My relationship with multiplayer games is complicated. It started with Doom 2 LAN parties and moved on to Warcraft 2 and Starcraft, Civilization, and so on. Multiplayer, back then, was always PvP. You’d play games with and against your friends. Things like co-op weren’t really part of the picture. Sure, there was ‘comp-stomping’ (you and your friends vs. the, usually very poor, AI) and the like, but let’s face it: there was no challenge there, and for me the whole point of multiplayer gaming was to find a challenge that the AI couldn’t give you without cheating rampantly and obviously.
EVE Online was released in 2003, at the height of the ‘Everquest Addiction’ fervor. I didn’t discover it until a friend introduced me to the game in 2005, and I immediately fell in love. EVE Online’s appeal has to do with the ways in which it capitalizes on the multiplayer aspect to deliver a dedicated PvP experience. The cooperative PvE is there, and lately it’s become quite good, but what makes EVE shine is the way it allows players a spectacular degree of freedom to play in the game how they please. The results are often discouraging to those who imagine humanity to be fundamentally, morally good, but by permitting the skullduggery, CCP gives great meaning to the decision to not be an asshole. The result is a world with much higher stakes than worlds like WoW offer. Only the smallest fraction of games offer this kind of experience.
Continue reading EVE Online: My (Nearly) Perfect Drug
In my last piece I confronted Fallout 4’s unfortunate bout of sexism. Part of why this is so problematic has to do with how Bethesda billed the piece as, essentially, a ‘gender aware’ game. Part of why this is so problematic is about how incredibly easy it would have been for them to avoid that gaffe. There are so many other ways Bethesda could have handled character creation and prologue that DON’T make the egregious error of stripping a female main character of the soldier’s identity. I’m not a published fiction author or game dev, but I can write three superior openings, in one sitting, in a couple of hours in front of my desktop machine at home. Continue reading Fallout 4: How She Should’ve Been A Soldier
I talked before about how game mechanics need to support the themes of the game, the same as story, visuals, and all the other pieces do. When I heard you could build settlements in Fallout 4, I was very excited. Fallout games of yore featured settlements that had cropped up, towns made of junk that became important oases for travelers and merchant caravans in an otherwise desolate waste full of violence and danger. Being able to take a hand in building one? That’s a genuinely new gameplay experience, and an entirely new role never before seen in a Fallout game. The potential to explore the same themes from a fresh perspective is incredible.
When I first started working with Sturges to improve Sanctuary? I was, again, super stoked. I spent about an hour running around on my own initiative, clearing debris. Then all my work was swiftly undone by a crash. That’s right: I was so excited by the possibilities that I’d forgotten to nervously quicksave every few minutes, even though I was playing a Bethesda game in launch-condition. The potential for town building was that amazing, that engaging.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Town Building Should’ve Been Awesome
I talked last time about theme and how the various mechanics in the game need to support the same themes that are being driven by the visuals, story, and other parts of the game. Now I’ll discuss five specific mechanics in Fallout 4 and how I feel they do or do not get this job done.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Theme vs. Mechanics (Part 2)
Mechanics 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.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Theme vs. Mechanics (Part 1)
I enjoyed parts of Fallout 4. I live in the Boston area, so playing on my home turf was a uniquely relatable experience. I enjoyed the witty, sassy, snarky one-liners from my companions. The shootout in Concord is probably some of the best storytelling, pacing and quest design in a Bethesda title. I loved the little touches, Fenway Park’s wall being kept green out of respect, the use of the old-school MTA logo, and so on. There’s a lot of great stuff in Fallout 4.
Unfortunately, the whole package is decidedly lacklustre. There’s a real danger that the runaway success of Fallout 4 will convince Bethesda that they did a good thing here, but Fallout 4 sold on the quality reputation of the past two titles and their DLC. Fallout 4 is a huge let-down, and I’m hoping they take a serious look at what went wrong with this game.
Continue reading Fallout 4: Great ideas, by themselves, do not great games make.