Five things ‘Fallout 4’ should learn from ‘New Vegas’

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Fallout 4

I don’t think it would be hyperbole to suggest that Bethesda killed it at E3 this year – which, for their first year as an event headliner, is pretty remarkable. Out of all the megatons dropped this conference – the Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, and the FF7 remake – Fallout 4’s announcement was the easily the best for a few reasons: it revealed the most content, came with the closest release date, and addressed many of the fears provoked by the game’s reveal trailer. Yes, you could pick a different gender and ethnicity for your character. Yes, there would be a lot of content – and more importantly, this wouldn’t just be a rehash of Fallout 3. I’m going out on a limb here, but both the trailer and the e3 conference confirm for me that Fallout 4 is going to be themed around ‘leadership’ – at least from a gameplay perspective. I mean, from the Vertibird to the creation of trade routes, it’s clear the protagonist of this game isn’t a ‘Lone Wanderer’ anymore. Bringing civilization back from the brink of total destruction by organizing settlements was a major theme of the first and second Fallout games – it’s good to see this made a centerpiece in Fallout 4.

In that same E3 presentation, we also learned about a bevy of new features to Fallout 4: in fact, we learned so much it’s difficult to cram all the pertinent points into one paragraph! Think about it: we learned about the weapon mods system, the new VATS, the new power armor mechanics, the trade routes, the new dialogue system…it just goes on and on! And that’s just what we were told directly: sleuth-y youtubers have already uploaded videos dissecting every frame of the E3 show, uncovering even more information about the next Fallout.

But for all that revealed content, there’s still a few pressing concerns I have about Fallout 4 that have yet to be addressed in any way. I don’t fault Bethesda for not spoiling everything about their new game, obviously – but until I know for sure that Fallout 4 has these doubts assuaged, I’m going to wait to purchase a copy. Because to me, these features should be key for any Fallout worthy of its own name. And not-so-coincidentally, all of these were already pulled off pretty well by Obsidian’s New Vegas. So if Bethesda don’t come through on these, we know there isn’t really an excuse.

1. Interesting companions

Fallout 3 had a few companions that I liked playing with. Fawkes was a barrel of laughs – especially considering he was near-invincible and packed a minigun for a weapon. But that pales in comparison to the fantastically-written companions of New Vegas. Everybody from Arcade to Veronica to Raul were all fascinating and well-rounded people that, despite repeating the same lines of dialogue over and over again in combat, you (mostly) enjoyed having around. They each had their own cool side-quest to complete, their own set of traits and foibles. I’d love to see more companions like the ones we got to hang out with in New Vegas. Maybe some kind of robot or member of the Institute could keep our character company in Fallout 4? Yeah, that would be awesome.

2. More quests rooted in game lore

Fallout 3 was a great game, in its own way: but I have to admit I found a few of its quests to be silly, or just frustrating. It’s one thing to make a game with a sense of humor: but it’s quite another to build a majority of your side-quests around lore-suspending references and punchlines. Remember Arefu, the quest involving vampires? How about ‘The Replicant’, the quest that essentially retold the plot of Blade Runner? Not only are these lazy references, they are also hard to reconcile with the game’s lore. It’s not that vampires or androids aren’t interesting in their own right – but think about it: the Fallout world is chock full of unique characters, groups, and entities. Why depend on referencing other non-post apocalyptic media out there when you have the entire Fallout series to draw from?

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That being said, I like what I see from Fallout 4’s androids. They no longer function as simple references to the work of Philip K. Dick – rather, from the trailers I assume they’re going to play a much more pivotal role in the game’s main plot than in Fallout 3. So long as Bethesda is adding stuff to the Fallout canon that feels in line with the rest of the series, I’m interested. But a small part of me is worried that they could easily get carried away with this stuff: I mean, how much advanced tech are we supposed to tolerate before the notion that this is a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland stretches past the breaking point? Mr. House was supposedly the most resourceful man in the Mojave, and maybe the world – and all he had were a hill-full of Securitrons! From the looks of all the floating airships, working Vertibirds, and other technological marvels seen in the trailer, Mr. House is starting to look pretty quaint in comparison. Of course, if all this stuff is as mind-meltingly awesome as it looks in the trailer, I’d be willing to suspend my disbelief a little further for Bethesda.

3. More thinking through the practicalities of a post-apocalypse

Remember the Cassidy quest line in New Vegas, where you helped sell her Brahmin Caravan to the Crimson Caravan Company? That was an amazing quest, because it shed some light on the minutiae of the Mojave wasteland; it showed how people got food, and other supplies. It showed us some insight into the way caravan businesses might operate in such a scenario, which all really boosted New Vegas’s immersion factor. The same goes for the Heck Gunderson quest, which involved the rancher trying to work out a deal to become the Royal Lux’s main meat distributor. These were little things, but they were so important to the world-building of New Vegas. They are part of what made the setting of a post-apocalypse so believable in that game. You actually saw farms, trade caravans, and a source of fresh water. This is pretty different in Fallout 3, which featured no real details on what any of the NPCs (other than the occasional guard or shop owner or doctor) actually do for a living… or what they eat…or how they get water. Yes, I know the main quest involves restoring fresh water to the Capital Wasteland. What the game never explains is how anybody was getting water beforehand.

That kind of thing might work in a different kind of game, but this is Fallout. This series has always been about the realities of trying to survive in a wilderness – in Fallout 4, we need to see some of the practical aspects of how these human beings are keeping themselves alive in the midst of a nuclear-driven disaster. Or, if Fallout 4 takes place slightly further in the future when society has rebuilt itself more, show us some of the practical sides of that setting.

4. More useful SPECIAL categories; a harder game overall

Ok, this one was actually bungled equally as bad in New Vegas as in Fallout 3. Provided you don’t sink your skill and SPECIAL points randomly throughout the game, by the time you hit level 13 you’ll likely be able to quickly dispatch with anything moving. And when you throw in the ‘steady’ drug from New Vegas, you basically become Shiva destroyer of worlds. What’s more, both games were super combat heavy; which kind of discourages from investing points outside Agility or Strength. So for Fallout 4, I’d love to see two things: a more challenging combat system, and an ability to survive while roleplaying with your character’s SPECIAL points. In other words, the game should be challenging no matter what class or character build you choose – but at the same time, it should be balanced as to not screw over people who want to play as a smart but weak scientist, or a charismatic but cowardly caravan driver.

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Previous games did a decent job in this category: think about how in both 3 and NV, your dialogue choices changed depending upon your character’s level of intelligence. How in New Vegas, you got access to all kinds of unique dialogue depending on your character’s skills. These are solid examples of allowing the player a chance to feel like the points they spent actually made a difference on their gameplay experience. Fallout 1 and 2 are absolutely full of design choices that accomplish this feat beautifully – but in 3 and NV, I can’t help but feel some of the SPECIAL categories are next to useless. Charisma was basically useless in Fallout 3, since you could reload your game as many times as needed and pass every speech check in the game. I’ve yet to see a speech system in an RPG like in Fallout 1 and 2, which allowed you to use your speech abilities to resolve many of their quests without bloodshed. Something like that in Fallout 4 would be amazing –and true to the spirit of the original games, to boot! And even if you can’t resolve every dispute non-violently, at least give us some variety in how we can approach a situation! Wouldn’t it be awesome to use scientific know-how to slay your foes? Or talk your way out of being murdered by a bunch of debt collectors, as just a random idea? The possibilities are endless here – so let’s see some more RPG elements in the next Fallout, please!

Player choice that actually makes a difference

It was a big, big problem in Fallout 3 for me: what difference does it make? There were few quests in that game that didn’t feel outright strange to play as an evil-karma character. And for those that were reconcilable with an ‘evil protagonist’, little changed from the ‘good’ outcomes beyond a different line or two of dialogue, or maybe a different location for your new house. This is a far, far cry from the Interplay days of Fallout – in both Fallout 1 and 2, your decisions actually mattered. They had an impact that went beyond that immediate dialogue window – and this quality was brought into the 3D era by Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas.

In New Vegas, you are forced to choose sides: forced to change the face of the Mojave, and actually see a little blurb at the end of the game explaining how each big decision you made through the game worked out. We got no such level of detail in the Fallout 3 ending. What we did get was a very stock set-up: you could be the martyr, be the selfish neutral, or be the President’s hatchet boy and go full evil. Contrast this with the overall ending of new Vegas: which didn’t fit so neatly into ‘good’, ‘bad’, or ‘neutral’ endings. Whether the NCR, Mr. House, or Caesar end up holding the reins, none of these outcomes are all positive or all negative. That being said, they still manage to hold huge implications for the future. This is how a morally grey game like the Fallout series ought to handle player choice: not with a Knights of the Old Republic style sith/jedi meter, but with more neutral outcomes that make real ripples in the game world’s story.

For an example of how not to do this, let’s remember one of Fallout 3’s most controversial quest-lines: deciding whether to disarm or detonate the bomb in Megaton. Either way, you get a new house. Either way, Moira still works with you. Either way, it has little substantial effect on your character for the rest of the game (setting aside the hit to karma). Contrast this with how, in New Vegas, working with one of the factions automatically bars you from the trust of the other three for the rest of the game. Fallout, for my money, is at its best when your choices have real impact. Nobody would likely play these games if they were just sub-par shooters saddled with a ‘freeze time’ cheat and a grey/green color filter over everything.

So there you have it: 5 things Fallout 4 could stand to learn from New Vegas. I’ll admit I like RPGs more than action/shooter type games, so this list is certainly curtailed to my own specific interests. That being said, Fallout has always been an RPG – so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for more RPG elements, immersion, and uniqueness in the newest version.

What Makes The Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Game?

Apocalyptic

Games orientated around a post-apocalyptic story are becoming a superior genre of game. With next-generation capabilities, we see these games brought to life in development that makes the game feel so realistic that it almost makes the player feel as if they themselves are being bombarded by infected, or scavenging for goods in what remains of civilization. The demand for such games has become increasingly potent since the release of The Last Of Us especially, the post-apocalyptic wonder that snapped up at least 200 Game Of The Year Awards. With a mass of games slotting into this genre it is hard to determine what exactly are the key elements in making them so enjoyable and memorable. Well let’s look into that.

Frightening Foes 

Obvious, I agree but it is a fact that the success of a post apocalyptic game is partially derived from an array of terrifying enemies to war with. It wouldn’t be as thrilling or exciting being thrown up against a score of infected bunny rabbits. Over the years we’ve seen the opposition come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be a mutated mole rat or an infected human splattered in blood. Alarming enemies generate an initial and fundamental line of fear within post-apocalyptic games and a good enemy will make your blood-curdle and your spine tingle as you consider confronting them.

Dying Light (Techland) is plentiful in a span of such enemies. Although, sluggish zombies linger in the streets throughout the day, after sunset, players are left to deal with the agile terrors of the night, Hostiles.

What Makes A Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Game Dying Light 1

These terrifying goons are brilliant for upping the fear factor within the game. As you flee before them you can hear them huffing and puffing behind you as they close in. It’s really effective for generating the intensity that makes a great foe.

Furthermore, enemies can possess the scare-factor for an array of reasons. Taking the Fallout series as an accurate example, the games are set after the occurrence of a nuclear apocalypse, causing various creatures and humans to become mutated due to being consumed by high levels of radiation. Subsequently, enemies are larger and more frightening in terms of their alarming and unusual appearance. I mean, I’m not particularly fond of being harassed by a mob of Giant Scorpions or the misfortune of bumping into a Deathclaw. The enemies are out of character and creatures who’d usually not bat an eyelid at your presence become enemies. This unpredictability generates fear as a result.

What Makes A Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Game Fallout 2

 Scrounging

Nothing says ‘post-apocalypse’ like a lack of resources. Having to search every nook and cranny in the remains of what once a thriving civilisation, really provokes a sense of desperation, amplifying the whole ”survival” feel to a post-apocalyptic game. In resources being scarce players must use their noggin to tackle specific situations within such games as wisely as possible in order to conserve resources and to keep pushing forward. An admirable example of such a game is none other than Naughty Dogs own, The Last Of Us. The vast majority of situations throughout the duration of this absolutely fantastic game, can be tackled with stealth and a little patience, allowing the player to save resources for more hands on encounters. As the difficultly levels of the game increases ammo and food become increasingly rare to come by, having the player then assess each situation so thoroughly as not to draw attention, or a gun. Although a subtle aspect of the game, this style of gameplay is effective for deriving a sense of realism from The Last Of Us and it’s level of effectiveness is all to evident in it’s overall, mind-blowing success.

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Urgency And Desperation 

Post-apocalyptic related games are commonly orientated around survival of the fittest, the desperation of fending for yourself in order to stay alive above all others. Post-apocalyptic wonders to date would not be nearly as successful had we been handed the key to survival on a silver platter, relieving us of all means of urgency and panic. Instead, these games are successful as we have to fight for the gift of life.

A very underrated example of such attention to detail is indie game, Lone Survivor (Superflat Games/ Curve Studios). Although the 2D- retro styled graphics may not exactly cause you to jump or scare easy, this game compensates with every other post-apocalyptic aspect being no less than perfectly-executed, complete with and eerie original soundtrack and the most effect sense of urgency and desperation. Throughout the game players must consume food and drink regularly in order to avoid falling unconscious and then awaking in your bedroom situated in the first initial area of the game. This may not sound like any particular reason to worry but with save points or in this case mirrors being so far apart, it is vital to avoid starvation.

Another post-apocalyptic game that has a very effective way of making the player remain on their toes is The Walking Dead Game (Telltale Games), but this is however for a very different reason. The Walking Dead Game is an interactive drama featuring various button sequences and decisions the player should make. The beauty in this game is it generates the post-apocalyptic panic by limiting times in which players can make decisions. In a matter of seconds a player must decide who to save between two people on the basis of who will benefit them most, what way a team of survivors should tackle a specific situation, all the while bearing in mind every decision has a consequent effect on the rest of the game, meaning a bad decision could have a detrimental outcome.

What Makes A Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Game The Walking Dead Game

Superb Settings 

Post-apocalyptic games thrive in success thanks to finely developed settings. Not only are these hypothetical post-apocalyptic settings great for allowing the mind of the player to indulge in how the aftermath of an apocalypse could look on some realistic level, but it is also ups gameplay standards by giving the player so much to explore and do. Well-developed settings can also be very effective in adding pressure on the story of the game itself, reeling in players emotions by making the characters within the game look extremely hard done by. Again, Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us is a very prominent example of this. Set in a post-apocalyptic USA, we see the only means of safety being the scattered quarantine zones. As soon as the protagonists leave the safety of these areas, then having to navigate unstable skyscrapers and office buildings, flooded underpasses and booby-trapped places of refuge, we see a lot of pressure piled onto the story. Ultimately all of this makes the story unpredictable and as vaguely mentioned prior, it draws in players emotions, all of which is obviously effective in reflection to the outstanding success of The Last Of Us.

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Sensational Stories

A jaw-dropping story is such a key aspect to driving post-apocalyptic games to their success. Although it seems an obvious aspect it truly is vital. An enthralling story will give a hypothetical game a sense of realism, making it seem much less far fetched. Post-apocalyptic games are much more enjoyable when they are believable. The Walking Dead Game (Telltale Games) is driven by it’s story telling, giving the player total control, almost making it as though they are the one surviving. The game is realistic and ditches the traditional idea of taking refuge in a shopping center with the rest of the survivors in your town and city. The Last Of Us (Naughty Dog) is hands down one of the best post-apocalyptic tales to date, purely because it is realistic and everything that happens within the game could happen given an infectious outbreak. It is always a winner to give the player the chance to feel like they themselves are within the game, especially within post-apocalyptic based games.

Even A Bit Of Originality 

Living happily, outbreak of zombies occurs, survive. This is a traditional timeline of the chain of events within post-apocalyptic games. This being the case, it is a breath of fresh-air when a game of the same genre is released that is a little different. In this case we are going to refer to Tokyo Jungle (Sony Computer Entertainment/ Japan Studio) a game based on survival of the fittest, but in regards to the animal kingdom as mankind has strangely disappeared. In a post-apocalyptic setting you play as animals, fighting to survive long enough for the player to discover the reasoning behind the disappearance to humans. Initially this game is just hilarious, playing as animals such as Pomeranians (cute fluffy dogs), Lions and even some prehistoric creatures. However, the games success as a downloadable game was due to it’s originality and the fact it was developed from a totally different perspective on a post-apocalyptic world.

What Makes A Perfect Post-Apocalyptic Game Tokyo Jungle

Games based on the aftermath of an apocalypse are becoming a particularly popular genre of game. With some great games already taking the gaming market by storm and with player demand for more of the genre I think it is only fair to say we can expect even greater releases from developers in this genre in time to come, all of which harnessing these very vital ingredients to the perfect post-apocalyptic game.