Wandering the Wastes

I didn't get to bed on time. There was a thesis meeting, then work until 9:00pm, then an election party, then... Fallout: New Vegas.

I am not thrilled with this game - not yet, anyway. I keep playing it because I am hoping to recapture all the fun I had in Fallout 3 as the "Last, Best Hope of Humanity" and savior of the D.C. Wastes, Tyranthraxus Malabraxacor Jones (I have a naming issue - let it go). But this game is decidely NOT Fallout 3.

It looks like Fallout 3, but some of the mechanical changes they've made in this game make no sense. For example - the changes to the chems in the game are pretty silly. I used to love the moments just before entering a lair full or baddies - shooting up a cocktail of Med-x and Psycho, then popping Mentats, huffing some Ultrajet, taking a hit of Buffout, and washing it all down with vodka and a Nuka Cola. There is nothing quite like assaulting a lair full of slavers armed only with a shotgun, a supersledge, and a pharmacy in your veins...

Ok, I get that the chems were too powerful before, and reducing their duration while increasing their addictiveness is a way to address that, but it feels like they've taken it too far. Last night, my little weenie of a character, Skinhead McTavish, had only barely achieved 4th level and he was already addicted to scotch, Med-X, Psycho, Mentats, and Steady - and he was most decidely NOT the raging methhead of death I was hoping he'd be. In fact, he was pitiful. He was, at one point, killed by a pack of coyotes. COYOTES, for fuck's sake. The mighty Mr. Jones would be appalled.

I am also underwhelmed with the changes they've made to the healing substances in the game. I want my hit points back NOW, damn it, not slowly over the next 20 minutes. That is decidedly shitty, especially when some Powder Ganger is lobbing dynamite at your crippled ass.

As irritating as these changes may be, they are a small thing compared to the utter bullshit that is the "skill magazine." For those who don't know, when you read a magazine in the game it increases your score in certain game skills. For example, when you read an issue of Locksmith's Reader, the game reflects your new knowledge by increasing your lockpick skill by 10 points. This make perfect sense until you realize that it wears off, just like a chem. Now, I don't mean you forget it after a month or two - you forget it in about 5 minutes. How exactly does that work?

This is just a poorly concealed attempt to insert the tired-ass fantasy gaming concept of magical scrolls into the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout. It effectively turns magazines into spells that improve your skills long enough to get you past a tough door or to unlock an important safe, and then expire. While I understand the desire of the game designers to offer the players found items ("treasure" if you will) that are helpful enough to be interesting, but not so helpful that they imbalance the game, I can't understand why they went this route with it. You could easily come up with a way of increasing skill scores that is wrapped in techno-babble more appropriate to the setting. Perhaps instead of a magazine, the character finds an electronic lockpicking device, and it only has a few uses left on its battery... or they discover a bottle of lubricant that makes lock innards move more easily, but there is only enough for one application in the bottle. Given how easy it is to come up with clever, skill-specific ways to temporarily increase a players game skills, this generic "there is a magazine for everything" approach seems kind of phoned in.

In fact, the claim that Fallout is just "Oblivion with guns" seems truer to me all the time. Except that I hated Oblivion, and couldn't care about it long enough to accomplish anything in it. My total time investment in it was about 45 minutes, and it only lasted that long because Patrick Stewart was talking to me...

That said, I will, no doubt, continue to play New Vegas. I am, at heart, a Pipboy...