The current generation seems to have kept its promise for more colour and far fewer piss filters than the last, there are more and more games showing an ability to create their own individual feel and personality that build wonderful atmospheres to truly allow the player to immerse themselves in the world around them.
However, the question is, which games have generated the most all-encompassing atmospheres in the current generation?
5. No Man’s Sky
Okay so before anyone starts complaining, no I do not think No Man’s Sky is even close to being one of the games of the generation, for the most part, it’s just an above average survival crafting game.
Despite this, it is hard to argue that No Man’s Sky does not create its own, very distinctive atmosphere. The colour palate of No Man’s Sky is truly beautiful, full of vibrant reds, yellows and blues, even in space the colours used are incredibly bright and fascinating. More impressively though is how No Man’s Sky is able to build on its ambience through its environment, in spite of the fact the planets created are procedurally generated. Some of the canyons, rock formations and flora really are fascinating to witness and truly feel alien, again adding to the atmosphere of the world. No Man’s Sky can really make you feel as though you’re traversing a galaxy no human has ever laid eyes upon previously.
4. XCOM 2
As anyone who read my review will know, I found that XCOM 2 improved on almost every aspect of its predecessor, not least with its use of atmosphere.
Although there was not a lot of narrative depth to XCOM 2, it’s ability to seamlessly link between its gameplay mechanics and founding premise of guerrilla warfare creates a wonderful ambience. Neat touches, such as the holographic wanted signs of your own soldiers dotted around cities really help to convey the sense that your operation is truly an underground one. The subtle colour drain when in concealment only furthers this, with the slightly murky aesthetic adding to the sense of the unknown. Even the aliens themselves are thematically consistent in the world developers Firaxis have crafted, meaning the game never pulls you out its world. Each feature of XCOM 2 serves to further allow you to become more and more engulfed in the tone and atmosphere of post Advent-invasion Earth.
3. Until Dawn
Until Dawn was certainly a surprise hit last year and even after reading countless reviews praising SuperMassive Games’ efforts, I was still shocked at the quality of Until Dawn.
Naturally, for a horror game, the use of atmosphere is vital and one of the main factors in its success. Its clever use of cliches, almost telegraphing events in order to build up a feeling of apprehension and allowing the tension time to reach its crescendo. The game rarely wastes this build up of tension on a meaningless jump scare, and this coupled with the fact the villain of the piece isn’t revealed until fairly late on, Until Dawn never quite allows you to feel safe. Even more impressively. There is not a single lull in the thick and tense climate of the narrative and that’s what makes it one of the most atmospheric games of this generation.
PlayDead are clearly masters of ambiguous sidescrollers, draped with uncomfortable themes and unnerving level design. The latest addition to their library, Inside, certainly upholds if not increases their reputation in this genre.
With an added tinge of colour from its predecessor Limbo, Inside is swimming in atmosphere. The eerie silence, the strange masked characters and the silhouette like backgrounds, it would be difficult to not become fully immersed in the sensationally crafted world even if you tried. Some of the puzzles of Inside fit the themes of the title like a glove, most notably the one in which the character had to stay synchronised with a monotonous line of slaves. A special mention has to be given to the character design of the water creature you meet partway through the game. The long hair obscuring the face and weirdly proportioned body made this one of the genuinely creepiest monsters I have ever experienced in a game, to the point where I desperately wanted to solve those puzzles not to make progress in the game, but more so to get the away from the creature as it was that terrifying. It’s not unfair to say that Inside is not just one of the most eerily captivating games of this generation, but possibly ever made.
My personal favourite from the Souls series (it may not have souls in its name but we all know it is), Bloodborne has undoubtedly the best atmosphere of any game this generation.
The architecture is a fascinating aspect of Bloodborne’s atmosphere, the spires and so spikes heavily connote with the religious themes of the game, building on the idea that a blood-based religion both consumed and then destroyed the world. Its fresh take on the Victorian Gothic style was an inspired new setting for a Souls game. The lanky monster design and tattered robes galore really nailed the feeling of defeated acceptance, a common thread through the entire series. This is only added to by the incredible sound design, constant instances of groaning, almost intelligible but impossible to make out exactly what’s being said. The directional nature of these groans is also an ingenious decision by allowing the moans to sound as though they’re being made by the enemies around you, but never the ones just in sight, leading the player to question just exactly what their role is. This sort of bleak existentialism encompasses the entire atmosphere of Bloodborne and in my opinion, never has any other game created a world so unpleasant yet so mesmerising at the same time.
So there you have it, our top 5 Atmospheres in video games. Agree with our list? tell us why or why not in the comments below.