The RPG Scrollbars: Sacred Worlds

Most RPGs ask you to save the world, but not all of them offer a world worth saving. Honestly, there’s been quite a few where given the choice I’d have joined the evil overlord just to beat up all the potion vendors who wouldn’t even give me a discount before the final battle, and for the mere chance of stabbing the guard in Act 1 who wouldn’t let me into The Town Where The Actual Bloody Game Starts.

This week though, I’m interested in the other side of that – the worlds that become more than just a place to grind for loot and XP. The places that feel real. Beloved worlds, which don’t necessarily correlate with beloved games. I really enjoyed Skyrim for instance, but Skyrim as a world largely leaves me cold for reasons that have nothing to do with the Frostfall mod. That’s not the same as saying it’s bad, or any real quality judgement at all, simply that for me it never became a second home, more than a playground. Fallout New Vegas meanwhile, despite its problems, ticked all of the boxes. It was a world I could believe in, get immersed by, and not want to leave, which given the current political climate around the world is quite probably for the best.

Here are some of the most special worlds for me. How about you? Note, we’re talking entire worlds, as in the settings for whole games, not specific places like, say, Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy VII or FFXIV. Those are cool too, but… another week!

Britannia (Ultima)

Pretty much inevitable, I suppose. Ultima is one of the rare games that not only offered return trips to the same places and same characters rather than merely the same world, but let us be part of literally centuries of its history. Returning to it wasn’t simply playing a new game, but returning to a second home – catching up with old friends, seeing the rise and fall of cities and dreams, and being welcomed back with open arms every time, give or take the occasional near-sacrifice incident.

But there’s more to Britannia than that. It’s one of the few CRPG settings built entirely on human principles. No gods, just man. Its focus on virtue isn’t simply skin-deep, despite how some Avatars might choose to play, but something that defines the entire setting. Every town, every quest, is tied to this bigger philosophical picture that simultaneously believes in the fundamental goodness of people while accepting that the path to virtue isn’t always an easy one. Even creator Richard Garriott’s author-avatar Lord British is regularly shown to be in the wrong, with the Avatar him or herself intended as a symbol of what people can be rather than simply the strongman that they can’t. As much as it’s easy to mock the ye olde talke, which make no mistake, only Ultima is permitted to do at this point, and as many continuity errors and bad sequels as it accumulated, the philosophical coherence of the place made returning more than just casual business. Other worlds called for heroes. Britannia needed its Avatar.

Azeroth (World of Warcraft)

I love Azeroth. Sorry. I know it’s not cool to admit that these days, but it’s true. It wasn’t my first MMO (for more on that, see my upcoming autobiography ‘I Played Meridian 59, Bitch!’) but it was the first that truly felt like a world. One of my fondest memories of it is of heading out from Stormwind and catching a boat to another continent – another is taking the underwater train between it and Ironforge and just marvelling at the scale of it all. Yes, I know it’s just a tiny internal map, but ssh. Blizzard did a better job than anyone had ever done before at twisting the primitive MMO technology into something fascinating. As much as we all grew to hate the taxis after a while, there’s no crushing the memory of that first flight across an entire continent – the places you will go, the wonders you will see, the monsters you will kill after swapping your rags for armour.

I don’t play on a regular basis any more, mostly because I have no interest in raids and dungeons full of annoying squawking people, but those early memories made it a place that I still look forward to returning to each expansion pack. Undercity in particular is one of my favourite locations in games, partly for its style, but also because it’s the first city my Undead Mage ever saw – the history above, the chaos below, climbing from the grave to descend once again into their destiny as one of the Forsaken’s champions.

Sigil (Planescape)

I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons in any form, so my only experience of Sigil comes from Planescape: Torment. Still, that’s enough. One of my favourite things in RPGs is wandering into a place that exists beyond the main character’s needs and wants – that it was there before you, that it’s ticking along quite nicely while you’re there, and it’ll be there once the credits roll. Sigil goes a step further by making it quite clear that your quest for identity is your own business. What makes Torment even cleverer though is that really, anyone who says that is wrong. Your past lives have shaped or relate to just about everything, they just don’t know it.

What draws me to it as a place though is similar to what drew me to the Fallen London universe (as ever, having written for that, I’m not going to talk too much about that here). On the surface, it’s a cruel, malicious, even vindictive place seeped in horror… but what’s scariest is that it does not give a damn about you. It’s a cold neutrality where you can accomplish great things or writhe at the bottom of the heap, where great comedy sits side-by-side with agonising tragedies. Exploring its streets is to realise that every person has a story and every one of those stories is meaningful.

In a very real sense, Sigil is ‘always leave them wanting more’ turned into a city. You’ll never find those portals to other worlds, because they’re not programmed in. But it doesn’t matter. The sheer potential of the place makes it bigger than any game would ever be able to make it, and the lingering unknown is more captivating than finding the truth would ever be. Every time, it feels like there’s more to discover; at least a chance of stumbling through a portal that nobody else has ever found before. You won’t, of course, but that doesn’t matter. Unless you’ve literally played it through about ten times, you’re going to find at least something you’ve not seen before.

Neocron

Okay, so here’s a slightly unusual pick. Neocron was a pretty conclusive failure as a game. When I played it after the beta, it had double-digit populations most of the time. The expansion pack, Beyond Dome Of York, was so unpopular, it ended up being switched off. Its combat system was an attempt to do real-time combat long before internet speeds were good enough for that. The box was hilariously shit, and its expansion pack not much better thanks to having a covergirl who wasn’t even looking at what she was shooting at. (They later fixed that). Neocron was Not Great.

But how I loved its city. It was an attempt to actually create one, complete with restaurants to hang out in, red light districts that were mostly closed at launch but never mind, complex factions, flying cars, holographic combat arenas, in-game forums to chat with other players without breaking out of the fiction, and constant tannoy announcements with the latest news, that news usually being to tell everyone to attend meetings about their rights and responsibilities that needless to say never happened, and making sure that if you went into something like the town hall, that would have all of the offices and other bits you needed. Nobody had made such a convincing MMO city before, one that let you stride in like it was Blade Runner and begin earning your keep and your stripes in a hostile but manageable scale future.

It was of course mostly a ghost town, outside of people ganking new players in the sewers. Nobody ate in the restaurants. Nobody was ever around for holographic shooting fun. The bounties posted on the walls were never real players. I was disappointed by all of that, and how after launch it sat stagnant instead of living up to its potential. At the same time though, I adored that at least it tried. At the time it felt like where MMOs would inevitably end up going – more realistic settings, more interaction options, more of a sense of virtual life. In the end of course, no, it didn’t happen. But Neocron tried, and I love it for trying. It’s still around, now fan-supported, though I doubt its blocky graphics and clumsy systems would have the same effect now. Still, if you want to take a look, just head here and sign up.

Los Angeles (Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines)

Much of this works for me in the same way that Sigil does, albeit without the comfort of neutrality. Most games aim to make you feel like you’re scratching the surface of a bigger world, but I can’t think of many that have managed to do it better. Bloodlines’ careful microcosm of vampire society leaves you in no doubt of how much more is going on the shadows that people aren’t telling you about, without falling into the trap of being so coy that you never get to enjoy being part of it. (This was something that bugged me about the first Vampire game, Redemption).

As simple and janky as much of it is, the characters, the setting, the music and the little details all come together to create something far more absorbing than it probably should be. Certainly, when I visited Santa Monica the other year on business, I couldn’t resist slipping in my earphones and wandering around the pier to the sound of Deb of Night. Didn’t go into any dodgy clubs or drain any prostitutes of their blood or anything, though I did have a very underwhelming McDonalds before ambling back to the hotel for a quiet evening of regretting that we never got a sequel to this awkward gem.

Anachronox

And speaking of awkward gems… I really wish more sci-fi would take a page from Tom Hall’s crazy pop-up-book of a universe. The titular world is such a clever place, with its moving districts and grinding poverty. What follows though is a glimpse of a place that deserved to be far better explored – the only game where you can get a whole planet shrinking itself down to be a party member, or casually end up on a comic book supervillain’s ship as if that’s just the kind of thing that happens in deep space. As much as the game was essentially a war between Hall and co’s imagination and the limitations of the Quake engine, you’ve got to love a sci-fi epic so crazy in scale that the plot involves another universe weaponising the Big Crunch.

As much as I love Mass Effect, in particular its characters (the Citadel DLC is easily one of my favourite RPG experiences of the last few years), and many other great SF games, everything since Anachronox has felt somewhat dry in comparison. I still like to think that we’ll get to return to it at some point, even if it is about as likely as one day seeing an Oscar winning Farscape/Firefly crossover. Sigh.

Those are just a few of my favourite RPG worlds – I didn’t want to steal all of the good ones. Which are yours? Which do you like to return to for another trip around old stomping grounds, and which ones do you long for a chance to revisit and catch up on? Remember, we’re talking about the worlds themselves rather than necessarily the games, so an awesome world in a bad game can count. Likewise, it doesn’t have to be objectively the greatest place you’ve ever played, just something that became more than the sum of its maps to you personally. That could be something as sprawling as Mass Effect, or as simple as Legends of Valour arriving at just the right time.

Over to you…

97 Comments

  1. Thirith says:

    You’re spot on about Britannia: returning there, from Ultima V to VI to VII, felt like returning to a world that was changing. Finding the little hamlet of yore turned into a town, then incorporated into the outskirts of the capital, or Loch Lake becoming the local garbage dump over decades and centuries… There still aren’t any gaming worlds that I feel at home in as much as Britannia. Unfortunately I felt none of that connection to the Britannia we were given in Ultima 9, so I’m still waiting (probably in vain) for a real return to that particular place.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Ultima 9. Still a heartbreak, so many years on.

      • Thirith says:

        Tell me about it. I even got the Dragon’s Edition, that’s how much I was into Ultima, and then we got this little themepark Britannia with bad writing and dumb characters. Sure, I look at Ultima V (my first one) to Serpent Isle through nostalgia goggles, but they still did most things vastly better than U9. U8 at least could be treated as an interesting if very flawed side adventure due to its plot and world.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          Most people point at 7, but for me 5 and 6 ar the Ultimas that really build the world. They have the right mixture of mystery and familiarity about the place and the motivations to go off the beaten track. Ultima 6 was the first time I truly felt I was in an open world – playing it with friends on the 386 in the school library we had endless fun just messing around throwing gardening tools at chickens.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    Ah Neocron. I think that was the first MMO I dabbled with, during its beta.

    I remember stabbing rats in a sewer with a stilleto a whole bunch and repeatedly seeing “miss” flash up on the screen, then trying to trade bits of string or something.

    Still, it did have some pretty nice ambiance, yes.

    Also, what is this 16-colour abomination of Ultima VI’s intro adorning the article? Sparklezebra demands all 256 colours!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Eh, it’s what Mobygames had :-P

    • Jekhar says:

      I wanted to love Neocron. And i really tried. The clunky game systems i could overlook. But what really killed it for me where most of the other players. They seemed to treat it as a 24/7 deathmatch gibfest. I guess some of the marketing is to blame, i recall it was heavily advertised as an FPS. But i wanted more out of it than MMO Counterstrike. I guess i should have been lucky to have started my MMO career in Ultima Online. That was one great experience. But it forever tainted every other MMO i tried after it.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I remember having some good times in the sewers. And those aren’t words I say very often. You’d get the griefers, but you’d also get quite a few players standing around to help protect people and chase them off, which was a fun kind of camaraderie I’d like to see more of in these games.

        • Zafman says:

          *sighs* Neocron. I signed up for six months when it came out. The German server had up to 600 people playing at times (had a maximum capacity of 2000 iirc).
          Plaza 1 turned into a major trading hub at night and I made quite a bit of money offering my implanting skills. You could always tell when there was a major war going on outside. Warriors fresh from the Gene Replicators, desperate to have their high level implants put back in, would pay ridiculous amounts of money to the only imper skillful enough AND still awake at stupid o’clock. Of course I’d double the charge for Twilight Guardian scumbags. ^_^
          My god, was that really twelve years ago? I should really revisit that place. My first trip to Military Base on my beloved hover-bike and purchasing some high level reflex boosters there was one of the most exciting trips I have ever had in a game.
          As you can probably see, Neocron left some lasting memories. Even though quite shonky in a lot of respects (like eg. random re-spawns straight into enemy clan apartments. Oops! Or getting stuck in walls.), it had quite an atmosphere.
          And the restaurants WERE being used by me and other players. Admittedly, all you could do was sit on a chair there, but place a beer in front of you on the table and offer your paying patients drinks, they’d soon join you and sit down for a while, waiting for their freshly implanted nanites to settle. :)

  3. kud13 says:

    Place that didn’t care for me? The Zone in S.T.A.L.K.E.R : SoC.

    Lots of that had to do with the rain. And the lightning storms. And the genuine relief of stumbling on 3 friendlies camped out in the wilderness who would shoot the dogs that were hounding me.

    It’s that fleeting feeling of SAFETY upon reaching Bar-no matter which direction you come from, soaked with rads, exhausted, nearly out of ammo–to suddenly know you’re among friends.
    Sure, the mechanics were simply a bunch of fetch quests, but it’s how you traversed the Zone, how you planned your expeditions between these safe points-that’s what mattered-that’s when you made it your own game.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      “It’s that fleeting feeling of SAFETY upon reaching Bar-no matter which direction you come from…”

      Unless you helped out freedom, bugged the quest and got the entirety of Duty across 100% of the zone pissed off at you. Going back to the Bar after that is an… interesting experience.

      Fun though. I actually completed a playthrough after doing that, once.

  4. thekelvingreen says:

    It probably doesn’t hold up today and in hindsight the game itself was poor, but I always liked the city in Liberation: Captive 2. It felt alive and real in a way that no other setting has matched, except perhaps some of the Elder Scrolls games. The downside was that aside from the central gather-the-clues plotline, there was nothing unusual or interesting going on, no subplots or tangents; in a way, I suppose that made it feel more real.

  5. technoir says:

    Fallen London’s pretty special for me. The way the action point system forces you to play the game in short bursts over months or years may be frustrating, but it also evokes a real feeling of being part of an evolving world. The comparison with Torment is apt since they’re both games where understanding their settings with all their social groups, politics and cultures is a core part of the gameplay, not just “lore” hidden in an in-game manual somewhere.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I always find it interesting when people talk about Fallen London and Sunless Sea as ‘horror’ games, since I’ve never really agreed with that. They’re games WITH horror bits, absolutely, as any visitor to the Chapel of Lights or unfortunates who venture into the palace cellars will tell you, and those bits are wonderful. Still, the thing that always drew me into that universe was the line about “But Londoners can get used to anything” and so much charm comes from the worst stuff being the new normal.

      (Really, in Fallen London, you’re pretty much the cream of the crop very early on – things are way, way worse for those who never got a benefactor – while in Sunless Sea the horrors of the zee are compensated for by a) the fact that nobody’s making you go out there and b) with great risk comes great reward.)

      My favourite bits of both games tend to be the circles of light that push against the darkness, whether it’s cheery salons and debauching with devils, or something more personal like establishing a friendship of equals with the Pirate-Poet and being able to decide for yourself if horrible things for your own gain are Just Business. The individual bits are great, but it’s in the contrast that the world really comes together.

      • tofeklund says:

        I agree that Fallen London & Sunless Sea aren’t basically horror, but, for me at least, the horror lies not in the most disturbing things one can find in the world, but in the way the Player Character can, and probably will, become so wicked or callous as to steal the breath of the dying or trade in red honey: “I’m a terrible person, but so are you.”

        The monstrous and otherworldly in these games doesn’t horrify me, it comforts me. It’s the banality of evil that sends a chill down my spine, because that isn’t fantasy, it is how the great and the “good” acquire their power.

    • Adrianis says:

      I actually felt like the enforced gaps in playing Fallen London did the opposite. I loved the game to bits, but after leaving the game for a while, coming back weeks later to find an investigation still half underway, or a book half written, conversations halfway done, and just picking up precisely where I left off using those few points to tick off a few more stages… it felt precisely like the whole world paused while I was away, waiting for an arbitrary counter to wind the clock so it could carry on turning

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        The more recent stuff is a lot more focused on keeping things tight – Exceptional Stories that can be played in one sitting (usually) in particular. And Sunless is obviously more or less entirely at your own pace, give or take the Something Awaits You mechanic.

        • Adrianis says:

          Sure I appreciate that. The style clearly suits a bunch of people, and indeed has the polar opposite reaction from some people, I’m just labelling it “Aint my thing”.
          Sunless Sea was certainly my thing, fantastic game that it was. Only checked out Fallen London after playing it, and found that while the fiction was all there, I couldn’t commit in the same way.

      • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

        Still, I don’t think it’d be possible to have any significant real-time elements in Fallen London, engine arguments aside. Most players will play fairly casually, and most of the game is designed around this.

        I suppose one misstep could arguably be having a journal in-game, which gives a sense of time and place, but makes the game feel in real-time, which plays with how the player might percieve the flow of the game.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          I always enjoyed Sunless’ take on that, which is basically “Yeah, time at zee is weird. Anyhoo, where were we? Ah, yes, your kid grew up and headed to zee in the time it took you to transport a prisoner to Wisdom. So, then what happens is…”

          “Real time” would be tricky, but it’d be fun to see it in a few settings. The Haunting at the Marsh House is a pretty cool example where time passes with each turn and you have a strict limit. I had a vague idea for something a little like The Last Express, though I suspect it’s the kind of thing where if I suggested it, everyone involved would have a simultaneous heart attack :-)

        • Adrianis says:

          Totally agree with that – the game is what it is, you couldn’t possibly separate the action points from the rest of the game.

          I don’t doubt the mechanic for the design of Fallen London itself, I just personally feel it worked against the topic in discussion – i.e. a world that feels like it continues without you. The fiction was there for it, but not the mechanics. It’s hardly a harsh criticism, there are bugger all games that reinforce that idea with actual mechanics.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Man, I REALLY need to get back to Fallen London. I played zealously for awhile but I accidentally left my character unattended in the Game of Knife and Candle for about two weeks and now he’s… well, dead.

      I’m not bitter in the slightest, but I just haven’t been able to invest the time to get him back on his feet, as it were, and now I’m struggling to get back into the mindset.

  6. Oakreef says:

    Not really an RPG and not all that well fleshed out either TBH but I loved the fact that Termina in Majora’s Mask carries on without you in its little three day time loop. The world and the problems of the people don’t all revolve around the player. Well, really they do as they’re problems designed for the player to solve – but my point is that their lives carried on and their problems changed and evolved throughout those short three days whether or not the player interacted with them. And really I am overselling it because it’s only really Kafei and Anju’s families as well as the the ranch girls who’s stories actually play out like that. But it did something very few games do and gave a glimpse of what seemed liked a world you were in and that could be saved rather than a world that only exists to be saved.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      One of the scenes between the ranch girls legitimately made me cry slightly. Not a common occurance for a Zelda game.

      Still can’t get over the fact that it’s literally impossible to help everyone, due to needing to let an old lady be robbed to complete the Anju-Kafei storyline. Could’ve been interesting to see alternate endings based around who you helped in your final cycle.

  7. ansionnach says:

    Britannia again. Would take some beating. In Britannia, but its own world was the dungeon of Ultima Underworld. What was it made of? Eight non-linear maps filled with all sorts of surprises along with its failed underground aspirational society. The building blocks seem simple but the execution was superb. Having to learn the language of the lizard people is one of the things that sticks in my mind and made me feel that the world was much greater than perhaps it was.

    The imaginative worlds of Ultima Underworld II also deserve a mention for their variety and out-thereness. I particularly liked the spaced-out world (Talorus) where you could reprogramme the entire society. What you got there was far less complex than I originally imagined from talking to the natives and working out what made everything tick, but it was great stuff all the same. UWII may not have come close to the brilliance of the first, but still its locations were incomparably special. The narrative of The Guardian’s universal conquest was well-told in how it affected the disparate worlds you visited, whether fighting or sneaking around a goblin tower, discovering the secrets of a forgotten ice world, fighting your way through a brutal already-conquered society or talking to your would-be conquerors in a fortress that was a parody of Castle Britannia. It fits in perfectly story-wise between the Ultima VII games and some of the worlds feel as oppressive as…

    Pagan. Yes, Ultima VIII’s world. Desolate, conquered by the Guardian and the perfect place to be hurled into narrative-wise before the final return to Britannia in Ultima IX (which deserved much better). As an adventure and action RPG I highly recommend Ultima VIII. The problematic jumping that is still complained about was fixed by a patch released twenty years ago… and pretty much no version of the game you’ll find today has it. Hearsay? As well as the bleak, sad tale of Pagan, what makes Ultima VIII special is learning and then mastering the various spellcasting systems so that you can become powerful enough to challenge The Guardian. Being cast into a pit of despair from which you rebuild to return victorious is quite an essential character test for any hero’s journey.

    Lastly, I’ll invalidate my contribution by stepping into forbidden territory: Outcast has a fantastic world. It isn’t an RPG by any means but its world was one that many RPGs could only dream of. Fantastic really is apt here. Won’t go into detail other to say that the fantastic music really helped heap more atmosphere on all the talking, shooting and fetching.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, I liked Pagan as a place. I’d love to have seen it when not hobbled by that awful engine (which worked great in Crusader, but not there, not even a little bit) and art limitations.

      I think you can make a case for Outcast as an RPG, TBH. A light one, but still.

      • Jekhar says:

        Oh, yes. Outcast definetly. But i think defining it as a RPG is stretching it a bit. It has equipment you can purchase, but that’s about it. Action Adventure, Guns’n’Conversations or whatever. It’s from a bygone era, where games were hard to classify.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          I think you can make a case. More than for something like, say, Beyond Good and Evil, which is very much just an action-adventure in an open world.

        • ansionnach says:

          When I played the game I thought it was a bit like Zelda but for PC… without the often annoying little puzzles where you push blocks around. I do agree that a case could be made for it being an RPG even though I wouldn’t classify it as one. Maybe Mass Effect 2 is the closest game to Outcast in many ways?

      • ansionnach says:

        I only played the CD version of Pagan, which had the patch applied… and I have very little negative to say. Sometimes the exploding chests and traps are annoying but there are spells for that. The combat can be clumsy but I don’t remember knockdown being much of a problem (again, a pre-patch issue?). Probably my biggest gripe with the game is the doors to The Lost Vale. I spent countless hours trying to get in there, even possibly using a golem to open them (you still can’t go in). After playing most of the other Ultima games I do agree that it isn’t worthy of being part of the main saga (post Ultima IV), but as a side-story it stands on its own. As maligned as it was/is it’s still a much better RPG than many released since that have gotten universal acclaim. These days games are rarely judged until fully patched but poor old Ultima VIII gets a bum deal because many die-hard fans hated it so much. I’d suspect that many modern gamers wouldn’t have the patience for the note-taking required in most Ultima games but could probably play Pagan and enjoy it.

        The Crusader games were great, as was Bioforge, which had a superb atmosphere and really succeeded in its aim to be an “interactive movie”.

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      gritz says:

      What’s great about Pagan (and Serpent Isle, to an extent), is that in addition to inverting/subverting so many other elements of virtue and heroism and “Avatarhood”, it also inverts the thesis of this article.

      Pagan isn’t a world to be saved, full of good people and fond memories- it is a world asking to be put out of its misery. And doing so means that you can return to the only worlds that deserve your heroism: Brittania and Earth.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I see Pagan as a bit different. It needs a hero, and most of the people there deserve one, but it has to be sacrificed for your real home – a game where the ends really *don’t* justify the means. Even though it is tempered a bit by it mostly being the Titans who crazy things up.

      • ansionnach says:

        As much as I loved Pagan, I really can’t remember what exactly happens to anyone other than me by the end of the game. Ultima IX would have been so much better had it only been about Monkey Kombat between Titans. I do remember that Serpent Isle (without Silver Seed) was about the darkest ending you could possibly imagine. Both games had superb music in their MT-32 (SI) or General MIDI (Pagan) forms. The Serpent and Ophidian War themes from Serpent Isle really filled me with a creeping dread. I’m not sure any other game I’ve played has been so oppressive and terrifying… and often all you’re doing is reading ancient history.

        • Premium User Badge

          gritz says:

          If I ever wrote a “Gaming Made Me”, it would be about *that* moment in Serpent Isle. As an already mopey teenager, that part of the game just ruined me for at least a month.

          • ansionnach says:

            I only played the Ultima VII games after VIII so I was a bit older than I would have been when they were released. I completely failed to finish the game the first time but finished it after a restart a few years later. Had gotten stuck in the Ophidian Caverns or somewhere in the frozen north with no clue of what to do next. I strongly suspect Serpent Isle’s continuing obscurity is due to not many people finishing it. Why, if I did a mini RPG awards ceremony right now I wouldn’t have a problem going with:
            Best RPG: Ultima VII: The Black Gate
            Best linear RPG: Ultima VII: The Serpent Isle
            Best action RPG: Ultimg VIII: Pagan
            Best Dungeon Crawl: Ultima Underworld (the first one, by miles)
            Best JRPG: Ultima III (the original and best – they tried to imitate it but it was never bettered!)

            To my shame I haven’t finished V, VI or the worlds games. I gave up on Ultima IX in the under water place where you absolutely have to kill all the gargoyles (that really was the last straw).

        • ansionnach says:

          Slight correction: The Ophidian Scroll is the name of the tune that played when you read various scrolls about Ophidian history. All three tunes were variations. The composer, JD Harding has a version on his website, although this version doesn’t sound right at all. The MIDI on Bootstrike sounds great (with a Sound Canvas soundfont). Origin really did this kind of thing well: imparting a story by leaving bits of it lying around in books, scrolls (Ultima) or digital logs (Bioforge, System Shock) for you to read. The details made for absorbing stuff and sucked you right in. Yes, they really did create worlds! Remember sitting in front of my 486 playing SI and being completely absorbed by it, especially the Ophidian scrolls. I’d the game patched to play General MIDI music through my DB50-XG so it sounded great.

  8. Gothnak says:

    I’m going to be a bit biased as i have worked on it a lot, but i still like Albion from Fable although i do know that not all of you have enjoyed the depth of the games, i think the setting is fantastic.

    • Bugamn says:

      I liked Albion. Maybe Fable worked better for me because I hadn’t heard the promises about it, and I hadn’t played classics such as Ultima, so what it achieved was already plenty for me.

  9. Michael Anson says:

    I’d like to give a nod to the caves of Exile/Avernum, with their ever-sprawling depths and ever-expanding civilization. I’ve lost far, far too many hours to those games.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      This is what I came here to say.

      This is what I came here hoping that somebody else would already have said. Thanks for making me smile.

      However primitive the Avernum games might appear, they’re effing brilliant oldschool crpgs to their cores. But the world itself is definitely the thing that grabs me. (I still think of it as Exile, though, Avernum is just a much less catchy name)

      The writing in Avernum is fantastic without drowning you in pages and pages of prose. The world’s brought to life more by little snippets and suggestions than it is by lengthy descriptions. Its characters usually only get a handful of lines, yet they all feel like people. Its caves all ‘look’ alike graphically, but each region genuinely feels distinct. There’s a ton of lore and secrets to discover, and learning more about the underworld feels less like ticking boxes on some checklist and more like – appropriately enough – archaeology. And don’t even get me started on the Vahnatai.

      It’s a world that makes SENSE, too. Of course you’d need lumber for building, flour for bread, etc. So they used magic to genetically engineer mushroom ‘trees’. But the flour tastes awful and the wood is lousy. Of course you’d need cattle, but cows do terribly underground so they reared lizards. But they’ll bite your arm off as soon as look at you. You can tell how long somebody’s been down there by their complexion.

      I seem to have a thing for underground worlds anyway – Fallen London, Ultima Underworld, Arx Fatalis – but Exile was my first, and I’m pretty sure it was the whole reason for that fascination. It also seems to be the reason, unfortunately, why I can’t get into any of Spiderweb’s other games. They just never quite match my expectations after life in the pit.

  10. Xantonze says:

    The world of Pathologic.
    Nothing since came ever close its sense of dread, sorrow and “inevitability”. It was also very poetic, which truly enhanced the bleak atmosphere.

    • tofeklund says:

      I feel much the same way about The Void/Tension. It’s a world that is darkly beautiful and doomed in a way that I think many games aim for (possibly without the beauty) and miss.

      I’ll pick up the remake of Pathologic when it comes out: maybe it will top The Void for me.

  11. Le blaireau says:

    Even though it’s not out yet, to me, UnderRail is going to have one of the greatest senses of place I’ve played in an rpg. When you get to core city for the first time having messed about in small outposts and dungeons is staggering. It feels so inviting to explore knowing how your character can, depending on the power level your at, really take on anyone. And then, guess what, you get smashed again and again. It truly is a superlative game. I get bored of games fairly easily and I’m at 60 odd hours so far just messing about with a few different builds. For £6 it’s the bargain of the century.

  12. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I love it when my week starts off with a Cobbett piece about Ultima.

  13. Danopian says:

    In no particular order and without to-do:

    – Fallen London/Sunless Sea
    – Kentucky Route Zero
    – La-Mulana
    – Lordran (Dark Souls)
    – Sir, You Are Being Hunted
    – Skyrim
    – Jet Set Radio/JSRF
    – Planet (Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri)
    – Machinarium
    – The Monkey Island Caribbean
    – Longest Journey/Dreamfall
    – Thief/Thief II/etc.
    – Deus Ex
    – Myst/Riven/Uru/etc.

  14. Zephro says:

    Ah Neocron. So flawed and yet weirdly compelling. When we played we made a little corp that made implants/guns/whatever. So we specialised our skills into crafting while being rubbish at shooty whizz bangs. Then sat around in the restaurants brokering deals and getting the space marine people to go fetch stuff for us for a cut of profit. It all felt so cyberpunk, like we were hackers in Neuromancer.

    Though yes it ended up a ghost town and yes most the systems were cack.

  15. Arathain says:

    The world of World of Warcraft is the most remarkable thing achieved by that game. I never liked the systems all that much, so I think the highest level I ever got was 30-ish. I’ve never encountered any other open world game that felt so much like a place, waiting to be explored.

    I’m not quite sure what it was about it. The way the landscape rolls gently and believably, maybe? Being able to go into any building was definitely part of it. The contrasts between the different places. The exaggeration on every feature? I don’t really know. I could never quite put a finger on what made it what it was. I’ve played a bit of Guild Wars 2, and that game is beautiful, and very far advanced in terms of the tech it uses. It doesn’t have it, though.

    One of the things that I have realised convinced me it wasn’t the game for me is how it worked against its own sense of place. I remember exploring a gorgeous ancient elven forest, all huge trees dripping with moss, ancient ruins and all that. And every 10 feet there would be a bear or a spider. Just milling around aimlessly. If killed, they’d just fade back into view a little bit later, often right where you were. There were so many, and they had so little sense of place or purpose it ruined the experience.

    City of Heroes open world had its moments, but over all it didn’t have that great a sense of place. The thing I remember is that you very rarely encountered enemies standing around for no reason. They’d be mugging or kidnapping someone, or trying to break into a house, or if they were standing around they’d be selling drugs. They fit into the world, and fighting them felt like a heroic act. It wasn’t a great place to be, but it was a great place to be a hero.

  16. jerf says:

    Witcher world. Granted, it’s not a nice one to live in, but it’s one of the more realistic and immersive fantasy worlds. Most of the credit here goes to Andrzej Sapkowski, the creator of the original book series, not to the game developers, though.

  17. Geebs says:

    Morrowind, basically.

    • nigelvibations says:

      Did you get choked up when you revisited Solstheim in Dragonborn? Did you know how to get to Raven Rock without looking at your map?

  18. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Hm, I’ve always liked the Elder Scrolls world. I totally understand the issue with Skyrim but since my first Elder Scrolls experience, which was Daggerfall, It’s always felt like home to me in all its incarnations – even Oblivion. I think the less “realistic” nature of Daggerfall made it easier to fill things in with your imagination. Several of the older Might and Magic games (only the grid based ones) had the same effect. But if I had to pick one world over all the other, it’d definitely be Ultima6. A very close second place to the Two Towers MUD, of course ;)

  19. Jekadu says:

    Zenozoik comes to mind. While the second Zeno Clash failed as a game — especially with the open-world aspects — it managed the feat of removing most of the mystery of the setting without making it less intriguing or weird.

    Sigil (and the rest of Planescape) and the Neath were already mentioned, but I’ll mention them regardless. Mass Effect is a bit too anthropocentric for me to take it completely seriously, but it is certainly well realized.

    I’m just gonna bring up the setting of The Wheel of Time as well. There’s one WoT game, right? Anyway, say what you will about the books themselves, but the dworld-building is unmatched with regards to how complete it feels.

    • frenz0rz says:

      Zenozoik, oh my yes.

      It was utterly bonkers, a beautifully bizarre abstract world that started with twisting streets of weird non-euclidean hovels, which quickly raced out into a mad world of epic exaggerated ruins and alien vistas.

      I mean, wow. It’s been a long time since a game (let alone two!) has had my finger nigh-constantly hovering over the screenshot button. Apparently I took 117 over the course of ZC2.

      And the inhabitants! Those slightly unsettling anthropomorphic animal folk and the wonderfully strange Corwids; especially the chap with the dome on his head who simply must keep walking, until you later discover him in the desert having hit an impossible obstacle and eventually died.

      That sense of ‘place’ was really something, and as the world grew on me it almost began to evoke that warm nostalgia of exploring the forests of Ashenvale and the jungles of Feralas in my mid-teens. That’s a damned hard feeling for a game to capture for me these days, and I’m grateful for it.

  20. RedViv says:

    Hard to top a game that contains Foxy Boxes as a location.

  21. Boronian says:

    For me it is Dark Age of Camelot, especially Albion because that was the place I spent most of my time.
    How many hours we sat on the hills at Ludlow or in the Plains of Salisbury (or at so many other beautiful places) watching the sun rising and then disappearing, talking about everything and nothing…
    It was my first MMO and I loved the world, the landscapes and how everything was connected with Arthurian mythology.

    • Enkinan says:

      Yay, someone else beat me to it.

      I was in Midgard,which was well done.

      It was pretty ballsy that they fully separated the three worlds and did not allow talk or travel between them except for the frontier. Once the RvR got going in it’s prime, it really created some great fights and a real feeling of connection to your realm.

  22. DevilishEggs says:

    Betrayal at Krondor’s channeled landscapes because of all the strange furtive people lurking behind barn doors and in taverns. It seemed like a game full of rocks to turn over.

    Daggerfall had a big impression on me as well as it was so freakishly enormous. Ultimately, though, its promises rang hollow as all those doors actually held nothing but stock people, an entire empire full of automatons.

    Its mechanics generally bored me, but Everquest 2’s various fantastical zones kept me engaged for a long time. Even after I lost interested in leveling, I still wanted to run across places like Antonica.

  23. pizzapicante27 says:

    Id still put Tamriel in there, a few mods and you can get truly lost in all of the regions of the continent… vanilla is another story but with mods, uff, I dont think Ive ever been as lost in a world.
    Also Thedas… at least during Origins, and MAYBE in Inquisition.

  24. LennyLeonardo says:

    I’m a big fan of the worlds of Fallout 1 and 2, but if I’m being honest that has as much to do with the Fallout 1 manual, the licensed music and the Vault Boy cartoons as it does the main game. Also the pop-culture references, like with Azeroth.

  25. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Cobbett is everything right with gaming. Thank you for linking to Nakar’s U7 LP; it should be required reading for anyone who owns a computer.

  26. plugav says:

    As a fan of the World of Darkness (and a Bloodlines maniac), I couldn’t not fall in love with The Secret World. Especially Solomon Island, of course, though I’m not sure if that’s because it’s the most polished location, or just the most familiar.

    (The Secret World also shares something with Fallen London/Sunless Sea – namely that they’re both settings with strong horror elements whose versions of London are actually less horrific than the real place. :P)

  27. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    Woaaahhhh… Woah woah woah. Hang on a cotton-pickin’ minute here. How does a Farscape-Firefly crossover not exist? That has to be the best TV-related idea since “let’s put games on it”.

  28. PoulWrist says:

    Rubi-Ka of Anarchy Online. I guess much of that would be down to it being my first MMO. And first real go at online gaming apart from a bit of Quake.

    The world is made up of zones, requiring loading between them, but the size of some of them was just huge. Knowing your way around with the instant-travel stations available was a part of the skill of the game, because moving on foot or in a vehicle to many places was both timeconsuming and dangerous.

    I still think today that the world’s look is one of the best ever for a gameworld that felt like a real place. Distances felt large, buildings and outposts seem placed in ways that make sense for a world that was an actual, working place. Sure, the AI was limited to primitive patrol patterns and random moving about, but that didn’t matter, back then in 2001. Or much today, for that matter…

    The non-themeparkness of it is what makes it feel special. It’s not like “this is the farm-setpiece”, “this is the forest-setpiece”, they are just places and there are multiple of most types of places scattered about. Maybe it’s the lack of NPCs with question marks over their heads all over the place that makes it stand out, even today.

  29. waltC says:

    Daggerfall had great promise that was ruined by bugs, unfortunately. Yep, WoT (Wheel of Time) still runs under WIn10–I have it installed–carried it with me for eons & through many OSes (testament to the longevity of win32.) My pick of worlds is probably Witcher 3–my jaw is still dropping open every so often while playing at the sheer gritty realism and lod that has been built into the game. It’s utterly convincing and Geralt seems an old friend. That said, it may not be my favorite. ANd I don’t know what that is, I just realized…;)

  30. heretic says:

    Chinatown for me, Los Angeles was fine but being betrayed by the sexy vampire in Chinatown was a big OMG moment for me – how could I not see it coming you ask!

  31. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    My first thought upon reading the title was instantly “Elder Scrolls”, but that failed as soon as I got to the subtitle. I love the lore and a great many of the places in that series’ world, but the only “home” I have there – the only place where I’m not a tourist – is Foryn Gilnith’s Shack. But then in the full context of the article, I think that world might be it for me. They might be one-off good times if I just did quests all day, but since I’m in it for the landscape-oggling and the history and anecdotes as told through books and the environment, I think it fits the bill as a home away from home which I always enjoy returning to and for which I eschew meeting new worlds. (The most recent example of that last bit being sticking with ESO versus a.d.d.ing my way over to Wildstar or Guild Wars 2. I had potential interest in all three before finding out that I could satisfyingly play ESO as my kind of TES game.)

    Along the way, I was also tempted to say Proteus since it’s a comforting place to go and chill out in familiar surroundings. Sorta home-like in that sense, with a nice world, but certainly not really an RPG in anything close to the usual sense.

    I really want to add Aquaria, too, buuut I’m worried it has too much highly-specific nostalgia attached to it, and it’s another arguable-RPG. The world has for me just the right balance of stuff explained via dialog or props and things left unexplained. Lots of things to optionally stumble across along the way, and a feeling that there is more, as is the case with the two previously mentioned game worlds.

  32. kagai says:

    Tell me about those price-gouging RPG vendors. The world is about to be destroyed and I’m trying to save it:

    Well, Hero, I just jacked my prices up by 1000%. Good Luck.

    You know, vendor, if I fail you won’t be able to enjoy all that money, because, you know, you’ll be dead.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Also, we’re an entire party of high level warriors, mages, rogues, priests and walking weapons of mass destruction. Consider this eminent domain (shoves all potions into a big bag, walks off to kill a dragon)

    • Sin Vega says:

      Star Control 2 / Ur-Quan Masters got round this rather neatly, by having the Melnorme traders hint that if you fail and the Bad Ending comes, they’re already prepared to simply escape to another dimension.

  33. Humppakummitus says:

    The space in Star Control 2. It was vast, full of mysteries, dangerous, and all mine.
    Why don’t games let me explore anymore?

    • Humppakummitus says:

      Come to think of it, Ultima 7 and SC2 both gave me a world and a map, and told me to go see what I can find.

  34. tumbleworld says:

    Morrowind is the place in gaming that truly captured my heart. Even now, stepping onto the dock at Seyda Neen feels like coming home.

    But I’ve also got an unreasonable amount of lingering love for The Void, Pathologic’s bleak nightmare of the soul. There have been very few worlds quite as fever-dream as that.

  35. muelnet says:

    I’m going to make the case for Lordran. I guess that makes me the official crazy Dark Souls guy of this thread but whatever.

    One of the most interesting decisions that FromSoft makes is removing the inhabitants. Being freed from the need to make complex AI algorithms the stories come alive through the environment and the item description. What few npcs there are all feel more real because they move around the world, and in most cases the resolution of their story is basically that they go mad and are killed.

    On top of that you have the inter connected nature of the whole place. Just when you start thinking ‘is this really how people moved around this place’ you’ll find a previously inaccessible shortcut that makes way more sense. On top of that the nature of the design is such that the verticality of the layout is reflected in the social stratification of the societies that once lived there.

    Lordran is one place I just can’t leave behind.

    • dreadguacamole says:

      I don’t think many would find fault with your choice. The way the whole world’s geography makes sense, its sense of history…
      It’s another way to engage with a world and have it feel alive – through geography and exploration, rather than NPCs and social interaction.

  36. MagicalPedro says:

    There are many, but if i had to pick a few, that would be:
    -fallout 2 wasteland
    -ryzom
    -morrowind
    -lodran
    -especialy… the migth and magic 6 world! I dont know why exactly, but it has to be that it was at the time like the first really credible open world for me. The game was not extraordinary, and too hard for me at that time, but even the fact that I was too scared to progress toward the west side of the world because of strong ennemies contibuted to make me feel like towns such as new sorpigal or ironfist castle where friendly places in wich I enjoyed wandering. The same went for M&M7. I played through both games again lately, and I found them quite easy, ugly, empty, repetitive, and the lore isn’t particulary good. But the magic was still there, thanks to the melancholy mecanics…

  37. DevilishEggs says:

    Might and Magic 6 also made a strong impression on me at time, although I bet the combat, while punishing, would be so boring now. Lots of distinctive towns and geographic features and dungeons, within the limitations of the engine. I never played 7 nor have I ever developed the interest to GOG it.

    Speaking of M&M … I came to it late, but the 4th game (Clouds of Xeen with the big pink box) had a richly colorful world with some personality.

  38. magogjack says:

    I feel like I’m the only person in the world that found the tone of the citidal DLC to be absoloutly of putting….

    Also best worlds,
    Outcast, Azeroth, Dishonoured, the Deus Ex series , Bloodlines and of course the Witcher world.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      The Witcher 1’s world is the most modern game where I feel like the game world is fun just to walk around in, however it’s not the most recent one to make me feel like that. I’m about to finish my first playthrough of Anachronox and it’s of one my new favorite games for just strolling around, talking to people and take in the sights. Before I read this article I was gonna write “nobody mentioned Anachronox”, but to my surprise they did. It’s odd, though, that the article didn’t mention The Witcher, but several comments do so. VtM: Bloodlines, Deus Ex 1 and KotOR 1/2 are other examples.

  39. Voidlight says:

    How are Warhammer 40K and Shadowrun not part of this conversation? Their worlds are so strong they have full on pen and paper systems to back them up.

    Video games have admittedly not been the strongest medium for 40K, at least in terms of RPGs (Space Marine was good), but Shadowrun? Dragonfall DC and Hong Kong were phenomenal!

    • karthink says:

      Dragonfall and SR: Hong Kong were set in the very fascinating sixth world, but the world seems vast and unknowable because the writing implies more than it tells, slyly packing exposition and world-building into every bit of text. I didn’t, however, get to explore it in any depth because of how limited your agency is.

      I don’t mean it in the sense of influencing the main plot. Just on a moment to moment basis, there’s very little you can do besides clicking on one or two icons scattered around the environment. The production values weren’t high enough for visual storytelling, and it doesn’t ape the infinity engine (or adventure game) feature of giving everything you see a text description.

      What it does best is nail the feeling of being a helpless small fish in a big sea, but that’s about it. And so many RPGs have it beat in the worldbuilding department.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Shadowrun, good lord yes.

  40. Troika says:

    Not an RPG, but Myth The Fallen Lords and Myth 2 were really great world-wise.
    link to myth.bungie.org
    and those narrated briefings were just ace
    link to youtube.com
    _
    Also, i really liked the world of Shiny’s part-RPG part-RTS Sacrifice
    link to youtube.com
    + Best in-game sky domes ever.

  41. karachokarl says:

    Gothic 2!

    Given how old the game is, it is quite a feat to have created such a large and sprawling world, full with unique and believable NPCs following their daily routines. I think the open world really thrives on two features.

    First, the world feels really hostile to the player. Whenever you step outside the walls of a city or settlement it really feels as if you are traversing the wilds. It takes ages to walk anywhere and the way to your destination is littered with monsters and bandits, which can easily take your life, if you are not careful.

    Second, the NPCs in the game are believable. You are stuck with them in this mean, hostile world, where only death comes cheap.
    You have to win them over. You have to beg them to help you out. You have to run errands for them or show that you are a “good guy” by helping them out in times of need.
    Everybody is out fending for themselves and there is no reason for anyone to make exceptions for you. Nobody knows who you are, or what you did and if you try to tell them, they do not believe you. It is only over time, that people around you realize what a badass you really are and it feels great.

    You have to work for your reputation in the world. You have to put in tears and sweat, before you can finally take on your first Orc, or even take revenge on that bully in the pub at the harbor, who smashed your face in for looking at him the wrong way.

    I have never been a big fan of punishing games, but Gothic pretty much just shrugs its’ shoulders and says “we’re all in this together, kid” and challenges the player to find better ways to overcome challenges (i.e. mostly running away).

    • dreadguacamole says:

      Absolutely! Gothic 2 is the best, but the other Gothics and the first Risen qualify.
      It’s not just what you mention, but there’s something in the way Piranha Bytes design geography that I feel is still unequaled. There’s a complexity and verticality in their terrains that just feels more real to me than any other 3D worlds; not sure why that is, except that they tend to keep their land masses slightly smaller than others and make them harder to traverse.
      This applies much less to the last two Risens, even though I did enjoy 3.

    • Boronian says:

      Yeah I forgot the world of Gothic 1 & 2!
      Now I want to play it again…

  42. zhiganov says:

    Why didn’t anyone mention Arcanum? Still the only viable steampunk game made, with exquisite writing and music. But mentioned neither in the top 50 RPGs nor here. Sad…

    • iLLFated says:

      So I was sitting here, reading some RPS articles and nodding in approval with the sparkling dreamscapes ya’ll call homes in your own right. And I loved it, and then I saw you.

      I wasn’t registered for RPS, I’m usually just reading up and doing what I previously mentioned. I had to register to personally say I totally agree with you and more.

      Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura is one of a few games I beat once a year. I remember borrowing a copy from an old friend and then selling my body for labor to my parents and my neighbors for cash money to ensure I had my fix on a regular basis. It all happened so fast!

      But seriously. The world took me in. The music inspired me. The world itself dazzled my naive mind! The people, the places. The very idea that magic perhaps once existed but was crushed by industry and technology! The struggle of the two, my goodness! This was the game that made me change my thinking of “What could I do to be the most powerful…” into “How would this dapper fellow fit into a world such as this, survive but still manage to be a fitting piece into such a becoming puzzle…”

      Tarant! Ah! The first time to Tarant was overwhelming. I got so lost that I eventually said “To heck with it, I’m going to just study the map and progressively learn the streets.” I had to learn streets. In a city. I had to walk the sidewalks, take in the sights. Meet the people. Get insulted thoroughly by a Gnome. Insult him back! …And get respect for it. Thug life in the industrial era ain’t no game. Then you spend some time actually exploring the world map – not just picking dots along lines to go to. Man you had to actually roam around a LOT to find even half the stuff there was to see. It was great! From neat little villages with magick themes and Gnomes with statue issues – All the way to ruined cities with barbarian camps just waiting for a bunch of jackasses like you and your buddies to just find their way over there.

      The dialogue played so well into the game. The characters blended into the atmosphere, at least in my own eyes, seamlessly. NPCs’ dialogue kept my interest almost at all times. It wasn’t a chore to skip from house to shop to abandoned shack on the outskirts of BFE. I was always confident that if something was there it was worth my time – not always in the value of currency, but sometimes it was. Or the same crap magic sword Virgil refuses to remove if I happen to make him packmule it. <_<

      …Seriously though, that fragging sword. I can't remember which one…but now that I recall it, it haunts me. Anyway! Virgil! Speaking of the devil. That man played a significant role in both irritating me and sucking me back into the world of Arcanum. Like a crazy ex that you hate to love. Or cats. What I mean really is his ability to just state the blatantly obvious. Or be way too sensitive. OR NOT PUT THAT !@#$ING SWORD AWAY AND PULL OUT THE !@#$ING ENDGAME GEAR I JUST PAID OUT THE !@#$ING KEISTER FOR, YA BUM!

      …A great portion of your options for companions for the great "Quest to figure out just what the heck is going on around here," are all endearing. And that too also kept me around longer. Their backgrounds are usually a good little story. And it makes sense why they'd join you, if willing. Like a certain arrogant necromancer whom doesn't fancy the company of goody two-shoes. (!@#$ you, Ash. Or whatever. …Turd.)

      The everything basically, before I write like nine more paragraphs. The story, the NPCs, the places you can go. The music (I really gotta agree with you like ten times, the score makes me so happy.) The map! Small amounts of tedium with a large world to explore. Gave me more time to enjoy the everything, and less time watching overgrown grass tickle my junk. (I do enjoy aimlessly roaming and exploring in wide, open worlds. But it…it was a breath of fresh air with the gratification still there, y'know?)

      10/10, would crash a zeppeling into the hillsides again.

  43. Freedom's Flame says:

    Anyone else think about ADOM’s Ancardia? I am not ashamed to say that in all my years of playing it I still haven’t even gotten close to finishing the main quest line and to be honest I don’t even care. The world feels like it will always go on without you, and when you die you’re “just another adventurer who bit off more than they could chew”. Sure, the ultimate goal is to save the world from the forces of Chaos (or replace the God of Chaos if you feel so inclined) but there are so many secret corners in the Drakalor Chain to find and so many different ways to go through the game, each distinctly unique, that you can play it for years and only be scratching the surface.

  44. CronoDAS says:

    I can’t really explain it, but I fell in love with Wild ARMs’s Filgaia… (the original PS1 release, not the remake).