I’m probably going to come up with complaints later.  But I’d like to note that right now I’m probably in the Maximum Fun Zone for Fallout New Vegas.

I mean, there are frustrations because of my low level: I hate running into locks or computers I can’t open yet; I was frustrated to run into a mess of insects called Cazadores and just die every time I confronted them.  But I know from Fallout 3 that the first ten or so levels are the best.

I love open ended games, and this is the period when it’s most open.  For instance, I was wandering around and saw this from afar:

What the hell is that?  I went to check, and it’s an enormous sheet-metal statue, and in the vicinity I picked up three new quests.

The same night, for the first time I was able to create my own ammo.  Three whole .357 bullets; that was all I could make from my inventory.  It’s frustrating that I couldn’t make more, or much of anything else yet… but that frustration is the itch that drives an RPG.  You keep getting new abilities.

Once you’re at level 20, by contrast, you can do almost anything but there’s little left to do even in one of these enormous games.  (I don’t know this about FNV yet, but I’m guessing.)  There can be new DLC that makes it come alive again, of course, but it’s not an easy problem in game design to make that work.  Fallout 3 achieved it with Point Lookout but not Broken Steel; Borderlands did it with Knoxx but not Claptrap Revolution.

The statues, by the way, are relevant to another ongoing argument.  I think karma systems are pretty dumb, and I think it’s kind of silly when games keep telling you what a fabulous hero you are.  (Again Borderlands got this precisely right: you’re no hero, you’re a treasure hunter and you only help out these fine folks for the loot.)  Point Lookout required you to choose between two almost equally unattractive antagonists.  FNV is leading up to a choice too, but I’m not sure yet how stark a choice it is.  One side looks “good”, but those statues point to a certain grandiosity, and the local towns are not exactly eager to join their side.

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