When it comes to Open World game designs, the industry has come a long way. Over the years, there’ve been a few titles that have changed the way I view gaming and it wouldn’t feel right jumping into what gamers can expect in 2017 without paying some homage to what developers accomplished in 2016 and prior.
One of the first Open World games I ever got into was Grand Theft Auto. No, I don’t mean Grand Theft Auto 4 or 5. I’m talking about some of the first Grand Theft Auto games that ever came into existence. I mean the GTA that wasn’t even released to consoles initially.
Not until 1997 when it was ported to the PlayStation. Let’s have a look at what the first GTA looked like.
If you’re wincing at the sight of that image, you were probably born in the late 90s. Fair enough. But this game showed me some good times back in the day.
Anyway, I won’t bore you with the nostalgia. Let’s take a recap of some of the best Open World titles that were released in 2016. Don’t worry, I’ll be getting into the titles for the upcoming year as well.
Forza Horizon 3
I’m not big on this franchise. Actually, I’m not very familiar with it at all. I’ve never been big on racing games, but I’ve had a fling here or there with a few of them.
Split Second I thought was cool, but I was never crazy about it. Forza Horizon 3’s level designs do bring some dynamics to the genre, though. And I’m willing to include any title that offers something interesting to the gaming experience—even if it’s not something I’d usually get into.
The levels include great weather effects, and impressive detail on foliage and beaches. The developer’s attention to detail is really something to be praised.
If a crime-ridden New Orleans sounds like it might tickle your fancy, you’re in luck with Mafia 3. Roaming the detailed and violent Open World of the American 1960s is made ever more controversial by the fact that you’re not white.
The devs were kind enough to add some character to the world, by including NPC shopkeepers who are racist, and the occasional locale who isn’t exactly open-minded either.
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 1 wasn’t exactly groundbreaking story-wise. The main character had the personality of a toothpick, and the plot was about as exciting as counting raindrops.
That aside, it is a solid game and so is the sequel. Most of the credit due to Ubisoft’s efforts in recreating Chicago (in part one) and San Francisco in the current title. At face value, the worlds are detailed and believable, but the interactions are what help this game shine.
As long as a device has a microchip in it, you’re free to hack away. Seriously, you can intercept people’s text messages, hack their mobile phones and laptops or orchestrate terrible car accidents. Actually, Watch Dogs 2 sounds like the perfect game for a sociopath. And it’s all thanks to some solid world building on the part of the developers.
Far Cry Primal
I was never one to understand the Far Cry hype. I thought I would for a long time. Until I actually bought Far Cry 3, and played it once, then made it a priority to avoid the game thereafter. I usually pick up shooters for the online experience. There’s just something about punishing noobs and racking up kills that gets me going.
However, the multiplayer aspect was lacking. When I saw Fra Cry Primal in early 2016, I believe it was a first impressions video uploaded by The Black Hokage, I was even more disappointed with Primal than I had been with the previous title.
Luckily, this list isn’t focusing on the average multiplayer of Far Cry 3 or the stick poking action of Far Cry Primal. Both games have mind-blowing open worlds that make for an immersive experience for players.
I mean it would probably take you actual HOURS to make your way across the map of Far Cry Primal. Yes, hours in real life. You can hunt a myriad of beasts. After each kill, their location becomes highlighted on the map by a cute little animal icon that kindly reminds you that’s where you can find the little buggers.
You can swim in dangerous rivers and hunt crocs. You can have epic tribal battles in the snow. Like I said, I’m far from a fan of the franchise, but I can’t be mad at its Open World potential.
If you’ve had your fill of the games we’re all mostly familiar with, don’t mind me if I get into some of the games that can be expected in 2017.
Open World Games coming in 2017
State of Decay 2
If you’re familiar with State of Decay 1, then you know its atmosphere is all about making you feel like the world has gone to the dogs. And by dogs I mean flesh eating zombies. You can expect that State of Decay 2 will take much pleasure in bringing that air of death, destruction, and zombie madness to players with more potency than its predecessor.
If you like treading across creepy Open World grass fields at night with the fear of a zombie jumping out the bushes and sinking its nasty teeth into the flesh of your neck, 2017 will be a very exciting year for you.
A world designed to make players feel as though they’ve ‘sunken’ into despair. Sinking City aims to encapsulate Lovecraftian Horror which thrives off mankind’s fear of the unknown. The atmosphere of the game (based on what we can see so far) attempts to stay true to that.
Not sure if I’m the best judge on anything fictional being remotely scary. I mean I did laugh my way through the Exorcism of Emily Rose. In any case, the ‘unknown’ is an unsurprisingly effective prospect to be hooked on.
I love the way the player and NPCs float across what appears to be a city turned into a huge river by some bizarre and possibly unnatural flood, on top of boats the poor bastards probably had to make themselves. The air is thick with mystery and a daunting sense of hopelessness.
So if you’re into that stuff, the devs definitely have your best interest at heart.
Lost Soul Aside
Lost Soul Aside doesn’t have much going for it save for some of the visuals—especially where the backgrounds are concerned. At least so long as the previews and trailers aren’t deceiving us. This was actually made by a lone developer called Yang Bing. Apparently, the visuals are supposed to be influenced by Final Fantasy—but I actually get more of a Devil May Cry vibe from the footage.
More specifically, the character design is highly reminiscent of Dante. Not to mention the gameplay. Although, FFXV’s gameplay is somewhat similar to Devil May Cry as well—in a sense!
I find DMC as enjoyable as smashing my head against a brick wall but Lost Soul Aside shows some promise—cheesy dialogue and voice acting aside.
There isn’t much revealed but we see the character and his weird floating dragon monster traverse various landscapes—valleys, deserts, vast fields and ancient ruins. I can see people excited to bolt across unknown terrains with a view of what I assume are giant chunks of rocks magically floating in the sky.
Metal Gear Survive
I was a huge fan of the very first Metal Gear Solid, so whenever they release a new game—there’s a good chance I’ll at least look at it. Naturally, when I heard about Metal Gear Survive I did just that.
Turns out this is more of a spin-off than an actual Metal Gear Solid game.
As opposed to the whole Solid Snake wanting to kill Liquid Snake throughout a series of missions spread across intense and suspense-filled level designs, littered with the most suspecting baddies who still never seem to get anything done—you are now being teleported into other worlds.
Even weirder, you’re going there to fight zombies.
From what I’ve seen of these other worlds, you can get thrown into mist-shrouded kill zones teeming with flesh-eating monsters. Or a remote location speckled with rundown houses, patches of burnt grass, and all the more flesh eating monsters.
This is the first time in a long time that Konami has grabbed my attention. As for the die-hard Metal Gear fans—judging by the dislike bar on YouTube I’d say they’re not too happy about this one.
I knew nothing about this series until recently. Seeing as it’s an Xbox exclusive, I can hardly say I’m surprised. So I did a bit more research on the company behind the game and what it’s really about.
Crackdown always thrived to give players an immersive experience. You could always make use of props in the world, whether vehicles or just about anything you can turn into a shield or weapon.
The devs thought they had to come better in the 3rd title in the series, and they just may have pulled it off. Now players can bring buildings into the mayhem.
Crackdown seems filled with the potential for epic shootouts and tons of chaos, as huge buildings crumble all around you and you lace the opposition with bullets.
It’s the Matrix with a touch of Final Fantasy for good measure.
Machines have taken over the world, the earth is hostile. Skyscrapers are being bear-hugged to death by giant vegetation. You’re smack middle in all of this chaos and violence and the world couldn’t get any more beautiful.
Nier Automata doesn’t look perfect to me. But it does stand out among the crowd. The character designs aren’t innovative by anyone’s standards. But the world building and robot designs do make up for it.
The overall aesthetic has a ‘bleached’ overtone and while the world design does seem a bit monochromatic, it is enrapturing.
Apparently, Square Enix actually has some part in this. I’ve been praying for years that they just stay away from gaming from now on. But seeing as this does look promising (and it’s not a Final Fantasy) I guess this is okay.
Before I close off on Nier Automata, I have to talk about the music. What I’ve heard so far is really amazing. They’ve managed to weave the music seamlessly into the bleached and atmospheric world, achieving a good deal of nostalgia for me personally.
Just by watching gameplay footage, I feel as if I’m being flung back to when I would dabble in Japanese RPGs. I’ve learned since my noob days with Final Fantasy—music can make all the difference in your game.
Horizon Zero Dawn
If there had to be one game and one game only that I’m looking forward to in 2017—it’s Horizon Zero Dawn. Another world overridden by machines and the whole nine. But the truth is not even Nier Automata quite stacks up to all the hype crammed into what I’m hoping will be a masterpiece.
A thousand years into the future, you play as a badass female hunter who rocks a futuristic bow and arrow and fur—the latter of which is impossible as there seem to be no real animals around. But that doesn’t matter because the game looks awesome.
You get to travel fierce and seemingly unmanned terrains. I particularly like what Guerrilla Games achieved with the lakes surrounded by stalking trees that rain leaves down while you hunt robo animals.
I’m still not entirely sold on the new generation of gaming. But most of the Open World games that come our way these days tend to excel in terms of world design. There’s this ‘charm’ from older gen games that I still think is lacking in a lot of games today.
In any case, I’m looking forward to the New Year and what the Open World titles will offer. What about you?
Did you enjoy the titles released in 2016? Do you think 2017 will be an improvement?
What games are you looking forward to the most?