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Analysis: Why I Abandoned New Vegas For Renaissance Rome
Analysis: Why I Abandoned New Vegas For Renaissance Rome
February 21, 2011 | By Connor Cleary

February 21, 2011 | By Connor Cleary
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[Connor Cleary juxtaposes his disappointment with Obsidian's Fallout: New Vegas against Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and examines what the games reveal about each other when played back to back.]

Nothing was going to stop me from picking up Fallout: New Vegas, I couldn't wait to see a whole new wasteland. To drive the point home, I should mention that even though I rarely buy DLC, I bought every DLC pack available for Fallout 3 because I couldn't get enough of it.

My first experiences with New Vegas came in waves. For the first few hours it was like I never left Fallout 3 – in a good way – I was excited to explore this new wasteland and see what surprises might be lurking behind the next rocky outcrop.

I wasn't expecting a brand new game, so I wasn't going to fret that there wasn't much in the way of new mechanics, and the few new ones were interesting enough. But my enthusiasm steadily faded and I couldn't put my finger on exactly why.

Was I just over it? Had the novelty of this particular flavor of post-apoc wasteland simply worn off? Or was it something more tangible than that? As far as the game's narrative, I knew I was supposed to take sides in the larger conflict but I found myself entirely unmoved by any of the factions competing for control of the Mojave.

I knew that I hated the slavers of Caesar's Legion – even when I'm playing the most evil of evil characters, I still cannot abide slavers – but I didn't care about the imperial NCR or the mysterious Mr. House either.

It occurred to me that on top of all this, I didn't care much about my character either. In Fallout 3 you start your character as a baby, you watch them grow up, and you get to define him or her as you do so. You experience your character's childhood, and you develop a relationship with his or her father, so when your dad disappears you really want to find out what happened to him.

In New Vegas, while you do get a variety of options for defining your Courier, s/he is completely undefined at the outset, s/he has no memory and thus no history. You start with zero emotional connection. I know I should appreciate the clean-slate approach, but I don't. It's hard to connect to a character that has no back-story whatsoever.

As opposed to the search for my mysteriously disappeared father in Fallout 3, the revenge story of New Vegas just didn't grip me. Basically, I held no ill-will towards my checker-suited assassin. People die in the Wasteland all the time for less of a reason than he had: I was a Courier, I was transporting something he wanted, so he shot me.

He did what was right by him, I can't expect anyone in the Wasteland to do any different. Sure, his gambling-themed puns were irritating, but beyond that the game didn't vilify the man enough to make me care about finding him and bringing him to justice – or bullety revenge, as it were.

(New Vegas Spoiler Alert, in this paragraph I reveal something that happens many hours into the game, but it was the one thing that made me want to keep playing.) It wasn't until I stumbled upon a plucky robot hidden away in a back room that I started to be interested again in the fate of New Vegas and the Mojave at large. This robot – who I think I could have easily missed – offered to help me take over the Vegas Strip. Suddenly, I cared who would end up in charge because I wanted it to be me.

But even after the above-mentioned event that filled me with a new sense of purpose, there was still something that left me wanting, and I couldn't figure out what it was. That is, until I read an article from G. Christopher Williams on PopMatters.com entitled “Fallout, the 'To Do' List Simulator” that made me realize what was bugging me most: I never got anything done! I was apathetic because I never got a feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment. Even upon completing a mission, my quest queue was usually longer than when I started.

While I wanted to keep moving forward with New Vegas, I simply had to pick up and dive into some Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood as well. My plan was to check out Brotherhood for a couple hours then put it aside until I finished up New Vegas... But I didn't want to go back. When played back to back, these games shine an interesting light on each other, specifically on the biggest problem I have with New Vegas and one of the things I like most about Brotherhood.

I like the feeling of getting things done, and working towards a goal, and these are more satisfying in video games than they are in real life mostly due to their immediacy. As soon as I complete a quest I get money and items and experience, etc. In real life, rewards come at a significantly slower pace, and are rarely as materially satisfying as a shiny new sword.

For one thing, I actually care about Ezio Auditore and his mission. And I know intuitively that whatever happens to him in the end is big and exciting and important, otherwise the present-day assassins wouldn't be making Desmond re-live the story.

There is also an excellent mix of small-scale side-quests – that grant permanent rewards like cheaper prices for hiring allies – and long-view plot movers that open up new areas and new items in stores. But the most important part is that they are all extremely satisfying. Even moving around between quests is enjoyable, and calling the brotherhood makes me giddy every time.

The point is that when I get things done in AC: Brotherhood I get a sense of accomplishment. As opposed to New Vegas, where I usually have more to do than when I started. Which means that with every step forward in New Vegas, the ultimate goal seems further away. I find myself rather uninterested in the fate of the Mojave or my Courier because that ultimate goal isn't very compelling – or well-defined – and I don't feel much of an attachment to my character.

I eventually found that ignoring most of the minor side-quests makes New Vegas much more enjoyable. But despite this realization, I don't think New Vegas will ever give me the same feeling of consistent satisfaction that Brotherhood offers.

Who knows, maybe the barren wastes will be a nice change of pace after Brotherhood's lush fields and beautiful buildings have been thoroughly explored? And maybe dynamic character choices will feel more interesting after obediently plodding along Brotherhood's linear story? But for the time being, I'll stick to Rome.


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