Saturday, December 15, 2012

Playing Fallout: New Vegas on Easy

The view northeast from Mojave Outpost

Yes, I'm playing Fallout: New Vegas on Easy difficulty. Embarrassing, huh? But actually, I'm having a lot of fun.

I don't think I've ever played an RPG on Easy difficulty before. It's always been Normal difficulty for me. I'm certainly not one of those people who wants a really difficult game. But then, I didn't grow up with video games, and I'm convinced I'm never going to be very good at 'real-time' combat, no matter how many games I play now.

I like to sneak around with my sniper rifle, killing enemies with one shot, if possible, and trying to take down groups of enemies one at a time, whittling away at any outliers first. I don't like companions, because they tend to rush ahead and aggro enemies I'd prefer remained quiescent. Or get in my way. Or, usually, both.

Currently, I do have a little flying robot keeping me company on the road, and that can be useful if I'm surprised by a pack of night stalkers. But mostly, I keep it around to carry loot for me, and I order it to stay behind when I go on the attack. I can do that on Easy difficulty - so far, at least - but I don't know if I could on Normal.

(Note that I always loved turn-based RPGs with multiple characters, but I had full control of the whole party in those games. That's impossible in a real-time game - at least, this kind of real-time game. Not that this isn't fun, but there are always drawbacks.)

However, the main reason for my deciding to play on Easy was because I never finish these kinds of games. I really love RPGs, but I always get bored after awhile - bored with the combat, mostly. Don't get me wrong, the combat here is great fun. But it's the same thing for the entire game. Inevitably, I get bored.

And I'm loving the setting and the story, so I want to see as much of it as possible. Yes, I'm enjoying the combat, too, but that won't last forever, so I want to get through it relatively quickly. That should let me see more of the game. Well, that's the plan, at least.

Nipton has seen better days, and not just because of nuclear war

If you're not a gamer, I should explain that Fallout: New Vegas is set in a post-apocalyptic America, about 200 years after the nuclear bombs dropped. But note that it's a post-apocalyptic America as seen from 1950's pulp science fiction, basically, so there's some dark - really dark - humor in that.

I've enjoyed all of the Fallout games (all still very enjoyable, the first, the second, and the third), and Wasteland before that, and this one is very similar to the previous, Fallout 3. Combat is similar, being 'real-time,' but with the ability to drop into a quasi-turn-based mode (V.A.T.S.) briefly.

Oddly enough, though I prefer turn-based combat, I haven't been using that much in this game (certainly not as much as in Fallout 3). For the most part, I snipe at enemies from a long way off - before they even know I'm nearby - and it's been far easier to use real-time combat for that.

I'm loving the story, so far - both the initial mystery (which I assume is the main storyline) and the individual stories I encounter everywhere I go. Right from the start, there's an intriguing puzzle to my character. I mean, I start the game getting shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave.

I've got to say that this story beats Skyrim all hollow (at least, so far - my character is only at Level 12). There's just no comparison. And the setting is great, too. But it's dark, and it's bloody. There's torture, rape, and slavery, just for starters. Frankly, it's even darker than the previous games. I've been surprised at some of the themes in this game.

Vegas still glitters in the post-apocalyptic wasteland

And the violence is over-the-top. It's up close, graphic, and extremely bloody, even if you don't choose the "Bloody Mess" perk (which makes every death as gory as possible). And the morality in the game is post-apocalyptic, too. But I've got to say that it works. It works for me, at least, and I always try to play a good guy, a hero, in these games.

For example, I deliberately lured a friendly old lady out of her house, so she could get her head blown completely off. She'd never done anything to me. Indeed, she'd always been extremely nice. And as her headless corpse slumped to the ground, the stump of her neck gushing blood, I really had to think about what I'd done.

Of course, it was the right thing to do. As I say, this is post-apocalyptic morality. She deserved to die, she really did. And there aren't any half-measures in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Life is too difficult for that. True, I didn't admit what I'd done to the other townspeople (I don't know how they would have reacted to that, but it seemed foolish), but no one acted too concerned about the circumstances of her death. Life is also cheap in the wasteland.

I felt worse about shooting a whole camp full of young soldiers, some of them in their sleep. It hardly seems fair to sneak up on a sleeping man and put a bullet (from a silenced rifle) into his brain. And it wasn't actually necessary. I did need to shoot two of them, to rescue a couple of slaves (who happened to be violent criminals themselves - yeah, it's that kind of game), but not the whole camp.

And they'd never done anything to me. They hadn't exactly been friendly, but they'd left me alone. As individuals, I probably couldn't blame them too much for what their society was like, and it probably didn't accomplish anything, either, since the camp was full of soldiers again when I returned some time later.

But the funny thing is, murdering people in their sleep didn't affect my karma at all. (Karma is just the way the game indicates whether you're being a nice guy or not.) Even when I looted the dead bodies, that was OK. But when I took something from a chest in the camp, that lowered my karma. Yeah, murder is OK, but not burglary. :)

Of course, there's a lot about this game that doesn't make sense. It's a game, after all, and it's not supposed to be realistic. However, the moral questions in this game - whether they're just in my own mind or not - seem to affect me more than in any other game. And the bloody violence which often accompanies them actually adds to that. Death isn't clean in Fallout: New Vegas, and it certainly isn't pretty. All too often, it's just necessary.


Carl V. Anderson said...

So cool that you are playing, and enjoying, this one Bill. The only Fallout games I've played are 3 (and its add-ons) and New Vegas and I love, Love, LOVE them both. I started playing Fallout 3 a few years back and I would hate to know how many hours I've spent playing these two games, but as I have a great many wonderful memories of both I am not complaining at all. I've actually been contemplating hitting the reset button on New Vegas and playing it all over again. I love the universe of both of these stories.

And I didn't share this on the classic site or my blog review, but part of the reason I was so taken with Wool is that I had this instant Fallout Vault connection with it when I started reading it and thus had this very strong emotional connection right away.

Although some of the gameplay is similar, I like some of the improvements...tweaks...they made with New Vegas.

And I wouldn't feel at all bad about playing on Easy, I've done the same things with games like this because I wanted to experience the "story" rather than "beat" the game.

Yes, the story is better in these games than Skyrim, but with Skyrim I felt like I was just telling myself my own story with the quests I was setting for myself so I didn't mind. I much prefer the Fallout games though and would love to have more versions of this come out...and SOON!

Anyway, you are a kindred spirit in finding your time sucked up by these games, I understand completely.

Bill Garthright said...

Thanks, Carl. Note that the first two Fallout games are still lots of fun (and dirt cheap at, but if you've only played the newer ones, it might be hard to return to 1997 graphics.

And yes, I do plan to try Wool (by Hugh Howey, for my other readers here), if I can ever stop playing games long enough. :)