Welcome to Top Shelf Gaming’s new series, TSG Asks! TSG Asks is a weekly series where we present one question to our staff and the community about gaming. It is similar to the series Question of the Week, but new and improved. Be on the look out for special guests from the gaming and eSports community as well as the reddit community. Without any further stall, thank you and we hope to see you in the coming weeks! (Fade to black)
Following up last week’s article about Yoshi’s Woolly World, the staff took a good look at their favorite art styles in video games. Video game graphics and visuals add a different layer of awe and is another route developers take on the path to originality. They can play with a variety of textures and environments as well as colors and shading. They can also use simplicity to their advantage and direct focal points to enhance the gameplay or they can create epic sets full of explosive colors and action to intensify the experience or do a mixture of both.
The question this week was very straightforward.
What is one game that amazes you in terms of graphics and/or art style? What amazes you about it?
Comment with your thoughts below!
I’ve always been a fan of games that have landscapes worth looking at. One game that comes to mind is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The views are magnificent, the creatures are unique and detailed, and the world feels so real yet mystical. And to top it all off, I know they are there to help direct the player to their next destination, but I feel like the many benches that appear throughout the game are really there to encourage players to stop playing, relax and enjoy the quiet spectacle in front of them. (And maybe take some Snapchats while they’re there #brobonding).
A game that really amazes me in terms of art style and graphics is Mirrors Edge. Do I write about this game enough? haha The color scheme of the unnamed city is very simple but very beautiful with the use of white contrasting bright colors. The use of bright red helps direct the player in the direction they are supposed to go. And for 2008 the graphics uses all of the power that the Xbox 360 and PS3 had to offer. It’s amazing that it can be so simple and yet still so beautiful. MIRRORS EDGE CATALYST AHHH!!!
Most of my favorite games can be identified from a single screenshot because they have such unique art direction.
Some games that come to mind immediately are Okami, Mirror’s Edge, and Dishonored. Each of these games has its own very unique look that contributes to the game beyond just aesthetics.
Okami follows a traditional Japanese Sumi-e art style and the game looks like a painting, which is both distinct and important to the game’s gameplay (in which you use a paintbrush to interact with the environment). Mirror’s Edge is very clean-looking, with streamlined design and a selective use of bold color that is both beautiful and very telling of the game’s world, a slick, sterile pseudo-dystopia. And Dishonored has a 3D modeling style that’s both very visually interesting and which helps to set the game’s moody, grisly tone. Everything has this chiseled, almost molded-from-clay look, and most things are a little bit lopsided. Characters’ faces are almost never symmetrical, with the exception of a few special people who stand out from the rest of the cast.
Art direction is so important. It describes the look and feel of the world you’re exploring, and can really enhance the game. All three of these games have their own gorgeous art direction, and their visuals really make the experience of each game feel unique.
I can’t get enough of Borderlands’ art style. It’s comic book meets pop art meets Mad Max. Lots of games are gorgeous, but don’t have distinguishing factors that differentiate themselves from other gorgeous-looking games. Borderlands’ art style is memorable because it’s unique. There’s nothing else like it.
Although The Order: 1886 did not receive raving reviews, I myself enjoyed it. One of the things I loved about the game were the next-gen graphics, which absolutely amazes me every time I start the game. In the game, the player has the option to pick certain items up and inspect them; upon doing this, you can move the object around in your hand using the d-pad, and every time I did this, it somehow felt as if I was actually holding the object. The attention to detail is exquisite, revealing the power of the PS4 and putting players in awe at the same time.
I am consistently impressed by Skyrim because of its sheer attention to detail. As an open-world game, it embraces so many of the subtle textures and nuances, while still being stunning on a large scale. This semester, I am co-creating a Skyrim mod for a video game class and have been exposed to the Skyrim Creation Toolkit in all its . It’s an impressive (and extremely generous) engine to render and customize new locations and characters. I am amazed at the degree of detail present in Skyrim and the high-quality of the graphics overall.
Despite it’s 25 year old graphics, I’m still impressed with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Though it doesn’t necessarily have a Far Cry 4-level of detail, A Link to the Past seems impervious to aging. Its colorful, clean, and simplistic art style never pushed the boundaries of its graphical limitations. As a result, its visual impressiveness was never negated by newer games with better graphics. In other words, when aliens discover Earth in 6 million years and then subsequently find an SNES with a copy of A Link to the Past among the post-apocalyptic remains of humanity, I think they’ll be impressed with it more than Black Ops II.
It should come as no surprise by now that the game that amazes me most is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Wind Waker was the first cel-shaded game I ever saw and every cel-shaded game I played after couldn’t measure up to its beauty. Looking back, I realize the brilliance behind the color theory. You spend the majority of the game playing as a character garbed in green, with a red and yellow boat, sailing in a vast blue ocean. This color combination has been used in art and design for centuries. We see it with the Windows logo, the Google logo, and even the memory game Simon. Because of how distinct these four colors are from each other, they’re often used in video games to help players distinguish between characters and menu items. Wind Waker masterfully incorporated these colors in ways that feel natural and did so in a more subtle way than most games.
The HD remaster brought to life how I already imagined the game to look in my head when I first played it as a kid. I almost never play a game after I beat it, but I return to Wind Waker regularly if not only to get lost in that beautiful world.
Definitely Kentucky Route Zero. Everything about the game oozes style, from the set pieces that come together as if on stage, to the often Escher inspired environments that defy logic. It’s one of the only games out there that nails minimalist character designs without it feeling like a cop out. I’m a huge sucker for magical realism, and KRZ’s surreal visuals are worth the price of admission alone.
This isn’t going to surprise anyone, but GTA V’s aesthetic completely blows me away. Living in Southern California and being pretty familiar with LA, it’s simply stunning how completely they capture the city at every level, from the big sweeping features to the finest of details. I’ll never forget the first time I drove through Los Santos early in the morning just before sunrise. Even on the chugging Xbox 360 hardware, the quality of the light, the rise and fall of the pavement, the roadside billboards, the sounds of early morning business all came together perfectly, and I got goosebumps as I suddenly recalled all the chilly, misty mornings I drove to work with my dad as a child when he worked in Hollywood. I am a sucker for well-realize worlds, and GTA’s latest version of San Andreas may be the best I’ve seen. Playing again on PS4 in first-person makes it even better.
Responses from Reddit
Here are some thoughts Reddit users shared with us. Click on each picture to go to their respective subreddits. PC gamers will be included in the next edition!
Insane08: From some of the most recent games I have to say until dawn. The lighting and thriller atmosphere was unbelievable. The developers managed to allow that feeling to flow out of the TV and onto the players surrounding. No spoilers don’t worry but from the beginning when you are making your way up the mountain till the very end there was this eerie beauty that never went away. I couldn’t help but stand around and take it all in.
Butter Is Life: Luigi’s Mansion I’d put right up there with Wind Waker. Nintendo really liked using their new graphical abilities to make characters more expressive in the Gamecube era. I love how Luigi’s facial expressions change so much, how he’s terrified in his face and his hums are shaky when in a dark area, but his face, his run/walk animation, and his humming is so much more confident after going through a cleared room.
It’s almost like you’re watching Luigi conquer his fears, helping him do so through each ghost you catch, key you get, or boss you turn back into a portrait. The shadows and lighting are also really incredible, how the lighting casts all the shadows (in pretty high quality) back into a room, the details of interactivity with objects in each room, dust particles kicking up and getting sucked up, and such. The mansion looks downright cozy once you get all the dust and cobwebs cleaned up and the lights turned back on.
Sp33dyKat: Sometimes, I spend more time snapping pics & enjoying the views, than driving. The addition of rain in FM6 [Forza Motor 6] bumped-up the realism. First time I noticed the raindrops on the windshield moving side to side in sync with my car’s directional changes, I nearly ran off the road…literally. Also love the particularly “picturesque” race locations, such as Rio, Bernese Alps, Prague. Simply Amazing!
Tell us your thoughts on graphics and what games we missed! Come back in the future weeks as we explore more topics on gaming as well as get opinions from our special guests! And as always check out the rest of the site!