Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mother Gamer Plays Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition

I know. How could I have not played Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas? There are many games I haven't had a chance to play and as I've gotten older, I've become a little more discerning about which games I buy right away and sometimes I just miss a game or two here and there. I also wait until things go down in price and only really pay full price for a game if it's something I know I really want. Again, that comes with being an older nerd. At any rate, when I saw that I could buy Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas for 10 bucks, I did jump at the chance and I was excited to play. I started with Fallout 3 first of course and it was quite an interesting adventure.

The opening sequence was intriguing with the lone wanderer being born and of course this is so you can choose to be a boy or a girl and design your character and decide their race. I went with Asian girl and as I was picking out all the facial and hair designs, I wondered why there were several varying choices of bald. I mean, I get it. It's Fallout and with spiffy things like radiation poisoning hair falls out and people are bald, but so many choices of bald over actual hair. It was weird. I found a hair choice I liked and everything was great and I started my Fallout 3 story.

So the time jumps from baby to ten years old were interesting for getting to see how life was for my lone wanderer in Vault 101 and there was a birthday party for me where I get my very own Pipboy. Neat. Wandering around talking to everyone including a ridiculous bully named Butch (I was not nice to him and punched him. That was my freaking birthday dessert damn it!) was cool and it definitely sets the story up nicely. Then the time line jumps again and my character is 16 years old and has to take the G.O.A.T. (Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test for Fallout newbies) to decide what they'll be doing.

16 and ready to take the G.O.A.T. test. 

A last time jump happens and the lone wanderer is 19 years old and the main story of Fallout 3 begins. The Overseer's daughter and my friend Amata, wakes me up to tell me that her dad is losing it because my dad has left the Vault. Initially I was shocked and wondering what the heck she was talking about, but it turns out it was true. Dad left and didn't say a damn thing to me about it so of course I have no idea what's going on. Amata tells me she'll help me to leave because she doesn't know what her dad will do, so here I am running around trying to escape the Vault and thinking, geeze this is a messed up situation.

I was trying to play the chaotic good path, so I didn't kill the Overseer out of respect for my friend even though her dad was a freaking paranoid psycho. I managed to escape Vault 101 and here was this vast world in front of me and I couldn't wait to explore especially since the setting was in Washington D.C. a place I was familiar with having grown up in Virginia. So I set out to explore what was now known as the Capital Wasteland.  I discovered the town of Megaton and the people surviving in the Wasteland and picked up some quests as well. Megaton was definitely cool with all the different houses and the crazy atomic bomb that is just there in the center of town. 

Enjoying the view of Megaton. 

From there the big thing in Fallout 3 is finding my lone wanderer's dad and getting some answers about why he left and what exactly he was up to. There's all kinds of main quests and side quests for hours of game play giving the impression of a vast world. There's all kinds of danger in the Wasteland too ranging from Super Mutants to Mirelurks which definitely kept me on my toes. There's all kinds of weapons too and of course I liked that I could modify and build my own. You get companions who travel with you too and that includes everyone's favorite canine Dogmeat. I did like the fact that you could have two companions travel with you. I ended up choosing Dogmeat and my Super Mutant friend, Fawkes. They both worked really well together with taking down enemies. There's also two factions of the Brotherhood of Steel, the Brotherhood and the Brotherhood Outcasts. They seemed to have different ideas about what they should be doing. I did like Elder Lyons the leader of the Brotherhood of Steel though. There was a kindness and gentle wisdom to him that was incredibly likable. I did find it amusing to see Maxson and MacCready (they're in Fallout 4) as kids in Fallout 3. They seemed so different from who they are now. I actually liked Maxson better in 3 because he seemed a little kinder and a little more open.

Taking down a Mirelurk. 

My lone wanderer did find her dad and got to actually talk to him about what he was up to. Project Purity was a cool concept; the idea of clean water for everyone in the Wasteland was great and the fact that he figured out how to make it work was also great. I just didn't understand why he couldn't tell his own kid what he was up to and instead just left without saying a word and his excuse was the Vault would keep me safe. Really? Sure. I was so safe with the Overseer and his goons trying to kill me. It was hard to stay angry with him though when he was so apologetic and then proceeded to say nice things to his kid about how proud of her he was for surviving and trying to be a good person. 

Then, dad and daughter team up to work on Project Purity. I did do some side quests along the way before getting back to the main story. I enjoyed exploring the Capital Wasteland and seeing some familiar places such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. There's even a quest where you can break in to the White House to get somewhere. Granted the majority of it is destroyed, but it was still a pretty neat quest. 

Checking out the Jefferson Memorial with Dogmeat.

Of course in the main story, things don't go as planned thanks to the shady people simply known as The Enclave. That's where the Brotherhood of Steel comes in as you work towards the common goal of eliminating the Enclave who apparently have an issue with the idea of everyone in the Wasteland getting pure water that isn't irradiated for free. Again, I ran around and did more side quests for more level grinding and more things. I did like that I got a free house for helping the people of Megaton by quietly disarming that atom bomb before it blew everyone sky high. One of the vendors there sold themes for the Megaton house and I went with pre-war which was nice with a 50s retro feel.

Cool, I got my own house!

Did I enjoy Fallout 3? Absolutely. That isn't to say there weren't flaws. This is Game of the Year Edition so there was no excuse for a lot of the issues I had. This included all the DLC titles and these were fun to play. I especially liked the Broken Steel and Mothership Zeta quests. I also liked the nod to the Cthulhu mythos with the Dark Heart of Blackhall quest. The big thing was the constant game freezes. Mothership Zeta was especially bad with this and it got incredibly frustrating. I did all the tricks suggested; turning off the auto save and clearing some data. That helped a bit, but every once in a while the frame rate would drop and the game would freeze. It turned out this was a common problem on the PS3 and I found myself annoyed with it. Sure, it wasn't a big deal because I could just reload my last save and it would be fine. However, it does take away from the atmosphere of the game when that happens. There would also be odd glitches like Dogmeat walking up in the air above me or my character would disappear and there would be bits and pieces of me visible such as my hair and my hands. That was incredibly weird. The controls were a little clunky and I actually had to change the difficulty to very easy until I got used to them. It wasn't a big deal, but it was noticeable. 

I love the Fallout series and there's so much to enjoy about them. However with things like this happening, Bethesda should be embarrassed. For as long as the game has been out, there's no excuse in not fixing known issues especially when it comes to dropped frame rates and the game freezing. It made me glad that I follow my mantra of save my game and save often.

Technical issues aside, I did have fun playing Fallout 3 and liked the story a lot. The characters were good and the different paths I could take for the storytelling  were great because it did make me really think about what choices I wanted to make during my adventure. I'm glad I finally got the chance to play it and it was a great game. Now, I'm ready to check out Fallout New Vegas! 

*Fallout 3 is playable on these platforms: PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Backlog Gaming: Tales Of Xillia 2, Pretty Good Sequel

I finished Tales of Xillia so I was ready to start playing Tales of Xillia 2 which is a direct sequel to Tales of Xillia. The story takes place a year after the events from the previous game and Rieze Maxia and Elympios are now connected via a large bridge. The two worlds are now trying to work together to try and find a way to coexist peacefully and that's where the new protagonist main character Ludger (pronounced LOO-GRR, yeah I know) comes in. The majority of Tales of Xillia 2 occurs in Elympios, but you do get to go to familiar locations from Rieze Maxia as well. The characters from Tales of Xillia also are in the game and you get to see what they've been doing in the past year. You also get a few new party members who join your adventure. 

Meet Ludger. He's pretty cool. 

I started my new game and I thought it was very cool that the game found all my previous Tales game saves such as Zestiria, Graces, and Xillia and it rewarded me with weapons attachments and costumes. So I started the story and the main plot has you running into a little girl named Elle who is looking for something called the Land of Canaan because it's supposed to grant the person who makes it there one wish.  In the meantime, Ludger and friends are working for the Sirius corporation exploring fractured dimensions because your dimension is considered the prime one and they want the fractured dimensions destroyed.  Essentially Ludger and friends are tasked with finding the divergence catalysts in the fractured dimensions and destroying them. There are even more things involved with the story and the reason behind it, making for some interesting insights about existence and adds more depth to all of the characters.

The gameplay is as good as it was in Tales of Xillia. Upgrading skills is a little more streamlined with something called an Allium Orb, allowing you to just select an orb and while you have it equipped you learn all the different skills it has in it. Think sphere grid a la Final Fantasy X. The Linked Artes system is here too and with the fact that Ludger has three different weapons he can swap in and out easily, he can pretty much link with anyone in the party and do some great combo attacks. Ludger also has special skills that no one else has allowing him to really wreak some havoc on enemies. 

Linked Artes are as awesome as ever. 

The anime cutscenes are gorgeous and the music soundtrack is really nice. There are also the usual skits that come with the Tales games and a lot of them are very funny. You also have the opportunity to do companion story quests which flesh out the personal story of many of Ludger's friends. This builds up your affinity with them and they'll give you rare items and skill books after you complete their stories. I really liked the interaction between Ludger and Jude because they seemed to be very similar in their determination to help others and they really came to understand each other and became friends.

Anime cutscene with Ludger and Jude. 

As you continue your adventure you get to see the subtle changes in some familiar areas showing how much can change in a year such as an orchard full of tall trees that is very pretty. The new areas are beautifully done as well. The voice acting is as good as the first with the original voice acting cast from Tales of Xillia. There's all kinds of extra costumes and props to collect as well so you can customize your party members in things like pajamas or Tales plushies.

A pretty orchard. 

There were things I had an issue with. One of the big things that I really did not like was the debt system. It was part of the story and basically poor Ludger gets conned into this huge 20 million gald debt. While I get that it was a stepping stone to pull you in to the story, this was the dumbest idea in the game. Not only was it frustrating, Ludger's annoying "friend" Nova calling you every other minute or any time you have any money at all on a device called a GHS (think cellphones) to nag you to make a payment on your debt because she's a broker became insanely irritating. I actually started to hate the sound of her voice. That's not a good sign. 

Oh good, it's Nova calling. AGAIN. 

The good news is that there are ways for you to earn extra money to pay off the debt. You can take a variety of jobs from the job vendor and you get paid for each job completed. The best way is definitely hunting elite monsters as the reward for them is worth a lot of gald. It made the debt dwindle in no time and it also helps with all the level grinding. You get rewards for consistently paying it off which is something at least. However, the debt system is not fun and real life does not belong in a freaking fantasy video game.

It really bugs me that Ludger doesn't really talk. During conversations you're left with an L1 or R1 choice. The rest of the time he mainly only talks in the skits or cut scenes. While I understand that this was to hide a huge plot point about Ludger, I really wish they had just made it so he talked like everyone else. The lag in a couple of the towns is odd. I'm not sure why they were the only places that lagged, but it wasn't a total deal breaker. Elle is okay as a character and while I know she's a kid, it seems odd to have her be the only unplayable character. I also found it odd that I could not swap party members in and out like I had before in Tales of Xillia. Much of it was due to the story, but it was a little irritating when I had party members I wanted to take with me only to find that I couldn't because they had stayed behind for some reason. I didn't mind that the game has three different endings. It's designed to give you a choice about things. What I didn't understand is why it seems like only Ludger gets screwed over in every single one in a sense. I know we can't always have a happy ending and that the theme is you can't save everyone, but there should have been at least one ending where something good happened to him instead of all of it being sad or messed up.  

There are some fun side quests too. I especially liked Kitty Dispatch which lets you send out Ludger's cat Rollo to different towns and bring back helpful items for you. There is also the Kitty Sightings quest where you have to find a lady's cats all over Rieze Maxia and Elympios and return them to her. You get extra money for this as well as items and costumes. I had a lot of fun doing both these quests and the names of all the cats was hilariously creative. 

Kitty Dispatch is so much fun. 

Kitty Sightings is a lot of fun too. 

Considering that Tales of Xillia 2 is a direct sequel, it's a pretty good one. While there are some flaws, it does not detract from the fact that the game has an interesting story and gives you a lot of hours of solid and fun game play. It's worth checking out and worth playing.

*Tales of Xillia 2 is playable on the Playstation 3