As we bid adieu to 2015, we’re looking back at the places that sucked us in and wouldn’t let go. Whether it was a lonely cabin in the woods or a pristine institution untouched by the apocalypse, we never wanted to leave. Even if, for the sake of our jobs, we most definitely should have.
Arcadia Bay, Life is Strange
Image Credit: Dontnod Entertainment
The loud, crowded hallways of a high school are drowned out by 90s-inspired alt rock as Max Caulfield zones out with her ear buds in one of the best games of the year, Life is Strange. Seemingly normal hangouts became entrancing as the mystery of missing student Rachel Amber led Max to the dangerous sections of a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Think of it as Twin Peaks for the millennials, where secrets are unearthed only to uncover more secrets. Yet as dark and twisted things got, the gorgeous water-color visuals highlighted the town’s beauty. Walking on railroad tracks with your BFF Chloe, eavesdropping on the patrons of the Two Whales Diner, all of it was unforgettable in its ordinariness.
Image Credit: Frictional Games
Deep below the Earth’s oceans lies an underwater remote research facility littered with strange machinery that talks like people and are just as confused as Simon Jarret, the main character of the indie sci-fi horror tale SOMA. Dank, claustrophobic, and run down are just a few words to describe PATHOS-II. Trapped in all that murkiness is a true sense of discovery that few games achieve. PATHOS-II might be grimy, but you’ll never want to leave. Even if the next stop could be paradise.
Kitezh, Rise of the Tomb Raider
Image Credit: Crystal Dynamics
As the the great Lara Croft Begins project continues, a lost city is one of the greatest discoveries in Tomb Raider history. The visuals are gorgeous, but the way the level unfolds is both chaotic and intricately scripted. Alas, there’s no time to be awed. As Lara navigates the ruins utilizing all her skills, players will simply be blown away.
Hyperion, Tales from the Borderlands
Image Credit: Telltale Games
Fans of the series had heard of the corporate overlords base of operations, but never gone there. Telltale’s adventure finally let us visit the H-shaped space station in the sky, a place filled not with skags, but something far worse: douchey suits in their habitat. A spoof on the mindless corporate culture of the 80s mixed with just enough Google and Apple, Hyperion is unlike anything on the barren wastelands of Pandora. And still hilarious, especially when a worker bee is shot out of the airlock.
Central Yharnam, Bloodborne
Image Credit: Sony Japan
For most, this early stage is unforgettable simply because too many of us spent hours playing it over and over in a feeble attempt to level up. But like that burnt sun that never sets, being “good “at Bloodborne never quite happens. The villagers are downright crazy and the narrow streets make dodging them an unpleasant experience.
Victorian London, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Image Credit: Ubisoft
Arguably the best looking game of the year, Syndicate brims with so many tiny details you’ll feel like you’ve set the TARDIS to 1864. Cobblestone streets drenched in rain, the soot in the air, and a grapple hook that allows the Frye siblings to traverse the city like the Dark Knight make London the most fully-realized AC world to date.
The Cabin, Until Dawn
Image Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment
Every slasher movie cliche is on display with a setting that can’t be beat in Until Dawn. A remote location with sketchy back up generators and a blinding snowstorm equals plenty of teenagers to be sliced and diced. It’s a cabin in the woods that’s more fun than just watching Cabin in the Woods.
Afghanistan, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Image Credit: Konami
The first half of Hideo Kojima’s latest masterpiece (read: 30 hours) is a vast desert landscape. Every nook and cranny is utilized to make Big Boss a better super soldier. Sunrise is the best time to take in the stunning vistas.
The Institute, Fallout 4
Image Credit: Bethesda Softworks
How well hidden is the Institute from the rest of the Commonwealth in Fallout 4? While those that search for it can’t even find the entrance, those already residing there have never ever visited the wasteland. Who would ever want to leave a place with clean running water, dependable power sources, and sweet tracksuit attire? Makes being a vault dweller look downright ratchet.
The Hallway, P.T.
Image Credit: Konami
The final game may have been scrapped, but this “playable teaser” was by far the scariest environment of the year. It doesn’t matter if the demo took 15 minutes or 45, P.T. can’t be unseen. Controlwise, all you could do is wander a dimly lit home in the dead of night; specifically, a hallway littered with photos, a flashing clock, and other familial knickknacks. There aren’t many full on scares, but that lingering feeling, that something is just not right, never goes away. Long after you’ve stopped playing, the memory of that hallway is the stuff nightmares.
Did we not mention the place that sucked you in? Are still on the hunt in Witcher 3‘s Novigrad? Are you searching for more Riddler clues in Arkham? Are you dungeon crawling in Diablo III‘s Sanctuary? Sound off in the comments!
Feature Image Credit: Bethesda Softworks