Ever have that feeling when you’re standing in the grounds of a ruined castle that something truly amazing happened on this ground? Looking over the towers and and courtyards, imagining when the building was in its full glory, or that once a huge battle raged on the same ground that you’re currently standing, something that transcends the place and becomes a part of History? Sure you have, right? Well, I have. Maybe it’s down to my childhood diet of fantasy books, films and games, but things like this really fire my imagination.
The first area in a game to capture this feeling was finding The Pillars of Nosgoth in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain.
For those who skipped this series (shame on you), The Pillars of Nosgoth are Nine gargantuan pillars that seemingly reach infinitely into the sky and as deep into the ground and have stood for longer than any recorded history in the land of Nosgoth. They hold the power to keep evil in check and it’s your job as the recently vampiric Kain to defeat the corrupt Guardians that control each pillar to restore their power and end your curse.
Standing at the circular base of these monolithic structures left me in awe. You really get the sense that the Pillars are something more than marble or stone, these mean something. The way they stretch miles into the sky, further than any Human or creature could get. The level design plays towards this being an actual place and not just a section of a game, a combination of great design and a great lore backing it up. The first time you see them in game (by way of a swooping Pre-rendered clip), you know this story is going to go deeper than your Vampire problems just by the shear visual weight of them.
They cropped up again in Soul Reaver (Legacy of Kain’s vastly superior sequel…catch up, yeah?), but they’re long destroyed following the events of he first game and now serve as Kain’s twisted throne, but still you get a sense of majesty from them.
There’s been many areas, buildings and locations that have hit me like this since and thanks to the power of consoles and PC’s, pretty much all games now have these ‘…woah…’ moments, a visual slap to the face that stops you dead and has you reaching for your phone to What’s App a screenshot to your mate (just me on that one…? Ok…): The Castle in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Anor Londo, New Londo Ruins and Blight Town in Dark Souls, pretty much all of Skyrim and Fallout 3, The Citadel in Mass Effect and Soul Reaver’s own abyss like Lake of the Dead… But The Pillars hard a hard one to beat for me, they sell themselves and tie in the history of the world better than many games can.