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Games That Take Your Breath Away

By Sagnik Choudhary
While games are in theory, supposed to be able to whisk you away to a different world of their own, how many of them do a good job at it? If developments in technology, graphics hardware in particular, are anything to go by, this is one thing that we can expect a lot more from in the future. Of course this is not to say that this is something games haven’t already achieved in the past. And we’re just not talking about good graphics; we’re talking about game-worlds that actually have a life of their own. Let’s take a look at a few examples shall we?

1.   Italy - Assassin’s Creed 2

When it comes to recreating Renaissance Italy, Assassin’s Creed is pretty easily the franchise to beat. You can row gondolas in Venice, ride a horse from Tuscany to Florence, climb mansions in Forli or free run across rooftops almost anywhere. You can also explore underground tombs, which might sound a little boring, but is actually among the most interesting parts of the game. It is hard not to get overwhelmed with the sheer level of detail that the developers put in, whether it be shopkeepers sweeping the floor outside their shops, thieves running away with your purse of gold or minstrels and beggars singing and following you around. Albeit Rome makes a very brief appearance, you aren’t left wanting as there’s plenty to see and do. Like watching the sun set over the water from a rooftop in Venice for example.Delightful.

2.   Rome – Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Though it would probably make sense to list Assassin’s Creed as one franchise, the Eternal City does deserve a place of its own. All the more so, because it was well worth the wait (Brotherhood was released a year after Assassin’s Creed 2).  Gameplay is never dull and looks super always. Escaping from pursuing soldiers for example, could involve climbing to the top of a Borgia tower or church, jumping down to the back of a waiting horse and riding away through green pastures till you reach your safe house. The Vatican, the famed Roman aqueducts, The Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel are all places you can visit (and scale) in all their full glory. Lairs of followers of Romulus constitute the equivalent of AC2’s tombs. The music is very good too and blends with the environment very well, though this is something that all AC games have prominently featured. There are few games that you can have fun watching other people play; Brotherhood for sure is one of them.

3.   Panau – Just Cause 2

Though a majority of gameplay in Just Cause 2 involves creating chaos and blowing stuff up(and this happens in a million ways), exploring the island of Panau has its own rewards. Unique to Just Cause is a grapple gun (think Batman’s grapple gun, only more powerful ), and this is used to reach places otherwise inaccessible. You can also ride about a hundred different vehicles to get to places, ranging from rickshaws to boats, military choppers and Airbuses. Panau itself is beautiful and has regions with dense forestry, to high altitude areas with snow cover. Personal favourites are the ‘Mile High Club’ a brothel/club suspended from a large gas balloon in the sky, and a small island in the North that is a reference to the island from Lost and the Bermuda Triangle. Airports, Military Bases, Communication Stations to Ancient Ruins, Panau is one island that has it all. The ultimate holiday destination?

4.   Forest? Limbo? – Limbo

It could be a little tough to believe that a game that’s just about 100 megabytes in size holds a spot in this list. But make no mistake; it’s definitely not something undeserved. After all what could be a more mystifying (and unnerving) environment than one that’s not explained to you, one that you cannot comprehend or make anything of? Though the game is in grayscale, this is hardly a downer as some of the effects more than make up for it. Plus, this adds up to the ghostly look and feel that Limbo tries to achieve. Not only must you outwit the hostile inhabitants of the forest, you must escape the plenitude of traps and dangers that lurk in every shadow and save your sister from a fate both terrible and unknown…

5.   Africa – Far Cry 2.

Far Cry 2 boasts one of the largest game worlds in the history of gaming, and most of it looks outright amazing. Gazelles and Wild Buffalos graze peacefully, and run helter-skelter when they spot you, sunlight streams through holes in the forest canopy, storks catch fish in lakes, and deserts are prone to random sandstorms. You could watch forest fires burn everything to cinders, or paraglide from a cliff to another looking down upon the awesome world that is Far Cry 2’s Africa. As far as the plot goes, riddled with infighting and power struggles on the other hand, this is Africa in all its glory all right. All in all, Far Cry 2 has enough to keep you hooked for quite some time.
And speaking of an authentic African experience, you happen to catch malaria and have to take pills every few hours. Authentic enough huh?

6.   Middle Earth – The Battle for Middle Earth 2 and The Rise of the Witch King 

It could be surprising to many, that a strategy game makes it to this list. The people who aren’t all that surprised, would have played BFME 2. Rendered beautifully with an artist’s eye for detail, hardly has a Lord of the Rings game done better justice to Middle earth. Locales like Minas Tirith, Helm’s Deep, Ithilien, Lothlorien look superb. A personal favourite is Argonath, with huge statues of Isildur and Anorien on either side of the river Anduin.

7.   Empire City – Mafia 2

While Mafia 2 has been written off by many as a GTA clone, the fact remains that Mafia’s Empire City is big, and beautiful. Though not as open a world as GTA’s Liberty City for example, the game does a pretty good job capturing (correctly at that) various shades of the 1940’s-50’s era. The music on the radio matches the period; the weather changes are subtle and affect the environment you interact with in more than one way. Like for example, snow accumulates on top of the hood of cars, and this slowly melts away as you drive. The cars you drive too, are of about 20 different kinds and are a nod to the 50’s. All in all, Mafia 2 is a nice excursion to an America in the past, definitely worth a play through.

Let’s wrap up with a few notable mentions, the underwater world of Rapture in Bioshock, Jerusalem and Acre of the middle ages in Assassin’s Creed 1, Detroit and Singapore  of the future in Deus Ex Human Revolution and of course, Liberty City of the GTA series.
As far as upcoming games are concerned, the future does look pretty bright. Do keep an eye out for Far Cry 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations in particular


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