The worlds aren’t being used to enhance existing genres. Collecting things is the primary focus of these games, as that’s what the bulk of the content is, created for the player to do. If it weren’t for the open world and the smorgasbord of “content”, no one would play these games. The rest of the gameplay, surrounding the collecting, is usually pretty bland and clunky. Then again, collecting sucks too.

“Watch Dogs” was little more than “Assassin’s Creed” with hacking and the most miserable handling cars in existence.

“The Crew” took the handling from “Watch Dogs” and said, “Yeah, we can make a whole game out of that,” and boy, did they.

“FarCry 4” has decent shooting mechanics, but nothing spectacular. Let’s not pretend the game hasn’t been made twice already, anyways. It’s the exact same game as “FarCry 3”, but in the mountains, and “Blood Dragon” is a thing that exists.

Then there’s “Assassin’s Creed”, the one that started it all… and it has pretty terrible gameplay. Refined not to be more fun, but to merely WORK over all these years, “Assassin’s Creed” is the textbook definition of “Meh”, where you’ll see a picture of it in the dictionary. Not Merriam Webster, the other one. The one no one reads.

The only hope it has given players all these years is the pirating you could do in “Black Flag”. It was cool, but did they make it better or more fun? Even turn it into its own game like Ubisoft hinted it might? No, you just collected more stuff and shot sharks in the face. Then they made “Rogue”, which is “Black Flag” in a different location.

Way to go, Ubisoft. With all the money you make, I’m sure you have a full stable of nothing but the finest dead horses that you can beat. Probably shipped from all over the globe. Exotic varieties too, like the Knabstrupper, Blue Roan Gypsy Vanner, or even the Chocolate Silver Dapple Pinto. You look like you might like a bit of Chocolate Silver Dapple Pinto blood on your horse whackin’ bats. I bet you do.

But, let’s not pretend Ubisoft is the only one to blame here. They are merely profiting the most off of this turd of an industry trend.

After all, we can’t forget “Infamous”. A game where you have super powers! But also one where you blow up military trucks that send glowing shards all over the place, that you will then go collect, so you can increase your power, while shooting down drones, rescuing people from cages, and kicking the crap out of sign twirlers.

Nor can we forget the recent Batman games, “Arkham City” and “Arkham Origins”. Two games that are almost exactly the same as each other, but completely different from their predecessor, “Arkham Asylum”. Which was, by itself, a game that was very tightly designed and felt incredibly fresh. Then they went open world, and things got worse.

The collectibles exploded, not that “Arkham Asylum” didn’t have them, but many were locked behind environmental puzzles, designed more like “Metroid” and placed thoughtfully. (The right way to do collectibles.) Instead, the open world titles put stuff everywhere, cheapening them.

Next we have “Elder Scrolls”.

There aren’t collectibles in “Elder Scrolls”!

Ah, you see, that’s where you’re wrong. Remember when I said that side quests are, in fact, collectibles if done a certain way? They are in “Elder Scrolls”. They’re mostly filler, designed to make the worlds in the games feel like they’re FULL of stuff to do, when it’s all largely the same content, with a different NPC asking you to go to a slightly different cave and retrieve a slightly different item. “Skyrim” even gives you dragons to take down and you can collect their bones.

“Elder Scrolls” is at least a lot more sandbox-y than the other games I’ve mentioned, but most people use that to collect things, like cups or bodies. You want to be the Cup Lord in the game? Go ahead. Make the grandest stack of cups you can make, but you’ll have to go collect them all first.

Most recently, I’ve been playing “Dragon Age: Inquisition”, the much heralded return to form for the series, after that much maligned “Dragon Age II”. It’s open world!

Yeah, about that…

See, it’s not actually very good. They used a similar recipe as Ubisoft, but got it even more wrong.

There are some good spots to the game. The characters are decent, even if they’re not up to Bioware’s typical standard. Combat is probably the best in the series, too. It’s just… that open world.

The open world ruins the entire game. And it’s not just because it’s a collect-a-thon. I mean, it is and that sucks, but it’s also because of a poor choice that was made in how you progress through the story.

See, there is a resource in the game called Power and you need this resource to advance the plot. The thing is, that you can only get this resource by finding the collectibles. You need to do tedious side quests for nameless NPCs, you need to close rifts – of which there are many – find landmarks, find shards, find Astariums, find camps, take over mercenary strongholds, and maybe kill a dragon or two.

Does that stuff sound familiar? It should, because it’s exactly like the other games I mentioned. Except, now it’s compulsory, instead of compulsive.

This completely ruins the game’s pacing. And even when you finally decide to progress the story, you’ll find there isn’t even that much of it to experience. Without the collecting, the game could be buttoned up and shelved in twenty hours.