Tomorrow is an important day for many of us.. Bethesda's long awaited 2nd Fallout title will hit PCs and game consoles and suck away the limited free time of many of the fans of Interplay's long running franchise. (I don't count Fallout: New Vegas as a Bethesda game as it was Obsidian developed)
Tomorrow is also November 10th, the day I traditionally take off work to relax and reflect on the history of the Marine Corps. Yes, its a cultist tradition that we jarheads partake in. No, its not an excuse for drunken debauchery. The fact that both the release of the game and my yearly birthday celebration collided is lucky happenstance.
Like many I have a storied history with the Fallout series. Though, in an ever present show of my age I can claim to have been excited for the games since they were supposed to be an adaption of Steve Jackson's GURPS games, for which I have to blame my good friend and fellow Marine Ken Heskett.
Fallout has been one of my favorite game settings for a very long time - I even attempted a very short lived run at a pen-and-paper version of the setting based on the SPECIAL system a few years back.
Lots of folks hated the transition from a pure turn-based tactical RPG game to a shooty twitchy FPS-style game with Fallout 3. I was not one of them, as I saw the need to transition from the classic approach to one that could be viable and marketable to modern gamers - you know, the kind who think there is too much reading Baldur's Gate.
Luckily, I pre-ordered two copies of Fallout 4 - 1 a PC/Steam version including the gimmicky of the life-size PIP boy arm sleeve, and one for the kids to play on the PS4. Alogn with that, I've also traditionally picked up the big Prima strategy guides for most of Bethesda's sprawling games( dating back to "The Daggerfall Chronicles", so I ordered that hardbound guide.
I've spent some of this morning reading the advanced game reviews for Fallout 4, and it reminds me why I'm not actively looking to get back into the game review business for commercial gain - everything sounds the same, there is a formula that has become ubiquitous among the popular media sites and it panders to what "gamers" want to know.
Does the game look pretty? Does it run well on my Unobtanium powered video card I spent 2.5 billion dollars on? Does Bethesda still make the ugliest people in their games?
What I don't see a lot of is telling about the experience, the things that players can expect emotionally. I realize I'm an odd bird, who likes to read more than two paragraphs and a bullet list of pros and cons with an arbitrary review score.. but I mourn for the more emotional review.. one focused on the impact of the work. Gamers want to claim games as art, but fear the consequence of an actual artistic review. It makes me feel sad to know gamers as a social group are so shallow.
I know this is not completely true though. There are many fans of games who I've spoken with over the years who see games like Fallout as a means to live a life, tell a personal story and while they may not realize it to become the storyteller working within the toolbox Bethesda and other similar developers like Bioware and Obsidian establish. What makes these games so good is the fact that they leave you with a personal story, one only you experienced despite the common threads and sharing that experience, to me, is what happens with only the best games on the market.