When it comes to the most popular genres in the video game medium, open world sandboxes rank among the most popular and successful. Everything from Saints Rowto The Legend of Zelda series have adopted the format, dropping players in an endless open environment to let them make their own fun. Taking place in such wide landscapes means traversal is very important, and how it needs to strike a good balance between accessibility and enjoyment. PlayStationexclusive games have begun to adopt this open world format as well, taking the genre into new directions thanks to the many styles and characters that inhabit these games.
Horizon: Zero Dawn and Marvel's Spider-Man in particular are both shining examples of the best that PlayStationgames have to offer in terms of open world traversal. Both of these titles feature living open world environments, but what makes them stand apart from so many other similar games in the genre is how the game lets the player explore the world around them. This emphasis on making every waking second enjoyable by simply interacting with the game world makes a significant impact on the overall game, something which other open world games should aspire to.
Open Worlds – The Long, Lonely Roads
Open world games are a great blueprint for developers to be able to pack in as much content as possible, and give players enough freedom to live out their wildest fantasies. However, this approach to game design can be a double-edged sword, whereby allowing the player that much freedom can also be a tad excessive. Assassin's Creed Valhalla's game world for example is absolutely gargantuan, with vast open oceans and lush forest landscapes. While an impressive technical feat, the issue can be that objectives are too sporadically spread out across the map, and the player lacks more interesting methods to reach these destinations aside from walking or by horse.
The argument can be made that fast travel is implemented into all of these games, easing a lot of the backtracking and travel distance between areas. While true, it does beg the question what the purpose is at all of providing players with such a massive, detailed environment, if they will also be compelled to skip most of it once the option is accessible. PlayStation games have made an effort to think outside the box, with Marvel's Spider-Man and Horizon: Zero Dawn do make a considerable effort to stand out from the rest of the pack when it comes to open world exploration.
Ride a Metal Machine/Do Whatever a Spider Can
Grand Theft Auto is an example of a great open world series. As impressive as it may be, the way in which each game is explored hasn't changed much from game to game. The player is give access to a variety of vehicles such as motorcycles and sports cars, and while fun to use, aren't exactly breaking the mold. The same can be said for other franchises like Just Cause and Saints Row, all games taking place in a semi-realistic take on reality. PlayStation games have opted to embrace the bizarre, otherworldy and supernatural for its open world titles, and this is nowhere more evident than with Horizon: Zero Dawn and Marvel's Spider-Man.
Game development takes a long time, with these big budget titles often taking years to complete. For all of the effort put into making locations looks as visually stunning as possible, it would be important to ensure that players take time to properly take in all the sights. Marvel's Spider-Man does a commendable job in letting players jump into the wall-crawler's shoes, diving off skyscrapers and pulling off dazzling aerial acrobatics with relative ease. Insomniac translated the momentum and speed that Spidey moves incredibly well. Fast travel is available in the game, but players that settle into a good webslinging flow can easily cruise across the map in a few minutes flat.
Horizon: Zero Dawn takes full advantage of its sci-fi setting and themes, implementing them into the open world exploration as well. Rather than simply having the player trek on foot across the vast open areas in the game, the player is placed in the position of a character who would need to learn skills to survive in a world like this. The various machines in Horizon: Zero Dawn, clearly modeled after animals in our own world, can be overriden and mounted as a means of transport. Even the concept of climbing towers to expand visible terrain on a map is tackled creatively, with players having to climb a giant machine while it's moving.
Open world games are in large abundance nowadays, and its more crucial than ever to stand out from the pack. PlayStation has made a considerable effort to try and differientiate its first party content. Taking unique angles to navigation has been a pivotal part of each game's success and added to the overall fun factor. Once again, this is not discredit other open world franchises, but if a studio is crafting such a massive open world, then it should be designed in a way where players can enjoy the moment to moment travelling between destinations.