This is exactly why I burned out on modern open-world games after The Witcher 3, and that the first one to revive my interest in them was Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.
Because yes, I won’t disagree that BotW was a little too empty of varied content. But after being absolutely swamped with all kinds of trite content in big open-world games, of there always being some kind of objective around every corner in the likes of Shadows of Mordor, Arkham City and all the recent Ubisoft outings, the peace and quiet of BotW made me feel like I could breathe again. The world actually felt vast and spacious, I felt unburdened by meaningless chores (as I quickly stopped looking for Koroks once I saw the pattern of puzzles available) and for the first time in a long while I actually wanted to explore it again. Even if, in the end, there wasn’t all that much to see.
It’s why I never got Horizon Zero Dawn after playing it on my brother’s PS4, when I got my own PS4. I love that game’s world, but all the upgrading, collectibles and side content got in my way of just enjoying the world of the game. I wanted to get to the game’s main city, but simply going there burned me out so much, with its constant attacks by robo-dinosaurs, that I didn’t progress past it. It was all too full, too much stuff. I felt curtailed in my freedom to roam that place as I wished, a feeling that was hammered home even more when I couldn’t just scale a cliff to get to a pre-apocalypse logbook but instead had to do a stupid obstacle course.
If I look back on my experiences with open world games I remember that Fallout 3 and New Vegas left me feeling similar as I did with BotW. Many of the locations of those games are relatively unimportant, and just there as window dressing. The same goes for the Hyrule of BotW. What Fallout 3 and New Vegas did particularly well was telling little stories simply by certain environmental setups. Just a collection of props and maybe the odd document with nothing actively going on, similar apparently to that shipwreck in the desert of AC: Origins. And honestly, these days I’d much rather stumble across such little passive details, or just a quiet, neat vista like in BotW, and not have much to actually do once I find that thing than not have an inch of quiet in the game’s world. I really hope Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to respect that solitude, peace and quiet.
Speaking of RDD, RDD1 did really respect that solitude, and to me that game actually had the perfect balance of having stuff to do while still having a vast world in which you can feel truly alone. And animal attacks that didn’t actually happen every ten seconds.
Except the cougars.
Fuck those cougars.