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.