13
Jan
09

Falling Out with Story

I was very hesistant to give Fallout 3 a try – I never shared the reverence a great deal of people have for the Fallout series to begin with and plenty of people describing it as “Oblivion with Guns” I expected I’d grow bored of it as quickly as I do Oblivion and that’d be that. I was very enthusiasticly suggested the game last week however and decided that maybe it’d finally be worth a try.

First impressions were actually quite good – while I could definitely recognize the Oblivion in Fallout 3, Bethesda actually seemed to have learned a great deal and gotten rid of quite a few annoyances. The character progression system doesn’t suck, the main quest actually has a personal value to your character rather than just being some random task given by the same emperor Picard whose cells you were just recently languishing in for no apparent reason and I actually cared!

My character, Kate – a geeky-looking young woman with glasses and an affinity for anything mechanical or techy – had me actually interested in her present and future; though some of the dialogue and character interaction was awkward at best, I still felt I could feel her character and how her situation affected her. There was an interesting contrast between how competent a fighter she was turning out and the fact that she was still a young woman looking for her missing father.

Then I completed the game, and the way it ended – regardless of what choices you actually make in the end – pretty much broke my entire experience over its knee. It’s hard to describe it, doubly so without actually spoling it (there’s a rundown of all the various permutations of the ending available on Youtube if you’re inclined and haven’t seen it yourself), but it’s fair to say that it made me feel like everything I had done up to that point was reduced to nothing and the only thing that really mattered was that one, final, binary choice. It didn’t matter what you’d done, it didn’t matter what people had said, or promised, or done. It was just that one choice, and it defined two ultimate extremes. Now, I realize this was Bethesda and not Bioware, and I wasn’t playing Mass Effect, but it still felt.. well.. empty.

The game didn’t even care whether or not I was lugging any companions around and utterly denied the possibility for them to contribute in any way, to the point where I ended up feeling that if the game had treated your allies as actual people rather than just walking guns, I could’ve bypassed the binary choice alltogether and ended up with a much more positive end.

I do note that leaving you on a less positive note might’ve been the whole point, but I can’t help but feel disappointed. In the early stages of the game it seemed like Bethesda understood and was really into the idea that creating a bond between you and your character was important and giving you space to put heart into them was the whole experience. That they then decided to ignore that in favour of making you a nameless, faceless hero figure without identity or soul towards the latter stages seemed like an elaborate slap in the face.

A friend and I equated it to something like if I were to suddenly have a plot hook in Beyond the Tree where suddenly everything would be an elaborate dream or somesuch that Hani’d wake up from and everything done up to that point, including the very existance of Tiny, would just be a fabrication of her sleeping mind. Now while I can think of reasons why this might be an interesting event to play.. it’d also be tearing appart pretty much everything that makes Beyond the Tree what it is and administer an elaborate punch in the gut to anyone who’s invested time and care in the characters and character relationships.

I was listening to the commentary track of Aliens some time back and I recall Jim Cameron expressing the same kind of sentiment – that while he understands how you have to make a universe “your own” in order to make full use of it, he also expressed that Alien 3 came as a disappointment to anyone who invested time and care in the character relationships of Aliens only to have those characters declared dead at the start of Alien 3.

I feel like I could use a quick dive into Mass Effect or similiar, now, just to get into a story that feels more providing for the characters themselves. I’m not sure how much time I actually have to indulge in a dive like that, and I’m not sure what I really want to be doing, but it feels like I’ll have to forcibly eject my Fallout 3 experience to get it out of my mind, because it really left me with a poor taste.

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