Body Harvest – Grand Theft Auto 3 – Far Cry 2 – Xenoblade Chronicles X – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The entire world is free to explore by the player and with large effect.
1. Bug swarms appear around areas leading you to places of importance [hot n’ cold]
2. Being lost
3. Point B (new weapon, ammo/fuel/health, alien processor, etc.)
4. Response time to alien invasions and burning towns
5. Warp points
7. Maps and visual markers
Grand Theft Auto 3
1. Enemy gangs appear around areas leading you to places of importance [hot n’ cold]
3. Point B
4. Response time
Far Cry 2
1. Aggro enemies in jeep show up in areas of lesser importance.
2. Being lost
3. Point A
5. Warp points (bus station)
6. Vehicles (jeep, raft)
7. Map is held in character’s hands
Xenoblade Chronicles X
1. Enemy levels may indicate places of importance [hot n’ cold]. Also light beacons.
2. Being lost
3. Point B
5. Warp points
6. Vehicle (Skell)
7. Map is held in player’s hands (Wii U GamePad display)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
1. Small environmental discrepencies appear leading you to places of importance [hot n’ cold]
2. Being lost
3. Point X
4. Your own pace. Optional rescuing of harassed NPCs from enemies.
5. Warp points
6. Vehicles (horse, bike)
7. Optional map and visual markers
1. Fortune – Bug swarms appear around areas leading you to places of importance [hot n’ cold][localizing]
2. Display – Routes, paths, short and long, muddy, contrast of avatar color to environment, being aware of your location. Persistence of time (day/night cycle, permanent forecast, etc)
3. Intrigue – What keeps you going.
4. Scenarios – Game-Time vs Down-Time. NPCs of interest.
5. Convenient Features – (warp points).
6. Movement – trudge through terrain vs devouring space
7. Map and visual aids – map chart, compass, go-to markers.
OPEN WORLD GAMES
I think these five games are a great foundation for analysis on open world games. Although, I played them slightly out-of-order, I found that no matter the order played that each one felt much different (distinct) than the other.
These games take fairly long time to play through (and I haven’t beaten any of them). I find the genre allowed each game to be left off of and returned to fairly smoothly control-wise and story/event recollection-wise but not necessarily a good idea to play them one after the other. So they were given space.
As there are a ton of categories to talk about regarding open world games, I chose to talk about three (3) categories: playstyle and arising events, fortune, and general observations / world design. Another part of game design is making mistakes in the open world and how these longer games become less restartable. If the game feels refreshable without major progression lost than the adventure components are less (i.e. platformers).
PLAYSTYLE and ARISING EVENTS
Moving through the world – Movement itself.
Play it your way? I found that Body Harvest is so fiercely difficult that deviating from playing it as a constantly marching soldier is impracticable. The controls in this game are fairly rigid forcing you to stand still to fire, no run and gun, and no jumping. Speaking of runs, there is a massive difference in doing a regular playthrough run, 100% savior run, and <10% savior run as I found out saving the game at a miserably high death toll percentage. Because of its high difficulty I found it best to take a break from playing it for a few days (weeks, actually). The game requires a certain “always on-call” mindset.
Now in BOTW, I played under an unofficial Hard Mode – 4 hearts limit, no armor upgrade. Currently have Mipha’s Grace enabled. HUD off. Good for soaking in the atmosphere (handheld is ultra impressive to see this game on but I stick to TV because that’s the better visual choice; i.e., bigger enemies look more immense on a large screen). Comparatively, in Body Harvest the HUD is always on – Crucial for finding vehicles, lost persons, and remaining alien bugs, and navigating through the thick haze/fog of war and screen-filling explosions of defeated enemies. Really good decision to have it always on, imo.
Anyhow, with the way I am playing BOTW, it made the divine beast boss fight really intense. The fight is a lot different when Link can be defeated in two hits and only has 3 shock arrows. Seeing multiple ice columns that I summoned to shield against projectile fire and their resulting destruction; having to jump across each one as they shattered to make my way within hittable range of the boss; wailing on the boss after many attempts falling off these broken up “ice bridges” into the water — all this was made a major impression on me.
In Body Harvest there are set warp points on the map you can use to radically change your position on the map, and as it’s a sci-fi game the warping works out well. The animation and sound effect of the warping are so distinct they’re impossible to forget. In BOTW, I don’t bother to warp. GTA3 is pretty much learning to play it cautiously for missions. Far Cry 2 I turned down the difficulty because of the absurd hitscan. Also, I preferred playing it by walking around instead of using the jeep, which is the opposite of how I played BH and GTA3.
Xenoblade Chronicles X ‘s world evolved for me a lot by turning the HUD mostly off. Then eventually turning it off further by removing the enemy lvls display, so no more number levels for enemies floating overhead popping up. And with the enemy level display off the game becomes based on a scouter style type of scanning for enemies before engaging them and also watching out for looming deadly foes — allows you to have your own “What does the scouter say?” private moment. Running out of enemy target-sight is highly memorable: the dramatic running from an OP enemy while your teammates fall one-by-one, jumping off cliffs to break the line-of-sight, save yourself to save the team.
I was most impressed with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it came to playing the game in different ways and Xenoblade Chronicles X when it came to paying attention (scouter style).
There is no on-screen timer, but if you don’t get to the place under attack people get eaten in Body Harvest [N64]. Alien bugs start attacking the locals and the more people that die on your watch you risk a powerful enemy and ‘GAME OVER’; once it hits like I think 50% on the population gauge a Mutant spawns, which is probably the scariest stalker enemy in gaming. The Mutant is extremely hard to kill, so you can ignore people dying up till a certain point. High death count makes future endeavors difficult. If you get 100% on the gauge then you get quite a dramatic ‘GAME OVER’. Body Harvest has your mistakes visually tallied up with the death toll; I have an insurmountable 80% in Java. Having a death toll by village area in BOTW would be absurd.
Falling — in water is practically a death sentence in Body Harvest. Losing a vehicle is punishment in BH. BOTW, though, is really cool in that you can “fish” out lost stuff. And don’t forget the ice blocks prior mentioned have so many clever uses. Falling — off cliffs in BH is scary; falling off a cliff in BOTW to activate the hang glider is fun. BH’s vehicles go through treacherous roads dipping in water where you hope the vehicle does not flood. Funny enough that the rigid structure leads to various “game breaking” exploits, such as the time I entered a base far earlier than normal by performing an extreme rolling maneuver driving a vehicle up a hill knocking against the energy barrier wall to tip over an otherwise unbypassable fence (and that fence is merely a person-high.) — to Link in BOTW tackling that fence would be a small-time operation; he devours space.
Both these games have a type of desolate world feeling to them. Granted, in Body Harvest you are constantly being hounded by monstrous bugs materializing to your nearby position. In BOTW there is little urgency felt in the world compelling your immediate and direct involvement to defeat evil, which means exploration does not get interrupted. Definitely think that playing these games with an appropriate mindset and in various different ways is needed for max enjoyment (or any enjoyment at all, if you are really struggling to have fun).
Had deviating impressions on a couple thing in BOTW; At first I was greatly annoyed to see elemental arrows presented in band camp treasure chests, for example. <-Meaning->. After you have destroyed the alien processor in BH there isn’t anything left to do in the area and there is nothing to play around with. No pass/fail. Pass %. Having to put down an evil entity for good to stop respawns/2nd waves that attack NPCs leading to ‘GAME OVER’ in BH completely contrasts with BOTW’s focus. BOTW is jam-packed with stuff to discover and tinker around with in “down-time” and “war-time”. A funny moment came about when I got carried away panic throwing weapons at a Lizalfo while jumping laterally around on a tree to avoid it: it picked up a fallen guardian sword and felled the tree Link was on in one slash!
Xenoblade Chronicles X
- Additional enemies drawn into battle.
- Nice to get new moves in the middle of combat that helps you win in a tight spot.
I was most impressed by the anticipatory super weapons in Body Harvest. (Really dug the starter weapons dual-wielding guns + knife in XCX.) And when it came to misfortune (i.e. ‘GAME OVER’) Body Harvest easily had the most memorable moments. I was most impressed by Xenoblade Chronicles X’s world. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild wowwed me when it came to terms of utilizing both aspects of world and weapons.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS / WORLD DESIGN
What in the world is there to do? And for how long? Secret indoor areas (i.e. compelling indoor areas).
- Activities vs Objectives
- Combing over environment versus altering it.
- Somber music with spacious pauses between notes matching the deserted atmosphere.
- Long gaps between beacons & shrines : Getting there vs Go there
Body Harvest has bug swarms appear around areas leading you to places of importance [hot n’ cold] nicely showcased with a real-time light ray shining down at a distance onto the field. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has small environmental discrepancies appear leading you to places of importance [hot n’ cold].
Whether you destroy bosses or not, there is always an inherent level of fun to be had through through character control experimenting with the vasts methods of moving Link around and interacting with various things in the world. When the alien processor in BH is destroyed the activity of bugs ceases in the stage area allowing you to restock all ammo effortlessly. Nothing to buy or play around with outside pivotal moments/events. Having events of anticipation like seeing Zelda, flying the Skell, constructing the super weapon, and so on to keep the player going are important.
I still maintain that the entire world is shaped by the player’s actions and with large effect. Being lost in BH is possible with the thick haze and strange landscapes but you really can’t afford to not know where you’re going. GTA3 has great atmosphere. Nice progression of action. On my playthrough it seems the action scenarios have crescendoed reaching the apex relatively soon outpacing the deeper story events (game’s cutscenes — something to find out for discussion purposes..?). FC2 does a great job at plopping you off in the middle of a place. Super ambient first person go anywhereness mixed with detached intermittent violence. It relies on this and dies with this. A fun little excursion. GTA3 and FC2 lack compelling indoor areas. In GTA3, it’s not needed since the routine of car jacking puts you in an “indoor area”, imo. No need for x2 of that.
Xenoblade Chronicles X has a phenomenal world with uplifting music and never-failing friends. Dialogue branch choices keep things interesting alongside low level enemies mixed in with high level enemies, which lead to a tense stealth segment through an enemy base not knowing how high the story enemy levels would be considering they’re supposed to be the elite enemies.
I liked how BOTW radically distinguishes itself from the other games in terms of having stuff to mess around with when “war-time” is off. I thought Body Harvest had a bigger effect on the whole level when accomplishing an objective (i.e. defeating the Alien Processor). Each game was impressive in its own way. I am most excited to return to the worlds of BH, XCX, and BOTW. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some unfinished business in the Java region.
Map + Wii U GamePad to launch aerial drone scout.