Game Review: Open Roads (Xbox Series X)

As important as a strong narrative is, it can’t be the only aspect of a game that excels. There has to be more substance, otherwise that narrative gets put under the microscope even more. Case in point, Open Roads, a narrative-driven walking sim-style game developed by Open Roads Team and published by Annapurna Interactive.

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The story follows a mother and a daughter as they go on a short journey of self-discovery. Player’s step into the shoes of Tess, a 16-year-old girl who is dealing with her parent’s separation, the recent loss of her grandmother, Helen, and the fact that she and her mother, Opal have to move out of Helen’s home.

Of course, Tess clashes with her mother on a regular basis, but while cleaning out the house, she comes across a hidden suitcase in the attic. One that holds secrets and suggests Helen may have had an affair and that what Opal knows of her father, isn’t quite the truth.

With no place to go, Tess and Opal set off across the country, following the trail to uncover the truth about Helen’s secret life. Discovering more about themselves, and each other, along the way.

It sounds like a really interesting and relatable narrative, and it is… mostly, but everything around it is seriously lacking. Gameplay is limited to a handful of small locations where you walk around, interact with a few objects, and then talk about them. It quickly becomes dull, not helped by the fact that the overarching story plot, Helen’s secret life, isn’t that interesting.

What is interesting is Opal and Tess, and often the best bits of the game are when they’re in the car together, talking. Alas, these moments are far too brief and, seemingly to try and keep the game tight, can end abruptly making things feel unresolved. Something that applies to the ending too, where it just peters out half-heartedly.

All of this means the subject matter and different threads lack substance, even if the incredible voice acting (Kaitlyn Dever and Keri Russell) tries to give a lot of weight to things. Their voices have the emotion needed for many scenes, but it becomes increasingly difficult to stay immersed enough to feel it. Putting it simply, you’ll like both Tess and Opal, but you won’t love them, let alone really care about them.

A huge problem when you take into account that this a narrative-driven game, and a huge problem when you take into account how lacking gameplay is.

It looks nice, it sounds nice, and it tries to make something significant work, but sadly comes up short in far too many departments to be a memorable experience.


  • Carl Fisher

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Open Roads (Xbox Series X)
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