I'll be honest here my interest level in Assassins Creed 3
was incredibly low when it was announced, the only thing that really sparked any personal interest for me was the setting as I have an interest in American history but it wasn't enough to sell me on it. You know what did sell me on it? Oh just a little gameplay clip they showed at Sony's E3...GOD DAMN BOATS, I GET TO NAVIGATE AN ENTIRE SHIP WITH A CREW?! I ALSO GET TO HAVE GOD DAMN NIPPLE PLEASING SEA BATTLES FIRING MY CANNONS AT OTHER SHIPS?! SOLD!
Ahem...but yes really, that mere clip of gameplay alone sold me on the entire game, I mean look at this, how awesome do this look?
Also unlike many people I absolutely adore the sailing sections in Zelda: Wind Waker
, the only times it threatened to be tedious was the infamous tri-force hunting section but even then I still loved it to pieces. But all this intense revealing ramblings of a ship fetish made me realize the ocean is woefully under-used in video games and when it is used to full effect it's always awesome.
Don't believe me? Well sit down assuming you were standing up before and let me explain to you the past sweet delights of which contain the ocean and what more video games could do with it in future!
Oceans are big. Really big. You probably would believe it's incredibly big due to the futuristic technology of photos and living on a planet with lots and lots of water. The point is that the ocean is sort of like having outer-space condensed, liquefied and then pumping it through a hose all over a big floating rock. Also just like outer-space at a glance it seems kind of empty but then you look closer, deeper and then you start seeing some really cool weird shit like the guy above me. We still don't know a lot about the ocean since going too far down would mean immediate death but when we do manage to get a peek at it we always seem to across some new weird cool looking creature. To put it in another horrible mangled metaphor the Ocean is like a big bowl of creative soup ready for the slurping.
So it's sort of like having an entire planet full of aliens in your backyard except these ones won't latch onto your face and rape your throat and then burst out of your chest, probably. What I'm trying to get at is the Ocean holds this rather fascinating ability of being incredibly familiar to us whilst also being inherently alien and foreign to us, it can be an eye-poppingly beautiful place and it can also be a cruel, harsh and solitude filled environment.
For a writer it's full of multiple opportunities to let their creative wild side off the leash, it's an absolute creative gold mine once put in the right hands.
One of my favourite games of all time demonstrated this, in Bioshock
they discover some weird red glowing sea slugs that through various science trickery leads to giving people powers, that's all just from a little sea slug! Ok so the people became addicted on the sea slug substance and ended up becoming druggie like monsters but the point is that a sea slug allowed humans to shoot bolts of lightning out of their hands.
An even more appropriate example would be during the presentation speech given by Andrew Ryan at the start of the game, you're introduced to one of the main themes of the game, the philosophy of Objectivism. We take this all in as the music builds up to which we are then exquisitely revealed the city of Rapture its self, the music plays to our childish like delight and curiosity as a neon lit city stands proudly before us. An octopus will swim by and in the distance we can see a Whale gliding gracefully around the city, then if you look closely you might just see a rather odd huge metal like creature inside the city, whatever could it be?
Few games are able to leave such an impact on me these days and I simply never grow tired of playing through the opening moments of Bioshock
. Here the Ocean helped make a truly special and unique atmosphere and narrative, but I think it's time I look at a much more light-hearted game and the effects the Ocean can have on the world and gameplay of a game.
Yes that's right, Pokemon! Sapphire Version
to be exact since the legendary Pokemon for this one, Kyogre is a water type so he's all about the ocean. Besides look at that title screen, it doesn't get any more bad ass than that. The 3rd generation of Pokemon also holds a special yet somewhat sad place in my heart since it's really the last set of Pokemon games that I've ever been blindly in love with, don't get me wrong Diamond/Pearl
were good games but the spark of love I once had with the franchise had vaporised. Perhaps it was a consequence of growing up?
But that can't be, I know people of my age (19) who still seem to get every bit of love and fun out the series so why can't I? Yet again the answer is the ocean, you can't dive into the ocean and explore in the later games and this is (probably)
exactly why I've lost my once passionate love for the franchise.
One of my favourite aspects of the Pokemon games was the exploration element and having a new region each time meant endless possibilities, especially when they were jumping to an all new handheld to toy and experiment with. With the arrival of Ruby/Sapphire
we were given the ability to explore the depths of the ocean and of course encounter all new Pokemon. It's not only pretty rad to be exploring the underwater depths of the Pokemon world but it also serves to make that world feel even bigger than before, we get to witness an all new environment that we've never laid eyes upon before in the series. Moments like exploring the deeper flooded parts of an abandoned ship and coming across the 'Sealed Chamber' are little things that further tickled my love and wild interest in the region of Hoenn.
What could easily be seen as a throwaway feature managed to make one of the most vivid worlds in Pokemon history, it feels like a living and breathing world one that isn't frozen in time but constantly changing with the tides.
The ability to dive in Pokemon R/S
not only helped cement the game in my mind for years to come but it also became a defining feature that I continue to miss within the games. Sorta how like when you found out as a kid you couldn't visit Kanto or Johto in R/S actually.
was my favourite game of 2011, it was just about everything I had hoped for and more, it always managed to delight me in the most surprising of ways and for me personally it's easily one of the best 2D platformers out today. However it wasn't until a certain level that the game evolved into a shining beacon of perfection for me, I've talked about this level before and its utter brilliance and I can't deny myself the opportunity to talk about it once again.
The level titled "Swimming with the Stars" features an incredible stark contrast to the rest of the games tone, before this level all that I received was injected with a large dose of charm, fun, happiness and warmth which is easily the huge appeal of the game. This is a level that's played almost entirely underwater, in the Ocean no less. The level manages to conjure up feelings of intense claustrophobia and serene beauty, yes this from the game with the un-named limbless creature as its mascot. The level somewhat tricks your expectations right from the start as it features one of the games most cheer-filled and relaxed of tracks in the background
However the music quickly dissolves into quite the opposite of musical moods, we're then introduced to a spine chillingly dark oppressive tune which is only further enforced by the incredibly well made level design which keeps environments tight and small filled to the teeth with various hazards and enemies just a hairs touch away from killing you. You'll then find the level to be entirely swallowed into darkness with light being your only area of safety. Now the level is filled with grim tentacle like arms reaching out to you with razor sharp nails protruding out ready to snap away at you. After managing to get past through all these life-threatening dangers the music will then change once more, a song that will entirely transform the frightening presence and atmosphere of the Ocean.
The level barely changes in its structure yet somehow Ubisoft were able to change my mood and feelings of the game within a second, the feelings that were built up from this level I can barely put it into words here as it truly was a surreal timeless moment. It's a very small part of what's overall a very large game yet it manages to proudly shine through it all and become an unforgeable piece of level perfection. It plays to the conflicting natures of the Ocean where it can be both a tranquil place of beauty whilst also being a place of claustrophobic suffocating malice.
You probably knew this was coming but I just have to talk about it, if I don't I may end up becoming yet another victim of Ocean madness. Yes I'm of course talking about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
. Again I have chosen a game that is dear to my heart, it's not only my favourite Zelda game out of the entire franchise but it's also the first Zelda game I ever played. My memory is vague on the details but I borrowed it off an old friend and was hooked from start to finish, this was one of those games I couldn't put down and also one that yet again had an experience unlike any other.
As I stated before I love the sailing in the game, I'm sure games before had tried it but I'm equally sure none other have mastered it as wonderfully. This is no small thanks to the delicious crisp looking cel-shaded graphics of the game which not only adds an infinite amount of charm and warmth to the game but also somehow makes the outlook of a big body of blueness always appealing to the eye. Naturally the game is at its best when your map is blank and you have no knowledge on any of the islands resulting in a constantly delightful adventure.
Just the simple act of sailing away in silence where you can hear nothing but the soft whispers of wind, the authentic cries of the seagulls and the oddly relaxing noise of your boat gliding and crashing upon the waves of the ocean somehow never ceases to bring a smile to my face. It's one of those moments that I won't ever forget and always look forward to when replaying the game.
Exploration is often my favourite aspect of any video game that offers it, games such as Fallout 3 and Skyrim I've poured endless amount of hours into, however they don't even come close to giving the same level of excitement I had when coming across a new island in Wind Waker. When you first notice that gray blob in the distance and its shape slowly begins to take form and then its majesty is revealed. And oh boy we're nearly always in for a treat, this is a game where you can come across a small island with lava spewing out from it to a massive dragons head surrounded by ice.
You can even come across god damn tornado's with a random angry god in it which will then hurl you across the map into the middle of nowhere. This can be easily annoying but when it lands you right next to an entirely new island then your irritation quickly disappears as you head on to unwrap the latest wonders before you.
Again it's little things like this that add to making the world feeling larger than it actually is. There's probably more water than land and you will spend a lot of time sailing around, but thanks to that every single location you set foot upon feels like something special and unique. It's not just another patch of desert or field to cross to get to the next dungeon but an island full so many possibilities, puzzles, enemies and ever so sweet rewards.
All this thanks to the fact we no longer ride a horse but we now sail around an ocean with a talking lion boat. What's that? Phantom Hourglass? Yeah let's move on quickly shall we.
Surely by now I've opened all of your eyes to the incredibly sexy wonders of Life, the Ocean and Everything. (Ok I'll stop the Hitch-Hikers jokes now.) You're now a better person for it though, clearly the ocean is all kinds of bad ass and beauty, one minute it can be the most stunning things you've seen and the next it can be the ugliest and most depraved things you'll be subjected to. With a creative mind it can be a place full of endless possibilities, you could even find that naked portrait of Kate Winslet if you looked hard enough.
The ocean even has the power to make Assassins Creed exciting for me again, a series that's already starting to feel horribly milked to death but I get to navigate an entire ship, just thinking about it now as I filter those thoughts from my brain, to my fingers, to my keyboard, to this screen, to your eyes and to your brain has made me madly excited and confused.
So I ask that video game developers all around the world drop what they're doing and just think for a second and really appreciate the ocean and the maybe, just maybe, you'll pick up your keyboard, your mouse and start programming a game with an ocean in it! Simply put I just want to explore more open free oceans, it feels like an idea criminally under-used and deserves to be given more thought, time and money.
And if all that still didn't manage to convince you just think, the sooner we fully master sailing around in video games the sooner we can have a game where we sail into space and become space pirates. Point Proven!