Dialogue Options: Are open world games really as open as they appear?

Welcome to Dialogue Options, our new weekly video show where we put our gaming theories and opinions to you guys and we all have a lovely, open minded chat about them. Hopefully. 

Today we’re going to be chatting about Open World Games and whether they are really as open as they appear? Allow me to explain..

(Image credit: Rockstar)

I, for one, do not enjoy the ‘hours played’ feature that some games include. There is nothing more sobering than realising you have spent upwards of 40 hours on a game without even skimming the surface of the main storyline. But given that I was either born in the wrong time, or the wrong universe, to actually go bowling with my cousin in Liberty City, or ride my horse through Kaer Morhen, I’m left with no other option than to temporarily live in the worlds games have invited me into.

Picture this, you’ve outrun bounty hunters in Lemoyne, you begin your ride back to camp and come across a man who’s been bitten by a snake, you choose to give him a tonic (which gains you some sweet honor) and you continue to travel across the expansive map. You then come across some fellow riders and later, a man who has been bitten by a snake, you choose to give him a tonic (which gains you some sweet honor) and you continue to travel across the expansive map. Sound familiar?

I am well aware that just because a game brands itself with the open world iron doesn’t mean it will boast never ending, infinite worlds. But it does beg the question… The one that I mentioned at the beginning of the video... Are open world games really as open as they appear?

(Image credit: Sony)

The developers who spent days photographing clouds for Final Fantasy 15, or making an anatomically correct horse with weather reactive genitalia for Red Dead Redemption 2 might have something to say about this. But whilst I am not questioning the extensive work, passion and attention to detail that goes into creating ever expanding worlds such as these, it does seem that some aspects of these supposedly ‘open’ worlds can leave you feeling surprisingly claustrophobic.

A recent article from Edge Magazine theorised that the limitations of sandbox storytelling could be to blame for some of Days Gone’s shortcomings. Play it long enough and you’ll notice Deacon St John’s dialogue is incredibly repetitive and doesn’t fit the tone, or the task at hand. Constantly announcing he is going to clear drifter camps and hordes as you ride swiftly past them on your bike. Conversations had over the radio ending in ‘I’ll contact you again in a few days’ lead to the same person immediately calling back. NPC faces seem to come from a limited roster, and after saving a man from a car swarmed by freakers/ during a random event, I then saved men identical to him on four other occasions. That’s either a very unfortunate set of quintuplets, or a familiar limitation to sandbox games.

It would be remiss of me to say that Days Gone is alone in this, however. Far Cry also falls victim to repeating NPC faces. Borderlands is littered with inaccessible building entrances that aren’t so much locked, as straight up fake and GTA 5 will probably have you save the same man from a mugging so many times that you have to ask, why doesn’t he move somewhere else? 

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

And seeing as there’s a good chance that in the last three minutes I have attempted to drag your favourite games name through the mud, The Witcher 3, my own favourite game, is no exception. You might have noticed (if you’re a creep, like myself) that aside from main storyline cutscenes, every woman that Geralt has the option to... Shall we say, ‘romance’ leads to the exact same shots with the exact same woman’s body… doing its thing. Either Geralt has a very specific type, or that aspect of the game fell to the wayside. Sorry, ladies.

At the risk of repeating myself, which in this instance would be highly hypocritical, I wholeheartedly love the majority of games I’ve brought up thus far. It just seems a shame that so often the expansiveness of a map often takes precedence, over variety of random missions, events and characters you meet. Nothing breaks your suspension of disbelief quite like a shop owner spouting the same one liner at you every time you purchase something from them. I’m not saying every game should take the Red Dead Redemption 2 route where even the post office worker had three hours and over 50 pages of recorded dialogue, all I’m saying is, if some aspects of an open world game aren’t up to scale, maybe just… make the map smaller?

But what do you think? Are there any tropes of open world games that take you right out of it? And is bigger always better, or are you fed up of hearing the same one line every time you go to a lumber mill in Skyrim?

Let us know what you think in the comments below and I will see you there. Thanks for watching. 

Video Producer

Ellen Causey is the former Video Producer of GamesRadar+. She was chiefly responsible for recording voice overs and presenting videos for you lovely lot on a daily basis across GR's YouTube and Twitch channels. Ellen can now be found directing, editing, scripting, and producing video content for the wider games industry, and is currently creating fresh and original work for the fine folks over at Logitech G.