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The 7 Open-World Games With The Best Reactive World Events

Highlights

  • Immersion in open-world games is enhanced by dynamic, reactive world events shaped by player choices and actions.
  • games like
    Dying Light 2
    and
    Middle-earth: Shadow of War
    demonstrate how player decisions can drastically change game worlds.
  • Fallout: New Vegas
    and
    The Witcher 3
    showcase the impact of environmental choices and narrative decisions on game outcomes.



One of the primary focus points of game developers in the open-world genre is immersion. Companies are games-most-unique/”>constantly pushing the boundaries of realism in their game worlds, and one of the most exciting ways to achieve this is through the implementation of dynamic, reactive world events – occurrences that unfold organically within the game’s environment, responding to the player’s actions and choices. These events not only add an extra layer of unpredictability and excitement, but also contribute to the sense that the player is influencing and living in a world that is full of rich detail and adapts to the protagonist’s journey.


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There are many open-world games that have incorporated reactive events into their worlds, but only a select few have done so in a way that is truly captivating and unforgettable. With the exponential rise in hardware capabilities, there is boundless potential in open-world game design. Technical capability also goes hand in hand with creative tasks like narrative choices in a game’s storyline, and how the player’s decisions could alter the plot. As the industry continues to experiment with features like this, there are no limits to what games can achieve to ensure that games-most-rewarding-exploration/”>players remain invested and engaged in the virtual worlds they inhabit.


7 Dying Light 2

Metacritic Rating: 76

Dying Light 2

Released
February 4, 2022

  • Reactive World Events: Faction alliances, player reputation, narrative choices, environmental impact


Dying Light, the first game in the series, was rumored to have a reactive world during its devlopment, so fans were disappointed to see that that wasn’t the case upon its release. Dying Light 2 made up for that by introducing a sprawling, highly-dynamic world where the protagonist’s actions have a drastic effect on it.

The player has to make major story decisions that will push the game’s world towards being aligned with one of a few different factions in the game. Entire regions will be controlled by one faction over others depending on choices independent of the main storyline, changing the environment, NPCs, quests, and threats that appear in the area. Certain buildings, such as the Peacekeepers’ HQ or the Bazaar, can be destroyed, occupied, or abandoned, contingent on player actions. With the release of a new Nightmare Mode, there is also a new type of zombie that is more reactive to the player’s actions, which has made the game more terrifying than ever. Techland intended for the game to be much more malleable than its predecessor, which resulted in a gameplay experience that evolves in different ways throughout the story.


6 Middle-earth: Shadow Of War

Metacritic Rating: 80

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

Released
October 10, 2017

Genre(s)
Action RPG

  • Reactive World Events: Nemesis system

The iconic Nemesis System has garnered praise from critics and gamers alike for how it has functioned as a core gameplay mechanic in the world of Middle-earth. Acting as a way to fight and survive battles with Orc captains, warchiefs, and overlords, the Nemesis System ensures that each Orc is unique.

All orcs in the game are assigned a name and will remember encounters with the protagonist, be they victories or defeats. Their appearances, strengths, and roles will change depending on the actions of the player. Orcs can also be recruited, but will also readily betray the player, leading to Nemesis battles and changes in orc hierarchies. Monolith Productions has revolutionized gaming mechanics with this system, and are planning to employ its use games/”>in the upcoming Wonder Woman game.


5 inFamous 2

Metacritic Rating: 83

  • Reactive World Events: Player reputation (karma system), NPC behavior, environmental impact, narrative and mission choices

Sucker Punch were first famous for making the inFamous series of games, about a decade before they began to work on Ghost of Tsushima. Most fans like the story of the first two games more than the PS4 launch title, inFamous: Second Son. It is one of the few franchises that places games-good-morality-path/”>a lot of emphasis on the ‘karma’ morality system beyond just dialogue choices.


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NPC attitudes towards Cole change, and buildings are rebuilt or become more decrepit, depending on whether he is good or evil, but the overall layout of the map stays the same. Cole’s powers also change depending on his alignment. Story missions do feature player choices as well, with different endings depending on the karmic choices Cole has made throughout the game.

4 Fallout: New Vegas

Metacritic Rating: 84

Fallout: New Vegas

Released
October 19, 2010

  • Reactive World Events: Environmental impact, narrative choices, settlement consequences, relationships

Fallout: New Vegas, much like the earlier titles in the series, has tons of player choices that leave permanent effects on the world around them. There are several reactive events that take place in the game. For instance, depending on which major faction the player ultimately sides with (NCR, Caesar’s Legion, etc.), cities and settlements in the Mojave Wasteland will be occupied and controlled by that faction.


How the player finishes quests for locations like Jacobstown will impact whether those areas prosper, are abandoned, or even destroyed. Also, like most open-world RPGs, companions can be permanently driven off or killed based on how the player treats them.

3 Disco Elysium

Metacritic Rating: 89

Disco Elysium

Released
October 15, 2019

Developer(s)
ZA/UM

  • Reactive World Events: Player reputation and personality, political alliances, NPC behavior, narrative choices, relationships, environmental impact


While not an open-world game in the traditional sense, Disco Elysium has a large map that can be explored by the player after certain quests during the story. It is essentially a tabletop point-and-click game with RPG and open-world features. In terms of reactive world events, there are areas that can transform over the course of the investigation conducted by the protagonist. Some areas end up in different states (repaired, vandalized, occupied by different factions) depending on player choices and how side quests are resolved.

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There are also Political Vision quests that the player can choose relating to whichever of the four political affiliations they have chosen to align with: Moralism, Communism, Ultra-Liberalism, or Fascism. They all have different Thoughts that correspond to them, which have various effects. For instance, the Ultra-Liberalist Thought “Indirect Modes of Taxation” gives the protagonist bonus amounts of money as he progresses through the game. What’s more, buildings and rooms can end up trashed, cleaned up, or repurposed, contingent upon dialogue choices made when interacting with certain NPCs. Most importantly, the fates and lives of NPCs are very much impacted by the player’s approach to the story.


2 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Metacritic Rating: 92

  • Reactive World Events: Player reputation, environmental impact, narrative choices, romantic and platonic relationships

The Witcher 3 has a massive open world that revolves around rich narratives and quest lines. It provides a staggering number of choices and consequences, especially for secondary characters and side narratives.

The player is often asked to make several choices throughout the story that will either be completely meaningless or that will shape the fate of the entire world. For instance, in the Blood and Wine DLC, there are multiple requirements that players need to fulfill in order to get the best ending. Additionally, depending on the choices the player makes prior to the end of the base game, Ciri may also become a Witcher, which is one of three endings, but she can suffer a much worse fate as well.


1 Read Dead Redemption 2

Metacritic Rating: 97

Red Dead Redemption 2

Released
October 26, 2018

  • Reactive World Events: Player reputation (Honor system), NPC behavior, environmental impact, narrative and mission choices

While Red Dead Redemption 2 has an incredibly detailed and immersive open world, the core map layout, environment, and NPC behavior remain somewhat static throughout the game. However, there are still a lot of reactive elements that players have noticed which brings a more grounded feel to the game.


The Honor system, for instance, brings about major changes to the story, but there are only two broad morality paths with four endings to the game. However, NPCs will react to and speak about Arthur believably depending on his actions and choices. Certain story missions leave environments burned or destroyed in the open world. Arthur’s (and his horse’s) appearance will degrade, and so does the camp, if the player fails to keep up with grooming and provisions.

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