I’m generally not a big fan of open world, long-playtime games. Sometimes they’re alright, eg. Skyrim, Oblivion, Just Cause, etc. But those games seem to have given the games industry the idea that open world games are worth making a lot more of. When many of them could be better games if they were shorter and more linear.
For a start, I mainly don’t have that much time for games these days. I only really have less than 10hrs per week for games at most. I’m lucky to spend more than 5hrs in one game per week. When I’m playing an open world game, that could take months to complete.
Secondly, some game designers seem to think that open world is far superior to closed corridors, linear games. They’ll have an IP that they want to make more games with, and they just can’t help themselves but make it open world. I thought Far Cry 1 was a really enjoyable game. It wasn’t purely open world, though it felt like it was. It was linear, but you still had multiple ways to tackle sections of the game. In my opinion, Far Cry 2 and onwards took the series progressively downhill as they just made the games bigger and gave you more tedious (not that fun) tasks to do.
If I’m playing a first-person shooter, I expect basically a “shooting range” where you shoot at enemies, though there is plenty of opportunity to entertain in other ways, like story, dialogue/cinematics and innovative gameplay features beyond just shooting things. But for the last one, hunting animals and finding malaria pills just don’t do it for me, compared to using a gravity gun in Half-Life 2 to kill enemies with random physics props. Although even in Serious Sam, you don’t get particularly innovative gameplay, but you do maximise the shooting time, which is generally consistently fun. Sam Stone ain’t got time for that crafting crap. Too busy saving the world.
And if I’m playing a third-person shooter/action game, I expect reasonable amounts of action to engage with. Sure, these games can involve some more RPG elements, abilities, levelling up and such, but the core of these games should be the action and maybe even puzzles if they’re not too frustrating. An unpopular opinion here, but I’m not a huge fan of the Zelda series. I have Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but the game just forces you to explore and solve puzzles that don’t have obvious solutions, and limits the action to small sections of the game world. Right at the start of the game, you have to go to a very cold area that hurts you because of how cold it is. I couldn’t figure out what to do, I just thought it was un-passable and there was more stuff to do elsewhere that might unlock it later. But no, the solution was to cook chilli soup that warms you up, of course. The game did not really direct me to do that in a hand-holding way for beginners unfamiliar with Zelda games. Instead I was left roaming the world to discover the solution by accident. I get that that’s how people solve some problems in real life, but I don’t play games to solve problems, I play games to have a good time, for the most part. For a mix of entertainment and challenging myself. BotW does not try to entertain you as much as I expect a game like it to do.
Skyrim and Oblivion are alright games in my opinion, though I still don’t really have time for them these days. As good as they are, the pacing is slow and makes me feel like they will take a very long time to complete. Meanwhile, I could be playing other shorter games that still entertain me, and getting through my large Steam library.
Which leads me to another point. Buying lots of games. There is an absolute explosion of games being made these days. Now, you don’t need to go out and support every game that remotely takes your fancy (though I do sometimes..). In my experience, the more you look for games, the less enjoyable games you tend to find. But I think it is still good to discover and support the smaller game developers who aren’t backed by big-name studios and publishers. Some of these games can be very innovative and able to be played in a short burst. Like Stanley Parable, Superliminal, Untitled Goose Game, the Serious Sam series, Negative Nancy, and many more good ones that are truly underrated gems. Just playing big open world games all the time means you can miss out on these games which I feel are important to experience, they show you new ideas and gets your brain thinking in different ways. They can make you a more open-minded person. I fear that time-consuming open-world games can suck the open-mindedness out of people, and not encourage smaller developers to come up with new ideas in games.
Usually, the only developers that can pull off open-world games properly, are the triple-A big budget studios. So for the little guy out there making their own games, they won’t likely be making open-world games. Triple-A studios are dictating the way their games are made. They often believe that open world is the way to go. I imagine it’s due to reasons like; offering more features, immersion and graphics quality, longer games can cause games to develop stronger investment in the series/developer. You can still make very good games without being completely open world. When you focus on story telling, rewarding gameplay, art style over graphics detail. Some recent examples that comes to mind are Psychonauts 2 and Control.
I’m going to keep trying to avoid these bigger games, even if they are very popular and well-received. I will get to experience more games, support more individual developers, and likely maximise the enjoyment I get out of the games I choose to play. Now if only we’d see more triple-A developers making shorter, narrower game experiences with the same effort and energy as open world-games. That explosion of games would start to seem more manageable and enjoyable.