Hey, avid gamers. I hope your gaming week has gone well enough to let you rest for a while and read this week’s MMOries of a Gamer. Today, I would love to tell you about something I really love in practically every MMO I’ve played: landscapes.
I use to say that MMOs are beautiful like no other games are. The tremendous design effort this type of game needs and the huge worlds created, so players can explore and play for years, result in fantastic virtual worlds, full of wonderful or terrifying places; but always gorgeous.
Come with me after the jump, and let me tell you of several awesome landscapes I’ve stumbled across while playing my favorite MMOs.
I know many players like leveling as quickly as possible, rushing for high-end content, maximizing their character’s powers and gear. Sometimes I go for that too, but I must confess that landscapes in beautiful places are something I just can’t resist. When I see a beautiful sight, my romantic nature tends to take control of me and make me stop to have a long and calm look. Dawns, dusks, seas, rivers, trees, mountains, ruins, caves… I love them all.
In real life, when I’m away from MMOs, I love landscapes as well. One of my favorite things to do is going to beautiful places, take some pictures with my camera and simply stare at everything surrounding me. Anyway, there are many landscapes and sights you cannot see in real life, like dungeons, impossible buildings, magical areas, etc. That’s, in part, why I love MMOs so much, because they transport me to worlds that will never exist, twisting reality to the point where fantasy and the echoes of the real world melt to create an alternate experience.
Like I told you months ago, the first time I felt amazed by a sight was inside Blackburrow in Everquest. That sight was shocking, I really felt as if I were inside a different world for the first time (you know what I mean) but after that, many other landscapes have impressed me.
World of Warcraft was great, at first, with its stylized graphics and a gorgeously polished design. Many places were awesome, but I have one in my mind. That place was the Dark Portal.
The first time I saw it, I held my breath and started telling all my friends online how amazing that portal was. Gods, my mind ran wild, thinking of the incredible places beyond that portal. The same happened with Uldum. What was that entrance and those stone giants protecting? I love desert zones in every MMO and when I stumbled across that place, I couldn’t help but stare at it for a long time. The Caverns of Time was another wonderful place that really impressed me, with its awesome lights and huge bowls of stone…
Another game that gave me special moments in the form of wonderful landscapes was Lord of the Rings Online. The whole Shire is simply gorgeous, beautiful, fantastic… The rivers, fields of endless grass, mills, funny hobbits, the sky, etc. The whole zone is worth visiting. It is very realistic in concept, you won’t find any terrifying dungeon or mythical places, but the sights are beautiful. Other places, like the mountains high above the Trollshaws, on your way to Rivendel, present you with astounding far sights and marvelous dawns if you wait for the sun to rise. Forochel, the land of the north, where the Lossoth face a very hard life, is a very beautiful place; surrounded by ice and snow, there’s a gelid and dark sea that reflects everything like a mirror and, if you wait for the night, you’ll see the Aurora Borealis dyeing the skies with a jade green you won’t forget.
Talking about landscapes and sights, Guild Wars is simply amazing. World design is just impressive on this game. I’ve seen incredible places, playing through the Prophecies campaign, like Crystal Desert, Magumma Jungle, Hell’s Precipice, Sorrow’s Furnace, the Tomb of Primeval Kings, etc. Probably, the whole of Tyria is gorgeous, wherever you go you see impressive landscapes that make you forget about your mission, just to stare at them while you take screenshots like a madman. I love that.
This game has, in my opinion, the best graphics I’ve seen. All the environments are great, while your computer manages graphics without problems. Heavy textures and complex particles that need ultimate computers are not what we need. I prefer good stylized designs that keep a good performance in almost every type of computer.
Age of Conan is another game with very good graphics and design that have really awesome places to visit. At first, I thought AoC was bad at performance, but with a bit of time spent with the config options, you can really make this game give you a good fps rate, keeping awesome graphics. In terms of design, everything you see in this game is gorgeous and titanic. Hyborea is a continent full of gigantic places, enormous ruins for you to live adventures. Cities like Old Tarantia are simply astounding, full of life and everything has been designed taking care of the smallest detail. Open areas, like Connall’s Valley and the Eiglophian Mountains, are pure 3D design instead of the old plain zones we used to explore years ago.
If you like taking screenshots, you would love exploring the whole map of AoC, looking for awesome pictures, like I always do. You won’t regret it.
There are many other games with good design and graphics, where lots of sights and landscapes will surprise you. I’ve just mentioned a few games here, because I could be writing about this topic and posting pics forever. I know some of you could send awesome pics of other games and I encourage you all to do it. As this week’s column is about landscapes, feel free to send your pics to pedro @ mmocrunch.com and we’ll publish them in Other Worlds.
Remember, avid gamers, MMOs are beautiful and it’s up to you to enjoy that beauty.