Friday, 19 May 2017

Threelout

(Title obviously just setting me up for the next game.) Gosh, it's been a while. Almost 2 months since my last post. Been busy with lots of things, and (obviously) on the gaming front I've had my head stuck firmly in Fallout: New Vegas. I finally finished it off earlier this week, so it's time to sit down and say something about it. It's obviously quite similar to Fallout 3, but that's no bad thing. It has a different feel, being more wilderness & neon-based compared to F3's overly city-grey palette, but it uses a lot of the same assets. It looks great, but it did feel a little empty at times. It might be a reaction to the busy nature of F3 - bringing this closer to the empty nuclear wasteland of the original games - but it does mean that it's possible to spend a long time wandering around with nothing to do. I definitely don't need a super mutant in my face every 30 seconds, but I did miss the threat and immediacy of a good random encounter. In New Vegas, it's either a couple of radscorpions come to tickle you or a fully equipped Legion death squad, with nothing much in between.

The main draw of FNV is the writing and world building. It was made by RPG specialists Oblivion, with some fantastic pedigree on their staff. So, did it live up to that promise? Yes and no. There were a couple of memorable characters, but on the whole I didn't think it was fantastic. I wasn't really invested in the main story, and the central choice between who to side with didn't really grab me. I guess I'm not really a joiner, but I didn't really enjoy the 'pick a faction' aspect. The attempt to paint each faction in shades of grey rather than clear-cut black and white choices just felt really heavy handed to me. I didn't want to pick between the lesser of two evils, and I felt railroaded into making a choice that didn't really reflect my actions in the game. Dialogue is a difficult thing, and I can imagine how hard it would be to program an argument simulator into a game like this, but there's no point creating a morally ambiguous situation if you're only ever going to apply binary choices to it. "Some things that this person does are good, and some are evil. Do you like him? Yes, or no?" Well, I like the good things that he does, but I dislike the evil things. I don't have a binary response to that character. I want to talk to him about why he does the things he does, and see if I can rationalize his actions. If you're presenting me with fuzzy situations, then I want to be able to take a fuzzy attitude to them. So yeah, I found that a bit frustrating. It also doesn't help that some of these decisions are forced upon you by game logic. I'd previously read that Caesar - one of the main pro/an-tagonists was a well-written character, so I was looking forward to meeting him. When I finally did meet him, he had another character held captive and gave me the option of how that character should die. If I have the choice, I prefer to try not to kill people. The game gave me the option of freeing him, so I did. Immediately upon doing so, Caesar and his cronies attacked me, and in the ensuing battle he was destroyed. End of that character, without any dialogue. I didn't really have an option to roleplay the way that I wanted to. When I gave the guy the means to escape, I wanted to be able to say "wait until an opportune moment", not for him to immediately jump up and run off. Even with that happening, I'd have preferred him to have been immediately recaptured, or for him to be executed by Caesar's men and me to have been reprimanded for being weak. Anything that would have given me more of a role-playing choice rather than having that fight forced upon me. It's the 'Uncanny Valley' applied to morality - the closer we get to having lifelike meaningful choices, the more fake and forced they feel. Did I think it was a bad game? No not at all, I loved it and played it for 99 hours, but its greatness served to amplify its little frustrations.

My play style doesn't really help, I know. With these open world games, I like to explore the world first - I want to do everything that I possibly can before I proceed with the main quest. I don't want to feel that I'm missing anything, and I don't want to pass a point in the main quest where other avenues in the wider game become closed off to me. So, I played through all of the DLC and did as many side quests as possible before I finished the first main quest mission. This meant, of course, that I'd already hit the level cap before proceeding with the storyline, and some of the later quests were a bit of a push-over. My own fault, I know. It's a great game, though, and I'm very glad to have finally played it.

Next up is Fallout 4 (which I admit I've already downloaded and taken a peak at...looks amazing!), but first I need to take a Fallout break and get through a few palate-cleansing one-off games. I'm very much looking forward to getting back to the dulcet tones of Manny Calavera. I've played through Grim Fandango before, so hopefully it shouldn't take too long. It's not a game to be rushed, though...

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