With evolving technical prowess available to developers, they’re able to craft increasingly deeper worlds for gamers to explore. These games are for those that want to take advantage of that and find every little secret a game world has to offer.
1. Elite: Dangerous
The latest iteration of the original space-sim series, Elite: Dangerous lets you venture out into the Milky Way and forge your own path. Exploration is a key component to this, as when you visit a new star system you can sell its exploration data for a pretty decent profit if you travel far enough.
The real clincher that makes Elite the ultimate space-exploration game is this: The entire real galaxy is available to explore. That’s right. The map is absolutely massive, and there are more star systems to explore than one person could ever find the time for. It also helps that the game is astoundingly gorgeous, so exploration is its own reward in this case.
2. Dragon Age Inquisition
Open-world RPGs lend themselves very well to exploration and Inquisition is a prime example of that. There a dozen or so huge zones for you to explore with loads of hidden secrets and quests nestled in every corner of every map.
This alone does not make Inquisition an explorer’s game though. Where that comes in is the culmination of everything the game has to offer. Every section of each zone has its own distinct characteristics and problems that need solving. Add this to the visual splendor of the world, and you’ve got a game that not only encourages exploration, but rewards it.
3. The Elder Scrolls IV: The Shivering Isles
This is the quintessential Elder Scrolls experience. Skyrim? Who needs that when you’ve got Shivering Isles? This game is an expansion to Oblivion, but I feel like it deserves its own slot on the list because of what it brings to the tables that no other Elder Scrolls game does.
First of all, you get to work for (and become) a Daedric Lord. Not just any Lord, but the Lord of Madness. This freedom to inspire insanity and madness in a game world gave the player a truly alien world to explore. Each hillside had some insane person or object that had a deliberate point in being there, and only a small percentage of it was actually relevant to any quest. When a game has things that you can stumble upon accidentally that flesh out the world, then you have a rewarding exploratory experience.
4. Dark Souls
A lot of people say that if you’re good at video games you’ll be good at Dark Souls; however, I disagree. I think that the only thing that can teach you to be good at Dark Souls is Dark Souls. It’s a game about learning how to get better at accomplishing the challenges the game puts before you. One way it does this is by having an interconnected world that’s open to explore in nearly any order.
If you take it upon yourself to learn the game’s rules and discover as much as you can of your own volition, then you’ll be rewarded with a better game experience. If you choose to ignore any of the game’s rules and instead just fly ahead directionless, then the game punishes you. It rewards exploration in a much different way than most, but the value of exploring couldn’t be more present in Dark Souls.
Everything Starbound embodies revolves around exploration. The game is about travelling to different worlds, interacting with other life forms, building structures, uncovering stories about what happened on each specific planet, and many more things that I still have yet to discover about it.
The best part of exploring in Starbound is, in my opinion, the excellent music. It’s introspective enough to make you feel the loneliness of space travel, but also the wonder and simplicity of discovering something new and beautiful. I highly recommend cranking the music up while you explore the galaxy.