What Really Excites Me the Most About Fallout 4

Fallout 4 Box Art

Continuing my pattern here of trying to shoehorn in a post on Fallout 4 every week, today I want to talk about the aspect of the game that excites me the most. The easy answer is player freedom. That’s not it. The buzzword answer is the customization and crafting. That’s not it either. And the PC-turned-Console answer is the prospect of mods later on. That’s partially true – it could be the case by this time next year.

What I’m really the most excited about is the world that Bethesda is crafting for us. Not just from a visual standpoint – although I am looking forward to playing a Fallout game that doesn’t look super dated. What I mean really relates to every aspect of the game. Bethesda has an incredible knack for making these super expansive worlds still feel real. It’s all the little details that they put into the game. From the writing of the dialogue, to the way it’s delivered by the actors, to the very foundation of the world itself; they’re all so well done.

Fallout New Vegas The Strip

The writing is probably the easiest to point to. Dialogue trees and conversations play an incredibly important role in playing through any Bethesda RPG. From getting extra rewards upon quest completion, to getting out of some sticky situations, using your Speech skill matters a whole bunch. And it’s in those conversations that you probably will see the strength in the writing first. It’s pretty difficult to go through a Bethesda game without talking with a bunch of people. But the writing extends a lot further than that. If you’ve played a Fallout game, especially the Bethesda ones, you know that there’s a massive amount of flavor text in the terminals scattered about the wasteland. Add in the bunches of holotape notes that also appear and you get a good sense about the sheer amount of writing that goes into these games.

The next step then is the voicing of that writing. All of those conversations that are integral in the Bethesda RPG experience are all voiced. Granted, the player character hasn’t every been voiced prior to this year’s game, but still. The variety in the different characters in the games is staggering, even if they do use a relatively small voice acting pool. What always strikes me though is the amount of big names they’re able to snag for a role or two. In Oblivion it was Patrick Stewart, Fallout 3 had Liam Neeson, Fallout: New Vegas has Matthew Perry – it goes on. For Fallout 4, we don’t know a ton about the cast, other than Ron Perlman reprising his role as narrator; along with the player character actor and actress – Brian T. Delaney and Courtenay Taylor. Regardless of the celebrity status of the actors, they always do a great job bringing each character to life.

Fallout 4 Concept Bomb

Which really all ties into what I think has always been Bethesda strength. That’s making these worlds all tie in together and feel real. It’s more than just making the characters feel real through good writing and voice acting. It’s more than just putting little details in the houses to make them feel real. It’s much deeper than that. The best way that I’ve really been able to dive into this is by looking at the timelines that they’ve created for Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Granted Fallout was initially created by Black Isle Studios, but still, Bethesda isn’t exactly bad at this either. Just look at the two timelines for the games – you’ll see details that impact the games, but that won’t show up in actual gameplay, possibly ever. The Elder Scrolls timeline details the creation myths for each race, along with helping set the stage for each game. Fallout‘s timeline details out exactly what happened in the timeline after it split from our own – from the end of WWII on to the Great War. Little details like that just make everything feel like is has history behind it. And that’s really what has me super pumped for Fallout 4 – not only do we get another chance to fill in some blanks in the timeline, but this is the first time we’ve headed to Boston. That means that we’re probably guaranteed to learn a whole bunch more about that region – which also means a whole lot more writing and creating on Bethesda’s part.

Advertisements

The Root of the Question – Immersion

Dragon Age OriginsThe last two days I’ve posed a hypothetical question – if you had the power, which game worlds would be the best/worst ones to hop into and live in; as in actually be a part of. I came up with what I think is a pretty solid start to each list, although a question like this is always going to have lots of wiggle room. I’ll admit I was trying to keep most of my picks somewhat relevant to the current slate of games out there. There’s plenty of classic games that could fit into either category.

That said though, at the core of this whole discussion is one simple factor. How immersive is that game’s world? I think, regardless of which list you put the game on, if it’s in contention for either, that’s ultimately a good thing for the game. That means that the developers have crafted a world that draws you in in some way. That could be through dialogue and writing, it could be with the action of the game, or it could just be the aesthetics of the world. Regardless of whether actually living in that world would be nice and easy, or incredibly dangerous; the fact that the thought has even entered your brain is a win.

Thief

I say that like it’s a given with games these days. We seem to expect a rich, living environment for our games. As the industry has grown and matured, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to expect. Not every game needs to be a super serious, gritty, mature title to achieve that though. And even beyond that, creating a world that feels alive and immersive is incredibly difficult. A good example is last year’s reboot of Thief. The game tried to do too much, and as a result, the world felt stiff. It was really noticeable compared with Dishonored, which managed to pull of a much more alive feeling world, while still trying to do very similar things. Both are set in very dystopian worlds, neither would exactly be fun to live in – although our rules stated we would be the main character, which would alleviate a lot of that; both are also structured around stealth mechanics, with some super natural added in. And yet, Thief fell a little short, thanks to a convoluted story, and really no impact to the world around you. Dishonored made every decision impact the whole of the world, which made the different play styles matter more, and in turn helped breathe life into the game world.

BioWare Logo

Which is why studios like BioWare and Bethesda always deserve a ton of credit for their hard work. BioWare’s two major current IPs – Mass Effect and Dragon Age – couldn’t be more different in setting. And yet both have the very same focus – story and character – to make the worlds feel alive, and thus draw the player in much more. Add in some character customization, superb writing and acting and solid action, regardless of control style; and you have not only an incredible world to play in, but a game that’s super fun to play. Bethesda does it a little differently. Story is still important, but it’s more through the little details that their worlds come to life. Giving every NPC a schedule that the keep makes going to the towns feel just like that. Having a reputation/crime system provides consequence for your actions – good or bad. It makes it very easy to get lost in the Role Playing nature of their games, regardless of whether it’s Fallout or Elder Scrolls.

Bethesda Softworks Logo

I think it’s very easy to look at the current state of gaming and say that the big determining factor for progress has been graphics. In just about 30 years we’ve come incredibly far, really quite fast. I don’t see it being a huge stretch to say that in the same period of time in the future we might get to see games that are as close to life like as any CGi movie is. But that’s not really where the growth has been, in my eyes. It helps it, sure, but really the growth is best shown in the increase in games with impact. We’ve gone from an industry where the best selling and most loved games are literally two-dimensional; to now one that craves stories with weight, characters with life and action with impact. All mass forms of entertainment have gone through this growth – movies, comics, books, TV, even music. It’s part of truly becoming mainstream, and earning our spot as part of the mass pop culture. We still have a very long way to go, just look at the last 6 months of gaming culture to see why; but I truly believe that we’ll get there eventually. And when we do, it’s going to be thanks to these games, where immersion is the key.

A Question to Ponder: What Games Would be the Best to Jump Into?

Dragon Age: InquisitionI’ve had this thought bouncing around this week – if you wake up tomorrow, with the ability to hop into any game universe you want, which would be the best ones? The thought came out of playing a TON of Dragon Age: Inquisition lately. It, much like any BioWare game, has such a high level of immersion to it. It’s very easy to lose yourself into the world, thanks mainly to the superb writing. This isn’t the first time I’ve had similar thoughts either – I found myself thinking something along the same lines when I played Skyrim and Oblivion. So I thought I’d run with it this time. Before we start though, let’s set a couple ground rules. First, assume that when you hop into the world, it’s just the same as playing it – you are the main character, and by proxy, the action revolves around you. There’s more to the universe than just the story of the game though, so there’s plenty of blank space to work with. Second, we have to also assume that the game mechanics are still in place – you still have mana/stamina reserves to maintain, it’s just known inherently. That keeps you from breaking beyond the scope of the game. The whole point of this thought is to enter and enjoy the world – not alter the entire state of it. The last point to keep in mind is the big question of death – let’s just say the penalty for “game over” is kicking you back to the real world, and barring you from re-entering that game for some period of time. Now that the ground rules have been set, I came up with a few examples of what I think would be fun/exciting game worlds to hop into.

Dragon Age Origins

DRAGON AGE
Let’s just start with the game that got me thinking this question. Each game in the series presents a world that’s insanely full with life, even in the face of the incredible dangers. The games are limited in that only certain characters can be interacted with, of course, but that wouldn’t exist if you can just hop into the world. Secondary, background characters have even more life now. Add in that you are the main character, and that helps you shape the world with even more detail than you could just playing the game. The game is also limited with the dialogue choices you have – that disappears with you actually being the character. Combat is still a part of the experience, but thanks to the game mechanics, death isn’t a super threat – even should you fall, as soon as the combat is over, you pop right up. So I think Dragon Age would be a fun world to experience first-hand, you’ve got action, you have a world rich in history, and you have people that are around you to make it a living world.

Mass Effect

MASS EFFECT
On a similar note, the Mass Effect games would basically be the same sort of deal as Dragon Age. A universe that’s full of history and incredible places to visit. Characters that fill that universe with life. And action that will keep you busy, while again, not having a huge worry about death. The threat is perhaps a little different though – the Reapers are certainly an intense threat. Putting you actually into the shoes of Commander Sheppard would perhaps be a little stressful, but that’s where the down-time comes in. The game isn’t pure action, start to finish – there is a lot of down time on the Normandy, and with that comes all kinds of options for you to do. Take the Mako out for a spin to explore some planets, and I think it’d be a fun world to explore for sure.

Saints Row IV

SAINTS ROW
Switching gears a little bit in terms of genre, I present a potentially surprise choice. I think that the knee jerk game choice with this question would be Grand Theft Auto. The problem is that the game makes it really easy to be constantly in life-threatening danger. On the other hand, Saints Row is essentially the same style game, but taken beyond the limit of normal. Death is no concern because of the upgrades you can get – eventually you’ll be invincible. You can still drive any car you want, or cause whatever mayhem you feel like – hell it’s part of the game after all. And as the universe expands, eventually you have access to a bunch of different super powers to play with. Sure the story isn’t as deep as the previous choices, but sometimes you just want to blow shit up and not worry about all that pathos.

Rock Band 3 Cover

ROCK BAND
Another surprising choice I think, this one might be one that appeals to a more limited audience. Essentially it’s the same world as the real one after all, except you’re part of the greatest cover band in history. You can play literally any song presented to you, immediately. If we take the story into consideration, you go from bar band to biggest band ever, so you have no worries at all – and death isn’t an issue, so you’d be able to hang out in Rock Band world as long as you want.

Super Mario 64

MARIO
Finally, the one universe that probably provides the most fun factor – the Mario universe. Not only could you save a kingdom from threats of a major villain, but then the next day, everyone is out playing tennis. Or golf. Or go karting. Or baseball. Or soccer. Or having a board game party. It’s a universe that’s got all kinds of potential – threats are limited, fun is maximized. The characters have certainly grown in depth over the years too, so you won’t need to worry about being alone. It’d be a fun one to go through for sure. Add in the Super Smash Bros. factor and you’ve got even more potential for action.

Ultimately, this hypothetical question boils down to which game worlds are not only immersive, but also have a high potential for a fun existence. It’s a fun question to ponder on when you’ve got a few minutes to day dream. I like to think it adds a little bit more to the game experience as well.