The Best Video Game Worlds
The Zone (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.)
What makes the zone of exclusion in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. to appealing, is that it is a real place, of course minus most of the horrific mutants and such from the games. But it's more than that.
A lot of the time, it's virtually empty, devoid of life as you trek along a barren landscape. Some have labelled the game as depressing. I find it rather comforting, when I can just be alone and scavenge out of some house in a clearing, before embarking on a journey into some deep, dark laboratory somewhere, or venture into a wood, or an abandoned complex.
And if I do see someone, I don't necessarily have to speak to them. More often than not it ends up in a firefight and I have a chance to use that nice weapon that I've been upgrading.
Clive Barker's terrifying dream world, encountered in Undying is a place of wonder. You can fly through the air and travel through bloodfalls to reach higher tiers, walkways piece themselves together like puzzles and show the way, often requiring a leap of faith in order to make it, or fall into endless oblivion below, all whilst dodging hooded robed figures intent on destroying themselves, taking you with them, goo spewing phantasms, terrifying psychic bird-like creatures that can give you a bad case of vertigo and other abominations that inhabit these strange crimson-skied lands.
When you do eventually, finally make it back to the Covenant Estate, I often feel relieved and yet saddened to leave this wonderful, horrible place. At least you do get to make more than one trip here during the game. Not that the Estate and its surrounds isn't worth a look around, because it totally is.
The Land of Eternal Autumn is also worth a visit, by the way.
The City (Thief)
If one place has sparked much intrigue and debate, it is the setting of the Thief series: The City. Would be virtual cartographers have spent years trying to determine how it lies, where its borders are – but more than this, for nigh on the last 2 decades, we have spent time travelling through this unique world, a mixture of medieval stone architecture, and steam powered technology and magic on our kleptomaniacal journey through crypts, mansions, museums and banks to obtain much needed rent money so we can keep out small filthy hovel on the bad side of town we call a home.
And beneath it, if you dare to swim through the sewers to get to it, lies the fabled Lost City, a treacherous place filled with red hot molten lava and many strange creatures, and even stranger but lucrative treasures.
Na Pali (Unreal)
When you, a prisoner, crash land on this veritable paradise, you have to question the motives of the player character. Why would he/she want to get off of the planet? I mean, besides the fact that there are killer creatures on their with blades for fingers and rocket launchers for arms, the place is beautiful – one has to admit that. With plenty of clear, sparkling water and fast growing, nourishing plants, it's a wonderful place to be as long as you keep to the safer, quieter parts of the planet. This can be achieved by killing everything in sight and then you can just settle down and live out the rest of your days.
From its idyllic hamlets situated on the shoreline to the palatial venues and markets in the big cities, this island has something for everyone. Transport it also readily available, and varied. Where else can you hitch a ride on a giant flea? Only in Morrowind!
There are plenty of sights to see as well, with lots of caves, and ancient ruins to explore. Don't forget all the dangerous creatures you'll bump into along the way. But of course you should have no trouble slaying them with blades and magic. Yes, its rather easy due to a corrupt system to get ahead in Morrowind. Bribe someone here, kill someone there, and soon you could even find yourself in government!
Von Braun & Rickenbacker (System Shock 2)
The Von Braun has everything you could want to keep you happy, and you'll find yourself hanging around in the recreation deck most often, where you'll have gambling, theatres, shopping malls and more. You can have robotic servants at your beck and call, and if that's not enough, if you aren't happy with how your natural abilities, you can easily just upgrade them with O/S upgrades cyber modules. Supposedly illegal after the events that took place at citadel station, but don't let that stop you!
Besides, you're aboard a starship in space. I think that's enough reason to give this game a go.
An entire city that exists underground? That might not be to everyone's taste, but to you basement dwellers out there it just might be! Everything you could ever want from a medieval place from blacksmiths to bakeries, and the deeper underground you go, you'll have prisons and mines, even underground palaces and beautiful caves complete with waterfalls and ponds.
Ashan, encountered in Dark Messiah, was quite a similar looking, and equally as wonderful to explore.
Paradise (Postal 2)
Something interesting is always afoot in this backwoods part of (I assume) the USA. If it isn't terrorists taking over a church, then it's a giant elephant running rampant, or escaped lunatics in an asylum causing problems for the locals, or protesters taking a video game development studio by force. You'll never get bored in this place, but that's mainly because you'll probably end up dead long before boredom sets in!
The Mojave Wasteland (Fallout: New Vegas)
Initially, the place might seem a little barren with not a lot to do, besides loot and scavenge – it is a desert after all. But wait until you make the pilgrimage to the strip! You'll have exclusive access to a famed casino building, where you'll have all the room you could ever need. And on top of that, entertainment of all sorts is just across the street at any one of New Vegas's seedy casinos and hotels.
Rapture was supposed to be an underwater retreat from the surface world, where artists, musicians, and writers could have freedom of artistic expression without being held back by the governments of the world. It was supposed to be an idealists' heaven, complete with cinemas, theatres, bars and restaurants. It was a life of excess that fit the times – nowhere in Rapture could you go without the smell of cigarette smoke filling the air, and drink was aplenty. One wonders if the great Greek god Poseidon would have approved of such a place. Perhaps when he took a look at all the talent that was available, it might have persuaded even he.
Pandora is quite a dangerous place. Originally a mining colony, the prisoners who were transported there got loose and took over the place. But there is an upside, and that is of course, bazillions of guns. There are vending machines all over the place where you can get any number of different guns and lots of ammo for them too. Plus, you can drive buggys and jump over gorges and chasms with them. If you were very looking for a place to get up to some drunken mischief, Pandora would fit the bill rather nicely.
Columbia (BioShock: Infinite)
What do you get the man who has everything? If a loft won't do, or a top floor hotel suite inside a highrise building won't do, then perhaps he should take a trip to Columbia. Sitting up in the sky itself, you'll have access to just about everything you could ever want. Columbia has a much more family friendly approach to things, with lots of fun fairs and attractions for the whole family to enjoy, all situated out on its many sunshine soaked streets and parks.
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