A good or decent video game with beautiful and immersive sci-fi worlds
March 24, 2013 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have suggestions for video games that do a great job of immersing you in sci-fi (ideally alien) worlds?

I spent 5 or so months playing all the Mass Effect games last year, and the one thing that really made it all addictive to me was its immense production value; not just in the sheer scope of it all, but also the breath-taking design. I loved taking in all of the surroundings at each step of the game -- it added to the whole gameplay experience for me. I'm looking for a repeat experience of that sort this year.

I was reading about "The Dig" today; and while the reviews of the game seem moderate to terrible (mostly in terms of the puzzles?), it looks amazing and fits my description. So this is the kind I'm looking for, it need not have fully rendered 3-D worlds, but rather do a really good job immersing you in within its limits. So oldies are welcome, as long as they fit this description.

I'm OK with RPGs and adventure games. Also puzzlers in the vein of Portal or Myst.

I'm not a big FPS or shooter player, but I was a fan of Quake / Unreal Tournament (OK environments IMO), and Halo (great!) back in the day.

I have a PS3 and Mac OS X with (S)NES and MS-DOS emulators.
posted by mysticreferee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dark Souls is amazing. A really, really well-imagined world. Difficulty: difficulty, as in, there's no difficulty setting for the game. Once you start, the bad guys are going. to. kill. you. Still if you want a very hard but very immersive experience give it a go.
posted by Infinity_8 at 6:48 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Half Life 2 is amazing, but it might not fit all your criteria. Halo 4, if you liked Halo, is supposed to be quite good.

Here's an oldie but a goodie. I highly enjoyed Another World.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:58 PM on March 24, 2013

Bioshock Infinite comes out tomorrow.
posted by St. Sorryass at 6:59 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Machinarium is the first game that comes to mind. Bioshock, Half-Life, and Deus Ex are all obvious recommendations, but they're also FPS.

I'm playing Primordia right now and enjoying it. It's retro graphics, as you'll see in the trailer, but some of the environment ideas are interesting at this point--definitely not "breathtaking," though.

If you can ignore the alien aspect of what you're looking for, I highly recommend you play Dear Esther. When I played it last year, I was just swept away, much like I was when playing Myst III and IV, where you could touch everything and hear a unique sound.

Have a look around Steam's Greenlight section. You may find some things to watch for there.
posted by iamfantastikate at 7:00 PM on March 24, 2013

SpacemanStix I was JUST thinking about that game the other day!! Crazy game, pretty tough too!
posted by packfan88c at 7:01 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: Waking Mars

Haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I hear good things.
posted by meta87 at 7:10 PM on March 24, 2013

I enjoyed the hell out of Fallout 3, just because, story be damned, I really enjoyed exploring every odd nook and cranny of the map (as I go on about here).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:13 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: Have you played Aquaria? It's more mythical and oceanic than sci-fi, but I find it really beautiful and absorbing.
posted by looli at 7:28 PM on March 24, 2013

Skyrim is beautifully immersive, and I hear the other Elder Scrolls games are similar.
(I don't play, but I get sucked into watching friends' games while I'm knitting on the couch. Said friends lurve the game and have gotten the expansions.)
posted by momus_window at 7:33 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: I suggest Borderlands (and Borderlands 2). It's an RPG combined with FPS, but the real star of those games is the planet they're set on - Pandora.

THe above-mentioned Deus Ex: Human Revolution has the additional advantage of having similar gameplay to Mass Effect, but it's a future Earth - not completely alien.
posted by anonymisc at 7:44 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: Beyond Good and Evil. The style is kind of cute, but it's a highly developed, interesting world.

Shadow of the Colossus is more of a fantasy, but it's a really rich, real-feeling environment.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:25 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if the OP is interested in fantasy or just sci fi, but if fantasy is on the table, then I can't recommend Okami highly enough.

Portal 2 I think does a really good job of establishing the setting right from the beginning, you don't mention if you've played it or just the first one.

Planescape: Torment is an oldie but pretty amazing. I feel like I'm always suggesting it in different threads. There's a kickstarter for a spiritual successor to come out hopefully next year.

You don't mention fighting games, but Bayonetta...well, this video review will show you what it's all about. At the time it came out, this reviewer complained about performance issues on the PS3, but hopefully they've been addressed by now. It's definitely go the environments (fighting on a church wrapped around a dragon's neck, etc)
posted by cali59 at 9:10 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: It's old, but to this day, Morrowind has been the most beautifully alien, time sucking, immersive game I've ever played. Stepping off that boat in Seyda Neen literally took my breath away in 2002, but there are graphical overhauls out there that update the visuals to more modern standards. I've played the other Elder Scrolls games, but they can't hold a candle.
posted by lilnublet at 9:57 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: Oh my god, you have to play Capsized. It's like an old school platform shooting and exploration game but it's very Wayne Barlowe. It's gorgeous.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:59 PM on March 24, 2013

you want some Fallout 3/Fallout New Vegas...They're both from Bethesda, who make the also-awesome Skyrim...
posted by sexyrobot at 10:02 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II with The Sith Lords restored content mod is said to be an all-time classic.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:31 PM on March 24, 2013

If you're looking for big-budget, creative, sci-fi alien worlds, I recommend the Ratchet & Clank series and the Jak & Daxter series. Both started on PS2, you might be able to find 'em cheap and they... might... work in your PS3. Different aesthetics than Mass Effect, for sure, but comparable in terms of consistency and quality. So many fond memories of those games over here.
posted by TangoCharlie at 11:18 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: This game is old, but in terms of being immersed in the game world and feeling like you know the characters, this game stands up to the test of time.

The Longest Journey
posted by Nerro at 3:35 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

The alien world in this game is a horror-dreamscape, the style is minimalist and impressionistic, but I found Year Walk on IOS to be immersive enough that I had to stop playing it at night.
posted by gauche at 4:03 AM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: Since you have a PS3, I highly recommend Journey, available to download from the PSN. It's set on an alien world, and is in my opinion (and many others) one of the best games ever made. You can finish it in about 2 or 3 hours but for $20 it's great value, especially given that you will be immersed and you will want to play it again.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:38 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Infinity_8: Heard of and definitely want to play Dark Souls at some point in the future; but not what I'm looking for here, unfortunately. Thanks though!

SpacemanStix: Half Life 2 IS amazing; and Halo 4 is on my list as well. However, Another World comes close to what I'm looking for here. Thank you!

St. Sorryass: Great! I'm going to check it out. The first person part is a downer, but I'll give it a go.

iamfantastikate: I LOVE Machinarium! Come to think of it, the backgrounds were actually amazing in it. I didn't realize when playing it but then again that's what immersive means, I guess. Primordia looks great, I'll add it to my list. I've heard a lot of good things about Dear Esther too but that's for another day. Thanks a lot!

meta87: You've hit the nail on the head. This is EXACTLY the kind of game I'm looking for. Looks very interesting with really alien landscapes (waterscapes?) I'm really interested. Thanks much!

Kid Charlemagne / sexyrobot: The Fallout series is awesome but not what I'm looking for, unfortunately. Appreciate it, though.

Aquaria: I do tend to think of oceanic games as "alien", so -- awesome! Thank you!

momus_window: I've tried Skyrim. It tends to go too much into familiar fantasy-scapes for me (I mean other than that gorgeous sky and some well-realized characters), but, again, misses what I'm looking for. Thank you!

anonymisc: Borderlands has been on my radar for quite a while; and I was thinking of going with that if I don't find anything else that fits my description. The FPS part turns me off, but I'll give it a go. Thanks! Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game for another time! I'll get to it.

Ursula Hitler: Beyond Good and Evil looks amazing. I'll check it out. Shadow of the Colossus is an AWESOME game, and you're right, I guess the world is a little "alien" in some ways. Thanks!

cali59: My girlfriend is obsessed with Okami, and I've seen all of it while she played! I do like it a lot. I LOVE Portal 2. (I should've mentioned Portal / Portal 2; I realize there's a huge difference in story and gameplay even though they're thematically so similar) Planescape: Torment looks interesting but looks like it tends towards familiar world-based fantasy rather than alienscapes. I'll give it a go. Not a fan of fighting games unfortunately. Thanks a lot though! Really appreciate all the suggestions.

lilnubiet: Wow, Morrowind reminds me of this old game called LSD: Dream Emulator. Looks very interesting. Thanks!

infinitywaltz: Definitely going to check out Capsized. Looks like it fits what I'm looking for. Thank you!

Kandarp Von Bontee: Huge Star Wars fan, but somehow never got into the KotOR games. Maybe one day ... thank you though!

TangoCharlie: I like Ratchet & Clank; never tried Jak & Dexter. Games for another time though, I'll still add them to my list. Thanks!

Nerro: Wow, Longest Journey looks and feels like it should fit everything I'm looking for. Thank you!

gauche: Me and my girlfriend both downloaded Year Walk last week; still haven't tried it though. I'll give it a go soon -- thanks!

Effigy2000: I'm a huge fan / evangelist of Journey! I didn't think about it when writing these criteria, but you're right, it comes close to evoking that other-worldly charm in its environments AND gameplay. What a wonderful game! Glad you love it too.
posted by mysticreferee at 6:23 AM on March 25, 2013

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
posted by grobstein at 6:45 AM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: The Longest Journey has a sequel too, Dreamfall, which is at least as good. Gameplay is arguably better. A followup to that, Dreamfall Chapters is in the works---well over their mark in a recent Kickstarter. Now is a great time to be getting into this series.

A second point-and-click adventure series that was really notable for world building was Syberia and it's sequel. The two are really one game, one story, bisected into two episodes. Starts in a sort of clockwork-punk aesthetic, goes through classical, neo-communist and post-communist Russian styles too. Syberia is available on Steam.
posted by bonehead at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2013

TLJ and Dreamfall are both on Steam and GOG, btw.
posted by bonehead at 10:53 AM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: Try Zeno Clash. It's an unusual game all-around, but the alien landscapes and creatures are particularly creative. Plus, it's super cheap right now.
posted by demiurge at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2013

I came here to say The Longest Journey and especially Dreamfall too!
posted by Lotto at 11:04 AM on March 25, 2013

Best answer: Proteus


From Dust

Strike Suit Zero
posted by dubusadus at 5:56 PM on March 25, 2013

Came in to second Borderlands, both games. I know the FPS part looks unappealing - I'm not an FPS fan either - but the environment/story are immersive and just fantastic. The landscape, the creatures, the on-planet culture that you soak up both from the detritus/scenery and the NPCs you talk to - it's fantastic. I really bought Pandora as a believable alien world. It is colorful and detailed and hilarious.

I didn't find the FPS part too punishing, either. I mean, yes, you spend a lot of time pumping ammunition into aliens and human enemies of various stripes, but it really feels incidental to all of the exploration. It helps that there are a million and three side quests you can choose to do, and so if you want to ignore the main plot to go check out XYZ weird thing, that is absolutely an option and you will never run out of optional dinguses to collect. I think it's a lot like Mass Effect that way.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 7:29 AM on March 26, 2013

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