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Fallout: New Vegas 5-Years Later Review

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Gameplay:

I have previously stated in the story section and in the Fallout 3 review that I dislike the approach in Bethesda RPGs for acquiring missions. That design aspect is something I can respect, even if I dislike, and so I will try to not hold it against the game. The balance, however, I am going to hold against it.

It is fairly typical of many games that you begin fairly weak and over time develop into something powerful. I never really felt like that in New Vegas. Sure, I felt that I had grown more powerful as I played, but still I often felt underpowered for many of the challenges the game presented me with. In the beginning this was present as somewhat underwhelming weapons with little ammo and medical supplies, and very powerful enemies. Closer to the end, some weapons were not underwhelming and I had a good stock of ammo for them, but some enemies still felt very powerful and were often in large enough groups that they would easily overwhelm me.

Initially I dealt with these balance issues by, begrudgingly, relying on melee weapons. These weapons tended to do enough damage that I could survive my crazed assault longer than my enemies. This worked okay for some creatures in the world, because they were also melee, but once I started encountering more ranged creatures and human enemies, melee weapons were not cutting it. As the lack of ammo and powerful ranged weapons continued, I decided at about 12 hours in to just enable god mode. By this point I was thoroughly apathetic to the challenge of the game because I saw no way to overcome it naturally. The fights were too overwhelming and I knew of no way to progress enough to change that.

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually I found a new melee weapon named Pushy that would actually do enough damage that I could do without god mode, so I stopped using it. Being able to one and two hit many enemies can have that effect. Even if they were overwhelming me with numbers, the ability to rapidly kill them swung the balance back towards me. It was thanks to this weapon I was able to complete the remainder of the base game without being a god, and that is horrible. My preferred playstyle in many games is to use ranged weapons and great distance, quickly dispatching targets, but here I had to charge in flailing about with a melee weapon because that is all I found to be viable most of the time.

 

Even then, there were times Pushy was not enough, such as against deathclaws, which are monstrous beasts that exist to effortlessly kill you. Melee is not an option with them and ranged really only worked when they were either unable to reach me or delayed in reaching me. Cazadores, too, are significant problems, because these flying insects can poison you at range, and that poison is very, very effective at killing you. Due to their range attacks, great health, speed, and propensity to exist in groups, melee again was not feasible for fighting them. I either had to avoid them or rely on god mode to survive.

In summary, I found the balance to be quite poor and against the player fairly often.

By the way, I almost never used the V.A.T.S. system for ranged attacks. These attacks so often missed, took too much time, and ranged weapons typically did so little damage that I found it more efficient to just manually aim and attack. This also comes down to balance, and is also why I am not going to talk about V.A.T.S. anymore.

 

There is also a crafting system in the game I barely ever used. This is for a number of reasons, including it having a rather clunky design. You only get to use it once at a time, so after each crafting order you leave the system and have to re-enter it. Oddly it also uses a different key to exit than any other system (it uses X while the nearly identical UI of opened containers uses E). You also do not get much information on what crafted items are good for. Ammo and Stimpacks are easy enough to understand, but what about leather straps? Maybe they can be used in other recipes, but I do not know because looking at the various recipes is so cumbersome, and you are just given recipes, instead of earning them. Earning recipes will at least momentarily highlight them, priming the player to look at the recipe and decide if they want to use it or forget about it. Maybe the straps are worth more to merchants than the hides you make them from? I do not know about this either, because I never really visit merchants because I either have somewhere better to be or do not know where they are. Plus those straps apparently weigh more than the hides, since they left me unable to run after crafting a number of them one time I did.

 

Running, by the way, is pretty slow considering how much land there is to cover. Something like a sprint that puts your weapon down for balance would have been much appreciated, but is not an option. Also the number of doors you have to go through in several places, like the Strip, is crazy. Each door requires a loading screen, so the action is constantly interrupted in some places.

In addition to the crafting of items, you can also craft and recycle ammo, and different food products. Again, because I had no idea about the costs for recipes, I never really took advantage of this system, except for the recycling of drained ammo for energy ammunition. Those recipes at least were simple and just required having so much drained energy ammunition.

There is also a system of different ammo types that can be equipped to do increased damage, but increase the wear on your weapon. I just stuck to the normal ammo because it worked, does not overly degrade my equipment, and it made sense. I have no idea what the difference is between Max Charge and Over Charged ammo and never cared enough to find out. This is compounded by the fact that you can only craft so many items at a time. Even if I knew another ammo type was superior, it would take multiple crafting sessions to make an amount comparable to the normal ammo.

Basically I felt that the crafting system was overwhelming to the point of confusion, so I just ignored it. If it were simply removed, I feel that the impact would be very minor. Perhaps someone who has dived deeply into it could explain why I am wrong on this point, but my point remains that it should not require a deep dive or a deep explanation to make the system worthwhile.

 

On a happier note, the conversation system got a very welcome change from Fallout 3. Instead of informing you of the chance for a dialogue option to succeed, in New Vegas you are just told what it takes to succeed, and anything less will fail. While that does mean you cannot play the odds, it also means you know what you need and do not have to guess at it, and I appreciate that. Unfortunately, you cannot arbitrarily exit conversations to improve your stats by various available means, but you can always save before talking to people and reload if necessary.

 

I really cannot think of anything more to talk about here, except the AI issues I mentioned in the Graphics section, and that is best done by embedding videos. Showing you a group of enemies too stupid to reach me is a lot easier than trying to describe it. Every other mechanic and system behaved as one would expect for this genre and this franchise.

It took me 29 hours and 15 minutes to complete the base game, and another 20 hours and 46 minutes to complete the DLC for a total of 50 hours and 1 minute play time. Not too bad, even if the game does have issues.

If we set the balance issues aside, I would describe the gameplay experience as above average. Sadly I cannot ignore those issues, especially as they made the experience feel punishing at times. Add in the oddly implemented crafting system, and at best the game is not significantly improved. The experience of the base game is not what I would comfortably describe as enjoyable, or even polished.




  1. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Introduction
  2. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Graphics
  3. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Story
  4. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Gameplay
  5. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Downloadable Content
  6. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  7. Fallout: New Vegas Review - Conclusion
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