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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.

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12 responses

  1. Hi, I’m Carlos Aquino from the blog Retina Desgastada. Even tough I can read in English very naturally, I’m not sure if I can express myself so well. But, I would like to thank you for your attention and your efforts to translate what we are writting in Portuguese there. About your (in)famous Fallout 1 semi-review, don’t regret it. Through that post (and the Shamus link) I’ve known your blog, like it and suggest it to my own readers (those who are able to read in English, by the way). I don’t 100% agree about what you have written, but I don’t 100% disagree either. I’m looking forward to see what you have to say about Fallout 1 in the future. Keep the good work!

    August 15, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    • JPH

      Thanks! I really appreciate the support. I would read your blog regularly too, if I could read Portuguese. :P

      I just got started on my new Fallout playthrough. It took me forever to decide what build to go with.

      August 15, 2011 at 7:19 PM

  2. On combat in the older Fallout games, nothing sucked worse than getting trapped in a loop of random civilians taking turns wandering around during city-based combat.

    I honestly don’t know how I managed to persevere though the games. Clearly my younger self had much more patience.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:10 PM

  3. Alex Frey

    Hi! I’m one of your brand new brazilian readers. Retina Desgastada mentioned your blog and I liked your opinions because 50% of them are similarly to mine and the other half are almost diametrically opposite… And because I agree that Deus EX are one of best games ever. About Fallout… well, I don’t think that a tutorial is so important. The high level of difficulty in this game is one of the key features. I don’t played the first game (started from second) but my logical attitude if I fail enter a vault would be give up and go to somewhere else. I would be disgraced and go to anyplace, but my own vault. Maybe I would cross someone with newer information that change the situation. Or even stump over a rope and have an idea… An open world don’t mean (to me) that I need to be successful every time. More yet in a post apocalyptic world.
    Anyway, I’m following your feed. Keep the good writings and entertain me :)
    And sorry for the bad english.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:41 PM

  4. Tobias

    Please, Please record yourself while playing fallout. Give us your thoughts live.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:10 AM

    • JPH

      You know, I hadn’t thought of that. That actually sounds like a good idea.

      Except there’s the problem that if Fraps doesn’t recognize Fallout as a game, Livestream Procaster will probably not either. There may not be any visible image for you guys to watch.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:26 AM

  5. Slight tangent in response to the end of your post – there is an alternate solution to finding the rope to explore Vault 15: don’t explore Vault 15. It’s not required to complete the game.

    August 16, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    • JPH

      It’s not technically required, but you’re given every reason to believe that there is something down there that will be very useful to you. Unless you read a walkthrough beforehand, you’re probably going to do everything in your power to get into the Vault.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:15 PM

  6. Deadpool

    Brazilian here. Rough translation:

    “Ninja Game Den is written by a 19 year old that compensates for his lack of experience with a rather high level of acumen. For an example, he did NOT like the original Fallout, but argues it well enough that it’s impossible not to understand his point of view.”

    Btw, on the subject of the rope, I will always disagree with you because of one simple point: The game tells you you need rope. And gives you easy access to one. The game guided you every step of the way and you just ignored it.

    On the subject of combat, it’s an odd complaint… you hadn’t done any combat until then! You killed rats in the “tutorial” area and that’s it. So the challenge complaint is a bit early…

    To be honest, and people hate hearing this but you seem reasonable, the problem here is that you’re biased. It’s okay, it happens to everyone. You played Fallout 3, you liked it, and spent years hearing all these people telling you how crappy it is compared to the original, and how the original is awesome, how it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and how what you like is nothing compared to it and… Hell, now you just can’t enjoy it! the fanboys have ruined it for you.

    I’ve done it before (still can’t enjoy FLCL) and my girlfriend is notorious for it (refuses to watch Mallrats because of it). Sometimes enough fanboyism causes an instinctive counter reaction no amount of self awareness can overcome. It’s nice you’re trying agin though… I doubt it’ll work, but fingers crossed.

    August 17, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    • JPH

      Thank you for the translation. I read the Google translation and thought it meant something like that.

      And I think you’re right about my expectations being too high because of what people have said. I definitely am biased in this case, though I’m not sure if it’s possible to be truly unbiased.

      August 17, 2011 at 1:04 PM

      • Deadpool

        Sadly, there is nothing you can do. You’ll either be too harsh on things because everyone else had a fun circle jerk about it, or you’ll try your best to supress that and end up being too nice on things…

        That’s what you get for being born too late to have played it when it first came out! Hah! That’ll teach you not to do THAT again!

        Seriou

        August 17, 2011 at 1:12 PM

        • Deadpool

          My computer decided to send the reply without my consent… So here’s the final paragraph:

          Seriously though, I look forward to the stream. Although, small advice, if you’re going to complain about how easy the game is, obsessing about your build might be a bit unnescessary… Remember, it’s not easy, just BROKEN. ;)

          August 17, 2011 at 1:13 PM

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