Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fallout 3

It's a commonly held opinion among gaming critics that the more airs of realism and freedom a game puts on about it's world, the easier it becomes for the illusion to fall apart. We saw this a lot in Grand Theft Auto IV, with it's extreme dissociation between it's story and gameplay, and I think we see it a lot in Fallout 3. And the first part of the above rule fits: Fallout 3 tries it's damnedest, and succeeds in a lot of ways. There were definite moments where I felt for the characters, was immersed in the world. But like a grease stain on your best Sunday shirt, the aberrations stick out like a sore thumb. In this article, I'm going to point out some I found interesting, funny, baffling or what have you. Enjoy.

The citizens of the American wasteland are a forgetful bunch. A common thread I've found with Bethesda's games is the bizarre disconnect between an NPC's role as an element of the plot and the NPC's role as an NPC. There are many times when one will be saying one thing while the other will be saying the exact opposite. So far, one of the best examples I can find so far occurs fairly early in the game. If you take the "good" path in Megaton and disarm the bomb, you'll be periodically visited by a lady in the town bearing a gift. I say periodically with some reservations: the situation is so bizarre that it almost seems like it has to be a glitch. She just keeps giving me more stuff. I even figured out the time: I was greeted by the lady, went to sleep for a 24 hour period, and found her outside again waiting with another box of Blanco's Mac and Cheese. The real punchline, however, is the dialog. Upon greeting me, she tells me how much the town appreciates what I'm doing for them. They've scraped together and saved to get me this gift, whatever it may be at the time (a box of apples? Shotgun shells? 'sall good.) Then I try speaking to her right after, hoping to maybe press her further and maybe find a new questline, only to be met with "Go away. I have no time for strangers." Shit.

The Flop
One of the weirdest issues in Fallout 3 is it's repositioning of bodies each time an area loads. I haven't had time to test it, but in general, loading into an area with a dead body seems to cause it to literally drop from the sky. I assume it's another one of those side effects of having such an expansive world onscreen at all times. Still, it's endlessly amusing to see a super mutant flop around like a fish on the pavement.

Missing Person(s)
The Capital Wastelands is a world full of mysterious disaperences. And by that, I don't mean the same mysterious disaperance that comes with double-crossing the mob or angering the Disney Gestapo. They just fuckin' disapear. Take the water treatment plant worker in Megaton. I didn't have the good sense to look around online and see if this was a recuring problem, and I'm not going to take the oppertunity now to do so. All I know is this jerk bought 200 caps worth of scrap metal from me and I haven't seen him since. And I know it has to be a glitch. I looked everywhere. If there's some kind of secret bonus round stage in Megaton that I just don't know about, I'd apperciate being told about it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Game Log #9 (with the promise of more frequent posts)

I pretty much stopped this Game Log thing. Hell, I haven't been posting much at all. It's no use lamenting this fact, however. I'll commit when I'm damn well ready. It's probably now, but who knows.
  • Going against my long-standing self-imposed ban on renting games from video stores (it's a price versus time thing), I rented a copy of Mirror's Edge. The game's somewhat short length (my playtime was around seven hours), it luckily fit in the 5 day rental time. I wasn't too busy that week. The stars aligned. I will be writing a review on Mirror's Edge, though I'd like to offer some quick comments here. Mirror's Edge is an interesting game with an fantastically implemented set of mechanics who's main, fatal flaw is that it's developers often times seem to be at loss on how to "break up" the game play. In short, the parkour gameplay has the potential to get monotonous (though I'm not entirely sold on that. More in my review). The games attempts to break up the possible monotony fall in line with the genre DICE seems to be trying to distance themselves from: the modern First Person Shooter. I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea, just... misguided? More to come.
  • I've recently found the time to get back in to Dragon Quest 8. I've spent some time recently with some other JRPGs as of late, and my view has changed somewhat on the game. I like it a lot more, first off. Many of the games biggest issues for me, mainly the archaic nature of some of it's mechanics, are actually fixed by abilities you receive in-game. "Some" is the operative word. I appreciate JRPGs, and many of the mechanics that haven't really changed all that much in the last few decades are precisely. Maybe I'll find time to elaborate on that. In short, I'm not the kind of person who necessarily feels that game mechanics should be abandoned as soon as they're well-worn. But when it comes to things like the ordeal the game puts you through to save your game, I can't show any love to that. If there's one thing I hope Japanese game designers learn from this recent downturn (and hopefully rebound) of their industry is to put less idiotic restrictions on saving your game. And the game never really fixes that. Luckily, one of your characters learns a spell that fixes one of my biggest issues. In Dragon Quest, if one of your party members die in a dungeon, you're fucked. You have to get out, trek back to a nearby town, then pay some arbitrary sum of money to a priest for a resurrection. It's extremely annoying, especially in dungeons. Leveling up Angelo gives you Zing, which gives you a 50% chance of resurrecting a fallen party member. It certainly makes the game easier, and I assume that was the point. I don't think granting shortcuts to players after they've reached a certain point is a bad idea. But do they have to make it so damn hard? Japanese RPGs are a strange genre for me. I love them, and tend to rush to their defense when people are hatin'. Too bad these games seem intent on fighting me all the way. Chrono Trigger had cross appeal among non-RPG fans because it stayed away from the awkward tropes I'm talking about. Too bad none took a page from that book.
  • I borrowed a copy of Diablo 2 from a friend. It's mostly a trial for me, as I'm planning on buying the Battlechest. After all, two people can't play on battlenet at once with one CD key, and playing with said friend is one of the reasons I wanted to get into Diablo. More on that to come, but so far, I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Necromancers seem like the way to go.