The job of a concept artist is an important one. Before a single model or texture has been created, they’re responsible for establishing a game’s atmosphere and tone. The things they create might not even make it into the final game, but their work underpins the aesthetic of everything from incidental props to entire worlds. And so, to celebrate the work of these talented individuals, here are some of my favourite concept images.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus / Christoffer Lovéus
MachineGames has repeatedly proven itself to be one of the best world-builders in the business. Its vision of a 1960s America that has been conquered and twisted by the Nazis is hugely compelling, which this atmospheric concept art by Swedish artist Christoffer Lovéus helped bring to life.
Alien: Isolation / Brad Wright
Recalling Ron Cobb’s detailed, functional designs for the 1979 film, Creative Assembly’s Brad Wright produced some stunning concept art for Alien: Isolation. These evocative images of Sevastopol station and the Anesidora are particularly striking, capturing the cold, industrial atmosphere of the Alien universe.
What Remains of Edith Finch / Theo Aretos
At the heart of Giant Sparrow’s unforgettable journey through the lives of the Finch family is their grand, clumsily stacked house. These concept images were created by artist Theo Aretos early in development to get a sense of what the strange old house might look like, and are works of art in their own right.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate / Tony Zhou Shuo
The Creed series has always been more concerned with capturing the romantic image of its cities and time periods than creating perfect, historically accurate recreations. These images by Tony Zhou Shuo paint a vivid picture of Victorian London, using iconic landmarks to give them a rich sense of place.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West / Alessandro Taini
Ninja Theory's post-apocalyptic epic remains one of the prettiest ends of the world we've seen on PC. Rather than being bleak and gloomy, this ruined Earth sizzles with colour. And it's perhaps no surprise that these pieces of concept art by Alessandro Taini are just as vibrant and evocative.
Fallout 4 / Ilya Nazarov
The mood of the Commonwealth is constantly changing as the weather and time of day shift in real-time around you, which these elegant paintings by senior Bethesda concept artist Ilya Nazarov capture beautifully. I especially love the subtle use of colour, reflecting Fallout 4’s brighter, livelier wasteland.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided / Frédéric Bennett
The grim dystopian future of Deus Ex was imagined by a talented team of concept artists who designed everything from entire cities to individual props. Art by Eidos Montréal’s Frédéric Bennett, including this dramatic image of Golem City, helped establish the game’s distinctive, recognisable visual style.
Mass Effect: Andromeda / Ben Lo
These remarkable images by BioWare concept artist Ben Lo perfectly capture the scale and majesty of Mass Effect’s grand space opera. Refined, understated art direction is one of the series’ defining features, echoing classic ‘70s science fiction: an aesthetic these paintings are wonderfully reminiscent of.
Dishonored 2 / Sergey Kolesov
The unique painterly style of Dishonored’s visuals mean the game is a lot closer to its concept art than most. These exquisite paintings by Arkane concept artist Sergey Kolesov wouldn’t look out of place hanging on the walls of a lavish Karnaca apartment—particularly the image of Duke Abele on his palanquin.
The Long Dark / Trudi Castle
Hinterland’s survival game just left Early Access, and although the visuals have steadily improved over time, its dedication to that gorgeous hand-painted art style has never wavered. These atmospheric concept images by Trudi Castle skilfully capture the lonely, melancholy atmosphere of the game.
Star Wars Battlefront / Anton Grandert
Getting to work on a Star Wars game like Battlefront must be a dream job for any professional concept artist. These vivid, dramatic paintings by EA DICE’s Anton Grandert are reminiscent of Ralph McQuarrie’s iconic Star Wars concept art, evoking the chaotic, operatic drama of the films’ battle scenes.