I was introduced to the world of Fallout with Fallout 3. A guy I worked with suggested both it and Fallout New Vegas to me. We were working together that day, and he expounded on all the crazy things you could do in the games for well over an hour.
I started off by getting Fallout 3. I was immediately impressed by the immersive quality of the game. You were given a main storyline to follow, but were given full license to wander across the burnt earth and twisted steel of the Capital Wasteland.
This spoke to me immensely. I was coming off of the whimsical world of the Nintendo 64. My favorite games were Super Mario 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and the Banjo Kazooie games.
What endeared them to me the most, as a casual gamer, was the wide-open feel they had. A straightforward path to follow? Nah. You have this much time to complete it? Nope! In fact, some of the most rewarding experiences in the games were had by purposefully wandering off the beaten path.
Fallout 3 was like Banjo Kazooie all grown up… and irradiated, I guess. Instead of learning new moves, you leveled up your character. Instead of finding a secret path to a hidden jiggy, you found an abandoned vault full of old-world goodies.
Another mechanic that endeared me to the series was the ability to mold the story as it progressed. I was also a fan of Final Fantasy VII and VIII. These are the only two Final Fantasy games that exist, as far as I’m concerned, by the way. Part of the fun was being able to influence events in the game with dialogue choices.
Fallout 3 took that shit and ran with it. Just like with the Force, you could follow the light or turn to the dark side. Certain possible companions could only be hired if you were an asshole. How you handled Megaton at the beginning of the game would determine if you were pursued by an elite gang of thugs or a posse of wasteland cowboy justice bringers throughout the rest of the story.
I absolutely loved these elements, but there was a definite lean towards gunfights and sneaking… and subways. There were lots and lots of subways. Like, SO MUCH SUBWAYS, you guys.
While I was playing though, I was checking out details on Fallout New Vegas. The more I read, the more I liked. Here was Fallout 3, but somehow bigger and better. I abandoned the Lone Wanderer for the time-being and got acquainted with the Courier.
It was the best damn decision I ever made in my life.
People say they play video games as a hobby, I play Fallout New Vegas as a hobby. I have nearly 130 hours logged on it as of this writing, and I only get like an hour or two to play it in a week. What I’m saying is, I kind of like this game.
It took everything I liked about Fallout 3 and turned the knob to the right. It literally drops you into a small town in the middle of the desert and says go anywhere. Well, just not straight to New Vegas(hello, blind deathclaw!)
From the very beginning, you start molding your own character. He or she can be made to look like you, or any which way you want. You take various “tests” to determine your base stats and demeanor. This all happens before you leave the home of the doctor that saved your life.
Once out in the world, you’re encouraged to follow the tutorial-like first quests to learn the basics, but after that the world is your oyster. It’s like Banjo Kazooie on Forced Evolutionary Virus. Go anywhere you want in this big old map, full of things to discover only tangentially related to the main storyline.
Some people complain about the vast tracts of nothing between locations in the Mojave, but I think it adds to the realness of the world. The layout of locations also does a good job of guiding the player along the main quest line while gently nudging them off the trail to explore.
Another considerable improvement was in the ways you can influence the story and the outcome of not only the main quests, but several smaller quests as well. Black and white decisions have been replaced with ones tinged in shades of gray. Sometimes there simply isn’t a “best” option, and this is a beautiful thing, to me.
All of your choices culminate in an epic slide show at the end of the game. The fates of all the places and people you’ve touched throughout the game are revealed for better or worse. My desire to give them better fates has pushed me to play through more than once.
Fallout New Vegas also, hands down, has the best DLC content I’ve ever seen. You have four new story lines that feed directly off the main game, but stand alone as their own tales. Just like the main game, your decisions greatly influence your outcome as well as the outcome for characters and places in the DLC.
Chief among these four is Old World Blues, which gives a fascinating window into the links between the past and the future. A close second is Lonesome Road, which serves to tie together the three previous DLCs. This story shows the connection between the hubris that brought human civilization to its knees, and how those same machinations may see it brought to the grave.
So it was with much excitement and impatience that I looked forward to the release of Fallout 4. I paid extra to get the premium Pip-Boy-including edition. I didn’t even have an Xbox One yet, and wouldn’t for months afterward.
While I was waiting to play I heard some… things. The Sole Survivor had his own voice. The marketing really pushed his specific appearance as well. He also did the “War never changes” speech(BLASPHEMY!) These things really make it hard to make that character yours. They also made John Cleese record like, five thousand names so Cogsworth could say your name, so there was that.
Alas, it was much worse than I had imagined. Even painting my face over that of the Sole Survivor did not make the character my own. It was me with some dude’s voice talking to other characters.
Then you had the dialogue options. While you could still make decisions that influenced the path of the game, you could be a saint or… sarcastic? One of the funnest things about New Vegas was being able to be a psychotic asshole if you wanted, and the game would tailor itself to your whims.
The only way to be evil in Fallout 4 is to kill people. No epic dialogue demeaning them beforehand, just kill them. And the game acts to discourage this behavior.
Also discouraged is playing the field, actions-wise. In New Vegas, you can move through most of each faction’s quests without being vilified by the other factions. Doing the same in Fallout 4 would require multiple play-throughs.
This game also goes back to Fallout 3‘s habit of heavy gun play. Diplomacy and skill are largely ignored in favor of weapon mods and constant battle. That’s great if you love Call of Duty, but… I don’t love most FPS in general.
The one saving grace are the graphics. The world in this game is GORGEOUS. There are still numerous places to explore, and they do reveal some world-building and player-growing tidbits. But the fact that this has been the most enjoyable part of the game for me so far should be a big red flag.
In fact, after starting the game twice, I’ve gone back to do one more extra-thorough play through of New Vegas. After that? I actually might go back and finally play through all of Fallout 3. I just can’t face Fallout 4 quite yet.
Like Obi Wan to Anakin, I say to Fallout 4, “You were the chosen one!” After learning the lessons from the previous two titles, this game should have been absolutely amazing. To an extent it is, but for a Fallout fanatic like me, it’s a dull whisper of what it should have been.
I’ll still hope for the future, but for now, you can find me in the Mojave.