I remember playing Cid Meier's Civilization games, many years ago, and having a love-hate relationship with oceans. On one hand, water-touching areas meant ports, which meant better access to exploring the the world. On the other hand, early-game play meant that oceans were barriers, limits.
This was a consistent pattern in games, actually: Final Fantasy VII, before you could cross water, it was a frustrating (if necessary) blockcade that eventually turned into open-world exploration later in the game; Chrono Cross, starting on a large island, with islands all around that you just couldn't explore (yet); even Legend of Zelda, Wind Waker, where the game is all about open-world sea exploration begins with being unable to leave your starter island.
Of course there's a reason for having a starter area. It's where you learn the rules, the functions, the basics. Your starter area teaches you what you need to survive in the greater universe and helps you level up enough that you won't immediately die the second you step out of your home base.
|The new face of interstellar travel?|
It's not far off from planetary exploration, either. Just substitute water for space and you have Kingdom Hearts. Or... Earth today. Makes you wonder, is humanity closing in on another Age of Exploration?
And if we're leveling up for open-universe exploration, what'll we find next? Guess we have to craft a few cross-universe ships before we can find out. Or whatever we use.
Hey, maybe we'll Stranger Things it instead of space travel, and discover the reason we've spent so long leveling is that there are some, uh, stranger things our descendants are about to encounter in other dimensions.