Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Wanderin’ the wastes with Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout : New Vegas was an enjoyable experience, despite the bugs and lock-ups and all the other oddness that I’m hearing of a lot through second-hand channels, yet I experienced only a bit of myself.  My tally: 5 lockups, a dozen or so monsters under the terrain, a few WTF quest / faction moments, and a lot of slowdown on loading the longer you played.  That was it.

As I said, enjoyable.

…at least until I hit max level. Then, I just wanted it to end.

How odd is that? I was having a pretty good time of it all, but then suddenly when that little XP bar wasn’t moving and there was no chance to get any more perks, I only wanted to finish it.  Every fight became about the economy of the fight itself.  How much ammo did I use vs. what I stood to gain from the enemy, how much time it was taking, etc.  The game became a numbers game, and that wasn’t fun at all.

IMO, the game doesn’t move you on to Vegas fast enough. I assumed Vegas = end game, which isn’t the case, so I wandered through the desert doing everything and anything I could to not start the endgame. I searched high and low for vaults to explore (not enough of them in the game, IMO), scavenged for weapons and tech (not a good weapons progression from basic to high-tech over the course of the game), and generally slaughtered all the legion I could get my hands on, since they were obviously the “evil” faction by a mile or two.

When I lost an entire NPC’s worth of stored inventory to a quest bug (I assume it’s a bug), I was mad for a second, then just shrugged. What was I doing with all that stuff, anyway? Adding to my 30k+ caps I was carrying around?  Was I using any of it?  I was saving in hopes of having to use it, but that time never really arrived.  The game never challenged me to use all that stuff.  When a major faction turned against me and a major questline failed because some turrets were incorrectly placed on the wrong faction in a completely unrelated area, did I really care?  Not that much.  I just started gunning everything down regardless.  Maybe it was a bug, but it almost seemed that max level also locked your faction generation, so what did it matter?  It was like the game had given up too, and it just wanted me to finish it off.

So to cut to the chase: Vaults, the equivalent of exploring dungeons in a fantasy game, are really fun to clear out. There were lots of them in F3, each with their own little story and dilemmas / settings. Between them you also had sewers and tunnels, which were kinda like mini-vaults, and a LOT of themed abandoned buildings. Not so much in F:NV. There’s a few vaults, but it’s more outdoors adventuring with a smattering of cave and vault exploration along the way and a building here or there.

The difficulty curve in F:NV is more like a switch than a curve.  You lose a bit at first, then you win every time (L12 onwards or so). Your NPCs (some of them) are insanely powerful, so they lessen the difficulty even further. I’m not spoiling much by saying that you’ll never face something as huge as a super mutant master, nor fight alongside something as awesome as Liberty Prime. The problem is that I WANTED those things (honestly I wanted them topped — this is the original creators of F1 and F2 afterall!), and F:NV doesn’t deliver any big moments or challenges like that… well until the very, very last fight, which seriously… WTF?  Junior-level design tricks don’t make for an entertaining end boss.  The dancing behind the wall was amusing, though.

Weapon scaling and enemies don’t really synch up.  It feels like they were trying to make high-tech weapons a rare option for you or your enemies, but of course eventually you find them.  Once you do, the enemies don’t rise to the occasion.  Not that you really need them anyway.  Standard pistols and rifles got me through 99% of the fights with ease.  Stealth headshots with a standard sniper rifle were almost consistently fatal across the entire game.

I guess what is really most telling about F:NV is what I mentioned originally.  I was bored the moment I stopped leveling.  What does that say about how invested I was with the story or its factions?  Likely that I didn’t really care how it ended.  That’s a shame.  You can make your own little adventures in the Nevada wastes for a while, but they never really drive you forwards towards some grand scheme or conclusion.  Liberating Vegas never seems like a big deal because… well it seemed to be doing fine before you even got involved.  I hate to say it, but even having a Megatron buried deep in the service tunnels of Hoover Dam would have been a step up in the excitement factor for the endgame.

Wow, I never thought I’d have anything positive to reference in any recent Michael Bay film.

Plusses:

  • Hey, it’s more Fallout!  How is that ever a bad thing?
  • That Gun is back in.  You know the one I mean.
  • Melee combat is actually a viable option now!
  • Ending vignettes are great, reminding you of just how many factions and NPCs there really are in the game.
  • Vault 11’s slide show.  Best moment in a F:NV vault.
  • Jury Rigger skill is great.  Repair a power armor helmet with sunglasses? OK!

Minuses:

  • Bugs
  • Not enough vaults / themed buildings to explore.
  • Weapon / enemy scaling is non-existent.
  • No clear villain unless you’re a good guy, then it’s the legion.
  • The last Legion encounter has a weaksauce design conceit in it.
  • That Gun isn’t powerful enough.
  • Not enough reason to use weapons mods; they’re not handed out frequently enough to make a lower-tier weapon highly prized.
  • Lockpicking and Science not as balanced as in F3.  Lockpicking is the better option if you only take one of the two skills.
  • Crafting recipes for previous weapons non-existent or impossible to find.  Where’s my shishkebab?
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