'Breath of the Wild' v. 'Witcher 3': the future of open-worlds

  • Hi everyone!! Over the past six months I’ve had the chance to play and reach credits in both the ‘Witcher 3’ and ‘Breath of the Wild’. I've loved playing them both a whole bunch, and feel they both managed to create really amazing open worlds through completely different ways: whether it’s interesting characters, unique side quests, meaningful stakes, letting the player choose the order and way they do quests, etc.

    Given that BotW has now been out for over a year now, I thought it’d be interesting to see what mechanics and what aspects from each of these two games people think are going to have the most influence long-term on the future of open-world games? A more open story structure? More emphasis on side quests? A more loot-based weapons system?

    I guess a further question would be which game as a whole will leave a more lasting impression on the genre? Which will we still be talking about in 10/20 years time?

    Of course, there's no right or wrong take - I really dig them both! Just thought it'd be cool to hear what other people think.

    Thank you Allies! :)

  • I've had open worlds on my brain a bit lately as well thanks to recently finishing FarCry 5. Before I dive in with my answer, I want to mention I've played around 5 minutes of Breath of the Wild (on a friend's Switch) and I'm about halfway through The Witcher 3, with plans on eventually finishing it.

    I think what will be talked about in 10/20 years really depends on the individual - do they value story or mechanics? Personally, I value a good story so the concept behind Breath of the Wild isn't really appealing at all. Sure, you have a beautiful world to explore but the main motivation seems to be, "Oh, what's over there?", as opposed to going to that specific location with a goal in mind, some sort of purpose. You could argue the purpose of Breath of the Wild is to defeat Ganon and save Zelda, but how many times have we done that exact thing before?

    Maybe it's a problem in the way we communicate mechanics. Pointing to the 2017 GOTY discussion for the Allies, I was bored to tears with the Zelda talk. I don't think we have a way to express the feeling of sliding down a hill on your shield for instance, that accurately conveys the experience. I haven't done it personally and it just doesn't seem that interesting to me BUT it could be. So in that way, it feels like Breath of the Wild is moreso something you need to play instead of just hearing what others have to say about it. On the other hand, The Witcher 3 has some insanely well written dialogue, interesting side quests, and choices with actual consequences. Without giving away too many spoilers, I made choices in that game that I felt were right and justified and... it led to a character committing suicide. That will stick with me far longer than any game mechanic ever could.

    Breath of the Wild will initially be remembered for all of the freedom it gave the player. Wanna climb that mountain? Do it. Wanna chop down those trees and ride on em? Go for it. While I think that may in fact influence more games in the future, I wonder how much of a legacy it'll truly leave. If the main draw in BotW is freedom, will we forget it when the next open world game comes out and offers even more freedom? Although The Witcher 3 has much more scripted events and happenings, I feel that only helps to boost its intrigue. For me personally, I'll always remember a good story first and foremost, and The Witcher 3 does an excellent job in elevating the entire medium in that regard. I don't know if it's "timeless" but I feel we'll be remembering this game long after Breath of the Wild. I'm also notoriously wrong about a lot of things though, so who knows.

  • @sabotagethetruth Really, really good stuff, especially the point on whether BotW be forgotten as soon as a newer game offers more perceived 'freedom'. Might even be the next game in the Zelda franchise, which builds on the BotW's groundwork but takes it to a new level.

    Wonder if the 'you can climb everything' idea (standalone, or combined with a glider-thingie) will catch on. Changes the mode of travel so, so much. Already seen it being adopted in the new Shadow of War DLC...

  • I'm not a big fan of both games to be honest. BotW is too much of a snooze fest in a (imo) empty, boring open world with a paper thin narrative and characters. I hope other open world games don't try to replicate too much from BotWs success. The Witcher on the other hand has a great world and characters but the narrative/story completely falls apart in the last third of the game. Gameplay isn't really stellar in both games either.

    Overall i would say i definitely enjoyed the Witcher a lot more, it just brings much more to the table than Zelda, especiallly when it comes to story and characters. For me personally i would say Horizon had a much bigger impact on me as an open world game than the other two. The overall package was just the perfect mix for my tastes.

    I think the biggest impact from Zelda will be the "climb and go everywhere" mechanic. Assassins Creed Origins kinda did that already and i think more Open World games will follow suit. The Witchers focus on great Sidequests/Sidecharacters certainly had a impact on some games already, which will probably be it's legacy. To come back to the main question of this thread, i think that both games will go down in gaming history as some of the great games of all time, even if i don't necessarily agree.

  • Witcher 3 is one of the most boring and overrated game i have played. Not a fan of Zelda but its much better.

  • Witcher 3 takes an existing formula of the open-world genre and executes it brilliantly: the side quests and random encounters in the world are some of the best in gaming; fast travel exists but still requiring a good amount of exploration; the towns, big or small, are detailed and filled with life; not to mention that the whole game looks beautiful. It's arguably the best part of the game aside from the main story.

    I have not played BoTW yet (no Switch) so i can't comment about that. I'm sure that it's just as influential as Witcher 3 in terms of open-world though, albeit more through fresh additions instead of raw execution.

  • The Witcher III is praised as one of the best open world games ever created, and I understand where some of these sentiments come from, but I think the open world is the reason why The Witcher III is my least favourite Witcher game. Nothing about the open world in TW3 really proved to me that it was a necessary improvement or that it added anything directly to the strengths I saw within the first two games. I much preferred the isolated story elements with the segmented chapters in TW1 and TW2 because there was a forced intimacy when telling a story in one specific location, whereas in TW3 I found myself staring at the mini-map and riding my horse between large open areas just to reach the same sort of story moments I would have achieved in a smaller space.

    What I think the future of open worlds can learn from TW3 is the small details that help in the world building. For example, if you have played the whole series up to the third game, you will appreciate that you've been let loose in a world that has been built up and vividly described in two prior games. The tensions surrounding witches and sorceresses was executed wonderfully where the major city is littered with Witch Hunters and there is a very detailed and well built up story reason which makes the sense of fear within the city very palpabal and believable. I think if more games used story to build up an area/city on the map, then the world has more value. Another subtle story thing I noticed in TW3 was how the famished areas were truly famished. The people were poor, their homes look derelict, and they didn't have many items and certainly not much food in their homes when you loot them. Nobody puts that attention to detail in their games.

    The little story motivated subtle things that The Witcher 3 does to add value to its world is what more games will hopefully learn from.

  • @dipset I have played little of the Witcher 3 (5 hours maybe) and even less of BoTW, and as floored as I am by the world building and amazing they managed to make everything look and feel I think similarly of the need for an open world. This may just be a large preference thing for myself but just as you mentioned I think having things more contained or segmented would make for a more engaging experience for me at least.

    And now that I'm playing Horizon I'm having similar thoughts about it, though I do think it generally justifies its open world more that TW3, I'll be playing BoTW after that probably so I'll see where I fall on that one.

  • Banned

    Horizon is The Witcher 3 with better combat and a more boring protagonist.

  • @bard91

    I played the first 5 hours of Horizon with my family over the winter holiday that just passed and that game really feels like the open world serves gameplay with the varied and often aggressive enemeies as opposed an open world that serves the story and using the world to tell a compelling story.

    Right out the gate, I just felt no connection to the game and especially the world of Horizon so I put it down really quickly relative to the length of the game. I'm sure the world is more justified because Horizon is gameplay first from what I can tell.

    Something I thought of regarding TW3 or other games like it where they could use an "open world" as the backdrop to tell the story like they do in Yakuza. I felt that after playing Yakuza 0 for the first time that they really nailed the open world where it is relatively small but there are a million and one places to hold scenes within that world which then unfold a story. By the end of the game, the power struggle for Kamurocho is very intense and it is because you spent so much time in every nook and cranny within this city while being supported by a narrative that exposes you to the city and the city is central to the plot.

    You can compare Yakuza's semi-open world to the chapter system in TW1 and TW2. What comes to mind immediately is investigating the Salamandra inside of Vizima in The Witcher 1. There are two chapters within one city and you grow very intimate with the people who live within the city as well as the city itself. Then as your decisions change the narrative, the city changing has a lot more impact. Those semi-open worlds need to be embraced more because I barely connected with any city or location in TW3. You spend a lot of time in the land where The Baron lives but I always felt like I was just running up a hill to start a quest instead of really being close to the village.