Good news, everybody! Since the last time I have posted I was busy writing another novel. Also the next serialized story will go online at the beginning of next month. I know I said Q1 but for quality-control reasons it has to be April. Also: I played Fallout 2 and I figured I’d write a piece about my shifting entertainment priorities.
I’m not sure I’d call myself a huge fan of the Fallout series. Previously I had played Fallouts 1, 3, New Vegas, and 4, with New Vegas being probably my second-favorite game ever. So while I love that game, the rest of the series has mostly been disappointing to me. Fallout 2, which I have on-and-off again begun to play for at least five years, has this huge difficulty spike at the beginning that made me give up several times since.
This time, however, I finally buckled down and… ran into the same difficulty spike. After five hours of this I gave up, loaded up a save stat editor and cheated my way through the game on story mode. I figured, hey, if Baldur’s Gate has a story mode, so should Fallout. And while some “hardcore gamers” might be infuriated at my cheating, I have to admit that it probably saved my experience with Fallout 2.
Much like its much easier predecessor, Fallout 2 has this big, probably too big, world that is incredibly reactive to what you do and accommodates a lot of character input with lots of neat details you can follow through with. The story isn’t necessarily better than anything you can find nowadays, despite what many lovers of old-school CRPGs might tell you. The storytelling varies widely much like its predecessor, and the increased wackiness, especially in random encounters, breaks your immersion heavily. No, what makes Fallout 2 so cool is truly the reactiveness of the world, which could only be accomplished in smaller, more personable games.
Another thing I noticed while I was making my way through that game is that, while the elements in it are really intuitive and more primitive versions of game mechanics we have now, much like its contemporaries and spiritual successors it’s incredibly obtuse and a (bit) of a slog. And while that’s partially because those mechanics needed a decade or so of refinement and it looks dated now because it was such a trail blazer in its day, leading to me growing up with much more refined version, it is also because it’s not a game made for present-day me.
I try going back to New Vegas every once in a while, mainly because I think even after 2-3 full playthroughs I still have elements of that map I want to figure out, tackle differently, etc. But I never do. Whenever I do, I notice this small niggling sensation in the back of my head that tells me I could spend these 50 hours more productively by reading, watching a movie, or working on my personal projects. Never mind the work I have to do for university. Video games aren’t necessarily time wasters, but in regards to propagating new ideas and concepts for you to think about, it is easily the worst modern media. In the 50 or 60 hours you can spend on playing a CRPG like Fallout or a modern successor like Pillars of Eternity you could read multiple books and it’s probably even longer than the time it took me to write the first draft of my latest novel.
And that brings me back to why I would have enjoyed Fallout 2 better ten or fifteen years ago. Back when school was a cake walk, when you had so many lazy afternoons with little to do, that the one new game you would buy each year, something like Fallout, could really last you a full year by playing it multiple times and experiencing all the different ways the world reacts to your actions. That would have been insanely cool back then, but nowadays it only is from an academic standpoint of seeing how influential the game really was, and, in some ways, games have regressed in their storytelling.
I don’t think artificially putting the game on very easy by coasting through combat was a an element that ruined the experience for me, if anything it pulled back the curtain on a lot of the bullshit long games offer, while keeping the good. But I don’t think I’ll make my return to long games anytime soon, be they old or new.