Even after releasing just last week, the thrilling adventure I was expecting to have with Just Cause 3 just ended up being a sense of open world fatigue.
I fell hard for the pre-release hype for Just Cause 3. Featuring a bunch of cool trailers like the one Avalanche Studios put out called Firestarter, and the promise of causing all out chaos in a beautiful world called Medici, I was ready to dive in. Playing a game that didn’t take itself too seriously after a long stretch of realistic/military shooters and games that tried to tell a serious story was another big reason why Just Cause 3 stood out to me. For a game which has enough explosions that would even make filmmaker Michael Bay blush, Just Cause 3 unfortunately didn’t quite provide the experience I was looking for.
While the world was indeed beautiful and it was fun using the tools available to action hero Rico Rodriguez, after a couple of hours with the game, I started to get a sense of familiarity with it as a result of its gameplay mechanics. While the game does have dedicated campaign missions, the main gameplay hook with Just Cause 3 is liberating settlements across the fictional country of Medici. This involves doing things like destroying government equipment such as loud speakers, satellite dishes, and even taking over enemy outposts. Sound a little familiar?
Within the past few years, there have been a ton of open world games to feature a gameplay mechanic where the player would be forced to either capture territory from an enemy faction or reduce an enemy threat in a zone to eventually free it. The biggest examples come from the last couple of games in the Saints Row and Far Cry franchises, tasking players with capturing outposts to remove enemy control from a portion of the map.
More recently, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate introduced a similar mechanic where players could reduce Templar control in various London boroughs by completing side missions and then taking out the Templar agent in charge. Even Batman Arkham Knight got in on the territory control aspect with side missions that revolve around destroying their checkpoints and towers around the city belonging to the Arkham Knight’s militia. When did territory control become such a crutch for open world games?
It should be noted that there are a few outliers to this trend. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt introduced players to a massive and sprawling world controlled by different factions. Instead of worrying about joining a faction and wiping out the others, players simply worried about earning coin, finishing quests, and taking in all there was to do in that world. The same applies for the recently released Fallout 4 which also has varying factions all with their own beliefs. Players were free to help or fight against any one of them as they pleased, and doing so wouldn’t affect any sort of influence or occupation percentage.
With the popularity of open world games continuing to skyrocket, there’s no shortage of open world games on the horizon for 2016. The first major game is coming from Ubisoft with FarCry Primal, a game that was announced in the past few months through a CG trailer and minimal details. Gamers recently got their first look at the game thanks to The Game Awards 2015, and there does appear to be some outpost capturing going on. I’ll fully admit, the premise for this game is cool where the player is thrown into the Stone Age, but I have a feeling that the mechanics will rely on the tried and true methods of past games in the franchise. I hope I’m wrong, however.
Tom Clancy’s The Division, another game from Ubisoft, primarily features an open world New York City that has fallen to a biological outbreak and players must work to try and restore order. So far fans have seen combat against the AI and other players in the PvP area called the Dark Zone. In terms of traditional gameplay elements, it’s still unknown with how players will be making a difference. The same can be said for Homefront: The Revolution, a game that’s had a tumultuous development cycle to say the least. The player is fighting back against an enemy that has taken over the United States, so territory conquest seems like a viable option, but here’s hoping for something a little more unique.
What do you think of this open world trend? Has it gotten stale for you or are you still enjoying it? I’m curious to hear your thoughts below in the comments.