Indie,  PC Games,  Travel Journal,  Visual Effects

Travel Journal: Indie Games and Explorable Virtual Environments

Whether or not we go to work every morning and carry on with a normal life as much as we can, when we are stuck in our room most of the time we can only do so much to keep ourselves entertained. When a worldwide pandemic strikes the options at our disposal are limited, but if you happen to be a PC gamer you may find in this list of explorable virtual environments the perfect escape you might be seeking from such a difficult moment.

Virtual environments are essentially first person video games with no real interactions or very limited ones, aimed to make the player walk around and experience an immersive exploration through the built sceneries. Most of the Indie titles you can find on the market are created with this type of gameplay, if you do not mind playing something quiet every once in a while, I highly recommend to add these games to your wishlist!

Firewatch

Firewatch is an adventure title developed by Campo Santo. The players are free to explore the scenery as they follow the main quest, the game has a toon-ish design which makes it especially pretty to look at. The environments are very warm and colorful, the atmosphere is calming and the dialogues throughout the story are fun and very well acted.

Available on Steam

Kholat

Kholat is a narrative journey developed by IMGN.PRO, leading you through a dark and wintery scenery full of horrific mysteries. Every step you take could lead you to an unwanted encounter in the cold snow, finding the right path without being spotted by scary entities is far from an easy task. This game offers a good amount of suspence and well designed locations.

Available on Steam

Project Grove

Project Grove is a puzzle game in development by Antler Studios, currently downloadable as free demo. The game design seems to be very similar to Firewatch, but with colder tones and a more surreal atmosphere. While this title presents itself as a first person platform with quests to follow and a cute robot companion, Project Grove seems to be pretty open on the exploration side as well, with plants to collect, ponds to bathe in and rocks to climb.

You can add it to your Steam wishlist and download the demo on Itch.io.

Explore Fushimi Inari

EFI is an fully digital recreation of the famous Kyoto mountainside, built in Unreal Engine 4 by Caves rd, aka 3D artist and photographer Matt Newell. This explorable environment features different areas from Fushimi Inari and offers a peaceful trip through an accurate Japanese setting. The game has been recently updated with high quality trees for better LODs and an Autumn setting for a darker and rainy atmosphere.

You can either enjoy a relaxing music as you walk through the Torii gates and forests, or turn it off for a more realistic experience listening to the sounds of nature all around.

Fushimi Inari, as an Unreal application, can be used with the Universal UE4 Unlocker from the FRAMED website for free camera, game pause and field of view.

This little gem is completely free, downloadable through Steam or Itch.io. If you have a VR headset, this game will function with it as long as you purchase the additional package Explore Fushimi Inari VR.

Mýrdalssandur, Iceland

Caves rd definitely did it again; another breathtaking and incredibly realistic digital recreation. Just like Fushimi Inari, Iceland is purely a walking simulator for shooting purposes and relaxation, enjoy your time in this fresh and moody location taking some great pictures to share with your friends!

Compatible with the Universal UE4 Unlocker.

Downloadable for free on Steam or Itch.io. Also check the Mýrdalssandur, Iceland VR DLC.

Note: Matt Newell has released two more explorable environments. Follow his Itch.io page and Instagram account for future updates and Unreal apps. Such talent just needs to be supported!

Fragment: The Railroad

The Railroad is a very short first person atmospheric experience with narration created by Somberhead and it is part of a small experimental series posted on Itch.io.

The Railroad will only last a few minutes and although you can walk away from the tracks should you want to reach the trees surrounding you, your destination is supposed to be straight ahead. The foggy atmosphere and the main character’s narration makes it feel like a real dream. I found it extremely deep and emotional, the way it ended in addition to the fact the scenery is stunning makes it all the more worth it in my eyes. If you have some time to spare and want to give this a go, I highly recommend it. Short doesn’t necessarily mean bad, show this creator some love!

Download The Railroad here.

Modular Japanese House (Demo)

MJH is a modular kit for Unreal Engine 4 created by Inu Games and a free demo can be obtained as standalone application. You will find yourself into a pretty Machiya town exploring cute little houses, Zen gardens and Koi ponds. This is a demo level built with all the assets included into the package that you can get from the Unreal Market, the time of day is dynamic and can be changed however you like for different atmospheres. This level is also a great inspiration if you are an artist specialized in anime content.

The creator mentioned a new version with baked light later on, although that one is going to be heavier and bigger in size.

You can download MJH from the Itch.io page and follow Inu’s social media for updates.

Pluviophile

Screenshot by Wren

Pluviophile is a short first person experience set in the woods with a rainy mood released by Tonguç Bodur. The game leads you to different platforms that can only be unlocked with a special shard you have to find nearby every time, then they will show you the right path with poetic clues. Another Unreal Engine 4 piece of art that you cannot miss!

Available on Steam

Among Trees

Back to the the painting-like/cartoon-y style. Among Trees, created by FJRD Interactive, is definitely one of the most beautiful settings to look at. As a sandbox survival game it takes place into a vibrant forest with animals, rivers and items to collect for your primary needs.

It is currently available as early access on Epic Games, coming to Steam soon.

Aporia: Beyond the Valley

Image from indiedb.com

Aporia is 2017 CRYENGINE puzzle game developed by Invisible Walls and it features an Ancient world with breathtaking soundtrack. The game is an open world storytelling, leaving you with so much to explore.

Available on Steam

There is so much that I want to cover about this category, so stay tuned for more game features and reviews!


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