To mark the end of the 2010s, we’re celebrating 30 games that defined the last 10 years. You can find all the articles as they’re published in the Games of the Decade archive, and read about the thinking behind it in an editor’s blog.
There’s something mournful about roaming the wilds of the Mojave, but maybe that’s to be expected from a game that starts with you getting shot in the head. Like an irritated poltergeist, you’re unleashed onto the wasteland to claim vengeance on those who wronged you. Or not, if you’re like me – and make it your sole mission to find and save your would-be murderer Benny.
This is what Obsidian got so right about Fallout New Vegas. Somehow, the game’s able to anticipate exactly the sort of decisions a player wants to make, often before they even know it themselves. I was constantly surprised at the options presented to me, which frequently veered into the ludicrous and naughty. Do I want to take Fisto for a spin before delivery? Yes, of course I do.
New Vegas is a side-quester’s dream, and while I may be looking back through sepia-tinted glasses, it felt like even the smallest story was carefully crafted to maintain interest and deliver a rewarding kicker. Looking at a run-down of the mission Come Fly With Me, it reads like a list of fetch quests, but the compelling story points, array of player choices and engaging dialogue disguised this so well I never really noticed at the time. And, at the end of the trail, you always knew there’d be an incredible payoff – like launching a cult of ghouls into space with Ride of the Valkyries playing in the background.
On the macro scale, New Vegas took a more serious tone by weaving a complex power struggle that mirrors many current real-world conflicts. The contest centres on resource scarcity, with control of Hoover Dam determining who lays claim to the Mojave. It’s tricky stuff. The Legion, while committing brutal war crimes and maintaining a horrific social structure, is led by a logical and disturbingly persuasive leader. Tenuous alliances form between major and minor factions over mutual interests – a series of diplomatic agreements you, as the courier, can hash out.
At the end of this process, New Vegas doesn’t give you an easy answer to solving all the Mojave’s problems. No outcome is perfect, and it’s more a matter of deciding your own priorities and what you’re personally willing to sacrifice. I gave up small-town freedom for big government – complete with taxes, corruption and inefficiency – all in the name of stability and order. New Vegas ends up telling you a little about yourself.