Sun, sea and insanity.

As we recover from a dry-January that probably went south, or a particularly aggressive bout of mid-term exams, our collective British thoughts turn to one thing: holidays. The idea of that big summer getaway is one of those things that gets us through these dreary winter months; whether it’s an escape to the countryside, a “lads” holiday with all shots included, or a trip to Thailand to “find yourself”, the pull of getting away can be pretty strong.

Whilst trying to work out what to do this year, it occurred to me that I’ve got a pretty black box in my living room that lets me pretty much go anywhere. When the console comes on I can take a trip to another galaxy, ride an elephant in the Himalayas and crawl through a murky spider-infested cave, all before The Chase comes on TV at 5pm. So this got me thinking, if you could go anywhere you’d experienced in a game, where would it be? So with that in mind here are my 5 video game destinations I’d love to visit on holiday.

5. Meet The Peculiar People of Pandora

Whether it’s endless variations of weaponry you’re after, or just some truly insane locals, Pandora, from Gearbox’s The Borderlands franchise, is probably the place for you. Players were first introduced to the arid dessert planet back in 2008, as one of four plucky adventurers searching for ‘The Vault’, the fabled treasure-chest that would make the pieces of Eden out of Assassin’s Creed as exciting as finding 20 pence on the floor.

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“Oh look, it’s one of the friendly locals they mentioned on Trip Advisor!”

Variety isn’t exactly its unique selling point, as most of the game takes place in ramshackled small towns or desolate sandy landscapes, but Pandora is still a fun place to spend time in. This is down to Gearbox’s quirky shell-shaded take on the world, which works to mask graphical weaknesses while bringing characters and environments to life with a slightly uncanny tone.

Even though there’s not a lot of range out there, traversing Pandora is still great fun due to its ‘good infrastructure’. Players can tear across the terrain in their customisable ‘runners’ that could be spawned (or digistructed) at various points on the map. Runners are available with 0% finance for the first three years and 1143145% thereafter, should you have any further questions, please see your local Catch-A-Ride for more information.

4. Pillage and Plunder The Vast Landscapes of Skyrim

For the fifth instalment in the Elder Scrolls series, developer Bethesda took us north of the wall to the Nordic wasteland of Skyrim, and to be honest we never wanted to leave.

Bethesda’s epic RPG boasts some stunningly beautiful vista.

Unlike Oblivion’s Cyrodiil, Skyrim wasn’t so much a setting, but a statement about doing things differently. The former was a densely populated lush environment full of colourful vegetation and a variety of thriving settlements. The latter, however, is an arctic tundra, where you’re often given the feeling the very weather is out to get you. Perhaps it was down to the dense rolling fog, or the constant possibility of running into a pretty pissed off dragon, in the many hours I spent traversing Skyrim that I never felt completely secure, and never allowed myself to become complacent. This, I believe, is where we come to see the influence of Bethesda’s other franchise, Fallout, on the Elder Scrolls title.

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Floating ships are the best way to absorb the magic of Skyrim.

The deliberate choice to opt for an inhospitable, barren land never made Skyrim a bad place to spend time in. On the contrary, Bethesda’s epic RPG boasts some stunningly beautiful vistas, from flowing rivers to breath-taking mountain ranges. These spectacular sights were often complimented by equally striking wildlife, such as mammoths and giants, who freely roamed the land as a largely passive faction, unless provoked…

Even though it didn’t feel like it had been created using a dozen Instagram filters (yes Cyrodiil, I am looking at you) Skyrim’s combination of arctic beauty and fantastic creatures make it the perfect winter getaway if funds are a bit short for your next skiing holiday.

3. Walk Around The Watery Wonders of Rapture

If you’ve read even a few of my previous articles, you should have come to know by now that hardly a piece goes by without me mentioning BioShock in some way or another.

The game makes use of recordings as a narrative device, so as to allow players a small window into what the civilisation was like prior to the civil war.

Andrew Ryan’s Rapture demands a place on this list because of its sheer character and history; in all the time I’ve spent journeying through various gaming locations, be they deserted shopping centres or intergalactic space stations, I’ve never been as convinced as to a setting’s deeply personal past. The player’s journey through the bowels of Rapture is one of wonder and delight, tinged with a sinking sensation that feels like curiosity and trepidation all mixed together.

The game makes use of recordings as a narrative device, so as to allow players a small window into what the civilisation was like prior to the civil war. More than this, however, the very bloody nature of the conflict bombards players as they journey through the water logged halls. They’re given the sense that each area of Rapture might once have been beautiful in its own right, owing to the game’s distinctly opulent art deco design. Sadly, these once lavish halls are now plastered with threats scrawled in blood and the intensifying pressure of the tonnes of sea that just can’t wait to reclaim the city.

bioshock holiday article

That must have been one hell of a party…

It’s sad to say that in its prime, Rapture would have been the place for a short city break; after all it had all the mod-cons, including vending machines that stocked ammunition, automatic attack drones and even a healthy genetic engineering industry. Unfortunately the underwater city is merely a shell of what it once was, but perhaps, in some bizarre way, that’s exactly why I like to revisit it so often.

2. Have a Rocking Gap Year on Rook Island

Yes, yes, I know there’s been a ‘new’ (and I use that term generously) Far Cry title released recently, but in my opinion the slopes of Kyrat have nothing on the dense, tropical utopia of Far Cry 3.

Back in 2012, developer Ubisoft took us to Rook Island, the seemingly ideal place for the gap-year student to really find their ‘inner-self’, if they could survive that long of course. The defining crux of the gap year is that it gives you the chance to meet different cultures and experience different ways of life, all so that you can arrive back at East Midlands airport as a well-rounded, spiritually mature young adult.

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Hmm, these east Asian herbs sure do smell funny!

Well I’m pleased to tell you readers that Far Cry 3 gave me just that; in the 20 or so hours I spent on the Island, I had a lot of new experiences. I para-glided across sweeping jungle canyons and I learnt how to hunt using just a bow and arrow; I even experimented with psychotropic drugs, and got really stoned in a field during a shootout with some local farmers. Rook Island chewed me up and spat me out; its tropical beauty coaxed me in like a package deal from RyanAir, but I quickly realised that as a second-year University student from Hull, I was woefully out of my depth.

The island, however, remains one of the most visually appealing worlds Ubisoft has built to date, and is still a great place to go if, like me, you prefer your murderous elephants safely boxed in that screen in your bedroom.

1. Lighten Up Your Mood With A Trip To Lemuria

It’s a sad fact that most of the people reading this might not recognise the land of Ubisoft’s exquisite RPG, Child of Light, but believe me when I say that if you choose to venture over there, you’ll probably never want to leave.

The world of Lemuria feels like a water-colour painting brought to life.

Of all the hundreds of hours I’ve spent with a controller in my hands, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything quite so soothing as the picturesque 2D land of Lemuria. As the titular Child of Light, Aurora, players glide through a variety of settings from quaint forests to the insides of a benevolent giant, all of which feel like they’ve been painted individually as part of the game’s unique art style. The world of Lemuria feels like a water-colour painting brought to life, and as such is simply a delight to spend time in. The locals are similarly welcoming, and often quirky and entertaining in their own distinct ways. The calming nature of the scrolling imagery is matched only by the game’s soundtrack, which is equally comforting and impressive in its own right.

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I firmly believe that anyone, regardless of whether they call themselves an RPG fan or not, should at least stop by in Lemuria. The mythical world is the top of my list of virtual holiday destinations because it shows that games don’t have to always be aggressive or adrenaline pumping to offer escapism.

We Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay

So there we have it; the above 5 destinations haven’t made it to the top of this list simply because they offer another world to escape into, but rather through careful, painstaking development actively become characters in their own right. These places don’t just feel like vessels in which the action of a game takes place, but instead form an integral part of the experience of playing it.

Are there any other destinations you feel we’ve missed out? Let us know below!