Open Roads Review - Driving Motivation

Are narrative adventure Open Roads' dark secrets worth uncovering? Check out our review to find out.

Published: March 27, 2024 12:00 PM /

Reviewed By:

The Open Roads logo against key art depicting a forest and a pink sky

Appropriately enough, Open Roads has traveled a long and winding path to launch.

Revealed in 2020, the road trip adventure was originally being worked on under the Fullbright name, but then Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor stepped down following toxic workplace allegations. Then, in 2023, Gaynor revealed he wasn't involved with Open Roads anymore, leaving the so-called "Open Roads Team" as the sole developer.

All of which is to say that despite a somewhat troubled production cycle, Open Roads is finally here. The story of teenager Tess and her mother Opal, who set out on a road trip to investigate secrets that lie at the heart of their family, can finally be told. One question remains, then: was Open Roads worth the trouble?

Open Roads Spins an Intriguing Yarn

Opal saying "I just happen to agree with you" to Tess in Open Roads
Good thing you do, because otherwise, there'd be no story.

Fullbright's name may no longer be on Open Roads, but it bears all of the hallmarks of Fullbright games like Gone Home and Tacoma. It's got low-key storytelling, strong atmospherics, and a heck of a lot of random inconsequential objects to pick up and examine. 

This time around, though, there's a stronger focus on character, likely because Open Roads actually has two living, breathing characters at the center of its story, which is fairly unusual for Fullbright-adjacent projects. Tess and Opal chat, they bicker, and they bond, and their relationship forms the core of the narrative.

Open Roads' story is pretty low-stakes, and it's easy to imagine proceedings slipping into irritating "mumblecore" territory. Thankfully, a healthy dose of humor and excellent voice performances by twin titans Kaitlyn Dever and Keri Russell helped to swerve that particular pothole.

The mystery at the heart of Open Roads is an intriguing one, too. Tess' grandmother, and Opal's mother, has died, and she's left behind a suitcase containing clues to a secret double life she may have led. I won't spoil its twists and turns, but they're entertaining and I genuinely didn't see most of them coming.

It helps that the character writing is strong too. Teenage characters can be a difficult prospect; too morose and they're no fun, too quippy and they become insufferable. Tess never falls into either trap, and her mother is believably exasperated with life spiraling out of her control. There's very little melodrama here, and that's refreshing.

There Isn't Much to Do in Open Roads

Tess explaining how people get into the house's crawlspace in Open Roads
If by "this" you mean "on-rails button presses", then yes.

Narrative is the watchword of Open Roads, and, indeed, of most walking simulator-style games, so it probably won't come as a surprise that the Open Roads Team has put all of its eggs into this basket. There is, to put it simply, very little gameplay to speak of here. If you're looking for puzzles, you should look elsewhere.

Once or twice, you'll be asked to find a key to a lock. Sometimes the lock and key are literally a lock and a key, and sometimes they're some other object and a problem solved by said object, but the "puzzle-solving" never evolves beyond that simple formula.

If you're a fan of walking simulators, this won't just be obvious to you; it's probably also why you're interested in Open Roads. I'm happy to report that if you loved Gone Home and Tacoma, then this one's tailor-made for you as well.

With that said, there were times I felt like Open Roads could have been a touch more ambitious. Some of its locations represent exciting, adventurous possibilities, but the method by which you explore them is never more interactive than just "press the button on the thing to move on".

It doesn't help that Open Roads also has a pretty painfully slow walking pace. Thankfully, most of its environments are small, dense, and cluttered, but there were still times I wished I had a sprint button handy so I could accelerate Tess' meandering.

Open Roads' Art Style Doesn't Quite Work

Opal and Tess talking about hidden bootlegger gold in Open Roads
I never quite got on board with Open Roads' art style, although it stopped bothering me after a while.

If we're looking at Open Roads as a short film, then its visuals become one of the key focal points. I wasn't quite sure about Open Roads' art style, and that sense of slight unease stuck with me until the closing credits rolled.

All of Open Roads' environments are rendered in full 3D, and there's an artistic sensibility to the aesthetic that makes the world feel tactile and lived-in. Open Roads has tons of objects to pick up and turn around, and while many of them are pointless, I must admit to a childlike joy every time I picked up a beautifully rendered can of chopped tomatoes.

Characters, meanwhile, are drawn over the top of environments in a 2D art style that reminded me of Broken Sword or the Discworld point-and-click adventures. It's a lovely-looking style in and of itself, but its stark contrast to the 3D environments meant I found immersion difficult at times.

Eventually, the differing art styles of Open Roads settled for me, and I was able to overlook the clash in aesthetics. Despite that, it never felt natural, and I found myself wondering whether Open Roads would have been better off rendering its environments in the same style as Tess and Opal's character portraits.

It's testament to the quality of Open Roads' storytelling that despite the visuals being a touch jarring, I still wanted to explore every nook and cranny to find out as much as I could about Tess and her family. I'd like to see the team experiment with a more cohesive art style next time, though.

Open Roads Review | Final Thoughts

A beautiful writing desk with cards and a note on it in Open Roads
There are some gorgeous environments to explore in Open Roads.

In many ways, Open Roads feels like taking a real-life road trip. While it won't let you leave the car, the sights along the way are worth the journey, and the driver is a pretty interesting person, too. 

If you're in the market for a short, sweet experience that doesn't push the boat out and takes absolutely no gameplay risks, then feel free to strap yourself in and let Open Roads tell you its strange, endearing story. It doesn't have the experimental heart of something like What Remains of Edith Finch, but it has plenty of heart.

Open Roads was reviewed on PC with a code provided by the publisher over roughly 3 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.

Review Summary

Open Roads lacks interactivity and its art style takes some getting used to, but this is a story you'll want to see through to the end. (Review Policy)


  • Well-told story
  • Strong characterization
  • Detailed, well-realized environments


  • Fairly typical "walking simulator" gameplay
  • Awkward mesh of art styles
  • Slow walking speed

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| Senior Writer

Joe has been writing for TechRaptor for five years, and in those five years has learned a lot about the gaming industry and its foibles. He’s originally an… More about Joseph