Virtual worlds to visit before you die

Check out Tom Chick's new games-writing gig at Sci-Fi, Fidgit. Among the first entries is a virtual edition of places you must visit before you die...
Paris, Rome, Fiji, the Taj Majal? Pshaw. Yeah, sure, the graphics are pretty good and the back stories are great, but the fees are huge and you can't save your game. Plus, they won't yet run on any gaming system you own. So instead, here are five virtual places you must visit before you die, and you don't even have to leave your house to do it.
On the itinerary: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Assassin's Creed's Damascus, GTA 4's Liberty City, Bioshock's Rapture, and LotRO's Shire. There seems to be to be a certain vibe to the choices, a living, breathing, "humanist" edge that might preclude popular gaming locales like, say, Hyrule. I'd like to sneak in the bleak, hazy beauty of the setting from Ico and Colossus. Few things stick to my heart for long in the artless cultural landfill of gaming, but that did. Fallout's post-apocalyptic America has its charms, too, and it's something we'll be getting a fresh look at soon, thanks to Bethesda's forthcoming Fallout III. Speaking of Bethesda, I'd also include the alien milieux of Morrowind Isle–but not the setting of it's generic Med-Fantasy sequel, Oblivion. Joel, when asked, doubled up on GTA IV: "It continues to blow me away with its verisimilitude." Oh, and so what if no-one's played it yet: Love's landscape (pictured) looks so stunning I can barely imagine not wanting to drop by. John is out of town, but he would probably say Planescape:Torment or something. First person to say "Azeroth," gets disemvowelled. First person to say "Second Life" gets disembowelled. Five Places... [Fidgit]

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30 Responses to Virtual worlds to visit before you die

  1. historyman68 says:

    ScarShapedStar – I was being mostly ironic with Myst, mainly referencing the way it was marketed and perceived as being one of the first games in which walking around in the world was the goal… but I did mostly say it because I do confuse the names of Myth and Myst. They’re so similar!

  2. Pipenta says:

    I was stuck in a suburb of SimCity, but I never did get an airport. So there I was, stuck. Never got to take a vacation…

  3. dculberson says:

    #19, Ravenholm was awesome. I have the PS3 version of the Orange Box, and it has some major issues, one of which is deciding to lock up at certain points – the only cure for which is starting a new game. (Your saved game is toast, you can reload it, but it will lock up again at the same spot.) I was almost done with the Ravenholm chapter, and ran into a lockup issue. It says a lot that I decided, well, I loved that chapter so much I’ll just start from the beginning of it again. (My usual response is “This piece of crap software is being returned NOW!!!”)

    p.s. EA sucks, they really screwed the PS3 port of the Orange Box.

  4. Skullhunter says:

    Since nobody’s said it yet, I’m going to mention The Zone from S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl. The place has just completely sucked me in to the point that I’ve started modding again after years. Even the stock game has some great atmosphere; I still remember vividly being stuck deep in the Zone near a particularly nasty installation called the Brain Scorcher, a device that turned anyone who got too close to it into mindless and violent shambling wrecks. Night had fallen, I had no night vision, the area was pocked with anomalies (localized distortions in reality that ranged from painful to instantly lethal) and areas of high radiation, so I took shelter in a guard tower overlooking the road ahead rather than risk stumbling around in the dark. I sat there in the darkness, with the antenna array of the Scorcher lighting the clouds in the distance, watching the road through the scope of my rifle, for hours while I waited for dawn. Every time a flash of lightning would light up the area, I’d wonder if I just saw something moving towards my hideout. What was that, behind that truck, or that stack of concrete blocks? A mutant? Another zombie? Enemy soldiers? Did they see me? Every lightning flash, my heart would jump. Drew me right in. :)

  5. Enochrewt says:

    I second the Dead Rising shopping mall. It’s more complicated (and maybe larger) than the Mall of America. That should count, right?

    And I’m sorry, I might get disemvowelled for this, but an architecture sight-seeing trip around Halo’s, err, halo, is pretty epic in itself.

  6. bademailname says:

    I posit that City 17 from Half Life 2 has its share of thrills and chills. The wonderfully created Combine dystopia that Valve put together is probably a little too directed to go on this list (what do you mean, I can’t crawl under the train/blow this door down/climb over this rubble; etc.), but I submit to you that the creepy atmosphere and stunning visuals more than make up for the city’s shortcomings.

  7. dculberson says:

    Bademailname, I was going to say the exact same thing!! It’s too linear for ‘sightseeing,’ but it creates an amazing atmosphere and feels complete as a place.

    It helps that three games take place in the same setting. (HL2, than HL2 “Episode One” and “Episode Two.) (But seriously, who names a sequel “Episode One?”)

  8. NorrinRazael says:

    @#s 7 & 8: Ravenholm is, I think, a perfect example of the lack of non-linearity being made up for by atmosphere and environmental interaction.

  9. historyman68 says:

    Myst, anybody?

    I also really enjoyed the snowy wastelands and atmosphere of Myth and Myth II

  10. Yreka says:

    Azeroth. [/is disembowelled]

    @#3: Yes, It hit the typical American mall quite well. It’s kinda creepy to have a world you know get hit by zombies though.

  11. scarshapedstar says:

    Deus Ex’s USA. No contest.

    Mad props to Historyman for the Myth. Not so much the Myst. (And if you confuse the two, you deserve a thorough slapping.)

  12. pauldrye says:

    I have a certain fondness for King’s Row in City of Heroes. It’s a “70’s superhero urban blight”, and so consists of old brownstones, construction sites, and abandoned factories interspersed with run-down urban parks with brown grass. The game engine is starting to show its age, but it suffices.

    What I particularly like about it is that the game makes flight trivial, so you can explore it from a variety of unusual perspectives, as well as running around on the ground.

  13. ecurtz says:

    I second the Ico / Shadow of the Colossus recommendation. Anyone who has a PS2 sitting around and hasn’t played these games really owes it to themselves to try them out.

    I couldn’t disagree more about Ravenholm. To me it represented everything that was wrong with HL:Episode I. You have a good engine, good writers, good artists – why did you stick this moronic survival horror section into my sci-fi game? It’s the worst kind of blatant willingness to ignore the setting and plot in favor of padding out the game play that I’ve seen in ages. That entire game was an hour of interesting engine mechanics and storytelling bookending 18 hours of completely linear, nonsensical tripe.

  14. Moon says:

    Britannia in Ultima IV. A classic.

    I like Britannia in Ultima VI.

  15. captainvw says:

    The most vivid memory of a virtual world I have comes from the original Thief: The Dark Project. The entire game was atmospheric, depicting a proto-steampunk world, complete with religious factions, crazy neo-industrialists, royalists. There was also a walled-off part of the city, which was literally haunted.

    When your (very mortal) character enters the haunted section of the city to attempt to gain entrance to the ominous Cathedral in the city center, you are confronted with one of the most genuinely spooky sequences in game-dom. The Cathedral itself is a masterpiece of suspense and dread; 10 Doom 3’s couldn’t TOUCH the Cathedral’s atmosphere.

    I’m not generally impressed with ‘scary’ games or levels either. Thief was great.

    Oh, and btw, I 2nd City 17, but the Black Mesa Research Facility deserves a 1b mention. As does the Aperture Science Enrichment Center.

  16. cboulakia says:

    Britannia in Ultima IV. A classic.

  17. DeWynken says:

    Guildwars. .<–period

  18. bardfinn says:

    First person to post a SLURL gets slurred.

  19. Neko says:


  20. Anonymous says:

    Vana’diel? (Final Fantasy XI’s world)

    The graphics are a little dated, as the game just turned 6, and the devs are steadfastedly holding on to supporting the original platform, the Playstation 2, but it’s got some tremendous little places. The newer expansions have better graphics with every iteration (still somewhat limited by the PS2) but even the original core zones still have a special charm.

  21. sheetzam says:

    Though the lag can be horrible, visiting Jita in EVE-online is quite impressive.

  22. Rob Beschizza says:

    Halo is cool. You’re cool.

    But we’re watching you.

  23. SC_Wolf says:

    I know that Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is discounted above for being generic fantasy setting #6319 (even though some of us like that sort of thing). ES4’s expansion, Shivering Isles, however, is an absolute delight.

    Set in an otherworldly realm of a god of madness, the landscape itself reflects its patron’s rather bipolar nature. A study in contrasts, as stunning and evocative as one half of the island is, the other half is deliciously dismal and creepy.

    And then there are the NPCs. Much like Alice’s Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat’s declaration of “We’re all mad here,” could easily apply to the populace of the Shivering Isles as well. Each character you meet is certifiable in their own special way, making for some very interesting conversations.

  24. Gainclone says:

    Myst/Riven, of course. Ravenholm/City 17 agreed. How about the Overwatch tower? That place is pretty amazing.

    Has anyone played Pharaoh’s Tomb for DOS? That game had some atmosphere. It’s amazing the suspense it created using those terrible ancient graphics. Incredible architecture, deadly traps and awesome gameplay. Simple, attractive, even decent effects from the PC speaker!

    And it seems like people are forgetting the most immersive environs of all! The old LucasArts adventure games! Sam ‘n’ Max Hit the Road, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? The sheer amount of time you had to spend in there to accomplish anything made an impression on the player.

  25. Joel Johnson says:

    It’s banal, but Dead Rising totally nailed the American shopping mall.

  26. claud9999 says:

    System Shock 2

    Look ‘em up, play ‘em if you can.

  27. Rob Beschizza says:

    YES, Hardwar.

    But come on, it’s a little nerdy.

    HRE of Darklands.

  28. A New Challenger says:


  29. fergus1948 says:

    At the risk of showing my age, what about just every location in Riven – especially the villages?

  30. cha0tic says:

    For me, the wire frame space of ‘Elite’ still has a special place in my heart, simplistic as it is. I’d play the game for hours, the sketched nature of the environment letting my imagination run wild. I *was* a hot dog space pirate for those hours.

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