I’ll second Dream Daddy. It’s mad cute and I absolutely loved the way the characters were drawn. I took many, many screenshots during my playthroughs.
I’ll second Horizon: Zero Dawn.
It’s not only a technical marvel, but a stunning world to look at full of vibrant colours and striking vistas.
I’m a massive sucker for Destiny. I’ve already voted it for sound design AND music in the GILM Awards and I’m sure as hell going to vote Destiny 2 as my favourite aesthetic. I will now gush all about it. The sequel has a lot of problems, a vague storyline being one of them, but I always find myself drawn into the game by the design of each of the individual worlds and the variety in environments within these worlds. I’d say it definitely reminds me of the Dark Souls approach to world building where the environment suggests what is actually going on. Although not as great since Ghost will usually tell you what the location you are going to is.
Moving from the core planets of the solar system has really allowed them to go wilder with the designs. In the first game you moved from Earth to the Moon, which was a smaller map but had a whole network of underground tunnels. Destiny 2 does the same transition, from the vastness of the EDZ to the relatively limited confines of the platforms of Titan. Titan basically feels like Bioshock, the Big Shell from MGS2, and underwater Bespin all at the same time. This once gleaming city at sea, located by sheer human hubris, that inevitably fell to ruin as soon as the apocalypse happened. Like the Moon, Titan is this rabbit hole, on the surface it’s this landscape of heavy industry and process, landing pads, storage crates and heavy piping, but as you go into world, you realise it was once this great city of science and discovery. There’s that one mission where you descend into the arcology to retrieve the macguffin which reveals the baddie’s masterplan, but the environments you go through are absolutely amazing. You go from the sepia cinematography to Alien 3 to the blue light of Aliens. You get to the bottom on this tiny platform jutting out over this vast open space. Large windows look out into the murky underwater outsdie and if you wait long enough you’ll see the shadow of this huge sea creature pass through silently. Something about the silence and the vast space is really creepy. I love it. I’m convinced Titan will be the location for a future Raid - and I can’t wait to explore more of it.
Out of all the planets however, I love Nessus the best, very blatantly stlyed as this virginal world, a world of white and red, a world that feels very alien and violent namely through humanity’s intervention. A once barren rock, terraformed by the Vex into this veritable Eden. You scoot through on your bike and the world transitions, from the ravaged wreck site of the Exodus Black, to the alien beauty of gigantic white trees with red foliage, to the waterfalls of pure white ‘Vex milk’. Then you contrast the ‘life’ of Nessus as you move on to Jupiter’s moon of Io, which appears to be this mostly dead world with the hue of a mouldy urinal cake. There are traces fossilised sea life, implying this planet was once covered by an immense ocean teaming with life. In contrast to the red shady trees of Nessus, Io has this one big dead tree, with it’s roots entangling rocks creating all sorts of hollows. Next to Nessus, you start to think that maybe the Vex have the right idea as far as saving the universe go.
Then you have the coming of the Leviathan, which is so big you can see it from the ground on Nessus.
The Leviathan itself is basically a mechanical effigy to the sand worms of Dune. Giant worms are a big thing in Destiny, from what I gather from the lore they are Lovecraftian styled gods - (like the sea monster on Titan?) On board the Leviathan itself it’s this monolithic but gaudy pleasure cruise, there are murals of gold showing the Cabal emperor taming the worm. Calus is basically Donald Trump crossed with a pre-revolution French aristocrat manoeuvring his massive space phallus at this virginal planet to grind it up into wine. I mean the symbolism is pretty much in your face and absolutely bonkers, but it’s that space opera lunacy I love.
HMMM… I love the way Destiny 2 looks man. I love the way it feels. I love the way it creates atmosphere.
I will second Observer.
There were times where I found playing Observer actively uncomfortable, between the glare of neon signs that were often your only source of light, the bombardment of flashes and visual effects, and the often aggressively glitch-y soundscapes. I almost stopped playing the game all together thanks to it, but when it would all come together Observer was one of the more compelling depictions of cyberpunk horror I’ve seen in games.
Though the attempts at surrealism didn’t always work for me, Observer is excellent at making you feel unwelcome as you wade into its virtual spaces. You are an intruder here, and the aesthetic of the game makes that known. You are disempowered, made to question what is real, and ultimately whether the answers you are seeking are worth being exposed to this nightmare for much longer.
Gonna nominate Far From Noise. It’s a game that essentially exists on a single frame, so it’d live or die based on its aesthetics. Luckly, George Batchelor has picked a scene rich in color, flora, and fauna. It just WORKS, and considering how minimal the game is otherwise, I’ve got to give it the nod.
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