Why New Open World Game Suck
Before we dive into this, I should probably mention that I have a strained relationship with open world games. I generally find them to be glitchy, unfocused, and practicer-of-all but master-of-none messes. Some shining examples exist like Saints Row 3 and Grand Theft Auto 5, but for the most part I find open world games to be games full of promise that tend to crash and burn under the weight of their own promise. Maybe it is because I seem to lack the ability to delight in random acts of open world mayhem and get very little out of the slaughter of randomly-generated NPCs, but generally if an open world game does not have a fairly focused storyline to provide context for the world, I rapidly lose interest in the game and tend to not finish. I'm not saying I get side-tracked, but by the time I have gotten into the game, I am also usually over it as a whole.
Recently, I have attempted to dive into Fallout 4, Just Cause 3, and Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Each of these games offers a different twist on the open world formula, and each game eventually fell victim to slowly-building apathy since, by the very nature of being about exploring an open world, I never became hooked in any one part of the game. Fallout 4, which offers the best and most engaging story, held my interest the longest, but eventually I just hit a wall where I was either spending more time just clearing buildings looking for microscopes and old board games to break down into parts while listening to some random TV show on my laptop or trying to justify to myself why I was still playing the game since I eventually developed a bit of list of gripes with the game overall. Suffice it to say, I just kinda got my fill of wandering the waste land and then said, "Meh, I guess do not reeeaally care" about where I was in the story line and dropped the game.
Where I eventually got bored with Fallout 4, the very nature of Just Cause 3 and Assassin's Creed Syndicate pushed me away much faster since rather then presenting any kind of mission structure, they both relied on a weird mashup of on-map events and cleaning enemies from specific areas to progress the game. Both games featured event-framing cutscenes that I am sure were intended to help flesh out the plot, but more frequently felt disjointed and left me feeling like I has somehow spaced out and missed something important or made me wonder if my game disc was damaged and was skipping at random. In general, both games feature what essentially equates to wandering from area to area either completing a generic open world event or just kinda clearing out the area. Once you have done enough of these tasks, you activate some kind of punctuating event and BAM! Area cleared, onto do the exact same thing in another area some some slight variation on the back drops and area layouts.
In general, I enjoy the freedom that open world games tend to offer. One of my favorite games to date is Far Cry 3, and that game did technically feature a territory control mechanic. Unlike the games mentioned above however, the game also features a very strong, somewhat linear story backbone that utilizes the mechanics of the open world but still presented somewhat designed combat arenas that delivered a repeatable and somewhat controlled set of experiences. Where Just Cause 3 and Assassin's Creed Syndicate use area clearing and wandering into events as their main mechanics, Far Cry 3 relegated it to a side activity, a very beneficial and useful side activity, but a side activity none the less. Red Dead, another of my open world favorites, again features a very strong narrative backbone that draws the player in and pushes you forward while still offering a whole living and breathing world of side encounters and events to participate in.
In short, my issue is not with open world, but open world for open world's sake. In general I think they are chances for fun and inventive mechanics that allow a player to get creative with their gameplay. What I do have issue with is this new trend in open world games where they are slowly stripping out more and more of the game and sliding by on just mechanics. One or two games a year like Just Cause 3, that essentially exist to generate mayhem and .gif files is fine, but the idea that we are simplifying these games down to essentially a counting system that keeps track of your explosions and kills while providing not context or story framing is just lazy and as consumers, we should not only expect, but demand better.