What’s In A Game?

I’ve said in the past that I wouldn’t write about video games. It’s not really my focus as a gamer and many people have far more to say and more important things to say than I usually do. But I’ve been listening to people discussing Fallout: New Vegas and I feel compelled to add to the discussion.

The most common statement I’ve heard about New Vegas, and what I want to respond to, is that “if you’ve played Fallout 3, you’ve played New Vegas.” Variations on this include the statements that “it’s the same game” or even that “it’s nothing special compared to Fallout 3.” Now, maybe I’m just listening to the wrong reviews/podcasts, but I cannot imagine what game these people are playing if they are saying this…

First, let me say that New Vegas is a game that suffers from a serious problem in having bugs that affect the play experience.

Fallout was a game about exploring a nearly empty wasteland. The game focused on a very D&D 4e-like sense of “points of light.” The Capitol Wastes were relatively empty and the settlements all existed in a sort of limbo. You couldn’t join factions, you weren’t really a part of a larger story, except for one single plot-line thread involving your father…

New Vegas has a different feel altogether. New Vegas is a wild-west apocalypse. The game focuses on your choices and gives you a sense of story. You have multiple plot-lines running through the game and multiple ways to finish the story. You have companions that will join your adventure and have their own storylines. More importantly, your decisions change the course of the story, shaping events that lead to a final conclusion with a variety of outcomes.

The differences are profound. I don’t want to exhaustively catalog the full variety of differences but again find myself confused by the fan reaction… Is it just that it didn’t give some gamers what they expected? Just further proves to me that I really don’t trust reviews.

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3 responses

  1. I suspect that they are referring to the gameplay mechanics – which are very similar. I mean, the VATS system is there, the shooting mechanic is the same, the role-playing mechanic is very similar (not exactly the same – it’s much improved in New Vegas)…

    I could even argue that the starting reason to explore each wasteland is similar: in both games the player has to go from town to town in order to chase a man that they are looking for.

    However, I agree that they are very different games, role-playing-wise. The factions were very well done, and the acceptance levels were very varied (example – you could be somewhat redeemed after treating a group badly, however, they still remembered that you didn’t always 100% support them).

    Bottom line, there were just more people to interact with. Fallout 3, probably with good reason, was sparsely populated and felt like a ghost town. You would continually come across recordings about people who had been dead for centuries. It was a very lonely play experience – maybe what the designers wanted, but not one that is conducive to role-playing.

    However, New Vegas has tons of people – not just quantity, but in people who the player can interact with, complete quests for, or even just hear a little bit about their history from. And, yes, there is a limit to the effectiveness of computerized NPCs, but when my player cheered up a retired Ranger just by listening to him, it brought up the same warm & fuzzy feeling I get when helping out a character in a table-top role-playing game.

    I do understand where others are coming from when they say the games are ‘the same’, I just definitely don’t agree.

    I do agree that the bugs are almost a deal-breaker, though. I have almost thrown my controller through the TV a couple of times because of game-stopping bugs. QA was not on the top of the developers list.

  2. A good bit of news is that there is as of today a patch for most of the quest damaging bugs. (Though I would argue that those were the inexcusable ones because the quests should have undergone the greatest scrutiny, the others can be forgiven because of some of the difficulties of QA for every inch sandbox style games. Maybe after Christmas I will now pick it up for PC

    1. Other than the bugs… It really is a great game and I’d highly recommend it. The patch you mentioned though — seems to have caused more problems along with fixing some… it’s kinda odd how that happens.

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