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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.

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