theft Auto III is by no means the best open world game but its definitely my favourite. Back in 2001 I was still really excited by gaming and Rockstars groundbreaking crime simulator caused a major peak in that excitement.
I loved the music of Grand Theft Auto III and its grimy locale. Back then Liberty City seemed like an impossible invention, a thriving virtual space in which you could do just about anything you wanted.
Vice City was great but Id argue that the map wasnt quite as much fun, maybe because the roads were narrower and it was easier to crash.
Grand Theft Auto III probably looks a bit basic these days (I havent played the game in a while) but I suspect that the titles charm endures, mainly thanks to the sights and sounds of Liberty City which have become essential pieces of gaming folklore.
Im not trying to be funny but I genuinely think it might be the original Elite on the Amiga, although the game is actually even older than that. People nowadays think of an open world just being a really big map that you can drive cars around in, but it really just means you can explore the whole of the game world however and whenever you want. Only in Elite its not a world but many worlds.
The feeling of exploring the universe was amazing at the time and I still dont think its ever really been beaten. So few games ever try anything similar today, even though the computing power is so much greater. No Mans Sky was boring and pointless and Starlink just seems a lame Ubisoft style game.
There is Elite: Dangerous, but it just seems so boring and serious to me, compared to the original. I tried it for a while but for me the sense of fun and adventure was not there. I worry it never will be again.
Im a bit torn on this because I think Marvels Spider-Man is the most fun Ive had with an open world game in a long time but I also think its one of the least interesting open worlds. That might not make much sense, and a lot of it is due to how many games – including Spider-Man games – have been set in New York but its not particularly interesting or varied.
But the way you get around it with the web-swinging is amazing and I absolutely never used fast travel because of it. Im not sure if a more interesting open world might not have taken away from it a bit anyway, as youd be concentrating so much on that youd miss out on the simple pleasures of swinging.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the first proper immersive open world game I played, as I consider Grand Theft Auto games a sandbox genre and not the same type of thing I look for in open world gaming. I consider an open world somewhere you have unlimited opportunities to create your own adventure in a variety of ways without just causing destruction. And also, in GTA type games everything resets itself and you carry on your merry old way whereas in open world games you reap the consequences.
Oblivion was the first game for me to do this very type of thing. Doing a complicated mission or quest but by the way you see fit and an angle which you worked out yourself. There is mainly only one way in a sandbox game to do this, which makes open world gaming so compelling.
Create your own character with an expansive creation menu and enter a world were a lot of your actions have consequences and you have to think of responses to a characters quest or request for a certain decision to be made. I was introduced to this in Oblivion, and what I remember was after I did the thrilling rescue of a certain Patrick Stuart-voiced character I then went through the sewer exit to the outside world and behold!
I basically saw across the pond or lake an adventure like no other I have undertaken before. Where do I go next, what places to visit, what direction to take, the detail and graphical landscapes to see… and of course what is the story and quest that is to be accomplished!
I found out there were so many effects and ways of completing side quests and main quests that the amazing guilds of Thieves, Fighters, Mages, and the Dark Brotherhood nearly took over from the main storyline. The genius is how immersed I became in the world and that hundreds of hours were involved in satisfying my need to play this game. Fallout: New Vegas was perhaps my next favourite, with of course Skyrim. Choosing two character playthroughs with one of a good morality and then a bad one was what I did in New Vegas, and it gave me the chance to test the decisions I chose against the first time round.
The Witcher 3 is my most recent awe-inspiring game and the open world just blew me away and I wonder how could this be beaten! But with the futuristic Cyberpunk 2077, well the skys the limit with these games. Even though I get to only play the most notable ones, as I really dont have time for smaller companys games, I would love to try them out like Kingdom Come: Deliverance which ticks a lot of the crucial boxes for me. And maybe Ill have time at some point, but with Elder Scrolls VI on some near horizon, it may be a while before I take Kingdoms adventure up.
Open world is pretty much my favourite genre at the moment and I can only imagine what future games on next generation machines will be like, but I hope to be there and take up the (in my mind) the journey of a lifetime.
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