Monday, January 19, 2009

Fallout over Battlefront

Bah, why is it so cold and grey and miserable in the UK, when it is so warm and sunny and happy in other bits of the world?

Just before I went on holiday I completed Fallout 3, I just didn't have time to scrawl down some of my thoughts about it. Be aware that the next three paragraphs have some fairly major spoilers, if you've not got that far yourself...

I felt that the story had and ending that was pretty much a cop out, which tried hard to be dramatic and meaningful but didn't really turn out that way. The build up in the Citadel was good, and watching the robot being activated felt like something big was happening. The problem with the next section was that, although following the robot as it effortlessly carved its way towards the water purifier was cool, it gave me nothing to do but tag along. I had spent the game amassing a collection of decent guns, including fully repairing a nuclear missile launcher, but the robot had it all covered, leaving me to use my arsenal only when I got inside, and had to take on a handful of grunts, of the type I had obliterated many times before. It felt kind of pointless.

I also think the game let itself down once I reached the final dialogue section, and had to make "the choice". Stood there, I had a companion with me who could survive major levels of radiation radiation (in fact, this had been a major point in a quest earlier), but who suddenly got all philosophical about destinies - to the point that they were willing to force one of two people to die. Given that the companion had gone to great lengths to help me, and also prove how human they still were inside, this didn't fit right at all. And also made them come across as a completely petty arsehole.

Anyway, my character didn't die in the end. Which sort of highlights another problem with forcing life or death choices on a player in big sandbox story games - trying to force the player to interact with one specific character for enough play time proportionally so that the character feels important enough to save. My choice was either I die (me, who I had spent 80 hours in the company of at this point), or some woman who I had barely ever spoken to (I had maybe scraped an hour's interaction with her, since I found her to be a bit aloof) died. Which is no choice at all in the dog-eat-dog world of Fallout. I would have had more internal conflict if I'd been forced to pick between myself and the chirpy supply woman from Megaton (though I guess depending on your choices she could have been immune to radiation too). So it was quite nnoying that I couldn't keep playing. I guess they would have needed too much extra dialogue - pretty much everyone in the game world would have been affected by the change brought about by the end of the story. Though I seem to remember reading somewhere that one of the downloadable content packs will change the end of game story, to allow players to continue.

End of major story spoilers, if you've bothered to scan over them.

Overall, my favourite bits of Fallout were the non-story scenarios I stumbled on. For example, finding a village with three houses. The first two had very chipper families living there. Their chirpiness was suspicious, as was the nagging feeling that in a world of mutants, raiders and other beasties, these wholesome guys shouldn't have survived so long. An old man resided in the third house, who warned me to get out of town as fast as I could, and to look in the shed behind one of the other houses if I wanted more information. It turns out the town is populated by inbred cannibals who kill and eat everyone who ever visits. I managed to talk them out of killing me by pretending to have the same tastes as they did, but accidentally let slip that the old man had warned me. The families say they're going to have to stop him from meddling, and then start to walk towards his house. I spring into action and at point blank range pump shotgun shells into the backs of their heads. It seemed like the right thing to do to save the old man.

Though thinking back, I've now left two children and a defenseless old man living out there in the wilderness, so they're probably pretty fucked anyway.

The situation at Free Radical has led to some footage being leaked of their version of Star Wars Battlefront 3 (which has now been moved by Lucasarts to Rebellion, who did the PSP versions of the previous Battlefront titles). I'm not going to link to the footage here for fear of upsetting someone, but a Google search should probably do you right, it seems to have been posted in a few places now.

I found it interesting, not because it showed anything spectacular, but because it looked exactly how I would expect a next-gen (current gen? I get so confused) version of the Battlefront games to look. Which makes me wonder how it has taken so long to develop? Now, I have no idea how long FRD were working on it, maybe Lucasarts dragged their heels in commissioning the game, but this would seem strange to me too. The previous Battlefront games were hugely popular titles on Live (looking at the most recent figures posted by Major Nelson, it's the second most played original Xbox title, even now), so I would have expected the third version to be green lit pretty much as soon as 360 and PS3 kits were available, to give a couple of years development, and have the sure-fire hit title on shelves just as the consoles are maturing a little.

But apparently not. Anyway, if a decent Battlefront game gets released at some point, I'll buy it. I did love the first two on my Xbox.


Furious said...

In your original post you said you weren't sure how much fun you were having with Fallout, how about now, overall?

I like it a lot because everyone i've spoken to about it has a cool story about what happened when they went to a certain place, it almost makes me wish there was a Fallout MMORPG...

When I went to that inbred cannibal town, I met the old guy first, so I was clued up when I met the other weirdos. Eventually I stole a key, waited until they all went to bed and sneaked into the shed, but they were waiting when I came back out. They didn't like my 'excuses' so I had to shotgun them in their faces. The inbred children move in with the old man though, so i'm sure they're fine...

FreakyZoid said...

I think I liked it, but I wouldn't say "a lot".

It still felt annoyingly old-fashioned to me, and I ended up feeling like I was playing it out of some sort of compulsion to see as much as possible on a single playthrough, so that I wouldn't ever feel the need to go back.

There definitely was a lot of cool stuff in there outside of the main quests. It's just a shame so much of the landscape and interior artwork was reused extensively - I generally felt like I was visiting the same places again and again, which stole away a lot of the character that I would expect exploring a ravaged city to have.

Definitely got my money's worth. But in the end, of the two RPGs I played late last year, I enjoyed Fable 2 a lot more.