Ruling the Desert in Fallout: New Vegas

Image by Flickr user Midhras (CC)
Image by Flickr user Midhras (CC)

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!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Sadly haven’t entered the world of Fallout, myself, but it’s one of those series that keeps calling to me. Maybe I’ll jump in with a previous title before taking on the Commonwealth, as well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      That’s what I’d recommend, personally. Not that Fallout 4 is a bad game — it isn’t — but I think it can be a tough start if you aren’t already familiar with Fallout generally. Don’t know if I’d necessarily go backwards with the titles like I’m doing, but New Vegas was truly amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hatm0nster says:

    I’d say that Fallout 4 serves as a…weak introduction to the series. It has the gritty look of Fallout, but that’s about it. It has none of the depth of the other games; not in the lore, the world, the role-playing, or even the combat. It was made to ride the coat-tails of Skyrim and it shows. No Karma system, faster combat that has little tension to it, few interesting sidequests and locations…I could go on, but I won’t. The point is that I’m glad you didn’t let it stop you from trying New Vegas, which is the strongest game in the series.

    I could gush on and on about New Vegas, but I’ll (try to) contain myself to the faction system and endings. I love how the sum of your actions is what defines how the game ends rather than it railroading you into one via the faction you pick at the very end. You don’t just choose who come out ahead, but also the degrees of victory and defeat. You can mercilessly slaughter your enemies or talk them into retreating. You can even be the guy playing the long-con and choose what you think is the opportune time to reveal your true goals and allegiances! It’s awesome!

    Then there’s dlc (oh man that dlc)! Old World Blues takes that subtle Fallout goofiness and turns it up to 11, and both Dead Money and Lonesome Road confront you with deep ideas like what’s truly valuable in life and the consequences (both intentional and otherwise) of one’s actions. They’re even all loosely connected by a little mystery of story thread that reveals itself in a subtle (but very cool) was if you play them in order (Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road).

    *cough* So yeah…Fallout: New Vegas is pretty cool! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      It took me the better portion of the game to really understand and start playing with the game’s Karma system, which I really found fascinating. It wasn’t black and white (these people like you/these people don’t) but contained many shades of gray. So you could be liked but distrusted. Or evil but seen as merciful. Or good but chaotic. Once I got to know the Karma system, the game took on a whole new feel. It made it feel like I really had to take responsibility for my actions. And it was interesting discovering how those actions had played out by the end.

      Y’know, not to run off on a tangent, but like most people who’ve played Bioware games, I’ve held its storytelling and playstyle in high regard. But I gotta say that I think Bethesda really one-upped Bioware’s system in New Vegas. It’s not perfect, but the amount of agency the players are given as it concerns their choices and the effects of those choices on different factions is so much more effective than, say, who you get in Mass Effect. It’s too bad that Bethesda essentially abandoned New Vegas’s systems in Fallout 4. (But hey, you get to build your own settlement, so that’s cool…right?)

      Hmm…I should have thought to get New Vegas GOTY, but I’ll have to search out it’s DLC at some point. Those missions sound very intriguing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hatm0nster says:

        There yet may be hope for another New Vegas-style Fallout. There’s a tone of rumors that Obsidian (New Vegas’ primary developer) is working on a Fallout that takes place in New Orleans. No idea if it’s true or not, but I REALLY hope it is!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. cary says:

        Oh ho, really now?! I’ve also just read that are some New Vegas 2 rumors floating around. Now that would be something to get excited for!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    As far as cleaning out my backlog goes, I can honestly say that completing Fallout: New Vegas was a personal triumph. Not only was the game brilliant and amazing, but it helped rebuild my interest in the Fallout franchise, generally. (After my initial misfired with Fallout 4, I really wasn’t sure if the games were for me.) In this post for United We game, I put my New Vegas thoughts down on “paper,” with minimal gushing.


  4. You are making this sound very enticing I have to say – another one to play along with Borderlands 2 it seems! The thing is I played Fallout 3 not too long ago and, while I enjoyed it to begin with, by the end it felt like an utter chore to play – not helped by the lacklustre, tedious ending. I’ve heard good things about New Vegas by comparison, as I understand it was developed by a different team, but I am still a little wary of this series.


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