Knowing When to Start Over

(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?

Lede image © Bethesda Games Studio (2015), taken from Fallout 4 press kit.


  1. LightningEllen says:

    I’m going through this will Fallout 4 right now, haha. My last save was over 2 years ago… yikes. I just couldn’t restart after all the work I did. Thankfully, I picked up on the controls quickly and was able to lure Dogmeat back to Sanctuary with a doghouse. I don’t know where, or even who, half my other companions are though. Oops!

    What helped was I blogged a lot about Fallout 4 back then. I was able to use my old posts to help remind myself about what the heck I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      I kinda in the same boat with Fallout 4! I’m glad that I did a couple videos about it years back, because they really helped me remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Unfortunately, I still don’t know where Dogmeat is (going to try that doghouse trick!), I can’t remember how to make my settlement better, and I’m still bad at shooting. Otherwise, it’s a blast, and I’m so happy to have returned to the apocalypse!

      Good luck to you in the wasteland, as well. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  2. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    After weeks, months, or years have passed, you get a craving to play one of your (many) unfinished games. Upon loading, you look at your last save and wonder…should I just start over? It’s upon this very question that I mused over recently on Virtual Bastion.


  3. renxkyoko says:

    I have so many unfinished games… I have not even started playing some of the games…. I feel bad that I had to drop one of my favorite games… the latest Tomb Raider. It’s stealth from get go.. I’m okay with stealth, but this new Tomb Raider is incredibly unbelievable, even for a video game. How can the player take down an enemy , without getting seen, with a dozen other enemies right there , just a foot away? How about the body of the enemy the player has just taken down ? It’s right under the enemies’ noses, but the bodies just disappear ? Aaargh. And I don’t like that Lara Craft can fight hundreds of enemies in one go …. ( like in the last Tomb Raider where she has to fight hundreds of Samurais..) But I guess I have to play this game at some point… I paid full price for it. ( I couldn’t wait for the sale on PSN store, (-.-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      As great as the new Tomb Raider games are (though I’ve only played the first reboot), they do indeed include one too many unbelievable moments! I can only handle them, and games like them (lookin’ at you, Uncharted) in small doses these days.

      I feel the same way about games I’ve purchased at full price – I hate to let them sit. But sometimes, there’s no way around it until you build up enough determination to bulldoze your way through! Anyway, hope you do get around to revisiting Lara Croft, someday. It’s not her fault her games are so wild.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. renxkyoko says:

    My brother gave me a physical copy of Unchartered 4 for Christmas and bought me another one ( forgot the title of the game) from my PSN store… I haven’t played them yet ( also Doom , aaargh) . He’s coming home next week, and I’m sure he’s going to ask me if I have played them yet. I’m sure he’ll get annoyed again if I tell him, nope, not yet. Ha ha…

    Liked by 1 person

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