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Top 7 Gaming Oases

In may game worlds, we're forced upon long hard-fought trials with little respite. So when, wearied and spent, we stumble upon an oasis during our quests, their tranquility is permanently etched in our mind. Here's our favourites - seven visions for tired eyes.

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Spoiler Warning: This article contains details of the later stages of Journey and Portal 2.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

The Legend of Zelda: Fairy Fountain

Zelda's fairies have appeared both as glowing insects and flamboyant drag queens, but the feeling when stumbling into their hideaways is exactly the same: pure relief. When Link's health is near rock-bottom, when you think you've discovered every item, Hyrule's kindest - most mysterious - creatures regenerate hearts and dispense special abilities. Provided that is you find them - their cave retreats are secreted away around the world. Ocarina's mix of cascading rainbow waterfalls and an update of that classic theme makes it hard to leave.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

Left 4 Dead

A house with a sign of the cross, and inside, an arrow. The symbol was simple, but had enormously powerful connotations. In Left 4 Dead and its sequel, we drew a big sigh of relief when we saw these sloppy streaks of paint, because we knew what they meant: a safe house from the flesh-hungry hordes.

Each contained everything we needed: an abundant supply of guns, boxes of ammunition and first-aid kits. When all four characters closed the door behind them, fear turned to reflection, and reflection to anxiousness for what was to come next.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

Half-Life 2

Sometimes it's just good to leave hell firmly in your rearview mirror. Half-Life 2's classic horror town Ravenholm is perfect example.

This place, forgotten by both humans and God, was full of death, destitution and zombies. Ammunition was scarce, fiendish traps were primed around every corner and panic always present.

But in the end, when we fought our way through the old mining town and its underground until we saw (literally) light at the end of the tunnel. An escape. Valve wowed us with a wonderful blast of daylight, and when our eyes recovered, we were able to reach ground level, leaving the trials of before behind us.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

Metroid Prime

Samus was down to her last energy tank. Missiles were completely exhausted. Armour crumpled, visor in tatters. We were in uncharted territory without a map, and had barely survived attacks by space pirates, metroids and Tallon IV's harsh climate.

In the middle of nowhere we railed against a door we hadn't open before. We readied for a new, and perhaps last, battle against another fiend. What we saw was the beautiful shapes of a save station. A cyber shower of healing beams that restored our energy and allowed us to continue exploration in full force.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

Portal 2

"Enjoy this next test. I'm going to go to the surface. It's a beautiful day out. Yesterday, I saw a deer."

Glados, your sadist. You really enjoyed making fun of us when hour after hour we fought our way through the sterile test chambers in Portal 2. The closest to sunshine we'd see were light bridges, and when we found out that we really do not breathe real air - just "carbon that has been cleaned up a bit" - it was the last straw.

We broke through chamber after chamber, outsmarted every room in Aperture's research complex, and finally reached the outside. The contrast was striking. It was magic to look out over a vast wheat fields and a clear blue sky garnished with fluffy clouds. We stood and took in a series of deep breaths, as we filled the lungs with fresh, natural air.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

Dark Souls

The world of Dark Souls was not a welcoming one. Around every corner there was everything from deadly enemies to ... quite brutally insane deadly enemies, and those that did not want to kill us met us with indifference. There was not even handrails on the stone steps!

Our only light in the darkness was the game's "bonfires": modest campfires where we got a chance to recover. Not only did these rest areas make for a new and very welcome checkpoint, but we could also level up, repair equipment and warp to other places.

Top 7 Gaming Oases

Journey

We braved the scorching deserts and biting chill. We fought the storm's strong squalls with mighty leaps, and we were chased by the huge cave creatures that really, really did not want us in their world.

Our gaze was fixed to the top of the mountain, and the adamant will to get there was a constant battle with our battered bodies. There's actually two points you can claim to be the moment that Journey gives us a sense of peace - the walk towards the mountain as the screen goes white, or the soaring flight that we materialise into after collapsing near the mountain's peak. Both gave a sense of huge relief and are amongst the most beautiful moments we've experienced in gaming.



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