After the government’s address to the nation at the end of March, people all over the UK have been confined to their homes with the instruction to leave as little as possible. We’ve now been inside for over three weeks and I bet more than a few of us are climbing the walls.
Fear not though: with the help of my lovely blogger-friends, I’ll be bringing you the Gamers’ Guide to Isolation this week. This is going to be split into three sections over the next few days and will feature a range of video games to help you handle different factors of the quarantine. From titles to play while you’re pretending to work from home to releases that will make you feel as though you’re not going through this alone, hopefully you’ll find something here to pass the time.
Today we’re going to start with games to make you feel as you’re outdoors even though you’re inside. The Prime Minister may have told us that we’re allowed out for exercise once a day, but most of us would love to spend far longer out in the fresh air. So why not check out the following titles suggested by some awesome bloggers to make you feel as though you’re hiking through the mountains, walking through the forest or going for a bike-ride?
“On the face of it Cities: Skylines doesn’t have the characteristics of a game that should make you feel as though you’re outdoors, but sitting here trying to think of first-person titles set in vast sprawling countryside or third-person adventures in beautiful sun-drenched vistas, my mind kept coming back to Cities: Skylines. A rather well executed SimCity-type game, it’s all about zoning, managing financial incentives, and building a good public transport system, but it’s also a game that sits the player floating in the air above their own beautifully detailed metropolis. Zoomed out, at high altitudes, you can hear the wind rushing past you, but with a spin of the scroll-wheel you can be at ground level watching cars go by on a busy street, or jump over to a leafy suburb away from the traffic noise to watch citizens meander through a manicured park. For me, this ‘model village’ of a world gives me the the outdoor experience as a floating entity above my creation, breathing that virtual air vicariously through my digital citizens.”
“Give Eastshade a try if you’re looking for something relaxing to play. You can grab your bike and go for a ride through the pink trees of the Blushwood Forest; take a stroll across the sunny Tifmoor Bluffs; or hitch a ride in a balloon to the peaks of the Restless Reach. And if you spot a view you’d like to capture, pull out your canvas and paint a picture. This is one of my favourite games because it’s such a beautiful take on the RPG genre, accompanied by lovely artwork and soundtrack.”
“When I think about the great outdoors, mountains instantly spring to my mind. What better game to pick than the hiking simulator – Firewatch. In this game, you play as Henry, who tries to run away from his problems by taking an isolated job in the Yellowstone National Park. Beautiful, cel-shaded environments, excellent voice-acting, and you always keep the mandatory distance of 1km between people. What’s not to love about it?
“If you want a bit more gameplay than just walking around, you could also try The Witness. The landscapes are not quite as impressive (still, their minimalistic design is beautiful in its own) and there’s no story to speak of, but the puzzles will more than make up for all of that. Remember to pause whenever your brain starts smoking!”
Grand Theft Auto V
“The environments of Grand Theft Auto V are amongst the most realistic ever. The cities are full of NPCs who have their own unique dialogue that builds the impression of a whole world beyond the player. Even the sound of the player character’s steps changes with the slightest difference in surface. Just taking a walk to the pier is an impressive experience. Everywhere I go reminds of me real places I’ve been. Exploring with no objective can pass hours on its own. There’s no place I wish were more real than Southern San Andreas. Apparently, it has a narrative too.”
Horizon Zero Dawn
“People can be so damn cruel… She may be hated by her people, but I know I instantly fell in love with Aloy the starring shero of Horizon Zero Dawn. Let’s just say I connected a little too closely with her bullied outcast problems. Social distancing is even worse when it’s the kind forced on you buy a bunch of jerks who refuse to accept you for being you. Ahem. Anyway, who doesn’t love forests and nature in all of its pristine glory? The beautiful wilds of this game are simply lovely to explore, while you figure out why the heck wild robot dinosaurs are running amok in a primitive human world.”
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
“Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a game that infuses itself within nature. With its beautiful aesthetics and soundtrack, one can’t help but feel envious for Ori who gets to run through the forest. Especially whilst you are locked inside! Whilst maybe not making you feel outside, it does give you an appreciation for the forest and all who dwell there. Plus the sounds and visuals of the game help to draw you closer to nature, in a way that brings the outside to your home.”
theHunter: Call of the Wild
“The escapism available with this game is incredible; the environments, the freakin’ sound of the wind, the overall serenity. This is like nothing I’ve experienced before. Tracking animals through the wilderness becomes a tense game of cat-and-mouse, culminating in a single shot, in some cases after an hour of tracking. Sounds incredibly dull, but when you’re slowly creeping through the forest tracking that deer, something primal happens and you’re transported away from the real world around you, even just for a little while.”
Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection
“One of the games that I have spent the most time in recently is Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection. I may be inside but in this I can run around a zoo, see animals from all parts of the world, drive through the zoo in a buggy that you can call and just comes flying towards you… and all this with other people milling about, taking in the sights and sounds. No matter how dull the day is outside the window, in this game you have a bright zoo and sunny skies to keep your spirits up. It makes you feel as though you are outside in a place which in this game brings many joyful moments. I’ve had baby animals born, released animals into the wild, taken photos of chimps that are desperate to avoid the camera. Despite the fact I am playing alone in my home, I feel like I’m out in the world trying to do something and I’m learning some things as I go. It’s a bright world at the zoo and it’s brilliant to be outside in it.”
Hopefully these suggestions will give you some inspiration for video games to check out while you’re in isolation. If you have any further recommendations, please do leave them in the comments below – and come back on Wednesday for titles you can sneakily play while you’re working from home. Look after yourselves, everybody!
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.