Open world games have been around for a long time, and I have a decent amount of experience with the genre. While I haven’t played major titles like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout or The Witcher, I have played a few others. The Batman Arkham games, the Infamous games, Grand Theft Auto, Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 3, these are some of the open world games I’ve played and really enjoyed, (and I’ve always wanted to play Sunset Overdrive, but I’m a PlayStation guy). One of the most crucial requirements of any open world game is making sure the world has fun things to do. But another important aspect that should not be over looked is how players can move around the world.
Planes, Trains And Automobiles
Most open world games provide vehicles as the player’s primary form of transportation. Games like Grand Theft Auto allow the player to drive cars, boats and planes, while games that feature a setting devoid of modern technology such as Red Dead Redemption and The Elder Scrolls allow the player to ride horses. All open world games of this nature feature similar methods of transportation, but the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation of consoles saw the rise of a new type of open world game, one that puts traversal in the hands of the characters.
Some of the most popular open world games of last generation were superhero open world games. The biggest one is obviously the Batman Arkham series, but there’s also the Infamous and Prototype series. It’s important to note that superhero open world games didn’t start with this generation, this is just the one where they really came into their own. Superhero open world games raise and answer an interesting question: instead of giving the player a ton of vehicles to choose from, how about we give the playable characters really cool traversal tools.
Lately I’ve been playing Gravity Rush Remastered for the PlayStation 4. I’m not super deep into the game, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve played so far. The game has a really cool world to explore, and it honestly surprises me that the developers were able to make the original Vita version work so well on a handheld.
Gravity Rush’s biggest selling point is, you guessed it, gravity defying gameplay. Kat, Gravity Rush’s heroine, has the ability to manipulate gravity. She can use her powers to levitate, throw objects, slam into enemies and “fly”. Special attention should be paid to the use of the word “fly”, as Kat doesn’t fly in the traditional sense, she does something way cooler.
Kat’s gravity powers are initiated by pressing the R1 button. By pressing it a second time, Kat flings herself in a direction of the player’s choosing. The catch is that this power isn’t infinite, as Kat has a Gravity Gauge that dictates how much power she can use, and for how long. In a sense, Kat’s flying could be considered falling with style. This is emphasized by the fact that the camera lightly shakes to provide the feeling of turbulence, further highlighting the feeling of falling.
Flying Without Wings
Flying with Kat reminds me of a scene from 2001’s Spider-Man, where Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker first attempts the famous web swing. He stands on top a building, fires a webline onto a water tower, (after a bit of trial and error), and swings. His swing is accompanied by a scream of pure excitement, followed promptly by a painful landing. This is exactly how it feels to fly with Kat. I get feelings of exhilaration, but also a sense of great tension, like I could lose control and fall to my death at any moment.
This feeling isn’t exclusive to Gravity Rush either, it’s one that I get from most superhero open world games. It’s easy to forget that superheroes didn’t always have total mastery over their powers, but it’s true. Kat wasn’t always a master Gravity Shifter, Spider-Man wasn’t always an agile web swinger and Batman wasn’t always an expert glider. Even someone like Superman had to work hard to learn how to fly. It took time and practice for these heroes to perfect their powers and abilities, and even then, I imagine they still get a huge rush of adrenaline during their time above the city.
Another requirement of open world games is fast travel system, which many superhero open world games have. But these game’s traversal systems are so much fun that I never care to use the fast travel. I often spend so much time seeing how high I can fly and how long I can keep my feet off the ground, that I forget that I should be heading to the next story objective. It also helps that most of these games allow traversal abilities to be upgraded and modified. If you make your base traversal mechanics a ton of fun, then players have a reason to go after collectibles to upgrade their character, leading to more high-flying fun.
More so than any other genre I’ve played, superhero open world games make traversal one of the best parts of the game. I loved gliding high above the rooftops in Batman: Arkham City, and I loved speeding through the streets as Fetch from Infamous: First Light. Even games that I haven’t played, but have seen videos of like Sunset Overdrive and Prototype look like they apply this design choice just as skillfully. Again, there’s feelings of adrenaline and tension that come with soaring high above the ground, all while feeling like you’re not totally in control of what’s happening.
Have you played Gravity Rush? What about the Batman Arkham or Infamous games? What are some of your favorite open world traversal mechanics? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to follow me on Twitter to stay updated on all the latest posts. Thanks for reading, and make sure you have an awesome day!