Op-Ed, Video Games

Games With Amazing Environments

A good setting is vital to a video game. While good gameplay can carry a game, a great environment with that gameplay takes it that next step. When talking about in-game worlds there are so many different ones that deserve credit. It’s almost impossible to narrow down the list to just a few. The following are a few that deserve credit as being some of the best worlds to be explored by gamers. Whether impressive in their size, detail, or just aesthetically appealing, these worlds are just downright amazing to explore.

Eternal Sonata

cabasa_bridge_from_below

While not the most popular RPG, Eternal Sonata deserves credit for the truly unique world in which it is set. Centered around the life of Chopin, Eternal Sonata is supposed to be the fever dream that he has while on his death bed. This is an interesting concept and manages to weave a beautiful world. Naturally the world is very focused on music giving it a very wonderful atmosphere. With the characters you explore many different settings, each one detailed, colorful, and aesthetically appealing. As far as ideas for a video game environment the last dream of a very talented artist is a wonderful idea.

Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

Daggerfall earns it’s place on the list due to it’s size. It can proudly claim to be one of the largest in-game environments ever created with a shocking 15,000 in-game locations for players to explore. If that weren’t impressive enough add in fact that terrain is randomly generated. It can not be over stated how large this environment is. It’s also incredible because the game came out in 1996, and despite all the time that has passed few games have gotten close to having a world this large. It’s an interesting and fun place to explore, but it’s size is what makes it so special.

The UnderGarden

The UnderGarden is in a class of it’s own in many aspects. It is not very action packed, instead focusing on puzzles. The environment is a major focus of this game. You swim through the worlds, they start darker but you spread light and colors to them. Most of your actions serve to grow flowers and add to the setting. It’s a very calming world, and rather exquisite. Because you are interacting directly with the environment it starts to feel like it’s own character almost, and restoring it brings a certain level of joy.

South Park: Stick of Truth

ss_0c331dee16e7b6b9fa6af4dd06c413d72c4b4764-1920x1080

What I think gives Stick of Truth one of the best environments is how true it is to the show. Running through the town in the game is like running through an episode. A lot of attention is paid to the location of certain buildings, as well as putting a lot of buildings in that were call backs to earlier episodes. Taking the time to make sure it looks like the show, and then adding many of the fan’s favorite places really makes Stick of Truth shine.

Assassin’s Creed

This franchise does an amazing job of putting gamers in different settings. Part of what is so fun about this series is getting to explore old worlds in a realistic way of how they would have been. Using real landmarks, and the knowledge the teams have available they do their best to take gamers into the past. Whether it’s expoloring the middle east during the third crusade, or America during the Revolutionary War this franchise allows gamers to play in history. There was some creative liberty taken of course, but it remains enjoyable none the less.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is interesting because not only does it include standard environments, but the colossi themselves are also part of it. The overall feeling of this game is dark, and has a very grey and moody atmosphere to match. Then add in the massive colossi that the player has to climb over to defeat. It’s a great blend of both the epic monsters that the player is battling, and a wide open spaces. Shadow of the Colossus is not a happy game, and it does a great job of dragging the player along in a beautiful but depressing world.

Fallout

ss_37398576af0f80af58744b56a24b8526833f2efb-1920x1080

Fallout blends futuristic technology with 1950s Aermicana, and people love it. It’s a very interesting clash of new and old, and remains one of the more unique series in gaming because of it. There is something wholly unique about walking around a nuclear savaged world while at the same time feeling like you’ve stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. This blend is compelling, and allows Fallout to shine.

Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts doesn’t just have one setting, but rather a multitude of many interesting places. Kingdom Hearts gives gamers the wonderful chance to play in a few of their favorite Disney worlds. Each world has it’s own unique look and feel, even the main characters will change at times. With such distinct worlds it helps to keep the game interesting. The jungles of Tarzan feel completely different from the darkness of Halloween Town. It helps to immerse the gamer as well as give a heaping helping of nostalgia.

Op-Ed, Video Games

Games with Amazing Environments: Horror Edition

A good setting is vital to a video game. While good gameplay can carry a game, a great environment with that gameplay takes it that next step. When talking about in game worlds there are so many different ones that deserve credit. It’s almost impossible to narrow down the list to just a few. The following are a few that deserve credit, in the horror genre, as being some of the best worlds to be explored by gamers. Whether impressive in their size, detail, or just aesthetically appealing these worlds are great to explore.

Dante’s Inferno

dantesinferno_conceptart_limbofarshorebackdrop-4272009-2

While it doesn’t have the most unique gameplay, Dante’s Inferno does really shine in it’s environment. This game does a great job interpreting the epic poem about an artist’s journey through hell. Each one of the levels has a unique look to it and paints a vivid picture of what that level of hell is supposed to represent. Lust is stormy, Greed covered in rivers of melted gold, and Treachery portrays an icy world. Aside from the levels themselves Inferno also highlights other features mentioned in the poem, like the rivers of blood, and individual parts of the larger levels. Inferno can be disturbing, and it’s no surprise that it made people uncomfortable. However, if you are going to take a work of literature and put it into a game it’s the details that are important. Inferno doesn’t turn away from being disturbing, it is supposed to be an interpretation of hell. Instead it embraces it and makes a dark and screwed up environment. It’s worth playing to experience seeing the poem brought to life.

Dead Space

deadspace1

The Ishimura is one of the scariest game environments that many gamers have ever played in. It’s dark, bloody, and terrifying. The setting can make or break a horror game, and in the case of Dead Space the Ishimura makes it. Gamers feel isolated and trapped within The Ishimura not wanting to go further, but being forced to. Add in the awesome moments of being in space and they’ve created a recipe for a setting that is both awesome and scary.

Bioshock

bioshock-rapture

While Bioshock borrowed gameplay elements from the System Shock series, the world it’s set in is brand new. Rapture is a brilliant mix of art deco and sci-fi elements, it’s very easy to get sucked into this game. The Bioshock franchise hasn’t stopped with that game. The follow up managed to expand on Rapture, while honoring what made it so amazing in the first place. Infinite took gamers out of Rapture and into another setting, this time in the sky instead of under the sea.

Silent Hill

jamesvspatient

In large part Silent Hill gets it’s place because it’s impossible to think of horror “locations” without thinking of Silent Hill. A town shaped by tragedy that has seen better days, and the Otherworld of Silent Hill. Corroded, dark, and filled with enemies that just want to see you die. There is so much about Silent Hill to hate, and yet we as gamers love it. The older games were masters of atmosphere with the fog, lighting, and feeling that you would never actually be safe.

Alan Wake

alan_wake_-_fighting_with_light

A strong environment feels especially important in horror games. Alan Wake may have mixed reviews for it’s actual gameplay, but the setting is truly scary. Darkness surrounds the world of Alan Wake, and the isolated town is finely detailed. Be it the actual town that reminds the gamer of Twin Peaks, or the forests, or the ultra creepy corn fields, Alan Wake keeps the gamer in an interesting and ultra creepy environment. This dark atmosphere serves this game well, adding to the fear and holding the player in.

Eternal Darkness

roivasmansion

Eternal Darkness moves the player through many different characters, settings, and even times. It’s a terrifying game that challenges players to push themselves through a game with challenging enemies and puzzles, as well as an unforgiving sanity meter. The icing on the cake to make this game horrifying is the settings. They are all dark and richly detailed. The Cathedral especially stands out for gamers as being a terrifying setting in the game. Eternal Darkness fills its environment, with blood, bodies, and a dark atmosphere. Having such a terrifying environment is part of what makes gamers feel so trapped. This is a key element in horror games and Eternal Darkness does not disappoint.

Horror, Op-Ed, Op-Ed, Video Games

Scariest Non-Horror Games

There are plenty of horror games that keep us on the edge of our seat. They thrill us, scare us, and bring us oh so much delight. Occasionally though games come along that bring us those same feelings despite the fact that they aren’t really horror games at all. Here are a few games that bring the scary without being in the horror genre.

Minecraft

minecraft_mobs

 

For a game that is all about getting supplies and building your world, Minecraft can get a little intense. The truth is what is “scary” about Minecraft is that death seems to be waiting for you around every corner. While gathering resources it’s hard to balance constantly going back to a safe place to store supplies and continue on your questing. The consequences for death is losing everything that you’ve gathered, and it carries a rather harsh sting with it. Add in that the enemies are fairly scary in their own right (creepers, zombies, endermen) and you have a game that brings an intense fear, despite not being horror at all. Eventually you get used to Minecraft though, the loss of supplies stops carrying such a heavy weight, and then they upgrade the game and something new comes along to bring a bit of fear.

Metal Gear Series

MGS has a few moments in the game that make it at the very least creepy. Psycho Mantis stands out as one of those. Perhaps over time his tricks don’t hold the fear they once had, but at launch it could really creep people out. Beyond this simple boss battle there are still other moments (like the death hall) that feel slightly misplaced and rather terrifying. Going further into the series you will still have these random moments, including more disturbing boss fights, and scenes that get player’s hearts racing. MGS also deserves a nod because the actual plot itself can be down right unnerving.

Red Dead Redemption

First I am going to say that this is not including the Undead Nightmare DLC which in it’s own right belongs in the horror genre. Taking just the base game there is one aspect that manages to bring jump scares more than once, the animals. Riding around and BAM cougar. Walking along to skin an animal and BAM snake. The animals are these background “enemies” for the most part and yet they manage to bring a fair number of jump scares and intense moments of “don’t die, don’t die”. It also doesn’t hurt that animals usually warn you when they are stalking you. Instead of thinking “oh I hear a cougar better move on” it’s more of a panic inducing moment.

Halo Series

halo_-_combat_evolved_xbox_version_-_box_art

Halo gets it’s “scary” because of one thing, The Flood. Halo starts off as a fairly interesting but standard FPS game then going along and suddenly a new enemy. The Flood is basically zombie like beings that make their appearance in the Halo series and brings a little scariness to the sci-fi games. While they aren’t enough to really push the series into the horror genre The Flood brings many aspects from horror games. They are bloody, creepy, and usually have more than one jump scare along with them.

Fallout 3

Much like The Flood from Halo, Fallout bring zombie like enemies with Feral Ghouls. In most of the series they aren’t that bad, Fallout 3 deserves a special mention because of the Metros. The metro is extremely easy to get lost in, dark, creepy, and full of Feral Ghouls. While overall Fallout 3 is not worth calling a horror game… those damn metros.

Half Life 2

I am hard pressed to believe that this game isn’t actually classified as horror, but it seems to escape that according to most. First, there is Ravenholm, a truly nightmarish level that will leave the best of gamers more than a little scared. It is filled with headcrabs and zombies, and while you can race through, going off the beaten path will help you discover more but also give you more scares. Even outside Ravenholm though the game still brings the creepy. Zombies and other various enemies will still find you, and when you start to feel like you are out of the “horror” part of the game something will happen and you are right back in it.

Dragon Age Origins

There are a few points where this game crosses into down right creepy. The Deep Roads are probably where it goes full blown scary though. It has scary enemies, and if that isn’t enough the voice over of the poem will leave many quaking in their boots.

Hespith repeats this poem:

First day, they come and catch everyone.
Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat.
Third day, the men are all gnawed on again.
Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate.
Fifth day, they return and it’s another girl’s turn.
Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams.
Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew.
Eighth day, we hated as she is violated.
Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin.
Now she does feast, as she’s become the beast.
Now you lay and wait, for their screams will haunt you in your dreams.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

the_legend_of_zelda_-_majoras_mask_box_art

The Legend of Zelda is a totally kid and adult friendly adventure game. Majora’s Mask seems to start getting more than a little twisted though. First and foremost the plot itself is creepy, and along the way there are some “super fun” enemies like the Gibdo (mummies), and Wallmaster. It’s creepy, has it’s fair share of jump scares, and more then a few intense moments. Majora’s Mask almost feels like kid friendly horror.

Batman Arkham Asylum

You can probably boil down most of the “horror” in this game to the morgue part specifically. During that time in the game you will be faced with Scarecrow and his many way’s of trying to get into Batman’s mind. However, I think the overall game carries with it a bit of a “horror” feel. It’s dark, the inmates having taken over the Asylum is rather unnerving, and once you leave the morgue you are never totally free of the after effects. Next to Half-Life 2 this game to me is the top contender on the list for maybe just being able to add horror as a sub genre.