Dismantling the A-Bomb (Take 2)

(Editor’s Note: Yes, another Fallout article. Yes, another Fallout 3 article about how I’m going to go back and finish the game. This time I have my gamer’s resolution to play new/different games, so I might actually go through with it. Stay tuned for the next Fallout 3 article, coming to 2 Guys Gaming in 6 months.)

As a writer, I learned that you need a hook to get people interested. As a fisherman, I learned that you need to set that hook before you start to reel in your catch. Fallout 1 and 2 both have that same hook of story as the third. So far, they have yet to set that hook to keep me playing beyond the introduction. Fallout 3 does not have that problem. I keep coming back to the game even to the point that I restarted it because I had forgotten some of the story at the beginning. Eventually, I do want to finish the game to move on to the DLC and New Vegas. Eventually starts today!

I grew up with video games. My family owned an Atari 2600 and then a 7800. I received a Commodore 64 for Christmas one year and drooled over the Amiga ads in the magazines. Those same magazines offered programs for video games that I almost never got to work. Still, they inspired me to collaborate with a friend to make a game together. We never made it past the design phase, but a fun experience and I still enjoy programming when I have free time.

Eventually, our parents caved and bought us an NES. After getting my first job, I bought a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. When I moved out, money became more of a priority, so I took some time off until the infamous full price Playstation purchase. Since then, I have owned an N64, XBox, XBox 360, PS 2, and Wii. I intend to buy a PS4 if the new Orcs Must Die Unchained game works as well on consoles as on the computer. What’s the point of this? Relax, you must be new here. I promise that the point is coming soon.

You could possibly tell the exact same story as I just did. That’s part of the point. We are alike and you probably enjoyed Fallout 1 and 2. As a result, you may have paled a the thought that Fallout 3 was going first person. When first announced, the internet (as it does) went absolutely nuts over the decision. Similar to Diablo III, I should like the first two games. But, I don’t. What, then, about Fallout 3 appeals to me as an aging gamer when compared with its predecessors?

I have already covered my thoughts on graphics in my previous article. In case you missed it, graphics are not a huge consideration for me. I have played and enjoyed games since they were single color blobs moving across a single colored background. Besides, it’s not like the graphics of Fallout 3 are that impressive. Sure, they are more modern. Comparatively, though, the game came early in the life of the XBox 360 and the graphics show their age.

I’ve already established that I love the story behind the games, too. That is universal. Fallout 3 hooked me from the opening cinematic. In fact, all of the games have incredible opening credits and character introductions. The story kept me playing the first two games longer than I might have normally. On the other hand, instead of avoiding Fallout 3, I find myself drawn to the game and want to play it to the end. More than that, I also have Fallout: New Vegas and all of the expansions for the game that I need to experience. Story, alone, shouldn’t be enough to keep me coming back to the game. Especially when you consider that I could just watch the story on Youtube. That’s what I did with Dead Rising rather than play through the frustrating final battle. I regret nothing.

That brings us to the gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, the internets hated that thought of Fallout 3 when it was announced. You know who you are internets. Don’t try to deny it now. Also, face it. You might have been right about Diablo III and the real money auction house, but you were dead wrong about Fallout 3.

Look, I understand the sentiment. Ever since Doom (really Wolfenstein and I’m sure there’s some nerd more well versed in the history of video games that will point to an earlier iteration of the FPS), game designers have tripped over themselves to capitalize on the success of the FPS genre and it looked like that’s what Bethesda was doing with Fallout 3. This goes against the spirit of the games. Stop trying to be something you’re not, blah blah blah. I don’t know why the decision was made to go from third person RPG to a first person shooter with RPG elelements. However I can (and will) wildly conjecture about their motives.

First, I think that those third person RPG and RTS games were a time and place phenomenon. There will always be exceptions (most notably Starcraft because of the highly popular competitive scene), but go back to play any of those games; Warcraft, Bard’s Tale, Fallout 1 and 2. They are boring. Now matter how interesting the story, the click to move mechanics and the endless searching for clues make for a dull experience. At least the D&D games were mostly linear. I know that sounds weird because D&D isn’t, but it makes for a much better video game. You might argue World of Warcraft or Skyrim in favor of 3rd person RPGs. I will agree with Skyrim. While designed as a first person, I immediately searched for a way to make the game 3rd person and I was better for it.

On the topic of World of Warcraft, I offer the counter argument that its success is due more to the social aspect. I used to play WoW much more than I do now because I used to have friends who played the game and no longer do. Still, it proves that 3rd person RPGs can work and work well. Even so, I have never tried WoW from a first person point of view, but many tanks do and I suspect that it is because of the main point of this article. Finally, all your hard work and dedication to reading this whole article is about to pay off.

If I know anything about story (and sales of my book indicate that I do not), part of the reason to go first person in Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls series was to enhance the already superb story. I mention Skyrim again because I initially wanted to experience the game third person due to not being as familiar with the story. I quickly changed my mind and point of view upon being faced with my first dragon encounter. I wanted to experience the power and horror in the full glory and magnificence. I was not disappointed.

Similarly, my favorite parts of the first two Fallout games were when you interact with the NPCs via the full screen interface with the occasional voiceover. First person makes a great story more intense, immerses you in the action, everything feels more immediate, and it personalizes the game to make the experience much more entertaining and enjoyable.

Do you prefer the first person intensity of newer RPGs? Or, are you an old school gamer who just wants whippersnappers like me to get off your lawn with my fancy graphics and engrossing point of view gameplay? Who knows? Maybe I can be persuaded to go back to play the first two games.

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