Yeah, I know. Weird title, huh?
I have a budget of $60 each month for games. That’ll get me one new game. Perfect. The two big games of this month were Paper Mario: The Origami King and Ghost of Tshushima. Yet again, the former forgets how to be a fun Mario RPG in favor of frustrating the ever-living hell out of me, so I was willing to get the latter. Until I came to the realization I have to keep reminding myself of:
I really hate open world games.
Or most of them, at least. Aside from the legendary Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I honestly don’t think I would ever rate an open world game above a 3/5. Not Horizon: Zero Dawn, not Breath of the Wild, nothing. Feel free to scream at me in the comment. I’ll be ready.
Ghost of Tsushima’s reviews have been decent, but they say it’s nothing ground breaking. So I decided that the setting of feudal, historically accurate Japan (which I am all for – Sekiro is incredible, and Nioh is not a half-bad Soulslike) wouldn’t be enough to carry a game that I would find tedious the whole way through.
Because open world games are nothing but a waste of time. I honestly believe that. Even MGSV is not without its numerous flaws. Remove the open world of that game to a more mission-based structure like Portable Ops and Peace Walker? I’m all in, though the open world does lend itself to a bit more creativityg. But most open world games seem to be nothing more than spending over 50% of my time pressing up on the joystick in boredom, waiting for a waypoint to grow closer or for characters to finish talking. Or just, you know, walking. A lot of walking.
I forget who said this, but there’s a quote that goes like “if over 50% of your game is riding a horse, make sure it’s very polished”. I’d edit that a bit to say “make sure it’s actually fun”. What, in God’s name, is fun or even intriguing about walking around a figurative or literal, sometimes, wasteland, even if you’re curious? Curiousity, trust me, will run out.
An ironic things modern games are doing – starting with 2015’s The Witcher 3, I believe – is having horses / vehicles autopath. Aside from gently nudging the joystick left or right at forks in the road, you don’t have to do anything. Useful and, admittedly, less boring because you’re saving time, but why not just cut out all of that downtime in the first place?
I think the biggest criminal of the open world structure is Rockstar, whose games make me want to consistently quit at every moment, and the only reason I don’t is because my friend keeps telling me it eventually won’t be so bad (fun fact: he lied). What people call “relaxing in an open world”, I call tedium. I can’t even imagine wasting the time that’s required to complete Red Dead Redemption 2. An hour and a half of unique skinning animations? I appluade the effort (and execrate the crunch), but I can feel myself checking my phone in boredom already. Grand Theft Auto V, which I actually made it about an hour into, made me want to scream, but that was more because it kept thrusting me into voice acted tutorial after tutorial, with no way to skip it. Yeah, I know how to drive a car in any video game. I don’t need a 15 minute race to test my skills.
I don’t believe these games are intentionally wasting players’ time. Somewhere, deep in there, is passion for an open world game, and clearly, the majority of players are into the idea. I think open world games have to justify that $60 price tag by cramming as much “content” into a game as they can. Though most of it is walking / riding around, or copy-pasted sidequests. Does a game post 100+ hours of content? Check again, because the “content” may be a lot shallower than you think. Give me a short, well-thought-out, dense game, and I will probably have a good time. I might even praise its name. I will not be bored, if the developer has done a good job.
This is a pretty common chart for game design. That big diagonal “FLOW”? That’s where developers want players to be. But I think there’s a mistake in this graph. I think if both the skill and the difficulty are low, then the player is still bored. What skill does press forward on a flat land require? What difficulties are there? The answer for both is none. Then I have no reason to be engaged.
Now, there are ways to mix it up. Death Stranding, especially its first six hours or so, is incredible, as walking itself throws challenges at you that are legitimately tricky. Final Fantasy XV actually encourages looking at your phone, I imagine, by having long stretches of auto-driving to Final Fantasy jams. 2018’s Spiderman makes movement both extremely fast and fun, meaning you can cross from one end of its “open world” to the other in two or three minutes.
But the majority of open world games don’t. There’s no innovation. They see no reason to optimize or streamline anything, because the last 50 open world games sold so well. So I ask you: why would I buy Ghost of Tsushima, a game that does everything exactly like every other open world game?
I wouldn’t. And I haven’t.
tl;dr – I don’t like open world games. I don’t like having my time wasted. That is all. Good night!