mailbag #2

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Mostly due to a lack of questions. I know folks like to leave comments or ask me stuff on social media or in my Twitch chat, so the old mailbag gets neglected as a result. However, I’m still trying to reestablish Old World Internet things like this, a way of building a rapport with an audience, rather than posting into a void with others responding into another void.

Got a few questions here, so I will go ahead and answer them! Cool! My rule is to wait until I get five questions, but I had some good ones with long answers, so I stopped at three this time. By all means, feel free to ask stuff over here! Doesn’t even have to be about games! It could be anything, really: an*me, sports entertainment, anything that you think I would be able to answer with something other than absolute confusion.

From: Lariria

Message:
You’ve been playing Fallout 3, a game you despise. How come?

It’s the result of one of those nights of me discussing games with some friends over Discord. I’ve also been playing a lot of Shin Megami Tensei V, and I had been asked what personally appeals to me in regards to the overall plot and themes of the series.

I said, “The thing about going down the neutral path, or becoming a True Demon in Megaten, it’s like fucking, uh, like how there’s all those endings in Fallout New Vegas, right? But we all know that the only ending that matters is the one where you take control of the Yes Man and declare the Vegas Strip as a territory independent of the varying factions looking to re-implement old world ideologies that led to the world being a bombed out hellhole. It’s not ideal, but it’s fucking better than all that other shit.” My point of reference was Fallout, which is unusual, because it’s not one I see made all too often. That was how I explained myself.

This talk led to me wanting to load up a Fallout game. First, I did some New Vegas, because of course I would. The thing is, is that I’ve played New Vegas to death. You have played New Vegas to death. Everyone has played New Vegas to death. We know that game inside and out. We know all the characters, all the dialogue. We know all the words to “Big Iron.” We all know that patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish a nuclear winter. I wanted to do something different, and load up the other best Fallout: Fallout 2. I haven’t played this game in about eight years, so I was looking forward to going on a trip down memory lane. Fallout 2 is still amazing, having replayed it. These extremely well-written RPGs with solid mechanics. They really don’t make them like this all too often these days. I’m sure I will have another post on this in the near future.

Then I started thinking about Fallout 3, a real low point not just in the series, but for games as a whole, I feel. I haven’t played Fallout 3 since 2009, so I wanted to refresh myself, at least as much as you can “refresh” yourself with a terrible game. I wanted to remind myself just how badly Bethesda fucked things up. Yeah, it’s still bad. The writing is still garbage, the roleplaying element is still a joke that railroads you into playing the “right” way, the combat is still extremely rough and gives me a greater appreciation for how much Obsidian was able to salvage what they could from it for New Vegas. Fallout 3 really does feel like an insult to anyone who has played the originals, like me. The morally ambiguous, pointed critique at capitalism and American exceptionalism now becoming post-apocalyptic Star Wars; the Brotherhood of Steel are the good guys (rather than weird technofacists that only exist for you to steal shit from) and the Enclave are the bad guys and did you see Liberty Prime wow cool robot. The moral shades of gray you were presented with in the past now a firm black and white.

In Fallout 1, for example, you find the water chip you’ve been sent to look for in a vault full of Ghouls. Now, you can straight up steal it, which will kill the Ghouls inside, or you can fix their water pump and get the chip for doing so, which will keep them alive, but the water is still irradiated and will eventually turn the Ghouls into Feral Ghouls. The Fallout water chips are designed to break after a certain length of time, so there’s a commentary on artificial scarcity and planned obsolescence there. But also, a bleak point about the aftermath of a war that leaves people reducing others’ quality of life in order to improve their own, because the means to unite aren’t there, or at least not there yet. The game doesn’t beat this point over your head, Spec-Ops style, so it’s up to you as a player and your sense of morality and empathy to sit and think about what you’re doing.

Fallout 3, meanwhile, has a town built around an undetonated nuclear bomb. You can either disarm it, or blow it up. The choice reduced to literally pressing some buttons, or committing a genocide.

New Vegas has a town called “Novac.” Novac is built off of an abandoned motel, and the name comes from the remaining letters on a No Vacancy sign. It makes sense, and it’s a bit clever. People in a post-apocalypse don’t have a fucking clue what a vacancy is; they don’t even know who Elvis Presley is, so they see a sign that says Novac, and assume that it must have been the name of a town. Novac is a small detail that adds to the setting and to the world building.

Fallout 3 has a town called “Minefield.” It is called this because someone planted a number of armed land mines around it. Great.

I needed to replay Fallout 3 to remind myself that good games really are a form of magic. I needed to feel some despair that absolute shit can be considered acclaimed. To mourn Fallout as a series, because there is no way anyone other than Bethesda will ever work on one again. To see how much, yet how little, games (at least AAA ones) have changed in the time since its initial release. Fallout 3 is terrible, but it’s the kind of infuriating awful that needs to be experienced.

There’s so much more I can go on about, but this answer is already running pretty long, so I’ll end it here.

From: Ian Morris

Message:
i kind of miss licensed tie-in games some of them were fun and some were just fun to make fun of, did you enjoy any games that were mainly tie-ins to stuff besides game?

I think the obvious one off the top of my head is Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. Additionally, WCW/nWo Revenge, also on Nintendo 64.

But a real “Hidden Gem” so to speak would be the Sega Mega Drive version of True Lies, based on the action/comedy film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and everyone’s favorite Vega main, Jamie Lee Curtis.

I’m bringing this one up because of how surprising it is. It was made by Beam Software, a company known for two things: making absolute dogshit, and somehow also making Shadowrun for Super Famicom. True Lies should not be as good as it is, and yet, here is this fun top-down shooter with Doom-like key hunting and lots of blood and Tom Arnold managing to be funny despite the severe handicap of being Tom Arnold. Granted, the difficulty shoots through the roof a few stages in, and some of the larger levels can be a slog to navigate and find all the keys and doors for, but True Lies still manages to be this surprising good at best, above average at worst, game. Check it out.

From: Ian Morris

Message:
has there been a game that you feel needs to be remade that got left out of the trend of remakes and remasters?

King’s Field. Pick any one of the four From Software made, maybe all four. I think this is the old grump in me, but I am weary of constantly seeing this series only ever being referred to as “Dark Souls, before there was Dark Souls.” I love Dark Souls, but fuck me, not everything needs to be compared to it! Especially not a series that predates it by over a decade, and was influential on Dark Souls’ development. King’s Field is, to my knowledge, the second ever fully 3D game, at least on console (the first being Riverhill Soft’s Dr. Hauzer on the 3DO). That’s kind of an important, notable thing! Give it some dual analog controls, and the option to switch back and forth between the old graphics and whatever new ones FromSoft cook up, and you should be all set. King’s Field still rules, and I would like a new generation of players to be able to enjoy it.

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