For worlds steeped in a fantasy setting, they have to be believable enough to really draw people in and create stories to develop their characters. One of the best ways to do this, whether it is in gaming, books, or on film is for the storytellers to use real-life locations and places as an inspiration for their designs, culture, and world-building.
For example, Le Mont Saint-Michel which is located in Normandy, France was a huge inspiration for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy in the setting of Minas Tirith. The author of Lord of the Rings and the man many consider to be the originator of high fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien even used many of his real-life experiences and the locations he visited as a basis for the locations and events in his books. Here we are going to take look at 10 real-life locations that served as the inspiration for the fantasy settings found in some of the most memorable worlds in gaming.
10 Bloodborne – Yharnam And Prague
The level design and unique art-style on display in 2015’s PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne make it a contender for one of the most intricately designed games of the generation. There’s a lot in inspiration taken from Gothic horrors like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and more.
However, much of the game’s architecture was heavily influenced by the city of Prague. The Great Bridge in Bloodborne being a major example of this with its resemblance to the Charles Bridge in the city. In addition, the design of the Astral Clocktower shares quite a lot of similarities to Prague’s Astronomical Clock.
9 Final Fantasy XV – Altissia And Venice
While Final Fantasy XV was a divisive title for many fans of the series mostly because of its vastly open world that for the most part was quite empty. However, the few locales in the game where the player is allowed to explore and interact are beautifully designed.
One of the most memorable areas in the game was the town/city of Altissia which is confirmed by the developers in the Official Final Fantasy XV Ultimate Guide as being the influence. It’s a joy to explore Altissia mostly because it offered a break from the apocalyptic themes and setting of the outside world.
8 A Bard’s Tale IV – Skara Brae A Prehistoric Scottish Village
Released on the PC in 2018 with a director’s cut releasing the following year on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, The Bard’s Tale IV is a sequel to the humorous dungeon-crawling RPG series that began in 1985.
The city in the Bard’s Tale series is known as Skara Brae which also features in the classic RPG series known as Ultima. Skara Brae is actually based on a real-life Scottish village discovered on the Orkney Islands. The Neolithic village has been dated as far back as 3180 BC to 2500 BC making it older than the Pyramids and Stone Henge.
7 Final Fantasy XV – Insomnia And Shinjuku
Final Fantasy XV is a fantasy JRPG with its inspirations set in the real world almost like it’s an alternate universe. As mentioned above, Venice was the clear inspiration for the city of Altissia and it worked surprisingly well.
The inspirations didn’t stop there, however, the city of Insomnia which was also prevalent in Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV took a lot of inspiration from the Shinjuku area in Tokyo. The most obvious is the huge resemblance between the Citadel and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
6 Risen – Faranga Island And Sicily
Developed as a spiritual successor to the Gothic series, Risen was developed by Piranha Bytes and released on the PC and the Xbox 360 in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Despite not being considered a AAA RPG, Risen and its sequels world-building can rival the best in the genre.
A good reason for this is the series lore is often steeped in reality and events in history. Risen’s setting of Faranga Island is based on the island of Sicily with similar architecture and references to the Spanish Inquisition in that area during the 15th Century. In addition, the volcano on Faranga Island resembles Sicily’s own active volcano Mount Etna.
5 Dark Souls – Anor Londo And Il Duomo, Milan
The Dark Souls series intricate level design and world-building are complemented perfectly by the developers From Software’s artistic talent. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the location of Anor Londo which appears in both Dark Souls and Dark Souls III.
The level of detail in its design is astonishing and it takes its inspiration from the Il Duomo Cathedral which is located in Milan in Italy. Series director Hidetaki Miyazaki also confirmed Anor Londo’s inspiration in the Dark Souls: Design Works guide.
4 Final Fantasy VII – Costa Del Sol Is A Real Location In Spain
One of the more obvious places on this list to Europeans is the popular vacation spot the Costa Del Sol in Spain which is the clear inspiration for the beach town resort of the same name in Final Fantasy VII.
The buildings and architecture definitely look like they’ve taken inspiration from typical Spanish villas. The Costa Del Sol is also one of the few places in the game that lets the player take a break from the grind of saving the world from an apocalyptic meteor and buy themselves a nice little vacation property for 300,000 Gil.
3 Koudelka/Shadow Hearts – Nemeton Monastery And St. David’s Cathedral Pembrokeshire
The Shadow Hearts series began in 1998 with Koudelka. There are four games in the series and it’s an alternate universe fantasy horror JRPG series set on Earth. The ruin of the Nemeton Monastery is a fictional Cathedral that features as a prominent location in the series.
In the games, the fictional Monastery is based in the real market town of Aberystwyth in West Wales. However, the design of the Monastery was based on St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire which is based in Southwest Wales. The developers traveled to Wales and used many of the real-life cathedral’s features and rooms as inspiration while adding in a more Gothic twist to the exterior design.
2 Final Fantasy VII – Cosmo Canyon/The Gold Saucer And Nevada
The Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy VII is an area featuring entertainment and games for the inhabitants of Gaia and of course, Cloud and his friends get to hang out and play in there too. While there’s an element of Disney World to the location the scenic use of colors at night and its location seems to be rooted in Las Vegas Nevada.
Not only is The Gold Saucer located in the middle of a dessert just like Vegas, but to the west is Red XIII’s home, Cosmo Canyon. Visually, this area looks like Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon which also happens to be 20 miles west of Vegas.
1 The Witcher III: Blood And Wine – Beauclair Palace And Neuschwanstein Castle
The Witcher series has taken a lot of inspiration from real-world locations. This is even more apparent in The Witcher III in its varied towns and location but its the expansion Blood and Wine that is arguably the most beautiful.
The location of Blood and Wine takes place in Toussaint which features a lot of cultural and visual influence from the Mediterranean regions of France and Italy. However, one of the most incredible sights in the region is the Beauclair Palace which certainly shares more than a bit of an architectural resemblance to the Neuschwanstein Castle located in Germany. The castle was also the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and is even featured in the point and click adventure game The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery.
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