Before I get too far into this new lil blog series, let's cover the basics. There is nothing better than how a game looks, so let's look at my favorite.
This was hard, because it takes a lot for a game to make me gag. Eve older games like EQ have their charm, so I had to really consider carefully which MMO was my favorite graphically. There are so many that do so many things right, but that have one little thing that just throws it all off: LotRO with it's beautiful scenery yet horrible models, EQ2 with it's nice effects yet ugly textures, Mabinogi with it's charming characters and fighting but horrible scenery....I could go on.
So I had to pinpoint which game had the most wonderful effect on me, overall. This was actually a near draw between two games: The Chronicles of Spellborn and Ryzom.
I gotta' say, though, that Spellborn wins. It is the one game that I can look at and go "If I wanted to make a game, what would it look like?" It is super-stylized, but done in such a way that it doesn't feel cutesy. It feels like a Tim Burton romp without the silly music/feel. It feels like a trip through a beautiful, believable world that I would give anything to visit.
But, like Ryzom, there is tragedy in the game. The music and the colors all pull you into this world of death and sadness without being depressing or drab.
Having a stylized game is a delicate dance. If might be too much and taken as a cartoon, or too little and just look like bad characters in a realistic world.
Spellborn sets such a wonderful magical tone with it's amazing use of lower-res graphics, allowing the game to be ran on many different types of machines. I hadn't met a player yet that hated the look of the game.
The reason that stylized graphics work is that realism often falls short of the mark. In college, while I studied art, I met a lot of young artists that didn't have much of a creative streak to them, but wanted so bad to be an artists that they thought of only looking at a photo to paint. They would try their hardest to copy that photo, and despite some of them being close to successful, every one of them fell short of an exact copy. This only served to draw attention to the fact that it wasn't real.
The same applies to realistic games. They never look photo-realistic, and thus help take me out of the game more than to attach me to my character.
World of Warcraft has shown how attached someone can get to such low-res stylized characters. In fact, I think it's one of the secrets to their success. Spellborn does the same for me, but to a much higher degree. I LOVE looking at this game and can hardly wait to see what happens when it is "re-released" as a true F2P game with cash shop in tow. I hope the game stays with the same look.
So yeh, Spellborn is the best looking game I can think of. This does not mean that other games do not cast a spell on me, but only that Spellborn does it with much more power and ability.
The original Spellborn crew deserve such rewards, but sadly may never get the praise they deserve. The game didn't get it's chance, yet, but here's hoping that it will be around long enough to cast a spell on others like it has me.