It took a while, but for me, the next generation of open world gaming is finally here. There was a time when open world games were my favorite genre. Over the years, I’ve watched it sink and swell, filling up with quest markers and busy work, taking all the joy out of the experience in exchange for checklists, algorithms over player retention, and the endless search for games that They are bigger, bigger. , even if they are not better better better. In this evolution of the game, there have been games that have still managed to be enjoyable and others that have succumbed to the weight of the new formula. Yet all the time, good or bad, it’s clear that these games are getting stale. Enter Sonic Frontiers.
For many of you, the door to this brave new world has already been opened. Breath of the Wild was the first game to look at the overloaded open world genre and decide to try something new. Regardless of your feelings on Breath of the Wild as a game, it should be respected as a hugely risky endeavor. The genre had become increasingly reliant on map markers, your hand, and a compass that constantly told you where to go, and Breath of the Wild did away with all of that. He didn’t sit down and decide what the necessary parts were and try to cut everything out, he eliminated them completely.
There’s a reckless freedom to Breath of the Wild, and I saw the value of that in the 20 hours I immersed myself in it, but ultimately it just wasn’t for me. Maybe I need a little direction in life, maybe Zelda’s softly saturated color tones just weren’t for me, or maybe it was because even when you did find a quest line to follow, I often immediately asked you to go explore. the far side of the map to find some potion or creature needed to progress. In any case, Breath of the Wild was a much-needed revolution for the open-world genre, but it was never quite one for me.
For a few years after Breath of the Wild, things stayed the same. Video games take a long time to make, so nothing for a couple of years after BOTW could have been inspired by it in any meaningful way. Individual mechanics were invented by Immortals Fenyx Rising and Genshin Impact, but the revolution was on hold. Even games that had the time and space to learn from the BOTW formula found it too risky: Ghost of Tsushima and Horizon Forbidden West are pretty standard open-world games, even if they’re pretty good at it.
The first game to look at what Breath of the Wild did and develop it with a degree of reverence and individuality was Elden Ring, another game that caught a lot of you by the throat, and another game that I hated. Like BOTW, I can respect what he brings to the table and how he challenges the status quo, but ‘I Don’t Like’ is a pretty high hurdle to overcome. Again, maybe it was the nihilistic world, maybe it was the arcane lore and reliance on knowledge of previous Souls mechanics, maybe it was just too hard. The ‘why’ is not very important. The fact is that the open world genre was in dire need of a change, and I didn’t like the first two games that changed it. As I wrote after Elden Ring, it made me fear that the next generation of open-world games wasn’t for me. Enter, once again, Sonic Frontiers. Greetings for waiting at the door for the last four paragraphs friend.
Sonic Frontiers, much like Breath of the Wild, drops you on a map and allows you to go anywhere. There are markers if you open the menu and look for them, but while you’re wandering around, you can go wherever the conveniently placed sky rails take you. It takes the most trusted parts of the original way of creating an open world game, while introducing the freedom that came with BOTW and ER. It gives you the feeling that you can go anywhere, do anything, but it also reminds you that when you’re done having fun, this is where you should go next.
The open world genre as we know it was brought to the fore with GTA 3, and that’s what all GTA games are about. He goes and causes a little carnage for a while and then he goes back and follows the fucking train, CJ. In that sense, Sonic Frontiers is a regression rather than a revolution, but the minimalist appeal of the gameplay and the world means that it doesn’t matter if we go forwards or backwards: we’re having fun.
On a technical and artistic level, Sonic Frontiers is not as good as Breath of the Wild or Elden Ring. But it provides the perfect springboard for me to finally embrace what the open world means these days, and while we should always encourage games that push in new directions, I’m glad Sonic Frontiers has helped bridge the gap.
Next: In Defense of Borderlands Claptrap