Up until DOOM stomped into (and onto) the video game realm, Crysis was hands down my number one pur sang first-person shooter. And I’m not talking about graphical benchmarks. Crysis is also the first game that comes to mind when I think – if not this ‘open world’, then how are you going to convey proper player freedom? Well, you give the player tools. In this case, what might as well be the game’s central character, the Nanosuit.
The true beauty of the Nanosuit lies in its pro-active nature. Even its ‘maximum armour’ mode, although implying a reactive function, is more than just useful in defining one’s tactical approach, not necessarily response. In the same way as the remaining ‘maximum strength, ‘maximum speed’ and full cloak modes, it reaffirms the connection between one’s persona, or mere freedom of choice (“because I can”), and availed ways of play.
Very much like Crysis, Dishonored also builds upon ‘super-wide corridors’ rather than a world completely blown-open. As a result, it won’t have one clearing icons or running around collecting shit. Backtracking or revisiting a familiar spot won’t feel like a tedious chore, it won’t explode underneath the narrative’s intended pace.
Unlike Crysis though, Dishonored introduces farther-reaching consequences of one’s actions. Not only does player’s choice between pacifist or killing-spree approaches ever so slightly alter the world, it changes the play-by-play’s conclusion. Thus, the players aren’t just able to invest themselves even deeper, they’re compelled to think and act outside of what feels natural to them – kill everyone, see what happens. Why the fuck not?
Mass Effect Trilogy
One of the most overused arguments in defending the tedious crap that is the ‘modern’ triple-A take on open world games is “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Well, meet Mass Effect trilogy, if you please.
I don’t even remember the (anti)climax to Commander Shepard’s story. But I can’t help feeling that everything leading up to it was a story I helped tell. At the end of it, I wasn’t left with a stash of ‘rare loot’ or a bunch of ‘completionist’ achievements. I was left with a memory to the factual and emotional value of which the game’s developer and I have contributed in equal measure. Now you tell me which one of the two above is utterly meaningless.
Crysis, Dishonored, and (since I have to pick one, right?) Mass Effect 2, all sit easily in my top 10 games I have ever played. All represent what player agency means, how it works, in almost newtonian manner. All tell stories of as much their protagonists as those of the player. All are open invitations to play an extensive variety of tools the way one prefers. All carry a ton of optional content. None are open world.
Is all I’m sayin’.