Hey, do you like open world games? You’d better, because going forward it seems like it’ll be hard to find a next-gen game that isn’t open world. In addition to your Assassin’s Creeds and GTAs that have been open world since day one, this generation will see series like Metal Gear Solid, Mirror’s Edge and Tomb Raider (amongst many others) embracing open world gameplay.
Who knows, some of these series may adapt to the open world thing well, but taking a more traditionally structured series and plopping it in an open world setting isn’t without its risks. Here’s a few video game series that didn’t take so well to the freedom…
Hey Ubisoft, re-use this art style any time.
Prince of Persia
The Prince of Persia series has always been based on precisely designed platforming challenges, or at least it was until 2008 when Ubisoft attempted an open world reboot of the series. The game certainly looked fantastic, but it’s teeth were gone, and the lack of discreet stages meant the traditional platforming “fall in the pit, die, start back at the beginning of the stage” structure wouldn’t work. Ubisoft’s solution — a magical girl that caught you every time you fell — just came off as patronizing. With the exception of a cheap Prince of Persia movie tie-in, PoP has been on ice since this misstep.
The fantasy skateparks of the Tony Hawk series were always large and varied, but during the series’ glory days they were still broken up into discreet stages. The series started to go wrong when they tried to do the open world thing — the world got bigger, but it also got blander, with the tightly packed playgrounds of earlier games going the way of Tony Hawk’s cultural relevance. It was Tony Hawk Ride that put the series down, but the horse was already sick before it was beaten to death with a skateboard-shaped controller.
WB Games/DC Comics
Lego Batman 2, one of like, three games I’ve returned to the store for crappiness my entire life.
The Lego Series
I know the various Lego games continue to sell like plastic hotcakes, but man, I find newer games in the series downright unplayable. The Lego games started as fun, simple, co-op brawlers and have slowly expanded into bloated, baffling, open-world brawlers. I keep waiting for somebody to stand up and scream “These games aren’t any good any more!” but nobody steps up, so let me be the first — THESE GAMES AREN’T ANY GOOD ANY MORE.
Thief is a perfect example of a series that seems like it should work as an open world experience, but so far it hasn’t. The classic early Thief games were all about very carefully designed puzzle box stages and unfortunately, ever since the series went open world with Thief: Deadly Shadows, the superlative level design of the first couple games has gone out the window like a thief in the night.
Gears of Jak.
Jak and Daxter
I suppose you could say the original Jak and Daxter was open world, but it was open world in that classic, still pretty structured, Mario 64 kind of way. For Jak II and Jak 3 (don’t you hate it when they switch between roman numerals and numbers with sequels?) they went full GTA, dropping you into convoluted, headache-inducing hub worlds. Reviews for the first two Jak sequels were good, but both games have aged poorly, and the sales figures tell the real story — each sequel to Jak and Daxter has sold less than its predecessor and interest in the series is now at an all-time low.
So, what do you think of my picks? What series do you think have been hurt by the addition of open world gameplay? Which series do you think are going to be hurt in the future by the next-gen open world craze?