Fallout 4 – Better Than Expected

I must confess that I did not like Fallout 3 and New Vegas as much as everyone else did. To me, Fallout 3 was exactly the same game as Oblivion, which I had already played enough to be tired of it. So after I finished the main Fallout 3 story, I was done with it. (Steam reports that I played some crazy number of hours, but that was only because I left it running 24/7 on a secondary PC.)

So I haven’t been that excited for the release of Fallout 4, because I was expecting it to play exactly like Skyrim, a game that also played more-or-less exactly like Oblivion and Fallout 3 before it. But then on the night of the 10th I was watching the Steam trailers and noticing that it looked different from Skyrim. It looked like, you know, a new game. And by pure coincidence I had the next day off of work. So I took a chance and bought it.

Codsworth and I during the time that my dog had disappeared from the world. The glasses give me +1 Charisma. :)
Codsworth and I during the time that my dog had disappeared from the world. The glasses give me +1 Charisma. :)

And lo, it’s actually a great game. A great, new game. It plays well. The shooter parts feel like you’re actually playing a decent shooter. (That was my biggest complaint about Fallout 3.) The RPG parts feel like an evolution on the standardized boilerplate Bethesda dialog trees. The Oblivion-style zooming-in-on-NPC-faces that jarred me completely out of the game is finally gone.

I don’t have any comments on the story yet, except to say that it started out a lot darker than I would have expected. (I think of the Fallout franchise as fairly whimsical.) But I haven’t completed much of the main story… just enough to leave the shelter.

I’m taking my time and exploring the world piece by piece. Well, side quest by side quest actually. I find the world pretty dangerous so I feel like I need to spend time building up my character before going too far from the starting point. I like the crafting and base-building aspect of the game–it’s a lot like State of Decay, which I loved–it’s a great addition to the franchise. I’m so glad to finally have a reason to pick up all that junk out in the world. (Although I wish I had an AoE loot key like Guild Wars 2 or a loot vacuum-cleaner like WildStar. :)

And you get a dog! With possibly the best dog AI I’ve seen in a game to date. Just be careful he doesn’t disappear on you. (If he does, you might have to load a previous saved game to get him back.)

P.S. If you find the game suddenly running on the wrong monitor for no apparent reason, this Reddit solution worked for me.

ARK – Um It’s Got Issues

Here’s my advice: Do not buy ARK right now. At least, don’t buy it with any expectation of actually playing it. Because on my 12GB system it runs out of memory and crashes. If you run the “low memory” 4GB version it doesn’t crash, but it runs horribly slow. There is a good two minutes of loading screen to wait through before geting into the game (literally–I timed it). Then in order to get it to run at an acceptable frame rate (which to me is a rock-solid 60 fps, but I suppose in a pinch 30-40 fps will do) you have to disable almost every graphical setting, and then the game is painful to look at.

Standing on a moving turtle, the most fun thing I did in ShooterGame. I mean ARK.

If you have a gaming rig powered by nuclear fission and cooled by the vacuum of space, maybe you can play it the way the game is intended. I only have a GTX 770, which is fine to play every other game I’ve bought in the past year at the highest settings, but apparently is woefully inadequate for ARK.

As for the gameplay itself, I was so repulsed by the technical problems that I had zero desire to explore the game. Also, there is very little happening on the screen to make you want to explore the game. I only played in single player, and most times I spawned in and was killed instantly by some carnivore wandering the beach. It’s a great way to make a first impression in an exploration game, let me tell you. Oh hey what’s this on the ground? ROAR! CHOMP! Oops, I’m dinosaur dinner. Then one time I spawned in a grass field by a big turtle and could at least walk around picking up roots and berries. The interface is not very intuitive so I had no idea how to eat or drink or craft or anything. All I accomplished was jumping on top of the turtle while she walked around. And I learned that a big turtle is called a “Carbonemys.”

Also I noticed a big technical red flag: They didn’t bother changing the name of the executable from what I assume is the Unreal engine’s default name of “ShooterGame.exe.” To me that just screams out, “This development team does not have any experienced developers on it.” I mean, seriously, how is that not the very first thing you do when they make a new game project? They need to spend a lot more time working on their code than working on Halloween promotional events*, that’s all I’m saying.

ARK might have a great hook (frickin’ dinosaurs!) but it’s sooooo not ready for prime time yet. I don’t see myself coming back anytime soon unless I see some patch notes that include “massive overhaul of graphics engine.” Otherwise I’m just going to chalk it up to another case of the marketing far exceeding the quality of the product. If you want to see a first-person survival game with fantastic graphics that actually runs well try The Forest.

* Halloween events for Early Access games? Are you kidding me?