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Open world games don’t care about their world enough

Gamingtodaynews1g - Open world games don't care about their world enough
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I don't browse this sub regularly so forgive me if this post comes across as cliche or ranty. I want to express my opinion on the new Assassin's Creed game, Valhalla.

Coming off 2017's Origins and 2018's Odyssey, Ubisoft went with a more streamlined approach with Valhalla. There's less busy work and clutter filling up your HUD. Loot and gear are "fixed" with desirable stats in a way to reward the player for exploring their surroundings. There's less gear overall but more upgradeables, giving weapons and armor more longevity and purpose (in contrast to Odyssey, where you could pick up a dozen crappy weapons just from looting one outpost; these weapons would later be sold by most players since they had crappier stats and did nothing but clutter up your inventory).

Now this is cool and all and I appreciate Ubisoft for making the game less spammy, but I was a bit disappointed by the game world itself. The trailers advertised the game in a grittier way, where you would have to hunt down animals and pick berries to "protect yourself from the elements", but the mechanics are laughably shallow. For example, when I first dove into the water I noticed an icy effect go over my screen. I realized my health was draining as my player was freezing to death. I quickly exited the water and ran to shore where I saw a campfire. Since this was the first playable part of the game I thought the fire was there as a tutorial. Cool, this is like Zelda BoTW! Well it turns out you don't have be near a fire to recover from the cold. As long as you leave the water you're instantly fine. The game then has you travel like a mile on foot to reach an outpost where your clan is believed to be held hostage. There's literally a 3 minute walk across empty hills of snow where nothing happens. I was almost expecting some sort of tutorial prompt telling me to find shelter or something, but nothing.

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Now maybe I read the game the wrong way and got too invested in that brief portion of the trailer going over the harshness of Valhalla's viking world, but I was really hoping for something new for a change. Something grittier. Ubisoft are experts at creating open worlds. They're beautiful to look at, and they're modeled in a realistic way. But I don't feel like the player has enough of an intimate connection to it. You can scale any wall, even vertical slices with no textured handholds, without any challenge or mechanics behind it. You're essentially Spider-Man. The player wades through snow dramatically and shivers under his cloak, but the cold has no effect on the player's health, movement or abilities. The game's presentation, through its detailed animations, suggests environmental challenges to overcome like in BOTW or Death Stranding. But there isn't any challenge at all. The map still feels like a giant time killer. An empty space with artificial content. That sounds pretentious as hell but I can't really find a better way to word it rn lol

I was hoping that Ubisoft's decision to cut down quests and busy work meant there'd be more focus on the mechanics and game world. It still feels like the same old. This disappoints me since Valhalla's map is nowhere near as compelling as Greece or Egypt. Compared to the last two installments, I was hoping Valhalla's more subdued world would introduce grittier mechanics and obstacles for the player to make up for the cutback in quests and whatnot. It just feels like more of the same, and less. I know Ubisoft dominates like 2/3's of the open world market, but I wish they took more cues from Zelda BOTW. That game really planted you in its world and made you feel like an inhabitant there. There was scale and connectivity everywhere you went, whether through the use of its physics engine or quirky gameplay mechanics. RDR2 as well, to an extent.

TL:DR: AC Valhalla, despite removing a ton of filler content that swarmed the last two games, somehow feels just as shallow if not more.

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