I got a new PC a few weeks ago, along with a new monitor. It’s my first new PC purchase since 2015 (I prefer to buy all-new builds vs continual upgrades), and since I never got a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, this has been my first week spent enjoying 4K video games. And let me tell you, one thing has impressed me more than anything else: rocks.
I mean, everything about my faster PC and bigger screen has impressed me, from ray tracing down to DLSS, which I still think is some kind of witchcraft. But it’s rocks—big cliffs and mountains in particular—which have made the biggest impact.
For my entire gaming life, rocks and mountains and cliffs have just...been there. Part of the background, something brown or grey, made of a bunch of polygons and something I’d probably just have to climb over or walk around.
Skyrim’s a good example of rocks that are everywhere but also just part of the background. Look at this:
They’re rocks, I guess? And that’s technically a mountain? It could also be a collapsed children’s birthday cake, or a pile of BBQ charcoal. I know it’s a mountain, especially within the context of the game, but it’s not really a mountain.
Now look at this:
Those are some motherfuckin’ rocks.
Playing in 4K and looking to the horizon has felt like those heart-warming YouTube videos where a baby puts on a pair of glasses and sees for the first time, only I’m the baby and I’m crying over a high-fidelity mountain range, not my mother’s face.
I don’t know why it’s rocks, more than people or buildings or trees, that have got me so appreciative, but I think it’s the immense gulf between the fact I never really paid attention to them before at lower resolutions, and now that they’re so full of detail I can’t look anywhere else.
They’ve gone from drab obstacles to a whole visual ecosystem, full of craggy little surfaces and dramatic lines, baking gorgeously in the setting sun, dressed to the nines in light dustings of snow.
For the record I am not a “rocks guy”, an armchair geologist, nor a mountain climber. I’m not even a mountain trekker, so none of this is coming from a place of already being somewhat into rocks or hills or mountains or fjords. I just think they look really cool in 4K, and I’m glad that an uptick in resolution has made such a big difference to something so previously mundane.