Testing a new theme

Tell me how much you hate it.

The main reason for the change is I noticed the old theme removed the tabs near the top for the CoC and Sandbox pages. Just more WordPress doing WordPress things.

Posted in Site update, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Why is Fallout 4 so good?

Sorry for the lack of content, a combo of being a bit under the weather and playing Fallout 4 almost exclusively (CoC/BB/Dungeon Boss aside) hasn’t sparked a lot of blog content.

One thing that I’m still trying to fully pin down is why Fallout 4 is so awesomely entertaining. It’s honestly the best game I’ve played in years, but no one part leaps out and defines why. It’s not even a ‘sum of its parts’ situation, just more of a ‘everything you do is fun’ thing.

The main storyline is solid. It’s not the best story ever told in gaming, but its very good start to finish (at least the finish I saw), and at no point did it feel like a slog or dip too low. Removed from everything else, if Fallout 4 was just the main quest, it would still be a very good game, easily better than most titles that have come out recently.

The same can be said about the ‘side’ content (which in a lot of ways is more main content than side). Whether its all of the bite sized stuff you can start and finish in an hour or less, to the bigger side arcs (I just finished Cabot House, which was fantastic), not only is all of this content good, it also perfectly ties into the overall feel of the game, while still giving you just enough change-of-pace to mix things up. More so than even Fallout 3 or NV, I’m honestly want to explore every single location in Fallout 4.

The knocks on the game’s graphics have always felt like complaining for the sake of complaining to me. Yes, F4 isn’t a technical marvel, but does it really ruin the experience for you because a desk texture isn’t as photo-realistic as you want? If the answer is yes, you must be a blast at parties. The graphics overall do more than get the job done, and stuff like the ghoul animations, the toxic rain storms, or some of the lighting effects are truly impressive and ‘stop and stare’ worthy.

My main complaints I hope are solved with DLC.

Settlement building is fun, but would work a lot better if it had more purpose behind it than one story arc and random raiders that occasionally attack. Give me a DLC that not only expands the building options, but also the whole system. Give it an event system where you have to resolve issues between your settlers, or between your settlement and those around it. Make the raids against them have more meaning, with small story arcs of who attacks you and why. Expand the ‘find a specialist’ system, where side quests can yield better guards, farmers, or recruiters. Tie settlement growth into the game’s major factions, so once you are big enough, The Institute, Goodneighbor, The Gunners, etc see you as a potential threat or partner. Hell, allow me to ‘convert’ my settlement into a Gunners base if I go down that route. There is a solid foundation here, but it could and should be so much more.

Crafting is in better shape currently than Settlements, but could also use some expanding. Right now too many of the options aren’t really options, just natural progression. If you have the resources, there is no reason you wouldn’t upgrade gun X with mod Y, because mod Y is just the best outright improvement. An expanded system would have three or four choices at every upgrade level, and those choices would be tradeoffs; more damage for less range, more accuracy for a slower RoF, etc. And this should apply to almost all weapons (some uniques aside), not just a few types. It’s a lot of fun to modify pipe weapons because you have so many options, but its a lot less fun to work on something like a combat shotgun were eventually you will use mods X, Y, and Z, because that’s just the obvious best option.

Those two areas aside, I can’t really thing of anything else Fallout 4 is missing or lacking. Maybe something major like starting the game as a ghoul (you didn’t make it into vault 111)? Or being a member of the Gunners or a synth? I think that might be hard to tie into all of the other content of the game, and I’m not a big fan of DLC that takes you out of the main world and puts you into a little self-contained compartment.

That’s enough rambling for now, time to get back to exploring The Commonwealth.

Posted in Fallout 3, Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Smed is back, airdrops some hilarity for all of us!

Really Smed, now you don’t like F2P? Why, because that home you built for SWG fans that wasn’t Pay-4-Power wasn’t as well received as you thought it would be? Because your baby Planetside is shut down after having an abortion of a business plan? (PS2 is shut down, right?)

And how about setting his new game at $20? What kind of shovelware is Smed making that even he thinks it’s only worth $20 for a pre-build alpha founder access exclusive inclusion club for derps? Can’t wait!

Posted in SOE being SOE, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fallout 4: Cambridge Polymer Labs

This post is specifically (and only) about the Cambridge Polymer Labs in Fallout 4, and why its a perfect example of the great work Bethesda is known for. If you haven’t done the location yet and don’t want it spoiled (its a very minor, self-contained side quest/area), skip the post.

One of the things Bethesda does better than just about anyone else is pack smaller but still pretty incredible stories into their games. The thing that really works for Fallout is that the world overall is serious, but humor can be mixed in effectively without breaking immersion (unlike say the humor in WoW and something like Mr. T grenades.) This is important because when you spend hundreds of hours in a world, as you likely will in F4, variety is key, and the game being able to constantly mix things up is why you want to explore the next location.

Cambridge Poly Lab starts when an eye-bot (floating robot) floats near you and plays a recruitment message about employment at the location. This is somewhat curious because, well, the world was bombed, so is this really a job opportunity?

When you arrive at the location, another robot greats you at the door and performs a quick job interview. There is a pretty funny line about “decreased workforce causing an expedited hiring process”, and the job interview is literally one question; do you have experience in this area? If you answer yes, you’re hired! If only the real world was so easy…

After a brief tour, including a slide show in a room that it mostly destroyed (though one chair does survive so you can sit in it during the ‘presentation’), you are asked to step into a decontamination area, and when you do so the robot locks you in and informs you that mandatory overtime is in effect. The decontamination area then rapidly fills up with radiation and you have to scramble out through a hole in the wall.

Once inside the lab, there are various terminals you can read to pick up on the story. The lab is working on a coating for power armor, but the war interrupted their final test, and you are tasked with finishing the work. From a gameplay perspective, this involves finding different containers of material, placing them in a machine, and finally running the process to produce the finished power armor chest piece with the coating (this is the main quest reward).

The self-contained story is what really made this location a highlight for me. From the terminals, you find out that the research team was pushed hard to finish their work, ultimately being locked in the lab by the director. They hear the bombing happen, but are told its just a military drill and to continue working. They do so for a bit, but then one member has had enough and locked himself in a room to force a stop by threatening to enable the building security system, which would open the doors but also unleash the robots and turrets, which would target the lab workers and likely kill most if not all of them.

The other workers seek to stop him, and one of the skeletons in the building is clearly someone who failed to do so. Ultimately all of the lab workers died, either from fighting each other or from radiation. When you complete the research, the robot lets you out, and says the director would like to congratulate you personally. Following the robot upstairs, she unlocks the doors and you fight a feral ghoul in the directors room. With that done, you get paid a bonus (in pre-war money), and can look at the directors terminal.

Here you find out that the director wasn’t an evil bastard who trapped his staff just to get them to do more work; he did it because the only way the military was going to evacuate them after the bombs was if they were deemed ‘useful’ by producing the power armor. Without the research complete, the director could not save his workers, one of which was his wife. Unfortunately the director was injured from a trip out after the bombs fell looking for supplies, and he become a feral ghoul before he could get help.

There is also one email between the director and his wife, post-bombs, about the morality of lying to the staff about the bombs falling to keep them working. The director presented the fact that only finishing the work would cause the military to come evac them, while the wife argued that the other workers had families they possibly would want to go look for (which, given the damage from the bombs and the raiders/ghouls, was pretty unlikely to be very successful).

At a minimal, just gameplay level, this location isn’t anything major. The ‘puzzle’ of the research isn’t very difficult or time consuming, and the reward is decent but nothing amazing. However if you dig into all of the details, its a perfect example of excellent Bethesda content that fully rewards your full attention. The humor of the robot not realizing a war happened, the initial story presented about the director, and the ultimate reveal about his motivations; all of this expertly crafted and woven into the Fallout world.

Pretty great stuff for what is just one minor, totally optional location. The fact that Fallout 4 is LITTERED with such locations is what makes it worth hundreds of enjoyable hours to explore, and what puts Bethesda’s work above the rest.

Posted in Fallout 3 | 2 Comments

Fallout 4: Main story complete (spoiler-free)

Well, I beat Fallout 4 just now, and I must say the main quest line in the game is pretty fantastic. My head is also spinning at how different things could go if I had made different choices, which is fueling a massive urge to play it again. Of course having focused on the main storyline, I didn’t do much of anything else, so I basically still have 95% or so of the content to explore.

The plan is to start fresh, this time with a female, and push the main storyline only when it feels appropriate, heavily focusing on the major side arcs. Can’t wait!

Posted in Fallout 3 | 2 Comments

Fallout 4: Spoiler-free thoughts 10 hours in

Time for some expanded thoughts about Fallout 4:

As mentioned, it certainly feels like a Fallout game, which might sound obvious, but is something that could have been lost (think Diablo 2 vs Diablo 3, for example). I think maybe the only complaint I could raise here about the feel of the game is the overuse of color in the world; at times it makes it a little too easy to forget that a nuclear war happened with all of the trees, brooks, and leaf colors. Some color is nice, but the ‘man bombs sure did hit this place’ feeling you felt leaving the vault and looking at the landscape in Fallout 3 is a LOT stronger than it is when you leave the vault in Fallout 4.

Speaking of graphics, I think the pre-release worry about the game not looking great were massively overblown. Is Fallout 4 the most graphically striking game ever? No. But are the graphics a big jump from even a heavily modded Fallout 3 or NV, and overall still really solid (on Ultra settings)? Yes. The graphics do their job and then some (feral ghoul animations are awesome), with really the only grip being some of the character facial animations dipping into the uncanny valley of uncomfortable at time.

The shooter gameplay is much improved, and not in the way I was worried about as someone who isn’t a huge FPS fan. They are smoother and more responsive, rather than now being ‘hardcore FPS’ feeling like you might get from a Battlefield or even a Payday 2. Weapons feel very different from each other, and even modding a weapon can result in a noticeable difference. I also feel like there is a bigger distinction when fighting different enemies. Mirelurks really force you to avoid hitting their giant shell, feral ghouls jump around, human enemies use cover more effectively, and animals are usually dumb animals and just charge you; all this makes combat more fun and engaging.

My biggest issue with the game is the UI, which is clearly more designed for a console and its limitations than a PC. I know a mod will come along and fix that sooner rather than later, but right now its annoys me anytime I have to take my hand off the mouse to hit an arrow key, or move the mouse more than I should to select something.

Some minor improvements to the Fallout formula that I love:

You can see what is inside a container/body without opening it, and can loot it without going into a special UI, which greatly improves and streamlines the whole looting aspect of the game. No more stopping to pause for 10 seconds at every box and trashcan!

There are ‘legendary’ versions of enemies, which are basically mini-bosses that also drop better loot. I think they are pre-scripted rather than random (or at least I’m positive some of them are pre-scripted), but they add a nice bump in difficulty during an encounter and also get you some fun new toys (for example, I was able to loot a pistol off one legendary enemy that adds a burn effect to each shot. The pistol can still be fully modded, but that special/unique effect of the burn stays, which is really awesome).

I can confirm that when you switch party members, the outgoing member will interact with the incoming one, sometimes in pretty significant ways.

The companion you have around will like you more/less based on the actions you take, which eventually opens up special perks if they like you enough. This adds a nice layer of depth to companions IMO.

The stories that I’ve experienced so far have been good, with a few being really great. I do feel there are fewer terminals and notes scattered around that give random backstory to a location or event, but without experiencing the majority of the content yet, I can’t say if this holds up for the whole game or just the pieces I have seen so far.

As someone living in the Boston area, the setting is amazing. The game nails the feel of downtown Boston.

I like the change to leveling up, where you get one point to put into either a SPECIAL stats or a perk, especially because it allows you to change course and become something different than you originally rolled with your starting SPECIAL stats, something that was basically impossible in previous Fallout games.

Jury is still out on crafting and settlements. I like what I have experienced so far, but I haven’t really dug into either to any extreme. Same for the main storyline, I’m not very far in, but at least what I have seen so far has been great.

More to come as I dig deeper in.

Posted in Fallout 3 | 14 Comments

Fallout 4 “had to stop playing to type this but really need to get back to playing it so…” review

Fallout 4 feels like a Fallout game, just newer/better. Also its not crashing for me on day one, and performance is super-smooth. If you don’t buy it based on that you either hate yourself or hate fun, possibly both.

Now back to collecting random junk to modify weapons/armor like a fiend…

Posted in Fallout 3 | 4 Comments