The Comforts of Home, Home Being an Irradiated Wasteland

I’ve been out of touch for a while, stranded in London with the world’s worst internet connection. Please, please, hold back your tears. I managed to survive my ordeal thanks to a seemingly endless battery of amazing sights, wonderful theater, fancy meals, and late night sessions of Civilization V. But now I’m back home and happily reunited with both my couch and my gaming consoles, and I’ve got some catching up to do.

I had a couple days to dip into Enslaved and Comic Jumper and Halo: Reach, but none of them were quite holding my attention the way that I needed. Halo came closest, with its familiar gameplay and exciting action, but I’m playing that online co-op with my brother (We’ve played every Halo game together in co-op. It’s how we show our love), so I can’t dive into it whenever I want. To be honest, I was sort of restlessly flailing around, not quite satisfied.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the cure for my homecoming blues was just around the corner. Tuesday morning, fueled by a morning of coffee-drenched arguments with some nutso’s conspiracy theories about the Bilderberg Group, I marched into Best Buy with a chip on my shoulder and restless trigger fingers. An hour later I was in the Wasteland of the Mojave, searching through ruined buildings for old pilot lights and bottle caps. Fallout: New Vegas, baby. I’m home at last.

Fallout 3 sucked me in all the way. I played all of that game, searching every last corner of the map and then buying all five of the DLC packs. It is flawed for sure, buggy and sometimes awkward looking and occasionally frustrating and confusing. But for me it gets the mix just right, that mysterious melange of creating a character, scrounging for resources, exploring a vast world, and leaving my mark on it. I haven’t played the game at all in over a year (since Mothership Zeta came out), but everything came back to me in a flash: the combat, the menu system, the controls, my optimal strategies (repair, speech, and science all the way!), everything. After the tension of Comic Jumper‘s frustrating gameplay, I could feel my self sinking into a comfortable posture on the couch. It was like putting on your favorite pair of shoes. Everything feels so right, even if the soles are a little thin.

Fallout: New Vegas really is just more of the same. There are some significant differences in reputation and an expanded crafting system, both of which I welcome. For me, crafting both stuff and my legend in the wasteland are key elements in these games, and I’m glad they expanded those two areas. Many others wish (with some justification) that they’d improved other things, like stability and AI and bugginess. Those don’t bother me a bit. Just like I’m used to that spot of orange paint that I’ve got on my living room ceiling or the way the fan in the upstairs bathroom rattles so much, I might not like ’em, but they don’t make this any less my home. This is far from a perfect game, but it definitely feels familiar and comfortable.

Of course, I’m only seven or eight hours in, so this isn’t any kind of review. But so far at least, I’m getting everything that I expected, including that moment where I hadn’t saved in a while and then suddenly died. That’s what I get for not cleaning the kitchen for three days straight.

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