With the arrival of Fallout 4 in late 2015, I figured it was high time I get myself a piece of all that post-apocalyptic action that had been capturing everyone’s attention. And things started out well enough. I created my character, experienced the horror of nuclear annihilation (fun!), and started my new life on the other side, in wasteland called the “The Commonwealth.” Unfortunately, my relationship with the game petered off for no discernible reason. I became interested in other games, and that was that. I made a couple half-witted attempts at getting back into Fallout 4 at various points over the course of 2016, but they hardly resulted in any significant progression.
Because of this, one might wonder what drove me to recently pick up, in haste perhaps, a copies of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. I can’t say, really. But there I was in the store, staring at a copy of Fallout: New Vegas for the PS3 in one hand, and Fallout 3 GOTY for the Xbox 360 in the other, and I only knew that I had to have them. Maybe I had jumped into the series with the wrong game, I thought. If “The Commonwealth” wasn’t the place for me, then perhaps some other wasteland was. Not really knowing much about either title, I opted to start with New Vegas.
Fallout: New Vegas tells the story of a courier (you) who’s shot and left for dead in the middle of a desert somewhere on the far outskirts of New Vegas – the game’s post-apocalyptic rendition of the once bright and seedy Las Vegas, Nevada. You wake up in the town of Goodsprings after being rescued by a robot fellow. From there, your journey begins across what’s called the “Mojave Wasteland” as you attempt to find your would-be killer.
That’s the story in a teeny nutshell, and it truly doesn’t do justice to the game’s story, which turned out to be much more grandiose in scale than I could have ever imagined. If you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about. If not, and without spoilers, then all I’ll say is that finding the person who killed you really just comprises the game’s first act. It’s the second act when New Vegas itself becomes your focus that the story simply soars. It’s then that your immersed into the lore of Fallout through meetups with various factions and individuals as you work to figure out your place in the Mojave. Will you work to bring people together or destroy whatever fragile relationships may exist? Will you help one group only to betray another? Will you follow the current leaders or become on yourself? Anything possible in the desert wastes.
Speaking of the desert, that environment, for me, was key. Quite simply, it offered me space. Space to roam, to wander, and to find my own way. I probably didn’t stick with Fallout 4 long enough to discover its wide, open spaces, but in that game, the Commonwealth was simply overwhelming with tons of spots to explore, loot, and visit. In New Vegas, the space of the game felt big and empty (but not too empty). As such, stumbling across anything, from an abandoned gas station to a well-hidden vault to a full settlement was a welcome surprise. Rather than get lost on a maze of city buildings, the desert of New Vegas offered necessary breathing room in a game filled with plenty of intensity otherwise.
I also really liked the group status mechanic involving the game’s factions and how much any given group liked or disliked me affected the game’s quests. It wasn’t until I got my first automatic “quest failed” notice upon doing away with a particular individual that I realized how important it was to pay attention to my status with any given group. Though I may have set off with the intention of being the “Great Unionizer,” before too long I realized it was impossible to please everyone. While I might have been idolized in a few places, I was quickly vilified in others. But interestingly, the game offered me chances to turn my bad statuses around, and vice versa, which I didn’t expect. (Once a villain always a villain is how most games go.) As the game progressed, I found myself toeing a few fine lines with some groups. The constant thoughts of trying to/wanting to maintain some sort of balance was incredibly invigorating. So rather than simply move from quest to quest, I found myself really questioning each decision. To a certain extent, the game really made me feel like I was in charge. I didn’t feel that way in Fallout 4. None of this is to say that Fallout: New Vegas was a perfect game; in fact, it had several major issues. But I’ll save those for next week’s post. (I need only say “glitches” for you to see where I’ll be heading.)
I’ve been wishy-washy before about getting into major game franchises that I had mostly skipped. With them always comes to big question or where to start: the beginning, middle, or end? With Fallout, starting with the newest installment only proved to be more than I could handle (at the time). But I’m glad that I decided to not to give up on the series entirely. Taking a step back with Fallout: New Vegas was certainly the right choice. It offered up a truly expansive and an enjoyably addictive gaming experience, one I’ve not had with a game in some time.
Next up (someday) will be Fallout 3. Then, after that, maybe it’ll be time to return to The Commonwealth.
If you’ve played Fallout: New Vegas, let’s talk about those factions and endings in the comments!