Fallout: New Vegas – Comprehensive Review
The following review will form the prototype basis for my future reviews. I will look at a large number of relevant game aspects, and when appropriate, list the positive and negative commentary on each. I LOVE the game, and wish to see its sequels greatly improved, and less reliant on hobbled console kiddie conventions. I have put more than 300 hours into this game so far, and post-surgery will put much more, assuming I can.
So that there is no confusion: I LOVE this game, and because I have to, in order to be listed on meta review sites, I will give it a numerical score at the bottom, but as has been my philosophy for more than a year and a half ( certain other review sites JUST NOW coming to the same conclusion ) I don’t believe in numerical scores, as they are highly misleading, and reading the review will garner the reader much more value. That said:
I have completed the final DLC, finished the main quest on two characters, and visited most of the map markers over more than 300 hours of actual play, and about 60 of that is recorded, and 19,800 screen shots taken. I think that qualifies as sufficient to render a final comprehensive Review and Evaluation:
Rather than introduce a game you all likely know, I'm going to focus on doing this based on categories.
As this is a PC and console game, designed mostly with the limitations of consoles and console controllers in mind, you will see a lot of scathing commentary in this regard. If you're what we call a "console kiddie", and cannot see the limitations of the platform, or want to argue that consoles are somehow superior, well, you're on the wrong site. This site is about high end hardware and high end gaming. Consoles are indeed more “ecosystem” based, and this often makes them more stable and convenient, but when done right, PC gaming outclasses console at every mark.
STATS of review
Played ONLY on hardcore mode the entire time, on "normal" difficulty so far ( with the beginnings of a third play-through on Very Hard ). I can imagine playing on non-hardcore, and it sounds too easy. Having to deal with ammo weight, eating, drinking, and sleeping makes the harshness of the desert more real, which is something most RPGs gloss over entirely. In my MMO designs, I called for weather to MEAN something. In real life, if it's raining, even if you enjoy it, you need to protect your stuff. Assuming that the Pipboy is water proof, your other stuff may not be. In snow, you can die. You need the right clothing and equipment. In the harsh heat of the Mojave, you can die if you don't prepare. Main game engine lacks any variety of weather. I have spent a lot of time in the REAL Mojave. It gets COLD at night. It can go from 124 in the daytime to negatives at night. You must prepare. A mod adds some very convincing rain, storms, ( as does one of the DLC ) etc. but I'm evaluating the game completely bone stock. Although recommended against by the game itself for a first timer, hardcore mode was perfectly manageable and should be the default and maybe only way this is done. I understand that FO3 lacks this mode and that's a shame. An official patch should add it.
Game and DLC acquired through a combination of Steam purchase and Bethesda directly.
Main game - A highly flawed, bit slow console port, with a clunky and terrible UI, no PC optimization for UI, but ultimately an extremely addictive experience.
The Game Categories
Installing and Patching
As this was a Steam Game, installing and Patching is transparent and easy. Steam is the best.
Unlike most games on Steam, Fallout New Vegas CAN be corrupted randomly, and requires somewhat frequent verification. Game is also still riddled with bugs and crashes. If these get patched up, I may increase my score a bit.
Built into the story itself; creating your character is a fluid part of developing your character arc throughout the tutorial. First you choose your name, and then your physical appearance.
The UI for creating the appearance is fairly thorough, and offers a lot of controls.
Although somewhat befitting the general UI DNA for Fallout, the buttons and sliders needed to create the character are slow and unresponsive, and the final result doesn’t change much. In fact, few characters in Fallout look much different from any other. This is forgivable, and not a particularly negative point of contention.
I’m not a fan of the artificial limitation of character creation here. You can only see your character through a grimy viewport used to make your character. Why? Why not just open it up and let me really see the character as a whole in open space like any modern RPG or MMORPG?
The only options available to you are gender, and appearance of face. NO body customization is possible. While this is better for designing clothing and armor, it is done in other games to great effect, and feels “missing” here. Everyone in the Fallout world has the same non-curvy body, and that doesn’t feel very believable. In fact, you SHOULD see a divide of both VERY skinny and VERY fat people. The very skinny are the ones you’d see in the outskirts who NEVER get to eat, like the Powder Gangers, or other roaming NPCs, and some of the fat ones would be like the ones you find in Freeside who might get to eat occasionally. The human body goes through what we call “yo yo” syndrome when extreme dieting. This means that the body, once convinced that food is scarce will convert EVERYTHING it can to glucose in the body, thus making you fat, even though you eat very little. Adding this would have gone a long way toward selling the effect of the postmodern world. Maybe for Fallout 4?
Building a “Class” in Fallout is different from other RPGs, and this is both a good and a bad thing. Let’s start with what is good or unique:
SPECIAL is simply a new way to express the age old “INT, CHAR, STAM, ETC” stats every paper RPG has had since before any of us was born. Simplified and made elegant, SPECIAL is a how you pick what your character is best at.
SPECIAL is an acronym that in this case stands in for “Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck”. Each of these is measured on a scale from 1 to 10, and governs a few different aspects of your characters’ ability to develop and what it is capable of.
There is no one right answer in what to choose when initially building your SPECIAL. The more you put into one stat, the better the things it controls will be, but the less points you have available for other stats. This is all quite familiar of course; it’s just packaged neatly this time.
Said simply; Traits are a small list of modifiers to the above rules. You can think of this as the “wrinkle” in the SPECIAL system. Traits come with both something positive, and something negative to offset it. How you choose the 2 traits available to you will be mostly a matter of play style.
Perks are chosen at each even level, and there are many more than are possible for one character to select, and most are locked unless you meet certain SPECIAL and SKILL requirements. This means that only certain Perks will be available to each character based on your build, but there is still quite a variety. Most perks are “flavor” and not critical to a certain play style. Some are more helpful than others, but most are more “add some convenient thing” rather than “This build MUST HAVE this PERK to work” which is great. I like choice, and some of the Perks are a HOOT.
Finally, to all of this, you have a finite set of skills, which mostly dictate your ability to use certain weapons, pick locks, use computers, and similar actions. These skills are ranked 1 to 100, and as you level, depending on your other choices, you will be granted a certain number of skill points to assign. For example, the higher your Intelligence stat the more skill points you can allocate ( This does NOT mean that you always need to build with a high INT, as we will see soon ). Whether you build fairly evenly as you go along, as my partner does, or min-max out the gate, as I do, is up to you.
How it all comes together
How you assemble all of the above determines what kind of character you are. Do you fight with long range energy or sniper weapons, or melee weapons? Do you sneak around picking locks, or charge in with explosives? Ultimately, you can do whatever you want, you’ll just be much better at some things than others. It’s not like an MMO, wherein if you are a mage, you can cast fireballs, but if you are a Paladin, you can’t. In Fallout, you can do it all, but you’ll specialize a bit. This specialization actually begins to vanish the higher up the levels you go, and eventually, you can do just about any of it perfectly, so most of these build choices affect your early game more than anything.
Although you can waste a lot of time arguing the point, I finished the main quest at only level 14 on a character with 1 Intelligence, light armor only, and an “unarmed” weapon on only my second play through. So stats aren’t really that critical, just have fun with it.
How many games do you know where you start the game being shot in the head? Actually, I can think of some, notably the SNES Shadowrun where the main character is shot in the head, left for dead, and wakes up after being rescued from certain death. You spend much of the game trying to figure out who you are, only to find out that you are in fact a courier meant to deliver a package that activates a computer that will give someone control over the entire- wait . . .
Yes, that is EXACTLY the premise of Fallout New Vegas. Thought we didn’t notice huh? That’s ok, it’s not like it’s a plot that has been done to death.
This time our character wakes up after being shot in the head in the home of a doctor, and that doctor helps us create our stats. Nothing is really explained, so I guess we either have to figure out what all of this SPECIAL, TRAITS, PERKS, SKILLS stuff is, or just look it up in the manual? As I have said, it doesn’t really ultimately matter. You can’t make an unplayable character, although I might try just for fun.
After getting all of that straightened out, you’re given some starter gear, which if you pre ordered or bought the packs recently you will be LOADED with gear starting out, plus you can loot the crap out of the doctors’ house, and he has a lot of nice things. It seems rude, but there is no KARMA penalty for this, and we’ll get into KARMA later, but go nuts.
The tutorial town is Goodsprings, where you will learn how to use your weapons, kill things, loot them, make chems, and generally interact with the world. The interesting twist here is that Goodsprings remains an important hub long after the tutorial itself is over, so it’s never wasted effort to do the quests here.
Some key things are never explained, such as how to hot key things like weapons and water, and certain other game mechanics. You do eventually figure it all out, but it would have been nice to have that explained from the beginning.
I mostly don’t like the interface in general. It works, but is so console hogtied as to be absolutely frustrating most of the time, and coming from a specialization of dealing with modern MMO UI’s, this is very limited.
Don't even get me started. Also, I hate the Pipboy. At least it's better than Oblivion, which has literally the worst UI ever designed for a video game, but it’s not a good PC UI. ( Yes, Oblivion is highly touted, but take a look at the PC mods section of certain sites. UI mods are tops. The UI was designed to work on the Xbox and a CRT TV ).
Why? PC RPG UI's are not about realism. They are about access. Take a look at any given MMO UI, especially a highly modded WoW UI. What is the main thing that you see? A lot of access to skills, items, etc. While Fallout doesn't require all of that, it could still benefit from a less console-centric UI. So what if I want to hot bar everything I'm carrying? Let me. Hide those UI elements otherwise, but give me that choice. You can sort of hotkey items and weapons, but the UI for that is clunky, and not at all obvious. It took me almost the entire game to realize I could put water on the hot key. Not well documented. Now I know, but it's still limited, and EVERY time you lose your gear ( which is often in this game ) Your hot keys are reset. Very frustrating.
The Pipboy is meant to be immersive, and in that it does its job well. Unfortunately, there is an inconsistency. The UI has three elements always on screen: A "radar" element, showing your perception of enemies, with a compass, your HP, and your immediate "needs", and on the other side your Attack Power, which is of arguable requirement to be always showing, especially for those of us who never use VATS, but we'll come to that. Finally, your reticle. So if the point is that EVERYTHING is accessed through the Pipboy, why bother having anything on a HUD at all? If you're going to have some things, let me have whatever I want.
Even on insanely powerful PC's like mine, the Pipboy is slow, ponderous, and cumbersome to use. A lot of its functionality should be available on the main window, but I "get" that this is not the Bethesda way. Still, this is almost 2012, and consoles should be taking their UI and gameplay elements from a PC version, not the other way around.
They mostly work.
Some of it does not.
The “Take All” and “Exit” functions in the loot window are not reconfigurable, and VERY inconvenient for keyboard users who think WASD is silly. There is a disturbing trend in recent PC releases of having from zero to very little control reconfiguration, and this HAS TO STOP. How hard is it to make all keys free to be configured to any function? Even when consoles still ruled, I thought it was retarded to encounter a game where the “jump” button was the “wrong” button, and it was not reconfigurable. I would not bother playing that game, because why should I RELEARN ALL OF MY CONVENTIONAL control scheme for ONE game? I should not. ALL CONTROLS need to be fully configurable. Period. People: this isn’t that hard.
First Impressions and “Draw”
I love Las Vegas the town. Seeing it in a video game is always exciting to me. Therefore an opening movie with a reimagined post-apocalyptic Vegas makes me giddy. This one does not disappoint. The fact that one starts the game FAR from the actual Vegas and on a normal play through may not see the Strip for many hours is torture. Not a negative thing, it’s just torture. I want to see the lights!!
RPGs that require an hour and a half of reconfiguring the controls JUST to be able to start playing make me want to hit “uninstall” but that isn’t the problem here. I wasn’t distracted from the initial movies and quest stuff because I had to keep pausing to go configure YET another esoteric control. ( I’m talking to you CDProjeckt ) The basic control scheme did not get in the way of enjoying the game and kudos for that! That’s pretty important to me.
Quests and Missions
Both a weakness due to the UI and one of the saving graces of the game, quests are both awesome and hard to manage. Again, MMO's have this down; look at their UI's. The messages that come up are nice with their deep sound, but actually managing the map and waypoints . . . again, it feels old and cheap.
Receiving quests is managed in a very Role Playing friendly manner, and the talking to NPCs is really what these Bethesda games are all about. Once that's done, it's strictly "Kill X and FedEx" quests, like any other RPG or MMO ever.
It is my understanding that FO3 has an extremely linear quest structure, and far fewer overall quests. I find this disappointing, given that basically the biggest strength of NV is that you can follow any of four major paths to the ending from about midway through the "main" quests. Even then, there are a number of ways to do each path, depending on whether or not your character is male or female, and what traits they have. I have a feeling that I will spend no more than 30-40 hours in FO3, and feel no real need to see more.
Itemization, Loot, and Inventory
No matter what kind of weapon you like, chances are good you’ll find one or two early on, and have upgrades throughout the game, making itemization very balanced, which is difficult to do correctly.
There is more loot to be had out in the Mojave than any one character can ever find, but that doesn’t stop some players from trying.
Excerpted from a conversation with my investment partner: ( red is my part )
I stole everything that wasn't nailed down in the prison and used every bit of useful junk by the two work benches in Novac.
Geez. You know, for someone who likes to role play a helpful member of society, who regards the NPCs, you sure don't share loot much . . .
I also took everything from the motel keeper after Boone exacted his revenge. Why am I getting bad karma for taking things from a DEAD evil NPC who sold a woman into slavery and whose death is part of a quest?
Yeah, that's why most games don't even attempt faction/reputation stuff. It gets COMPLICATED. They do a better job than most, but if you dig TOO far into the details, it starts to fall apart.
One option would be to make fewer items "owned", especially in cases where they are in public areas (like by the workbenches) or in "disputed" places (like the prison or Nelson).
I suppose that's one way to compromise. One could handle it a number of ways, depending on how rich they want a player to be able to be.
I also would add more Mojave Express boxes to the world. They are a great addition, but why not have one at the Mojave NCR compound?
I have never used them. I have a room in a hotel on the Strip, and that's where all my crap is.
Or other places where the presence of merchants would logically dictate the ability to ship and receive goods? They really help if you are playing as a character who is not employing fast travel (my preferred way to play).
Again, the game was DESIGNED to use fast travel. All of these games are. It's a core mechanic of the game. Do you play without using the Pipboy too? It's fine for PURE role playing purposes, but it is an unintended crutch.
I can explore until me and my companions are loaded down, then return to an outpost and ship my excess stuff back to the various hideouts for repairs and crafting later.
. . .
I have yet to enter Vegas itself. I am pretty methodical and explore sector by sector until it is fully played out. Heck, I will sometimes make a point of cleaning up every piece of litter in a location for the extra caps -- and who wants a messy wasteland?
I find myself starting in the south part of the map and sweeping back and forth slowly conquering territory. If the enemies look too tough (the giant radscorpions, for example), I mark it for later. But, I hate to leave a map section until every location is discovered, each structure or dungeon investigated, every bit of loot extracted, etc. There are some interesting spots at the southern fringes of the map.
There should be an achievement "Trashman of the Mojave" for picking up a certain percentage of all the crap lying around. There's more of it than any one player should EVER see.
Inventory management makes me want to die in a fire. Most MMOs have this down, why are single player games still acting like it's the 90's? Everything takes hours to accomplish, and I think my played time would be half of what it is if inventory management was optimized for PC instead of game controllers ( seriously? people still use those? Like a child? )
While it is somewhat realistic to be highly limited in what one can carry, the UI makes managing this needlessly painful. There is also a somewhat arbitrary distinction between AID items that have weight, and those that do not. Putting everything into long list views with such large text is a terrible, terrible thing, and it looks like Skyrim is holding true to this tradition due to its console roots. Consoles need to die, or be on feature parity with PC versions. Don't most people own higher resolution TV's these days? Who even WANTS to play modern games on a CRT? Why can't all console games support a mouse and if not a keyboard some kind of cool keypad thing like the G13? I know "So we can play on a couch" ( imagine that said with the most derisive and mocking tone you can imagine ). I PLAY ON A COUCH, leaning back, in terrible pain, but I can still use a keyboard and a mouse with 17 buttons. I guess we can't expect console-kiddies to have that level of coordination.
Funny thing about conventions: if you force them on people, they get used to them. Consoles should force their players to adapt to more sophisticated UI's and control schemes.
I have some designs for digital proportional keyboards, which I think would go a long way to bridging those gaps, but I don't make keyboards. I STRONGLY feel that Logitech and Microsoft should take up the challenge and make keyboards with at least certain keys, such as the arrow keys and macro keys, digital proportional, for stuff like steering cars and running/walking. Combined with a mouse, can you imagine?
The world of Fallout feels pretty alive. There is a fully realized day/night cycle, and NPCs work, go home, sleep, and generally live. This makes towns have a nice feel to them, although NPC lives are pretty limited.
Most NPCS will talk to the player, and many have a lot to say. While this is somewhat unrealistic, it makes for a more interesting game for players who are thorough. Quest givers aren’t just standing around with a “!” above their head, which is a stylistic choice. It works here.
As I have said earlier though, virtually all NPCs of a given race look pretty much exactly alike. There is a “Fallout Look” and it’s pretty homogenous.
Thanks to virtually non-existent AI, extremely flawed path-finding, and simplistic shooter mechanics, combat is flat and unsatisfying. Hunting and killing the Legendary Deathclaw was more about whether or not it bugged in the terrain so that I could snipe the crap out of it with impunity, ( not to mention that it RAN AWAY, which is out of step with EVERYTHING ELSE I HAVE FOUGHT in the Mojave ), rather than any real strategy. You fight it in a cave with no room to do anything but hit it with everything you've got and hope it doesn't touch you, even at level 46.
Thankfully, AI isn't critical to enjoying this game, and pretty much all of the "strategies" for combat, including VATS, shooting legs, commanding companions, etc. are completely unneeded. I find that "See enemy, crouch and shoot it till it's dead" works on everything in the game. More dedicated shooters may require more sophisticated strategies, but even most modern FPS's can be played this way. You might say "multiplayer" to which I say "So what??” I've tried the multiplayer of every major game lately. It ALWAYS involves "People running and jumping around like Spaz's, and shooting at each other while doing so. That's not so much skill or strategy as it is luck and to a much greater degree: experience with the map. Console kiddies would argue, and they are the biggest braggarts I've ever seen, especially the COD ones, but I don't care. I've been gaming for 31 years, and was competitively gaming long before most of this generation was even born ( I’ll add some SS’s of me doing competitive gaming from as far back as 1989 to my about section later ), so yeah, I think I know a thing or two about a console controller, but the fact remains: They are inferior to a good mouse and keyboard. Period. End of story, please stop arguing about it. Console controllers still exist to serve children who lack the coordination to use two devices at once, and the precision skill to manipulate a mouse. I can use both. I can also handle real guns, and have fired everything up to high caliber sniper rifles. Playing a FPS with a console controller is like trying to aim a real rifle wearing oven mits.
Therefore, enemy AI in a console developed game MUST be by design pretty stupid and slow, in order to give console kiddies a chance, ( otherwise: explain why console shooters usually have “aim assist” or in this case VATS ) not to mention the trailing power of this generation of consoles for controlling complex AI behavior. This is understandable. Consoles are cheaper, in . . . a way. Truth be told, once you've bought several controllers, various overpriced cables and a few overpriced retail games, you've spent more on your console than a good gaming PC would cost, but most people don't understand that, and therefore keep doing it, and thus, consoles, while inferior, remain more PROFITABLE.
It's sad really, but PC gamers will have to continue to put up with this mentality.
VATS is worthless, and I only ever used it for review purposes, and not because it added anything to the experience. If I had companions with me, half the time VATS would target THEM ( Why? ), instead of my enemy. While it's cute that you can aim for any body part, or even the weapon, honestly, if you're aiming for anything other than the freaking head you're wasting your time. Why waste ammo shooting the legs to slow something down when a couple of good head shots will put them down anyway? If you cannot kill ANYTHING in the game at any point with less than three shots ( "Bosses" excepted ), you need to rethink your build. VATS is slow, cumbersome, and irritating in every sense. The concept behind it is sound, it's just really terrible execution, which is there purely to assist children holding game controllers and not as something strategic.
If I was to be consulted for Fallout 4, I have ideas for making VATS worthwhile to a well-equipped PC player, and much more exciting, but I'll keep that to myself for the moment.
Game has a KARMA system.
It really does nothing. Honestly most of the time I couldn’t remember if I was greatly loved or hated, and it had no impact on anything. The ONLY time I ran into a problem is when I couldn’t recruit Boone as a companion because of low NCR rating. Other than that, it made no difference to me in three play throughs.
Companions are worthless for much more than role playing. They do hold stuff, but they can die, leave you, or otherwise have something happen that makes you have to take it all back, and be overloaded anyway. They share the extremely horrible AI of the enemy NPCs, which means that unless you're in open space, and the enemy is weak, they will die. They display no strategy or self-preservation. They do not usually obey commands, and even when they do, they "forget" them immediately. There is no dynamic buffing, debuffing, fight stages, or party roles, so there is no reason for them to exist beyond the basic utility of their perks or their “company”. The closest thing ANY encounter in the entire game comes to having a strategy is fighting insects that can poison you. Even fighting Deathclaws consists of the strategy of "kill it before it gets close enough to swat me". Again, my method of killing Deathclaws is "Stop, crouch, and head shot twice, MAYBE a third time". Dead. No running around, planting mines, or chasing them into companions required.
Veronica - I enjoyed her story, quests, and company. She was powerful, usually competent, but only because she could one shot lesser enemies.
Rose - She has an incongruously long and proper sounding name for her attitude and circumstances. Her red hair and foul mouth made her pretty hot, and her quest was good, but otherwise, you kinda want to strangle her after a while.
Lily - I have not encountered her quest, she has stealth, but she lacks any subtle weapons, which pretty much makes her stealth worthless. She gets DIRECTLY in front of me pretty much every combat, which I'm not sure if she's supposed to do that, but it makes SHOOTING at anything other than her impossible. Also, she's insane.
Arcade - I've just started using Arcade, who is apparently a hypocrite. He went on and on about hating the Legion, but on a whim, I gave him some really nice rare Legion armor to wear, and what does he do but put it on? ORLY?
That damn dog - I hate that damn dog with a burning passion and enjoy watching it die every time we have combat. In fact, if it doesn't die, and it almost always does, I'll shoot it myself before the INEVITABLE reload. It continues to live ONLY because I'm an OCD collector and completest, and can't stand the idea that I can't get something back later.
I have not used the other main game companions much.
The temp companions in Dead Money are WAY better. Fleshed out, better optimized, and much less annoying.
The Honest Hearts versions are also better, but not particularly memorable.
In Lonesome Road, we get a version of ED-E, which I had not used, but this one was very useful, containing some mechanics that I had not encountered already. He rarely died, but was otherwise not much different than others. ( I have since started using him main game. He's now pretty much standard for me )
Also from extended conversations: ( on Companion Quest Limitations )
As I understand it, the quest with the Hispanic ghoul companion can fail if you have already visited with certain elderly NPCs and exhausted their dialog options. Since he can be tough to get to early in the game (very challenging fights and off the beaten path location), you may have met these NPCs already.
I have not seen this problem personally, but apparently, once can permanently lock themselves out of triggers for Companion quests. I’m waiting on confirmation of this.
On Companion Type Limitations:
My objection is to what appears to be a limit of one human and one non-human at a time. I am fine with just two party members for gameplay balance and strategic looting decision-making, but object to a requirement that one companion slot MUST be Rex or ED-E.
Once their personal quests are done (and both bots are at that point), I want to swap them out for one of the other humans. Can't do two humanoids at once, it appears. This limit of one human at a time means that several companion quests may be effectively squashed do the "one encounter with each the trigger point" issue I have described before. I want Cass to go with me for the THREE quests that call for her to be in my party in the outskirts of New Vegas. But, if I do grab her, Boone looks like he gets left behind - and I can't take him along for the "rescue the slaves" quest in the far southwest legion area (Cottonwood Cove?) that also will trigger his personal quest. And, of course, once the slaves are rescued -- I finish the quest with a return to the Vegas outskirts.
I could only have Dogmeat and one other companion in FO3, but there were not personal companion quests and "one time only" trigger points in play. They were mules that shot, bit, or beat on things.
However, if the game is going to impose a two companion limit, it should offer some rational excuse for doing so in-game. The dialog choices offered on why the person who REALLY WANTS TO LEAVE with me but can't because I seem to ALREADY HAVE SOMEONE ELSE WITH ME are pretty lame. Seriously, we are in a mutant and raider-filled nuclear desert hellhole and there is strength in numbers. Are they shy?
Architecture and Geography
The walk from Primm to Vegas actually brings back memories of stopping in Primm on the road from LA to Vegas.
Buildings and roads are blasted, dirty, and maybe a little too consistently destroyed looking, but the overall effect is very convincing, and it feels like a real, and very unique place.
A LOT of repetition.
Combat starts with Perception, or it usually will. The higher your Perception the sooner you will “see” enemies in the distance, and the more prepared you will be to fight. Once the enemy sees you it will usually engage, depending on your faction status with that NPC. Assuming it’s an enemy, they will either begin firing, even before taking any kind of cover, or start running straight for you, even if you are shooting it in the face as it comes.
You will either aim, if you have a mouse or are lucky with the stick, or use VATS, but combat is pretty much the same no matter what you fight. As I have said, stop, crouch, shoot. Dead.
Loot things, sell them. Need it? Don’t sell it. It’s really no more complex than this. The only thing that adds any sense of “economy” to the world is that NPCs will have a finite amount of money, in this case “caps” on them, but this can be worked around by simply waiting three game days. That merchant now has their maximum caps on them. There is an infinite amount of caps available to the patient. Nothing more to see here.
Single player RPGS are starting to try to bring crafting up to the level that it is at in MMO’s but this is not practical. As there is no “economy” in game, there is no system of checks for crafted materials. Therefore, your character will ONLY ever need to craft what you need for yourself. Need regular ammo? Craft it. Need energy weapon stores? Craft them. Need mods for your guns? Well, you never do, but if you want the achievement, craft them. Simple as that.
Crafting is tied to skills and Perks and is very simplistic.
Fast Travel. Once you have visited a place on the map, you can fast travel there. What is Fast Travel? It’s not instant warping. Once you choose to fast travel, your character will “walk there” behind the scenes, time will pass, and if you are playing on Hard Core mode, your character will fatigue. You might even agro some enemies on the way, although this is very rare.
Hey, some hard core role players play without fast traveling, at all:
but the game also rewards you with lots of things you will only find if you don't fast travel and explore the side trails between destination points. I also find it breaks the immersion in the game when I suddenly warp to the other end of the map after fighting tooth-and-nail to get to each new location just once.
Beg, borrow, rent, steal, and finally be given some sweet digs. You can sleep on anything from a cardboard box on the side of the highway to a luxury suite in a skyscraper. Where you do this is up to you, but I prefer a nice bed. My character has a bad back.
Although companions can join you in your housing, they do nothing but stand there. It’s very disconcerting.
Part of the micro reward system of any RPG is gaining levels. Here levels are doled out pretty often, and with each comes new skill points, and with every other one comes new Perks. Even in a few minutes of good questing, you’ll gain a level, which keeps you wanting to play.
Due to the extremely fragmented nature of the main quest line, you will often find yourself with NOTHING to do very quickly. I have a character at level 47 struggling to find an odd bug to kill here or there, without so much as a DLC side quest to finish out to 50. With modern MMO’s like WoW having MOST of their content at level cap, this struggle to find something to do feels very empty, and I shouldn’t have to walk to the ends of the map, scraping up EVERY last drop of XP in order to hit the level cap.
While the game DOES support some pretty extensive mods, and I played around with a large number of them, I found that virtually none were stable, and eventually, the game crashes when modded, even after following all instructions with the mods. Modding games is a dedicated hobbyist thing, and I doubt most players will sacrifice stability and time for maybe a LITTLE bit more content, or some weather, or a few nicer looking textures. It’s just not worth it.
The End Game
As we’ll see below in the DLC section, the true END GAME is a matter of opinion. There is a main quest which leads to an “ending” with credits, and there is a final confrontation in a DLC that actually FEELS like the real ending. This is confusing.
Either way, it’s a fun ride.
Time Commitment Required
Around 100+ hours for a good complete experience, and many more if you really want to explore all that the game has to offer.
My Steam folder with all DLC is 25.3GB.
DLC ( MINOR spoilers )
Dead Money - Introduces several new mechanics, strips the character of EVERYTHING that they were carrying, and features an extremely TENSE atmosphere and is an extremely memorable and moving experience. Completion time - Around 8 hours.
Honest Hearts - Pretty much a dud all around. The biblical structure and quest names, and references were nice, but didn't feel committed, and the whole thing felt pretty empty and uninteresting. Some nice moments, but ultimately forgettable and over quick. Completion time - around 3.5 hours.
Old World Blues - Back on track, and featuring a lot of welcome additions to the game, this story was extremely enjoyable, funny, and while lacking the serious and tense tone of Dead Money, was a coherent and full experience. Completion Time - 9.5 hours
Lonesome Road - Easily the strongest content in the entire game. The environment had a very handcrafted feel, and puts the main game to shame in overall detail level. In this regard it actually feels pretty out of place, but I do have to say that the story here feels extremely convoluted and confusing, and didn't resonate as much as one would hope, and was also over pretty quickly. In the grand scheme of the game, this is confusingly the true "ending" and "final boss" of the game, rather than the ending of the main quest. This is somewhat of a paradox, but the final battle is the closest that the game comes to a true MMO style complex battle, and not just a shoot fest. Completion Time - 6 hours
Bethesda is top notch when it comes to PR and support. They use both in-house and external PR, and I seem to have more points of contact with them than any six other companies combined.
In short, and because I am trying to limit typing time, they rock.
I suppose I have to give it a score. I have not yet published my own proprietary format for review "scores" as I prefer not to use scores at all, but by my logic, and to follow the general idea of metacritic:
A resoundingly fun experience, hobbled on occasion with odd bugs, load screen crashes, and console conventions, but optimized well enough for PC to get things such as resolution, mouse look, and keyboard commands mostly right. The fact that I cannot re-bind the “Take All” and “Exit”, etc. commands is frustrating, as the game assumes WASD control, which makes about as much sense honestly as a console controller, but I digress. I love the game, and greatly look forward to any sequels. If not for the console nigs, the score would be higher, but if I had to pick an arbitrary number to represent the overall score based on the conventions of metacritic: