Lacking any fixed ties means the player can decide what their character's story will be.
In some ways, Fallout New Vegas (2008) is the biggest underdog in gaming.
Bethesda role-playing games (RPGs) hail in the industry as the hallmark of their genre. From Skyrim (2010) to Fallout 4 (2015), these games consistently receive huge critical and commercial success.
Against such, it would be easy for any game to get lost in the shadow. However, the continued oversight of Fallout New Vegas is more important than this. A superb game in its own right, but also arguably far better than the popular 2015 entry too.
Certainly, no one can deny that Bethesda deserves much praise for bringing the post-apocalypse franchise back from the dead. Until the release of Fallout 3 in 2008, it seemed like the series had run its course.
Yet many will argue that Fallout New Vegas hails as a better gaming experience than the 2015 entry at least in some significant ways. With the franchise undoubtedly set to continue, identifying these successes are hugely important for future games.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at three ways the game is better than its more recent, and more popular sibling.
Character Choice truly in the Player’s Hands
The basic premise of the franchise lies in letting the player loose in a post-apocalyptic America. With that comes the option of letting the player chose who they want to be.
Fallout New Vegas wisely ensures its protagonist remains as blank a slate as they can get. The player only knows three things about their character: they are a courier, they had to deliver an important item and a man shot them in the head for it.
With your character relatively unknown to the Mojave Wasteland setting, what they were prior to becoming a courier is for you to decide.
Proving to hail as one of the best RPGs in this, players can even decide whether they wish to pursue the main quest at all. And what path they decide to take in it.
However, Fallout 4 carried a key failure in this. The game sets your character on a fixed path from the get-go. They have a family, specifically a spouse and baby son, and have a background in either the military or law, depending if you play the husband or wife.
The player can ignore this backstory, of course, but not in a way that protects whatever story they want to have in the game.
Whether you’re an absent, uncaring parent or not, the game ensures that all its players are parents all the same.
But with Fallout New Vegas, lacking any fixed character ties (such as missing children) means the player can decide what their character’s story will be. A feature all too important in RPGs.
A Story with Exploration
Somewhat similar to the game’s emphasis on player choice is the story’s strength.
Undeniably, there are more complex tales in other games. Many could argue that Fallout 4 contains the better story, given the more personal, if more rigid, nature of its story.
Yet the strength of Fallout New Vegas lies in how it hinges on gameplay. The series has always had a strong emphasis on exploration and side quests. The 2008 entry makes room by giving its players enough slack in the story to engage in these diversions.
The plot’s main momentum comes from your courier’s search to find out why they were nearly killed. This means the player is free within the game’s narrative to take on as many side quests as they want.
The only person you are affecting by not pursuing the main quest is yourself.
As a common problem in open-world RPGs, inherent not just in Fallout 4 but also the likes of Witcher 3, the game’s tackling of the issue is hugely important. It accomplishes the task of constructing an open world narrative with what the players will and want to do.
In addition, its impressive story revolves its main plot around various factions, much like the latest entry. Yet, interacting with these groups feel more natural. Moreover, there is the option at all times to ditch the big factions altogether and carve out your own path.
Altogether, New Vegas’ handling of its story is impressive, not just in comparison to Fallout 4, but open-world RPGs in general. The story never loses sight of the gameplay, and never stops making room for it.
Praising the game’s combat, especially in comparison to Fallout 4’s, is likely to be controversial for many.
Undeniably, the latest entry’s combat is stronger in many areas. An altogether more visceral and action-orientated experience, it also lacks some of the past games’ annoyances.
Yet it lacks other things too. Notably, the action-emphasis of the combat system means it loses the traditional RPG mechanics.
For point of reference, Fallout New Vegas serves as a good comparison. It carries over some of Fallout 3’s weaknesses. Yet the combat system nevertheless balances its RPG and action-game priorities better.
As in Fallout 4, you can also aim down sights. This means combat outside of the turn-based VAT system is much more accessible.
At the same time, though, the likes of stats and perks have a much more tangible impact than in the 2015 entry. If you don’t invest points into the Guns skills, your handling of pistols will feel extremely lacking.
Likewise, perks have a much more obvious effect on gameplay in New Vegas than the watered-down version of the system seen of Fallout 4. And the availability of traits too, perks that come with negatives and positives, means you can customise your gameplay experience to an even greater degree.
Undeniably, Fallout 4’s combat system will appeal to more people. Yet there is the argument that it perhaps swung too far in seeking to take an action-heavy approach.
As ultimately an RPG, a Fallout game should have a strong emphasis on choice and consequence. The likes of stats and perks are a hugely important extension of this.
Fallout New Vegas ~ The Best Fallout Game?
Fallout 4 is by no means a bad game. Yet as a role-playing game it contains serious flaws. A game of this series should have the player choice at its centre. Fallout New Vegas hails as an entry with such a focus.
Here, player choice is truly at the heart of the experience. Whether it lies in the game mechanics, story, or smaller elements.
If you have not yet tried Fallout New Vegas, then now is an ideal time. Now priced much cheaper, the game regularly appears on sale at sites like Steam, with all DLCs included.
Fans will have a long time to wait for a potential ‘Fallout 5’, as Bethesda has yet to add a new entry in fellow franchise The Elder Scrolls. Perhaps this hails as an equally ideal time for the 2008 game to get its own sequel?
At the very least, if the franchise continues on an action-gameplay path, it would hardly go amiss to give players a Fallout game to truly love again.