Review: Open Country – PS5, PS4

BY STUART MCLEAN

Stuart Mclean

Writer and Storywriter

PUBLISHED 3 MONTHS AGO

Open Country is a budget-friendly alternative in the fairly small hunting simulator niche, but is it worth a play?

Review: Open Country - PS5, PS4

There was a point during my time with Open Country when everything just seemed to click. I had a bag full of resources, plenty of water and food to keep me going and enough ammo to take down a herd of elephants, should I want to. Although sitting playing a videogame is far removed from actually hunting, for a little while all the systems at work came together and I actually felt like a hunter.

Game Information
Release Date: July 8th, 2021
Developer: FUN Labs
Publisher: 505 Games
Availability: PSN (Digital) Retail (Disc) – Buy on Amazon

This didn’t last long. Soon I was struggling to get anywhere having sprained my ankle in a jump down a small cliff, and I was slowly dehydrating to the point I was on the verge of death. If a water source didn’t appear soon I would happily drink my own piss.

Open Country starts strong. Playing as the everyman leaving the bright lights of the city behind to pursue a dream of becoming one with nature, the game starts off slow and builds up nicely. Here’s how to hunt; here’s how to craft; speak to this person to get your missions, or sell this lady over here your resources for cash and then use that to buy some goodies – it’s all your standard hunting sim fare and at the beginning, it works.

It was after the opening few missions and all the plates get spinning that the seams start to come apart. Early on you are introduced to crafting and how that works in Open Country through one of the opening quests, and initially, everything is as expected. For this mission, there are resources everywhere, and everything you need is to hand. The game tells you what to do then sets you on your way.

It’s at this point that I swear the game becomes sentient. It felt like every time I went to build something, the game would know exactly what I was trying to do and the resources I needed would somehow vanish from the map.

I spent what felt like hours looking for twigs to the point that in the end I just gave up on the crafting system entirely – and that’s a major part of the game. In other games, I could have taken my axe and chopped down a tree, but here the axe is just a tool used for crafting – it doesn’t appear to be something you can actually use. Swing it at a tree if you want, but the tree doesn’t give two twigs.

This went from being frustrating to becoming a joke quite quickly, and in the end, I just ignored the crafting system altogether. The crafting system feels broken and Open Country definitely has a resource problem. I get that this is true in real life so before you all start moaning about realism, I did consider that – but when I’m running through a forest and can’t find a single twig it starts to get a bit silly.

Ignoring this very obvious issue, Open Country still plays relatively well. The mission system is structured so that there was never a time when I felt like I was wandering around aimlessly. They were kind of boring though, mostly taking the form of the tried and tested fetch quest scenario. There’s a decent skill tree where you can spend tokens gained from experience to boost all kinds of skills, from weapon to survival to crafting.

Getting from point A to point B can be fun, but this too gets tedious quickly and you do it a lot – so much that I would say Open County is more of a walking sim than a hunting one. Although there are sections when you drive a quad bike or use a boat out on the lake, walking is the main means of transportation and a lot of time is spent moving from one place to another. This is all well and good, and most of the time the map is open enough to encourage exploration, but sometimes there are annoying dead ends or obstacles that mean you have to backtrack to get where you are heading.

The game also has a few comfort systems to manage in that you can get cold, hungry and thirsty, with each having an adverse effect should they get too low. These are just some of the things at work in Open Country – there’s way more, some of which I don’t think I even came close to using.

Managing these systems is as simple as buying some warmer clothes from the store or filling your flask every time you get the chance. If you want a simpler experience these can all be adjusted in the difficulty settings. This was something I wish I had tinkered with more, as I would often die of thirst as this was usually the one I would end up overlooking.

Hunting in Open Country is something else that you can ignore entirely if you wish – the only times I went out specifically to hunt something was when a mission told me to. You can go out hunting and fishing as often as you like, so long as you have the right gear for the occasion.

If hunting is your thing there is plenty to keep you busy – you can buy gear in the store such as calls and whistles to attract your prey, or even change the colour of your clothes depending on what animal you are hunting. I didn’t do this once – but you can if you want to. To me, it all just felt like needless fuss without any real advantage offered – well none that I could see anyway.

Taking out your rifle after tracking down an animal is what hunting is all about (says someone who has never been hunting in all his life), and luckily Open Country does a decent job with the shooting mechanics. Aiming down the sight feels solid, and the gunplay is decent. Shooting feels satisfying, with enough camera wobble and recoil to feel like a challenge without being unfair – hitting an animal from a distance after tracking it through the landscape is enjoyable without being gory or graphic.

The thing is, Open Country does have the foundations of a good game – there is a lot going on, from crafting to hunting, exploring to levelling up and building out your character. The problem is, the core systems don’t work well enough together to feel satisfying.

It’s here where Open Country starts to fall flat. All of the systems are good in theory, but none of them feel fleshed out enough to work on their own. Crafting feels like a chore because too long is spent looking for resources, and hunting can largely be ignored, so in the end, I just focused on what I needed to do to complete each mission. Some missions are more enjoyable than others, and sometimes simple missions turn out to be overly long simply because you can’t find the right resources in the right area, and that just leads to frustration.

This is a huge shame. I started out really enjoying my time with Open Country – the maps on offer feel huge and exploring the wild feels satisfying and weirdly relaxing, considering I am out with a rifle strapped to my back and getting attacked by the odd wolf – but it soon starts to sour. There isn’t one major issue with the game, just a series of niggling smaller ones that soon build up to be bigger than they need to be.

I’ve spent a good time with Open Country and I know there is still lots for me to go out and do. I haven’t fully explored each map, nor maxed out every skill, but at this point, I feel like my time with it is done. I was a hunter for a few weeks, and it felt good but I’m happy to say that’s me finished for the season.

Open Country PS5, PS4 Review
  • Overall - Not Bad - 5/10
    5/10

Summary

Open Country does get a few things right with its hunting, exploration, and character growth. Where it falls down is that it tries to be a jack of all trades but ends up a master of none. 

5/10

Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.

Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.

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