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The most satisfying architecture in PC games

One Off The List

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If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it. Little architecture joke for you there, just to kick off a dry topic with a giggle. You see, appreciating architecture is for people in beige cardigans. Folks who subscribe to magazines printed on paper so thick you can still calculate the tree’s age. You know the type I mean. Spectacled couples with non-Ikea coffee tables. Thirty-year-olds. People like you! Here are 11 examples of very satisfying architecture in PC games.

Clockwork mansion – Dishonored 2

The home of arrogant inventor Kirin Jindosh, this shifting mazehaus is a terrible place that comes with its own “assessment chamber” (a prison in the basement). Pencil-moustached thumbsucker Jindosh is the perfect man to inhabit this place. Let me pull the wank-o-analysis lever here, because I am about to call this whole building an indictment of the psychosis of aristocracy. Only a man wealthy enough to build a manor house that contorts its own innards would fill its cushioned drawing rooms with taxidermied caiman. Jindosh is such a knob, he makes fellow rich people wait in a lobby that turns into another lobby. His mansion is like the house from Parasite if it were a twisted pop-up book.

Coriolis Space Station – Elite Dangerous

God made cuboctahedrons to stop the dodecahedrons getting cocky. And the interstellar architects of the year 3300 designed the Coriolis space station to prove that God was right. Look at this terrific big shape. Observe its gratifying spin. We’re told the exterior surface of these massive stations are adorned with upside-down penthouse suites complete with lah-dee-dah space vistas, presumably the exclusive realm of space bankers. But it’s the big hollow stomach of the station that’s really impressive – the docking bay you actually fly into. Some station interiors are lined with luxurious parks, others with the crimson glow of industrial estates, accompanied by an authoritarian voice on tannoy echoing in the big steel belly. It feels like somebody built a train station inside a whale, and I enjoy that.

The Pyramids – Assassin’s Creed Origins

What a bunch of magnificent Toblerones.

The Oldest House – Control

Brutalism was invented 300 years ago by concrete magnate Maximilian Brute, who famously said: “I have nothing to give but sand, cement, water and some steel bars for reinforcement.” With the showmanship of a World’s Fair magician, he tricked humanity into believing cuboid blocks of grey material were a magnificent statement worthy of artistic merit. We let our guard down. Brutalism subsumed the world, and a blitzkrieg of monochrome monoliths rose with dreaded force and supernatural will out of the ground, without interference or resistance, and reigned over humanity for one hundred years. This dark era of history is tackled in popular third-person shooter videogame, Control.

Hammer Valley Hydroelectric Dam – Infra

Imagine the industrial back alleys and factory floors of Half-Life 2 without the head crabs. Infra puts you in the wellies and high-vis jacket of an infrastructure inspector, dandering through a crappy, abandoned dam to photograph everything that has broken down. The dam itself is a lovely, decaying ruin of the 21st century. There are rusty sluice gates, dead generators, banks of disused electrical equipment, and a labyrinth of bare rooms clearly being used by local teens as an underage drinking spot. Beneath all the eroding concrete and broken railings, there’s also a story of municipal corruption. For such a mundane old building, it’s pretty wild.

Fort Frolic – BioShock

“I know,” said some disgusting overachiever at Irrational Games one day in 2005, “let’s combine the dense panic of a shopping centre with the psychological pressure of an undersea habitat to make a bona fide implosion of claustrophobia and unease.”

“Uh-huh,” said a sceptical programmer. “And what is the player supposed to do there?”

“They’ll take pictures of corpses.”

Archdragon Peak – Dark Souls 3

Look on my old pots, ye mighty, and despair. Just as Shelley warned against hubris with that nice poem, so too does Dark Souls 3. Here we have a crumbling monastery, built so high in the mountains it may as well be a big church in the sky. It’s lined with cross-legged dragonfolk corpses, adorning the passageways and balconies like stony, reptile Buddhas. Yes, we can plainly see the crusty colonnades and ashen arches of every other ruin in the Souls games, but it’s the final avenue and big shrine at the end that is truly chef-kissable. Look at those minarets, check out that collapsing dome. Phwoar. Only the designers of this monumental series could make something so noble, so grand, so unique, so…

Shit, it’s just the Hagia Sophia isn’t it?

The Hanging City – Outer Wilds

[Crosses legs, lights pipe]

In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a tired Marco Polo resides in the court of Kublai Khan, telling his master endless accounts of fabulous, distant cities. Then you realise – hey!

[Throws pipe across the room in a fury]

He’s making this shit up! A city in the trees? A suburb built on strings? Another settlement atop some vague environmental problem? These are all Venice, god damn you Marco Polo.

Ahem. The Hanging City from sci-fi exploration game Outer Wilds is the city Calvino forgot. A ruined civilisation built on the underside of a planet’s surface, dangling mischievously over a black hole, like some touristless Grand Canal of space. You have 22 minutes until it’s dust. Good luck.

The Finch House – What Remains Of Edith Finch

It’s the elaborate family home you always wanted.

The Old Baker House – Resident Evil VII

It’s the elaborate family home you deserve.

One Off The List from… the most dodgy religions in games

Last week, we listed the 9 dodgiest religions in PC games. But one of these was deserving of your forgiveness. It’s… the bird cult from Slay The Spire.

None of the enormously questionable religions we listed last week seemed to get any support at all. Odd that. But we did at least get one threatening remark, from avian enthusiast “Ocean”, who said: “Ca-caw! Brendie takes the crow cult off the list, or… we stab him with the dagger! Murder! Murder! Ca-caw!” Who am I to test this pious stabber’s resolve? It is very admirable.

Anyway, that’s all for now. See you next week, with any luck.

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Who am I?

Brendan Caldwell

List Goblin

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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