My experience with Fallout: New Vegas is a very strange one. After purchasing it several years ago when a friend told me it was the best in the series by far, I struggled to get past even the opening segment. There was just too much to understand, too many things to do, and far too many options when it came to how to do them. I got past the opening about ten times, returning to the game every few months vowing that this time would be the time I saw it through to the end. And about a month ago, that finally happened.
America, following obliteration in a nuclear war centuries previous, is controlled by a number of factions, including but not limited to the New California Republic (assholes who attack you on sight en masse for no reason if you’re even the slightest bit disliked by them), Caesar’s Legion (assholes who are all but impervious to damage and seem to attack you on sight no matter what), the Brotherhood of Steel (assholes in massive power armour with massive weapons and laser turrets who will not attack unless fired upon but are impossible to kill when you are eventually forced to do so anyway, regardless of whether or not you want to) and many more. Sensing a theme here? Everyone hates everyone. Deal with it. Or don’t. You could just go and kill giant ants all day. It doesn’t really matter what you do at all.
Despite my frustration at this game, my negative feelings towards it mainly stem from the feeling that I had my trust betrayed. I put thirty hours into New Vegas over a period of just a few weeks, and before it all turned sour (as we shall see in the below section) I actually got really into the story, the factions, the various bonds you can make and break at will, the wasteland and its inhabitants, and above all the feel of it. Post-Apoc has a special place in my heart after enjoying the Hunger Games as a kid, and going through this grittier version was a treat while it lasted. After being incredibly cautious for, I don’t know, TEN HOURS of the game, I finally gained enough strength to start sort of feeling powerful enough to take on stronger enemies. Sure, every quarter of an hour something would come out of nowhere and kick my ass, but you get good at avoiding certain areas in the wasteland. The dialogue and overall story is impressive, and I actually found myself really getting into which faction I was going to root for. However, once you get to the end of the game, despite being given the ability to peacefully resolve any situation if you have a high enough speech skill, you are forced to really knuckle down and go all in with a specific faction. This leads to everyone else in the wasteland attacking you, and when they’re the types of people described in the intro to this review, I would personally much rather take the diplomatic approach. Unfortunately, the game locks you out of going down this route after a certain point.
To be Improved:
Above all, I think despite its moments of genius, the entire system is fundamentally broken. I always had a hard time killing enemies, seemingly missing all my shots despite the target standing still and the crosshair being exactly on them, but towards the end it just became more and more apparent that armour is useless and enemies are all but impervious to most damage. I was lured into a false sense of security by an area full of robots who went down in two hits from my new plasma rifle, but when fighting actual humans it seems they get an invulnerability boost or something. By the endgame, despite being five levels away from the maximum, my gear and strength had stagnated about five levels back, and the willingness of the game to let you do what you want means that save for looking stuff up online I was completely misguided and lost for large portions of the narrative. It was impossible to find guns better than the ones I was using, yet anytime I bumped into four or more enemies they destroyed me with basic rifles, even when I was wearing the heavy power armour I’d spent so long trying to achieve. After ten attempts, I decided to stick everything on Very Easy and just rampage through the final battle, because I felt that I’d done all the work leading up to it and more, but for no payoff whatsoever. In fact, this happened at various points in the game, where you’re left fighting for your life despite the game convincing you, up until that point, that you were powerful enough to deal with whatever the threat was. It seems there’s a massive divide in the playerbase when it comes to New Vegas. Half of the people who grapple with it, myself included, find it simply too hard to play despite their skills or how long they’ve been playing videogames, and become frustrated. The other half apparently breeze through the Very Hard difficulty and desire something even more challenging. How truthful both parties are being is unprovable, but it’s an odd thing to happen outside of rage games like Super Meat Boy that do actually require hours of practice to get good at them. Either way, my experience is dramatic spikes in difficulty and a total breakdown of the games mechanics by the time the story comes to an end.
The game itself is an enjoyable and engaging one. About halfway through I had a great few days where I had found the perfect balance of challenging to the point where you truly felt you’d achieved something when you completed a quest, but not to the point where it was frustrating and you couldn’t get anything done. But as the game went on, it rapidly became a steep uphill climb against the damage modifiers, meaning that after trying to get each individual ending I realised that I was just running at a brick wall. My shots felt like they were ricocheting off enemies rather than taking out bits of them, and all of their shots seemed to be piercing even my power armour like it was a tin can. Above all, though it is commendable that the developers managed to create such a sprawling world with so many options for dialogue and quests and ways to do things and little intricate subplots, the end result is a mishmash and is, ultimately, just as I originally found when I first purchased the game: simply too complicated.