Exploration in Games

Even if you didn’t read the title of my first column, you could likely make an educated guess about what my topic was after seeing the list of games that I have been playing recently. That list is this: Fallout 3, Red Faction: Guerilla, Metroid Prime, and Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Yes, from that list it seems likely that the astute among you would have guessed that the topic of the day is exploration in games.It’s a subject near and dear to my heart.

Sure, I have loved (and will love again) games that lead you around by the nose the entire time, as long as they deliver a good story and an exciting experience. I was a fan of the Ghostbusters game after all, and they may as well have painted a line on the ground for you to follow. However, there is something about being able to pick your own path through a game that really makes the experience special for me.

It seems to me that there are essentially two types of exploration games. The first is the type that gives you the illusion of being able to go anywhere and do anything. This is the category that Batman: Arkham Asylum and Metroid Prime fall into. The exploration is an integral part of the experience, but you can’t literally go wherever you want to right away. Oftentimes you’ll find that you need to backtrack and retrieve a certain tool to head down a specific path. This type of exploration can be good because it keeps you on task while allowing you to stop and smell the roses occasionally.

The other type of exploration is free exploration, which is where games like Fallout 3 and Oblivion live. At any time you can literally go anywhere and do whatever you want. Kill the shopkeeper and steal his goods? Sure. Spend 100 hours doing side missions and forget all about the main quest, maybe never even picking it up again? Absolutely. This is the type of game that is great for people who don’t want to be shackled to any specific storyline. There is a main storyline to follow, but with so much else to do it can sometimes be lost in the shuffle amidst other, sometimes more exciting, quest chains.

Lastly, some games are good at blurring the lines between the two types of exploration games. Red Faction: Guerilla is a good example of this. Not only does the game give you tons of side missions you can do to earn salvage (money), but you also have multiple story quests at any one time that you can choose to do in whatever order you wish. Or you can be like me and spend a good majority of your time looking for important enemy buildings and destroying them.

No matter how much exploring you feel like doing, there’s a game for you. Some people find themselves intimidated by the sort of ‘do whatever’ freedom that Fallout 3 offers, but they can choose a slightly more directed experience like Arkham Asylum. Others may have found every bit of the Riddler’s Challenges in Arkham and feel like they didn’t get to look around enough, and to them I would offer Oblivion or Fallout 3. Or they can simply be like me and play them all. Whatever type of experience you are looking for, I hope you find it.

Happy hunting.



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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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