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Fallout Quest: Something Completely Different

Fallout Quest: Something Completely Different

2015-12-15 
| by Video Games PRSS, Alex Pearl | Posted in PC, Gaming Blog

Hey there, readers! Today, we’ve got something a little different. 

A lot of the Fallout fanbase has expressed is displeasure with the changes from the most recent installment’s predecessors, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. A lot of simplification has hit the franchise, fans claim, and not entirely for the better. So, instead of our hero’s usual silly antics in the irradiated Commonwealth, I figured it might behoove us to talk a little bit about Fallout and the changes it’s undergone. 

You guys remember when Call of Duty got really popular? And not like Call of Duty 2 – We Are a 360 Launch Title and Therefore Important levels of popular. I’m talking Call of Duty 4, the breath of life straight into the lungs of the modern military shooter. The game that launched a spree of imitators that made us PRAY for a return to the scifi landscapes that Halo popularized, or even to slog back through friggin’ Normandy beach. 

Screw 90s kids. 2000s kids will remember how many times they got treated to this sight and RETCH. 

 A lot of theories got thrown around as to how the game got so popular, and what it did right that warranted its seemingly permanent place in the video game mainstream. The one that I like best is that it incorporated RPG elements into the game that essentially turned it into a Skinner Box on crack, plus guns and explosions. See, in CoD, when you shot a guy, you’d get an immediate reward in that your screen would light up and you’d be informed that you just earned a ton of points. Then, you got a long-term reward informing you that you were closer to leveling up, giving you new weapons, items, and abilities. However, the game itself was so simple that you were basically rewarded with progress just by doing something that other FPSes let you do regardless – shoot people and win gametypes. 

Now, wheeling on back to Fallout 4, you have an RPG system that has been repeatedly toned down to resemble a First-Person Shooter. Fallout started turn-based, and implemented the VATS system which imposed a turn-based system on a real-time reality. Then, you’ve still got all the standard Role-Playing goodies of items, levels, personal statistics, and, generally, power that comes from growth. 

Then, Bethesda comes out with Skyrim. Holy crap, was that game ever good. You guys remember that game? 

You guys had better believe I remember this game. 

This was an interesting turn for Bethesda, because they stripped the complicated leveling systems seen in FalloutElder Scrolls: Oblivion, etc., and replaced it with... Stars? 

Basically, every time you performed an action, you would level it up, making yourself more proficient at whatever you did most. Then, when you leveled, you’d get a perk and a boost to your available pool of Magic, Health, or Stamina. That was it! Oblivion actually did the whole, “do stuff, get levels,” system, but Skyrim stripped it down even further to try and make it more intuitive. 

And it worked out like GANGBUSTERS, CHUMS

Fast-forward to F4 and you’ve got a Bethesda that, since the release of their last game, has seen a rise in popularity of shooters with RPG elements, and a rise in popularity of simplified/streamlined games (which they rode like nobody’s business, and may have even prompted). 

That leads to: 

-A truncated, Mass Effect-like dialogue system with only four dialogue options per prompt
-A system almost completely devoid of numbers. Instead of stats, we ONLY see perks. 
-No more breakable weapons or armor! Just keep using that stuff, boyee! 

… Amongst other things, of course. Now, being more specific, I think there’s a HUGE difference between streamlining and simplifying. You can simplify to make your game less opaque to newcomers, but that normally means sacrificing depth. 

When you streamline, you keep the depth and cut out the fat. 

Most of the argument around Fallout 4’s changes was that it was simplification rather than streamlining – take out the depth and even throw in a little fat, if you consider the crafting system. And that’s a perfectly valid criticism! Many games have done this, and it’s turned out pretty atrociously for them. 

However, I would say that F4’s done a lot more streamlining than simplification. My thoughts in the previous articles probably speak to that better than I can now.

However! One thing that’s a little weird is that they chose to do a trade-off. Was the only reason for a limited dialogue system simply because this time around, your character had lines from voice actors which placed a budget constraint on how many dialogue options a character could have?

And, more importantly, is that worth it?

A lot of people argue that no, it absolutely is not. Bethesda games have a unique voice in that there is no voice. Up until now, none of the major Bethesda RPGs (that I’m aware of) have had anything but a text-based dialogue system, allowing players to imagine their own voices to fill in the mimey gaps. 

Keep in mind that MANY people love these mimey gaps. Just can’t get enough of ‘em. Can’t project personalities on characters if they’re not silent. Keep that in mind. 

Now, the tradeoffs are kind of a weird thing because normally, a streamlining process moves linearly – you trim the fat off a game, or you add more fun features. It isn’t often that you see such a huge fat-chop combined with a huge fat-addition. It’s like a liposuction process that takes all the goo from your butt and puts it right up there in your neck. 

So, Fallout 4 has had an interesting development cycle in that its streamlining is no longer linear. It kind of went squiffy in the wind there for a bit. 

Fun thing to do, both in the game and in the community, is look at the differences between the previous installments of Fallout (or really any series) and mark how many changes have been made, and how many people absolutely hated the changes. Was it part of the streamlining craze that’s going on, was it an added change for more depth, or was it something crazy where nobody could tell what the designers were thinking? 

That kind of thought process really helps when forming an opinion about a video game after hearing others discuss it. It lets you get inside the head of the developers when you’re playing a game, too, and then you get to feel SUPER smart.

That being said, woah, nelly, I’ve rambled on way too long. Hope this was interesting! I’ll try to stay more on track next time. In our next issue, we’ll continue the march of Alicante Costa!  

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