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Free Roam: How do you feel about it?

Discussion in 'Video Games' started by Vigilance, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. Vigilance

    Vigilance Site Administrator

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    So I've basically stopped playing video games that don't let me free roam because I guess I don't like being controlled??? There are so many games where I think "damn, if they just let me do whatever I please" and then I'd be totally fine.

    Do you guys feel the same way? Or do you like some structure? What are some games you prefer free roam and some that you don't?
     
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  2. SnowboundBecca

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    Games like Minecraft or Skyrim that let you go about the game your own way can be fun, but then after a while I'm at a loss as to what to do. Then there are games like typical RPGs and such that have proper story structures, but can come off as controlling, give you the illusion of choice, and/or sometimes make very little sense ("But thou must!" and all that noise).

    Really, it could go both ways. It's all about the pacing in my mind. Breath of the Wild is a great example of free roaming, because as soon as you leave the tutorial area, you only have one real goal: Defeat Ganon. You can go there immediately if you want, with the only things stopping you being the tough enemies and robots with death lasers in your way. Other than that, you can simply explore the world to your heart's content and get stronger as you progress, without feeling too lost as to what to do next. There's always another shrine beyond the hill, or a Korok puzzle to solve in the woods, or more ingredients for cooking to find.

    Meanwhile, the Persona games are great examples of linear story progression without it feeling too controlling. You can still do whatever you want; go to the movies, train up your team, go hang out with that one guy in the adults-only club, etc. But at the same time you still have deadlines and exams to deal with as time passes, so the story continues at its own pace rather than yours. The games pretty much teach you how to manage your time properly without holding your hand, so to speak.

    But that's just how I think, hopefully that makes some sense. :sweat:
     
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  3. King Dedede

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    I love free roaming games like Odyssey and Minecraft. They’re always a great time because I can just ends around, explore, and experiment with different builds and doing some cool parkour as Mario.

    I enjoy story driven games but I can see why they can be kinda feel like you’re being held back. I’d love to explore the beautifully rendered world of halo but I got to stick to the mission. I still enjoy playing the games though.
     
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  4. PoserPanda

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    I don't mind the more straight-forward games, but sometimes the game can feel like I should be able to reach a place, or go where I want, when in reality it was not a part of the plan in the first place. For example there are certain parts of a game where levels or worlds are blocked by things like a jump that is just out of reach, or it turns out that you have run into an invisible wall, when it feels like you should be able to go farther.
    I guess I really do prefer open-world, but I feel spoiled on all the games that let me walk or run wherever I want to. Fie upon you, OctoPath Traveler! I must explore all the corners of the map, or else I might miss a chest or an awful random encounter!
     
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  5. BZRich64

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    Free roaming can be nice, but I certainly don't see it as a requirement or anything. In fact, sometime I feel like too many games these days try to be 'open world'. Some games pull it off, while others... not so much.
     
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  6. Wizard

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    Free-roaming is always a fun time, but is certainly far from being a determining factor of a good game for me. Let's look at some of my favorite games that have free-roaming, and some that don't.

    Do: Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 5?? (kind of free roaming, but not really?), Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spiderman PS4, Skyrim.
    Don't: Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Star Wars Battlefront, Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2005), Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario World.

    Free-roaming allows the player to traverse the world to their heart's content, but it can also carry a variety of issues. Breath of the Wild is a prime example of this. The roaming can be really fun, but I found it can get stale rather fast, due to the lack of things to do.
     
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  7. Kano

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    I love free-roam in games! Mainly because I like world exploration! At the same time, it's annoying to give too much freedom because things start to lose focus and become less clear. I love side quests but too many makes the game progress too tedious IMO.
     
  8. Jeydis

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    Free roaming is a double edged sword in gaming and requires a finesses that some game companies cannot pull off correctly. Free roaming should still have flow and not feel empty. Keep small quests around as well as interesting landmarks to intrigue the player into moving forward and getting to the next important story hook. Openworldness should not be an excuse for poor story, it needs to be a balance and the mechanics need to be designed with the open ended mind of the player at the forefront.
     
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  9. Vigilance

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    I think pulling it off properly is really important. I've played a couple games where free roam was there but there wasn't much you could do or even if you could it felt repetitive with little concrete variation.

    I do enjoy free roam more though cause I've never been a huge story guy.
     
  10. 1mightydragon

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    I do enjoy free roaming games like Minecraft or Skyrim but in order for me to stay involved and interested there needs to be a objective in the back of my mind that I need to work toward. Like in Skyrim there are a bunch of quests to keep things going and random events happening on the roads. However games like Megaman Zero are linear but I could enjoy them because of a good story.

    As for Pokémon Sword and Shield I am all for it having free roaming and Pokémon you can see and run after in the wild because walking in the grass and something just jumping out at you is not as interesting to me as seeing one of my favorite Pokémon in the grass, running after it then catching it after a long battle.
     
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  11. Vigilance

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    Yeah that's another part I hadn't thought about with the quests and all. I guess it's really important to have some sort of driving force besides just running around the place. Cool point.
     
  12. Neb

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    I don’t play free roam games often, but they’re always a joy to go through. Having the freedom to explore a game’s world in it’s entirety is just too appealing. Unfortunately with how oversaturated the genre has gotten, I wouldn’t be surprised if they start to lose traction.
     
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  13. Dawn

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    I think the illusion of freedom is important to many games, but I also think it is important to remember that it is just that - an illusion. There are very few games that are truly "free roam" because at the end of the day you still have to move on to a set checkpoint if you want to progress through the game. If you think of that, what's the point in wandering around? You're still on a leash, it's just that the leash will occasionally extend a little so you can see what is around. But ultimately if you want to really go anywhere in the game, that leash is going to contract, and you're going to have to do what the developer intended. Sure, it's nice to feel like you have a little control, but I don't think that is absolutely essential to a game where what is being presented is good enough to offset the lack of player choice, and nor do I think that a game that lets you explore is automatically better than one that doesn't.

    Basically, free roaming in games needs to have purpose for it to mean anything, in my opinion, and there are definitely degrees of freedom. This is something that a lot of video games that have free roaming fail to do - either provide sufficient meaning to that, or provide too much or too little freedom. I had a ridiculous amount of fun in Assassin's Creed Odyssey exploring the world, for example, but a lot of what was in that world was pointless busywork with no bearing on the overall objective of the game, and as much as I enjoyed the game I will admit that there were very few meaningful sidequests in it comparatively. Breath of the Wild lets you go anywhere too, but what it doesn't do is bother to fill the world with meaningful things to do - it puts them all in shrines, making your exploration utterly pointless. In both of those games I also spent a lot of time travelling to and from places, and that is unnecessary, pointless, and thoroughly tedious. I want to DO things in a video game, not spend all my time running/riding/gliding from place to place to do these things. It adds nothing to the game other than playtime, which gives an artificial sense of value and unnecessarily extends the length of the game beyond what it needs to be. Quality over quantity. There is no quality in travelling from place to place and staring at scenery...at least not for me.

    I would say a happy middle ground would be a game like Horizon: Zero Dawn or Xenoblade Chronicles, which allow you to explore and provide you with satisfying and varied objectives to complete that contribute to the narrative on a smaller scale, allowing you to get as much or as little out of the narrative as you want...and then there is Ys VIII, where the entire point of the game is to explore, and exploration is both meaningful and progressive - you need to unlock items and complete sidequests to explore more places, making it reminiscent of Metroid Prime or an Igavania title in that respect, which also make you work for your ability to explore. These are all games that fill every inch of the world with something, too - be it an enemy, an environmental puzzle, an NPC, or a major event. There is no wasted space, and whilst there MAY be wasted time, this is time spent exploring and backtracking through areas you previously struggled with or couldn't full explore due to lacking the abilities to do so. The best kinds of games will tie this into the narrative and make it a core gameplay mechanic, actively encouraging you to explore and making you feel as though you drive the story, rather than letting you off the leash before you eventually HAVE to come back to it, with this nagging feeling that you're just delaying the inevitable.

    Taking the opposite extreme there is Final Fantasy XIII, which funnels you down straight pathways for a good 80% of the game before letting you briefly explore, then continuing on. I didn't like FFXIII, but I would have liked it even less if it had let me explore for absolutely no purpose. The focus was always on the narrative, and even though it was a terrible narrative, I don't think that is a bad approach to take. The ultimate objective of a video game is usually to finish it, and there are many ways to do that. Many developers want to tell a story, and will want attention drawn to that story, rather than the world the story is in...and that's OK. If the story told is of sufficient quality.

    But if the narrative or gameplay warrants a more tightly-focused structure that doesn't really allow for or benefit from free roaming, I think it better that a game take that approach, rather than leave the player to wander around pointlessly before ultimately coming back to the main objective - something they are going to have to do in anything other than a sandbox game without an end or an MMO, whether they like it or not. There is far too much baggage in free roaming video games, and too many developers have hopped onto the "open world" bandwagon in recent years without a proper understanding of what makes these games appealing. Better to not do it at all if they're not going to do it right, rather than throw it in there just to appeal to current trends.
     
    #13 Aug 4, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019

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