Game Review: Banished

Image courtesy of pooterman @deviantart.com

It should be noted that most of the games I’ve played recently I didn’t go out to discover myself. Mostly I discovered them due to the persistent badgering of my friend Ris. I have a very love hate relationship towards gaming because it is very counterproductive. If you’re sitting down and playing games, then you can’t write, think about your plot or do any sensible kind of work. I’ll confess it was one of the reasons I liked having a Tamagotchi as a child because although you were constantly aware that you were ‘playing a game’ you could also put it into your pocket and forget about it while you busied yourself with school work.

I didn’t think that this sort of experience existed anymore until I was introduced to Banished.

Developed by Shining Rock Software, Banished is an indie game which makes you responsible for a group of villagers who had had to leave their birth place, most probably under suspect circumstances. You have to make sure they have lodgings, food and sufficient resources not only to get through the winter but to expand their population as well. You don’t have any direct control over the villagers, rather functioning as an omnipresent power that works as the inspiration as to where (or whether) they should put up that Brewery… You can decide how difficult you want your starting positions to be and you can decide whether your villagers can be affected by natural disasters or not so the game provides a fairly decent learning curve (though the training wheels fall off eventually, so be warned).

And, you can simply leave the game to run by itself.

It’s one of the reason’s I’ve clocked so many hours in it, because I set up my village and then leave to see how my new developments affect my people (or whether they bother completing it at all). I’ve had the game running in boardroom meetings, during NaNoWriMo, over weekends. Apart from trying to figure out how village expansion rate vs food resources, the game requires very little mental processing (if you’re not me that is, I went obsessive, set up an excel spreadsheet and tried to beat the game with pure mathematical statistics). You can simply set it up and let it run.

Apart from World of Goo that I played with its release, Banished was the first real exposure that I had to indie gaming. Originally, I had resisted playing the game simply because, like a badly advertised self published novel, I didn’t think that it would be worth my time. But, the persistence of a friend won out and I was proven delightfully wrong. The mechanics were solid, the graphics delightful and the attention to detail (such as needing to maintain a reasonable hunting rate, lest one depopulated the deer) was a marvel. And, it’s not as easy as it first appears, especially when you realise for instance that your population can become too old to reproduce.

It’s not action packed, it’s not emotional (thought you can get pretty emotional when you see a hurricane happily make its way through your village) and it doesn’t have a story. (Or, your village might not but I make a point of taking note who is born and what they achieve in their lifetime. Especially the child named Demon…)  But, it is fun and that is the basic building block, no, the foundation of games. And, it was developed by a single person, so you have to give him kudos for that.

It’s a game that feels as if it has been specially designed for myself. My obsession with numbers and predicting the statistical outcome of resource procurement, combined with my tendency to zone out in front of the computer without the need to think, made this the perfect game.

Ultimately, it’s the kind of game I’d comfortably recommend to anybody who needs a distraction without being completely sucked into another world. It’s reasonably priced and if you consider how many hours of gaming you can get out of it (as well as replay value – there’s something very exciting about starting up a new village, because you don’t know whether they’ll make it…) it’s certainly an economical buy.

Banished is easily available on Steam and GOG.com.

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Harry Potter and the Mass Effect Ending

I’ve never really been a big fan of the Harry Potter franchise, having read the books purely to know what everybody else was on about rather because I wanted to know what was going to happen in the story. Although engaging, JK Rowling didn’t do what she did (in my opinion) better than any of my other favourite authors such as Stephen Donaldson or Terry Pratchett. I didn’t like Harry, I wanted to slap Ron half of the time and I could never really shake the feeling that Hermoine would’ve done so much better for herself in life if she just dropped the boy tags and went to practice wizardry on her own. That said, I have more respect for JK Rowling than any other author around.

Why?

Well. Because of the way she ended her series. I don’t think that there was ever any more pressure on an author, who had billions of fans either through the movie media or books, to end her series well. She had made it very clear in interviews before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that she was going to end the series, that after that book there was going to be no more Harry Potter. I firmly believed that she was going to kill off Harry but she did something better. She provided the characters with closure. She gave us a glimpse ten years into the future where the characters are standing on the platform of the train seeing their children off to school. It said: All is well. The world is at peace, Voldamort has been truly vanquished and despite all the hardships these character went through they are well, and they are happy and their stories are truly over. It struck me as brilliant and although I had my problems with some of the social interactions in that epilogue, I realised that it was one of the smartest things that Rowling could’ve done. She ended her books and gave her fans no way to demand another. There must’ve been so much pressure on her to continue it because of its popularity but she stuck to her guns and closed that chapter off for good.

And, she didn’t disappoint any fans in the process.

I think that you can draw a parallel between these two stories because you’re sitting with two very popular media with two very popular characters. Shepard was Mass Effect’s Harry Potter, the person through whose eyes we interacted with the world and other people. We saw people as Shepard did, we interacted with them through the scope of her dialogue. This interaction made the character very real to us, much more so than Harry Potter in which we were essentially a fly on the wall. We had to sit back and think: What would my Shepard do? How would she react? It gave the gamers an opportunity to really get to know their characters and grow to love them. I kept a finger on my Shepard’s pulse throughout the game, always imagine what she would feel, what would frighten her, what would drive her into despair. And, I knew what gave her hope, what made her fight. If you asked a friend of mine Ris what I wanted from the Mass Effect ending she’ll tell you with a big grin on her face: Little Blue Children.

Because that’s what my Shepard wanted.

A simple plot device but really, what I truly wanted was a happy ending. My Shepard had been under so much pressure over the past few games that I wanted the woman, who had sacrificed everything for humanity and the galaxy to be allowed to sit back and watch her children grow up just as Harry had been allowed to see his. As a writer, I feel that you owe characters a little bit of what you took during your journey with them. Call it writer’s karma if you will.

The fact is that, despite the Extended Cut dlc, I still don’t feel as if that karma has been restored in Shepard’s favour. The original reason I disliked the ending is still there. The catalyst which was a serious leap in which the writers essentially tried to outsmart their audience and the feeling that I didn’t really win. That there was no reward. Oh yes, there are gaps left for imagination and fan fiction galore. But, there’s nothing from the original writers, that salute that said: Thank you Shepard for all your sacrifice, here is your reward for all the hell we put you through.

The thing with Bioware was that they were very good with creating expectations but I think that ultimately they lost track of what their fans really wanted. If you were in the BSN forums before ME3’s release you’d see people speculating about what would happen, not in the war against the reapers but to their love interests, their squad mates, their squad mates’ personal lives. They didn’t care for the guns and the fighting and even the explanation as to what the Reapers were. They wanted to know about their friends. Because, let’s face it. Mass Effect isn’t really about the combat. The gameplay’s just point and shoot. If you want combat but very little gameplay, play Rage. It’s a pretty game with awesome combat but very little engaging story. Mass Effect is about the story. It’s about Shepard and her crew and how they fared in this terrible, terrible war. Bioware resolved to correct this in the DLC and they did, to an extent, but core dynamics of where they went wrong is still there. And, the very fact that they put it in there to begin with before the extended cut makes me well and truly mad.

Now again, one can argue that this isn’t about what the fans wanted, that ultimately a game such as Mass Effect belongs to its creators and they can do with it what they please… But, then they shouldn’t have have put fans under the illusion that they had some hand in what was being decided.

I think that ultimately in my mind, Mass Effect 3’s ending remains a failure. The appearance of the catalyst, my Shepard’s inability to use any logical argument against it. The fact that – if you do refuse to do anything that the catalyst says, you get that ultimate failure ending. It felt a bit like a jab in the fan’s direction, as if Bioware was saying:

Fine, we gave you your happy ending. In pictures. That consumed about 1.8GB’s worth of data. But we’re also just informing you that if you do not play the game as we wanted you to play it, if you want to take a scrap if ingenuity… We will make sure you know that you’ve lost. This is our art after all.

This is not the kind of company and writing style that I would want to deal with again. If this is their idea of closing what I consider to be one of the best games ever created, then what does that hold for their future? And for mine? Did they truly learn from this or will we see a repeat of it in the future? With Harry Potter, the author put her stamp on the ending as she saw fit, but she did it in such a way that didn’t leave the fans demanding a retraction or fume at how she did it. Another mate of mine, Ralfast said that Bioware tried (and failed) to outsmart their fans in the end and I do believe that he had a point. It was almost like the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy where ultimately the writers completely lost track of the true focus of the story and tried to make it more than it was.

If I ever make myself play the game again, I will always choose my ending to destroy the reapers. I still cannot understand how Bioware can think that Synthesis is the ultimate choice. I can’t help but feel that they should all sit down and watch a little Star Trek Voyager and see Seven of Nine’s progression from being part of the Borg collective to being an individual. Say what you will about that specific series, Seven of Nine’s progression as a character was amazing and in the end she truly saw the worth of what it means to be unique.

Of course, that I am grateful that Bioware did this goes without saying. As I pointed out in a previous post, they didn’t have to. But, they showed enough interest in their fan’s opinions that they took this time and effort to make it. It’s just a shame that they didn’t really change it, despite providing more closure. For myself, I will always pretend that the Indoctrination Theory is the full truth and that ultimately my Shepard will get her opportunity not only to be reunited with her love interest, but to have her blue children and her reward of peace for sacrificing as much as she did to save the galaxy. Because that was what I wanted for her, because in the end – that’s all the game was about for me. To see my Shepard, not the galaxy, win. To see my friends live.

And my Shepard’s legacy continue, not in the hollow words of an unnamed child and his grandfather, but in the eyes of her children and her memory in the hearts of her friends.

Mass Effect 3: The End

I’ve been brooding on this post a while and recent post from a friend of mine made me realize that it’s time to either write this or let it go and carry on with my life. I chose the former, because words have never been known to leave me alone.

If you’ve been following this blog for the past year or two, you’d have noticed that quite a lot of my posts centred around a game called Mass Effect 2. Approaching the release date of Mass Effect 3, I was positively gushing about it with excitement and stalked every internet article, every internet video or gaming press conference that could give me a shred of information about a game that was rightly voted the most anticipated game of 2012. I did what I very rarely do. I ordered the game new, even deciding to go the extra mile and take the Collector’s Edition. Yes, it was expensive but it was worth it and I had saved up for months to make sure that it fits into my budget. Along with 1 million other fans, I was about as excited as they came.

I had my doubts of course, being a cynic by nature I knew that there was the possibility that I would be disappointed. In my experience with things (and life in general), being excited means that you’ll be disappointed. As an INTJ, I think it’s one of the reasons I choose not to get too involved with anything because I’m expecting to be disappointed. Dark and cynical I know, but that’s just the way things are. With Mass Effect however, it was quite different and I became about as involved in the game as I could. I had faith in Bioware because they were laying it on as thick as they could when it came to creating mass excitement. They had FemShep Friday, they had press conferences. They tweeted about every little detail, they had a fake reaper invasion over Twitter. They were playing on every shred of fan excitement and we gave our hearts to them on a golden platter, trusting that it won’t all be for nothing, trusting that they would do right not just by us but by the legend of the game franchise.

But, they didn’t and I’ve actually blogged about it twice already. On Moderate Peril, you had the article of a woman shocked to her core. I wrote that mere minutes after finishing the game and, like this comic portrayed on the internet magazine ‘The Escapist’ I was in denial. I couldn’t believe what had happened and what I had just witnessed. I couldn’t believe that it would end that way, that the series would take such a terrible turn and there was no recovery. I finished it on a Sunday and spend the next two days in a trance, feeling sick and depressed to my core. I tried to push it down and tell myself that it was just a game and that if you looked at the bigger picture, it was alright. That Bioware had sort of given me what they promised, if only not in the way I wanted it. That lead to me writing the article for Nerd Trek. I like to think of it as the ‘reasonable adult’ article. The one where I pushed my feelings aside as any decent INTJ would do and considered the game in general. Yes, it was a good game. Yes, the story up until the end was fantastic. I had laughed and cried and fumed right along with my Shepard. Surely that was worth the money that I gave to Bioware, surely that was what I paid for? I said in the article that I would play the game again, that I would be able to push the ending from my mind and remember my love for the series.

I lied. Or rather, I was wrong.

The truth is that I haven’t been able to pick Mass Effect 3 up again. Or 2 for that matter. I tried, I really did but I got about halfway through my second play through and realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. That I couldn’t end it. Again. That I didn’t even care for playing it again because I knew what waited for me, and knew the futility of what I was trying to do.

You see, after all of that anticipation and excitement and disappointment and anger, I was left with a sense of bitterness. Yes, I could look at all the good aspects of the game. I could talk about how much better Shepard moved or how the graphics had improved or how amazing the voice actresses were but, that’s all been said. That was a given. We knew that it would all be good. We knew that it would be an improvement on Mass Effect 3. What we wanted was resolution. What I wanted was a happy ending.

From Deviantart – done by hoodie-gypsy

I think that’s why I have to write just one more blog about this, why I have to say what I want to say. On the previous two accounts, I was blogging for someone else, blogging as someone else’s voice. This time, it’s me and I don’t have to pretend anymore. I don’t have to smile and just take it. This is my blog and I can say in it what I really, really want to say.

And, the truth is that I’m angry and disappointed and yes, maybe even a little bit hurt.

You see, I trusted Bioware with my feelings, I trusted Bioware with my heart wrapped up in the pocket of one Alyssa Shepard. I had become very attached to my Shepard, a woman I remained Rianna in the fan fiction that I wrote about her because it looked silly just using my own name for it. I knew her history, her loves, her wishes and her desires. I knew what she feared the most and I was pleased as pie to encounter it during the game. And, I had hope for her. She wasn’t an extension of me, though we shared a name, but she was… well. I admired her and I tried to play the game in such a way that was true to the woman I thought she was. For the most part, I could do that. On my first and only playthrough I played the hell out of the game. I came out with what I thought was all the right choices. I had a MASSIVE intergalactic army. I had made peace between races that had been at war for generations. I had all my friends intact (save for those I lost in sacrifice for the bigger goal) and Alyssa Shepard and I both wished that in the end, with all of this under my belt, we would see her children, that she would be allowed to retire to a remote part of a galaxy as it rebuild itself and be left in peace as a reward for everything that she had done. Or, that if she died, (and that I did expect as well) that she’d be allowed to do so with dignity and that her legacy would be carried forward by her friends.

Bioware denied us that but what’s more, they denied us absolution.

And Reunion Hugs
And Reunion Hugs

You see, Bioware wrote what they thought was this perfect ending and even after the fan outcry in which more than 86% said that they disliked the end, I still got the impression that they didn’t really see what they had done wrong. And in that lies the source of my anger, the seed of my deep, personal bitterness that I now hold towards the franchise. I don’t want to feel as if I’m being indulged like a child throwing a tantrum (and some of you might argue that that’s what we’re doing, I’ll admit to that) but I want to feel that they have realized that they have made a mistake. That they have owned the mistakes pointed out by fans. Yet, they don’t. And, I think that’s what makes me even angrier. During the development of Mass Effect 3 SOMEONE out there must’ve thought: Oh dear, I don’t think the fans are going to like that… I don’t think this will sit well with them… Surely, someone in Bioware must have two brain cells lined up together?! How could they not see what affect it would have? How could they not see that their ending destroys everything that the player worked to achieve? The worst part is that even though I’ve essentially done everything right, I basically get the same choices in the end that the games where Shepard really messes around with everything will get a well. The game stopped being multidirectional and instead just became one singular big cluster fuck, regardless of what you did before. And, that’s what made me angry as well. I agonized over some decisions. Sometimes I let my Shepard make decisions with me sitting behind the screne going: Fuck woman, I know that’s what you would do but honestly, I’d rather do THAT Because I don’t trust the bastard. But, this is your show so…

Now, knowing that all of the roads that lead to that wretched starchild and space magic sequence, I can’t even take the decisions serious anymore. Even with Mass Effect 2, no matter how many times you replay it, you sometimes did encounter that unknown factor. I once replayed the game (number 6 I think…), did all the major character (in my opinion) loyalty missions, upgraded everything about my ship and stormed the collector’s base only to lose for some unknown reason I didn’t foresee, Kasumi Goto – one of my squad mates. That blew my mind because Irealized that even as an old hand, I could still make mistakes. With Mass Effect 3 that’s really of no consequence. There aren’t really any consequences. There is death. And death. And death. Blue and green and red.

I think that deep down, that’s also one of the reason’s I’m really angry with Bioware because they took away that excitement that I had over replaying the game. I replayed Mass Effect 2 about 8 times. I knew some sections by heart but I still kept on doing it because I expected there to be a reward at the end. Now, with Mass Effect 3 destroying that reward, there’s no reason for me to continue doing so. And, don’t get me wrong. I miss the gameplay, I miss the characters but whenever I start up the game I’m faced with the empty bitterness that I feel and the whole idea that no matter what I do, it won’t change a thing.

Which leads me, inevitably, to the promise of the extended ending. I was never a part of the Hold the Line movement, not because I didn’t feel that Bioware had done a good job, but because I felt that they had done such a bad one that short or releasing a whole new game in which they took out the last 15minutes completely, they couldn’t really fix what they had done. And from what I gather, they’re not really planning on fixing anything because they still haven’t acknowledged that they’ve done something wrong. Oh yes, they’re extending it. But, there’s no new gameplay and voice actresses like Kimberly Brooks who plays Ashley say that she’s just adding a line here or there. It’s not really saying: Oh yes, we’re disassembling the cluster fuck we’ve created. It’s just saying: We’re adding more dialogue to that cluster fuck. And yes you bloody whiners. There will be a good word or two in it for Shepard. Maybe even a happy ending. With unicorns. Because you asked for it.

And, something we didn’t ask for but which is getting all the attention is the multiplayer section. I’m even angrier about that because it’s the only thing that really seems to matter now. I said to a friend of mine that I get the impression that even though they said multiplayer is optional, they’re trying to force us into it by saying: Well, if you want still have fun playing the game – get Multiplayer! If you want new missions that makes a difference – get Multiplayer! If you want new in game content – get Multiplayer! As for Single player, screw that, we’ve gotten as much money out of you as we can… yes, we know you’re our first and most loyal fans but screw it, you’re all broke because you spend all your money on the Collector’s Edition and then, You dumb Smucks in South Africa, you spend the rest of your money on your data bundles so that you can actually DOWNLOAD said Collector’s Edition… So that cow’s milked dry…

*cough*

Well. Yes. Needless to say, I’m not playing multiplayer. I’ll calm myself down by sharing one of my favorite scenes from the game.

I saw a slogan once where they said: Mass Effect 3 – For when Real Life just isn’t depressing enough…

That’s about how I feel. I have a stressful job. I’m not some teenager hauled up in my mother’s basement; I’m a working adult, a career woman who has an immense amount of pressure on her every day. I’m in the kind of job that forces me to suffer fools with a smile on my face. I play games now, not because of some childhood fancy that I never grew out of but because it’s the one thing that offers me complete relief from my daily life. It’s the one thing that I can truly do on my own without any input from others. I’m rewarded for my hard work with stars and happy endings and I’m invited back in with the knowledge that I am master of my own destiny. I wouldn’t bloody well play the games if they left me with the feeling that I want to slice my own wrists open with a blunt raiser.

That’s what real life and Stephen Donaldson is for.

So, looking back yes, I realize that this is all my fault. That I did this to myself by getting too involved. By hoping for too much. But, what’s so wrong about that? The internet calls the Mass Effect fans a bunch of self obsessed whiners who feel that they are entitled to something that doesn’t belong to them. Bioware uses the excuse of ‘art’ and ‘artistic integrity’ yet they refuse to acknowledge who exactly the artist was who came up with that idea. I think that they are hiding behind it quite frankly because – in all honestly, artistic integrity can’t really be used in a section of writing that has more plot holes than swiss cheese and that shows absolutely no respect towards the very characters it created. If it was art, then Bioware should’ve said so from the beginning, instead of leading us on and making us believe that we could make a difference. With the ending, they tore back something that had led us believe was ours and did with it what they wanted, destroying it before us. It was like giving a toy to a child, saying that it was his, only to take it away the moment he became too attached to it and tearing off its head.

I’m not writing this to open debate because debates can only be justified when the content of such a debate is objective and I’ll be more than willing to admit that I’m not objective here. That’s not the point. The point is to get this off of my chest. To make those who follow my blog understand why I quite suddenly stopped gushing about this game and why my inner child that had been kept alive onboard the Normandy had died. It’s a bit mellow dramatic perhaps, but it’s true. The thing is that I haven’t really played any games since ending Mass Effect 3. I’ve messed around with Sims 3, but that’s hardly worth a mention. I tried getting back into Fallout 3, one of my favourite games to date, but even that was dry and senseless. Bioware opened up the realisation that it’s all just a game. One we paid for, like hiring an escort for love.

And just playing a game seems pretty useless now.

Mass Effect 2: A Commander’s Journal – Entry 1

Commander’s Log – Entry 1 – 2185CE

The date shocks me as I stare at it. Two years, two years since my last entry. Have I really been gone that long? Locked in a prison of my own body. In a coma they said. Dead others say.

Cerberus revived me to fight a war with no name against an enemy very few believe exist. A war I would never have seen if they had left me to die along with the original Normandy. I say original because I now sit in a copy, a hacked duplicate of my original beloved ship. Some things are the same, others – like the crew – so different. I have just returned from recruiting my first companion Mordin Solus the salarian geneticist who can supposedly help us fight the Collectors. He is the first of the Illusive Man’s party that I am to claim as my own. By rights, I should be choosing my own people, not following his orders but it seems for now, I have no choice. As told Joker, I got lucky surviving what I did. But, that luck comes with a collar and lease. I am, for now, a Cerberus agent.

A dog…

 

This is the mental dialogue I find myself imagining that my Commander Sheppard from Mass Effect 2 has with herself. I’m about five hours into the game. I had been 14, but then I found a way to download the Cerberus Network and restarted my game to make use of their Dark Horse Comic feature. Confused? Let me elaborate.

The Exciting.

This game might well become one of my favourites to date, knocking FallOut 3 out of its place (but let’s not get hasty). The dialogue is good, the system runs relatively well on the PS3 and as expected the dialogue is great. I love the details of the interpersonal relationships that you as Commander Sheppard can form with your crew. You also see old faces, link up with old friends from the first Mass Effect game and you have a nice, big and shiny new Normandy (even though you’ve had to endure seeing the first one blow up). All in all, this game is great and it might well keep me busy for months to come.

The Irritating.

As I’ve said before, when I just started playing this game, the copyright by Mass Effect 1 is held by Microsoft which means that it will never be released on PS3. Bioware overcame this issue by bringing out the PlayStation version of this game with an interactive comic book which gives you a broad overview of the first game. I’m saying broad because it takes what had been about a 100+ worth of gaming hours and reduced it to a 10minute comic. But, it does allow you to start your Mass Effect 2 game with the basic important choices of the first game in tact namely which of your crew members to save and who you want your primary romance to be. It redeems a lot of the game play which I found vexing in the beginning of my first start of the game. (For instance, I had chosen to sacrifice Kaiden Alenko instead of Ashley Williams, the default Mass Effect 2 start for a female Sheppard has it the opposite). But, the downside to this light is that you have to download this content despite the fact that they claim it comes with the game. Now, unlike in America, not all South African households have WiFi and more to the point, we pay quite a lot per megabite that we download (if you are your normal run of the mill household that does not possess an uncapped line). I decided – for the sake of the game, that I would try to download this pack but I had to MacGuyver my PS3 and my laptop together. Then, I had to fix my Vodacom Internet line and eventually jerry rig the whole system because my work computer that I was trapped on wouldn’t do what I want. Long story short – it was a LOT of trouble and throughout the 675MB download I kept praying that for some or other reason my connection wouldn’t be severed (which meant that I would have to pay for everything again). There, I have to say that Bioware and EA games were really REALLY stupid and short sighted. Even the ‘Game of the Year’ edition of Fallout 3 came with all the Downloadable content in game.

But, it didn’t irritate me for long and now I have the full benefits of the Cerberus network which is well worth the download. J

I will keep you updated on my progress and if you are interested, give you more ‘Commander’ Logs.

Happy gaming everybody.

Fallout New Vegas – The First Impression.

War, war never changes.

My first sense of self was staring down at my tied hands. Pumpkin gloves as I know them. Thick leather gloves that you can use on a farm or ranch. My hands are tied and when I look up there are three men around me. One of them’s shifty, the other cold eyed and the last one dressed in a fancy suit. I look up at him as he smiles at me, draws out his gun, tells me it’s not personal and that the game was fixed and then… Then he shoots me. My vision goes white and I lose consciousness.

Or die, depending on how you look at it.

These are the opening moments of Bethesda’s fourth Fallout game, Fallout New Vegas. It’s not a sequel to Fallout 3, standing alone with its story line but the game play and graphics are very similar. It’s a role playing game/first person shooter, set in a future 270 years from now when the world’s basically been destroyed by a nuclear apocalypse. You are a character, a courier, intercepted when delivering a package and shot in the head for your effort. A good doctor, Doc Mitchell, patches you up in the first few minutes of the game, which helps you to set up your character’s attributes and sets you off on a short tutorial to familiarise you with certain elements of the game play.

The emphasis is on short.

I left the good town of Goodsprings with a wild sense of: “What the hell just happened? Where am I? And why the hell is everybody talking so much? I have no idea what’s going on… And it’s not because I was shot in the head.”

Let me take a step back.

I loved Fallout 3, FNV’s predecessor. I had bought the game at a second hand game store for a ridiculously, dirt cheap price. I didn’t know what it was at the stage but I was in the mood for something different with a little bit more game play than Mirror’s Edge offered me. Fallout 3 proved to be everything that I wanted and more. The basic story line took about 8 to 12 hours to complete, but if you allowed yourself to be distracted by all the other requests that the Wastelanders offered you and some downright dirty exploring you could set down over 50 to 80 hours of saved game play (and by this I do not count the COUNTLESS times you might die and start something over). I felt that it was great value for my money and game definitively had a WOW factor to it. More often than not you found yourself stuck on some desolate rooftop in the middle of downtown DC, looking out over the destroyed city and going: Dude, this is a site you don’t see everyday…

The character’s story was also very compelling and very engrossing. Your character starts of new to the world, which puts both of you on common ground. People’s requests are simple, plain: Please deliver this message for me. Please find a violin. Please go kill that monster…
It’s doable, and you can remember it without taking notes.

Not so with Fallout New Vegas.

I feel lost, and it’s got nothing to do with my Pip Boy not showing me in the right direction. I find myself overwhelmed by the people’s requests. “Talk to So and So, she’ll give you this and this which you’ll need for this so that you can accomplish this and then when it’s all over you must remember to take out the garbage…”

This is a made up line naturally, but the effect is the same. I find myself staring at these helpless wasteland folk and I can’t help but wonder if I hadn’t made my Intelligence score too low because I couldn’t follow what they wanted me to do. What happened to the good old fashioned: Oh, please go find me a mine… Moira Brown kind of requests?

I’m more than willing to accept that I might not be in the right mood for this game right now. So, I’m not making any judgements on it as yet but at the moment, I don’t have as high hopes for it as I had two months ago.

It’s too complicated. I can’t keep track (without making some serious notes) what kind of Ammo I must buy, what ingredients I must collect to make medicine with, who I must alight myself with and who that will piss off. Heck, I can’t even remember my original mission, save for that I want to do some serious dirty business with the dude who had shot me.

Now don’t get me wrong, the reviews for this game have been good. But, so far – I’m just not that into it. I rather find myself thinking about revisiting my Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3 and restarting the game there (I have logged over 130hours in total in it). There I know what the people want of me.

And I have my trusty dog Dogmeat as a companion…