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My Problem with Fallout

Christopher Coke Posted:
Columns The RPG Files 0

My name is Chris, and I have a problem. In 2009, I realized that I don’t like Fallout. I have tried, over and over, to connect with what gamers love in these titles and just can’t. Games have been bought and rebought chasing the elusive dragon that is the post-apocalypse. I’ve made excuses, rolled multiple characters, and forced myself to play. I like Elder Scrolls, so why not this? This is my story.

I first realized I had this problem back in 2009. It was on a fateful summer day that I returned home with my first home console in four years, having left my PS2 to my brother when I moved out of my father’s house. My PC was good enough for WoW but not much else, and that PlayStation represented freedom: I had three years of incredible games only a GameStop away and too much enthusiasm by half. I drove home that day recalling the forty-plus hours I had poured into Final Fantasy X, falling in love with the game with swells of rising endearment, until I had finally beat it. It was the last game I had played on that console. I knew I wanted the same. Overwhelmed with choice, I turned to the internet for help.

It didn’t take long before someone pointed me toward Bethesda. In fact, it was milliseconds. Hundreds of people had asked the question before me and it was as if a white glove popped out of my computer screen and slapped me upside the head. “Hey, idiot!” possibly a forum poster and not Google itself said. “Don’t you know Fallout 3 just came out?” Always a sucker for the new and shiny, I ignored the three year old Oblivion and sped off to the game store.

Things started grand. Hot damn, I was a baby! That was a change of pace from my almost-a-girl JRPG heroes. (Square has a thing for very pretty men, I’ve found). Infancy from the first-person had its allure but something was already off by the birthday party. I think it was the weirdly reptilian way characters turned their heads when you talked to them. I think if Satan were a video game human, he would be in Fallout. It was unnatural and too animatronic to be comfortable. And a little too much like a Disney ride.

This is where things started to fall apart. Every part of me wanted to explore, but the game stubbornly insisted I stay on the rails through annoying, unskippable beginnings. We call this, Training Wheels 101 and it’s made for the gamer who has never held a controller. For the rest of us, the ability to skip past and get to the heart of the game is mighty appreciated.

But when that happened, I realized just how wrong I was to choose Fallout as my first new RPG. Here’s the thing, that game is brown. Like, really brown. And when it’s not brown, it grey. Oh, New Vegas daringly adds light brown to the mix and a few blues for the big mutant dudes, but all the blue mutants and green dinosaurs in the world can’t take away from how boring the palettes of these games are. That’s personal preference, of course, but one that eats a little bit of my soul whenever I play it.

I was also dismayed that Fallout 3 really didn’t seem to care if I knew what I was doing. It put a marker on my compass, sure, but coming from more linear RPGs, I found that freedom to be a little unnerving. I didn’t know which quests tied into the main story. Was I heading the wrong direction from actually making progress in the game? Oh my god, why is everyone in this town trying to kill me?!

See, sometimes you just want to punch a mutant. The people in Fallout do not abide shenanigans. You touch the shadiest, most booger-looking guy in town – or commit the travesty of stealing a beer mug – and even the sweetest southern belle comes at you with a cleaver. And if, by some mistake, you defend your save game and kill those mofos you might just lock yourself out of content you never even knew existed. Bethesda just don’ care!

That right there is the thing. These games have their high points. I’m not going to stand here and tell you that I’ve never had fun in a Fallout game, or that I haven’t enjoyed making life and death possibly even with deadly rockets or possibly even nuclear bombs. I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong for liking them or that they’re bad games. But the aimlessness and hidden repercussion does me in, each made insurmountable by how depressing they are to play after a while.

I love Skyrim, even though the aimlessness does leave me lost after time away. I love other open world games. I even dabbled in the Fallout-esque MMO, Fallen Earth, but Fallout is like the person everyone else thinks is gorgeous and I can’t help but see the moles.

I want to like it, and I’ll probably buy the next game to try again, but can someone tell me what I’m missing?

Quick Hits:

Harebrained Schemes went back to the well this week to crowdfund another entry in the Shadowrun series. The new game, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, met its funding goal of $100,000 within hours of launching. I think that means there’s anticipation. It also means people are wise not to give up on Kickstarter yet.

Portalarium released their latest fan update on Shroud of the Avatar this week. Within they discuss the game’s presence at CES 2015 as well as the year-end awards the game received in 2014. The developers also discuss the mage class’s elemental pets with some excellent new screenshots.

Sony is planning big for upcoming H1Z1. Taking to Twitter, SOE President, John Smedley predicts that the game will launch to Steam Early Access with as many as 150-200 servers. This is the first time in recent memory that a new game may launch with too many new servers.

Finally, it looks Pillars of Eternity will hit its early-2015 release window with a March 26th release date.

That’s all for this week. I can’t be alone in my feelings about Fallout. Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight