I attempted a conversation with a fellow gamer recently on why Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain didn’t need to be so massively open world as the creators are indicating. The crux of my position was that in such games with great freedom and endless quests the main story becomes fragmented to suit the addition of quests which are of little or no importance, basically padding and interrupting the experience. I tried to explain that the more compressed linear style of MGS4 keeps the already complicated story at the forefront.

My fellow gamer said MGS4 was not compressed or linear because you had the freedom to approach encounters in many ways so how could opening it up more cause any problems?

He has a point , but I still say there’s no need to add three extra years of development just because every other game has to be open world to be relevant and exciting. If story is important then the world just has to be smaller.


The same thing goes for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Once the glimmer wore off I came to see the game for what it was: a collection of bases from which I did fluff missions that did little or nothing for the story. There was no journey as there was in Origins. Origins, like Metal Gear Solid, let us go back to other levels sure, but however you tackled things it was basically a linear game.

In Inquisition they wanted to Skyrimize it, they said so often to the press. What we ended up with was a mix of Dradon Age and Skyrim that was neither a compelling Bioware adventure fare or a big exploration RPG. You get a map/list based world full of quests that help the Inquisition’s cause but do nothing for the story or character development. Most quests are filler and you have to force your character moments at the nearest forward operating base.

There’s nothing natural about that structure, the way characters get to know each other during a journey. “Freedom” denies us a strong journey and instead gives us an plethora of things to do and areas to do it in. That’s great for some games that are made that way from the ground up, but forcing the change fundamentally damages what is expected of the series. Obviously this doesn’t damage quality so much as the critics love the game, but you can’t deny this overseeing duty of an Inquisitor is not a classic Bioware adventure when stood up next to Origins or even the questionable Dragon Age II.


Freedom and choice always dull down story because developers have to make quests not matter much to the plot, opting to make them only opportunities to get stronger and gain things. In a more linear adventure you are making decisions on the fly that affect what comes up next and the battles are a part of the story while also making you stronger. Sadly, being linear nowadays earns you the title “generic” so there is little choice but to open up every modern game as the trend dictates.

Speaking of generic I should say a word about the upcoming PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886. Normally there would be more hype around this game. I think if it were open world, offering the ability to roam 19th century London we would have Assassin’s Creed comparisons and more interest. By being linear though, I’m confident the cinematic elements will be more compelling and it will bring a story strong enough to rival Uncharted and The Last of Us.


Open world is a very cool way to set up certain games but it’s starting to fry current games and could drag the industry down the way the requirement of multiplayer dragged some great games down in the last generation. It’s time to refocus on what is important for each game and stick to that. If exploration is critical to the experience then by all means make it big, but if it’s there for the sake of being there then it will disrupt other crucial elements.

Don’t believe me? Let’s all watch a real life test as Mirror’s Edge switches to open world format. It will likely be fun, but the kind of experience that original cult fans really want? Ehhh we will see.

David D. Nelson
David D. Nelson is a polymath with a BA in English working as an independent writing and editing professional. He enjoys gaming, literature, and a good hat.

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  1. “only single player” i totally agree, online games aren’t as fun as sp

    1. thats another oppinion i personaly agree… i didnt enjoyed the mgo but still never turnd me down that existed in the game. Still mgs is not ment to be played online… it looks alienated and strange. Mainly cause the mechanincs of the game are ment for stealth and they look stupid in comparison with other online shooting games. still its gona turn an interesting turn in this game cause stealth exist in online.

      1. yeah, it definitely depends on the game, too, Metal Gear games are mainly tactical, that means you should plan your every move, but in online games there are no tactics, people are just attacking each other. Lots of teenage trolls are there, too.
        But a game like GTAv is fun whether you play it alone or with others because it needs no special tactics, also, it’s open world.

        Phantom Pain’s single player is both tactical and open world which means it’s totally fun.

  2. I agree with this. Meaning the format should never govern the content. It should be the other way around, as you say. Think about what your game will be and create a format that fits. Don’t shove multiplayer in there if your game is mostly a linear single player story experience. Don’t shove a half-baked “story” mode if you just want to make a multiplayer game. Same thing with open world and every other element. Don’t do anything without wanting to simply out of pressure to deliver on all fronts.

    The problem is that triple A tries to cater to as many as possible, while ironically mostly staying within one specific demographic. But boy, do they want everyone within that demographic. So they try to add All The Things and anything they see is a fad. That’s how it happens with all the mainstream parts of any entertainment. It’s just that the bigger those get, the more convoluted and generic they end up being.

    So yes, please go back to the drawing board, folks, because you’ve created a monster you have no control of anymore.

    1. the worse thing is when devs spend too much time on useless things.
      ex, uncharted 3 3D mode. i am sure naughty dog had to scale down the whole game and visuals, so they could add the 3d feature. because the game had twice more frames to draw, there had to be some compromises. and i’m sure the antialiasing and texture compression were some of them. which means, uncharted 3 could have looked even better, if they hadn’t used, probably, 20 or 30% of their resources, just to use that feature.

      and i totally agree with you. make a multiplayer game only, if the single player will only be 4 hours long. again, the time spent on uncharted 3 multiplayer, the game could have looked like 20-30% better, probably.

      and why most games, today, have an online component ?
      because studios absolutely want us to go online.
      last week, i decided to give God of war ascension a second chance, and started -finished it. i was close to 70% completion, i decided to platinum it. around 90%, there was a trophy i couldn’t get, by playing the single player campaign.
      you know why ? because the trophy required using the multiplayer option, and doing a 1st combat with a God. 2 minutes.
      where is the problem ?
      the problem is, I HAD TO USE my online pass, to enable the LOCAL MULTIPLAYER option. it’s just disgusting. i never wanted to play online. i don’t play online. but santa monica just forced me to use the online pass, to be able to get my trophy. arghhhh

      and guess what ? on uncharted 3, there are a few trophies, like “go online, create a mp game”, or “go online, play a mp game, do 1 kill”.
      the worst thing is, i can’t even check which multiplayer options i have, like local coop, etc etc. WHAT IF i only wanted to check which options we get, with the multiplayer ?
      but no. the multiplayer is disabled until i use the online pass. again.
      and again, it’s disgusting.
      i wish there were some lawyers playing video games…
      why should they have the right to force people into going online and using their online pass, in order to get a trophy ? it’s totally ridiculous.

      soon, even a small indie game will ask us to buy/use some online pass, just for displaying/submitting our score to their servers.

      with all the microtransactions, broken games, half-finished released games that require 5-10gb day-one patches, in app purchases, day one dlcs, online passes, seasons passes, content available but locked on discs, multiplayer components to force single player gamers to go online, mandatory online multiplayer, single player campaigns becoming smaller and smaller, because of the multiplayer, like 4-5 hour call of duty SP campaigns, even the smallest and dumbest items being sold, instead of free, like a different color for a tshirt, etc etc,
      with all this shiit, and all the free 2 play craap that becomes more and more common, without someone or some laws to protect gamers, i don’t know where and how it’s gonna end.

      i think the worse thing is more and more people buy digital versions, instead of going to a cool store, and picking their game.
      this is just the perfect thing manufacturers want: a 100% digital world.
      i was hoping people would have learnt the lesson, when microsoft talked about their awful policies, and instead of buying digital games, they would buy physical ones, to be able to trade them, lend them, KEEP THEM. but more lazy people are getting the digital version.
      in 2017-18, if a new console, like a PS5, is announced, people shouldn’t be surprised if games will go 100% digital, without even a bluray player.
      and then, people will be whining, *ohhh, that’s not fair, bla bla*. too late.

      just like the people who have spent money on outfits for the fighters, in some capcom games, like a 1$ for some different tshirt-colors…
      just look all the craap we get, today.
      i remember reading in the last ass creed unity, some chests required some special options… options that had to be purchased with REAL cash, so people could open them in the game. wow.

      can we imagine a 2016 game ?
      just imagine you are playing an fps, you find a nice weapon, too bad, you need some special ammo for it… and that ammo can only be bought via IAP.
      or we’re playing a skyrim 2 game. want to go inside that dungeon ? too bad, you need a special key, that you can buy online, 1$ for 10 keys.

      THIS IS the future of gaming. sadly.

      1. I think going digital (not online, but digital) is consumer-friendly, if/when used properly. If you own a game, you own it. I am all for progress and digitalization, but not for using that as an excuse to remove the rights buyers have with physical goods. It’s the sneaky efforts to screw the people who pay you over that I think is the problem, not the digital form itself. People, not the tools.

        And yes, forcing people to be online who might not want to or be able to is an issue and the story campaigns are getting smaller and are often so repetitive you can see everything coming a mile away. Add all the pre-orders, dlc, a ton of “extras” which used to come with unlocking achievements and just playing and we basically have companies keeping games hostage until we pay a little more and little more and little more.

        Pretty soon, you will get 1/5 of a game for the starting price, with the rest of it locked behind “extras”. Maybe it’s already happening.

        So the more they add in terms of having multi+open world+a million other things, the more the games cost, the messier they are, the more they lack a focus and quality in any of their parts. If you try to please everyone (read: cash in as much as possible by screwing over as many as you can), you end up not fully pleasing anyone.

        There is room for such games too, always, but I think the business practices around them and their content are hitting critical levels of underhandedness. It’s more about a problematic system than problematic content alone.

  3. I think the worst games in existence are those that are multiplayer only where basically you can beat other players and advance by that method only. I have enjoyed more than 342 hours (14.25 days) of DA:I and I’m still not done. I never felt the massive number of side and collection quests took away from the main story. The story is no better or worse than any other game and once you’re at the proper level which only requires maybe 5-10 hours worth of side quests throughout the main story campaign you don’t need to do side quests at all. The biggest waste of an open world game is an open world that has no reason to explore. The very worst offender in recent history is Destiny. It has many fine production values, but being an open world game isn’t one of them.

  4. Summery of this article: “I don’t want options!!!” Freedom of choice doesn’t dull down anything… bad writing dulls down things

  5. We need another Fallout to come out and how everyone how a real open world game is made. Not like the tripe we get these days where we look at our map and there’s 5 million icons telling us what missions/collectibles/games are available and where they are. I feel like open world should be “here’s your world, go and explore.” Sure there’s a main story mission for you to follow and that’s about all it gives you.

    Otherwise you’re just following map markers across the map and that doesn’t seem very open to me because you’re just going exactly where the game wants you to go.

    1. Man falout and elder scrolls are one of my favorite games… it have nothing to do with the metalgear through. Mgs open world, gta open world and skyrim open world are 3 completely diferent open worlds which they dont have nothing similar…

  6. i disagree completely… mgs4 was a complete falure in many levels at my point of view. Especialy for the linear aproach and the sad dipresing theme… I know that metal gears is all about story but believe me the most awesome metal gear i ever played till now is the peace walker! The story would be awesome as always but should have many dephts and levels to undestand it and experiene it… if you think that mgs games comes out every 5-7 years this is the only sane solution. Mgs 4 was the only mgs i didnt enjoy to replay… till now im so freaking bored to play with it. Mgs story misions will probably last 10 ours max! After that?we will put the disk in case and wait another 7 years for the next? This metal gear would be awesome cause think how many times we would explore it and see the many faces of this masterpiece… Mgs is not a story being told… its a story you should experience! mgs 3… hunting animals and call the codec for laughs. creating time paradoxes… also in mgs4 it was imposible as fuck to have fun with the guards.. in all mgs we shooted their legs or make them suffer in mgs 4 it was imposible to have fun! i gladly saw this fixed on ground zeroes. in the end you cant feel like the big boss without his achievments… you should earn his tilte not just see it in endles videos.

  7. I agree 100 percent. I don’t have enough time to be traveling from A to B and wasting time in games. I want to jump straight to the fun part. Open World ends up eating away too many hours of my time with moments that are not fun. Sure that might make the fun moments more enjoyable but enough with the filler. That’s why I’ll take a Max Payne 3 game over GTA any day.

    When I was young I used to love open worlds; however, now I play games for a couple hours a week which is why I can never play any more open world games.

  8. I hate open world games with a passion. I also hate that kids use “linear” as a bad word. I just don’t get this younger generation of gamers, I suppose. They rant and rave about “freedom” and “choice” but in all the open world games I’ve tried, there’s nothing of real consequence to do if you don’t follow the little main story map pins… because that’s all open world games are – little checkpoints lazily scattered randomly over a huge map.

    …but my main complaint? The traveling! My god, kill me now. As if meaningless side-quest filler wasn’t bad enough, there’s traveling for more filler. Who the hell has time for this other than 20 year old college students? Shouldn’t you be working, saving money, preparing for life? I guess there’s enough of them living off of their parents or their student loans to move an entire industry? Anyway, how anyone can find staring at a screen blankly while you traverse gigantic areas looking for something to do fun, but not have the attention span to be constantly engaged in a story, is beyond me. I never have and never will understand the appeal of open world games.

    Basically, because of this open world craze, I haven’t bought a new console and I haven’t played a new PC game in years. If it weren’t for 3DS and Vita RPGs, I’d literally have to find a new hobby.

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