I will admit that I have what could, most optimistically, be described as a like-hate relationship with Bethesda. Not having been an early Fallout or Elder Scrolls initiate, I don’t have any of the nostalgia that a lot of people seem to carry. For that reason, my impressions of their flagship franchises are probably a bit harsher than they might otherwise have been. I also only play games long after they’re released, so I don’t have the internal pressure to enjoy something just because I spent $60 on it.
That background laid down…Fallout: New Vegas is absolutely terrible. I don’t want to do a lot of comparison to Skyrim, because I’m not the biggest Skyrim fan on the planet either, but I have come around to it’s particular charm. It also never fell over (at least for me), in any ways I would consider game breaking.
New Vegas, on the other hand, refuses to let me get out of the tutorials before it proves just how much worse it is than Skyrim, as well as many other RPGs and shooters. I have actually tried to play it once before, and uninstalled it mostly out of boredom, but feeling somewhat generous, I decided to give it another go. I was instantly annoyed because there is no way to pause the opening cutscene. This a problem for anyone that has like…kids. It took three goes before I could find enough time to watch the stupid thing.
Then everything immediately feels terrible because there is a staggering level of mouse acceleration enabled by default. This is a feature that doesn’t need to exist in any game, and yet was cranked up so high it was one of the first things I noticed. This can only be turned off by adding four obscure lines to an INI file. It’s not an option in the menus. It’s not even a set of existing settings in a config that you can tweak. It’s just happy chance someone online already knew the magic incantation.
Then almost immediately after that, upon attempting to talk to the first person I ran into, I realized that somewhere between the starting building and…10 feet down the road, some of the audio has just left the building. Not all of it, but crucially, the dialog failed to work at all. In New Vegas, this is Kind Of A Big Deal. Since all of the quest text is spoken, and the subtitles flash by in time, even with a fairly good amount of speed reading skill, I was completely unable to keep up with the dialog and soon gave up even trying.
I then moved on to the first tutorial mission, where I’m reminded that the game really wants you to use the idiotic VATS system; a desire it enforces by making the manual aiming more akin to a suggestion than an actual correspondence between reticle and final bullet location. After killing one group of samey minions, my guide fucks off in some random direction. This is a big deal as well since, like everything else, she is shaded in 4 barely distinct tints of brown. Only when she had completed the second wave on her own was I given a clear marker to find her.
I may have been able to circle around to her more quickly, but New Vegas’ idea of “run” is laughable, or it would be if it wasn’t a depressingly obvious way to make the world feel bigger. I could literally run faster for longer in real life, and I get winded going up stairs.
After the second time the audio broke (this seems to be an issue with loading screen transitions, an issue I couldn’t be bothered to diagnose more intently if my desk magically turned into gold at the end), I uninstalled the game and hid it in my Steam library.
I said I wanted to avoid comparisons with Skyrim, but I lied.
Skyrim starts out a little slow, but immediately makes up for with in a big set piece where there may not really be any meaningful choices, but in which you important nonetheless. New Vegas has a boring cutscene followed by drab environments, followed by gopher quests and killing bugs for no reward.
Skyrim feels large even when it’s funneling you into a narrow passage through massive, but not very functional scenery. New Vegas manages to make the doctor’s house feel bigger than the outdoors with a shit color palette and having everything crammed together. I can’t imagine how miniscule it would feel with a run speed comparable to Skyrim’s.
Skyrim makes your skill/talent/class choices immediately feel important by letting you start playing in that idiom from the get-go. Even though you can divert wildly as the game progresses, you feel a sense of agency even while being tutorialized. New Vegas would start the same no matter what you chose.
This comparison would probably go on forever with Skyrim handily trouncing New Vegas in every quantifiable way, except that I have played the last New Vegas I will ever play. I still have Fallout 4 VR on pre-order, because I’m a moron, but I’m hoping that the different setting and the presence effect make the Fallout universe actually interesting.
I still have it on my docket to spend some time with Fallout 1, since I think that it’s more my
speed. Not trying to be a first person shooter RPG might help as well. Until then, if you want a
good RPG, that is infinitely more beautiful, engaging, massive, and polished…
Play Witcher 3.