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What Are Some Semi-Openworlds That You Feel Were Executed Well?

Spiritual Mask Salesman

CHIMer Dragonborn
Staff member
Comm. Coordinator
Site Staff
Lately I've been playing NieR: Automata. I'm still early in the game, only about 6 or 7 hours in, but I'm loving every minute of it. The world feels really vast to me although technically it can only be defined as semi-open, and it inspired me to pose the question: "What are some semi-openworlds that you feel were executed well?"

I can think of a few, but I want to take this opportunity to gush about Nier: Automata. So if the game is something you want to play at some point, take this as a warning for spoilers ahead.

After the prologue, which serves as a tutorial for how the game works, players immedietly go down to the first area of the game: the City Ruins. This area is pretty big in of itself, but not insanely large. I'd say it's about as big as Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time, but with added verticality because of all the buildings that can be climbed. From the ruins all other areas of the game can be accessed, so it's a hub of sorts. The transition between other areas is seamless, which plays a big part in why the game feels as big as it does. If there had been loading screens creating a separation between areas, they still would feel decently sized in isolation, but I don't think the overall world would have the same feeling of vastness.

The game throws a twist with the layout and whole vibe of the City Ruins later into progression of the main quest. Just as players feel aquainted with the terrain, having probably explored most of the streets, alleyways, and rooftops, as well as knowing what to expect out of the enemies (which ones won't engage in combat, and which ones are hostile) – suddenly a portion of that knowledge needs readjustment. During a boss battle a large explosion occurs, creating a huge hole in the middle of the ruins. Most of the ruins are still intact as they were before, except for the area where the hole is, and some of the surrounding streets/alleyways that used to exist can no longer be used to traverse the area, either they are blocked or sunken in as part of the hole. For example, prior to the hole being there, it's possible to follow underneath an old overpass from the Resistence Camp all the way north to the Near Tower area. This is no longer possible like before because the hole has destroyed that pathway. The route still exists, but it takes some sprinting and jumping with the momentum of the sprint to get across the gap. A part of the overpass also remains and the top can be reached by jumping onto the limbs of a newly felled tree.

As for enemies, there are totally new enemy types throughout the ruins, they are higher leveled and tougher, and all enemies are hostile, whereas before there were some that used to not engage in combat at all unless provoked.

It's a complete flip of vibe for the area. What used to be mostly a chill portion of the world, and an easy grinding spot, becomes an area where you have to stay on your toes. It's such a simple yet effective way to make an established area freash all over again. I've still got a lot of the game left in store, and I'm excited to see what else it will offer. So far, I definitely feel the execution of this world has been done very well, and the way it feels like the world is actively changing is really cool.

What are some other games that you think nailed their worlds although they were smaller than the typical openworld game?
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Bowsette Plus-Ultra

The Devil's Advocate
ZD Legend
Mar 23, 2013
Dark Souls 1 would be my pick. While far from an expansive open world, the interconnected nature of the world and the lack of loading screens really add to the feeling of it being linked together. While it doesn't have any wide open plains, it's cool to go through almost the entire game without seeing a loading screen.


everlasting devotion
Staff member
ZD Legend
Jun 16, 2020
Crossbell State
Fresh in my mind since I finished it relatively recently, but I'd Yakuza 0's Kamurocho and Sotenbori are great examples of areas that are semi-open but still feel free enough and content-dense that it's never an issue. If anything, the layout and amount of things to do in a small space only adds to the vibe.

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
Staff member
ZD Legend
Comm. Coordinator
It's funny you framed this post with Nier Automata, cuz when I read the thread title my first thought was "certainly not nier automata lol". Welp. :sweating: That thought came because I also just played through that game for the first time, and I can't think of the world as good for anything other than vibes and transitioning through it, because it's so darn empty for its size.

Anyway, a game I thought Did do semi-open-world well was Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The world is divided up into big open areas, but these areas are all splendidly-done. Full of life, full of things to find and do, and fun to traverse. They did an excellent job of making them feel like the size they were meant to be.

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