Immerse is a pretty elusive category. The soul of a game is a metaphysic thing that is a hallmark of a good gaming experience.
But it is hard to achieve, and the gamers’ opinions can vary over time. Also, so-called “immersive sims” are one of the best addicting titles in the whole industry.
Generally, immersion means a metaphysical “dive” into the world of the game. A hive of details that can help you to believe in this setting. Mind the difference between immersion, atmosphere, and ambient:
- The atmosphere is about the general mood. Take Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. Lovecraft would be proud of it. This is an almost accurate replica of his stories. But the gameplay here is always pretty much the same;
- Ambientness is a lesser part of the mood. Shalebridge Cradle from the Thief: Deadly Shadows have the scariest and unsettling detail of the series. However, the Thief brand is an immersive sim check below. Ambient can be even a part of casino gambling slots. Like Book of Ra Deluxe demo, where the soundtrack and backgrounds do great work in gambling tension;
- Immersion is a complex of the game components needed for a better experience. At the same time, all these little things are entwined parts of gameplay. Artifacts in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. are a part of local lore, the motivation for all treasure hunters, the functional item, and the remnants of the Chernobyl setting.
The last statement is important: immersive sim is a fusion of genres without firm boundaries. You can’t separate sneaking or other horror elements from System Shock. Also, the protagonists of these games often are classic action heroes. But the atmosphere and tricks made them more versatile and non-traditional. Corvo Attano from Dishonored can slice all the enemies in the front attack. And the player just will lose the tension of the game and a significant part of the role.
One more thing about versatility. In roleplay, there is a “three S” rule: speak, slay or steal. An old classic RPG gives you these main paths to acquire the desirable stuff. The main difference is the part of the role. In RPG the player ought to be a part of the world, while immersive sims either can have this element or not. Arthur Morgan or Geralt in RDR2 or Witcher definitely have roleplaying details but strict life paths by the scripts.
- The greatest ones of the kind
Before we start, let’s admit some bitter truth. There are no indie immersive sims with absolute freedom. This kind of game development requires too many people and funds. Even the best storytelling can’t deny the basic economic laws. So, the immersive elements can be in indie games, but the whole world based on these principles usually belongs to big game companies. Let’s talk about the most glorious titles.
Well, not the last reboot, actually. The original trilogy is a beloved child of Warren Spector’s mind. Secret societies, weird tech, pretty totalitarian propaganda, and mysticism. Shaken, not stirred. Garrett, the Master Thief, is very charismatic, and his story is written unevenly. The lore of the nameless City gives you a lot of room for your own thoughts. The burglary itself, though, is pretty accurate.
A philosophical debate between Ken Levine and Ayn Rand. The first Bioshock is a hymn to a free market. The Infinite is an absolute of religious America. Of course, all of them are sarcastic satire. We love these brands for their unique style. They are pure actions, but local “techno-magic” (or plasmids and tonics) give a player many additional ways to beat the main villain.
Human Revolution or classic first part? Nevertheless, here we have the nearest future with a secret agent equipped with the newest tech. Today we have signs of augmented reality in our life, so immersion is a vivid part of the experience. Here the players can evaluate this world properly. Even quick-time events need here.
Almost the perfect media franchise for an immersion sim. The original film makes Ridley Scott a great master of horror. This environment is unique and hard to copy. The Colonial Marines took the successful formula and completely broke it. This time we have a proper technological horror without a battle mechanic. An adult Xenomorph can tear the astronaut apart at one blink. So, we have rich possibilities of stealth. The stake is your life, and the only way to defend yourself is to be invisible to an alien.
A bald killer with a barcode is an eponym of an immersion sim. The essence of Agent 47 is the identity of a perfect infiltrator. But the easiest way to achieve the goal here is through a bloodbath. Every part of Hitman has a master level called Silent Assassin. You shouldn’t trigger an alarm during the whole stage. For this achievement, Agent 47 uses all the disguise skills. Every game is running in various circumstances, so the immersion varies too.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Also, MGS3 and MGS4 are immersive sims. All the series is about tactical espionage. It is even written on the start screen. The plot of games by Hideo Kojima is complicated, as usual. But the combat skills are valuable here too. The level of immersive tricks is incredible. For example, one of the bosses in the earlier part can just die without fighting if you change the system time of your console. Another boss was presented as a psionic mind reader. The way to win was to plug the gamepad into the different jack.
Meticulous planning and exciting level design along the gorgeous soundtrack give the true feeling of a modern Bond-like action-adventure.