Player freedom is a phrase often bandied about by developers keen to sell the entertainment value of their open worlds, but the reality is rarely unconstricted. You might be able to head off in any direction, but you’ll still have to find a way of opening that bridge to the next island or wait until the right point in the story to trigger a progress-heralding cutscene. Her Story is a much smaller proposition than Grand Theft Auto and its ilk, but it does something no other sandbox will allow: it lets you jump to the end right from the start.
Whether you understand what you see when you get there is another matter entirely. But if your investigatorial tenacity happens to conjure up the right search term on your very first try, the game’s biggest plot twist will be laid bare to you. It’s a bold, even fearless, design. The Swindle also wants to offer you your freedom, albeit it within the context of a more traditional progression path. But while you’ll have to amass enough money from your heists to access each new district, how thoroughly you scour each level and which upgrades you select along the way are entirely down to you – and this in the context of a procedurally generated game that’s happy from the off to throw rooms at you that are unsolvable without later upgrades. Once you have a selection of tools, however, this dynamic shifts as multiple ad-hoc solutions to most problems present themselves. At the other end of the success spectrum, however, is
Fallout Shelter. A spinoff from a series famed for the relative freedom it offers players, and one that purports to let you manage your very own Vault, Bethesda’s first free-to-play iOS game initially appears to deliver. But all too soon, the reality of its limited building blocks and repetitive, goalless number crunching becomes all too apparent. Far from freeing the player, it attempts to enslave you.