Open world maps tend to be something well respected and admired in fantasy games, particularly RPG’s and JRPG’s. This is because it gives the sense of a bigger adventure and a more important larger world outside of what the characters control. It gives the players a better sense of freedom and exploration to discover things for themselves and find things that might be completely irrelevant.
Finding several villages in an open world game can make the world seem more fleshed out. In RPG’s it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing anything whilst the characters act. Finding a few obscure villages and locations really helps this out, even if they are compulsory and you just happened to find them. I’m bringing this up because I want to present the other side of the argument and to say why this is bad, not in all games but just a few.
The main type of open world I’ll be talking about is the one where the character is giant and walks around massively. This means that theirs several icons on the map which show villages and different locations for the player to access. In bravely default an open world such as this is used for exploration around the world but it’s a little different. When you try and access a place that you aren’t supposed to be yet, it will turn you back in the opposite direction and tell you that you can’t go that way yet.
I don’t really see this as a bad thing, it’s nice to know that you’re in the wrong place by the difficulty and items needed to progress but it seems a bit unnecessary. I think that deliberately blocking pathways until story moments are unlocked can be a good thing to ensure that the player doesn’t miss anything. The only thing that bothers me by this is when you’re in a closed area and stopped from doing something.
I love the idea of exploring a random cave, finding a cool magical item and then going to the main town to find that you’ve already done what they would have asked you to do, it’s a very cool thing to happen. Outside of this I agree that it’s important to block places where you don’t need to be because you don’t know why you should be there; when I don’t know what’s going on in an RPG I quickly lose interest so it really helps.
I dislike open world maps because I really don’t like not knowing where to go and where I should be, I automatically want to know what to do as I don’t want to do anything off story unless it’s a known side quest.
Dragon Quest IX was mostly linear in this regard however my problem with the game started when I received the boat and had no idea where to go in the world. You could actually go anywhere and I was more concerned about doing the right thing in the right order and not missing anything. I played this a long time ago so I don’t know if it’s correct however it felt like I could have stumbled into the final boss room without realising.
Playing any game with a boat or air ship in this regard automatically puts me off just because I like the sense of direction and don’t have much interest in the world anyway. Final fantasy 3 on the 3ds also does this and I didn’t really enjoy that either.
The point is that I like direction and clear places to be and goals too have or I don’t really feel comfortable doing something that I’m not sure when I’m meant to do it.
I’m currently playing dragon quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King so I hope that I don’t run into any of these problems. The signs are starting to show with the massive open world map but I like the fact that you’re not massive and that theirs still plenty to do. I will release another post talking about my experience during this game so I’ll talk about this idea again in the context of this game soon.