We have seen a lot of different takes on Gotham City over the years. The new TV show, various films and the countless iterations in the comics essentially treat the city as a character itself, with an important role in many of Batman’s stories, but none of them present the iconic city in as detailed a way as Rocksteady’s
Arkham games. The first game focussed solely on the city’s high security prison. It had the same dark and mysterious feeling as it did when the series moved into a more open world, but it did not convey the varied areas of the actual city. It was the second game, Arkham City, that gave the city an important role in the story. As the Joker began to take over, Gotham changed; his influence could be seen everywhere and the world itself became more of a threat to Batman. Every villain imaginable had their own hiding place and it became clear as the game progressed that they were beginning to take control. Finally, Arkham Knight, the trilogy’s conclusion offered the perfect version of Gotham City. With the graphical upgrade that came with the new generation consoles, the city became more menacing. The smoke and rain covering the environments and the glow of the neon lights makes the world a terrifying place to explore, with threats lurking in every shadow. Gotham City is one of the most important characters in the Arkham games and that is the highest praise you can give to any open world.
Words by Tom Hopkins.
The Mass Effect Trilogy’s universe
A vision of a future that’s full of life, colour, and the slowest elevators you’ll ever encounter. The Mass Effect trilogy’s perception of a universe that comes together despite race, gender or species is a wonderful one – only improved by the addition of massive warring spaceships and laser-based weaponry. Exploring as high-ranking official ‘Shepard’, the first human Spectre, unimaginable planets and extra-terrestrial interactions come to life before your very eyes; encountering the rocky, barbaric homelands of the Krogan, the beautiful and exotic culture of the Asari – the floating mothership of the Quarian race, bound to nomadic wondering as punishment for their own intelligence. The list goes on, and never has a game come as close to truly making me want to live in their world as Mass Effect has. The detail, precision and background information that populates the expanse of space is so wonderful as we have no idea if it
could be true or not. Unlike other gaming worlds, science-fiction based environments have that special something that makes us wonder if we could ever reach the state being depicted in front of us, and the truth is – we will never know. With so much to discover in the world around you, there’s no wonder the series has been so successful; it makes me look forward to the day some sort of alien life is discovered – if only it leads to some sort of BioWare engineered future. I just really can’t face thinking of an existence where Blasto doesn’t exist.
Words by Ashleigh Millman.
Rapture and Columbia serve as the settings for the phenomenal games Bioshock 1+2 and Bioshock Infinite. They are some of the finest examples of how world-building can be so important to making a game work. Rapture, featured in the first two games, is a city founded by Andrew Ryan on Objectivist principles. For the player however, the city serves as a criticism of Objectivist theory. As the player, you arrive after the fall of Rapture, and through exploring the ruins of this city slowly learn how these principles lead to it falling into ruin and decay. The game has a beautiful art deco style, and locations that actually feel unique and different, instead of bland and repetitive.
Conversely, there is Columbia, featured in Bioshock Infinite, founded on very different, though equally naïve principles, with a more morally absolutist attitude. While Columbia is still fully functioning when the player arrives, allowing for some gorgeous, vibrant Frontier-influenced scenery, built around the deification of America, the player soon sees not only the downfall of this city, but the dark secrets its utopian imagery is hiding.
Words by Thomas Davies.
What’s so great about City 17, you ask? Two words. Environmental storytelling. Valve released Half-Life 2 in 2004, and eleven years on this game word is still completely iconic. The city is oppressive, dark and bleak, but most importantly, despite being a linear game, it is explorable. Valve are the masters of
environmental storytelling, and this can be seen throughout Half-Life 2. Taking the notion of ‘show-don’t-tell’ to heart, exploring the world of City 17 shows you so much about what has happened since the previous game, with all of what the player sees telling them about the world of City 17, and the people who inhabit it, as well as providing the player with some serious foreshadowing for later events. Special mention goes to Ravenholm, seen halfway through game, which takes all of this, and injects it with a survival horror aspect, and some incredible physics and environment-based weaponry.
Words by Thomas Davies.
You’re likely tired of people going on about this franchise by now, but we can’t help it if it’s just damn good. Most post-apocalyptic environments are all very similar, ranging from The Road-style grim and desolate futures, to Mad Max-esque worlds gone insane, they all have a fair few things in common. Fallout’s nuclear wasteland however is something very different. For one thing it takes the usual components of a post-apocolyptic world and fuses them with blackly comic retro futurism. The 50s inspired design inflects everything from the robots, to the weaponry, the advertisements and even the level up screens. Meanwhile the 50s suburban ideology and language is still inherent in everyone’s behavior, most notably in
the prevailing fear of communism. If this wasn’t enough to distinguish Fallout’s world as it’s own, then there are plenty of unique little details that make it stand out. From the brands and products (Nuka-Cola, Sugar Bombs), to the Vault ecosystem, to the variety of creatures, and of course the distinctive soundtrack, everything feels fresh and unique. But perhaps the most interesting thing about Fallout’s world is the striking sense of optimism. Because underneath all of the hideous disfigurements, cannibalistic raiders and hostile booby-traps, is the very fundamental idea that mankind will always find a way to pick itself back up onto its feet. No matter what we’ve been through, the basic principles of civilisation remain intact. Despite the obvious dangers, this isn’t a future that’s as bleak as it first seems, in fact it’s almost warm and inviting.
Words by Harrison Abbott.