Most people rather enjoy a good open world game, hence why so many games that come out now follow that format. You could play these games over, and over again and find things you never saw or knew about in your last playthrough, you could meet characters that you didn’t know existed before and maybe get some gear or side quests that weren’t available to you in the past… They’re definitely one of the best genres for replay value. However, I found myself thinking the other day that I could count on one hand the amount of Open World games I have actually finished:
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Batman: Arkham Knight
- God of War
Depressingly I think that’s actually it. However, while the list isn’t extensive, and some are definitely more ‘open’ than others, I have played quite my fair share of open world games and here are the ones that I have not finished (off the top of my head):
- Far Cry 3
- Far Cry 4
- Borderlands 2
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Assassin’s Creed 2
The three key annoying ones for me on this list are Borderlands 2, Skyrim, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I am genuinely invested in the plot of these games and want to finish them, but I always get a little too into my side quests and wandering around not wanting to miss anything, only to then suffer from what I’ve been calling Open World Burnout.
This is when you get so overwhelmed with everything an Open World has to offer that you need some time away from it to play something a bit more linear, or shorter, for a while. You may come back to it later, you may play it on and off, but you need a good break from it every so often.
As the most recent example (and the inspiration for this post) let’s take a look at my experience so far with Breath of the Wild. I played Breath of the Wild for 9 hours straight once and achieved absolutely nothing in terms of plot, I was a little annoyed at myself. A) because time really flies when you play that game and I honestly believed I still had most of the day ahead of me, and B) because I could not tell you what I’d done other than run around collecting monster bits, cooking random stuff together, and finding koroks. I was just exploring and messing about and it felt like a bit of a waste. I haven’t played it for as long since, usually my sessions are max 3 hours and I have very slowly made progress but I get bored of climbing mountains only to find another bastard korok at the top shouting “Yahaha!” instead of maybe a shrine, or a fairy, or something cooler than an annoying, chunky stick chucking a seed at me. This all builds up until I need to take a break for a while. This is a problem I have in most open world games and it always annoys me. Granted some are much bigger worlds than others; Arkham Knight can’t really compare to Skyrim in terms of scale for example, and that’s probably why I actually finished it. Honestly, I do love Breath of the Wild, I think it’s gorgeous and fun in small doses but if it wasn’t a Legend of Zelda game and I didn’t have that nostalgic, loyal attachment to it I’m not 100% sure I’d still be playing it.
“Why not just focus on the main plot then?” I hear you cry. Well, wouldn’t that be lovely but every time I get a new quest I just have a desperate urge to finish it, every time I see a shiny thing I need to pick it up, even if I don’t know what it’s for but it might be important! I could be halfway to completing something big in the main quest when I’ll see something that looks like it might be interesting in the distance on top of that inconvenient mountain that will take me an hour to get to. What could it be? I must know. A temple? A crypt? *gasp* An incredible new weapon?! “Yahaha! You found me!” *Throws controller across the room*. I just really want to know what is there, what if it’s something I’m missing or something that would make my journey easier? Sometimes that is the case but unfortunately not that often.
Another thing that I find to be incredibly tempting in Open World games is to start them from scratch, making a new character with the intention of playing it in a slightly different way. “I just need the right character for me and then I’ll finish it.” You’d have thought the largest and most obvious change would be through alignment which potentially affects the plot, choices and even the items you can acquire, but I find it very hard to play as a bad character in games so my ‘different way’ is generally playing as a different class and race, going to different locations first if possible, that sort of thing. Some games let these impact your gameplay quite well (Dragon Age is generally very good at this, especially the different races), others may simply change a little bit of dialogue but otherwise not let it effect the game at all. In that case maybe my “right character for me” is just an excuse to go back to the beginning.
Other times I just grow to really hate my character. I played Borderlands 2 as the Mechromancer (how cool is that class??) and I had so much fun with her until, frustratingly quite far in, I hit a wall. Maybe I hadn’t built her skills up properly or maybe it’s down to an insane spike in difficulty but all of a sudden I was terrible. I would get through battles by summoning my robot and shooting stuff from a distance because if I was touched by anything it was instant death. If my robot was killed or timed out I was in deep trouble and had to hide until it was ready to summon again. All while being absoloutely baffled as to how I’d gone from kicking ass to hiding and praying I’d be saved by a giant robot. Not really the way you want to be playing. The annoying thing was I’d started a new game as the Mechromancer because I hadn’t liked my original choice of Assassin, and that my friends, is why I never finished Borderlands 2.
I think that for the most part I want to start again because I get bored of running around but I’m not quite willing to give up playing yet and miss the days where side quests were just around the corner, I could learn all these new skills relatively quickly, and I was being introduced to this huge, new world before being let loose to do as I pleased. You tend to start these games near or in some sort of village or base with a fair few NPCs to get you started, but as you explore you often end up quite isolated. Then you do stupid stuff like get so unused to NPC interaction you accidentally back-stab an innocent guard thinking it must be an enemy because you didn’t realise you were near a town and now you’ve got a bounty on your head, alarms go off, you can’t sell anything. Disaster.
Environment affects it too. Generally you will be sent to every area on the map in the main plot for some reason or other and there’s always one which is bigger, boring, and just that bit more grueling. In Breath of the Wild when I was running through the desert it seemed to take ages to get to the Gerudo town, I just started to feel a little brain dead and fantasied about when life was simpler and the environment was lusher at the beginning of the game. I resisted and stuck with it though. It might be something about deserts, in Dragon Age: Inquisition it’s always the Hissing Wastes area that kills me off. It’s an absolutely huge desert, probably the largest area in the game, but there’s almost nothing there. Luckily the thought of traipsing endlessly through The Hinterlands again is usually enough to put me off. Not always though.
I am always in awe of those that can thoroughly explore these worlds, finish the game within a reasonable amount of time and apparently not suffer from burnout. Maybe I just have a short attention span. I still enjoy them though so while I may be incredibly frustrating to watch play an open world game at least you know that deep down I am actually enjoying it in my own way. I really need to finish off Inquisition so that I can start on some of the expansion I bought ages ago. Before I do continue with the plot though let’s investigate the top of that suspiciously shaped mountain… “Yahaha! You found me!”
KOROKS AREN’T EVEN IN THIS GAME!!!
Do you suffer from Open World Burnout? Do you often restart your game? Are you a fan of open world games or do you avoid them?