For the most part, no matter how ‘open’ they can claim to be, video games are usually very linear experiences. I remember my irritation with Grand Theft Auto games promising that you can play missions your own way before suddenly failing the mission because you had the nerve to get into a different vehicle than the one the mission provides. I like being treated like an adult by games, and hugely appreciate it when a title seems to acknowledge this wish by hurling something I want at me during a play session.
It isn’t too much to ask that, as I paid for the damn thing, I should be allowed to enjoy it in a way that suits me. The following five games are the best example of this and should be praised, applauded and appreciated by any gamers lucky enough to play them.
Reverse Trike – Death Stranding
The inspiration for this article as I am playing through Death Stranding at the moment, and have just reached Chapter 6. Picture the scene: I had spent about twelve hours of gameplay walking back and forth along the same landscape making deliveries and tripping over rocks, losing all my gear in a river, twice. This may sound tedious but it really wasn’t; and never once did I find myself bored or resenting my time for the joyful satisfaction I felt when completing a delivery.
I had just returned to a distribution centre and was receiving an order that had to go across an enormous distance. My heart leapt at the prospect of crossing new terrain, but words fail to describe the excitement when I was presented with my first Reverse Trike, the in-game term for motorbike. The journey that followed took no more than ten minutes when previously it would have easily taken 25 or more, and the time spent getting used to the handling over rugged terrain was a whole new level of fun and exploration in and of itself.
I’ve since unlocked trucks, giving me so much more potential and space for deliveries that I’ve really been throwing myself into my new role as a post-apocalyptic delivery driver, a job title I never knew how much I wanted until I got it.
Post-Game Region – Pokemon Gold and Silver
We all remember the feeling of elation, after defeating the Elite Four in Pokemon Gold and Silver, when we turned the corner on the post-game route and found ourselves back in the Kanto region with the entire area at our feet.
Easily one of the best post-games of any game ever, it was strange to receive such a powerful feeling of nostalgia for a game I had completed multiple times less than two years previously. Of course, this can be chalked up to the fact that I was eleven years old at the time so the two year gap had felt like an eternity, but the euphoria of battling the Gym Leaders again with my new team of generation two Pokemon was truly sublime. A particular highlight I’ll never forget was blazing through the entire Grass Gym in Celadon City with my new favourite Pokemon, Typhlosion.
Launch of Forza Horizon
Even though Forza Motorsport 4 was my first ever Forza game the announcement of an open world / street racing tie-in franchise had me fully invested from day one. Even the cover art was enough to suck you in, seductively displaying the gloriously curvy SRT Viper GTS (nice yellow car for those confused by that) racing away from the Horizon Festival grounds. Straight out the gate the first Horizon title was keen for players to explore and traverse the state of Colorado in their own chosen way, by making a vast selection of cars available from the end of the introduction.
The map was generously sized and had plenty of things to see and do in it. From the long twisting road up into the mountains, to the quarry and golf course packed with perfect ramps for bouncing your car of choice with as much energy as you could muster. The team at Playground Games absolutely knocked this introduction to the series out of the park!
Web-Swinging – Marvel’s Spiderman 2018
Despite my gripes with this game it definitely re-captured the magic of the Playstation 2 Spider Man game when it came to its web-slinging and New York exploration. The combat was a nice modern take on the formula as well, by which I mean it was almost exactly the same as every open world action game since 2009, but I guess if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Fans were desperate for a current gen re-imagining of the traversal from the PS2 classic; and the return to form on this front is almost perfect. The 2018 title was missing the ability to choose how much power to put into each swing but, when the fluid animation and beautiful recreation of New York is taken into consideration, few would argue that it really matters.
Opening of Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy titles are typically a very linear experience. Some may provide the illusion of being open and encouraging exploration like Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII, which was little more than a big field halfway through the story, where you were invited to run around for a bit and be destroyed by higher level monsters. Final Fantasy XV took this in the opposite direction by allowing players to explore sizeable chunks of its map as soon as the introductory cut-scenes were concluded.
As the story unfolded, so too did the map, and it didn’t take long for enormous, gorgeous and diverse settings to be available. The game then encouraged exploration more by offering upgrades to the Regalia, your primary mode of transportation, by giving it off-road capabilities and later the ability to fly!
Final Fantasy XV offers so much and asks so little in return of players that it’s just a joy to see all that there is to see, and do whatever you like in the process. Here we have a game which was heavily marketed as an open world adventure, and its success in this regard is undeniable.
Thank you for reading my top choices of games that gave me the freedom I wanted. Let me know what games made you feel this way and feel free to follow me on Twitter @MaliceVER. Thanks again and I will be back to speak to you soon.