GamerSushi Asks: Life in the Sandbox?

prototypeI’ve been playing through some of Prototype this week, and as with most sandbox games, it seems to do a few things really well, but a bunch of other ones in a largely mediocre way. Traversing the city is perhaps the best part of the game. Skyscraper running is so addicting I almost can’t believe it, so moving back and forth between objectives is actually more fun than even doing them.

But it falls short in other ways. I’m not even very far into the game, and the story is a mess. Likewise, all the objectives are already repetitive, and I’m only a few hours in. On top of that, the draw distances and the graphics are pretty laughable, and the city doesn’t feel like a living, breathing world.

It makes me wonder why sandbox games seem to be so hit-or-miss in all of these other areas. To me, to have a good sandbox game, you need a fun way to travel the world, unique diversions, non-repetitive missions and a fully functioning world to make as your playground. In the last couple of years, I feel like Saint’s Row 2 is the closest I’ve gotten to playing something that meets all of those.

What about you guys? What’s your favorite sandbox game, and what do you think is the most important aspect of the genre? Go!

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

10 thoughts on “GamerSushi Asks: Life in the Sandbox?”

  1. Prototype was fun, but it really seemed like it could have used a few extra months of dev time.
    As for the best sandbox game I’ve played, I have to agree with Vice city being pretty high on the list.

  2. Saints Row 2. Kept me playing for ages, got it on release and still playin’ it now. I think the most important aspect of the genre is choice. Choice is great, the simple things like choosing to go straight to a mission or have a little wander is good but having choices which affect the game would be much better.

    You shoulda also asked what game you would like transformed into a more sandbox like game. For me that would be an easy choice…Star Wars. A free-roam Star Wars game would be intense. Jump in a space ship and fly to Coruscant, run out and jack a speeder, go to a cantina and beat the crap outta people. A Star Wars sandbox game would be an insta-buy for me.

  3. Fallout 3. If a Sandbox game is gonna be good, it can’t be a sandbox game. I needs a linear plot that you can put on hold. I mean, if games were true sandbox games, it would be like “Fallout 3: Life as a person” My point is, sandbox games can’t be sandbox games, BUT they can give they player lots of free choice.

  4. If Traversing the city/moving back and forth between objectives in GTA4 was as fun as it is in prototype, then it would be the best sandbox game imho. However, I am going to have to go with Fallout 3 since I am still playing it and have not played Saints Row 2 yet.

  5. inFamous has a really good feeling of locomotion, too. Actually, I’d say that’s the most important thing in a sand box game: The ability to get around quickly, and make it fun.

    FarCry 2 had the worst method of travel, the GPS navigation sucked, and the fast travel was half-assed. That game proved how important it is to have an efficient, engaging method of travel.

    For my favorite sand box games, I’d say Saint’s Row 2 and inFamous.

  6. I can’t emphasize this enough: Fallout 3 players: If you have just played the linear quest / side quests but haven’t explored every area… SERIOUSLY go and do it. If you get to level 20, use the Map perk that reveals every location on your map ( but not explored so you can’t fast-travel yet). It is seriously one of the most rewarding endeavors i’ve ever had in a game.

    And on the topic: I think the reason that a lot of Open-World games aren’t a succesful full package is because of the amount of work that has to go into them. A lot of them focus on building an awesome world: Great, but then the story/missions may suffer: Or vice versa.

    Imagine the amount of time and effort it takes to make an open world – “any sidequest any time” game and NOT have any conflicts with the main story or other quests. It’s almost godlike to think about.

    (btw Whoever thinks Vice City was even CLOSE to as good as GTA III is seriously off their rocker)

  7. This is my kind of article – sandbox games are my favorite kind of game. I have trouble with games that have an ‘ending’, as I’m not the type to return to a linear game. My favorite games are all sandbox games; Morrowind (can’t prop this game enough), Fallout 3, Saints Row 2, Prototype, to name a few.

    I’m all for the branching out of sandbox games, though. Look at Scribblenauts. It’s not ‘open world’, and it’s certainly not 3D, but it’s just about as sandbox-y as you can get, and I’m absolutely psyched to try it.

  8. @Mitch
    I completely agree with your transport qualms in FC2. I think Ubisoft went too into the realism there.
    My most recent favourite sandbox game would be inFamous (as of typing I achieved a platinum trophy about 10mins ago!) as after 3 play throughs it was still fun getting all my powers back and working my way back up to ‘Badass.’ That’s what I hate about, say, Fallout 3 or Oblivion as, at times, it feels like a bit of a chore trying to find those weapons with extra damage or boots that let me run faster all over again.

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