By the grace of videogame gloriousness, we can escape to virtual worlds of unparalleled beauty, horror and intrigue. Here are some of my favourites in no special order, because frankly they are all amazing.
There will be multiple parts to this list, so feel free to shout out some of your favourite videogame locales. The chances are they could be mine, too, and I'll probably want to write stirring thoughts about them in future blogs.
Also, I'm new here and I couldn't think of a better way of introducing myself and my eclectic gaming tastes. Hello! Pleased to meet you.
from "Thief: The Dark Project"
A gigantic underground vault filled with crypts so old that nobody has ventured into it for decades, maybe centuries. Sounds like a good place to pick up some trinkets, right? Right?
Not because there aren't trinkets to find, rather because the chances of getting yourself impaled or crushed by a trap are about as high as your chances of making it through the next corridor.
Then there are the shuffling packs of zombies wandering around. And the burricks. Dear god, the burricks... (if you don't know what a burrick is, picture a gas-burping dinosaur not unlike a much fatter version of the Deinonychus. Also, if you don't know what a Deinonychus is, it's what those Jurassic Park movies want you to believe is a Velicoraptor. See? You'll learn about STUFF on this blog).
Thief: The Dark Project is a game with lots of memorable missions, but The Bonehoard is the one that really smacked me in the teeth with its challenges and haunted setting the first time I played it.
It offers would-be grave robbers a tense journey into a stale, claustrophobic atmosphere of half-ruined corridors, tunnels, huge hallways and desecrated tombs, with lots of ways to get killed.
Your target is the Horn of Quintus - a magical treasure whose sonorous melodies can be heard echoing throughout the area long before you reach it. This is a mark of genius in sound design, something Thief: The Dark Project still stands out for even among modern games.
If you go hunting for the Mystic's Soul and Mystic's Heart gemstones along the way (on Hard and Expert difficulties respectively), I wish you luck.
Traveller's Tip: "Bring lots of holy water."
from "Mass Effect 2"
One of 2010's more popular holiday destinations, the Collector Base is home to humanity's greatest threat: a technologically advanced insectoid race of alien kidnappers.
Getting there is the purpose of the entire game, so naturally I had that whole 'tension' thing building up as I gathered resources and allies before venturing into the Great Unknown, but once I fired up the Omega-4 relay (think space teleportation device) and got there...Oh, boy.
It's basically a suped-up termite mound, situated at the edge of a black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
This mother of all vacuum cleaners has proven to be the undoing of thousands of ships over the years. Some big, others small, all utterly dead and destroyed. What the black hole's gravity well hasn't taken care of, a slew of ship wreckage and defensive Collector tech has.
Still, it's a sight that takes my breath away every time I see it. The most horrific traffic pile up in videogame history, perhaps, but at least the drivers had one hell of a view before they expired.
A perfect location for the ending of 2010's best RPG.
Travellers Tip: "The accretion disk offers opportunities for extreme selfies."
The Forbidden Zone
from "Panzer Dragoon Saga"
...Shit, I'm old.
Either you know this game or you've got no clue what I'm talking about. If you were born after the 80's, chances are you're the latter. No worries! Let me explain:
Back in the mid-90's there were mostly two kinds of gamer: those who played Final Fantasy VII and those who were talking about playing Final Fantasy VII. I was one of the other kind. I didn't give a damn about Final Fantasy VII because I was too invested in Panzer Dragoon Saga, a brilliant JRPG that was launched on SEGA's doomed Saturn console.
Look it up. There are dozens of reviews and articles about this game.
Anyway, one of my favourite areas in Panzer Dragoon Saga was The Forbidden Zone: a seemingly calm series of islands off the coast, dotted with weather-generating technology from the old world.
Not only does it look amazing for a 32-bit era console game, with reflective water surfaces and an unearthly night-time setting, but it captures a sense of struggle between the forces of nature and the forces of humankind. This is further emphasised by the creatures you're forced into battle against in The Forbidden Zone, all genetically engineered as living 'guardians'.
Perhaps it's the slog through the previous desert level that makes The Forbidden Zone such a treat, even though the desert level is spectacular in its own right.
Still-functioning energy towers release winding beams of light into the sky, for who knows what purposes. Ancient structures poke out of the water while machinery continues to whirr under the surface. I fly through the night on the back of my dragon, attempting to activate the weather devices that will launch me higher into the clouds.
It's great. Just great.
Traveller's Tip: "Swimming not advised."
How about you? Got any favourite locations in videogames you care to chat about?