Blog #16: Everybody’s playing Fallout 4 and I’m just getting to New Vegas (also Baldur’s Gate 2)

Fallout-NV

Work’s been a demanding mistress these past two months. Suffice to say, I worked the weekends and overtime. I write for this blog in the office, but the workload has been such that I couldn’t get myself to spend any energy towards updating this here site. I’m really hoping my current project will be successful, it’d make life a whole lot better!

Fallout 4 and New Vegas

I’m a poor sod. I don’t have the kind of PC that’d run Fallout 4 the way I’d like to play it. Maybe its for the best though? When I do upgrade, I’ll get to play the GOTY edition with all content and the best mods. But it sucks to feel left out, because I’ve been into Fallout since the late 90’s. Fallout 1 was my first CRPG, the beginning of a love for the genre.

To make up for it, I felt compelled to finally play New Vegas, which I still hadn’t, even though it’s in my backlog. It’s great. It’s like really, really good. And the main reason for that is its sophistication of world building, both in terms of characters and dialog as well as quest design. I’m just starting out, but this back and forth between the factions and the reputation system bring the believe-ability of the world to a higher level. I really enjoyed Fallout 3 that first time I played it, but mostly because of its technical accomplishments and the novelty of seeing the wasteland in first person. Also, VATS. I’m a huge advocate of VATS.

I’m some 15 hours into the game and it’s shocking just how much better the Obsidian approach to CRPG design is compared to Bethesda’s watered down one. There’s a real gulf in sophistication there, and I’m saying this as a guy who really enjoyed playing Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim, as well as Fallout 3. It’s just that Obsidian’s school of game design ticks more boxes for me.

Hearthstone

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My respite from the stress of work has been good old gaming. I fell off the horse in both Dota 2 and Guild Wars 2. Dota 2 was actually a great time, I’ve found the fun in that game again. It’s still one, if not the, most ingenious game designs of the past generation. The culprit for my abandonment though is Hearthstone. It’s kinda sorta has its hooks in me. My colleagues play it too, and there’s a nice social aspect to be playing such an enjoyable game in this environment. League of Explorers is out, and that’s been the most fun I’ve had in Hearthstone’s solo adventures so far. I’ll unlock the second wing as soon as I’ve scraped the required gold. I’ve mostly played Druid, getting as far as rank 15, but I’ve since branched out and played almost all other classes to some degree since. I love the variety of gameplay styles, but most of all it’s how this game engages your brain when you’re not playing and trying to think of good card combinations. In that way, it reminds me of Warcraft 3 from back in the day. I used to try to think of unit combinations in much the same way then.

Daredevil

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It’s been one of the sweetest surprises this year. I heard good things about Daredevil, and because of that I decided to give the show a try in the first place. But my expectations were decidedly low. I just can’t get myself to enjoy Marvel’s cinematic universe. I mean, I’ve watched Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and every time I was pretty “meh” about it. Everybody loves these films that I wished I felt the same way. Maybe it’s because I’m not a comic geek or something. Actually, the only comic adaptation I’ve enjoyed was The Dark Knight, and even then it was just because of Heath Ledger’s unbelievable performance, rather than Nolan’s story telling. Anyway, I digress. Daredevil might just be the gateway drug for me.

If I had to describe it in a few words, I’d say it takes its cue from Nolan’s Batman’s dark realismo style, and does it better thanks to its format. It’s a smaller story, one which does not lean on the powers of its supernatural characters but simply on good story telling. The performances are all good to excellent, the world believable just enough to keep my suspension of disbelief going. I do worry though about season 2. I did not like how in the end this subtlety was shed for some more typical Marvel grand standing. My fear is that season 1 turns out to be the sweet spot for this show, because thing inevitably escalate in scale and stakes. A larger review is around the corner.

 

Frustration with Pillars of Eternity and jumping into Baldur’s Gate 2

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So I wrote earlier this year that I was playing Pillars of Eternity, the latest game of Obsidian. I did get some 35 hours into the game and its second chapter (I’m in Dyrford, basically the little town where the backer beta took place) and really enjoyed my time. It has a beautiful mix of nostalgia and modernity in it that I could just gorge on. But there’s a crucial problem in my case. The game’s built in the Unity Engine, and my PC just can’t deal with it. It happened with Wasteland 2 (and its recently released Director’s Cut) and also Cities: Skylines (which I was REALLY frustrated about). I can’t get a proper good frame rate going without my GPU overheating badly. These games are not that demanding, or at least shouldn’t be considering their fidelity. I conclude that Unity is not very well optimized for older video cards, and that bums me out. When I do upgrade my rig (finances are a bitch), Pillars will likely be the first title I’ll jump into.

What’s a guy to do then? How about taking care of unfinished business? I had played Baldur’s Gate in the beginning of the year, going up to the final confrontation with Sarevok, the game’s villain. My party was too weak to beat him, so I decided to take a step back and do more side quests, beef up my party and have another go. That was around the time when Pillars came out and I put Baldur’s Gate on the back burner. So a few weeks ago, I thought I should just finish the game up. Lo and behold, all I needed to beat Sarevok was a cheap trick. I would aggro his goons one by one and make them follow me outside the large room they were holed up in. Then a zap from a Staff of Paralysis and they were mince meat. Rinse and repeat. Doh!

My hunger for more Infinity Engine goodness was not sated, so I just moved on to the real deal. Baldur’s Gate 2. I played this game a bunch of times since its release, but never getting to the end of it. This time though! I’m 36 hours in and still in Chapter 2. It’s one of the quintessential RPG experiences for anybody more deeply interested in the genre. Even today, I’m awestruck as to the sheer scope and amount of quests you can do. I have to say though, the D&D ruleset makes for a complexity of combat gameplay that I still haven’t seen since. Pillars of Eternity tries to get close, but Baldur’s Gate 2 still is superior. There’s something to be said for a game that has this many spells that have such interesting uses. If you’re one to get stuck in and grok a game’s numbers, it’s paradise. I hope to write more as I play.

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