Saturday, 30 July 2011

Wasteland Lover 5: Many Events Including A Tragedy

So it's been a long time since we found out what Felix has been up to. 7 months, almost. But basically just because I haven't been playing the game for almost all of that time. I got burned out, or whatever. But our dear co-author of this very blog, dear reader, wrote that post about the game and we talked about it a little bit and I guess the prospect of this new DLC got me back into wanting to play the game (not that I've downloaded any of the DLC at all, though, as it happens). So this isn't going to be 7 months of gameplay here. However it is still pretty big, because I just started playing because I wanted to mess around, and wasn't planning on doing another one of these again. But eventually I decided I would. So there's too much to do some close commentary, and also I can't even remember half the shit I did anyway. This will I guess be a big synopsis of Kluge's little adventures in the downtime before we crack on with season 2. This is Felix Kluge's November 2281. But in a world where you only need to sleep a few hours a week, he got quite a lot of shit done.

First up was Benny. Benny fucked Felix over. Shut him in his suite and sent in a bunch of people who can be described perfectly as 'goons'. I like the fights on the Strip because no one else wears armour either, and it's normally indoors, so I feel like I at least have a sporting chance. I also have Veronica with me, and she took a cue off the pool table in this suite-death trap, and pretty much beat them to death herself while I hid in the dining room. We broke out of the Tops, but without Benny or that platinum chip we need. Outside on the steps of the casino, both the NCR and the Legion have sent a representative to talk to me and request my services. Yes Man is there too, and Mr House, who wants to see me as well, is across the street. And so the game has elegantly set up the 4 paths I can choose to take to finish the game. Only not elegantly at all, because those NCR and Legion guys just running up to me together the second I leave the casino is mad terrible bullshit.
Anyway, Felix goes to the Fort like the Legion guy asked. Because that's where Benny went with the chip, and because I was going to be Legion anyway. So we sail to the Fort and meet Caesar for the first time and he gives Felix his big speech. Now this speech is great, I think. I read about 30 reviews for this game as some weird thing to prove to myself that games journalism was terrible, and the only good review I found, some 5 page review on some nothing website, said this speech was bad (the other reviews didn't mention anything like that because they were facile garbage). But I think it's great.
I think the Legion aren't handled particularly well in this game, for a couple of reasons. First off is the look, just think it's too Roman. They're wearing american football outfits and using lawnmower blades as weapons, but you can hardly tell - people don't even realise they're american football outfits until you point it out. They just look like Romans in the wasteland, which is fucking weird. Which is a shame, because I thought the american football thing was cool, and very 'fallout' or whatever.
But the main one is that they're the bad guys. Making it so that you can be one of the bad guys and help them win in an rpg puts a big onus on you, as the maker of that game, to make them relatable and justifiable, and not just some evil nonsense. When they're just the bad guys that you have to kill to win, that gives you a bit more leeway (but even then, in F1 the Master has a pretty appealing plan, at its core at least, that you could see getting on board with). And the game is set up for them to be the bad guys. The amount of game devoted to NCR places and NCR quests far outstrips the amount of Legion places and Legion quests, and this is a common thing in games.
But yeah, I like Caesar's speech. It's about the only thing you get that justifies what the Legion are about and why they're doing this (besides a few lines from Raul and a couple of comments about trade being safer), along with making Caesar a character rather than just some Frank Horrigan clown you have to kill. I remember the first time I heard it, I was kind of tempted to switch sides and go Legion. Which is exactly what you want from a speech from a guy who is supposed to be mad smart and charismatic, and exactly what you want from a game where it's supposed to be a sensible choice for you to pick the bad guy. That one review I mentioned said the voice acting was bad, but I like it. But maybe just because I could tell it was Sgt Rawls.
Anyway Felix goes in to the bunker to do what he was told. He's not good enough at science or repairing to deal with the computers and faulty door thing at the start so he has to get shot up by all the lasers on the way to the reactors. We throw dynamite at each of them and put on our radiation suit and head out. Now the little faulty door thing I managed to sort out on both of my previous playthroughs, so I was not aware that a bunch of those horrible monster robots were going to roll out. I was expecting more of those useless walking guys. Felix is killed in under a second. I reload and use the 5 pulse grenades conveniently stored at the start of the bunker, but it's still a hell of a fight and Veronica has to save my ass for the 300th time. But we're okay. We fuck the place (and Mr House) up, Caesar's cool with me and we're back to Freeside.

Felix Kluge, Freeside, November 2281

At this stage I decide something must be done about Felix's abysmally low level, and I take a breather from the inevitable hardship of working for Caesar and do sidequests to make Felix a big strong boy. Starting off around Freeside, I eventually expand to Vegas, then all of the Mojave Wasteland.

This goes on for a good while pretty uneventfully until it comes time to eliminate the Scorpions gang from the Monte Carlo Suites for the good of humanity (one of them has a ripper and I want it).

This was always going to happen. Veronica was the reason Felix was still alive, pretty much handling all of his fights for him single-handedly. But it looks like Kluge got her in to one she couldn't handle, and now she's dead, crumpled in the corner of the Monte Carlo Suites next to some gangster. To his credit, Kluge doesn't take this lying down, and viciously murders the rest of the gang in a display of violence we haven't seen out of the guy before.

But Veronica, Felix's only friend is still dead. I did get that ripper though.

So Felix needs a new friend. We try the usual suspects. Arcade Gannon refuses to be seen with me because I like the Legion. Boone walks with me a while, but after Felix blows up the NCR monorail (the first quest I did with him - had to test this guy's loyalties) he says he's lost respect for Felix and leaves immediately, and wont even speak to me anymore. I pick up Cassidy, but she hates my low karma (Felix still survives almost entirely through burglary and petty theft). After a few lengthy moans about what a terrible person Felix is, he decides against this partnership and takes her to Jean-Baptiste cutting to have her murdered in exchange for 250 caps.
It seems the events in the Monte Carlo Suites have scarred Felix. He lost the only person who would accept him for the meritless shit that he is, and he picked up a couple of drug addictions (Psycho, Hydra) that give him awful screen-ruining headaches along with various other physical ailments.
So I clean him up and get him a dog. Dogs love everyone; they are morons. The only dog on offer is a sort-of-charming hideous half-robot dog with a broken brain called Rex. Felix has to go on an incredibly long walk to Jacobstown to find a doctor who specialises in the brains of robotic dogs, and then an even bigger walk (or incredibly quicker fast-travel) to the Fort to kill a dog with a machete in ritual combat in order to honourably claim its brain to be implanted in Rex. I guess it gave Felix something to do to take his mind off his horrific drug withdrawal.

Felix Kluge and Rex Jacobstown, November 2281

After a little while they are pretty much a team. Rex isn't quite the powerhouse Veronica was, and I'm now more afraid of him dying as I realise there's not a whole lot of replacements going, so Kluge has a more 'hands-on' role in combat now. We go to the Repconn facility together.

Felix Kluge and Rex, Repconn Facility, November 2281

I think I like this quest. It's pretty much not connected to anything at all. The guys you're doing it for are these very weird guys you don't really understand, seem kind of dumb/retarded and you can't take them seriously because they're a bunch of quasi-religious idiots who want to go in to space. But you help them anyway and it all ends with some kooky set-piece with a nice emotional payoff, like some New Hollywood film. It's a nice feeling, even if it doesn't make sense for it to be.
The Bright Followers go to space. Taken by Felix Kluge, November 2281

Felix's new partnership cemented, and some levels gained (at the time of writing Kluge has just hit 17), I think it's time to get back on with sorting out the main players. We get the White Glove Society on board via Beyond the Beef, which I think is the best quest in the game. It's basically impossible to photograph though. Nothing happens. But it is excellent. Felix also goes to clean up the Omertas. The denouement of that quest is a horrible point-blank shootout where you start off sat on a sofa. I'm in a t-shirt and I have to take two shotgun blasts and a big burst of assault carbine before I can even stand up, let alone pull my cleaver out and slicing their arms off. Why didn't they shoot that fucking dog I'm carting around? I'm on about 30HP by the time I can move, it's nail-biting shit.

All of that blood on the couch and the walls is Felix's. Now that is a ruined sofa.

After that, I cross the street and kill Mr House. If only it was that easy. Companions can't go to the penthouse, so I have to take on all those securitrons, and receive all their bullets and rockets, myself. Felix has 4 pulse grenades he got from somewhere, and that does a lot of the work, but there were a few failed attempts. Eventually got it working where I'd separate one or two off from the rest and just hit them over and over with a sledgehammer. It kept them knocked down basically all the time, but took forever. Then I smashed Mr House's gross face in with it.
So Felix is pretty much king of the Strip right now. As a favour for my Legion pals, who were feeling pretty ignored, Kluge dons that fantastic NCR engineer outfit and minces in to Camp Forlorn Hope, casually (and frankly, much too easily) slipping dynamite into the pockets of all the officers. The NCR troopers around seem to just take it in their stride that sometimes people explode, and that it isn't anyone's fault. It's retarded, but I really couldn't handle the NCR being hostile to Felix and I'm running a pretty narrow reputation with them already. Plus what the hell else did I put all those points in to sneak for?
Anyway, this goes down a storm all over. In Nelson, a guy called Dead Sea gives me a unique (and excellent) machete called the Liberator. At the Fort, my boy Lucius hooks Felix up with a key to a Legion safehouse right by the ranch he uses as a home, and over at Red Rock Canyon, Papa Khan likes the cut of Felix's jib so much that he names him his heir.
The safehouse is full of stuff for me. Mostly shit I'll never use (armour that is much too good, guns), but there are some lucky glasses which are pretty great, a guy who pops by Tuesdays and Thursdays and will give me 2 stealthboys each time (excellent), and there's a fucking chainsaw on one of the beds. Fantastic.
So, king of the Strip, poster-boy of the Legion and heir to the Khans. Felix is moving up in the world.
Taking it easy in his new digs, Felix Kluge plots his next move.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Fallout: New Vegas DLC

Fallout: New Vegas is a game I think is great. The post apocalyptic wasteland evokes a creeping loneliness, a sophisticated feeling shared by few other games. Lonely as it is, it is not without hope. That sense you might meet another soul, someone you can connect with. And maybe they'll have some cool stuff you can take after you bludgeon them to death.

One of the greatest achievements of this game was the faction system. A lot of named characters you'd meet would have standing with various factions. Helping them out by completing quests improved your standing with that group and the areas they held influence in. Acting negatively, like, killing those questgivers, would mean you couldn't pursue that side of the storyline any further.

It helped the world of Fallout: New Vegas feel like people were living in it, and doing things, and that those things at least kind of mattered. Even though I was going to kill them as soon as they finished talking.

So, I love this game. It's great. I love it and it's great. But I don't really want any of the new DLC that's out.

I mean, I bought Dead Money, and I played it, and it was amazing. It was unbelievably atmospheric, by which I mean it was incredibly immersive and effective, sharing some ideas with Silent Hill 2 and the Thief games to create this extremely eerie horror style sideline to New Vegas. I became really attached to the other characters I met there, partly because the world was so hostile the air was even killing you. In terms of loneliness, man, it amped it up, making a practically empty desert seem like the ghost of christmas present in The Muppet's Christmas Carol.

So, that bodes well for the other three DLC releases, one of which are already out (Honest Hearts), one of which is out any day now (19th July - Old World Blues) and one of which is out, I don't know, whenever it's out (Lonesome Road).

Writing this has nearly got me back in the mood for it. I loved making those big decisions that affected the shape of the world. And yet...

I think what it is is how seperate these add ons feel. It's like they would have made more sense if they were kind of stand alone, rather than revolving around this one courier who has to deal with everything.

On the one hand there are several hints throughout the game, and in Dead Money, as to what these other add ons have in store for you, and I love stuff like that in a visceral way.

But I don't like how you, this courier who holds the fate of this world in his hands, can disappear into caves and deserts, practically entirely different worlds, and when you come back nothing seems to have changed.

A nice change of pace for a game would be for the world within it not to revolve around you, for things to be happening which you could influence if you found the right time and place to be, the right person to talk to, then maim.

Probably I'm just being fussy. I don't know really why I'm not into the idea of these DLCs. Maybe it's just how long everything takes in New Vegas. Even killing things is kind of a chore, and my attention span is like milliseconds.

Or maybe it's because the game doesn't affect anyone in the real world. I've been playing a lot of Halo: Reach, and I'm pretty sure I'm only in to that because I can unlock these crappy magic hats which do nothing and look shit.

Perhaps it's just New Vegas I'm tired of, and with Skyrim coming up I only have enough love in my heart for one massively open world RPG?

I don't know. I'll probably get the DLC and love it.

New Vegas is still a great game.

Fallout: New Vegas Old World Blues is developed by Obsidian Entertainment, and it's out on the 19th July for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.