The lights are on
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Out of the recent trends in games of late, one that gets either the most complaints or the most praise is the trend of games that take place in a post-apocalyptic setting. And I understand some of the complaints, yeah it means there's a good chance the game will be filled with grays and browns. Yes it means some run-of-the-mill backstory where the world either killed themselves or it occurred naturally. But in my personal opinion, the apocalypse may have been one of the best things that happened to video games (go figure). And I will support my argument by citing the multiple great games that have come of it.
The Familiar Becomes Alien
It's like I've been here before? Have I been here before? Why yes I have, I'm in the capital wasteland and I'm passing by the Washington Monument. I'm in the mojave wasteland and I'm walking down the Vegas Strip like I did a couple years ago (though this new one is a bit more classy).
Fallout 3 and New Vegas have done well to capture the essence of a world that once existed long before the Lone Wanderer or the Courier came along. I remember driving through the mojave desert from Vegas to my Aunt Dottie's in a white Mustang '05 convertible for three hours and going through the same desert in the year 2281 held sentimental value I don't think I would've got from any other game.
Heck even something as simple as the remnants of a go-kart track immediately got me thinking about all the kids that paid their way in to run around in laps just like I did with my brothers only a few years back.
Clean Slate and Personality to Boot.
With the remains of a devastated world, developers are left free to craft the world that rises from the ashes from the ground up allowing for multiple personalities and styles of the post-apocalyptic future.
In the famous Russian novel and Ukranian-based developed video game Metro 2033, that world is a harsh place where the few survivors in Moscow metro tunnels struggle to make an existence amongst the war between the reformed regimes we all know as the Nazis and the Communists. If that weren't enough, they also have to deal with mutated animals that take a sure turn for the worst in every way. Add on the threat of "The Dark Ones" that invade peoples minds and turn them insane and you've got one creepy world that would sound a little like this.
In Borderlands, while you aren't on Earth, Pandora is surely a planet that could see better days. What honest people are here are trying to make out a meager existence amongst the harsh wildlife and the legion of bandits that just won't leave them alone. When it comes to your character, you couldn't really care less about what happens to Pandora, you're here for the money and for the alien cache of weaponry that so many have believed to be true. And if it were a song it would sound something like this.
In the upcoming game Rage, the foretold massive asteroid name Apophis that has the slightest chance of hitting earth in the near future ends up hitting the earth. You are placed in the role of one of the Ark survivors, people who were deemed genetically superior and would be proper to continue the human race in the far future. What wasn't planned for was that many people survived the impact than predicted and many of them turned into mutants of all shapes and sizes. Others took arms as bandits or factions like The Authority. Amongst all of this you will help the settlers and the resistance with their troubles and hopefully restore order to a land that has gone in full Mad Max with a song to match.
Exploration is Fun!
Rather touched on in the first subject, exploring the wastelands of the future yields a much greater feel of true exploration than I'd say any game I've ever played that took place in a fantasy world like Oblivion. Post-Apocalyptic games tend to leave something hidden around every corner. Is it a depiction of raiders who mutilated a corpse to use it's meat to eat that night? Is it an awesome new gun like in Borderlands you've been hoping to find for a while now stashed away in a strong box? Or a book that you can sell to a scribe like in Fallout? What about in Rage where it might be some schematics for some new drone tech to assist you? Or in Metro 2033 where you're just glad enough to find some air filters so you can survive your next trip to the surface?
Even something as simple as text stories on a note or a personal computer have really come to make me feel sorry for those who died in the apocalypse. And more for the people who have died a horrible death in the dangerous new post-apocalyptic world.
Unique Gameplay that Wouldn't Feel Right Elsewhere
This is mostly a tip of the hat to Borderlands, without it, where would I get a diablo-esque loot collecting game that involved over 17 million possible guns? Can you imagine if a military shooter tried to do that? As if some manufacturer made over 17 million different guns in modern day? It isn't plausible there, but it sure as heck is plausible in the far future where mercs and gun nuts are making guns left and right to sell for massive profits.
Metro 2033 also receives my respect, with its story using ammo as a currency it's the one FPS I've played where I've made sure to make every shot count. Along with the extremely slowly regenerating health and dark environments, it really helps to make the combat feel extremely visceral despite the game controlling rather clunky.
But more or less, this was basically just me hyping up the soon-to-be released game Rage more so than I already have.
Anyway, despite the complaints like "been there, done that" feel some people get or the complaints of things like brown and gray color pallettes. I for one embrace the post-apocalyptic settings and I can't wait for not only Rage but also the looking-up-to-be-fantastic games like Metro: Last Light and Borderlands 2 (now with the color green!)
I love it when games put something iconic like how you mentioned The Washington Monument in these type settings. It gives a certain feeling nothing can quite pull off (I'm terrible at explaining myself lol).
Great Blog, I love Fallout 3 so much especially when I pass familiar roads and monuments and reconize them with my brother, most other games don't really do that, and like you said it allows them to craft an intersting and alien story in a world that would otherwise be considered familiar, and that is just awesome. I also love scavenging for items in post apocyalyptic worlds, exploration is one of my most favorite features in a video game. Yeah I'm happy every time a new apocalypse game comes out for those reasons.
Yes, very nice. the thing that bugs me most about a post-apocalyptic setting is the color scheme, as you mentioned. But, Enslaved: Odyssey to The West is PA and is quite colorful. It's a shame more games don't use that setting.