Fallout 4: Theme vs. Mechanics (Part 1)

Fallout 4 LogoMechanics and theme are two parts of  a game that need to work together, along with others, to give us a coherent experience.  In addition, we approach subsequent titles in a franchise with certain expectations based on prior titles.  In this two-parter, I’m going to dig into Fallout 4, which I previously reviewed as a decidedly inferior Fallout title, and discuss the mechanics of the game and how they contribute to the game’s thematic elements (or detract therefrom).

We know, before we start playing Fallout 4, that it’s going to look a lot like Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 broke the mold for Fallout games, but it was also the first title in the series from the new IP owner, Bethesda, so making a splash like that isn’t uncalled for. But this is Bethesda’s third go at the Fallout IP, and let’s face it, Bethesda is known for making one type of game. A lot of people like to call Bethesda’s handling of the Fallout universe “Oblivion/Skyrim with guns.” Yes, they’re busting Bethesda’s chops a bit when they say it, but it’s also said with a fair bit of affection. Oblivion and Skyrim are solid, well-loved games.

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Arisia 2016

Arisia logoNot that this blog has been around long enough to have much of a following yet, but I will be at Arisia 2016!

This isn’t terribly unusual for me, Arisia is local to me and I first went back in 2000.  All the same, if you’re reading this and want to discuss this stuff, I’m on two panels on Saturday that you might be interested in:

At 2:30PM, in Alcott, I’ll be making the case for my favorite video games in Best. Video Game. EVER!!!

Then, at 7PM in the same room, I’m on Does the Real World Belong In Video Games?  A discussion of video game criticism, and whether or not ‘but it’s just a game’ is a shield against that.  I moderated this panel, last year, with a host of veritable titans: Brianna Wu, Frank Wu, Maddy Myers, and N.K. Jemisin.  It was an awesome panel. Our lineup isn’t’ so star-studded this time, but it’ll still be great. I’m glad they’re running it again.

Aside from that, I’m working sign shop. If you use the stairs this Arisia? You’re welcome for those signs.  (If I could place ’em better, let me know at will@literatecomment.com.)

See y’all there!

Deus Ex Human Revolution: The Continuum of Force Done Half-Right

The Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut title plate.Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an older title at this point and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will be shipping next year (we hope, it’s been delayed until August now). I recently replayed Human Revolution in preparation for Mankind Divided’s eventual release, and because the director’s cut version which included the Missing Link DLC went on ludicrous Steam sale.

I bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution, originally, because of how much I adored the original Deus Ex. The sheer number of moments in the original game where I’d take an action I’d assume would be curtailed by the game’s design (as was so often the case in Half-Life or other titles) only to be rewarded by a fork in the story just utterly blew me away. Gaming has had branching storylines for a long time. My first encounter with it was Wing Commander. But Deus Ex had this uncanny ability to predict the moments when I might interfere with what was otherwise scripted events, and be ready for whatever I could throw at it. What it did especially well, was give me non-lethal, and indeed non-combat options to resolve conflicts.

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Invisible, Inc.: Guns or Butter?

Invisible, Inc. LogoKlei Entertainment, responsible for Don’t Starve and Mark of the Ninja, once again impressed me with their ability to produce atmosphere. What boggles me is how effectively they do this in a completely different genre. While sharing some of the thematic elements of Mark of the Ninja, Invisible Inc. feels nothing like a classic ninja story and everything like dystopian corporate espionage. The game has a lot to offer a variety of audiences, even those who would otherwise turn their nose up at a turn-based tactical title.

As a turn-based, squad-tactics game it delivers a gorgeous, compact, and profoundly replayable experience in the tradition of roguelike games (read: replayable, very difficult games). This last bit is a trait it shares with Don’t Starve, but again this game feels nothing like that survival/horror title. If anything, Invisible Inc. delivers a more pure roguelike experience: you can sit down and do an entire playthrough of the game in a single (albeit extended) sitting: roughly four hours of gameplay before the DLC.

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