Parkour requires runners to navigate through an urban environment. This is a real challenge. Now, imagine yourself running for your life traversing the modern skyline of a futuristic metropolis with a private military contractors on your heels. In this clean city of the future with tall buildings, the disadvantaged neighbourhoods stand out even more.
In Mirror’s Edge – Catalyst, gamers explore a modern and hyper-technological city of the future. The urban environment is designed with fast motion in mind to support the courier missions and first-person parkour navigation. The corporate buildings are as clean as a hospital and decorated with bright colours.
The environment as a story element
The City of Glass is a modern and minimalist urban labyrinth. The larger corporations control the citizens and a handful of rebels dare to take a stand. KrugerSec, a large corporation, controls the streets and citizens of this hyper-technological and clean city.
In Mirror’s Edge – Catalyst, the entire city is considered as a narrative tool to support the story. A handful of rebels dare to take a stand against the largest corporation and protect the freedom of the entire population.
Some architectural elements have a deeper meaning
The contemporary architecture supports the futuristic and hyper-technological setting of Mirror’s Edge – Catalyst. A key component in this modernistic architectural style is glass. This element symbolises the transparency of the regime, but in reality it offers a glimpse at the corruption in the system.
The city looks sterile, structured and clean. As a result, most of the structural problems remain hidden. The contemporary architecture helps to create a tense atmosphere in which everything looks perfect, but in reality: a corrupt government controls the entire population and hyper-technological systems.
Exploration and world design
Parkour is a gameplay element that makes its return in other series. In the Assassin’s Creed series, you explore incredible recreations of historical cities. The developers designed the cities of Paris, Athens and Alexandria with movement in mind. The historical settings are realistic, but adjusted to support gameplay elements.
The dense streets encourage gamers to rethink how they navigate these urban environments. In the Assassin’s Creed games, you hide in the shadows and find the best opportunity to murder your enemies. Running over rooftops is often your best choice. This changes your perception of movement and offers a better look at some of the typical architecture of the past centuries.
Back in time to a long forgotten past
In Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey, the Peloponnese architecture is used to recreate the beautiful world of Ancient Greece. The temples and cities look impressive and show the scale of the world. As far as the eye reaches, you see monuments, sculptures and villages. The level of detail and realistic architecture shows the dedication of the developers to recreate an authentic historical setting.
Architecture helps create the setting of the game. Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey is an expression of our contemporary historical understanding of how the world of Ancient Greece looked like during the Peloponnesian War with the Parthenon overlooking the city of Athens. The historical environment takes gamers back in time to a different time period and world.
Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey also tries to counter some misunderstandings about the architecture of the time period. Despite what most people believe, these temples and monuments are constructed with wood and coloured stone materials. The Greek used paint to give these stone elements a different colour. A common misconception.
An abstract concrete world
In contrast to the modern City of Glass in Mirror’s Edge and the colourful worlds of Assassin’s Creed stands the dictatorial state of the Wolfenstein series. In the latest games in the series, the Germans have conquered the entire world and this results in cities filled with concrete buildings and monuments.
The world of Wolfenstein feels cold and emotionless. It is remarkable how the architectural style known as brutalism helps the developers create this tense atmosphere. The resistance is still active, but they are the underdog. The large concrete structures show how far the reach of the regime really is.
Hide and seek in an abandoned spaceship
In the survival horror game Alien Isolation, you explore an abandoned spaceship while you hide for a Xenomorph. The atmosphere is tense and you can use both a flashlight and a motion tracker to detect the movements in your close proximity. Most of the times, you will die before you can react to the presence of the alien.
The spaceship is dark and feels empty, but the alien lurks at you from the shadows. The ventilation shafts are intended to control the levels of oxygen in the entire spaceship, but also make it possible for the Xenomorph to move undetected through the corridors and rooms.
The architectural design of the spaceship becomes your worst nightmare in combination with the artificial intelligence of the alien.
The architecture is part of the early development process
The design of the levels and architectural direction of the environment in a game has a serious impact on the atmosphere and setting. Depending on the level design, the game developers are able to implement advanced gameplay mechanics to create an even better game.
Architecture creates a believable setting and supports the art direction of the game world. As mentioned before, it looks great when experienced level designers use real architectural styles as a source of inspiration.
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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Mirror’s Edge – Catalyst, a video game developed by Dice and published by Electronic Arts. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.