I can say a lot about this year’s E3 with Sony just closing its curtains leaving me off with an empty feeling… but one thing’s for sure though: we are going to see a lot more open worlds.
Nowadays, open world games are much like any genre now: nothing surprising often overused. Ever since Bethesda gave birth to Skyrim, spawns of open world games flooded the market. It was the open world of all open worlds, the top dog to beat. Skyrim along with its brother, Fallout, became the top open world games of its generation crowning its developer as the king of ambitious world building.
That is… until The Witcher 3 came around.
Sure we have Breath of the Wilds and Horizon Zero Dawn already making a name for them, but they were nothing like Witcher 3 back in its era. If Skyrim was the brave step towards a new generation, then The Witcher 3 is the refinement of that step: it’s a freaking sprint.
Today, I’d like to take a step back and appreciate what The Witcher 3 brought to the table that defined this generation’s world building as a whole.
My friend and Founder and Owner of Onsbay, Yoshith Weerakoone, describes The Witcher 3 as the “Van Gogh’s Starry Night of RPGs” – a work of art that transcends the medium and defines the path for its successors.
“That as it may be, it’s not just about the money – the unapologetic passion that flowed into all aspects of this game is palpable, and that resonates most with me. I take a lot of pride in even the simplest things I do: things that mean nothing to most, but is everything to me. For example: making a cup of tea takes significantly longer but I take pride in the effort that goes into it. This game is exactly that for me.”
Do you still remember the days when only children were the only ones obsessing over video games? Well, I don’t. Yoshith further added:
“Every blade of grass, every region, every NPC, every town, every city, every DLC, every side mission, every story mission is just superbly looked into. No detail missed, no expense spared. So much so, that I imagine the guy who pitched this idea to publishers, investors and project directors of CD Projekt Red, would’ve had a conversation akin to the conversation that John Hammond has about the ice cream in Jurassic Park: “We spared no expense.
From the music that is so thick in culture that it drowns you in atmosphere, pubs and brothels sound like pubs and brothels of its time. A card game that blows any tabletop card game in real life; in the aspects of fun, depth, and strategy – out of the water. The environments are so closely replicated to the concept art, that it makes digital artists and environment designers blush. Side missions so intricately woven in and out of global stories that make the recent FPS releases look like a 3 second trailer in comparison to a 3-hour movie. Characters so full of life and personality that you legitimately want to be the best version of yourself: a character with such immense power in your hands.”
If Skyrim was the open canvass, The Witcher 3 was the paint and detail it needed to tell a story.
Open World as a Tool
This brings us to the point of the article. The Witcher 3 only managed to surpass Skyrim simply because of one thing: content. An open world game cannot be open world alone. An example of this is Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky – an open world devoid of anything. It might be old saying by now but with a lot of developers even AAA studios missing the point, I believe that we still need to drive this point deeper.
A bigger world does not mean a better game.
The Witcher 3’s legacy is not how big Velen and Skellige is. Its legacy is the tiny stories that bring the whole world to life.
I’m just glad that we’ve been recently seeing a jump in quality in games that use an open world. Titles like MGS V and Breath of the Wild showcases what open worlds can do if there’s enough content to play it. Even Horizon Zero Dawn despite being a new IP showed promise with its strong combat and very good mechanics – all these titles not stopping at “open world” as its main focus, instead treating it like a tool or a medium to convey even bigger ideas.
With announcements like Anthem, I’m excited to see what more gaming can do.