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Review

Open Roads Review

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin

The journey of narrative adventure game Open Roads is one of bitter realisations, difficult choices, and humble conclusions. That’s just as much a reflection of Tess Devine’s road trip with her mother as it is the development of the game itself. Following allegations against the founder of Fullbright, the studio that originally brought us Gone Home and Tacoma, those remaining splintered away to form the Open Roads Team to complete development of this interactive mystery under Annapurna Interactive. Whether art imitates life can be debated, but it’s hard not to see the similarities of loss, struggle, and determination when you know the full picture, accidental or otherwise.

With the unfortunate passing of her mother, Opal and her daughter must navigate the difficult task of packing up their lives to move out of the family home. Unbeknownst to them, they uncover a mystery that sets them on a road trip to discover the truth about their family heritage, drudging up loving and challenging memories of Opal’s past that leave both mother and daughter questioning what they thought they knew.

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What follows is a first-person journey through a handful of locations, involving some slight puzzle-solving and dialogue options, as Opal and Tess butt heads over family life, the struggle to be a single mother when everything around you seemingly falls apart, and the dangers of believing a story without knowing all the facts. It’s a rather short tale, surprisingly shorter than I remember Gone Home or Tacoma being in comparison, nor is it as complex as Life is Strange. It’s hardly head scratching material; you will be lightly guided from one moment to the next  and on occasion what you uncover will lead to further interactions between the pair that may open other dialogue results elsewhere.

Its key actors, Keri Russell as Opal and Kaitlyn Dever as Tess, more than make up for the short run-time, both delivering compelling, emotionally driven performances with a touch of humour. Combined with its hand-drawn characters, the results are enjoyable as you uncover each twist, though something still clawed at the back of my head. With most of the dialogue coming across realistically, it was a shame that I was listening to them more than watching, as the characters moved a handful of frames at a time. The original teaser trailer suggested a greater level of animation than what’s on show here, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether all the behind-the-scenes issues impacted the original vision for the project. If this was indeed what the studio intended, it feels like a missed opportunity.

The same can be said for the story itself. I enjoyed my time here, engrossed in the journey Opal and Tess find themselves on, and yet its start is strangely abrupt and slow, while the loose ends tied up almost too nice and quick. The impact of those twists barely has time to sink in before the story kicks on to the next point or guides you to the next item to pick up nearby. The lack of challenging puzzles I can respect, the last thing Open Roads needed was a complex solution or two to bog things down. But a little extra time to feel, maybe a few brief moments in other locations along the road, could have helped to develop the at times strained relationship of our two key characters. Instead, the game relies on a few quick dialogue trees to form a conclusion. It’s the age-old problem of show don’t tell, and Open Roads prefers to tell you much of its backstory and key situations instead of showing them.

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Final Thoughts

Open Roads is a journey I’m glad I went on, though the disappointing circumstances of its development do feel as if they loom over its final form. As a complete package there’s something to love, something to respect and admire, with two lead actors elevating the material well beyond what many others might have achieved. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been bigger, bolder in its impact and exploration of its themes and its mysteries. Maybe it needed something darker, something stranger to lean into, but the results stand as a simple yet effective road trip that’s worth taking for an hour or two.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Open Roads Review
Roads were made for journeys, not destinations
An engaging cast drives this short but ultimately sweet journey down a well-worn emotional road, though the chance to spend more time with Tess and Opal Devine on some detours would have been welcome.
The Good
Voice performances elevate the story
Enjoyable tale of family mystery
Solid animation and musical score
The Bad
Slow opening and short runtime hurts overall
Lacking in complexity
Narrative needed just that little extra magic to truly shine
7.5
Solid
  • Open Roads Team
  • Annapurna Interactive
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • March 28, 2024

Open Roads Review
Roads were made for journeys, not destinations
An engaging cast drives this short but ultimately sweet journey down a well-worn emotional road, though the chance to spend more time with Tess and Opal Devine on some detours would have been welcome.
The Good
Voice performances elevate the story
Enjoyable tale of family mystery
Solid animation and musical score
The Bad
Slow opening and short runtime hurts overall
Lacking in complexity
Narrative needed just that little extra magic to truly shine
7.5
Solid
Written By Mark Isaacson

Known on the internet as Kartanym, Mark has been in and out of the gaming scene since what feels like forever, growing up on Nintendo and evolving through the advent of PC first person shooters, PlayStation and virtual reality. He'll try anything at least once and considers himself the one true king of Tetris by politely ignoring the world records.

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