The open world game is a mainstay of gaming at this point in time. Each year, dozens of AAA, open world titles come out and compete for our attention. Making a good one is not as simple as making a large map. Developers need to create an interesting world, filled with interesting people; a place that makes us want to explore and learn.
Best Open World Game Nominees
This was a strong year for open world games across a range of titles, that drew on known franchises and worlds, and also introduced new ones. Only one can take the prize of Best Open World Game, however.
Best Open World Game of 2017 – Horizon Zero Dawn
With Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games managed to pull off one of the hardest moves in games development: giving players a fantastical world to explore that also managed to feel natural. They were also able to do this in one of the most common settings in gaming: the post apocalyptic landscape. Where things take a different turn from the common drab brown, that appears to be many people’s default idea, is how lush, green, and vibrant this world is. Trees, grass, and flowers are everywhere. The sky is a rich, deep blue, the waters clear and crystalline. Even the mechanical monsters that haunt this verdant land are somehow beautiful, seeming to fit into the landscape, their unnatural origins forgotten as they appear to graze among the trees.
Everything about the game just makes sense and feels natural. I found villages to be just the right size, not too big and not to small, imperfectly placed among rocks and rivers and cliffs, just as real honest to god people insist on building new towns in imposing places, simply to enjoy the view. Roads and paths follow the rivers and cliffs of the landscape, always forced to bypass what they can’t simply move straight through. Several times I found places at rivers that were obviously used as crossings when the waters were not quite so quick, and quite so deep. It’s these little things in a world, places, people, and objects, that exist outside of having any function for the player, that make it feel real.
The characters you run into also drive home the sheer quality of the game. From quest givers, to shopkeepers and random people on the street, everyone has their own concerns. Yes, Aloy’s quest is of vital importance within the game, but to the farmer so is tilling his field, to the blacksmith so is his missing daughter. The daily concerns of the populace are not ignored or shunted off to one side, mere background noise drowned out by the games main story line. Once again, there is a palpable feeling of reality to it all. And really this is what makes the game stand out above all the rest.
All the details, from the minor to the major, come together in a cohesive whole. It is so easy to imagine this future, this place. Mankind brought low by our own designs, with nature coming back to reclaim what we had taken. Despite the fantasy of it all, it really does feel possible because of how well it all works together. It is for this reason that we award Horizon Zero Dawn the title of Best Open World Game of 2017. To view all the awards, be sure to visit our 12 DAYS OF GAME AWARDS hub.