Traversing Open Worlds and How Bioware Missed the Point [Quick Read]

Published by 4Player Podcast on Oct. 16, 2017

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Submitted by: Liam du Preez

Just over 3 months ago, Bioware announced that it has put further developments and projects on the Mass Effect series "on ice". While this has left many of us dejected and understandably surprised, I'm sure we all know the smoking gun in this case: the subpar performance of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

It only takes a google search to find out why Andromeda became infamous in an otherwise strong franchise. Awkward animations, ugly models, and certain character writing choices aside, Andromeda, as well as the other Bioware title, Dragon Age: Inquisition, suffer from a much larger error, one being the subject of this quick-read: Bioware doesn't understand open worlds, and needs to leave them alone.

Open worlds are usually brought up in a positive light when they enhance a player's immersion. From Bethesda titles to Minecraft to even The Legend of Grimrock 2, open worlds provide immersive environments that players can spend hours interacting with. In all honesty, Andromeda has plenty of stuff to do and interact with in its open worlds; they just screw up an often-overlooked aspect of them: traversal.

While size can certainly matter to how an open world is explored and enjoyed by a player, it needs to have a means of traversal that works with the pacing and appeals to the player. Many times in both Andromeda and Inquisition, I found myself annoyed at how shoddily the player moved from place to place. Many of the breathtaking vistas and landscapes that these games showcase are oftentimes overlooked by how horrendously the player controls. In Inquisition, you walk, literally everywhere, with some fast travelling via loading screens in multiple, GIANT overworlds. But even with Andromeda's Landrover, I'm constantly driving for minutes at a time across giant red deserts in between missions. I'm not saying you have to traverse the environment at blinding speed, like the sprinting in Dragon's Dogma (which was actually great), but I do think that you need to be able to take in the size of the open world at a respectable clip, or make the journey an equally enjoyable aspect of the gameplay. Each time I awkwardly jet packed or trudged about these beautiful but empty areas, I felt clunky, not immersed whatsoever. These periods of nothingness detract from what makes Bioware games fantastic: stories, characters, and combat. I find adding situational story aspects to open world encounters, such as in Fallout 4 or Skyrim, to certainly help, but still appear formulaic when you spend hours and hours in these worlds.

Traversal is key to moving players around in open worlds. Whether you're sprinting in Dragon's Dogma or pacing in open world grid of the Legend of Grimrock 2, the means of travel is imperative to player progress and pacing. Bioware has made one polished game and one ugly game, but the main issue with both is that their worlds were not fun or easy to traverse. If Bioware wants to make open worlds, they need to find out how to make them more exciting, and less overwhelming.

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    2 years, 8 months ago

    Late reply, but I think I'm just worn out from all of the open-world games now. There are the Ubisoft games which end up feeling repetitive for me. But I didn't even play Andromeda I think partly because I was tired after doing everything in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Here's to hoping Anthem doesn't follow the same fate. :X