I Want More Vertical Traversal in Open-World Games


The last update’s talk about fast travel and open-world games brought to mind something that get’s to me whenever I’m playing one — vertical traversal, or the lack thereof.

I know it’s technically how things are supposed to work, but not being able to overcome a ledge that’s just a little bit too high never fails to frustrate me in Skyrim or Far Cry 3. Yeah cliffs and mountains are a natural way of creating walls but it’s become so over-used that if you play enough open-world games they become just as obvious as ordinary invisible walls. You ever notice how every old school Final Fantasy world map is ridiculously mountainous for the same reason?

I personally would love to see verticality become the next new thing in open world games. Instead of expanding outward, why don’t designers expand up and downwards? Of course these games have hills you’re supposed to summit in a predetermined way. Games like the new Tomb Raider have pre-determined cliffs you can climb. I’ve seen footage of the thousands of feet above sea level available to players in Just Cause 2, and thus theoretically any mountains upon which they might land, but unfortunately that is yet another game sitting on my backlog. The closest I think we’ve gotten to true freeform climbing in open-world games is how Assassin’s Creed gives you the ability to procedurally climb literally any artificial structure. What I want is a game that lets me do the same for cliffs and mountains.

Imagine being able to approach an objective in Far Cry from not only the dense forest facing it on one side, but also the seaside cliff facing the other end after finding some climbing gear. Imagine being able to rappel hundreds of feet down the face of a mountain for a quick descent. Imagine all the extra space for entire ruins, dungeons, or bases on the faces of high mountains accessible through straight-up mountain-climbing.

I have never been mountain climbing, but the one game I’ve played that contains the closest approximation of what I imagine the challenge of rock climbing is like is Shadow of the Colossus. I’m not even talking about climbing and killing the game’s living giants, but its penultimate secret challenge — climbing to the top of the central temple.

The one-button grip mechanic of that game is simple and understandable, yet people came up with all kinds of strategies and guides to climbing the temple. Viewing its height and then spending a good 20 minutes managing my stamina while inching towards the top was a challenge like few others in games. Imagine going through that on a mountain with an Assassin’s Creed-style climbing interface in order to reach new locations.

If they want these games to be so “open,” why not really make every inch of land accessible, regardless of elevation? Sure balancing a game around that would be a new challenge, but it could also result in a fresh experience.


  • “Baby Got Back”… in Shakespearean English: http://t.co/dWElQ7LVj3
  • Honestly I ain’t mad at EA getting Star Wars. I just expect DICE to give us another Galactic Conquest, or Star Wars Battlefront, or some kind of Star Wars Battlefield game. Visceral could do quite a bit with the license as well.
  • Ni no Kuni $35 from Newegg at eBay. http://j.mp/10ilJ8z
  • So Wi-Fi in Deep South US hotels at least has passwords now. They’re learning. At least it’s better than how Embassy Sweets will charge you $10 per device. Hotels just don’t know how wired their patrons are these days. I’m wondering right now if I’m the only person who usually unplugs the room’s generic alarm clock (in favor of the one on my phone) and slams in a power splitter to charge all his electronics.
  • Looks like Dead End Thrills has really gotten started on Tomb Raider: http://t.co/cHTFmucXwR
  • Fables is one of those comics I’ve been interested in but never had the time for. A Telltale game could help. http://flip.it/lIhHb
  • I guess Sony figured out how Sega got popular in Brazil. http://flip.it/gzdTS
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