It should be a law that you cannot be the antagonist of a game without a dope pad to chill out in when you’re not out being an evil bastard. You can be as intimidating or well equipped as you like, but if your lair is boring and bland then you’ve got much less of a chance of being taken seriously. This week I’m taking a look at some of the best lairs I’ve seen in gaming.
While these locations in games might not have always housed the antagonist, they are either only accessible in late game or make just one appearance in their respective titles, sometimes providing great settings for climactic battles.
5) Gastown – Mad Max
Whilst it is doubtful Gastown would come equipped with the luxuries later entries on this list can boast, you could do a lot worse for the most intimidating looking lair possible. Belching constantly blazing fires and a plume of black smoke that can be seen for a hundred miles, coupled with the roar of engines when close to it, Gastown breathes a clear message to anyone who can see or hear it. ‘Approach at your own risk’.
Home to Scabrous Scrotus and his Gastown races, the aesthetic this savage stronghold oozes is sure to get under the skin of any challenger before they’ve even stepped onto the track. The combination of fire and choking smog has all visitors and hopeful combatants nervously perspiring before the Outcrier (race announcer) has started speaking, and it is abundantly clear that the slightest failure will make Gastown your grave.
4) Wajah Ramah Fortress – Just Cause 2
Who wouldn’t want their face carved into the cliff of their fortress?! I already know what face I would pull for my sculpture, but I digress..
The Wajah Ramah Fortress is one of the best Easter eggs in the Playstation 3 generation of consoles, as from the map it looks like a nondescript archipelago of trees and rocks until you finally arrive there for one of the final story missions in the game. Cresting a hill with your army of rebels seeking to overthrow the cruel and eccentric dictator of Panau, Pandak ‘Baby’ Panay, you are suddenly confronted with the faces carved into the cliff and the fact they also serve as the entrance way into the fortress itself.
Within the fortress is every luxury that the Playstation 3 could accommodate without bursting into tears. Packed with exotic plants and an ancient Japanese style of architecture (I’m told), the fortress serves as protection of Baby Panay after driving the economy of Panau into the ground, and as a result he rarely leaves it across the duration of Just Cause 2.
I am told ‘Wajah Ramah’ is Indonesian for ‘friendly face’, which has made me love this location even more.
3) Moon Flower Palace – Dark Chronicle
If you read that name and now the ‘Garden of Memories’ music is playing in your head then I think we just became best friends. Desperate thirst aside, this game gets nowhere near the amount of love that it deserves, even if I did give it a tough time for its trophy list a couple of weeks ago.
The Moon Flower Palace marks the end of the story, and is without a doubt one of the best graphically designed RPG dungeons in video game history. Spanning 27 floors, the Moon Flower Palace is not a dungeon that can be breezed through in an afternoon, and will take lots of time, levelling and commitment in order to conquer it. The aesthetic within the Palace is gorgeous, with long immaculate corridors opening out into huge open ballrooms, filled with dozens of monsters of course. Even though it takes so long to beat every floor of this dungeon, not a moment of it feels like a grind or a chore, and the Moon Flower Palace is one of my favourite ever RPG dungeons.
My only gripe with this dungeon is that if you defeat the final boss at the end, Emperor Griffon, without collecting all the medals in every floor until that point, you cannot return there afterwards. This not only makes the extremely time consuming trophy ‘Medal Head’ impossible to unlock, but the removal of the dungeon also takes away some of the best places in the game for grinding up weapons, the Ridepod and monster transformations. If you are not on the hunt for 100% completion then this will not bother you, but it is very annoying that you can’t return to this dungeon ever upon completion of the story.
It is the easiest dungeon in the game to achieve the Spheda medals though so there is that!
2) Isolated Desert Citadel – Assassin’s Creed: Origins
I am naming this castle based off its location in the game as its actual name is the Pissa Oros Citadel, and nobody is going to find your lair intimidating with the word ‘piss’ in its name. This castle isn’t accessible until the end of the game due to the high level of soldiers that patrol its walls.
Surrounded by vast and pretty, though mostly empty desert (hence the name) for miles around, players will naturally be drawn here when they spot it and be eager to explore. Unless you’re up for an extreme level of challenge, or visiting post-game, be prepared for one of the most difficult locations in the game.
I became so disillusioned with Assassin’s Creed games as RPG’s, a fact I have long since got over and wouldn’t change for the world, when I first visited this imposing citadel as I managed to get quite far into it without being spotted and attempted to stealth takedown a random guard. The ‘stealth’ part of the plan went off without a hitch, but when confronted with Bayek’s hidden blade becoming embedded in his jugular, the guard swatted Bayek off like he was a fly and killed him with a disinterested backhand, taking next to no damage whatsoever in the process. I understand how RPG’s work but I was convinced a simple throat slitting would make me the winner, it turns out that isn’t the case in Assassin’s Creed anymore, a mistake I haven’t made again since.
1) Clockwork Mansion – Dishonored 2
When it comes to crazy mansions owned by eccentric geniuses it is nigh on impossible to come up with a better example than the Clockwork Mansion owned by the Grand Inventor, Kirin Jindosh. From the moment you first enter the Mansion and pull a fairly innocuous looking lever your whole perception of the room you are in changes within moments. The walls begin to fold away and display cabinets and two staircases rise up from the ground, transforming the room into something else entirely.
Levers scattered around the mansion keep players on their toes for there is no way of knowing what will happen with every change that is made. One particularly dangerous lever raises an arc pylon out of the ground which will kill you immediately if you are not careful with it, and others can bring Jindosh’s clockwork soldiers into a very dangerous proximity to you catching many new players unaware.
It wouldn’t be an Arkane Studios game with a couple of clever alternatives, and seasoned players are able to navigate the entire mansion undetected by their unwitting host, able to kill Kirin Jindosh without him ever being aware of his presence. Weight sensors in most of the floors usually give your position away to Jindosh as you explore his mansion, allowing him to quip at you through the loudspeaker system when he isn’t explaining how he’ll dissect your body if you fall.
Equipped with the most sophisticated laboratory in the Empire, along with every luxury and comfort you could ask for and the best views of the beautiful city of Karnaca, the Clockwork Mansion is definitely the best antagonist lair ever to be explorable in a video game.
Thank you for reading my choices for the best antagonist lairs in gaming. Let me know your choices in the comments or on our Twitter @RespawningUK. You can follow me if you like @MaliceVER and I’ll be back next week with another feature.