As an avid gamer and fan of the God of War series myself, I‘ve explored the question of whether the newest games count as true open world experiences in depth. While God of War (2018) and God of War Ragnarok offer exciting new exploration opportunities compared to past linear entries, ultimately they are not fundamentally free roam open world games from start to finish. But they do incorporate open hub areas seamlessly into the focused narrative journey.
God of War Lets You Freely Roam…Within Limits
Gaming journalists at IGN who got early hands-on time with Ragnarok described it as "open, but not that open." I feel this perfectly encapsulates the semi-open structure. The game provides freedom to explore, but only within predefined parts of the world relevant to where you are in the story. For example, early on you can fully explore the Lake of Nine region in Midgard. But access to realms like Vanaheim only open up later after certain story milestones.
The director Cory Barlog explained this design choice, saying "We wanted the experience to feel like it had some freedom but didn‘t have so much freedom that it felt disjointed or disconnected." This tight integration between the open environments and linear story allows both intimate narrative and freer roaming gameplay to coexist.
Quantifying God of War Ragnarok‘s Scale
To appreciate just how much content is available between the critical path, take a look at some key metrics:
- Over 50 hours of total playtime on average to complete the main story and side content
- 35+ side quests spread across the realms
- Over 100 points of interest like Valkyries and treasure maps to track down
- 30+ gear sets to find and upgrade
- Dozens of abilities and spells to unlock by allocating XP
This dwarfs previous God of War games that offered only 10-20 hours of purely linear gameplay. While not endless open worlds like Skyrim or Fallout, the new God of War games have added a satisfying amount of exploration without sacrificing narrative focus.
Evolution From Linear to Semi-Open World Design
Let‘s examine how the gameplay structure has evolved across the series:
|God of War 1||2005||Linear||10 hours|
|God of War 2||2007||Linear||10 hours|
|God of War 3||2010||Linear||8 hours|
|God of War (2018)||2018||Semi-open||20 hours|
|God of War Ragnarok||2022||Semi-open||50+ hours|
This shows the clear shift after 2018 towards expanded playtime and content thanks to the new open hub areas.
Why God of War Stuck With Semi-Open Design
In interviews, director Cory Barlog has spoken about the intentional choice to keep some linearity instead of making the leap to full open world:
“I feel anxiety in open worlds stems from a lack of narrative drive. Without strong characters and story pulling you forward, it can feel aimless.”
For fans who value an engaging narrative above all, this design philosophy pays off. The story remains the anchor point guiding you through the realms versus simply wandering aimlessly across a massive map.
The Pros and Cons of Open World Games
To further analyze God of War‘s structure, let‘s examine the key upsides and downsides of open world game designs:
- Total freedom to explore at your own pace
- Emergent gameplay from flexibility
- Rewarding sense of discovery
- Can feel overwhelming in scale
- Narrative and pacing can suffer
- Travel time between points of interest
By embracing some openness while limiting it to hub areas tied to story progress, God of War strikes an excellent balance that delivers the best of both game structures.
My Take As A Gaming Enthusiast
As someone who has played and loved open world games such as Skyrim along with more cinematic linear titles like The Last of Us, I believe the approach taken in the new God of War games offers a fantastic hybrid model.
The feeling of clearing a realm map of all its secrets and side content evokes the satisfaction of a true open world adventure, while the linear main story retains the jaw-dropping set pieces and intimate character journey fans expect from God of War. Kratos and Atreus have never felt so human and relatable thanks to the quiet, vulnerable moments between their epic battles against gods and monsters.
With Ragnarok‘s expanded progression systems, gear and ability upgrades, massive boss fights and wealth of content, the game overall gives players the best of both intimate narrative and explorable worlds while never losing sight of what makes God of War so impactful. I‘d highly recommend any gaming fan check out God of War‘s unique approach to open but focused world design. Just don‘t expect the limitless freedom of a full open world experience.
So in summary, while not completely a free roam game, the newest God of War entries deliver both an epic linear adventure and some incredibly satisfying open world gameplay all in one unforgettable package.