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Video Games

Is it actually possible to have an open world game with a good or great story?

Posted 1 Month ago by ShadowFox08

Is it out?

I have yet to play or hear a game that fits for both requirements. The thing with open world games are that they are for the most part, non-linear. In contrast, games with great stories require linear gameplay. I mean how else can you follow through the story and have it make sense in sequence? Look at Zelda Breath of the Wild. You can go anywhere and face the divine beasts in any order.. and you have bits and pieces of memories that that you unlock, and they are bits of story that tell more about link, zelda, npcs etc, but they are at different times. In contrast.. Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword is extremely linear, but has a predictable and telling story as an upside.

And then I hear about the latest open world pokemon game that just got announced the other day that is supposedly open world with a story of some sorts, but remain pessimistic its going to have a "good story" if its really going to be an open world game like breath of the world. Not that pokemon games were ever known for their story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8GQ-K89614

So maybe it is impossible to expect to have a true open world game with a good or even decent story that you can follow through. They would have to meet somewhere in the middle. AN open world game would need to have some predictability to have the story make sense.

There are 17 Replies


Hm. Is interesting. One of the main "rules" in storytelling is that there HAS to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. There's a starting point, stuff that hoes on after that, and then some sort of resolution after that.

If we take it that human society demands that most of our stories follow that structure then maybe we find it's nearly impossible to sandbox something that has to start and end somewhere specific.

1 Month ago
Tek Shmansen
 

I mean, Red Dead Redemption?

1 Month ago
Cactus Pants
 

Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout: New Vegas.

1 Month ago
tnu
 

Is it actually possible to have an open world game with a good or great story?


Open-world games tend to focus more on lore, which can be told in any order.

Plenty of open-world games also have good stories though, such as witcher 3 or subnautica. There seem to be several strategies for this:

  • Have an open world but tell the "main quest" sequentially.

  • Tell a non-linear story. This is harder to pull off obviously because very few books are written in a non-linear way -- it can happen though. House of Leaves is essentially like this.

    The open-world game I'm working on (also procedurally-generated, which makes this even more of a challenge) uses a hybrid of the two strategies -- parts of the main quest happen in a linear way, and that's where the story intersects them. However there are also areas that are alternate paths or optional that can tell parts of the story in a less linear way.

  • 1 Month ago
    Riven
     

    GTAV was pretty good.

    1 Month ago
    S.O.H.
     

    It depends on what you mean by "a great story".

    There are a growing number of games that function drastically differently from the traditional structure. Games such as DayZ and Dwarf Fortress serve as a framework and engine for generating emergent narrative. While the quality is, naturally, not the most consistent... written narratives are also not all great. I think that open world games have to be approached with a different understanding than more linear types of games. I think that a lot of the value and verisimilitude of the open world game comes from fundamental systems and from giving the impression, substantiated or otherwise, that the open world is a living place. I think that this fundamentally changes the kind of "great story" that comes from these games compared to other types. The pacing is different, the methods of framing are different, the direction is different.

    Some of the most impactful and dramatic moments I've ever had in gaming came from DayZ, which almost has negative narrative. The world is so large, so absurd, so cold, so stifling, that it seems to strangle the story of the survivor as much as possible. You have to go through incredible amounts of struggle to make your story. That's one of the things that's oddly compelling to me about it. And when two survivors meet, it's an almost mythical experience on average. In my view, at least.

    1 Month ago
    CZM
     

    I really liked RDR1 and RDR2 for open world. They had a good story and I've enjoyed those games.

    1 Month ago
    RikaxNipah
     

    I mean how else can you follow through the story and have it make sense in sequence?


    Well, generally the way they go about this is they break things down into main missions and side quests, right? So the events that happen for the main storyline happen in sequential order, but there's a bunch of things you can do on the side so it doesn't necessarily feel linear. Or sometimes, they write it so that you have a few things that need to happen but can be done out of order, until it reaches a point where it converges. So like in Mass Effect, you can do Feros, Noveria, or Therum in any order. They're all required for the central story, but written and unfold in such a way that you aren't required to do one before the other. Yet after you do all three, the game then unlocks a single story mission to advance the overall plot.

    I think there are plenty of open world games with good or great stories. I think the question is more: is it possible to have a good/great story that is cohesive with the gameplay portion of the game? That I feel a little more torn on, and think it has less to do with being open world or linear and more just overall game design.

    If we take it that human society demands that most of our stories follow that structure then maybe we find it's nearly impossible to sandbox something that has to start and end somewhere specific.


    I would argue that open world, narrative-driven games do very much have narrative "acts" as it were. There's a lot of optional side stuff to do to pad game hours and increase certain feelings of adventure and agency for players, but that doesn't necessarily mean there is no beginning, middle, or end. All the Far Cries, Red Dead Redemption, Horizon Zero Dawn, Mad Max, Fallout, Arkham City/Knight, Final Fantasy XV - games with stories I'd argue range all over the good/bad spectrum - all have beginnings, middles, and ends, narratively speaking. It can sometimes take forever to get there because of side content, but that would be more of a question of: can open world games ever truly master pacing?

    1 Month ago
    Jet Presto
     

    I recall the amazing story from Twilight Princess, especially surrounding Kakariko Village. I think it's possible for parts of the story to branch off, for instance, "find the 3 pieces of the mask of twilight" could be done in any order, and each choice could have its own story.

    Probably the best example of Beginning, Middle, and End segmented is Paper Mario. Each chapter was essentially an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, with a beginning (entry into a new land), middle (problem with townsfolk/village), and end (fix the problem, defeat the boss). And all of them culminated into one epic grand finale.

    So, imagine a game like Paper Mario where you have to travel to 7 different lands to free the star spirits, then face off the big boss. But the big boss ends up being usurped by an even bigger boss, the stars have been trapped, and now you need to go back to each land to collect 7 of something else, each with their own hidden temples and stuff that you couldn't access before. You can have a story that progresses and evolves in what is essentially an open world/adventure format, with the climax pinchpoints as season finales that lead into brand new seasons. It's actually a concept I thought of for a Super Mario game that has you revisiting places with new characters and experiencing unexpected twists in the story.

    I haven't played through the story of too much open world games, but you can essentially "have it all" with the adventure format. It just has to be done in a compelling way, which can honestly be harder. Imagine: towns that were once small villages can spring up as the story progresses. Villages that were once bustling places are now brought to ruins. The characters you meet can change, become your friends, or enemies. Games can do stuff like this, but it seems rare.

    1 Month ago
    mariomguy
     

    Xenoblade Chronicles 1.

    1 Month ago
    Alan
     

    I really liked RDR1 and RDR2 for open world. They had a good story and I've enjoyed those games.

    I haven't played the RDR games or GTA V. How story driven and linear are they? If they come on switch, I'll likely pick them up.


    Xenoblade Chronicles 1.
    XB1 and 2 are not open world games. They are huge but very linear with a ton of side quests. Nothing wrong with that.


    Sorry for not responding to everyone btw. My inspiration for this topic is bots.

    When Botw came out on switch during launch, it blew me away. it was the exact opposite of skyward sword. I loved that it started out right away with little tutorials and that you could go anywhere. Really, this game was my first open world non linear experience! overall I really enjoyed the game, but the lack of proper dungeons and bosses, story and epic music left me feeling hollow. I played xenoblade 2 after and all those things that weren't there in Botw 2, was there in xb2 and it filled me up. An amazing story, character development and mostly likable characters, epic music from xb2. both are my in my top 3 switch games for different reasons.

    I'm hoping that botw has some of that open world and non linearity (go nearly anywhere any dungeons in any order), but hope that the story is much better and focused like Hyrule warriors:age of calamity. something like a hybrid of traditional Zelda and botw 1. I'm willing to sacrifice non linearity for a good story though.

    1 Month ago
    ShadowFox08
     

    The best place to find open world games with amazing stories is on PS4. Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, Ghost of Tsushima, and God of War are all fantastic story driven open world games. Then add in AAA 3rd party games like GTA V, RDR 1 &2, and many of the Assassins Creed games, including the newest installment, Valhalla, and you have the best collection of open world games with enthralling stories money can buy. I’ve tried to get into BoTW. I’ve started it over 4 times wanting to like it, but to me it’s just boring compared to the games I’ve listed above.

    1 Month ago
    FatalForcer
     

    I _love_ Horizon: Zero Dawn. I personally thinks it's a good mishmash of linear gameplay (starting place/home base, required middle story events in village(s), ending place) and sandbox (but go whenever you want, there's plenty to do all over).

    I've heard people say it's not actually a sandbox game because of the linear aspects. The only TRUE sandbox game I've played is probably Crackdown (360).

    1 Month ago
    Tek Shmansen
     

    Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, Ghost of Tsushima, and God of War are all fantastic story driven open world games.


    I _love_ Horizon: Zero Dawn. I personally thinks it's a good mishmash of linear gameplay (starting place/home base, required middle story events in village(s), ending place) and sandbox (but go whenever you want, there's plenty to do all over).


    I agree with both opinions here. HZD is a great game and the Story is pretty good. I wouldn't say the story is extraordinary as you kind of have it figured out before the main character does but it does contain a good amount of plot twists and character interactions.

    God Of War is also pretty good, though the story takes it's time to start moving along, and it also has a good amount of plot twists.

    Sony, for thier part, does a great job getting open world games with good stories. Maybe now that MS has Bethesda they will also

    3 Weeks ago
    Cyberpunk 2077 - Disappointing?
     



    3 Weeks ago
    FatalForcer
     

    The Cyberpunk user is me, somehow when I replied to a post a while back it created that alternate username somehow.

    3 Weeks ago
    Q
     

    I don't know that I've ever really played a video game with a story that was extraordinary, but I would posit that a story does not need to be completely unpredictable or unexpected to be genuinely good. I know HZD definitely does structure itself to have some twists and reveals, but that wasn't really the point of the story, so being able to figure those twists out or not doesn't necessarily make or break the story like it would in, say, an M. Night Shyamalan movie where the twist *is* the point. So if you figure out the twist in the first act, the whole thing is weakened.

    I'd say God of War had a better story overall, but that wasn't even that hard to see coming. Still was a good story, and I'd put it up there on the list of engaging and quality stories to be found in video games.

    3 Weeks ago
    Jet Presto
     

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