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Freedom Bridges Gap Between ‘Metro Exodus’ Linear, Open World Missions

Earlier this year at E3, 4A Games revealed that “Metro Exodus'” script was going to be more than twice the size of “Metro 2033,” “Last Light,” and all other DLC packs combined. Its maps were going to have far more room to explore with some being bigger than two square kilometers, a departure from the maps in the previous games that were only a few hundred square meters.

It’s all part of an effort to make the exploration and combat in the first-person survival title more open to player whims. While “Exodus” will still feature linear missions that the series is known for, other maps will have a sandbox approach. Although both types of missions will give the player the freedom to choose how they progress throughout the game.

“We could have gone with a completely open world structure,” 4A Games executive producer Jon Bloch tells Variety. “But we wouldn’t have been able to craft the same type of narrative, the same type of developer created story, that the series, and novels, are known for.”

The team at 4A Games brought a new demo build to Gamescom, featuring a segment from one of the larger maps that include packs of wolves chasing down deformed deer, giant rotting bears going on rampages, and enemy bandits that do everything in their power to kill you. The term survival should be used loosely because I died many times during my short playthrough.

One second I was in the middle of a firefight with French-accent sporting bandits and the next I was getting trampled by those horrific deer. It was just a taste of the different types of situations that can play out in the sandbox that 4A was creating, it’s exactly the type of variety that Exodus is aiming to span across its maps, gameplay styles, and mechanical systems.

Bloch and his team felt that the complexity and freedom in the game needed to increase alongside the scale so that players would experience a wider variety of things and not just more for the sake of more. A few of those changes for the sake of variety included new autumn seasons and environments that highlight the series departure from frozen wastelands and illustrate the games year-long narrative.

“Some of the new systems were necessary to support the sandbox levels on their own, adding in more freedom means that the systems need to truly allow for more possibilities,” Bloch said. “We have things like an overhauled weapon system where you can find attachments, mods, and upgrades for your weapons anywhere. We want you to be able to swap that stuff out on the fly and be able to customize your kit whenever you wanted to.”

Bloch emphasized that the freedom he mentioned stretched beyond how you approach different situations, it was included in the actual systems. You don’t have to return to base to exchange items or loadouts or kit yourself out in order to move from a stealth to combative approach, or vice versa.“It allows you to try different things on the fly,” he said. “You can approach a situation one way and then change your mind mid-battle.”

While the titles linear levels would be more crafted to tell a specific story, that same freedom would exist there as well. “We wanted to find a happy medium where players can have those experiences across the entire game, “ Bloch said. “But not that it’s so unchecked that we’re not able to ensure that it feels like a Metro game, we still wanted that immersion.”

Bloch believes that a take on open world gameplay like this, one that combines linear and sandbox level structure across the course of the game is key to combating player fatigue. It will hopefully give them the best of both worlds, but it’s still a gamble that might end up lessening the impact of the game’s story.

In the end, Bloch and his team are doing everything in their power to retain the narrative feel of a Metro game, even if some players would miss details due to their preferred playstyles. “That story-driven, immersive, atmospheric feel is one of the main things that makes a Metro game a Metro game,” Bloch said. It’s that feeling you get when you play, we still wanted that even though we’re introducing a lot of new things.”

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