Is the End Ever ‘The End’ for Open-World Experience?
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Is the End Ever ‘The End’ for Open-World Experience?

The new expansion called “Hearts of Stone” was recently released for the “The Witcher 3.” I was incredibly anxious waiting for its release, because this new, downloadable content supposedly adds a whopping ten hours in additional story to the already massive experience.

Once it was released, I was surprised to learn the new content is specifically designed for characters over level 32, which is roughly the same level a player would be only after completing the main storyline. All this has had me thinking a lot about storytelling and resolution within the medium of the video game, particularly of the open-world variety.

After all, I had already battled for the fate of the world, saw the rise and fall of rulers and their kingdoms and found true love with the character I chose to romance throughout the game. Shouldn’t my character’s story be adequately concluded? Shouldn’t I be satisfied with this resolution?

One of the most appealing aspects of the open-world experience is the freedom to explore or traverse the game’s world as one pleases. Having this freedom in turn demands a certain flexibility in the design of the narratives the developers employ.

This is definitely the case with Bethesda’s “Fallout 3” or “Skyrim,” in which the main story is constantly interrupted as the player explores the world or takes up side quests as they move from objective to objective. Because of this, while the main story is certainly present and highly relevant to the player’s experience, in many ways it functions more as an incentive to further explore the world and discover new people and places. Essentially, it becomes a quest that facilitates more questing.

And this perhaps speaks to my excitement about continuing the story of “The Witcher 3” even after the credits have rolled and the world has been saved. While I think a certain sense completion and resolution to wrap up individual plot lines or story arcs, I ultimately came to this game looking to wander, to explore and discover exciting new characters and locations all while my own character grows and develops with each new quest completed or battle won.

In this sense, the end is not the end for “The Witcher 3,” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Paul Grosskopf

Reviewer

Pgros301@uwsp.edu

 

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