First, the hook…

A brief digression on story hooks.

There’s this thing Fallout does–all four RPGs, I mean.  I can’t speak to Tactics.  You start out with an important goal, and once you’ve done it, the elements of the world you were travelling through coalesce and you have the second bigger goal.  (You find the water chip, but the important thing is now to deal with the Master. You find get the GECK for your village, but the important thing is now to deal with the Enclave. You find out who shot you and why, but the important thing is now the second Battle of Hoover Dam and the ultimate fate of New Vegas.)

What’s important, I think, is that the first goal is not irrelevant; you do not fail at it, you never discover it didn’t matter.  But the process of achieving it results in you learning about the world, and gives you a chance to care about the second goal.  It’s interesting; and as far as I can tell, it’s fairly unique in video games.  I mean, I need to play more of them, but…

I’m not sure the technique would work as well in written stories or movies; the involvement is a bit more distant.  Still, possibly bits of it are adaptable.  Will keep an eye out for examples.

Like one who on a lonesome road/Doth walk in fear and dread

Moving into what I guess is close to the last stretch of Fallout: New Vegas – I’ve finished the first three DLCs, and while there’re probably still a ton of quests I am really wanting to see the Battle of Hoover Dam.  (With the Boomers.  I’m actually trying to figure out if I can set the game up to play the final scenes on our TV.)  And after 250 hours, well, I do want to see the end of the game.

So anyway.  I started on the Lonesome Road[1] this weekend.  It’s actually probably my least favourite of all the DLC–I think it might be my least favourite part of New Vegas as a whole–and I finally realized why.

The Mojave of F:NV is a gently rounded post-apocalyptic chunk of the south-western-ish US; generally this means a lot of visual brown, a bottlecap-based economy, a Mad Max fashion sense, and settlements that are mostly still-standing remnants of what went before.  Two hundred years smooths a lot of the jagged edges off, after all.

The Divide may have been like this as well.  But then the bombs went off, and they did that in your lifetime.  Probably no more than twenty years ago at most, and myself I’m getting more of a “maybe seven or eight” feeling.  It’s a hectic, jagged, clashing sort of place–grim and dark and smokey, with you picking your way through jagged gouges in the earth and hurrying through the patches of radiation, hoping not to get shot at, blown up, or chewed on.  It has one of what I think is only two timed events in the game, and the one it has is by far the more dangerous.  Everything’s tilted and falling sideways and off-balance and occasionally chunks of the surroundings fall on you.  It’s a distinctly uncomfortable place to be.  Everything is jarred and shattered.

It’s not a fun environment to play in–really, without ED-E’s story I’m not sure I wouldn’t have headed back out of the DLC–and after a while, I concluded that this is okay.  The fragmented feel makes sense, and I’ll treat it as deliberate, because this is what it’d be like right after.  The Fallout games haven’t ever dealt with this; the earliest one took place over a century after the bombs fell.

It’s interesting.  It really echoes the begin again/but learn how to let go theme that all the DLC have been running with.  And it adds something to the rest of the setting; that tired or miserable as the Mojave can be, holy hell people have come a long way to building things back up.


[1] Naming your DLC with excerpts from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is cheating, in terms of marketing, and I am a sucker for it.