Not your favorite road trip video game. That's for some future open thread.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/whats-your-favorite-video-game-road-trip
Not your favorite road trip video game. That's for some future open thread.
Anyone who played a Night Elf in World of Warcraft back in the day remembers the Stormwind road trip. For those who didn’t: Night Elf players started off on the island of Teldrassil, far in the northeast of Kalimdor. All the other Alliance players started in the Eastern Kingdoms. Alliance zones in Kalimdor were sparsely-populated, contested by higher-level Horde players, and in some cases not even finished. All the best levelling was to be found in the Eastern Kingdoms.
Getting there was a long, arduous journey through unfamiliar territory. First, you took the boat out to the next Night Elf zone, Darkshore. Then you took another boat to Menethil in the Eastern Kingdoms (Or, if you were playing before the boats worked, you talked to a guy named Captain Placeholder who teleported you there.) From Menethil, you had to trek through the Wetlands, a zone full of high level crocodiles who hid in the swamp and jumped out as you walked past. Eventually you’d get to the path up into the mountains through Loch Modan and into Dun Morogh, the Dwarf starting area. Once you made it to Ironforge, you had to find the Deeprun Tram and ride it down into Stormwind. And all of that was on foot, since you didn’t have a mount yet.
I don’t know if I’d call it my favourite, but I’m definitely getting nostalgic thinking about it.
I didn’t play a lot of The Crew, just the open beta that they ran before release, but I remember being super-impressed with the way regions felt realistic. Not the cities, or the shape of the map, but as someone who grew up in various parts of Texas and Maryland, the game really captured the feeling of those areas. I went to high school in Houston, had family on the Louisiana border in the Port Arthur area, went to college for a while in Waco (central TX). Driving south from Dallas to Waco (rolling grassy open hills), southeast through the pine forests of East Texas, to the flat fields of the coastal Port Arthur region, and back west to Houston, it all felt like real representations of those drives I’d made hundreds of times. I didn’t like the racing or handling or storytelling of The Crew but they really captured a special feeling with that game.
Strangely the first thing that comes to mind was the first time I drove up the highway in GTA 5 and just sat back and enjoyed the San Andreas countryside as it rushed past while the virtual sun set. Call me a hopeless romantic but there was something wonderful about finding such beauty in amongst the gratuitous violence.
It was always a Nintendo portable system and most of the time it was pokemon. I would gain level and progress till I was a bit car duck that I needed some rest.
I used to play on a Minecraft server with a couple of friends a few years ago. They had been playing on this particular server a bit longer than me, so the area near the spawn was pretty much already filled with various buildings. I stuck around there for a while, before I decided that I needed a fresh start. A blank canvas, if you’ll allow it.
There was an ocean near the spawn. I figured I would build a boat and cross it and wherever I ended up would be my new home. So I picked a direction and set sail, expecting the journey to take no more than a couple of minutes.
Those few minutes came and went. During this whole time, all I did was hold down “W” as I saw only water and some small, insignificant islands. The ocean went on and on, and the sun soon set. As I was alone on the dark water, I spotted a strange light shining beneath the surface. As I approached I saw that it was a weird underwater cavern and that somehow there was lava there, protected from the surrounding ocean by the blessings of Minecraft’s weird water physics. It was pretty in a way I did not expect a blocky video game could be pretty.
I eventually left and continued my journey. It took almost an hour for me to cross the ocean. The whole time, I couldn’t help but thinking about my own relation to actual oceans. I come from a long line of sailors, and I grew up on an island in a Scandinavian archipelago. Water was always present, always isolating us from the rest of the world. I think that is one of the reasons video games and video game communities became so important to me. But I’m not that person anymore. I crossed that ocean.
For as flawed and primitive and indicative of 1996 as it is, Cruis’n USA on the Nintendo 64 is my favorite half-hour long road trip across the United States. The route taken unfortunately dips northward in Colorado before it can reach my home state, which is a shame. It’s mindless, maybe, but it’s fun seeing the terrain of the continental US and listening to the MIDI soundtrack as you deke in and out of traffic on the freeway.
This is a great answer. I’ve never played WoW, and while I don’t regret the many hundreds of hours that I got to pour into other games instead, I am frequently envious of the way that people talk about the breadth & geography of it. I think one of Blizzard’s biggest successes was that they made those journeys feel huge but ultimately routine, just like a roadtrip. My friends who still play the game talk about traversing Azeroth with the exact same vocabulary that they talk about foreign countries. Routes, landmarks, transit options, obscure places of personal significance out between the major cities, etc
Arma 2 starts out with a handful of missions with a structure you kind of expect. You have a wide open island but you need to accomplish specific objectives that guide you from point to point, and then you move on to the next mission. After a few of these though, you get to a mission called Razor Two. Razor Two sets you and your squad loose on a massive chunk of the game’s fictional country in search of an enemy commander. All you’re given are leads and you have to investigate them to figure out where your target is, and most importantly, his location can change with each playthrough.
What this entails is you and your squad driving through the quiet countryside, with each stop in service of a different task. Every stop is memorable, from helping a farmer defend his farm to investigating a vast woodland, but what struck me most about this was the road in between it all. There are large stretches where you’re just quietly taking in the vast plains, forests, and hills of Chernarus over the hum of your truck’s engine.
I definitely never expected a milsim like Arma to give me the most convincing video game roadtrip I’ve ever experienced. It felt wildly like driving through the country in the southern US, where I live, especially when my trips take me off the Interstate. The scenery of a fictional Eastern European country feels a lot like South Carolina, it turns out.
I really really love the opening few hours of New Vegas, before you even get to Vegas. You have to take this kinda convuluted, twisting route through Nevada from South to North, and it’s really good.
My favourite part though is that, it’s not EASY but you CAN skip it if you’re smart. It requires avoiding some of the toughest enemies in the game but if you can do it it feels great.
Me, I think my favorite video game road trip is the one from the opening credits montage in the third episode of Tales from the Borderlands (“Catch A Ride”).
In a broad way, that entire series is about a group of people who can’t stand each other on a doomed road trip across an alien wasteland, but for those few minutes right in the middle, we get this great snapshot of the whole crew at a time when everyone is basically getting along and enjoying the ride. I love that.
Episode 3 is my favorite of the five episodes specifically because of that sense of fun & camaraderie.
It’s not quite the scale of a full on road trip, but sometimes I like to just drive around the map in Burnout Paradise just for the sake of driving around.
I might be stretching the definition slightly, but The Banner Saga’s slow, funeral-procession-esque march across a dying (but beautiful) landscape feels very much like a road trip to me. The way that game emphasized movement, fleeing from a force that you really cannot fight, was extremely memorable.
Some of my favorite moments from that game were just the slow, arduous treks across the landscape, dotted with occasional landmarks or small villages. It reminded me a lot of the time I drove through Nevada from Utah, and just having these stretches of miles where there was literally nothing other than the landscape around the car was mesmerizing. The Banner Saga hit a lot of those notes for me.
In gta San Andreas, you flee with the hippie guy to a new area of the map for what felt like 30 minutes. You’re only being chased for like 5 of it and the rest is a relaxing k-rose bumping road trip. Fuzzy on specifics but it says something that I remember that road trip all these years later.
Xenoblade Chronicles X.
The world in X is HUGE, scaled in such a way that it makes sense for it to be filled with huge dinosaurs and that when you get a giant mech that transforms into a motorcycle about 20 hours in it still takes a while to get from place to place.
There are five major zones in X, the starting area (with your pretty big city in it), the desert to the east, the jungle to the west, the pollen/swamp area to the north, and the volcanic area to the far north.
About 10 hours in I decided I wanted to set up a drill zone in every single one of these areas before I got my mech. Jungle and Desert were pretty easy (the story takes you there), but the two northern areas are clearly intended to be places you go after getting your mech.
So I began my very long and dangerous journey across the dotted land bridge up to the pollen zone. It was legitimately about 10 minutes of travel across these huge beaches while trying to avoid enemies. Upon getting to the other side, fighter space planes zoomed over me and a battle took place on the beach. I was able to sneak inside and set up a fast travel point. Then I began the slow one hex at a time journey up the pollen zone to the volcano zone dropping as many mining and fast travel points as I could. It took about another hour (and a lot of deaths) to traverse the zone and poke my head into the volcano zone.
I dropped the final fast travel point and was very happy with myself. That exploration was my favorite part of that game, and you can sort of tell that some of the world designers helped Nintendo out with Breath of the Wild’s world (thankfully they didn’t work on the Zelda quest design, it was a pretty bad user experience in X).
ETA: That map really does a disservice to giving you a sense how big that world is and what a sense of scale everything has. It’s huge.
I actually really liked The Crew for the same reason. The game’s progression never felt that rewarding to me, though I didn’t care much after I made the souped-up BRZ I wanted, but roaming in that game brought me back to my days of Test Drive Unlimited.
Speaking of which, TDU would have to be my answer. Its recreation of Hawaii was really fun to tear around. The handling model in that game was never that great, but it had a diverse variety of cars, and it took dozens of hours to cover every road. Doing the race around the outside of the island (45 minutes +) was able to give a good sense not only of how big the map was, but also how varied its contained landscapes were.
TDU was basically Roadtrip: The Game for me. With its seamless online freeroam integration, it didn’t matter if I was playing with friends or strangers, as just hanging out in that game was so much fun. It probably doesn’t hold up too well these days, especially now that the servers would be offline, but I think it bested The Crew at exploration a whole 8 years before it even came out. TDU was rough around the edges, but I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves for how innovative it was at the time. Seamless multiplayer was very much a 2014 thing, and TDU managed to do it pretty well back in 2006.
Ohhhhhh this TOTALLY made me remember a ton of Minecraft “road trips” I’ve taken. In one, I’d stopped playing for a week or so on the server my friend and I were on, and when I rejoined, she told me how to get to the new settlement she’d set up, nearly 30 minutes away from where we’d been previously. That trek there through different biomes, using a handful of short cart trips, boats, and tunnels was incredible.
This is also a good one! I never played far enough to get the flight pack… one day I’ll go back, I swear!
I had quite a few good road trips around The Crew, just cruising around doing the small challenges on every road and watching the scenery and weather change as I moved around Weird USA. Slowing down to read the little point of interest notes about places I’ll probably never go.
And we can’t discuss road trips and fake reality without the Euro Truck Simulator series. Not even the attempt to create cities you could recognise or roads that feel like they go on forever, just a miniature space that gives the feel of motorway travel and safely moving your cargo between locations as you listen to the radio or watch some TV in the background.
Honourable mention to the Test Drive Unlimited series for doing that sort of thing too.
Honestly, the game never felt quite as awe inspiring as it does when you have to play everything at human scale. Getting your mech is such a chore in that game (now THERE is an obtuse questline if I ever saw one), but after a few hours with it I kind of wished I never got it and the entire game played out with me as a tiny person on a world of dinosaurs.