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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
More: Console/PC

[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 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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Jacek Wesolowski
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According to my Steam client, I've spent 46 hours with FNV so far. I've reached level 30, but the main plot has barely started. I have only recently bothered to visit the Strip. My experience was the opposite of yours: I felt unimpressed for the first ten hours or so, because the game seemed to impose a linear playthrough in a supposedly non-linear setup. It tried to lead me along a storyline that didn't really work. But then the narrative started to show a bit of depth, like the quest related to the hotel owner in Novac, or Veronica's grudge against her own faction.

I tend to play FNV in short sessions, because I quickly get the feeling you've described, namely that I'm not getting anywhere. Then I come back for more, because I'm curious about the setting.

I think there are two issues at work here. One is a design tradeoff that the authors made. The other issue is a major design flaw.

The decision they made was that the setting was more important than the plot. You're not supposed to be a hero on an exciting adventure to save the world. You're supposed to be a curious visitor in an interesting place. Significant effort was put into giving twists to quest storylines. A town needs a sheriff: do you pick a stupid but honest robot, or an efficient but ruthless ex-policeman? Another town sustains itself by stealing water from a bigger neighbour: do you keep their secret so they can prosper, or do you turn them in because they shouldn't be stealing? To be honest, I find FNV interesting precisely because nobody's perfect in it. There's no one I could follow unquestioningly, but there are many people I can empathise with.

You can't really have this kind of a series of little stories *and* a heroic plot, because the former require you to take your time, and the latter is a call for directed action. How can you bother trying to solve local problems of people you've never met when your home vault is dying from thirst / your tribe is starving / your only living family member has gone missing? Heroic plots don't leave room for doubt: don't think, do. Of course, some people prefer a heroic plot over little stories, which is fine, while others prefer little stories over heroic plot, which is fine too. It's a design tradeoff.

The design flaw that FNV suffers from is the lack of any pacing whatsoever. Contrary to a common misconception, a game based on exploration needs just as much pacing as a game based on a plot. It's just that the pacing techniques are different:

- in Fallout 1 and 2, the main plot was a trail of bread crumbs that sent you from town to town in a fairly specific order (though you were free to ignore it); most subquests, which served the purpose of exploration, were constrained to the near surroundings of the town they originated from; your travel was punctuated by occasional random encounters;

- in Fallout 3, some easy to get subquests played the role of a "tour de Wasteland"; the missions that crazy mechanic girl from Megaton sent you on are the most obvious example, but there were others, including quests which required you to explore the subway network;

- also in Fallout 3, the travel itself was paced; regardless of where you were standing, there was always some kind of distinguishable landmark somewhere on the horizon; getting there was a valid short term goal, and possibly part of a larger goal of getting somewhere further away;

FNV does none of the above. The Mojave is just a huge sheet of hilly terrain with hardly any landmarks (Novac dinosaur, the Black Mountain, and Helios One come to mind, but these are exceptions rather than the norm). Getting anywhere is often made difficult with large scale obstacles, such as hill ranges - the simplest route is often not feasible, but there is no easy way to find an alternate one (even with the map of the entire world readily available!).

The main plot only gives you valid intermediate goals up until Primm, and then you're basically on your own, because the next place that you're supposed to get to is too far away. By the time you get there, there are a million distractions, including dozens of quests. And when they do give you those quests, they ask you to travel all over the place, rather than somewhere near. There are too many things to do and not enough ways to proritize them.

FNV's setting is interesting on the literary level, i.e. there are relatable characters and stories with twists. But the nonverbal component is underdeveloped. It's a pity they didn't build the entire game in the same way they built the content related to vaults. When I first got to Camp McCarran, I didn't even know I was near a huge military base until I accidentally stumbled upon the main gate!

David Hughes
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I played about 15 hours of NV when it first released and haven't touched it since. Your comments about pacing (even in an open-world game) and the map design are spot on.

In my experience, Obsidian funnels you down a relatively pre-set path early on because moving in certain directions (primarily N/NW) run you into enemies that are far higher level than your character. I hated this constraint versus the style of exploration in Fallout 3.

Chris OKeefe
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I actually didn't enjoy Fallout 3 overmuch. I blame it on jumping on the Main Plot bandwagon right off the start and finishing the game in probably about eight hours. I tried to start over and just ignore the main plot but I could never get into the game after that.

I only played Fallout: New Vegas because it was a gift, and honestly I was enthralled. I made a point to not focus too much on the main plot, and explored the world. I did eventually beat it after some 20 hours of gameplay, and it was one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I've had.

Now, although I haven't played Brotherhood, I have played the first two Assassin's Creeds. I can't compare directly but assuming the game is relatively similar to the first two, then I can at least say this. Assassin's Creed is a fun game. Its primary game mechanic is a blast to use. Jumping around from roof to roof? Yes please. But as an overall experience it just seems like it's glitz and glam of gaming without the lasting appeal.

There are games you sink your teeth into and savor, and there are games you immerse yourself in and take for a joyride. I don't think either is innately preferable to the other. One requires a certain amount of patience and commitment, and one only requires that you can become personally involved in an experience.

I think the unique elements that qualify a game to fall into one category or the other can become more or less relevant to a person depending on their circumstances. Fallout: New Vegas is probably a lot easier to appreciate when you have a lot of free time. If you're busy, trying to squeeze entertainment out of it in Hour Or Less Chunks can be unsatisfying. Assassin's Creed, on the other hand, rewards you practically the moment you turn the game on. The first time you crawl up the side of the building it's relatively exciting. But it lacks the depth that a game like Fallout New Vegas has.

Jerry Pritchard
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Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout3 and Fallout:NV are all terrible as base-game experiences. To get the full effect and benefit of these games and to improve the experience, you need three things: 1) PC copy of these games. 2) An adequate PC of running these games. 3) MODs.

If you are playing these games as-is out of the box, you are doing it wrong and deserve a bland, boring and flavorless experience (and yes its Beth's fault for making these games bland out of the box). Its like having a hamburger with just a meat patty and bun without all the extra goodies.

Chris OKeefe
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Morrowind was fine on its own, I had a brilliant time with it. It was a much deeper game than Oblivion and especially for the period it came out, when sandbox worlds were still not fully realized, it provided a truly epic, open experience right out of the box.

Oblivion was a huge cop-out and I haven't played it unmodded practically since it came out. It requires multiple mods to be worth playing these days. I almost view it like a tech demo that begs people to mod it, it doesn't offer a huge amount of original content. I give them a bit of credit for the beauty of the game, but given that there are only three(possibly four) different kinds of dungeon interior(cave, ayeleid ruin, and akavari ruin, plus the Oblivion interior which almost seemed like an afterthought), and that makes up the vast majority of the game's content, always bothered me.

Joe Webb
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The thing that really struck me about the differences between Oblivion and Morrowind, besides scale, was the relative genericness of Oblivion's world. I understand it was based around the imperial capital but when you look at Morrowind in comparison, the environment, creatures, culture etc. were just so much stranger and more interesting, like traditional fantasy coupled with something from Oddworld or the movie Dark Crystal. The way characters responded xenophobically to the PC as "outlander" helped this too. You feel alienated by the landscape, and you're supposed to. Oblivion, like the Dragon Age series, has a lot of things going for it, but both series suffer from boring same-old Tolkien regurgitation.

Dave Sodee
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I have to say I loved Oblivion and its expansion and the mod Nehrim. I loved Fallout 3 and all dlc for it. I got NV looking forward to more of the same goodness and so far just feel ok with the purchase. I enjoy the exploration but feel nothing about my character.

I loved the Witcher and I think partly as I felt I was Geralt. Looking forward to Witcher 2.

Michael Eilers
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I was a complete sucker for the world of Fallout 3; the setting, the atmosphere and most importantly my role in the world seemed to finally strike that balance between overly-directed forced march and free-ranging purposelessness. Vegas, however, has no hold on me whatsoever, for many of the reasons cited above. Mostly, it seems to be an issue of context and a lack of credible situations. I can believe in the Brotherhood of Steel or the Enclave, obviously an Allies vs Axis scenario; am I really supposed to believe that a gang would pattern themselves after Caesar's Imperial Legions? Yeah, there was a Caesar's casino, I get it - mandatory chuckle - but really, we're back in the time of Rome vs. the Barbarians(Kahns)?

Context is a constant issue in Vegas. We're told that the place wasn't as badly affected by the nuclear war than others, but then why is the world so completely empty, trashed and devoid of any real content besides recycled bits from Washington DC? Adding foraging for herbs to the landscape does not significantly reward me for giving me a much larger area to walk in with much less content per square foot than Fallout 3. In the original, you would get finished with one mini-quest or encounter and immediately stumble into another; in Vegas I find myself wandering completely alone for minutes at a time, and I fast-travel constantly just to avoid another long slog to the next town. Why are the Super Mutants here, when the mechanism that created them (according to the plot for Fallout 3) is thousands of miles away? Why is Brotherhood technology here (Plasma rifles, Stealth Boys, Laser Rifles) but no BoS members? Very few wrecked cars, no working or wrecked trains, no water sources, towns composed of five to ten buildings - even in the most rural town in Nevada in actuality there are no places with less than 2-3 dozen houses or buildings. Washington DC was trashed, but it felt like it was working just yesterday; you could almost feel the ghosts of the once-great city walking around. Vegas feels like an attempt to stretch out as much content from the original game as they could over the largest area possible. It just irritates the hell out of me to see the same dresser, desk, wallpaper, TV set, shelf, etc. (I could go on!) from Washington DC over again. Do they all shop at the same Wasteland IKEA chain?

I don't think the author of this article really got to the meat of the matter: directed vs. free-roaming experiences. I've only played the first of the AC series, and frankly I was deeply annoyed by the needless sci-fi overlay, but it was a cleanly and clearly directed experience disguised as an open-world game. Vegas is the opposite, it is an open-world game in which their attempts to direct me have little or no traction. I also think (as noted above) that the world of AC is extremely credible and realistic, and packed with content; Vegas just leaves me to wander and gives me such a delayed feedback loop for my actions (except for the worthless Karma ratings) that it may be hours of gametime before I figure out if I made a poor choice. I wish I could love it more, but Vegas is another Obsidian miss for me - buggy, frankly lazy and uninspiring.

Jacek Wesolowski
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I suppose the nuclear fallout and the nuclear winter would kill most people, even in the absence of nuclear explosions. The infrastructure tends to fall apart when there is no one to take care of it, and on top of that this is a desert anyway.

According to many NPCs in FNV, the founder and head of Ceasar's Legion is a well educated guy who went nuts. Stereotypically, educated guys who go nuts think they are Napoleon, but I guess the ancient Rome fits the setting better.

Supermutants were first created in the Los Angeles area, some 500km from Las Vegas. Decades have passed since Fallout 1, and mutants have had plenty of time to spread. Both supermutants and ghouls have a much longer lifespan than humans. The two groups that have settled in New Vegas area are led by a major NPC from Fallout 2. You can actually meet him.

I'm not sure what you mean with regard to water sources. The river in the eastern part of the map is fairly conspicuous, and the New Vegas area, where the majority of settlements are located, is said to have a working water supply system. There is a related quest.

The tech is not Brotherhood's. The Brotherhood mostly collects and researches it. Gun Runners were present back in Fallout 1, and I believe I did buy a plasma rifle from them at the time. In FNV, there is a BoS base in the Hidden Valley, roughly in the middle of the map. They're hiding from the local population on purpose.

Brotherhood of Steel was first introduced in Fallout 1 as a quasi-religious order of good natured tech savvy survivalists. The Enclave was introduced in Fallout 2 as a kind of Brotherhood's evil counterpart (with even better tech and an evil agenda). It never occurred to me that this could be an Allies-Axis metaphor. If anything, it feels more like North vs. South.

By the way, there are all kinds of references to Fallout 2 on every turn, and playing FNV made me feel really geeky for actually noticing this stuff.

No game in the series did justice to the sizes of towns it depicted. This is a very common genre convention, as 1:1 models just aren't feasible in most cases. Even San Francisco in Fallout 2 was a dozen of buildings or so. It didn't have any hills or streetcars, either.

Michael Eilers
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So what you're telling me here is that to properly enjoy Fallout: New Vegas, I've got to re-calibrate my expectations back to Fallout 1 and 2?

You don't see the deliberate, detailed Nazi elements in the design of the Enclave, from the SS helmet on the Tesla Coil armor to the way all the leaders wear full-length leather coats and captain's hats? Maybe I've just played too many WWII games.

These are definitely good pieces of information, but there are still a ton of unresolved issues here. I don't care if you can't do the scale of a given town, you have to make the town look at least like it might have been able to exist on its own before the war. The advantage of the Washington, DC setting was the huge density of that area, and the credibility of finding every square foot of it wrecked and packed with enemies to fight. In FNV I get to walk miles and fight a few radscorpions (hmm, these seem familiar!) and pic a brocflower, and that's how I spend my 1/2 hour of gaming that night.

Back to the topic of the original poster: I, too have gone full-circle on the "open world" game experience. In Fallout 1, 2 and 3, I had a destiny - a world-saving purpose. I had a lot of freedom as to *how* I would complete that destiny, and in fact in Fallout 3 I completed it as a despicably evil slaver with a ghoul assassin for a companion, about as anti-heroic as you can get. However, I did have a manifest destiny to pull me through to the end. Oblivion: Elder Scrolls started me in a prison cell, but somehow I'd still been singled out for greatness. In Knights of the Old Republic, I was an amnesiac soldier but somehow even random people on the street would recognize my potential and urge me on my way. Yes, yes, the "man/woman with a blessed destiny" is a tired, sad old approach, from Frodo and his damned ring to Arthur and his damn sword etc. We keep telling that story because *it works* and at some cellular level, we love it.

Making my destiny "my own" in F:NV by giving me a single thread (get revenge on the guy who... almost killed me? Gave me a bad headache?) and then leaving me in the empty desert to... not be a courier any more... I'm just not getting the compulsion to keep moving on that drove me through Fallout 3 and most of its DLC.

Eric Schwarz
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There's two problems I see in New Vegas when comparing it to Brotherhood, and they're both largely structural: New Vegas doesn't have constantly-increasing numbers reinforcing player progress, and it doesn't have a strong central narrative to help make up for it.

RPGs, and to some degree all games, are always more addictive when the numbers are constantly going up... whether that's missions completed, experience points, character level, maximum ammunition count, armour upgrades... the stimulus of a new number going up is often motivation for the player to continue - it creates a "just one more" urge. This largely explains the success of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (+50 points for every kill!), as well as action RPGs like Torchlight and Diablo (leveling up every 10-15 minutes until late in the game, constantly finding new items, etc.).

Fallout, especially the first game, deviated from this model that action RPGs like Diablo were exploring at the time. It prioritised slower-paced exploration and dialogue over everything else. Its combat was also relatively slow and tactical, even compared to BioWare's quasi-real-time Baldur's Gate. Leveling up in Fallout wasn't really something that happened at regular intervals... the game wasn't tracking everything you did, and your progress depended less on killing enemies and more on making progress in quests and the story. Despite the relative slowness of the game, though, the variety in the scenarios, the prospect of finding new equipment, the depth of the quests and their resolutions, the slowly-unraveling mystery story behind the Master and the Super Mutants, all of these kept the game going. It didn't need to have progress bars and numbers because the game was so expertly paced, and the quest so compelling.

The problem with the newer titles stems from the fact that they're open world games. Since the player can go anywhere and, potentially, everywhere right from the start, developers can't anticipate exactly what level the player will be, what abilities they'll have, how much ammo, what weapons, etc. Effectively, the player becomes much less predictable, and as a result, you have to change the arrangement of the game world. Rather than large, overarching goals built out of a number of smaller tasks, open world games need even smaller, more compartmentalised goals, not because it's easier for players, more approachable, or because it's a way to spin out a small amount of repeating content (i.e. mini-games) across a huge world, but because you just can't anticipate what the player is going to be doing at any given moment.

And so, depth is instead effectively replaced with breadth. Assassin's Creed is actually one of the ultimate examples of this... the core gameplay remains pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world, even the longer missions only take about 10-15 minutes to complete, and all throughout the game there is treasure to find, small tasks like races and, er, beatings to perform, etc. Even though these tasks are tiny in isolation, they are tied together into something larger by the game's stat tracking... buy a treasure map and you can just go after one of the chests on it, but the map also provides a record for the player that allows him or her to just as easily go and find all of them. I just recently completed Assassin's Creed II and I found that, while engaging, the goals the game provided for me were fun not because I was offered a huge amount of choice in how to complete them, or that they had multiple outcomes, but... because each one meant a number had gone up.

Modern open world games also realise that breadth isn't quite enough, and that in order to keep the player focused, they need a central narrative that's easy to understand and provides clear motivation for the player to keep going. Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, and a few other games have really nailed this; while some might argue that the open-ended nature of the games seems contrary to a linear story, I'd say it's that linear story that enables the games to maintain forward momentum in the first place.

Whereas a game like Brotherhood always has a new revelation, or well-balanced ability in the wing, New Vegas doesn't. It has promise of more things to do and see, but you never know how much progress you've made in the world, how much closer you are to completion of the story or side goals, and to make any sort of real dent in the game you have to invest a huge amount of time for it to give you feedback. Leveling up beyond the first few levels can sometimes take hours, and the ever-increasing XP bar just isn't quite enough to inspire some players to continue. Progress is important, but when all you have is an abstract leveling system to guide you through your 50+ hour journey, the lack of a strong story is really felt.

Note that I don't want to suggest New Vegas is a poor game or handles its open world badly. It's one of the better Western RPGs in years and the best Fallout in even longer, but the age of Bethesda's original design is starting to show when put next to games that are simply more focused, faster-paced, and provide more compelling reasons for the player to care.

Huck Terrister
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No offense, but I think this reflects your problem and not the game's. New Vegas is designed so that the player can create his or her own goals and motivations, Assassin's Creed is centered around cutscenes and exposition telling the player what Ezio's motivations and goals are.

Megan Wiseman
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I also experienced a vague, nameless dissatisfaction while playing F:NV. I agree with many of the critiques listed in the above analysis, but I have a few of my own to offer.

Companions: In F3, having companions was kind of a mixed blessing. It made a lot of things easier, but the AI was fairly flawed in many scenarios. You frequently had to make your companions wait in a safe area while you set traps, or scouted the terrain, or stealthed in to do a grab-and-stab or some such. That being said, most of the companions could be picked up with little difficulty. In a few cases you had to go through a side-quest of some kind before you could recruit them, but it usually coincided with some other side-quest or part of the main storyline, so it wasn't that cumbersome. And one of the best companions, Dogmeat, could be gotten almost as soon as you left the Vault (as long as you had learned where he/she/it was). In F:NV, on the other hand, *most* of the companions you come across require either a) a lengthy and complicated side-quest, that takes you a long time to complete, or b) really high skill levels, that may or may not take a long time to achieve depending on how you built your character; and c) most have so-called "upgrade" quests that are difficult to accomplish, or that actively contradict the objectives of other side-quests in the game. Boone was *sort* of easy to get, once I looked up a guide and knew how to trigger his needed task. But the ED-E robot took me several levels to get because I had to get either my Science or Repair skill high enough to even attempt it. The Dogmeat analog couldn't be gotten until you got to New Vegas, and then you had to go through a *really* long set of quests by its owner before you could get the dog as a companion.

Storyline: I agree with the comments so far regarding the story/narrative in F:NV. But I will add that I found F:NV to be similar in many ways to Mass Effect 2, which gave me a somewhat similar sense of vague dissatisfaction. In the first Mass Effect, I really felt invested in the character and the story objectives. Yes, it was one of those tired "save the world" stories, but I was really moved at the end of the story. Mass Effect 2's story felt like it was recycled. On top of that, the structure of it seemed to railroad you through the first half-to-two-thirds of the plot, and then you got everyone and their dog telling you "make sure you are ready, because once you decide to go to there is no turning back." At that point it was completely and totally open-ended in the sense that you could go anywhere, pursue side-quests, etc., and the whole "save-the-galaxy-again" timer was permanently on pause. I got the same feeling from F:NV--it felt recycled, it felt like at a certain point there was a pause button on the main plot, and I really didn't feel all that invested in pursuing the final plot anyway. None of it really moved me at all.

Exploration: I was also kind of disappointed in the exploratory, open-world aspects of F:NV. In Fallout 3, around every corner was some little wierd random encounter, or elaborately designed set piece, or mini-dungeon area. Remember the little town full of cannibals? Or the factory that had the Lovecraftian mini-story? Remember the Raider hideout in the Satellite Dishes, with the chessboard that had miniature liquor bottles and garden gnomes for playing pieces? But In New Vegas? None of the above. In Fallout 3, there was a random encounter where you see an alien spacecraft fly overhead, and if you follow the trajectory, you find one of the rarest and most powerful weapons in the game. In New Vegas, you had to take a special perk to even find the aliens, and it was a placed encounter rather than random. (As an aside, I didn't really experience anything else that was "wierd" despite taking the Weird Wasteland perk). In New Vegas, I simply did not feel like the payoff was worth the time and expense it took to explore.

Particularly since many Obsidian folks were on the original design/development team for Fallout 1 and 2, I really feel a particularly sharp sense of disappointment and even resentment over F:NV. I certainly hope that Fallout 4 does a much better job.

Josh Foreman
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I feel like this article is just about one guys preference for game type rather than legitimate critical analysis. Someone above mentioned the intentionality of the design decisions that are being griped about. Yes, tabula rasa characters are not compelling to many gamers. But there IS a contingent that prefers this, along with self-structured game experiences. What NV does is get back to the FO 1/2 roots.

Benjamin Leggett
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I treasure games that approach things like New Vegas did, it's all too rare these days.

I completely fail to grasp the mindset of people who cannot not enjoy games like New Vegas because 'they couldn't identify with the character'. You've allowed yourself to fall into a mental groove where you feel lost if your avatar doesn't come from the factory complete with motivations and a backstory composed by someone else. You aren't supposed to 'identify' with him, he's YOUR avatar. He's a vessel for your personality that allows your thoughts, your reactions to be expressed in the context of the gameworld.

That is an absolutely valid and wonderful way to experience a game, and any attempt to give the playable character a 'backstory' or 'character' or indeed any specific predefined 'motivations' is an impediment to this. Really I have little use for PC backstory, all it usually does is make it that much harder for the character to serve as *my* stand-in.

If anything Fallout 3's anemic attempt at prefab PC motivations/backstory made it harder to get through, since it was so puerile. Take this from the article for instance:

"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."

Precisely. And that leads to a really excellent moral quandary later in the game, something Fallout 3's tacked-on 'daddy issues' PC backstory never did, never even approached.

Benny did what he did, should you kill him? It's not an easy question to answer. It's gray. Very gray. What would YOU do? Then you make your decision about how YOU feel about what Benny did, only to find out that Caesar has already decided Benny's fate. You may end up being forced to kill him, even if you don't bear him a grudge. That's tough. That's something to chew on morally and emotionally. The game doesn't tell you how you should feel about that. It can't. It would be facile to try.

Joe Webb
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Amen to all of this.

Fallout 3 did some things right. I liked the Vault. It was a great lore-nod to the original series. But I didn't care too much for my Dad. The growing-up story restricted the age of the character. It made no sense to grow up in that environment and then follow the slaver stories (except out of roleplayed naivety about the outside world perhaps).

With NV, the open start meant it was so easy to roleplay. I don't normally find it easy to play "evil" characters. On my second playthrough I made a crippled, embittered NCR-veteran Jeff Bridges lookalike. He was a Jet-head who found a new place in Ceasar's Legion; an oppurtunity to get his own back. Obviously this is all happening in my head, but that's Roleplay. With an introduction like Fallout 3, the logic of moral decision making falls out, because a character brought up in that environment with a lovely soft-spoken father who reads Bible quotes to them isn't going to grow up to be a mass murdering sociopath.

My first character was a black widow female character. The dialogue options for Benny were... amusing... and for once I felt like that perk had a valid use.