The evolution of open worlds in 2022

2022 will be a great year for open world games. With the launch of titles like Elden Ring, Horizon II Forbidden West or Dying Light 2, the genre of “sandbox” promises to evolve.

20 years ago, GTA III revolutionized video games with its 3D open world approach, in which we could move freely and complete dozens of missions. You can see what this launch meant in our report on the game that changed the world.

The open world mechanics spread like wildfire (it’s impossible to point to all the examples that mimicked the GTA formula) and they have been refined over time. To this day, maybe the best exponents of this evolution are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Y Red Dead Redemption II.

Nintendo’s game bets on organic development, in which missions “come to pass” as we freely explore. In fact, the first few bars, in which Link stands alone in front of the great plain of Hyrule, are still an example of brilliant design.

For his part RDR 2 opted for a more traditional narrative, but in the open world parts the activities came naturally. We could see how the environment, the animals and the characters interacted with each other and generated interesting situations simply by observing.

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And to these two masterful examples, we must add the contributions of the “Ubisoft formula” with hundreds of activities that appear on the map (the model of Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry 6), the emerging narrative of “battle royale” like Fortnite and the creation of user content in the ubiquitous Minecraft.

But nevertheless, gender needs a revolution. Will it arrive with any of the games announced in 2022? In a matter of weeks we will be able to see how the “sandbox” style has adapted to legendary sagas.

Pokémon Legends Arceus, which launches on January 28, will try to revolutionize the formula of catching, evolving and competing with these creatures in an open world. In this case it is the Hisui region (an old version of Sinnoh that takes elements from Japan during the Meiji restoration).

Elden Ring, for its part, recovers the elements of the “souls” and Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, with an environment that lends itself more to free exploration.

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FromSoftware’s title, which won the Most Anticipated Gaming Award of 2022 at The Game Awards, is an evolution of one of the most influential formulas of the past generation.

To these two games we must add Dying Light 2, which launches February 2. In this case, his bet on an open world plagued by infected, is characterized by navigation options (with parkour movements), hand-to-hand combat and decisions that change both the story and the environment.

And finally, Horizon II Forbidden West, which expands the elements of Zero Dawn, with more depth in combat, new environments and navigation options (with the news of a hook and a kind of paraglider in Aloy’s inventory).

Each of these four titles is committed to a way of changing the formula. But 2022 also promises more classic exponents of the genre, such as GTA V for the next generation consoles or Saints Row (the “reboot” of the saga that has been delayed until next August 23).

It will also be the year that Kirby makes the leap to 3D in an open environment, with Kirby and the Forgotten Land for Nintendo Switch, and we can enjoy Sonic Rangers, with elements of “sandbox”.

However – do not forget that this is an opinion article after all – if I have to bet on an open world game that can revolutionize the genre, I prefer Starfield.

The fact that Bethesda has been cooking this new IP for so long (it was introduced at E3 2019) that they compare it – no less – to a Skyrim in space, and that they bet on exploration on different planets, something that I especially enjoyed in The Outer Worlds, are its main assets.

And of course, we cannot rule out that it finally arrives the sequel to Zelda Breath of The Wild throughout the year, and re-mark a way forward within the genre. Certainly these are exciting months for any fan of the “sandbox”.