The Crew (p104) promises the kind of freedom we’re rarely offered in games. Plenty of open worlds exist, but more often than not a convenient bridge collapse or police roadblock will keep you from exploring too far from their designers’ intended paths. In Ubisoft’s game, however, all of North America is available to explore from the off. But if you decide, giddy with excitement at the sheer scale of the landscape, to hit the open road too soon, the game will instead bombard you with reminders about the story mission you’re meant to be attempting and your embarrassingly unlevelled car. Even though there are no physical barriers between you and LA, the game will hold you prisoner if you try to do your own thing before it says it’s OK.
At least if you endure a handful of missions up front, you’ll be left in relative peace thereafter. Destiny’sy story never releases its stranglehold on your activities, even 150 hours of grinding down the line, repeating unskippable cutscenes for missions you’ve already completed and further garbling a narrative that was nonsensical in the first place. The Dark Below (p118), Destiny’s first DLC, at least spares us any more time listening to Peter Dinklage doing some reading. Even so, games continue to thrust lacklustre narratives on us when all we want to do is get out into the world and see what’s waiting to be discovered. Pointing out that the stories that result from players’ actions are the most memorable is now cliché, but in the case of The Crew and Destiny, their plotting leaves little else to hang on to. Still, the balance is difficult to get right even if your game is defined by its story. Episode one of Telltale’s Game Of Thrones (p112) series spins a good yarn for the most part, but it often does so at the cost of discernible gameplay. And in this case, there’s no world to explore to make up for that.