Video games can be varied, with different genres like action-adventure, RPG, horror, and open-world, to name a few. With such a diverse selection of genres also comes a difference in the overall setting of their stories.
A good backdrop serves as a great way to compliment the narrative and sets the stage for tools and technology available to players.
One of the most common settings is space, the final frontier. Such video games tend to have numerous planets to visit, where users can explore and progress the story.
Bethesda’s Starfield, coming next year, is set to seemingly revolutionize this genre next year.
Another recurring trope is setting a video game to the backdrop of a historical period. Gamers can run around in recreations of iconic locations from real-world history or experience the struggles of certain ages in the past.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s opinion.
Five video games with a setting in the vastness of space
The Halo series of video games first launched with Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001 and was developed by Bungie. Even then, Halo was ahead of its time, with some very advanced first-person shooter gameplay, intelligent AI, and the best gunplay of the time.
Yet, this was probably the first title set in a fictional ringworld, which had not previously been portrayed in a visual medium.
Known as Halo, this ringworld was portrayed as the game’s primary setting, with the protagonist, a genetically engineered soldier bred for combat known as the Master Chief. He was accompanied by his trusty AI, Cortana, and they were tasked with restoring the forces of the UNSC, which were forced to make an emergency stop at this space station.
Since then, Halo has become a massive series of video games, with more than ten offerings to its name. After a couple of lackluster entries, 343 Industries took over development. The latest installment, Halo Infinite, was a return to the basics and a fantastic new entry into the story of the Master Chief. This time, Chief and his allies find themselves on a new Halo ring named Zeta Halo.
3) Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Possibly the most well-known of these titles, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, is the collection of the first three Mass Effect games, which tell the story of Commander Shepard and their fight against the Reapers.
This includes Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3, remastered with better textures, a unified control scheme, and HUD.
Throughout these video games, Shepard and his allies strive to keep the galaxy safe from the Reapers, an ancient synthetic race of giant machines which seek to eliminate all organic life from the star system. With a legendary journey across more than a dozen planets and space stations, this is a space opera to rival the likes of Star Wars.
The title is played in a third-person perspective, and Shepard is equipped with various guns and long-range weaponry. Companions across the three games can accompany him on missions, with players being able to select two allies for each.
Each companion has specific proficiencies and abilities, which can be used in battle, using a tactical mode to assign actions to them.
3) Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
The most recent Star Wars video game, and possibly the most well-received since Disney’s takeover of the Lucasfilm and Lucasarts production companies, Star War Jedi: Fallen Order is a third-person action-adventure game telling an original story.
Developed by Respawn, this title was released in November 2019 for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One.
Set during the time between Episodes III and IV movies, this game follows protagonist Cal Kestis, a former Jedi padawan forced out of hiding by the Empire’s inquisitors. Cal then meets a new group of people, whom he must learn to trust and reconnect with the Force to have any hope of standing up to his pursuers.
The title takes many elements from Soulsborne entries, with lightsaber combat inspired by Sekiro and the checkpoint system being a direct homage to FromSoftware products. Many metroidvania elements are also present, with backtracking and unlocking new areas in worlds that have already been visited being a big part of the story.
4) Alien: Isolation
A horror experience set in the Alien movie franchise, Alien: Isolation was developed by Creative Assembly and released in October of 2014. Taking place adjacent to the events of the movies, this title’s story follows the daughter of Ellen Ripley. She heads out to the Sevastopol space station, which has recovered the flight recorder of her mother’s ship, The Nostromo.
Amanda soon realizes that not all is right aboard the space station when a fully formed Xenomorph jumps out of the vents, a few feet in front of her. The title sets out to deliver one of the best horror movie experiences in video games, with users needing to maintain a discreet presence whenever the alien is nearby.
Hiding and distractions are the best options to deal with the Xenomorph, as there is no way to kill or fight it using the tools given to gamers. Using a flamethrower, they can scare away the alien, which might buy them a few minutes of free time, although this means it returns with a vengeance.
5) The Outer Worlds
From Obsidian Entertainment, composed of ex-Bethesda employees, comes this video game that is pretty astutely described as Fallout in space. The Outer Worlds was released in 2019 for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One, and it is an action RPG that allows players to create their own characters and start their journeys in the Halcyon star system.
They start the title as recently awakened characters from cryo-sleep, with the help of eccentric scientist Phineas Welles. Landing on a planet called Terra 2, users begin their journey amidst various multi-planetary corporations and factions seeking only to benefit their own needs.
They can meet various companions across the different worlds and recruit them into their party.
The video game takes a first-person perspective, with combat taking the form of shooting and melee fighting. This can be done via various weapons collected from multiple worlds that gamers can visit.
Numerous stats also govern the various attributes of individuals, such as persuasion, stealth melee, etc. Tactical Time Dilation is the analog to VATs in this title.
Five video games that bring the past into focus
1) Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
The Assassin’s Creed video games always have their primary gameplay set during a historical age. The most recent title in this franchise takes players to 855 CE, establishing the first few events in Norway and then jumping forward to 875, taking the action to England.
Telling the story of Eivor Varinsdottir, they can start their very own Viking adventure.
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the main story revolves around Eivor and her brother Sigurd as they travel to England to conquer the land and make their very own kingdom to rule. Scattered across the many territories of England, Eivor must loot, pillage, and dethrone rulers to capture the land and form alliances.
As with the more recent RPG offerings of the series, AC Valhalla’s combat is based on skills and abilities unlocked by users and involves melee weapons that Eivor can wield. Stealth elements such as blending in with crowds and the environment return, as well as the hidden blade for one-hit assassinations.
Eivor can use her raven Sýnin to scout ahead, along with her Odin Sight, the new name for older Eagle Vision.
2) Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 is the furthest the studio has gone in the past in terms of setting a story. Taking place in the late 19th century, the themes of this video game deals with the inevitable onslaught of industrialization and how the lives changed for the people who used to live freely in the wild west.
Taking on the role of Arthur Morgan, gamers get to roam across about six states in a fictionalized western United States. The world and environment are accurately crafted, with motorcars nonexistent and electricity accessible only in certain developed cities. Players primarily get around the map on horseback, while using carriages for fast travel is optional.
The story itself is a tale of the changing times, as the Van der Linde gang of outlaws, which Arthur is affiliated with, find the ground beneath their feet shrinking at every turn. Hounded by the Pinkerton detective agency, Arthur and Co. are looking for a way to leave their life in the US goodbye.
Their leader, Dutch, has a brilliant plan of one last big heist and then moving to Tahiti to grow mangoes, which goes about as well as one would expect.
3) Ghost of Tsushima
Developed by Sucker Punch Productions, Ghost of Tsushima was released in 2020 for the PS4 and in 2021 for the PS5. Set during the Kamakura period of Japanese history, this video game depicts the real-life events of the Mongol invasion of the land after their conquest of Korea.
While not including any actual historical figures, the title does make references to them, such as Kublai Khan, the real-life conqueror whose cousin is the game’s main antagonist.
Players take on the role of Jin Sakai, a samurai warrior upon whom falls the responsibility of taking the fight to the invading forces. Jin is forced to choose between his honorable samurai ways or the path of the dishonorable ghost as he takes on enemies that usually outnumber him.
With a third-person perspective, the title emphasizes combat across sword fights, which can be specific cinematic sequences during various boss battles. Aside from these, Jin has access to tools such as kunai and smoke bombs to assist in stealth and indirect combat.
Users are free to tackle enemies however they wish, either taking them head-on or sneaking around the back.
4) Kingdom Come: Deliverance
For those who enjoy lots of realism in their historical video games, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a top pick. Developed by Warhorse Studios and co-published by Deep Silver, it was released in 2018 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
This is an action role-playing title where gamers can play as Henry (the protagonist) and participate in a historical war effort.
It is set during the early 15th century in the Kingdom of Bohemia, across many real-world settlements in the location where the protagonist embarks on his story. When the nearby ruler of Croatia, Sigismund, launches a brutal campaign to take his brother’s kingdom of Bohemia and Germany, Henry’s parents are caught up in the first assault and killed.
This leads Henry on a mission of revenge and retribution as he joins the ranks of Bohemia’s infantry.
The video game sees many realistic aspects brought to life, including a hunger and thirst mechanic. Eating rotten food can cause diseases that might become lethal.
Proper rest and sleep are also required to be tracked, along with the degradation of clothes and armor. Decisions in dialogue are also timed, requiring users to act fast to choose their options or opt out without a reply.
5) A Plague Tale: Innocence
This title is set during the armed conflict between England and France in 14th century Aquitaine, France, and the spreading of the black plague. The story follows noble-born Amicia de Rune and her younger brother Hugo as they are separated from their family when the French Inquisition attacks their home.
Developed by Asobo Studios, this offering was released in 2019 for Windows, PS4, and Xbox One. Primarily a stealth video game, the narrative involves the siblings on the run, with Amicia and Hugo having to avoid the soldiers of the Inquisition as well as other people in search of them.
Puzzles are featured heavily in this video game, with games having to figure out ways to cross certain areas in stealth by scaring away hordes of rats, generally with fire. The rats can be manipulated to kill soldiers as well.
Hugo can also be directed to perform specific tasks in certain areas in tandem with Amicia. A sequel is due to release later in 2022.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s opinions.
Poll : Do you enjoy games set in space or a historical time period?
Space is the best
I prefer a historical take