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15 Hours with Bloodborne – 10 Things I’ve learnt

This week I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase a PlayStation 4. As a big fan of the souls series, I just couldn’t resist buying the console now that Bloodborne has hit the market. My first impressions of the console and Bloodborne are very good, and without further ado, here are ten things that I have learnt during the time I have spent in Yharnam so far (warning: will contain some mild gameplay spoilers).

Groups of Enemies Don’t Feel Cheap

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The difficulty found in Dark Souls is centred around providing the player with a fair, but extremely tough challenge, the game is extremely rewarding, and its world wonderfully designed. Whilst I feel that Dark Souls hit the nail on the head perfectly, I feel that the sequel was a bit hit and miss.

Now, that’s not to say that I think Dark Souls 2 is a bad game, rather I just feel that the developers did not approach the game’s difficulty in the correct way. Too often Dark Souls 2 resorts to simply throwing hordes of enemies at the player in an attempt to increase the challenge of the game. There are a lot of instances whereby it isn’t clever, and can be frustrating for all the wrong reasons.

In summary, my encounters with large groups of enemies in Dark Souls 2 at times felt like a chore, whereas in Bloodborne they feel like the polar opposite, and manage to set my pulse racing. Simply put, the combat in Bloodborne is much better suited to fighting hordes of enemies than the combat found in the souls series.

Combat is significantly quicker, as is stamina recovery time, meaning engaging with a horde of beasts is a lot more fun (and fair) than fighting a pack of the undead in Dark Souls 2. Even during moments when I am being overrun by enemies in Bloodborne, I always believe that I have a chance of coming out victorious, which just goes to show how wonderfully well designed the game is.

The Health Regain Mechanic Is A Brilliant Risk-Reward System

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A new feature found amongst the many others in Bloodborne is the health regain system. After a player takes damage a portion of their life bar will be coloured orange, this segment of life can be recovered, providing the player manages to strike and land an attack on an enemy during the relativity generous window of time provided.

It’s clear that this mechanic is implemented in Bloodborne to encourage players to be more aggressive. Most souls players will be used to taking a cautious approach, whereas now instead of sitting back and using an item to replenish one’s life, players can hit back at the enemy immediately to refill some of their life bar, in some cases it is even possible to make a complete recovery.

Despite what I have mentioned above concerning the benefits of being aggressive, I have discovered that it is wise not to be too greedy, sometimes it is better to hold back and wait, rather than attack an enemy in the hope of recovering some life, to then only be killed by said enemy. (Yes, this has happened to me.) It’s a very clever system that can reward bravery, but also punish recklessness.

Bloodborne Doesn’t Hold The Player’s Hand

My Great Capture Screenshot 2015-04-02 18-11-32

I’ve seen a lot of articles mention how Bloodborne is a more “streamlined” experience when compared to the souls games, and whilst I agree with this in the sense that many features have been altered or simplified which were previously in those games, ultimately the player is still thrown into a world without much explanation and expected to explore without being led.

It is entirely possible to run out onto the dangerous streets of Yharnam without even knowing how to acquire a weapon. I’ve read and witnessed accounts of many players doing so. Even after completing Dark Souls 1 and 2 (unfortunately I haven’t played Demon’s Souls due to not owning a PS3) there are still many things in Bloodborne that I just don’t understand yet. What is frenzy, and how does it work? What do the shining coins do? How do I use runes? I have many unanswered questions.

My gameplay session last night summed up how confusing at times the souls games can be. After defeating Vicar Amelia I travelled to the right of the cathedral ward and found myself in an empty room with a looked door, I tried to open the door, but to no avail, so, I decided to leave the area. As I tried to leave the room I was grabbed by a glowing blue light, thrust into the air, and killed. I have no idea what happened. Bloodborne may be streamlined in the sense that it removes a lot features from the souls games that wouldn’t fit with its new direction, but it still remains just as opaque as the games that came before it.

There Is No Equip Load Statistic

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Demon’s Souls, Darks Souls 1 and 2 all contain an equip load statistic, the heavier the player’s armour, weapons, and items that they have equipped, the quicker their stamina bar will deplete and the longer it will take to regenerate.

In addition, if player’s have a very high equip load it will affect the speed in which they can roll and dodge, and whether they can roll properly (see: fat rolling) at all. In summary, managing the weight of equipment is vital in the souls games, whereas in Bloodborne, it doesn’t even feature.

Whilst I think that the weight of one’s equipment having an effect on stamina recovery and roll speed is a very clever mechanic, it wouldn’t make sense to include it within Bloodborne. The reason being is that because the combat is so fast heavier equipped players would always be at a disadvantage, Bloodborne is all about perfecting dodging and is much more gung-ho than Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Sitting back with a massive suit of armour on and trying to defend would not work at all. The equip load statistic may be gone, but I don’t miss it.

Fall Damage Has Been Reduced

It is likely that those of us who have played a souls game before have encountered both of the following situations: firstly, we have tried to make a jump, not quite made it and fell to our demise, secondly, we all have fallen off an edge whilst fighting an enemy to then be greeted by those famous words, “YOU DIED.”

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And after stupidly missing this ladder completely in Central Yharnam, I expected to die from a fall once again.

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Except, I didn’t.

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I survived the fall, a fall that I’m sure would have killed me in Dark Souls. I then carried on through Yharnam, only to die by an enemy 20 seconds later…

The Load Times Suck

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Get used to seeing this screen, you will see it lot when you play Bloodborne.

Digital foundry has reported that the respawn loading time can take up to 44 seconds, which in a game where you can die in about 4 seconds (or even less than that) is a hell of a long time. For me it hasn’t been a huge issue that has really affected my enjoyment of the game so far, but hopefully From Software release a patch that fixes this in the near future.

At Times Bloodborne Can Be Genuinely Scary

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I’ve always found Dark Souls and it’s sequel to be scary, well at least on the initial playthrough anyway, not scary in a horror film kind of way, (well apart from those clams and tentacle monsters in the first game) but still scary nonetheless. The reason being is that I fear dying, I don’t want to lose my souls and be forced to replay the entire area, unlike many other games death has consequences in Dark Souls, which makes me more feel more invested and a result, more scared.

Bloodborne is just scary because it’s scary. I know that enemies are likely to jump out at me or be hiding behind corners, this has been a staple of these games since Demon’s souls, but it still manages to get me. I think part of the reason is due to the fact that because Bloodborne is a lot faster paced, so I’m not walking around each area as slowly as I would in Dark Souls, and therefore am more susceptible to jump scares. There have also been a few instances in which I’ve turned around to find enemies behind me, during which Bloodborne has reminded me of my time aboard the Ishimura in Dead Space (I’m guessing you weren’t expecting that comparison).

The setting is also inherently creepy, with the starting area’s horde of enemies feeling like a scene from Resident Evil 4. The game is dripping with atmosphere, and I’ve found myself many times wandering around with my touch in hand, in the darkness, praying (to the moon) that I don’t be attacked.

Praise The Gun

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Blunderbuss, how I love thee. An ode to the gun.

At first I did not think that Bloodborne should include a gun,
but it allows you to use a visceral attack on a beast which is extremely fun,
you must wait for them to begin their attack and then shoot,
they will stumble back, stunned, then you can heavily damage the brute.

Plunging a weapon into their chest, the hunter is covered in blood,
and with a forceful kick the beast is launched back, crashing with a thud,

before I could not see myself playing with a gun rather than a shield,
but to the great and mighty blunderbuss, I respectfully yield.

So….err… yeah… I like the guns. Let’s move on, shall we…

Miyazaki Is An Incredible Level Designer

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One of the main issues that I have with Dark Souls 2 is that the world doesn’t feel at all connected, a lot of time I spent in Drangleic consisted of travelling travel through an area in a straight line, until I reached the end and then warping back to the central hub of Majula. Bonfires were also too prevalent in Dark Souls 2, some were situated a minute or two from another.

It’s predecessor on the other hand is an expertly connected maze, shortcuts are abundant and I remember many instances of feeling amazed when I realised that a certain area led to another. I still recall the incredible feeling I experienced when I opened the flood gates of New Londo, draining all the water from the area, to see that it was connected to the Valley of Drakes. Dark Souls feels like a world, whereas Dark Souls 2 just feels like a selection of levels.

Bloodborne in this respect feels like Dark Souls. It’s clear to see how much Miyazaki contributed to the world design of Dark Souls when playing Bloodborne, and clear to see how much he was missed on Dark Souls 2. So far I’ve unlocked a huge amount of shortcuts in Bloodborne, and coming to the realisation that an entire area is interconnected still remains a wonderful feeling.

A good of example of this is when I managed to find a shortcut of the beaten path near the area in which I had to fight The Blood Starved Beast, after which my journey to the beast only took around a minute or so, which in turn made dying a lot less painful. The level design so far has been brilliant, and I’m glad Miyazaki is back.

The Bosses Haven’t Blown Me Away (Yet)

So far on my travels I’ve defeated Father Gascoigne, The Cleric Beast, The Blood Starved Beast and Vicar Amelia. With the exception of The Cleric Beast, whom I managed to defeat the first time, the bosses remain as challenging as would be expected from a Miyazaki game. The only problem I have so far is that apart from Father Gascoigne, the other three bosses I have encountered haven’t been particularly memorable, both in terms of their visual design and actual game mechanics.

The Cleric Beast just resembles some kind of messy giant tree, The Blood Starved Beast looks like a giant blob, and Vicar Amelia looks a combination of Amaterasu on drugs and something that could be found at a Chinese Dragon parade.


Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, but so far I just haven’t felt that same kind of feeling that I did when I encountered Sif or the Bell Gargoyles in Dark Souls. I found a lot of the bosses in Dark Souls 2 to be forgettable, and hopefully Bloodborne doesn’t fall into the same trap.

Still, there is a lot of game to be played and I have faith that something jaw-dropping awaits me further down the line. Overall I’m having a fantastic time with Bloodborne, and I hope to keep you updated on my progress over the next few weeks.

Where Have All The Arcade Sports Games Gone?

A couple of months ago I repurchased a GameCube, a console that I previously had access to as a child/young teen and loved playing. Strangely even though I hadn’t touched the system for over 10 years, my mum had still stored away some of my old GameCube games (mum you are a legend!). Although most of the games she had held on to were sadly not very good, I found one game amongst the others that I had a lot of fun with many years ago. The game is question is Midway Games’ arcade soccer game, RedCard (known as RedCard 20-03 outside of Europe). Continue reading Where Have All The Arcade Sports Games Gone?

What is a Video Game? – It’s a Connection

Photo taken by Hatm0nstar

Earlier this month  we decided to take on the question of “What is a video game?” and challenged our fellows to do the same. At first I thought it was a difficult question to say the least. I mean how do you come up with a definition that actually reflects everything that games have become without first coming up with definitions for everything that makes up a game these days? What counts as gameplay? A goal? A story? Are they all needed for something to be a game? How many? And on it goes. Defining a game based on its components might not  be impossible, but it’s definitely a tall order (a very, very, tall order). Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that hard. In fact, defining what video games are doesn’t have to be hard at all. In order to define what a video game is, one need only look at what a video game does. Continue reading What is a Video Game? – It’s a Connection

The Silent Console

Image by Flickr User: TheStouffer
Image by Flickr User: TheStouffer

Lurking on the bedside table in my apartment, a devious piece of technology lies in wait.  At first glance, it seems like nothing more than a simple tablet; something to provide convenient internet cruising from any location.  But don’t let its harmless exterior fool you.  This electronic notebook hides a darker side, filled with hours of engaging and addictive video gaming.

When my wife and I first received an iPad, we assumed it would be mostly used for surfing the internet and reading electronic books/magazines.  After a while, she started to load art applications onto the tablet, allowing her to create some fine digital sketches.  The iPad became her new toy to play with, which was just fine by me.  After all, I had my 3DS and piles of great games to play.  My mobile gaming niche was pleasantly filled.

It was roughly two months into our ownership of the iPad that we started to download some games.  My wife installed Angry Birds (a carry-over from her phone) while I added a puzzle game I had read about called Spell Tower.  This is how our madness began.  It seemed like every spare moment was spent tossing birds or making words, destroying pig buildings and leveling towers of letter blocks.  Soon after, more games snuck onto our iPad.  Jetpack Joyride became a sort of challenge game, each of us trying to outlast the other and make a longer run through the cartoon laboratory.  Jack Lumber was a hilarious swipe and slash game that my wife discovered while we attended PAXEast, and so the vengeful logger leapt onto the small screen.  So many short and sweet games came to inhabit our happy tablet, and we were glad to have some little distractions to pass the time.  Then we caught Machinarium on a sale, opening up a new world of gaming possibilities.

Machinarium was not just some cutesy mobile game to be played in short turns.  It was a full-fledged adventure title, harkening back to the glory days of point-and-click PC gaming.  We spent hours exploring the dystopian world of robots and scrap metal, trying to help our mechanical friend Josef in his journey.  Sword and Sworcery followed next, which started to explore just what sort of features can be unique to a tablet game.  The touch screen provided interesting gameplay mechanics, while the high-resolution screen allowed for gorgeous visuals.  The transition was complete: the iPad had become a full-fledged gaming device and we hadn’t even noticed the change.

As someone who grew up playing video game consoles, it seems so odd that a device that was originally thought of as nothing more than a portable internet source has become such a gaming staple in my life.  Two of the best games I played last year were mobile exclusives (Year Walk and Device 6), and it looks like this year will have even more iPad games for me to enjoy.  So as you start to make your list of pros and cons for which killer next-gen console to purchase, be sure not to overlook the tablet market.  There are years of amazing games in their back catalog, which is more than either the PS4 or Xbox One have to offer.

-Chip, Games I Made My Girlfriend Play

A Demon In Our Midst

Dlc, if you have dabbled in gaming at all during this generation you know what this is. This is the 40-80 dollars you spend after your initial purchase of a video game. We may hate ourselves for it, but we get excited when it’s announced, froth at the mouth and ready our wallets for it’s beautiful release. A forbidden pleasure.
What is dlc really? In some cases, I’m sure it is probably exactly what they tell us it is, added content to expand our enjoyment of the original game. I don’t believe for a second, though, that this is always the case. In most cases, especially in day one dlc, or dlc released within the first week, It is just a way for game producers to milk us a tad more for a game we just bought. I can’t blame them completely, I know as well as anyone that video games are a business as well as a pastime, but I feel like there should be a limit or a basic set of rules to how they can do this.
I remember the old days, before consoles were connected to the internet. Games back then were complete the day you bought them, they didn’t need dlc. When you bought a game it was either a deep and compelling game that was worthy of your investment, or it was a horrible waste of your time, and you used it for target practice. There was no dlc, you got what you payed for, and you knew what you were buying yourself into. Games back then it seemed like were just made better than the games of today.
Nowadays, I feel like games are released incomplete on purpose. Sure, you can complete the story, save the damsel in distress, whatever. The games, though, don’t always feel complete without the dlc. Honestly, I’d rather just pay an extra amount on my initial purchase and feel like I bought a completed game. Dlc is an infection, and we the consumers (myself included) continue to buy into it. The worst kind of dlc isn’t even the expansion style dlc, which some is totally worth your money, It’s weapon skins and character outfits, this dlc is truly money-grubbing and just plain stupid.
I think the moral to my story here, is that we as gamers should evaluate the content we decide to pay extra money for. If it’s an expansion that you will blow through in 3 hours, don’t buy it, because that’s exactly what they want from us. The only exception to this, is if they offer you a bacon weapon skin, in that case you should buy it because bacon is amazing. Anyways happy nerding, hope to hear back from you guys!

Community post- All we need is a stick, a ball and a pocket full of dreams.

As lots of people will be writing on the subject of co- op gaming and I thrive on the need to be seen as original I decided to come at this topic from a slightly different angle. I started thinking about some of the best times I had playing games with friends and a few murky memories surfaced of some of my favourite moments produced when we created our rules and game types. Sometimes out of necessity such as not having enough controllers or all wanting to play the latest game but it being only single player. Not sure what I’m getting at? Let me throw some examples you’re way and if you catch them we can high five.

The classic example I’m sure most people are used to is playing single player but taking goes and turns. Passing the controller every time you die and letting someone else have a go.This form of gaming was oft called upon in my youngest years as multiple controllers were but a hazy dream. You got one controller and were happy with it.

My friend and I once did this with a game called Body Harvest, an open world game made by the creators of Grand Theft Auto. In this game you ran around, shot massive aliens and could jump in numerous different vehicles, including cars, boats and planes. We saw the planes as holy grails. Big flying holy grails. Movement on foot was difficult, with constant alien attack and flying in an open world was just not something we experienced before. Together we spent all night battling our way into an army base, where we had spied some planes. At 3 in the morning we eventually got our greasy little mitts on the hallowed technology. I was playing and had cleared the base, jumped in the plane and taken off, finally realising our shared dream. My friend asked to have a go with the plane, being a fair sort I thought it only fair but advised him not to crash into the nearby mountains. Like some kind of horribly derivative sitcom the first thing he did was try to fly between two peaks, clip both the wings and blow the plane up. This left us in the middle of a lava field. I grabbed the controller declared that only my skill could get us out of this mess, found a boat and crashed it into some lava.

My point here is that its not always the games constructed to be enjoyed co-op that are the most fun with friends. Even those that are can be improved with player enforced rule changes. Another example (lots of stories from my childhood here, we did go outside sometimes too) is when I had enough friends to play 4 player Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast. Having a console with as many excellent arcade games as the Dreamcast seems a pipe dream now, as does having four friends. Anyway, not having four actual controllers we substituted controllers 3 and 4 for the Dreamcast fishing rod controller and light gun. The motion sensors in the fishing rod acting as the “a” button or simple hit. Essentially we had invented the Wii years before Nintendo. Lucky for them I’m not the suing type. Plus I’m pretty sure lots of other people had the idea as well…….. and I have no money

Sometimes even the need for co- operation is created by the organically. When playing four player Age of Empires, it soon became obvious one of our group actually knew what he was doing and was easily slaughtering us all. A truce was quickly formed between the rest of us for the next game. Our combined civilizations would prove a more formidable enemy. Having seen tales of my gaming prowess up to now I’m sure you can imagine what happened. When my society were still hitting each other round the head with clubs in a naive attempt to understand what their function was, our mutual enemy rode in on chariots and wiped us all out again before we could even join our forces.

Thinking of these examples has made me realise how much competitive multiplayer has taken over my game playing habits and while I do massively enjoy these games they tend to punish stupidity and enforce the rules rather than let you treat them fluidly. Being punished for stupidity does not favour me. I literally cannot tell you how many times I have thrown a flash grenade into a wall rather than over it in Call of Duty. This drop in friendly gaming partly due to increased distance between me and my friends and also the reduction of co-op in modern games. A sad trend I think is beginning to see a reversal. Also the loss of fishing rod controllers.

Whenever I have friends over and we are looking to fill some time we turn to FIFA, passing the controller from loser to loser, or playing the most recent WWE game in my collection. We always play hell in a cell and the point is not to win but to get on top and try and throw each other off and through it. This is when I’m reminded most of the beauty of four men sat in a room jabbing at each other, laughing like morons at the sight of four virtual wrestlers unable to move due to too many falls from a great height.

A well crafted multiplayer co-op or competitive game is a beautiful sight but some of my most memorable gaming moments come from those organically produced games you invented yourself within games. Not to get too soppy but its the people you play with not the games themselves.

Can games be too open world?

Image By Get Gaming Now
Image By Get Gaming Now

[This article was originally posted on CheeeseToastieandVideoGames 22nd April 2013]

Note: I’m using ‘open world’ in a very broad sense and discuss games that are not really open world at all (like Mass Effect and LA Noire) and are merely non-linear or offer a degree of exploration. The reason for this is that my main focus here is to look at why these elements are becoming so popular in the games industry over strict linearity, so the distinction between true open world games and those with open world elements isn’t particularly important for my purposes.

If you follow my blog at all, you probably know that I love me some of that open world action. In the last decade in particular, the number of open world games has been on the rise and some of them have been incredible. However, it does seem that more and more these days, developers are turning to an open world or sandbox structure and though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s become the norm, it’s certainly getting that way. Consider how many recent AAA titles in the past few years have been open world games. There’s Red Dead Redemption, any of the GTA games, Skyrim, the new Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3 to name just a few. Old franchises that weren’t previously open world have switched over to this structure. Sequels of franchises that were previously open world in a more limited sense have been lauded as bigger and better with each new sequel, like Assassin’s Creed. Developers have bragged about the size of the maps as if that somehow means the game is now better. To many, it seems that having increasingly expansive worlds has somehow become linked with quality and innovation in a game. My question is, can the narrative or any other element of a game suffer from, in essence, being too open world and expansive? The short answer is, in my opinion, a resounding yes. To be clear, my point isn’t that developers should stop making open world games or that they shouldn’t keep trying to push the limits of how expansive a game can be, because if done well, these types of games often are innovative, entertaining, immersive, creative and can enhance both story and gameplay. If done incorrectly however, the results can be at best boring and at worst game-breaking. To that end, I do think that developers need to be a little more cautious in deciding whether a game should be open world or not as it doesn’t necessarily mean it will automatically make it a better game and that they should also be careful in balancing that openness with other elements that they think are important.

Firstly, open world does not equal more fun. That seems to be the premise for developers jumping on the open world bandwagon and I think that’s simply not true. I’m not talking about the fact that massive maps can often be quite daunting (especially for completionists), because that’s something you can get over once you become more absorbed in the wold. The truth is, many open world games can be quite boring, especially those filled with travelling and fetch quests. I’m sure most of you have played open world games like Assassin’s Creed where you get to take full advantage of the amazing scenery on your long rides into the next area. The problem with this is that it gets old pretty quickly. There’s only so much time I can spend watching my character ride around on a horse, no more how heroically they do it. Of course, many games get around this issue by introducing fast travel, but if everything’s so far apart (and many games do this) that you have to constantly fast travel, it begs the question, what’s the point of all having this wonderful expansive world? It’s not like you’re seeing it much. There are also games that feature huge maps, but have no fast travel or still require you to travel excruciatingly long distances and have mind-numbingly boring ways of getting from Point A to Point B, which is even worse. It’s true that it’s difficult to make something as repetitive as driving or riding fun and I can only think of a few games that have done it really well, Far Cry 3 being one. The problem then is not simply with making the game open world, but a problem of often making games too massive in size without actually thinking about how a player is actually going to traverse that territory in a fun way and still takes advantage of all those areas you’ve created.

Having an unbelievable and frankly, daunting number of collectibles and loot items is also a common feature of open world games that can often actually make the experience more boring than fun. I have nothing against collecting or looting items as such. It can be a fun addition to a game that takes advantage of an expansive world and adds optional content that gives you more fun things to do. However,  done wrong, it can end up feeling like collecting just for the sake of collecting and a repetitive exercise that doesn’t really add anything significant to the game other than more hours logged. In games like Far Cry 3, it doesn’t bother me too much, because it’s completely optional and you wouldn’t really miss out on anything from not collecting everything, other than a few extra weapons, for instance. Also games that manage to work the collectibles into the main story work well, because collecting becomes less of a pointless, repetitive exercise. What does irritate me is when the collectibles are artificially made an important element of the game, forcing you traverse the whole map. Sure you don’t have to collect all the items, but then you would be missing out. That’s how I felt with the voxophones in BioShock Infinite. They didn’t just tell you back story, they actually told you crucial parts of the main story or least information that I doubt anyone would voluntarily choose to miss. It feels like I’m being punished for not exploring, which should surely be up to the player. Adding in as much exploration as possible and padding the game with tons of extra items and loot doesn’t automatically make a game fun. How to implement exploration is just as important as deciding to include it in the first place and that’s something I feel developers sometimes forget.

Secondly, I don’t think that all genres or stories are inherently suited to being open world. Not all first-person shooters, for instance, would benefit from the open world format for instance. Much as I adore Mass Effect (that’s probably one of the biggest understatements I have ever made right there), I do feel that the first two games suffered from attempting to balance action and exploration and as a result fell a bit short on both at times. It’s a difficult line to walk and I’m not suggesting that they should have cut out either (God no!) My point is just that it is difficult to balance exploration with other elements of a game and that thought needs to be put into how to do that or whether it would enhance the experience at all. There are many games where the open world elements can feel completely superfluous, like LA Noire. Driving around and completing little side quest frankly felt like a chore and took away from the important parts of the game. Rather than add to your experience, those extra elements just feels pointless and you end up either just ignoring it or just grinding through it. There’s not only no need to add in open-world elements into a game, it can end up just diluting what would otherwise have been a fantastic experience on its own.

Thirdly, games that have huge open worlds can sometimes suffer visually as well, with each area having have less detail than those of more linear games or those with smaller maps. For some games it doesn’t matter, for instance sandbox games such as Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress. The point is to have an extremely expansive world, which you can control or manipulate and the graphics are deliberately basic for that reason. However, the bigger the world the more likely there are to be horrendous glitches. Red Dead Redemption, for instance, has some absolutely hilarious ones (check it out on Youtube). Also there’s often less to do than it first appears. In many open world or non-linear games there are big open spaces that you have to travel between or areas for exploration, but there’s actually very little in them. It’s mainly an illusion of space and all the items and quests could have been packed into a much smaller area, rather than forcing you to traverse the map just to collect one little thing. Bigger is definitely not better and if you have a huge map, but with very little actually going on in its various parts, then personally I would prefer to play a game with more detail packed into a smaller map. That doesn’t mean that open-world games are inherently less detailed at all. Batman: Arkham Asylum and Far Cry 3 did very well at packing tons of detail into fairly large areas. It’s all about balance and not simply expanding for the sake of expanding.

Lastly and most importantly to me is that the story can suffer for adding in open world elements for no reason and the result is that it feels less like a less coherent world. Too many side quests can detract from the apparent urgency of the main plot and make it more difficult to suspend disbelief at times and can even lead to narrative inconsistencies. I’m sure everyone’s come across a point in an open world or non-linear game where a character tells you ‘quick! Get to the next area and talk to so and so or we’ll all die! We’re counting on you!’ Instead of taking this to heart, your character wanders around for the next three hours collecting things and talking to NPCs and ‘exploring’. It can lead to a feeling of disconnect when you do continue with the main mission, only for everyone to act like you weren’t just a complete douchebag for abandoning them in their time of need. Also, running around talking to tons of characters can mean that the characters you do meet are less developed. The benefit of more linear games is that it’s easier to follow specific characters around and there’s more time dedicated to getting to know them. Here there is a major difference between a non-linear game and a truly open world game. The more open world, the more these dangers exist. Sometimes having millions of possibilities can feel more like a lack of direction and that can take away from the main narrative. It’s not a surprise that many games with the best stories are linear or at least more linear than a fully open world or sandbox game, although of course not exclusively. As many point out, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a story being linear. In fact linear stories are tried and true. When was the last time you read a non-linear book?  It’s all about finding that balance and figuring out whether your story would benefit from your game being non-linear. Personally, I don’t think games should be open world unless there’s a real reason to do so; in other words, if it would really further the plot or if the exploration aspect of the game is simply more  important.

There seems to be an obsession with open world games or at least with having some open world elements. Personally, I think developers need to be more cautious and I don’t like the trend of simply making games bigger or having more options simply for the sake of it. Of course, in the end it comes down to enjoyment and for some people, exploration is more important. If you’re enjoying yourself, that’s the important thing and there many games that incorporate or focus on the exploration aspect of a game and do it very well and they are no less important than games that depend on its tightly told narrative. Those two types of games are also not mutually exclusive. At the same time, I think it’ll be a while before we see a truly narratively strong and truly open world game. That doesn’t mean we should give up, but there does need to be more awareness that there is a balancing act going on or at least that there needs to be a decision for sacrifice. I welcome more open world games, but I also think it’s a pit trap that many a good game could fall into, never to return.