A games success (or failures) can largely be attributed to a variation of differing features. Most focus on graphics, game-play, story, characters or even the number of glitches that cripple the overall fidelity of the content. There’s no routine archetype you can implement to accurately determine the quality of a game or the validity of the individual distributing the criticism. Because bias tends to be a deceiving – if rare factor for game evaluations. But this isn’t about the perceived collusion between some publications and publishers, but more about what’s missed. With such ubiquitous categorisations that give the audience a very definitive idea of the games mechanics, they can sometimes miss the more subtle inflections that give a game it’s unique identity. One example of this is the environments in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, specifically the “creepy mountain” so eloquently referred to by a stranded bulldozer of ancient civilisation’s; Nathan Drake. Now I could go into great, over analytical detail concerning the beauty and stature of all the exquisitely rendered locations – and probably will (because they are stunning!), but its the colossal summit that both figuratively and literally stands out.
When Drake awakes (unintentional rhyme) after being marooned on the auspicious treasure island, staggering lethargically to higher ground, this ever looming mountain with its grotesque crevices and elongated protrusions that give it it’s almost feral looking features is there, bearing down on you like an edifice of dismay. At almost every exterior interval this monstrosity envelopes your eyesight, engulfing the scenery like a canopy of symbolic doom. It’s twisted visage encroaching on every thing you do. It’s design is fascinating, one emblematic of the islands splendour and danger. It just looks as though Satan himself ascended from the hell with one of his nephews to carve out the mountains innards like a jack o lantern as some kind of Halloween activity. It’s almost a pastiche of perceived villainy, as if it could be the elaborate lair of some nefarious Bond villain or Dr Evil for that matter. For me this mountain is really the games silent, passive antagonist that has been exposed to the ambient hostilities of the shifting climate, altering it’s exterior composition into a malformation of some deceased being long since passed. Possessing plunging tusks, jagged rock tendrils stretching across the land and extruding concrete teeth ready to devour the very landscape it’s formed from.
Nothing provides atmosphere like a mangled structure that’s constantly in your eyesight. And that’s the thing; even as Drake scales the mountainous terrain, latching onto the jutted frames that extrude from there mutilated surface, with upper-body strength that defies all human comprehension you can still see it, ever watchful. Gazing at you like one of those portraits that’s eyes follow you round the room. It’s eerie, yet compelling. And because it’s such a distinctive feature, with its intimidating facade always lingering above you like a teacher assessing a misbehaving students work you find yourself looking for it. I even began using it’s static image as a navigation tool to try and isolate where I am in conjunction to where I was, establishing a rough estimation of my progress. It’s funny too how the sowed verdure that envelopes this island, the preserved rustic abodes and venerable structures of conserved ornate majesty, now lying desolate and deprived of civilisation only enhances the mountains foreboding image. That this mountain witnessed both the rise and fall of the once illustrious ideologies of the settling colonies is just plain creepy. It’s almost as though it was these mountains that brought about the destruction of this cultivated Utopian society? Or perhaps I need to start playing something else.
In either case this evil looking impasse adds such character to island that could’ve been just a generic, isolated island in some distant ocean. It suitably captures the essence of unsettling anxiety that permeates throughout your expedition to find Captain Avery’s amassed Fortune, as well as the neighbouring communities that shared his vision for a pirate haven, even if ultimately he betrayed them all to retain all of the pilfered treasure for himself. So despite the narcissistic hubris of Rafe of or the underused ferocity of Nadine, my favourite new addition to the Uncharted series is actually a big rock. A damn scary one at that.
What games do you feel feature environments that enhance there overall quality? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.