When Team Nerdswole decided to stream with our good friend Tien Nguyen on Twitch, we got to play some rounds of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and talk about some of the games we’re loving today. On the topic of open-world games, his playthrough of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and my run through Batman: Arkham Knight, we both shared the same joy and frustration with each game.
Both games are the pinnacle of their franchises, with a grand history of universal acclaim, overall fantastic production and follow-through, and a commitment to staying the course through new iterations. Sure, both series have had their hiccups, but they’ve ultimately evolved into the latest generation. My one concern comes simply from excess.
Batman: Arkham Knight is, like its predecessors, one of the most fully fleshed out versions of Batman. You take control of the caped crusader as he battles the Scarecrow, his enlisted assassin (the aptlynamed Arkham Knight), and the rest of the Gotham’s Rogues Gallery. As you play through the extensive main story, crimes pop up all around the city. To take a deviation from your mission, you access the most wanted menu, allowing you to follow each case.
For fans of Arkham and the Batman lore, this is a fun way to take out new and old villains, along with protecting Gotham, leveling up, and being challenged in new ways. On the other side, you are treated to another menu, called AR Challenges. These allow you to tackle old missions and gain upgrades for doing them under certain conditions. This is what I would call a huge deviation: adding nothing to the game other than retreading your past accomplishments.
The main point of these missions is not that they exist to simply lengthen gameplay. There are moments in the storyline when you’re given “fresh air,” a moment when you can choose your mission. However, these pop-up all too frequently, as the game pushes you away from accomplishing your main quest while you wait around an arbitrary amount of time or perform a certain number of side missions. When a game is open-world, like many MMO’s that have set the standard for exploration, you shouldn’t be forced to do anything. Free-reign, sandbox, call it what you like, but it means the world is your oyster, not “go after one oyster in the distance, not this large shiny one right in front of you.”
A game like Super Mario World 3D World, albeit a different genre, hid its secret in the main levels, giving you the opportunity to explore but allowing you to decide. Games in the Legend of Zelda franchise never stop reminding you of your main quest, but allow you to explore the world at your own pace. A game like Deadpool kept the action going on a linear scale, allowing the story to play out. This is more important than ever in comic-book inspired games, as their basis and reason for being comes from having great characters and narratives.
It’s a slight criticism but many games on next-gen consoles are targeting and using the open-world, action-adventure, slightly first person hybrid approach in many current and upcoming games. For me, as a Legend of Zelda fan, I’m worried about the future Zelda. Will it retain a focus or will breaking pots and opening chests be what you’re told to do?
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