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Open Roads

Open Roads

Written by Eric Hauter on 3/27/2024 for PC  
More On: Open Roads

My wife doesn’t enjoy video games the way I do. She doesn’t have any inherent animosity towards them, but she also doesn’t have any interest. She would rather watch a television show, read a book, rearrange furniture, pretty much anything besides burning away hours with a controller in her hands. This leads to a lot of situations where I am yammering on about the latest game I’m playing, and she is half-listening and pretending to care.

This shared dynamic is a bit of a bummer in the case of Open Roads, because when I’m talking about this game, I really wish she was paying attention to me. Out of all of the games I’ve babbled about, saying “I really think you would like this one”, I really think she might like this one. Not that enjoyment of Open Roads is gender-specific, its just that we both enjoy the performers in this game, and we're both suckers for picking through old, abandoned places. I just know she would like this one, dang it.

Open Roads is a delightful narrative bon-bon of a game. Clocking in at just about two hours, I could easily see someone getting through this in one sitting. That is not to imply anything about the value of the game; I found the experience to be completely enjoyable and satisfying. It left me wanting more, but also left me pretty pleased with what it gave me.

Open Roads is a slice of life story about a mother and daughter, portrayed in fabulous voice performances by Keri Russell (The Americans, The Diplomat) and Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, No One Will Save You). The two women find themselves at a bit of a crossroads in their lives, in more ways than one. Russell plays Opal, a middle-aged artsy mom who is reeling from a recent divorce and the passing of her mother. Dever voices Tess, Opal's daughter, who is exasperated by her mother’s lack of planning (they are getting thrown out of Grandma’s house following her death), the unexplained departure of her father, and the family’s insistence that she attend college in the fall.

Into this tinderbox of human emotions drops a match of discovery that quickly ignites a shared curiosity, sending the women on a short road trip. While going through Grandma’s stuff, a few old letters are found that bring into question everything that Opal thought she knew about her childhood and her parents. The duo set off on a weekend trip, fueled half by intrigue and half by dread. I wouldn’t go any further in learning about the story if you plan on playing Open Roads. It’s a tight 120 minutes, but if you know what’s going to happen, a lot of the fun of discovery will be lost to you.

All of these relationships and complications are communicated in some of the most natural and understated dialogue I’ve heard in a game. Though a lot happens over Open Road’s short run time, no one gets hysterical, and there are no huge dramatic moments. The relationships feel real, connected, and loving, and the communication between the two characters reflects that.

Gameplay is very linear, with players wandering around a few small environments, poking around and having conversations about what they find. There are few locked rooms that you will find keys for, but that’s about as deep as the challenge gets. Most of the entertainment in the game comes from the unfolding of the low-stakes mystery, and the pleasure of getting to know these two well-drawn characters. Some folks might dismiss this game as a walking sim (a term I really dislike), but they would be doing the carefully constructed narrative a disservice by doing so.

Graphically, the artwork alternates between semi-realistic depictions of the game’s environments and expressive, 1970's-style Saturday morning cartoon animations for the characters (who are only lightly animated – no talking mouths here). Unexpectedly, the two art styles go well together, creating a pleasant enough pastiche. My only real gripe is how slow the movement is in the first-person exploration sections; it feels like Tess is operating with a broken leg, she moves so slowly.

Despite the slow speed, exploration is simple yet fun. I’m a sucker for poking around in long-abandoned places, and Open Road feeds directly into my love of being in spaces that have been undisturbed for long periods of time. There are just a few stops along the way of this road trip, but I really enjoyed exploring each of them, examining long-lost objects, and finding clues that advanced the storyline.

Open Roads is an alternative to high-stakes, action-packed games, and one that will resonate with players that enjoy gentle storytelling, good conversations, and realistic character development. It’s a lightly dramatic and thoughtful short story being told via a medium usually reserved for clanging science fiction epics and explosive war comics. I really enjoyed it. Now I just need to find a way to convince my wife to give it a shot. 


Engrossing and enjoyable for its brief run time, Open Roads tells a quiet, witty story of discovery that spans three generations of women. Though it never veers into melodrama, I found the narrative to be engaging and intriguing. Great performances lend a realism to the well-written characters. If you think Open Roads seems like something you might enjoy, you are likely right.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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