The open world RPG genre is insanely popular, especially in the 10's, and we've gotten some damn near perfection titles in the last decade, so I feel we can make an even more damn near perfect title this decade by looking at all the flaws of the previous games and improving on them ( of course nothing is ever perfect).
The main games I will be drawing from are The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Horizon Zeo Dawn, and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Keep in mind these are just my preferences. Here are the things I would like to see in the ideal open world RPG:
Large map size: I'm a sucker for made-up maps in general, especially the huge variety. I think a lot of open world games excel in this however they utterly fail in the following.
Immersive world (and clear HUD): No one likes an empty world (looking at you Odyssey) unless it serves a specific purpose (great job, red dead). Games would benefit from having a living, breathing world where there is a lot to do and things to see around every corner and things change based on the timeline and player actions. I realize too much stuff can make the game feel cluttered however in my opinion it's better to lean on the cluttered side of things than emptiness.
The overlooked accomplice in immersion-breaking design for me is a cluttered screen (TW3). Let the player discover the world themselves and guide them through level design and subtle hints! Open world is all about traveling where your mind takes you!
Great story and characters: The Witcher 3 has some of the best characters and story of any game. Red Dead 2 is right up there with it and HZD isn't too far behind. This is a department Odyssey lacks, not that it's bad, but had it been on the same level as even HZD it would have seriously boosted its quality. Games too often have stories full of tropes and cliches and a myriad of inconsistencies and laspses in logic. They are often decent action movie level at best. I think if you have a whole team that cares about storytelling crafting a good one shouldn't be too hard, though I realize a lot of people don't care about it in their games.
Good side quests: At least some side quests should be connected to the main story and characters. There's no denying TW3 excels in this to the highest degree. In my opinion the ideal RPG would take a lot from TW3 in this regard, yet also have some silly/trivial side quests thrown in just for immersion's sake. Quests in general would also be as least repetitive as possible.
Good side-activities and minigames: TW3, Red Dead and Odyssey excel in this, mainly the former two. TW3 has Gwent, and, well, what more is there to say? Read Dead has a bunch of little minigames which are short and sweet (exactly what they should be). Odyssey had a lot more potential for side activities (Olympics anybody?) but the naval combat and crew management added an entirely different piece to the game that would greatly enhance most open world RPGs.
Choices that matter: Choices often don't actually make a big difference in most games like these, but the ideal game would have a ton of different endings (20+) and playthroughs that could vastly differ in specific areas which would add replayability.
Deep lore that matters: Another thing that would add a lot of replayability would be lore that goes deep. I mean lore that goes balls deep. On one playthrough the player shouldn't understand everything they encounter or know the entire world, unless they are a completionist. They should have to work to dig up every detail and choose to do quests that don't seem like they mean much at first that end up uncovering big secrets.
Fun combat/Tght controls: The best controls I've seen in a game like this is probably Odyssey, and that goes for combat doubly. It may not be that important to everybody but it really enhances a lot of people's enjoyment for a game.
Third Person POV: Because I usually get nauseous when playing 3D games, especially first person ones lol….
Fantasy world: Personally I'd want to see a game like this in a huge fantasy world, but one that is unique and cohesive. Too often fantasy video games have the most generic fantasy worlds full of the most over-used tropes. I am a big fantasy reader and books are doing much better in this regard. I mean,tThe only reason TW3 is somewhat different here is because it's based off books! Let's get creative people!
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