- NPCs with realistic schedules enhance immersion and believability in open-world games.
- Mods can improve the immersion factor by giving NPCs more dynamic behaviors, such as attending classes and mealtimes in Hogwarts Legacy.
- Open-world games like Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 excel in creating immersive experiences through dynamic NPCs and a richly detailed game world.
Open world games are just as much about the small details as they are about expansive exploration, and NPCs play a major role in bringing this feeling of immersion to players. Particularly in frequently visited locations, players will soon become wary if a character is glued in perpetual animation doing a single task all day. What brings these characters, and therefore their worlds, to life, is the feeling that they are truly living in the universe that the player finds themselves in.
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Some games go the extra mile to ensure that NPCs have a fully fleshed-out schedule, offering increased levels of immersion and believability in the game world. This can greatly enhance the experience for players, particularly in unusual settings such as in fantasy and adventure games. It is this attention to detail that provides longevity for many games, as the following open-world examples demonstrate.
1 Hogwarts Legacy
The Best-Selling Fantasy Game Can Be Enhanced Further With Mods
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Legacy
- February 10, 2023
It isn’t hard to see why Hogwarts Legacy was the best-selling game of 2023 considering the amount of effort that went into recreating an immersive Hogwarts environment, complete with a vast open world beyond it for players to explore.
While the base game might not be as immersive as some would have liked, PC modders have introduced a game-changing mechanic to NPCs, which sees them go to classes and mealtimes, as well as their dorms, at all the appropriate times.
2 Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Players Can Feel The Pressure As They Face A Cartel War
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
- March 7, 2017
Set during a brutal cartel war in the stunning South American country of Bolivia, Ghost Recon: Wildlands puts players in the shoes of an elite marine squad leader seeking to restore balance to the region and eliminate key members of the cartel.
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Although large swathes of the map are barren and desolate, the populated communities feel truly alive and a real sense of liberation can be felt when the ownership of settlements has changed hands. In addition to this, combat feels more intense at night due to the heightened presence of patrols, usually with heavier arsenals of weaponry, too.
3 Dying Light
A Noticeable Difference Between Day And Night
- January 27, 2015
Having experienced a recent resurgence in popularity long after its initial release in 2015, Dying Light is arguably one of the best zombie games ever made and combines a treacherous open world with free-running mechanics and brutal combat to make for a memorable experience.
Due to the nature of the enemies, there is a stark difference in the game’s day-night cycle which forces players to alter their approach when venturing out of safe zones. As a result, finding sanctuary and friendly NPCs can be a huge relief, particularly at night, when threat levels rise exponentially.
4 Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Highly Immersive Medieval Adventure With Realism At The Forefront
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- February 13, 2018
- Warhorse Studios
Perhaps the most realistic and immersive simulation of life in medieval Europe comes in the form of KingdomCome: Deliverance. In addition to having to teach the main protagonist, Henry, absolutely everything, from reading comprehension to cooking and combat, it seems that the surrounding characters also live a very difficult life as they go about their daily routines.
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From hunters traveling in and out of settlements to guard patrols and tavern crowds, the world of Kingdom Come: Deliverance truly feels as though it could exist on its own, with or without the input of the player. However, players do have a chance to shape the world around them through quests and the main story, which follows the wars of an unstable Holy Roman Empire.
5 Grand Theft Auto 5
The Popular Open World Game Exudes Life And Drama Through Its NPCs
Grand Theft Auto 5
- September 17, 2013
- Rockstar North
Despite being over a decade old, Grand Theft Auto 5 continues to be one of the most played games year after year, largely owing to the tremendous levels of immersion created by the game world and its NPCs. The expansive map allows players to glimpse into a variety of communities, from glitzy celebrity mansions in the city to impoverished trailer parks in the desert.
From relatively realistic traffic situations to hilarious street-side conversations and interactions, Los Santos and its surrounding environment is a truly rich setting with a vast amount of content to explore. Whether visiting a fast-food restaurant or being chased by a police helicopter, each character truly feels like they play a role in creating the open-world experience.
Bethesda’s Masterpiece Demonstrates The Value Of Having Believable NPCs
- November 11, 2011
Skyrim is easily one of the most popular games of all time and with good reason. From the very start of the game through hundreds of hours thereafter, players can notice a living world teeming with unique characters each going about their own separate lives.
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While player decisions can greatly affect and shape the world around them, as well as the behavior of NPCs, the world still feels independent and active even when simply resting in a tavern or temple. From Jarls and soldiers to fishermen and mages, each character has their particular place and story, which it is up to players to uncover on their journey through the game.
7 Red Dead Redemption 2
Unmatched Levels Of Immersion Both Among Characters And Animals
Red Dead Redemption 2
- October 26, 2018
Few, if any, games have been able to match the attentive levels of world-building and immersion to the same degree as Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. Even the wildlife alone interacts with itself in a way that can be watched for hours on end, with predators hunting prey and migrations taking place as the seasons change.
The characters also have notably complex lives with sophisticated daily routines. Characters will have their own homes, go to jobs at certain times, as well as interact and socialize with other NPCs, all independent of the player’s actions. Players can even notice new structures being built in real-time, as the Old West begins to gradually modernize in front of their very eyes.
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