games that feel like deus ex
July 29, 2012 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Looking for video games with a certain sense of exploring the physical space in a detailed and realistic way.

I'm playing through Deus Ex: HR the 3rd time, and was looking for recommendations of games with a similar sense of exploring the space and being, um, 'present' I guess.

So I'm thinking Thief, Deus Ex, System Shock 2.
Maybe The Elder Scrolls games, but they are a in terms of interacting w/ the environment.. Fallout 3 without the clunky character interaction.

What I am not looking for is Half Life 2 or Portal, where a game propels you down a single corridor, or Minecraft which is detailed in other ways but not the right feel, or Arkham City which is like a fucking collectible card game with punching.

I guess the term is immersive sim, but I'm open to other kinds of slower paced explore-y games, whatever perspective. I'm primarily looking for games on the Xbox 360, but I'd be open to older PC/DOS games or less graphics intensive Mac games.
posted by kittensofthenight to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Shadow of the Colossus?
posted by yaymukund at 5:06 PM on July 29, 2012

The Grand Theft Auto series.

The Fable series.
posted by 3FLryan at 5:32 PM on July 29, 2012

Best answer: The Stalker series might be a good bet. A video review of Shadow of Chernobyl at that link.

It's sort of open, sort of not (there is an arc that you're going through so that you go through various 'levels' instead of traversing a world map, much like Deus Ex). There's a decent amount of interaction beyond shooting, and you're rewarded for following up on leads to secret areas, and exploring in general. The combat is also skewed towards realism, so firefights are more strategic and slower paced.

From what I understand the vanilla game has some frustrating elements that are cleared up through fan patches. A little bit of searching turns up this one, which I've seen referenced elsewhere as being a good middle ground between fixing the worse parts of the game while also not changing the core experience.
posted by codacorolla at 5:37 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You'll probably get a lot of Oblivion/Skyrim suggestions. I'm not a huge fan, but in terms of messing around in the environment, picking up random things, exploring the world, and really not being on rails, that's the series to look at. It wasn't my thing, but I remember getting the main quest, going "Screw that", and wandering around the world exploring, picking flowers and herbs from alchemy, and poking around in random dungeons.

If you want a GTA-style game that doesn't take itself seriously at all, Saint's Row 2 and Saint's Row 3 fill that urban crime niche while being completely bonkers and not all Very Serious Important Video Game.

Red Dead Redemption is sort of "GTA in the Old West" if that appeals to you.

I haven't played them, but I've read the Just Cause series and Infamous games are also good for that kind of thing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:37 PM on July 29, 2012

Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophesy?
posted by Groundhog Week at 5:38 PM on July 29, 2012

Prophecy, not Prophesy... sorry.
posted by Groundhog Week at 5:39 PM on July 29, 2012

I specifically love to play exploring games on the PC/Mac rather than console. Skyrim was great for that feeling of exploring- I could just explore the wilderness, follow a river to see where it ended or if anyone had ever built any bridges over it, and not worry about the plot.

I concur with Grand Theft Auto- I don't personally like the plotted missions too much in those games, but I love to grab a car (or bike) and just drive around.

Have you played any of the Fallout Games? Those let you explore- but the newer console versions have a very gray/brown palette for my tastes. The older PC games were very enjoyable for world exploring, although it was mostly "click on the map, travel without stop unless you get a random encounter"

Also, I know this game has sort of become a joke by now- but Kingdoms of Amalur has a good exploration feel with a sort of World of Warcraft cartoony look and color.
posted by Secretariat at 5:42 PM on July 29, 2012

Best answer: Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy don't have as much of that sense of world exploring, but might have the sense of "being present" that you're looking for. They're a lot like like reading a choose your own adventure book- you're very involved in what happens to your character, but it's not an open sandbox at all- there are clearly a limited number of options. That said, they're different from any other game I've played and I highly recommend them if that sounds fun to you.

An older PC game that might work for you is Vampire: The Masquerade- Bloodlines, which came out in about 2003. It's sort of Deus Ex with vampires. My husband has been playing a lot of this lately.
posted by Secretariat at 5:49 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess I should make clear that the games I listed I have played- so I'm set on Bethesda games. +I really love Fallout 1 and 3, but that's not really what I'm looking for.

I dislike the GTA games as far as missions and combat go, I just drive around too.
I love rpgs but I'm looking for games that are a bit more... physical? I played the kingdoms of amular demo, and it was actually really cool, but then I realized there was no jumping. Just to mediated.

Stalker sounds awesome, but my computer can't run it. I can just barely run Portal on my Mac and the PC is from 2000. I will probably play it around 2015 or so.
posted by kittensofthenight at 5:53 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: These two are a bit further afield, but offer really great environments to explore (even if it's not exactly like Deus Ex)

I guess Deadly Premonition might also be something you'd be interested in. It's a love letter to Twin Peaks, and the most interesting parts of the game are driving around the small town, interacting with the locals to solve a mystery. There's a great let's play that can give you a taste of what it's like. It has terrible (and perhaps way too much) combat. Strangely, it might be more fun to watch the let's play than to actually play it yourself.

King's Field: The Ancient City for the PS2 is also some of the most fun I've ever had exploring a video game environment. It's the precursor to the much lauded Souls series (Demon and Dark). It's semi-open, semi-not. I'd compare it to a metroidvania, in a way (certain hub areas you keep coming back to, but with a definite sense of progression through the world). It's hard. Combat is intentionally clunky (you could also look at that as a benefit - it's very rewarding once you get the hang of it), tons of secrets, nothing spoon-fed, clever puzzles, AWESOME atmosphere.

Saw your post in preview:
The Gothic series is like a richer and more challenging version of the Elder Scrolls, and the first and second should be able to run on computers that can run Portal. Definite sense of place, very fun to explore, challenging combat system, rewards players for thinking outside of the box and offers many different ways to approach challenges. Highly recommend them.

Two Worlds should also run on older hardware, but it's like the exact opposite of Gothic - all about the loot and grind and with very little nuance. You can probably pick it up for cheap, and there was even a decent (to stretch that word a little bit) port released for the consoles.

If you're not dead set on third/first person or 3D then Divine Divinity is a very nice little game that's pretty much all about exploration and character progression (which are two central parts to Deus Ex's charm, in my experience). It's ostensibly a Diablo clone, but in reality is more like if someone took Gothic or Morrowind and flattened it out to 2 dimensions. There're 3 wildly different playstyles (although you can mix and match, having a rogue who can also spell-cast and bash down doors), a robust crafting system, witty and funny dialog, and tons of secrets to find.

All of these are several years old and you can probably grab them for under 10 bucks a piece.
posted by codacorolla at 5:59 PM on July 29, 2012

Oh... never played it, but from what I understand World of Xeen is a couple hundred hours of exploration all told, with an unique atmosphere and fun dungeon crawling. You can grab a copy off of GOG that already has a DOSBox wrapper, and should play on almost any system made within the last ten years or so.

I'm not a huge fan, but there's also Arx Fatalis, which I've heard compared favorably to the Ultima games. You're trapped in an underground world where everything is trying to kill you. I didn't particularly like how it controlled, but it definitely seemed like it had potential. One of the Youtube commenters on that video actually has a pretty good line, calling it 'morrowind's weird cuzin [sic]." It's pretty old (and also available on GOG, I believe) so you can likely run it.
posted by codacorolla at 6:08 PM on July 29, 2012

Dear Esther apparently has what you want and has been remade as HD.

I really like Arx Fatalis that the above guy recommends. It's the spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld, which really put you in a claustrophobic space.

Descent 3 might also be a good game if you don't mind old games.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:21 PM on July 29, 2012

I think the Far Cry games count-- I'm less sure about Crysis,-- both games have some linear aspects, and Crysis and the first Far Cry are based on islands where nothing is happening except in the spots where many people try to kill you; it's not like there's any life carrying on besides the plotline. I understand Far Cry 2 does this better.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:23 PM on July 29, 2012

Seconding codacorolla's recommendation for Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. It often goes on sale on Steam. There are three Stalker games, and Shadow of Chernobyl (SOC) is the first one, and to me has that best indefinable "sense of place" you wrote about. The others are good that way, but not as good as the first one. It is one of the best examples I've ever seen of it, in fact. Usually SOC is $20 on Steam, has often been discounted down to $3. I honestly think it is worth the full price. Give it at least an hour to get beyond the starter area, which is nice, but once you get into the abandoned Soviet research facilities, then... wow. And if you do get SOC, the fan upgrade "Stalker Complete 2012" is an incredible add-on which really helps with the sense of a whole world that is recognizable and spread out before you, but at the same time fearsome and twisted into something completely alien. Outwardly a shooter, I enjoyed those elements, but the real experience to me was this incredible world, and travelling through it like an astonished tourist. Hope that helps!
posted by seasparrow at 6:31 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have already played and own the Thief games, then I cannot recommend T2X highly enough. Even though it's fanmade, it was a labor of love and it shows in the painstaking amount of detail and coding that went into it - in fact, it actually exceeds the original game in many respects. Bonus: if you own Thief 2, downloading T2X is completely free.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:44 PM on July 29, 2012

Assassin's Creed
posted by murfed13 at 7:34 PM on July 29, 2012

If you're not looking for a huge world, and I'm fairly certain you aren't just looking for that, you may want to check out Infamous. It's a large, sandbox, type game where you get to run around fairly large cities and jump up and climb buildings.

I know they have it for the PS3, but I'm guessing there's an X-box version too.
posted by bswinburn at 7:55 PM on July 29, 2012

Fallout 3 is indeed great. If you haven't played Fallout New Vegas, it is more of that same greatness and you should try it. You could also give Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines a shot. It's also Bethesda, but slightly older, and you can really see the influence. It's also very good and has a lot of what you're looking for.
posted by Scientist at 8:08 PM on July 29, 2012

I liked that element if Deus Ex too. And even though Mass Effect was similar game mechanics, it just... didn't do it for me. And even though Borderlands was different game mechanics, it did.
Borderlands is cheap these days, give it a go.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:38 PM on July 29, 2012

The environments in both of Retro Studios' console efforts -- Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns -- have a tangible physicality like nothing else I've ever played. Especially in Donkey Kong Country Returns, where every little thing in the background (and foreground) feels like a real, physical object that exists in this beautiful, candy-colored world.

I wish like hell that the Wii could output HD graphics.
posted by EmGeeJay at 9:51 PM on July 29, 2012

(But Metroid Prime is the one that's likely to scratch your "exploration" itch)
posted by EmGeeJay at 9:51 PM on July 29, 2012

Best answer: The ArmA games are military simulators that throw you into a big, wide-open island. You'll usually be leashed with objectives to perform (soldiers don't have the liberty to take walks in the battlefield parks, you know), but you do have the freedom to take any direction you want, and the game in general has a very heavy simulation focus. You'll want the newest one, ArmA II (with III coming out next year).

If a milsim doesn't quite cut it, you might be interested in the super-duper-trendy DayZ mod, which has been driving ArmA's sales for the past half year now.

The BioShock games are the spiritual successors to System Shock. You'd probably already know them, but I figured I'd drop it in anyway. They're vastly inferior to SS in my opinion, but the closest to SS-style gameplay you'll get.

The STALKER games are very highly recommended. They're open-world shooters with some RPG mechanics (from what I remember, conversations, buying/selling, items and power-ups). They're *very* immersive and are really pretty much are Fallout 3 without the clunky character interaction.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is another recommended game for the kind of game you want. When it came out, it was the closest thing there was to a Deus Ex spiritual successor. It's pretty buggy on its own, so the fan patch comes recommended. IIRC, it's more on the RPG side of the spectrum, but I'd definitely put it in the same company as Thief, System Shock and Deus Ex.

This might be the odd one, but the SWAT games are also *kind-of* like Thief, in that you're put into a non-linear, realistic level and put on constraints in terms of what you can do and not (in Thief's case, you're expected to be stealthy and ghostlike; in SWAT, you're expected to behave like a police officer). While I have many great memories of SWAT 3, the newest one is SWAT 4, made by Irrational the folks behind BioShock (and mostly SS2).

nthing Fallout: New Vegas. I'm not sure how you mean clunky character interaction, but as someone who hated the guts of Fallout 3, New Vegas was a very pleasant surprise and an immensely rewarding game.

Borderlands - not really sure. It *is* open-world, and has a great agency for letting you do what you want, but it falls squarely in the dungeon-crawler field, only difference being that it's also an FPS. I'd really put it more in line with Diablo than Deus Ex.

You might be really interested in the nascent genre of first-person adventure games. While I can't name many off the bat, Amnesia comes to mind. It is admittedly a linear game for the most part, but utilises a "hub" structure for some areas. It's *very* scary, and gameplay is largely object puzzles. Dear Esther I would *not* recommend, as that game is pretty much on-rails, with the exception you have to hold down the W key yourself.

Finally, are upcoming games okay? Dishonored sounds like a sure bet. It's made expressly to evoke that same immersive sim feel of Thief and Deus Ex, and has Harvey Smith on it (Thief and Deus Ex himself).

There is a very obscure German game called DARK in the works that looks like a very Deus Ex-y game, only starring a vampire. Details are scant, but the screenshots do look a lot like Human Revolution.

Finally, the big show-stealer of this year's E3, Watch Dogs, has been described as many things and Deus Ex always crops up in those descriptions. It looks a lot like a third-person Deus Ex game, except with cyber-hacking instead of augmentations, and very, very high production qualities. Info on this is very vague right now, and it's said to release next year for Xbox 360, but you'll want to keep an eye on it.
posted by Senza Volto at 11:04 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since you say you're "open to other kinds of slower paced explore-y games", I think you should check out L.A. Noire. In terms of exploring the environment, it's one of the best I've seen in 25+ years of gaming. I loved the plot, and the atmosphere of 1940/50's Los Angeles is very nicely done. The mechanics of uncovering evidence, trying to make sense of what you find , and then using that information to interrogate suspects is extremely interesting, and I relished finishing each case so I could move on to a new one. There's a bit of open-world GTA-ish driving and shooting which is done simply but competently, but if that's not your speed the game will actually allow you to skip those segments if you're unable to complete them after a few tries.

If you want to check some reviews, here's the Metacritic page for L.A. Noire on the 360.
posted by EKStickland at 11:07 PM on July 29, 2012

Drat, missed it, but also check out Alpha Protocol. The game was heavily derided for being buggy and technically broken, but it has a great story if you can get past the frustrations and often feels more like a third-person Deus Ex than a Mass Effect-Splinter Cell mash-up that it was supposed to. In restrospect, it feels a whole lot like if Human Revolution was in third-person at all times, instead of just the cover.
posted by Senza Volto at 11:11 PM on July 29, 2012

To add a bit of variety to the suggestions.. Have you played any of the Lego platform games? They have rich environments, only a little time pressure, and lots of exploration. The games are more or less interchangeable so pick the one whose story you like best; I'm particularly fond of the Harry Potter and Star Wars games. The newer ones are better than the older ones. As a bonus, they are terrific cooperative games if you want to play with someone.

(Don't be put off by the quantity of these games and the fact they're licensed content. They're really top notch.)
posted by Nelson at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2012

I did a lot of exploring in Mercenaries 2, especially since I could blow everything up. The gameplay isn't stellar, but it's still a fun game.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:26 AM on July 30, 2012

Response by poster: So, ah, yeah. I'm going for Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines and the Bioshock games. Thanks everyone.

And yeah, I have never pre-ordered a game before, but I recently put 5 bucks down for Dishonored, Senza, it looks amazing.

My weekend better be prepared to be rendered USELESS.
posted by kittensofthenight at 3:30 PM on August 1, 2012

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