There was once a time when open world games were a rarity to be savoured. Kind of like spy games are today... seriously, there are no spy games, even the Tom Clancy games are all action. Anyway, thanks to these fancy schmancy new consoles adorning our living rooms, open world games have become common place. That's brilliant, right? More tasty open worlds to explore?
Nope. Not in my eyes.
...does it have Troy Baker?
The game world grew, but the incredibly dense amount of detail remained intact as City took the series from strength to strength. Origins followed, recycling assets from City and providing a series low point by sapping the joy out of exploration. Arkham Knight then increased the size of its playground by five times, and in doing so lost five times the detail.
The game's increased size also brought about the introduction of the Batmobile to help traverse areas in decent time, but the sloppy mechanics only serves to spoil things. The increased environmental and mechanical costs this no doubt incurred might also have impacted other areas, because the writing certainly wasn't up to scratch when compared with previous form.
After joking about armchair developers, I'm aware it's hypocritical to suggest making a game bigger ruins other aspects of it, but there's mounting evidence. Just Cause 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3, Far Cry 4, Watch_Dogs, Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V are all recent games that I'd argue suffer for having massive open worlds. Lots of empty space artificially lengthens the game whilst boring me out of my tree and practically forcing fast-travel, which surely goes against the point of creating these open worlds in the first place?
Speaking of artificially lengthening games; how about some awful filler in the form of endless challenges, fetch quests and other crap? Go on, it'll help you get the thing you need to do the other thing better. It's simple filler content that serves no other purpose than to keep you playing for longer and make you feel you got better value for money. The industry needs to realise that there is no value in this type of content.
It's all about balance. Bethesda games often get the balance just right, which is to leave you wanting just that little bit more. They create game worlds with so much thought put into them, from item and enemy placement, to accommodating amazing vistas and more. Wandering around and independently
uncovering stories through locations themselves is a special thing, but that's lost when a developer goes open world just for the sake of it.
I guess I'm just asking that developers put some more thought into their world designs and concentrate on producing a strong narrative first, then weaving that into the locales. Make it interesting to explore. The Bioshock series and Alien: Isolation are both great examples of producing open environments whilst not ruining the core aesthetic - everything belongs and has meaning. If you're going to 'go open', make sure you do it like that.
For now, I'm off to travel that 10km to my next objective over the generic land masses of Just Cause 3.