(This post is a continuation of the thought processes that evolved out of Knowing When to Move On.)
So you and your game have been on a break. You spent some time away, exploring other worlds, completing other tasks, getting to know other individuals. You had a good time in these new spaces, but now you feel ready. Ready to return to that game. And you know that this time, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be good. You and that game are going to hit it off once and for all.
You load up that game and pick up where you left off. But before venturing into all that the game has to offer, you decide to take a gander at your last save.
Eeek! Has it been that long?! Until seeing the timestamp on that last save, you hadn’t realized just how much time had passed since you had played that game. And yet, you still put on your adulting gear and get on with it. Despite your best efforts, however, things are shaky. You don’t quite remember the controls, and because of it, you accidentally do something that you think could affect the outcome of your playthrough. You wobble around in your now-unfamiliar character and brand-newish setting and try to gain your bearings. You scroll through your lists of missions, and the listing belies what you thought it was that you were supposed to be doing. The map looks a jumble, and so does your inventory. (When the heck did I collect all this junk?!) A final nail in the coffin arrived when you get a look at your actual character. Hmm, you wonder, did I really create that odd-looking face? It then hits you.
Maybe I should just start over.
This is how it went recently with my return to Fallout 4. After setting aside Red Dead Redemption II, finally finishing Fallout 4 became my new mission. The reality of doing so hit me when I saw that my last save was dated December 2015. (Yikes!) And as I was bumbling around, trying to remember basic things like how to jump, how to holster my weapon, and how to talk to NPCs (rather than accidentally shooting them in the face, which…happened), I thought that I should just start over. The feeling became more overwhelming when I returned to my home base at Sanctuary Hills. I couldn’t recall which burnt-out house was “mine,” how to craft anything, or how to make the few remaining people there any happier, let alone why they were there in the first place. I also couldn’t find my dog, which was distressing. Everything about the game felt perfectly alien.
But, I opted to keep going in spite of my lack of confidence. Thank goodness no one was watching as I made a total fool of myself trying to remember the ins and outs of Fallout 4’s combat system, but I eventually scraped through another story mission. It’ll take a few more sessions before I feel comfortable with the game again, but I’ll get there.
Though, there remains a small part of me that thinks it would be best to start over.
Looking back on my own history of unfinished games, I am more likely to want to start over with RPGs and story-heavy games. (Often, but not always, the two go hand-in-hand.) In the latter category fall games like The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. Re-learning game mechanics aside, I only vaguely recall how their stories were setup and how far I progressed within them. I’d want to start them over if only for the sake of proper immersion.
As far as RPGs go, other than The Witcher games (my white whale, at this point), while most of the one I enjoy are on my “completed” list, I have a bad habit of starting up new playthroughs and never finishing them. And each time I go back to them, I have to delete those unfinished characters and start anew. Why? Because I like to form some sort of bonding backstory that carries the characters I create. These backstories drive the choices I make for them. But I usually only keep them in mind for as long as I’m playing as that particular character. With a new character comes a new backstory and driving force. Once that momentum is gone, it’s hard for me to re-draw those memories. For example, I have second attempt waiting for me in Mass Effect: Andromeda, but that version of Ryder is pretty much dead-in-the-water, because I can’t remember anything about his (my) intended motivations. If I ever go back to the game, I’ll probably start over.
Dragon Age: Inquisition served as a different example, one where, upon first playing it, I ended up starting over mid-game because I didn’t like the character I had created. It wasn’t anything personal, per se, I just didn’t bond with her in a meaningful way. Nor was my mindset in place where I wanted to connect (through her) with anything that the game had to offer. At around the twenty-hour mark, I made the decision scrap my new warrior and start over. I ended up recreating something of my original rogue from Dragon Age: Origins, and I had a much, much better time. More thankfully, I didn’t feel as if I had wasted my time with the non-starter character.
If there’s one outlier to all this, it’s Skyrim. That’s a game where I think I’ve logged more hours into multiple different characters than I ever did with the first and only character with which I beat the game. In Skyrim, it’s just so easy to want to start up a new character just for the sake of playing through a particular sidequest, or to go hunting giants, or to muck around with crafting, and housekeeping, and building relationships. The game’s primary story is just okay when compared to how enjoyable it can be to simply play around in that world.
Perhaps all this boils down to one issue: time. In examining an unfinished playthrough, is it worth my time to start over? For me and Fallout 4, that answer turned out to be no. While discomfit looms over me as I pick where I left off some three-plus years ago, I really can’t to reinvest the couple dozen hours it will take me to get back to where I am from scratch. At least, I can’t if I want to actually finish the game in a timely manner, which is now my primary goal. I meekly welcome the challenge of returning to the wasteland, if it my brain continues to screams at me otherwise.
When it comes to resuscitating your unfinished games, where do you stand on starting over?