On The Level

On The Level: Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls V

Andy Kelly at

Every week Andy celebrates a great map, level, or location from a classic PC game in On The Level. This week it’s the snowy land of Skyrim from the fifth Elder Scrolls game.

Journey from one corner of Skyrim to another and you’ll encounter a range of varied and atmospheric landscapes. Each hold has its own look and feel, which makes the map feel a lot bigger than it actually is. You get a sense that this is a vast country, rather than a small section of a larger world. Each area has its own history, cultures, and climate, resting in the shadow of the colossal Throat of the World—the tallest mountain in Skyrim, whose icy peak stretches far above the clouds.

On The Level: Facing Worlds, Unreal Tournament

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Every week Andy celebrates a great map, level, or location from a classic PC game in On The Level. This week it’s legendary Unreal Tournament map Facing Worlds.

Under the name Inoxx, former Epic developer Cedric Fiorentino designed some of the best multiplayer maps in the Unreal series. His most famous creation is Facing Worlds, a CTF map set on a spinning asteroid that anyone who played the original Unreal Tournament in 1999 will have fond memories of. I’m listening to Foregone Destruction by composer Michiel Van Den Bos as I type this—the map’s soundtrack—and getting hazy flashbacks to playing UT on my 56k modem, spamming the “My house!” taunt and launching Redeemer missiles at the opposing team’s tower.

On The Level: The City, Mirror's Edge

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Every week Andy celebrates a great map, level, or location from a classic PC game in On The Level. This week it’s the unnamed dystopian city from DICE’s Mirror’s Edge.

Faith might be the protagonist of Mirror’s Edge, but the city is the star. While most dystopian science fiction uses the Blade Runner model—grime, neon, perpetual rain—the artists at DICE went in the opposite direction. Their futuristic city is every bit as sinister as Ridley Scott’s Los Angeles, but also serenely beautiful. Glance at a screenshot for a fraction of a second and you’ll know it’s Mirror’s Edge, which is a testament to its stylish, vivid art design. The gleaming skyscrapers, contrails streaking across the sky, and use of bold primary colours are instantly recognisable.

On The Level: The Normandy, Mass Effect

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Every week Andy celebrates a great map, level, or location from a classic PC game in On The Level. Warning: spoilers ahead for the entire Mass Effect series.

The Normandy is the most advanced military starship in the galaxy, but it’s also home. The hum of the engines, the beeps and chirps of the computers, and the murmur of the crew are the sounds of solace in the Mass Effect series. It’s where you regroup after a mission, battered and bruised, and plan your next move. It’s where you confide in your crew, reminisce with old friends, and consummate your romances. And even though millions of people have played Mass Effect, it’s your ship.

On The Level: Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2

Andy Kelly at

Welcome to our new regular series, On The Level. Every week Andy celebrates a great map, level, or location from a classic PC game.

Silent Hill is a faded photograph of a town. You can see the traces of life, but they’re faint, indistinct. People lived here once, but now it’s a dead place, swallowed by fog and infected with some terrible evil. There are sights you’d see in any American town—school buses, gas stations, red fire hydrants. But also things that are alien and inexplicable. Cavernous cracks in the road, cryptic poems scrawled in blood, and that dense, pervading fog, which swirls and chokes the empty streets.