Top 10 Mind Blowing Video Game Environments
Being an interactive medium, video games have their work cut out for them if they’re to make an impact in a player’s mind. Besides the worldwide standard of being fun and engaging to play, they tend to require good sound and music, fitting aesthetics, pleasing graphics and other parts that work in tandem to provide an excellent play experience. In particular however, having a rich and detailed environment can really provide a sense of grandeur and atmosphere which can turn a good video game into an excellent one. Below are ten video games that have implemented mind blowing game environments, in no particular order.
The opening of BioShock is one of the most intense moments of gaming that I’ve had the pleasure of experience. Every moment, from the solemn descent into Rapture to your first encounter with a splicer paints a picture that this was a supposed utopia that had gone horribly wrong from decades of isolation. The BioShock developers did an excellent job on making every little detail in the environment play towards this idea. The setting does a great job of imbuinga sense of abnormality and mystery, as you attempt to unravel the secrets behind Rapture. It also doesn’t help that you’re stuck very, very far under the sea.
The Witcher 3
If you’re looking for a beautiful, fantasy landscape to traverse through, look no further than The Witcher 3. The Witcher 3 has simply gorgeous outside environments, and you can tell that they’ve been crafted with meticulous details into every stone, tree, and river. Even weather effects like rain, snow, and beautiful sunsets are beautiful to look at and fits the environments like a glove. And this beauty is by no means limited; there are a wide variety of different zones in The Witcher 3, from simple grasslands, tundra, mountainous regions, swamps, and from the newest expansion, Toussaint’s warmer climates. There are few games where I’ve simply enjoyed riding on horseback and enjoying the breath-takinglandscapes, but I’m happy to say that The Witcher 3 was one of them.
For an example in one of the older games, Deus Ex was an excellent choice for me. Not only was the gameplay, role-playing and storytelling elements superb, Deus Ex manages to create an excellent environment that fits ‘dystopian sci-fi’ theme of the game perfectly. It primarily takes place at night, which is a purposeful design choice given the mood of the game. Everything from the down-trodden buildings of Manhattan, to the busy alleys of Hong Kong, just clicked together with the ambience and atmosphere that Deus Ex attempting to create. Deus Ex may be dated, but many modern games should take a page out of its book, and strive to create environments that fit well with their overall theme.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Rockstar games have managed to always create large, sprawling urban environments for their Grand Theft Auto series, but it was GTA IV where it really came together. Being able to drive around the streets of Liberty City, visit shops, hop on a boat, or even fly over the city in a plane was what really made the city feel alive and bustling. The cool thing about the environments is that there was a surprising amount of detail put in the small things as well, like hidden alleys, shortcuts or alcoves that you can usually find some hidden collectibles. Coupled with the fact that they didn’t restrict you much in terms of exploring (once you reached certain points of the game), it made for an enjoyable sandbox to play in.
Wake up, Mr. Freeman… From the opening lines to the ending credits, Half-Life 2 delivered an exceptional experience that still remains with us today, almost 12 years later. The unique aspect of Half Life 2’s story telling was the fact that everything was in real-time, and in first-person view. There were no cut-scenes, and barring very specific moments, you would retain 100% control over your own point of view. It should come as no surprise then, that Half-life 2 boasts one of the most compelling and atmospheric game environments. From witnessing the Combine and citizens go about their day, all the way to riding into the sunset with a dune buggy, Half-Life 2 takes the player through an epic journey of varied environments, all with their own special charm. It also helps that Half-Life 2 was the game that premiered the Source Engine, a physics engine that was considered ground-breaking at the time.
Final Fantasy XII
The Final Fantasy series have always been known for superb role playing and atmosphere, but it wasn’t until Final Fantasy 12 that I really felt that they’ve managed to nail an excellent world environment. This was largely due to the fact that the series had transitioned from a turn-based to a real-time combat style, but regardless, they’ve managed to implement a gorgeous and grand environment that really imbues a sense of grandeur and scale to the game. Whether it was travelling through the deadly Westersands, or walking through the grand streets of the Imperial capital, these detailed settings had no small part to play in producing the epic world of Ivalice.
Fallout: New Vegas
Bethesda does an excellent job of creating a post-apocalyptic setting in Fallout: New Vegas. The scale of the environment here is unmatched, and does an excellent job of feeling like you really are wandering through the wastelands of Las Vegas. Unlike Fallout 3, New Vegas has managed to retain some of its buildings from the war, which really gives you some perspective as how a relatively unscathed society can preserve itself in a post-apocalyptic setting. The environments aren’t as pretty as some of the other games here (with good reason, it does take place in a wasteland), but does every bit of a good job of creating an environment that fits well with the Fallout video game.
From Software’s Dark Souls series are an excellent case study in crafting excellent environments, but of particular excellence is Bloodborne. Instead of the standard medieval fantasy setting, they opt for a Gothic Victorian setting. The designs of the levels are well-crafted, not only aesthetically but also gameplay wise, allowing you to discover shortcuts, hidden zones and other interesting areas during a typical play through.The most praiseworthy point however, is that From Software performs fantastic work in making sure everything in the environment perpetuates the Bloodborne’s theme of mystery, blood, and horror. There is something beautiful, yet distinctly haunting about the environments in Bloodborne that make me keep coming back for more.
The Last of Us
Post-apocalyptic zombie games are in no short supply, but few have story-telling, atmosphere and an environment as strong as Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. The Last of Us takes place in multiple different locations within the United States, a country ravaged by an unknown virus. The Last of Us deals with many themes in the game that is portrayed in the environment; a return to nature, the breakdown of societal rules, and a struggle for survival as one clings to whatever they can in a forsaken world. The landscapes are simply beautiful at times, and each detail is crafted to further this overall sense of foreboding and loss of society. Prevalent within the entirety of the game is a feeling like nature herself is taking back the planet.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda is a master at crafting wide, expansive game worlds to play in, so it should come to no surprise that they are on this list twice. Skyrim, like previous Elder Scroll games, takes place in a specific province in Tamriel known as Skyrim, which is prevalent with Nordic influence, though still has its fair share of standard fantasy and magic. The environment here has the main strength of being expansive and large, with a lot of different locations to visit and explore. Skyrim knows how to please the explorer in me when I’m travelling on my way, and come across an abandoned location, rife with potential danger and treasures. Imagine these little locations hidden all across this expansive world, and that’s the kind of environment you are playing with in Skyrim.