Casually, I stared out over the vast open landscape. Sipping my whiskey sour and marveled at the vastness that lay before me. What new enemies waited in the shadows? What new loot was there to find? Who would call upon my unique and battle-hardened skills to save them in a time of need? These questions and many more floated before me as I set off in this new uncharted territory.
This is just a generic scene that plays out over many different open-world games. From Bethesda titles such as Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, or Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. These games offer players a wealth of opportunity and adventure all while giving them the choice to take it on however they see fit. The latest outing for The Legend of Zelda series also embraced open word mechanics, letting players truly explore the world at their own pace.
I truly enjoy these games as they generally afford me the ability to play as I want to. Am I good or bad, or a mix of the two? Do I sneak through the shadows or charge in headstrong? For the most part, besides the narrative that plays out, the world is yours and you can take it as fast or as slow as you like. This, however, is where the problems start to arise.
Some games do not suffer from this issue, GTA, for example, has no real pressing issues besides which activity you are going to try next. My well overplayed copies of Skyrim and Fallout 4 present this issue in an almost painful way. In both games, there is an immediate threat or in the case of Fallout, need to find your kidnapped son. There is setup to catastrophe and then you are left to your own devices. If you track the days you can spend months upon months of in-game time doing side quests and building up your character. Various factions have been wooed and you are the leader of all. You have become akin to a god with all the time spent leveling your skills and practicing your specialties. But… by the way… it’s time to find your son / kill the final dragon. Breath of the Wild was similar with its urgency to save the princess and stop Ganon once again. This all happens of course, but not before you explore every temple and craft the very best ancient armor. Again, days pass by as if nothing were urgent at all.
Many Games like this play out in a similar fashion and still won’t stop me from enjoying them. I feel that the immersion of really getting into that character is brought down a little as in the end, even though there is a threat to the “world”, there really isn’t anything to worry about. I don’t have an answer on how to fix this, and I will still continue to enjoy them all just the same but I do wish there were more to really make you feel like you were the Hero to the story instead of just some guy/girl that just so happened to take time out of their busy day to take on the worlds big bad.