Sunday, 23 August 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Two: Interface, Health, and Items

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Sorry that it's a bit late, but I got caught up in some other stuff.

Now, if this were simply a first-person shooter, talking about the core combat would've been the end of gameplay discussions. But, considering that there are a heavy amount of RPG elements at play, I'll have to offer my opinions on them as well.

First off, I thought the inventory system was simplistic, but pretty good. Things were pretty well organized, and it's neat to be able to bring up your inventory in-battle and use items. Sorta reminds me of the item-swapping done in The Legend of Zelda, actually. That being said, at times the inventory can get really cluttered, and it would've been nice to have some sort of filter to organize by weapon damage or armor defense, instead of just by name. Still, it works quite well.

Actually, that does bring up the matter of the Pip-Boy, which is your method of information storage and organization.

Oh no my head is crippled!

Sort of like a tri-corder from Star Trek, it scans health and allows VATS to operate. To be honest, I think the idea is pretty cool. It also collects notes and picks up radio stations, as well as create and log maps. It's nice because it keeps everything in one place, and you can easily swap between looking at your stats like health, checking your inventory, and looking at the information you've gathered. All while the game is conveniantly paused. Note that there is a brief period of inaction before and after the Pip-Boy is brought up, during which things still move and the enemy can damage you. This is a pretty fair element though, considering that you're allowed to basically stop time as you change armor.

And speaking of armor, the damage in the game is pretty interesting as well. The game has a concept of area-specific damage, such that if you get shot enough in the head (or you shoot the enemy enough in the head) their perception drops and it's easier to surprise them. There's also enemy weakpoints in the game, that if precisely hit and damaged can make enemies go crazy or slow them down, or do a lot more damage. Shooting an escaping target's legs can slow their speed and allow you to catch up. It's a nice feature that adds more depth to what would be otherwise bland battles.

Now if I just aim for the head I should be fine...

The variety of items in the game isn't huge, but it is quite decent. You have a lot of different weapons with different damage, spread, reload times, and such; armors with different bonuses such as damage reduction or stat bonuses (to charisma or the like); and edibles which act as your standard RPG potions.

The armor and weapons also have weapon degradation, which often has the problem of being annoying. I found though that this annoyance was offset by the fact that it both makes sense, and that enemies' weapons are often degraded as well. This means that if you take out a bunch of Talon Mercenaries, and you have a high enough repair skill, you can take all their armor and repair it together to create something you can wear that is stronger than any of the pieces seperately. It's a neat idea and adds another interesting dimension to the game.

Rocket Launcher + Rocket Launcher = Better Rocket Launcher

The game also allows you to build certain weapons from blueprints using items scattered about the wastelands, and it's really satisfying to scavenge together a flaming sword from a lawnmower and a motorcycle, then go kill Supermutants with it. Only downside is that you can't create blueprints yourself, and there's not that many of them.


Now one thing I haven't mentioned yet is radiation. Quite simply, the game takes place in a nuclear wasteland, so there's a lot of irradiated stuff. Simply eating food or drinking water is going to make you more irradiated, and this too adds another element to the game. Fortunately for your character, there are lots of RadAway packs lying around, and the radiation effects come slowly and aren't too dangerous. Unfortunately for the player, this means that you'll probably ignore the radiation effects most of the time, or at least won't find it much of a threat. Until you hit 600 rads at which point you give up and die.

So to summarize: Great inventory usage and item selection, although there aren't tons of different weapons. Weapon creation is satisfying, and degradation adds a fun element to the game. Area-specific-damage is a nice addition to the battles, giving them more flavour, but the effects of radiation are almost negligible.

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part One: Intro & Combat

Well, I got around to "beating" the game (by which I mean: getting to the ending), and I think it's about time I offer my opinion on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Be prepared though, as this is a long one. This is strictly the introduction to the review, and the review of the combat portion of gameplay.

I love the little lightning-bolt in the logo.

To be honest, It's been a while since I've felt such a feeling of duality with a game that I've felt like quitting gaming (mainstream at least) altogether. I think the last time this happened was after playing Final Fantasy 7, and maybe for similar reasons. It's not really a bad game... but I can't honestly say that it's a great game either. There's a lot of reasoning behind both sides, so let's just dig right in.

See, I went into Fallout 3 knowing a few things and expecting a few issues. Yet I expected a decent RPG using a first-person-shooter as its core game mechanic. And in a way, it delivers. Sorta, kind of. In a twisted way.

See, my main problem with Fallout 3 is that there's some great ideas, and there's certainly lots of room for greatness. Yet it just feels like Bethesda "phoned it in" and forgot really crucial aspects. It's like they wanted to tack together an RPG's elements (like stats, leveling, vast world, sidequests, item systems, status effects, and turn-based combat) with a first-person-shooters elements (in this case, shooting people, free movement, and stealth). And for the most part it succeeds pretty well.

V.A.T.S. is where I really had a problem though. It's a nice idea; you can briefly stop time, select opponents body parts that you specifically want to hit while being given a warning of your chance to hit, and then shoot them up by using Action Points.

I'll talk about the super-mutants later. Needless to say, yikes.

But, there's a few flaws with this mode:

1. It breaks immersion. All control is suddenly wrenched from your hands, and while shooting you cannot bob and weave in the slightest. You just have to stand there and get shot while you shoot. Not to mention that after V.A.T.S. is used, there's a split second where you can't move cause you haven't gained back control.

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

2. It limits the damage you take while just standing there. I mean, this was obviously created as a work-around for the fact that you can't bob-and-weave. And I'll admit, you probably take the same amount of damage in V.A.T.S. as you would if you were properly bobbing and weaving. Here's the issue though: V.A.T.S. stands for "Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System". It doesn't stand for "Vault-Tec Targets For You and Prevents Movement System While You're Near-Invincible" I mean, I know that VTFYPMWYNI wasn't as popular a name due to pronunciation issues, but it would've been more authentic.

Oh you know on second thought this doesn't hurt so much.

3. You cannot win a difficult encounter using V.A.T.S. alone, making V.A.T.S. practically pointless anyways. You're not going to win this game if you're bad at FPSs. Okay, that's an overstatement, but the game will be a whole lot harder. This makes V.A.T.S. in its current form practically pointless.

Actually, a better improvement to vats would be to not auto-fire at all, but auto-lock-on and engage bullet-time. What do I mean by that? Well, basically it would work like this:

1. Press V.A.T.S. button to bring up target selection.
2. Select a target based on hit chance and what you're aiming at.
3. Press the confirm button, and bullet-time gets activated.
4. The player returns to normal combat, having full control over moving and shooting, except their crosshair is locked onto the specific enemy area. AP drops constantly while in bullet-time.
5. Either the AP runs out, or the player presses the V.A.T.S. button again. If the former, bullet-time ends and the cross-hair unlocks. If the latter, you either start again at #1 or can disengage lock-on and bullet-time, returning to normal battle.

Personally I think this would work better, and would solve a lot of problems.

Now I would like to say that V.A.T.S. is indeed very satisfying in its current form. Especially when it changes camera angles to show off a good shot. Unfortunately these shots tend to come up even while not killing someone. Near the end of the game, I was finding them boring and repetitive. A better thing to do would've been to make them sparser, sorta like in Max Payne, by only doing the special-angle shots on kills and only rarely. (For those who don't know what I mean, if you snipe someone and kill them there's a chance that the camera will follow the bullet.)

So yeah, in summary: The combat is pretty good, but V.A.T.S. should've been handled differently.

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Keyboard Skin for Tachyon: The Fringe

I'm not sure how many people have played it, but there's this cool little space-flight game sorta like Wing Commander, called Tachyon: The Fringe. Well, it had a lot of buttons. So many in fact, that I couldn't remember them all. I usually had the keyboard layout sitting in front of me as I played.

And then I got to thinking: "Well wait a minute, we've got a ton of old keyboards in the house. Maybe if I just cut+paste..." So about half a year ago I decided to actually go ahead and do this.

Voila. If I were to do it again for a different game, I'd probably try and laminate it somehow, because some of the often-used keys fell off or the glue melted under the heat.

Anyways, just a short little update from me. I'll have something big later, don't worry. Or maybe I won't. You'll never know! Muhahaha!