It wasn’t too long ago that we saw the release of Fallout 4, which was our pick for Video Game of the Year and Best RPG of the Year. But the game wasn’t flawless, far from it actually. Despite it winning Game of the Year we discussed many of its flaws in our review of the game. Fallout 4 got us thinking about Fallout: New Vegas again, the previous installment in the franchise. The more we compared Fallout 4 to Fallout: New Vegas, the more we looked to compare other games to Fallout: New Vegas, including Fallout 3, Fallout 2, Fallout, Wasteland 2, Dragon Age franchise, The Witcher franchise, and more. Through these comparisons we remembered just how amazing Fallout: New Vegas is, for many different reasons.
This article is dedicated to Fallout: New Vegas because we find it to be one of the most underrated games of all time, one of the most ambitious games of all time, and somewhat close to our idea of the greatest game of all time. All of this praise despite the fact that the game was rushed by Bethesda Softworks and created by Obsidian in well under two years. Usually this game is overlooked in favor of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, the former only having one advantage which is level design and both nowhere near New Vegas’s level of writing or role-playing.
Some of you may be wondering what we mean by “versatile” and “multifaceted.” By that we refer to a game doing many different things, and doing them well. Fallout: New Vegas is an open world action RPG with shooter mechanics and stealth mechanics, and strong character focus at times. But we’ve written about there being different types of RPGs in the past, so on that note we most also point out that New Vegas succeeds at several different types of role-playing. It also succeeds as a first person shooter, third person shooter, stealth game, and most of all a potentially riveting story experience. We say potentially since it’s a free roam game, so the player doesn’t even have to pursue the story. So, in short, Fallout: New Vegas is a chameleon; it can be played in so many different ways, it’s like many different games in one, and all of them are excellent. This also means it can be played and enjoyed by practically any gamer, regardless of expectations.
Fallout: New Vegas has two entries on our list of ten best stories in video game history. How does that work? That’s because Fallout: New Vegas doesn’t have just one story, especially when you factor in its DLC. Both entries on that list belong to separate DLC. But even the core game itself doesn’t just have one story, which makes it very unique among single player video games. It has a core campaign and plot, but it branches out into separate stories. The NCR has their own story, Caesar’s Legion has its own story, Mr. House and The Strip has its own story. The NCR story is the most generic and least memorable, but none are bad and all are filled with some of the best dialogue in gaming history.
Each DLC has its own story, but they’re all connected as well (Honest Hearts barely). Dead Money claimed one spot on that list of ten best stories. Its story revolved entirely around the characters as it is a character study, one that delivers. Then there’s Lonesome Road which claimed the other spot on that list. Lonesome Road also invests heavily in character development (primarily for the antagonist Ulysses), and it makes the player question their own actions. It puts much of its stock in the encounter/finale between the player and Ulysses, similar to how Heart of Darkness builds up the encounter between Marlow and Kurtz the entire time. And again, it delivers.
Last but not least is Old World Blues, which is its most popular DLC. Old World Blues, unlike the other DLC, emphasizes satire which Fallout is known for. It’s not very subtle, except perhaps the connection to the other DLCs which is very well done. But Old World Blues is humorous and still manages to be thought provoking, and is filled with very good and hilarious dialogue.
Fallout: New Vegas stands out among video games for its dialogue quality. Right from the CGI intro it’s apparent that the game has its own distinct language. It’s full of style and class, and very good writing quality is evident in its dialogue whether its humorous, satirical, and witty dialogue, or more serious philosophical conversations which can last at least half an hour at times. Only a few other games can compete with Fallout: New Vegas with regard to dialogue quality, namely Planescape: Torment and the first two Fallout games.
To bolster its storytelling, Fallout: New Vegas focuses heavily on role-playing. Take a look at this segment taken from our Fallout 4 review.
In New Vegas, there were many different dialogue checks; that is, an actual unique dialogue option for different attributes, skills, and even perks. This includes but is not limited to:
- Speech skill and Charisma score (Fallout 4 combines these into one which is fine, nothing is lost)
- Intelligence (also prominent in Fallout 3)
- Low Intelligence + High Speech
- Low Intelligence + Low Speech (it probably has High Intelligence + High Speech options too but I don’t remember off the top of my head)
- Perception (also prominent in Fallout 3)
- Barter (also prominent in Fallout 3)
- Sneering Imperialist
- Occasionally other skills like Explosives, Guns, Unarmed, and Survival
- Occasionally it has dialogue options for perks that the player has like Cannibal, Lady Killer/Black Widow/Confirmed Bachelor like I said before (although I left out the latter since it’s missing from Fallout 4), Terrifying Presence, and probably others.
In addition, the dialogue here was completely different depending on whether or not the player is above or below the conversation requirement. If a conversation has an option that required a Perception score of 8 for example, and the player only has a Perception score of 6, the player’s dialogue would be different than if he/she had a Perception of 8 or above. This applies to Speech, Charisma, Intelligence, Perception, Barter, Science, Medicine, and other dialogue checks, while others wouldn’t show up at all unless you met the requirement (all perk dialogue choices are like this, and most Strength ones).
All of these dialogue options allow you to fine tune the story to yourself. You can say what you want to say, based on your characters stats. Role-playing in this regard is what most people referred to with the term “role-playing” back in the 90s. In fact, it was the original Fallout that really raised the standard for this type of role-playing in video game RPGs. Nowadays, this type of role-playing is both rare and dumbed down. Wasteland 2 offers a good amount of it, and perhaps so do other indie RPGs. But aside from New Vegas, the last somewhat mainstream RPG to offer this much role-playing of this kind was Neverwinter Nights 2 and its expansions, which were also made by Obsidian (except for the final expansion Mysteries of Westgate, which also had less role-playing than the other official campaigns).
These dialogue options along with writing quality are why it’s very interesting to talk to random NPCs in Fallout: New Vegas, but not in Fallout 4.
This is one of the most significant kinds of role-playing, one of the most ambitious, and Fallout: New Vegas was the last mainstream game to excel in it (and the last one to even attempt it). You can make practically any type of character and have the story and dialogue tailored to him or her. Sure, Dragon Age: Inquisition also seeks to let the player tailor the story to their liking (as does Dragon Age: Origins), but it doesn’t even have a persuasion system. It has far more limited dialogue options since it’s not meant to be nearly as open ended as something like Fallout: New Vegas.
Furthermore, the plot of New Vegas branches out more than almost every other game. It changes so much depending on whether or not the player joins the NCR, Caesar’s Legion, Mr. House’s forces, or remains independent. It’s not just these four pathways either, each one of them can vary substantially based on what the player does.
With all of this, Fallout: New Vegas provides quality storytelling and some of the best character development and dialogue quality in video game history, within multiple stories. Again it doesn’t just have one story. This results in so much lasting appeal.
Other Kinds of Role-Playing
We mentioned the dialogue checks of Fallout: New Vegas, which check the player’s ranking in many different attributes, skills, and perks, and provides a unique dialogue option for whether or not the player meets the requirement (or in other cases, the game will provide no dialogue option at all unless the player meets the requirement). An example of such a requirement will be whether or not the player has 8 or more points in Intelligence. If the player does, then the player has a 100% chance of using that dialogue option to convince someone of something. Otherwise, the player will say something different and will fail the dialogue check, thus not convincing him/her of anything. Other dialogue checks might check to see if the player has a specific perk, like “Terrifying Presence.” If the player does have this, a unique dialogue for it will open up, and it will have a unique effect on the conversation. If the player doesn’t have this perk, the dialogue option won’t show up at all.
The game has a complex but well thought out stat system, starting with “S.P.E.C.I.A.L.” S for Strength, P for Perception, E for Endurance, C for Charisma, I for Intelligence, A for Agility, and L for Luck. The player gets to put points into each of these, and each of them has not only a direct impact on the game in various ways, they also impact skills and perks. For those who wish to know more, follow the links provided below:
The Fallout franchise is one of few modern mainstream RPG franchises with a complex stat system. Depending on your standards for “complexity” it may very well be the last remaining franchise that provides this. This system leads to multiple playstyles, enabling different kinds of gameplay which we’ll discuss below.
Because of how open ended the game is, the player can play as essentially any type of character they want, including one that doesn’t even pursue the campaign or any of the DLC. I once made a character that was a drug addicted gambler. At first his drug use wasn’t totally out of control, but he progressively got worse, his debts started to accumulate, and he fell in with gangs to “help” him with his debts. Things only went downhill for this character. It was a unique experience, one that can’t be done in most single player games. With this character I did not pursue any major, branching quest line.
Multiple Gameplay Styles
There isn’t one way to play Fallout: New Vegas. It is also a full fledged, competent shooter game and stealth game, in addition to the different types of role-playing it offers. It is an open world action game with many unscripted encounters (so to speak). Intentional or unintentional, these encounters can be handled in a variety of ways.
A player character that focuses more on Charisma and Speech can talk their way through almost all of the game’s most significant encounters, although they can’t talk their way out of most typical combat situations. And remember, because of all the dialogue options available, there are many ways to “talk your way” through the game. You can use charm and persuasion, intimidation, deceit and manipulation, intelligent debating, you name it.
Or you can do away with speech altogether and just gun your way through the game. Aside from some clunkiness (even for the time it was released) caused by the dated engine, Fallout: New Vegas is a competent and very fun shooter game. You may play in first person or third person at any time, the sound effects from gun fights are outstanding, and with the DLC it has perhaps more weapons than any other unmodded game (with mods that add hundreds of weapons in addition). Furthermore, it has an outstanding weapon modding or attachment system, letting you customize guns with accessories. It’s nowhere near as thorough as Fallout 4’s weapon modding, but it’s still better than most equivalents. New Vegas also provides many different ammo types for each and every caliber, e.g. 12 gauge buckshot, 12 gauge flechette, 12 gauge dragon’s breath, 12 gauge slugs, 12 gauge frags, etc.
The game has many types of guns for different characters too. Long range, short range, regular caliber, heavy caliber, heavy machine guns or miniguns, old Wild West type guns, or for more high tech characters energy weapons.
Combat is not limited to shooting either. New Vegas has a very good melee combat system that can be separated into two categores; unarmed (bare fists or weapons that you wear over your fists, like knuckled weapons or the Power Fist variants) and melee (weapons you wield and swing, except for chainsaws which you don’t exactly swing). These two categories have unique moves/attacks (chainsaws and “Rippers” also have their own), with perks that unlock new ones.
The player can focus only on regular guns, big guns, energy weapons, unarmed, or melee weapons. Each one is feasible for exclusive usage throughout the game. Or the player can focus on multiple, it’s up to you.
Not into combat? That’s fine, since all combat can be avoided. Dialogue heavy encounters can not lead to combat through clever conversation (or even awfully dumb conversation which may convince people to think you’re not worth the time), and stealth is available to avoid combat scenarios. Fallout: New Vegas is a full fledged stealth game, and one of the better ones at that. You can hide in plain sight by wearing faction uniforms, although getting too close can break your cover. Or you can hide in the shadows, either evading everyone or striking at the most pristine opportunity. All sorts of equipment is provided for hiding and sneaking, including sneaking suits, Stealth Boys (usable items that provide invisibility for a short period of time), silenced projectile weapons, non-projectile weapons, etc. Combined with the fact that it’s open world, Fallout: New Vegas excels as a stealth game.
Whether you want to shoot up everything, beat up everything, sneak past everything, convince or intimidate everything, Fallout: New Vegas has you covered, and it’s more than competent at all available play styles.
Of all the categories we listed, this is the one where Fallout: New Vegas is weakest. That’s not to say it’s subpar, it beats out most other open world level designs easily, but falls short of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. But there’s nothing to be ashamed about there.
Open world gameplay design can be a very nice bonus if done correctly, and Fallout: New Vegas does a pretty good job. Mods are needed to make it truly shine here. Without mods there are some invisible walls, creature spawns are more limited (certain types of creatures only spawn in certain regions for example), there aren’t enough NPCs in certain places (especially casinos and The Strip in general) and there’s a lot of open, empty, wasted space. With the right mods it’s a different story.
There is a mod that removes the invisible walls, and a series of mods that add lots of NPCs and several quests to some areas that really need them. Another mod populates casinos on The Strip so that they’re not ghost towns. Monster Mod adds much needed mutant variety to the world, and AWOP adds hundreds of new quests and amazing locations, some of which are among the most memorable, jaw dropping locations in any Fallout game. This modded open world greatly exceeds all of those not made by Bethesda Game Studios. It provides so much content and lasting appeal, making this magnificent game easily last hundreds of hours.
One of the main reasons we decided to write this article is because of shortcomings in Fallout 4, which is still a very good game when evaluating it for what it tries to do. Many gamers are now playing the Fallout franchise for the first time, starting with Fallout 4, but we encourage all of you to play Fallout: New Vegas if you haven’t.
Fallout: New Vegas is a one of a kind game. It’s a truly open world game (unlike Dragon Age: Inquisition for example which is enormous but not true open world) with some of the best character development and dialogue quality you will ever find in gaming. It specializes in multiple kinds of role-playing, and provides some of the most in every type whether it’s character role-playing (role-playing through dialogue choices, defining your character both through dialogue and through the complex stat system), role-playing within the plot (the plot branches considerably based on player choice), stat-based role-playing (your abilities in-game are fully dependent on the stats you choose), and sandbox role-playing (character role-playing on a macro scale, playing as any type of character you want including one that doesn’t pursue the campaign at all). It succeeds at being a full fledged, competent shooter game, stealth game, or even a “beat ’em up” type game through melee combat which can feasibly be used exclusively. Fallout: New Vegas does all of these things, and it does all of them very well.
We’re not sure what’s more amazing; the idea that Fallout: New Vegas does all of these things very well, or the fact that it was rushed by Bethesda Softworks (the publishers) and developed by Obsidian in well under two years. Other games have a development cycle that’s well over twice as long and aren’t as ambitious or multifaceted or well made. With the right mods, we struggle to find serious flaws in it, which says a lot since we are one of the absolute most critical, detailed, and picky game review websites in existence. It also says a lot considering the scale of the game; the greater the scale and ambition, the easier it is to make mistakes. Yet Fallout: New Vegas doesn’t make any serious mistakes in our book; the dull open world without mods is largely due to console hardware limitations. Aside from this, the biggest flaws are all technical flaws related to the engine being outdated at the time.
Every gamer should play Fallout: New Vegas. Even non-gamers should play it for the storytelling and dialogue, since Fallout: New Vegas is one of few games that showcases how video games can be a unique and very effective storytelling medium. Just be sure to play it on PC with mods, since they really complete the game and make it so much better.
That’s all for today. Happy new year everyone!