Games with exceptional locations

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One of my favorite "vista" moments in a game was at the beginning of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 when you get to see the destroyed Citadel, and the massive portal, looming over what remains of City 17. The effect of the portal, the sound echoing in the distance, and the overlook of the wilderness below was fantastic. Then, went the portal storm hit, and that wave of energy expands from the center of the pile of rubble out towards and beyond the player, it gave a palpable sense of scale to the whole scene.

As a pure piece of "eye candy", it was still great but not 'quite' awe-inspiring. However, the way the whole scene panned out; the looks, the sound, the animations; it cemented itself in my memory forever.

Some developers out there seem to grasp how to do the "vista" scene better than others. Valve, Bungie, Irrational, Rock Steady, Naughty Dog, Bioware, Bethesda, Crytek. Say what you will about their respective games, but they sure know how to make eye-candy.

Freezy_Breezy:

This will blow your fucking mind

Blow it right the fuck away. Seriously, I want the next Portal to be like this and fuck with my perceptions of reality. Or maybe a game where you go mad and this is what happens to the levels?

There are actually one or two levels in Portal 2 that feature that sort of impossible geometry. The instances of them are well hidden, but were necessary to make those particular levels possible.

They talk about it in the commentary.

Still, I'm with you. A game like Portal, built entirely around Non-Euclidean architecture, would be amazing.

Somehow Prey comes to mind. Prey 2 looks great as well:D.

I thought Morrowind was the only elder scrolls I played that had a real "strange" feeling attached to it. I had great fun with Oblvion, but it was just generic and mundane, though Skyrim did make it a bit better. I like frozen landscapes.

Freezy_Breezy:

This will blow your fucking mind

Blow it right the fuck away. Seriously, I want the next Portal to be like this and fuck with my perceptions of reality. Or maybe a game where you go mad and this is what happens to the levels?

WE MUST GO DEEPER!

Some parts of Hell in Doom 3 were quite interesting, although it's still not enough to make up for the monotony of the rest of the game. So many hours of twisty metal passages all alike...

I'm assuming Minecraft doesn't count.

First time I saw Damascus in AC, I was completely blown away. I had not known such things were even technically possible. Wish I could get that feeling back.

The northwest island in Just Cause II had a fantastic WTF is this shit?! atmosphere to it, especially if you try flying there before the mission involving it. It makes you think you're in serious trouble for a while. It never quite delivers on that threat, but still.

The Citadel Core in HL2 Episode 2, especially since I had a rig capable of maxed-out graphics settings the first time I saw it. Bloom done right!

The Anvil of the Void in DA:O.

The entire setting of Red Dead Redemption. You can tell the environment artists spent a lot of time in various deserts. I've spent lots of time just wandering the hills near Fort Mercer, watching the sun rise and set and playing hide-and-seek with the cougars. (Seriously, the way those cats jump out of the bushes there was initially more terrifying than anything in Doom 3).

putowtin:
The Assassin's Creed games always impress me with their visuals, they make me want to be in Italy (with a good bottle of wine!)

Yah, I'm with you on that one... felt a sudden desire to visit Venice after ACII (and purely for the Basilica Cattedrale di San Marco!)

And for all it is a maligned game (hell, I didn't get as much fun out of it as I should've) Istanbul from AC:R was an awesome sight. (Just getting to the top of view points and mashing the 'e' key... -_- )

Zhukov:
Bioshock.

Rapture.

Second to none.

Seconded, every single detail about Rapture had at least an hour's dedication.

Either that or Hyrule from OoT, even though there was a lack of graphical prowess, there was some damn fine work in making a beautiful playing space.

Freezy_Breezy:

This will blow your fucking mind

Blow it right the fuck away. Seriously, I want the next Portal to be like this and fuck with my perceptions of reality. Or maybe a game where you go mad and this is what happens to the levels?

really?
its clever and nifty sure, but the gameplay looks like ass. It certainly doesn't look fun at any rate. I could see a clever game being made out of that sort of trickery sure, but i dont think portal is the avenue for it, portal is quite self referential and humor is prevalent, not the best place for true mind fuckery.

ANYWAY
assasins creed rome. It just was the best realisation of any in game city ever, felt alive, was gorgeous to run around in. The best thing about brotherhood.

Ashadowpie:
yah i know its from WoW but Ashenvale, its a huge forest thick with green purple and pink tree's that tower over you. the music is pretty too. every lush forest in games are beautiful to me but Ashenvale * sigh * i could live there lol to bad Wow decided to cute half of it down n put a freakin erupting volcano in the middle of the wonderful place :(

Don't downrate it just because its wow, i think any real player of that game can attest to the feeling of awe when you first saw the skydomes in outland. Just beautifully made. I had the camera tilted up far too often ^^

leet_x1337:
The Milkman Conspiracy in Psychonauts. Here is some concept art:

Seeing the game pan over the scene as you leave Boyd's house and Raz is like "Nice...normal...neighbourhood..." is just awesome.

I'm the milkman,my milk is delicious.Special delivery today

Alice: Madness Returns

Final Fantasy XIII

Homeworld 2

Metro 2033

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I'm about halfway through Syndicate now, and I looooooove that one level that starts with flying around the fancy Uptown skyscrapers.

i'm surprised no one's mentioned Okami yet. that whole game is absolutely gorgeous. and, from what i've seen, The Journey is made up entirely of one big exceptional location.

also, i'd say that in both Mass Effect 1 and 2, the Normandy is beautifully designed. towards the end of the game both versions of the ship started to feel like home. a calm, quiet place to relax and talk to your crew. not to mention that both games had some pretty cool set-pieces (like that ship in 2 that had crashed and was perched precariously on a cliff).

well... here are a few:
Dear Esther' incredible island, Assassin's Creed (the whole series)'s gorgeous landmarks, Prince of Persia:Sands of Time's castles in general, PoP 2008's incredibly memorable and beautiful levels , American McGee's Alice's fuken twisted world, Beyond Good & Evil's exotic world, Psychonauts' mind levels (are fuken incredible),
and many others...

Morrowind has... Vvardenfell. That will be all.

Also, final fantasy 8 has Esthar which is a seriously cool high tech cyperpunk city. The entirety of final fantasy 9 is one giant storybook location and it's really freaking cool. I liked Noveria from Mass Effect 1 as well. It had a cool asian-fusion zaibatsu feel to it.

Guild Wars is quite pretty, hell, they made a wasteland look aesthetically pleasing.

For a game that's 7 years old. That's not too bad.

@lacktheknack: Haha, I know, I know. I'm quite the "new gamer", and I still need to play Bioshock, Half Life, Portal (*gasp*). But I should... :)

Freezy_Breezy:

This will blow your fucking mind

Blow it right the fuck away. Seriously, I want the next Portal to be like this and fuck with my perceptions of reality. Or maybe a game where you go mad and this is what happens to the levels?

Prey? Anyone? I'm pretty sure I saw most of that before.

Also on topic: I just loved the Myst games, dearly with my soul.

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