Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fallout: New Vegas conclusion

Unusual artwork in Red Rock Canyon

Speaking of violent computer games, I just finished the main quest in Fallout: New Vegas (see my earlier posts on the game here) and, you know, I'm wondering if this might be my all-time favorite role-playing game.

And that's despite the fact that this is the buggiest game I've played in many years. (Make sure you always have at least two recent saves, especially when you quit the game, because I had a problem with saved games becoming corrupted. That was my biggest problem, although the game crashed a few times, and there were other bugs, too.)

You know, I almost never finish role-playing games. I think the last one I finished was Wasteland, the 1988 post-apocalyptic game, inspiration for the whole Fallout series. In fact, I think I completed that game twice - or the main quest, anyway, since I know I missed some of the game (back then, games didn't lead you by the hand as much as they do now).

After awhile, no matter how much I enjoy a game, I just get bored and want to move on. I've been playing RPGs since the earlier Ultima games (I don't remember if it was Ultima IV or V, since that's one of the few boxed games I bought that's not still packed up in the basement), and I loved them from the very beginning. I just rarely finish them.

Truth be told, I haven't completed every quest in Fallout: New Vegas, but pretty close, I think. Of course, some quests are mutually exclusive. And I never did anything at all with the Powder Gangers, mainly because I was such a bad shot at the beginning of the game that I didn't kill any of them when they attacked Goodsprings (and therefore, they didn't hate my character, afterwards).

And I haven't played any of the DLC except for Old World Blues. That was so enormous that I just never worked up the ambition to try any of the others. But I might load an earlier save and try one of them, sometime. Or else try this mod, perhaps?

Cottonwood Cove is beautiful,... before you get to the crucifixions, at least

Still, according to Steam, I've played Fallout: New Vegas for 190 hours! That's absolutely incredible, don't you think? And I never got tired of it. At the end, my character was Level 49 (50 is the max, with all the add-ons). I loved the setting, and I loved the story.

In fact, I loved all of the little stories in the game, too, the ones you just stumble across. The story of Vault 11 still sticks with me, even though it had nothing to do with the rest of the game. And the letters from NCR soldiers, implying a story behind each of them...  Heck, just talking to some of them, then coming back later to find them dead, that affected me, too.

It's not just a 'gritty' world - that hackneyed phrase which seems to be used to describe most RPGs these days - but a world with serious problems, where the answers aren't easy. There's torture, there's rape, there's slavery - and consequences from all of them. And no matter what, you can't make things right for everyone.

This game is so good that it actually changed my previously-expressed opinions, in some respects. But first, let me note that I started playing the game on Easy difficulty, then switched to Normal much later in the game (I didn't notice much difference). Well, at high character level, I found that I'd stopped paying much attention to tactics, since I could just walk right in and blast away.

That didn't bother me too much, since I was enjoying the setting and the story, so I'd probably do the same thing again. And, as I say, I didn't notice much difference - any difference, really. But the neat thing is that you can change the difficulty at any time. (I wanted to see as much of the game as possible, before I got bored with it, and I guess that worked, huh?)

Now, I'm terrible at 'real-time' combat. I preferred the turn-based combat of the early Fallout games, and I used the V.A.T.S. quasi-turn-based system regularly in Fallout 3. But I rarely used it in this game. I just didn't seem to need it.

Of course, I mainly played a sniper, so I'd sneak around and take out enemies from a distance, usually before they even knew I was there. You get a varmint rifle at the very start, and by adding a silencer and a night-vision scope, it stays useful for almost the entire game. (If you find the Ratslayer, it does stay useful for the entire game.)

For more powerful enemies, I used a sniper rifle - Christine's COS silencer rifle, once I played the Old World Blues DLC - or a Gauss rifle, after I'd developed my energy weapons skill, which could kill enemies from as far as I could see them. At such a distance, my chance of hitting in V.A.T.S. would be way too low, if I could even get into V.A.T.S. at all.

And close up, especially when there were a bunch of creatures attacking at once, it was still easier to use a submachine gun or an energy weapon (I loved Elijah's advanced LAER, also from Old World Blues) in 'real-time.' The only time I used V.A.T.S. was for fast-moving creatures, when they got close, attacking one at a time.

Hoover Dam is in better shape than the roads nearby!

Note that there are a lot of different weapons in the game, especially with all of the DLC, but most seemed to have real disadvantages, compared to the better weapons in the game - too little ammo, low damage, too heavy, etc. And as I say, I started with a varmint rifle, then picked up a sniper rifle soon afterwards, so I didn't use most of the available weapons at all.

I would have preferred otherwise, but I guess I wasn't willing to use a lesser weapon when I had a better one available. Note that I was forced to improve my energy weapons skill in Old World Blues, since I was short of rifle ammunition. And after that, I used both kinds of weapons, so that was kind of nice. Of course, by the end, most of my skills were maxed out, anyway.

Finally, I must admit that I changed my mind about the 'kill-cam.' In Fallout: New Vegas, when you kill an enemy, the game will often switch to a slow-motion closeup of the kill (head or limbs blown off, blood spurting, etc.). This will happen even in the midst of an ongoing firefight, which can be a bit disconcerting. In fact, I killed a soldier on my own side after one of these, because I got confused by the rapid changes in perspective.

I had some problems with this at first, since it seems so remarkably ghoulish. (And, indeed, I do not recommend getting the "Bloody Mess" perk, despite the 5% increase in damage.) However, I changed my mind. The neat thing about this is that you get to see a close-up.

You really can't enjoy the weird clothing on Fiends or the bizarre animals in the nuclear wasteland when they're actively trying to kill you. You're just too busy trying to shoot them first. And since I was a sniper, I'd take most of my shots from far, far away, anyway. So the 'kill-cam' let me get a good, close-up look at them in slow-motion (admittedly, without their heads, often enough), and I decided I liked it after all.

This game just worked for me. I liked the setting, as I've liked the setting of all of these Fallout games, and I liked the story. I liked the main story, which starts out as a puzzle which has almost killed you, and I liked all of the lesser stories in the game. (I say "story," rather than "quest," because it really was the stories which interested me.)

I liked the other characters - and their stories, of course. And I hated the villains with a passion from the very beginning. (I say "villains," and that's what they are, but you can play the game from their side, if you want. I can't imagine doing that, myself, but there are other endings I've considered trying.) Finally, the game was easy enough even for me - especially on Easy difficulty - but there are options you can adjust to change that, if you want.

All in all, I think this is the best RPG I've ever played, and I've played a bunch of them. The only real problems I had with the game - besides the bugs, which are really inexcusable - are problems common to all games. It's frustrating when I can't say what I want to say to a character, because that option hasn't been written into the game.

And even in the main quest, you can make choices, but you can't do what I would have wanted to do. Of course, that might be more realistic than it seems. Even in real-life, we often have limited options. Our only choices might be both good and bad, and you just do the best you can.

Well, my choice to buy this game was definitely a good one. :)  This is not just the best in the whole Fallout series (and they have all been good), but the best role-playing game I've ever played. And I say that even when I prefer turn-based games and prefer sandbox-type exploration so much that I seldom even bother with a main quest.

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