Open Roads Review

Between the developer (The Open Roads Team) and publisher (the ever reliable Annapurna) I had high hopes going into Open Roads. Lauded narrative adventures are numerous between them (Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch the two most apt examples here), but could the trend continue? Well, after spending a few hours going through it I can report the answer is a resounding yes.

Open Roads is a focused, story-based affair, and so to get into too much would be ruinous to the experience. We’ll avoid as much as possible, though be warned that there may be light mentions of aspects in this review.

Our opening area is Tess’s room. and it’s a great example of the level of detail and things to find for th rest of the game

We follow the tale of Theresa (aka Tess) and her mom Opal as they deal with the recent loss of the latter’s own mother. After her death, they are forced to pack up and move out the home they shared. We pick up just as Tess is packing her room, and are introduced to how we will be interacting with the game going forward. Much like Gone Home, we play these sections in first person, scouring each environment for key items as well as incidental bits and bobs.

Much like that narrative classic, The Open Roads team have crammed each and every scene with detail, telling a story with a thousand words per frame. Tess’s room is typical of a teenager in 2003, with all sorts of odds and ends scattered about, such as teddy bears, DVD’s, half used pencil rubbers, and more. Outside of one or two key items in these first person sections, the rest are all optional though worth looking over. We can learn a thing or two about Tess, Opal, and others that help flesh out the story. For example, in Tess’s room we discover an invoice for her website design business, something her mother seems to not know about (or understand).

Set in 2003, there are plenty of real-world touchstones throughout – though not all as serious as this early example

After the opening, each time we find a narrative beat we get to hear from both Opal and Tess. The writing, interplay and performances here are all excellent. Even within the first few minutes we can really feel the awkward familial tension between the two as the toll of a mother and grandmother’s death takes effect, and as more layers to the onion are peeled back throughout. While it’s mostly kept fairly wholesome between the two, occasional dialogue options let us explore further issues and mistrust or deception, each new revelation offering genuine intrigue for us to continue playing.

We’re not looking at Walking Dead-style huge impacts by any means, but the extra flavour added really helps ground us in the tale. Again, without going into too much detail there’s more to the tensions than simply fresh grief, and before long we’re out on the road in search of answers to questions that only lead into more questions.

Dialogue scenes play out with half-body shots of Tess and Opal, the camera switching between them as they talk. It looks lovely – like an old cartoon – though we would have liked a tad more on the animation front

By the time it all wraps up after roughly four hours, we felt just as invested as we remember being in Gone Home’s Katie’s story. The brisk pace keeps the story flowing, and there’s very little in here that could be considered filler or padding. It’s hard to elaborate without, you know, ruining it, but once more let us emphasise the quality of the writing and performances throughout. It’s a testament to all involved that we play it through in one sitting without even realising the time that had past.

Eye-catching in trailers, the art style in Open Roads is just as tremendous in action. The first person sections are a mix of painterly style and semi-realism, each area packed with detail and objects. It reminds us of the first Life is Strange, which is a plus in our books. In conversation, we get close-ups of both Opal and Tess, with a limited set of early-00’s cartoon-style animation playing out as the full voiced story is performed. Kaitlyn Dever as Tess and Keri Russell as Opal both put in brilliant performances, though we must admit that we’d liked to have seen a slight bit more variation in the animations. Those performances certainly carry the experience, but there were a couple of times we couldn’t help but get a bit distracted by the animation looping as they were talking. It’s a (very) minor nit-pick admittedly, but something we’d have liked to see all the same.


Open Roads is another excellently crafted experience from The Open Roads Team and Annapurna. With a strong, emotional, and well-performed story, as well as plenty of room for fleshing out the tale via the exploration sections, it’s something that had us compelled to play from start to finish in a single sitting – and will live on in our thoughts for quite some time.

This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Excellent writing and performances
  • Story full of intrigue
  • Character animation is good, but could’ve used more variety
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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