Open world games are immensely popular. From Skyrim to Breath of the Wild to Elden Ring, these games have given players the freedom to go and do wherever they want. Many series, like Pokémon with Pokémon Legends: Arceus, or Sonic with the upcoming Sonic Frontiers, are attempting to follow suit.
It’s here where I’m reminded of a quote from Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park.
“[They] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
So should every franchise be trying new open world games, or are there some that it simply wouldn’t work for? Are open world games just that fundamentally good? Or could it prove detrimental to some of the most popular franchises?
Let’s see when these transitions have succeeded. The most obvious answer here is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Taking a franchise built around key locations like dungeons, cities, and towns and turning it into one seem less open world worked great. Incorporating the Paraglider and fast travel allowed for exploration, and the map of Hyrule was so distinct with each of it’s locations that it still felt like you were exploring the map of other Zelda games like Ocarina of Time or Skyward Sword.
Another time this has worked is actually in the LEGO games. LEGO Star Wars, one of the most popular LEGO games, has levels connected by a hub world, but games like LEGO City Undercover actually manage to have large open worlds filled with features and space to run around and just have fun.
This hasn’t quite worked for every franchise. Pokémon, for example, has attempted to try open worlds twice, in the form of the Wild Area from Pokémon Sword and Shield as well as the areas in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The Wild Area was definitely fun to explore, but felt disconnected from the actual story, and felt more like a mini game tacked on to the main story. It was utilized better in the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra DLC, in my opinion.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus, on the other hand, had regions to explore with different subsections in each of them, but the story accompanying these miniature open worlds didn’t really lead you to explore, but rather just go from Point A to Point B. If you happened to get sidetracked with other things on the way, then THAT was where the fun came in; though its separation from the plot made the game feel as if something was missing.
What do you think? Should every franchise dip its feet in the waters of the open world, or should some franchises stick to their style and do what they already do best? Let us know in a comment, or hop on over to the Boss Rush Discord and join the discussion!
Image Source: SonicTheHedgehog.com