Retina Desgastada 2.0
Apparently someone mentioned me on their blog. I’m very flattered.
The most unfortunate thing here is that I can’t properly read what he said about me, or what his commentators are saying about me, because I can’t read Portuguese. I can use Google Translate, but that’s a very imperfect system, and whenever I use it I end up with jumbled, barely coherent sentences. But from what I can tell, I think he said something similar to what Shamus said way back when; that while my points go almost diametrically against what he believes, I argue my points well.
I have no idea how true that is, but I really appreciate the sentiment.
He mentioned my review of the intro to Fallout. It seems like this is what I’m destined to be most known for throughout the Internet, which is a bit disappointing for me. Not only is it the most likely post of mine to cause flame wars, but it’s far from my best work. As much as I hate to admit it, that article of mine was just not very well written. I’d like to think my writing has improved since then, and looking back on it now I can’t help but grimace a bit. It’s not that my points were invalid; I just didn’t present them very well.
None of the commentators on Retina Desgastada criticized me for that. But what some of them did say is that my post was weak and full of anachronisms. At least one of them said that tutorials are a bad thing and that Fallout can’t be criticized for not having one. (As I’ve said before, I utterly resent this notion and am glad to see that game designers are willing to educate gamers properly nowadays.) I think one of them implied that my opinion is invalid because I didn’t play all the way through Fallout, which I find a bit unfair because I never said that Fallout is a bad game (I only said that the beginning of Fallout is bad).
I want to respond to these people, but I can’t because as I already said, I can’t speak Portuguese. It seems that those commentators can read English though, so maybe they’ll end up reading this post.
I’ve been wanting to talk more about that whole Vault 15 rope business, because many people seem to think that was a silly or invalid criticism that I emphasized too much. Almost everything about Fallout irritated me, but that rope situation is easily what set me off the most, and what changed my opinion of it from “mildly unbearable” to “fuck this game, I’m playing some god damn TF2.”
One person commented on my Fallout post awhile back saying that the ability to use items in your environment for reasons other than murder is a great feature that RPGs don’t offer anymore. In fact, I’ll just quote him directly:
Having to actually use ropes to get down somewhere is a wonderful RPGy thing that’s been lost. It’s these kind of details that make a game too, for example, in Fallout you could use crowbars not just as weapons but also to pry open doors (if you pass a stat check). The game is full of these little things, and you don’t need a manual, they follow logically. If it were a modern game the crowbar would be a “quest item” and there would be a whole special quest so you can get it and use just on *that* single door that needs it. Its stupid. These things should flow naturally, not so artificially. So Fallout won’t throw that rope at you with a special marker and prohibit you from removing it from your inventory, acquiring said rope will follow naturally from your actions.
First off, that’s not an RPG thing. That’s a point-and-click-adventure thing. I don’t only play shooters, guys. I know my genres. And “use item on set dressing” is a very basic and fundamental staple of adventure games. I guess Fallout was part RPG and part adventure game. But don’t pretend that everything you liked about Fallout was “a wonderful RPGy thing that’s been lost.”
Second of all, I would think it’s great that the game lets you use miscellaneous items to solve problems in alternative ways. Much like using your high Speech skill to convince an NPC to give you an item rather than killing him and looting it off his corpse, it’s a nice way to give the player more options and make the experience feel more fleshed out. The reason I don’t approve of the Vault 15 rope situation is because it’s not an alternate solution; it’s the only solution. That’s what makes it needless and stupid. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than getting in your way and forcing you to backtrack.
I thought RPGs are supposed to be about player choice. I thought that’s what everyone said. I mean, wasn’t “railroading” one of the big reasons why everyone hated Fallout 3? If Fallout is going to force me to pick up a rope on a bookshelf in Shady Sands just to get into Vault 15, then I can’t acknowledge it as being any better in the railroading department. There should have been at least one other option.
As I said in my original Fallout post, it really gave me the impression that I’m not allowed to think for myself in this game; that I have to do things the way Black Isle wanted me to.
One of the comments that I deleted for being too inflammatory pointed out that if the rope situation was in Fallout 3 I would have just gone, gotten the rope, used it and moved on without throwing a fit. This is probably true. And yet in Fallout it left me brimming with Viking rage. Why? Well, because it was the last straw. Because Fallout has an unbearably slow pace, an atrocious interface, and some of the worst combat I have played in a long fucking time.
No, this isn’t just because I don’t like CRPGs. Baldur’s Gate 2 was much more fun than this. Neverwinter Nights was more fun than this. Why? Because those games offered some semblance of challenge.
As I’ve said before, there are three primary ways in which a game can challenge you (not counting stupid ways like patience and luck); Strategy (as in mental challenges, a la puzzle games, strategy games, etc.), skill, and reflexes. If a game is going to give me combat, I expect it to challenge me in at least one of these ways. Fallout, or at least the beginning of Fallout, offers you nothing.
A CRPG can generally be expected to offer challenge in the form of strategy, but there is no strategy in the Fallout combat (once again, just talking about the beginning here). You just whack the enemy with your knife or shoot it with your gun. There’s no thought, it’s just repetitive pointing and clicking. It just comes off as needless filler. And perhaps it would be a bit more bearable if it didn’t take so long to trudge through.
And don’t say that Fallout 3 was the same way. Fallout 3 is a shooter RPG, and shooters (by definition) demand a level of skill.
You can accuse me of being an instant gratification gamer who can’t have fun unless there’s an explosion happening every five seconds, but this argument only holds up for you if you’ve ignored all the times I’ve mentioned enjoying games like Final Fantasy, Civilization, and Dungeons & Dragons.
And finally, to the people who think that not playing through the game invalidates my opinion: You know what? I’ve been wanting closure for far too long, so we’ll have it your way. I’m picking Fallout back up, and I’m not stopping until I’ve officially beaten the game. Well, I will be stopping for restroom breaks, meals, sleep, college, my social life, etc. But the point is, I’m not just going to rage quit and put the game down for months at a time because of a rope. I’m going to finish this game even if it kills me.
Expect some rants in the near future.
To Retina Desgastada: I really appreciate the plug, and it’s nice to read your thoughts on the subject, even if I can’t read them exactly as they should be read.