I’m at a point of my life where a lot of my friends take time and travel the world in order to see the beautiful thing that other cultures have to offer. This inspired me to think about my favorite destinations in the virtual world.
What are the top cities in gaming?
Runner-up: Midgar, Gaia (Final Fantasy VII)
It was the first time I was supremely attached to any characters in a game, and the first real force of financial pyramids I encountered as a youngling. Midgar is a two level city that plays as the main setting in FFVII. The main level of Midgar contained the head quarters of Shinra, the evil power corporation that also pulls the reigns of the local citizens.
It was never an easy thing to wander around the slums of the sectors under Midgar, and it holds an emotional place in my heart to this day. This is of course, where you meet the cute ol’ flower girl. The Slums housed estimated millions, while the sections of the city also housed population, making the total number of residents unable to be estimated.
By the end of Final Fantasy VII Midgar was partially destroyed, killing countless citizens. The plans to make a Neo Midgar were eventually scrapped after the disintegration of the Shinra Corporation.
Bronze: Liberty City (GTA IV)
The beautiful people at Rockstar stopped at no expense to bring us the biggest and best NYC that gamers have ever seen. Accomplishing this is swift fashion, it was stunning to have free run of a model New York. Although not technically called “New York”, Liberty City is a recurring setting in the Grand Theft Auto series.
There is a really cool Flickr account of comparisons taken through New York and Liberty City. I spoke with one of the developers at Rockstar prior to the release of GTA IV and he spoke of the intense level of detail that was being put into this version of LC, one that ultimately took up thousands of digital photo memory cards being freighted back to the office for a resource. With a ton of love put into the recreation of such a living/breathing city, Liberty City is still one of the greatest in-game places to reek havoc and screw around until your heart is content. The beautiful LC is one of the main reasons it takes so long to beat GTA IV, no one wants to stop running around and checking shit out.
Silver: Venice, Italy (Assassin’s Creed II)
Probably the most flushed out re-imagining of a city known to the digital age. I praised Rockstar earlier for their mimic of New York, but the folks at Ubisoft Montreal had to recreate a city from the 15th century! The dev team had to resort to old text and accounts of Venice in the 1400′s. Quite the chore.
The city itself is one of the liveliest places to explore in gaming and breathes new life into open world gameplay. Built purely of historical data, the design of ACII’s Venice is going to go down in history as on of the greatest video game re-incarnations ever.
Running and jumping from roof to roof, Venice is a beautiful vista to stop the Borgia and rid 15th Century Italy of Templars. Even the historical figures were depicted accurately (other than the whole secret order of Assassins thing). It was like jumping into a gorgeous history lesson.
Golden Gun: Arkham City (Batman: Arkham City)
Barely functioning criminals have developed a living society and economy within the walls of a prison, blossoming into a disturbingly beautiful arena to play in. Batman being trapped inside, must reach all corners of the city in order to secure a release and I’ve never wanted to see every bit of a video game world as badly as I did playing B:AC.
”Quincy Sharp, former warden of Arkham Asylum, has taken credit for stopping the Joker’s Asylum takeover, and used the notoriety to become mayor of Gotham City. Deeming Arkham and Blackgate Penitentiary no longer suitable to contain the city’s criminals and insane, Sharp has both facilities closed and buys out a large section of Gotham’s slums, converting them into an immense open-air prison named Arkham City. Gotham City becomes a police state where those with the slightest trace of a criminal record, and opponents of Sharp’s policies, including reporters, are sent to Arkham City. The facility is placed in the care of genius psychiatrist Hugo Strange — who is secretly manipulating Sharp — and guarded by a squad of heavily-armed mercenaries hired from a rogue private military firm, TYGER Security. The inmates are given free rein as long as they do not attempt to escape.”
The design style of the original Rocksteady game Arkham Asylum was such a great step in bringing the plush side of Batman lore and taking it out to the barn and given’er the old yeller. The team boost their cred with the from scratch creation of the virtual city and the deepening of their dark and grungy world of the series. The convicts roaming the city force the player to pick up a little more on their stealth skills and bring different uses to the more close quarters tricks that this Batman has up his sleeve. Even the traveling within the city is smooth and streamlined, which for a super hero without super powers to do is an extreme feat.
Overall, it’s an unforgettable setting and will remain one of the greatest video game cities of all time.
*Didn’t see your favorite on this list? Post it in the comments! This is after all, one man’s opinion.*