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Assassins Creed Origins
Photograph: Ubisoft

How to get into open-world video games

Need to get out more? These colossal gamescapes are there for the exploring

Eddy Frankel
Written by
Eddy Frankel

It’s hard to imagine how a functioning, healthy adult human can fit video games into their life in normal times. Between work, exercise, commuting, going to the pub and having to pretend to be interested when your partner tells you about their day at the office, you don’t have a lot of spare time for killing Nazis or hunting zombies. But lockdown has changed all that, and video-game sales have gone through the roof.

As lockdown comes back for another swipe at your freedoms, you might be considering filling your evenings with Xbox instead of Netflix, so here’s a little primer on the most immersive gaming out there: open worlds.

Where would you rather be: stuck in your damp flat in Barnet or sweating in ancient Greece? Exactly.

This isn’t the rigid platformer of your youth, there are no levels or even set tasks, necessarily. Instead, you get a whole world to explore, with no walls or barriers to where you can go. It makes for a seriously absorbing experience when done well, halfway between a film and a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novel – and you are totally in charge.

‘Red Dead Redemption 2’, the biggest hit of the past few years, has you playing a cowboy meandering around the Wild West. It’s popular and very beautifully made, but it’s also painfully slow. Maybe hours of horse husbandry is your thing, maybe it’s not.

My little pony – ‘Read Dead Redemption 2’. Photograph: Rockstar Games.

Games like ‘Assassin’s Creed Origins’ and its follow-up, ‘Odyssey’, place you in ancient worlds – pharaonic Egypt and Spartan Greece respectively – and are so engrossing, you’ll feel like you’re literally walking around the white, sandy beaches of Kefalonia or the deserts of Giza. Where would you rather be: stuck in your damp flat or tiny studio apartment, or sweating in ancient Greece? Exactly.

Elsewhere, recent hit ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ is a sword-waving adventure through stunning feudal Japan, and if you’re after some classic guns-out shenanigans, then ‘Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’ is pretty unbeatable.

Not just a glorified walking simulator – ‘Death Stranding’. Photograph: Kojima Productions

For something less, you know, kill-y, try the meditatively slow ‘Death Stranding’, in which you play a post-apocalyptic messenger; ‘No Man’s Sky’, where you get to voyage around the stars; or ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’, which will let you relive all your nostalgic childhood gaming dreams.

And all this before we’ve even spoken about ‘Grand Theft Auto’, the ‘Mafia’ remake, the ‘Fallout’ franchise or the most recent ‘Far Cry’ games. Look, there’s a big universe out there, and it’s full of open-world video games that you absolutely won’t regret exploring during the new lockdown. Happy trails.


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