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Ghost Recon: Wildlands Is An Example of Taking Open World Too Far, and Sets a Dangerous Precedence

Content of the article: "Ghost Recon: Wildlands Is An Example of Taking Open World Too Far, and Sets a Dangerous Precedence"

With a recent price drop on Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, my friends and I decided to revisit Ghost Recon: Wildlands. With upgraded Internet and a new CPU, I was ready to dive into the open world of Bolivia and commit to some covert ops.

What I discovered was an experience that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, in particular with the way Ubisoft had designed their open world. It makes me wary of the way open worlds are beginning to be perceived in games, and whether or not it's a positive trend for the industry.

For those who haven't played Wildlands, the game takes place in Bolivia, over a dozen massive regions that are all connected. Regions have unique points, such as villages, docks, small factories, and airstrips, as well as their own unique biomes and geographical features. Players can drive, swim, or fly anywhere, and complete missions haphazardly as they go.

However, just because the game is open world and allows players complete freedom of movement, this doesn't mean there's a lot to see along the way. Wildlands is an open world with barely anything to fill it. When driving along roads, you will occasionally run into two or three enemies parked on the side. You will occasionally run into a roadblock consisting of one tower, one heavy unit, and an assortment of standard enemies. Random missions will have you either defend a fixed point or capture and deliver a vehicle. Besides this, the country of Bolivia seems to be a large expanse filled with pretty hills, NPCs with poor driving skills and no dialogue, and cookie cutter villages consisting of the same buildings you've entered a million times before.

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While the empty feeling of the open world might negate from my overall enjoyment of the game, the constant emphasis on keeping it open world surely does. Let me provide an example to explain what I mean, by referencing Far Cry 3. In Far Cry 3, the player experienced a similar open world as with Wildlands, with similar checkpoints and dynamics. However, the open world experience was interrupted at times by story events that helped drive the narrative forward. There's a reason burning a field of weed with a flamethrower stands out so prominently years after playing the game.

Wildlands, on the other hand, fails to capitalize on its story by treating these major narrative events as if they would any other enemy encounter. Enemy "boss" encounters are treated as any other encounter; a fixed third person perspective in which character and story narrative is sidelined and to keep the open world experience coherent throughout. As a result, I found myself playing throughout the entire game without once listening to or recognizing a single collectible, mission objective, or any understanding of the way the missions meshed together.

Perhaps this can be blamed on the fact that the mission reasoning is simply spoken over the gameplay as I run back through the compound I just cleared in a monotonous tone, or because the objective marker simply says "CAPTURE" over a small yellow circle.

Now, this isn't to say Wildlands doesn't have its positives. Despite some bugs still present (silencers disappear at times and cannot be reapplied), the shooting experience is fantastic, and the ability to approach an objective from any direction adds to the appeal. However, the fact that barely anything exists between the objectives is where the game falls flat, and makes me question what is in store for open world games going forward.

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Over the past decade, the open world genre has expanded immensely, spearheaded by games such as GTA, Skyrim, Fallout, Wildlands, No Mans Sky, and Assassins Creed. What worries me, as a gamer, is that as open world becomes more common in games, and developers continue to try and build larger and larger play areas, that there may be a decline in the content of the open world. In my opinion, The Outer Worlds and Borderlands 2 provided unique solutions to this dilemma, by creating smaller areas, separated by loading screens, that allowed players to experience the tactics of open world gameplay while still creating areas that put emphasis on a specific character, element, or story arc.

To sum up my post, Wildlands is an example of Ubisoft creating an open world game, but having little to fill the world with and instead opting to pin-prick the map with individual events with nothing connecting them. I would hate to see future games take on the open world title to follow the same pattern, in which exploring the open world becomes pointless as nothing of substance exists outside of the minor points the narrative wants you to visit.


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