Sandbox Gaming: Too much of something can be a bad thing

“We made a massive map full of interesting things and cool sites to see, how will we get our player to explore?”
“Make them collect 5 of something, over and over again”

This idea was once kept to the boundaries of your typical MMO. Go out see the world and kill x of every animal or being you can find until, eventually the killing for experience stop and the grind for gear began.

Unfortunately the more sandbox games get released the more of a cross over we begin to see.

Its been quite refreshing playing Uncharted 2 over the last month, a game thats driven by story content and the occasional killing spree in an ancient temple. I managed to sink about 8 to 10 hours into the game which for me is a good amount of time. The problem I find with open world games is you never know when to stop the fucking around collecting werewolf dicks and actually put sometime in the story.

Final Fantasy 15 has an interesting approach to the sandbox vs liner gameplay. They essentially split the game up into both categories. The first part of the game sees your driving around with your j-pop boyband – killing the odd monster, collecting the occasion special weapon and upgrading your car. From what I can see none of this seems to be getting your kingdom back its just helping you prepare for the final story.

However even Final Fantasy cannot escape the MMO trope and you soon find yourself killing monsters over and over again for loot and exp, and of course lets not forget collecting things. Earlier Final Fantasies like 7 and 9 had an open world feel to them but managed to avoid the unnecessary repetitive quest approach which seems to be plaguing new sandbox games. Even FF10 which was a much more linear game felt open enough to give you a sense of freedom.

I must admit i managed to spent at least 75 hours in Skyrim and again maybe about 50 hours in fallout 4. A game that in my opinion was incredibly weak. I also managed to spend the equivalent on Witcher 3, again a game i felt was weaker than it previous games simply because it was a sandbox game.

Too much of something can be a bad thing

In all these games i mainly focused on the main story quest and any secondary quest which i can find meaning in, like a little side story. In some cases i get bored of the game long before i even complete it. Too much of something can be a bad thing and this is probably my main issue with sandbox games.

After sinking 45 hours into Final Fantasy XV i managed to make it to chapter 13. At this point i was pretty bored with the game but having read that chapter 13 was just bad, i dragged myself through. Now i’m on the final 3 bosses and to be honest i really don’t give a fuck any more.

Uncharted left me wanting more, so once i completed 2 i moved on to 4 (i’ll go back to 3), however when i complete a sandbox game… well you can’t really, you just get fed up and do the last mission so you can say you sort of finished it.

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Uncharted 3: Worth the Journey in the End

So I finally dragged myself back to Uncharted 3 after nearly three months of abandonment. Holy crap it turns out that the entire second half is ridiculous fun. Sinking ships, scrappy gunplay in destructible environments, a horseback pursuit, crazy fire demon hallucinations. It’s pure bombastic AAA from one of the world’s finest studios.

So who made the first half?

Don’t get me wrong. Everything prior to the abduction arc was decent, and beautiful to boot, but it felt a little like business as usual, especially following on from what is in my opinion the greatest, most consistently thrilling pure action game of all time in Uncharted 2. The first half of Uncharted 3 instead gave us lots of static city and ruin environments to sit behind a piece of cover and play shooting gallery in.

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Even the much hyped burning building sequence left me mostly cold. It certainly looked the part, but played out as somewhat empty and un-interactive. Just another static environment to take your time walking through and shooting guys, only that parts of it happened to be on fire.

The game started to find its way once it finally focused in on its core pursuit arc and started having fun with it’s 1960s swashbuckler stylings, and I really hope the fourth instalment next year finds a way to leverage its new massive environments into presenting something as generous and confident throughout as this game eventually became, not just a more-of-the-same-but-prettier sequel.

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