Open world games have been a dominant force this decade. As technology has progressed, these large sandboxes have become more and more detailed, stuffing sidequests and collectables into every nook and cranny. Some games incorporated additional content cleverly, with both The Witcher 3 and Nier: Automata delivering emotional stories that are heightened by the quality of their sidequests. Others did not fare so well, with Fable III’s abrupt ending disappointing fans and Fallout 4‘s dull dynamic side quests sending players running whenever Preston Garvey appeared. Open World Game: The Open World Game is a love letter to everything the open world genre is about, both the good and the bad. Created by small developer Morning Person Games, this high fantasy adventure has drama, collectables, fishing, romance, and more quest markers than Assassin’s Creed‘s Alexios could dream of.
The protagonist has been dropped into Exuvia, a world without a home. A high fantasy land full of unfinished side quests, incompetent assassins, and amorous companions, the player must save the land by searching for a way to defeat the mighty mist dragon Vothgarr. As the protagonist dives deeper into the adventure, however, they discover that the true nature of Vothgarr might be more complicated than first thought. By thoroughly searching the world, helping every NPC, collecting feathers, and studying amphibians, the protagonist can finally discover the real secret of Exuvia.
Open World Game: The Open World Game plays out entirely on a minimap. All that fancy 3D modelling is just distracting, after all. The player controls a large arrow, gliding across the map from marker to marker. Main quest objectives are denoted by an exclamation mark, which can be cleared by entering a sequence of four directional inputs. The main plot can be conquered within five minutes if the player travels in a straight line, but the true heart of the game is exploration. The map is packed to the brim with different icons: question marks for sidequests, hearts for romance options, fortresses for big battles, eyes for lookout spots, beacons for puzzles, feathers for pointless collectables, and more.
As icons are cleared from the map, the player gains experience and levels up, receiving skill points to spend in three different trees: generalist, speed runner, or completionist—these branches make challenges easier, movement faster, and give access to fast travel, respectively. Levelling happens quickly, and each node has an amusing description, with faster movement gained from an unintended exploit and general knowledge improved via learning a convoluted potion crafting system.
Once an icon is cleared from the map, a new entry appears in the journal which recounts the events of that marker, be it a side quest, battle, or date. These entries truly bring Exuvia to life, an amusing collection of anecdotes that both parodies the issues of the open world genre and fleshes out the world with a surprising amount of character development and world building. One passage will express the annoyance of following a character that is faster than your walking speed, but slower than your run, or the frustration of spending an hour climbing a mountain only to find an invisible barrier at the top, but the next might detail the prejudices faced by the fire elves or cast suspicion upon a party member. Despite the extremely stripped back nature of the game, I found myself falling into the same pleasing rhythm that I would experience from a session of Skyrim. That cycle of moving from point to point, levelling up, finding out more about the world—everything just fits. That the graphics and gameplay can be stripped out of an open world game and have the title still provide a captivating experience is amazing.
While the presentation in Open World Game: The Open World Game is simple, high visual clarity and great sound design work together to give a sense of place. Footsteps crunch over leaves in the forest, and splash through murky ponds. Each town has its own musical theme, a short but pleasing high fantasy riff. The interface is clear and easy to read, which is important considering the mountain of text available. I would have liked a few more options for arranging the journal: with 400 entries, scrolling down to new information can be fiddly. Perhaps an option to have the newest entry at the top would be helpful, or to reorganise entries by location the icon was found.
I really liked Open World Game: The Open World Game. I rarely play games in the genre these days because of the large amount of time they generally demand. To sit down for a few hours an explore every centimetre of a well thought out, funny fantasy world was nice. If you would like to support the developer, a paid DLC for the game exists that gives the player glowing armour (it turns the arrow’s outline yellow).
Next week, we will be playing Mr Hopp’s Playhouse, a side scrolling horror game featuring a very creepy rabbit. The game can be picked up from Steam here. Discussions are happening in the Discord server, or you can email me if you prefer.