Survival Horror Settings Are Equally Important

The worlds in survival horror games can influence your fear as much as the monsters can.
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The setting in a survival horror game is just as, if not more so, important as the horrific creatures players come across. The right game world can set the entire tone, build the fear within the person playing the game, and make for a memorable experience overall.

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Unfortunately, developers tend to stick to the same old locations in every entry to the genre. Hospitals and insane asylums are prevalent in the world of survival horror, as is the typical abandoned hotel or cryptic graveyard. As gamers we love variety–unfortunately the survival horror genre is a bit of a niche with its own following that just wants to see a new. fresh release. But this does not mean we should just settle for the same old, rehashed experience.

Silent Hill may be one of the most iconic games in the survival horror world.

It has everything: the setting, the scares, and the immense fear of being alone in an unknown world. That being said, some of the locations are extremely over-done. While it can be argued that Silent Hill is a forerunner in the genre, it has also rehashed its own settings numerous times.

We explore hospitals, schools, and other locations–all seen before. We haven’t seen a new entry in the series worth playing in quite a while; the developers need to step their game up. The world of Silent Hill is ripe for expansion, and built up correctly, the series can make a triumphant return; especially on the next-gen consoles.

The upcoming “revival of the horror genre” title, The Evil Within, looks quite brilliant, and stands a pretty good chance of actually reviving horror. Its settings are a little bland, however. They’ve got the look of Silent Hill’s hellish nightmare world filled with creatures and darkness, pits of fire and plenty of metal spikes. Concept art from the game has shown off a cemetery, a hospital/asylum, and an old mansion, possible abandoned. Boring. And yet the game looks incredible. Why? Simply put, we need more horror, and we’re willing to trudge through the same old locales of old to get to that fear.

Siren was quite unique in its venture. The game was set in an ancient Japanese village filled with a religious cult-type of denizens. This was not something we’d seen in the west, at least not in droves like hospitals. The ancient period architecture was prevalent and came across as a fittingly horrific game world. I’ve personally always had an odd fear of Japanese people, specifically undead women and children with long black hair and ghostly features. Japan knows how to do horror correctly.

But what can we, as fans, do about the stale settings? We can call for new settings, and varied worlds. The trouble is coming up with good ideas for such places. When thinking of horror, the mind instantly goes towards the places we’ve already seen: hospitals, asylums, and the like. Coming up with something new, something equally as terrifying is difficult. Right off the top of my head I thought of a nursery filled with undead children crawling about in the shadows, an orchard, perhaps with some type of creature scampering about between the trees, and lastly, a theme park, which we could always use more of.

The game world is the haunting gateway into the creation these developers spew forth. Done right, and it draws the player in and holds them tightly, making them fear the darkness. Done wrong, and you receive a player who will trudge on without any fear of what may be lurking around the corner.

While the game world is incredibly important, it mixes with the monsters and the story to create the survival horror experience we get our minds around. This is why such games that rehash environments and locales can do so well–they have outstanding extras to back up the performance.

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Brandon Morgan
Plasmid Addict. Zombie Survivalist. XCOM Operative. Vault Dweller. Writer. Editor.