Fallout 1: Character Creation
This is the first of what will likely be a full series on Fallout 1, which is undoubtedly the Sacred Cow of many of you reading this. There will probably be many complaints and nitpicks, and an overall tone of bitterness. So buckle up. If you have no interest in Fallout and need some alternative method to have more fun with these posts, I’d recommend taking a drink every time I mention that first impressions post I wrote awhile back.
Anyway, I didn’t elaborate on this very much in my original Fallout post, (drink!) but the character creation was really a sore spot for me. I’ll go ahead and repost the screenshot of the character page, just so you can see how complex it is and how they throw it all at you in one piece.
I’d fill out the spreadsheet and create my character, and then almost instantly I’d become paranoid that my build isn’t good enough, that I screwed up somehow. I built a character who specializes in melee, but how good is melee? I tagged Outdoorsman as a skill, but how often is that going to be helpful? I used the Gifted trait, but is that really going to benefit me in the end?
There are so many unanswered questions, ambiguously described skills, and presumably unbalanced abilities that the only way you can figure out what works and what doesn’t is by:
- Trial and error, which will take a pretty damn long time since each trial involves an entire playthrough of the game
- Looking up a FAQ/walkthrough.
So if you don’t want to have to FAQ it up before starting you first playthrough, you’re going to just have to guess which skills are the best. And I hope you don’t pick Outdoorsman, because that skill is fucking useless.
IcePotato pointed me toward a very insightful article about introducing RPG elements to the player. The gist of it is that throwing too many decisions at the player before he’s had a strong taste of the gameplay is a bad idea, because you’re ultimately forcing the player to answer questions that haven’t been asked yet.
I especially love this line of his: “It’s very hardcore and old school. By which I mean that it’s mean-spirited and unnecessarily punitive.”
It always pisses me off when I know that my choice just wasn’t good enough. This was one part of System Shock 2 that bugged the hell out of me, and what probably ended up causing me to like Bioshock more. I specialized in energy weapons, because it made logical sense to me that a laser sword would be stronger than a wrench.
No such luck, as it turns out; energy weapons are only strong against robotic enemies, and pretty much every major threat toward the end of the game is organic. So if, like me, you specialized in energy weapons, then you get to eat shit. Like I did.
Whenever I try to think of a game that absolutely nailed RPG elements, Deus Ex springs to mind.
The game didn’t give you many points to start off with, but the more you got to utilize your skills, the more skill points you would receive as rewards. This way you could specialize in doing the things you liked, rather than just blindly guessing. The game even let you save all the skill points you had at the start, in case you wanted to wait before leveling yourself up.
Every skill point in that game is useful in different situations (yes, even swimming) and while some skills are undeniably more useful than others, those skills cost more points. So it takes a hell of a lot more points to raise your Rifles skill than it takes to raise your Swimming skill. This leads to a system in which you can sink your points into anything you want and still beat the game, but the way you beat the game is drastically different depending on what skills you specialize in. Isn’t that the “zenith” we should all hope to achieve in our RPGs?
Deus Ex was also great because of how straightforward it was. It didn’t give you a bunch of skills and not explain what skills would benefit what situations. Do you want to sneak around people and steal their stuff? Add to Lockpicking and Electronics. Do you want to charge in like Rambo? Add to Rifles and Heavy Weapons. Do you want to be a badass ninja like me and get stealth kills with a silenced pistol and a combat knife? Add to Low-Tech and Pistols. You’re never left guessing about what skills are going to benefit what play style, and what skills aren’t going to be useful at all. (I’m looking at you, Outdoorsman.)
Incidentally, that reminds me… Was this supposed to be about Fallout or something?
Oh yeah! Yesterday I said that I was going to start Fallout again. I did start over. Once I reached Vault 15 I decided to start over again, but with a different character. And this process repeated itself once or twice more before I finally decided on a build I’m happy with, after consulting Twitter and my Steam buddy Jarenth.
I can’t show you my build, because as I said in my original Fallout post, (drink!) the screenshots come out entirely black. I tried using Fraps, but apparently Fraps doesn’t recognize Fallout as a game, which is weird, because it recognizes everything else as a game, including old games from GOG.com, Windows Minesweeper, and full-screen Youtube videos. What makes Fallout so special? I am at a loss for words over this.
But I suppose I can describe the final verdict of my build to you. Agility is my highest attribute, with the runner-ups being Intelligence and Perception. Endurance and Luck are the runt of the litter. I picked the Good-Natured trait and tagged Small Guns, Energy Weapons and Speech.
This may or may not bode well for me.