Friday, November 1, 2013

Boots in the Dust

     There's a chill in the late autumn air, a wind carrying a warning of a coming bitter cold, of unnatural creature and desperate men. My boots crunch on the blasted gravel and dust of the hillside. I shift my rifle's weight from one shoulder to the other, adjusting the uncomfortable metal plate of my leather vest. Cresting the hill, I sit for a moment on a shattered piece of concrete, grimacing at the foul taste of the dirty water, choking back a momentary wave of nausea. Probably mild radiation poisoning. Have to get some meds for that in the next town, otherwise I could grow a third breast or fingers on my leg. At least, that's what the overseer always told us.
     Behind me, there's a shifting noise. I tense up, my rife falling from its sling on my shoulder as I drop to one knee, taking aim at the hill I just climbed and blowing the hair from my eyes. The safety catch releases as a silhouette comes into view and my finger approaches the trigger...

     I've been visiting some old stomping grounds recently. The Fallout series and I have some history, as most old school gamers do with it. I played the old games off and on, probably never actually finishing any of them, but spending plenty of time wandering about in them. Fallout 3 is a touchy subject for me, though. It was an outstanding game, a revelation in gaming even, as it was basically an Elder Scrolls game that wasn't about swords and sorcery. For those of us who wanted that kind of an experience but had no interest in the D&D type worlds, this was our world. All vacuum tubes faux-Leave it to Beaver and nuclear age paranoia.

     Fallout 3, though, was a difficult game. Due to the sheer size of the world and all the tiny little details of it, it was an incredibly unstable game. Even after fan patches, official patches, and countless mods, I still can't run it. I've rage quit the game twice, once the first time I ever tried to play it and once only six or seven months ago when I tried to play it again. Only after playing its quasi-sequel Fallout: New Vegas did I force myself through the game despite its  crashes, but for some reason or another it just flat-out will not play anymore on my system.

     Then I found the Tale of Two Wastelands mod. The entirety of Fallout 3, imported into Fallout New Vegas's more stable, improved, and more moddable engine. I'm about 5 or 6 hours back in now, just long enough to reach the second major settlement, Rivet City (a massive  aircraft carrier beached in a dried riverbed in Washington, DC) and it's a joy to be back. I have every intention of playing these two games to their conclusion yet again, even if it takes another 200 hours.

     I sincerely recommend the DC and Mojave wastelands as vacation spots for anyone that wants to chill at their games console or computer and get lost for hours and hours at a time. Don't be surprised if you start getting attached to certain things, too; thinking of Megaton as a home, or sharing quiet moments on a hillside with Rose of Sharon (don't call her Whiskey Rose) Cassidy. There's a kind of serene, broken beauty to be seen, and tiny stories to be told in graffiti left on buildings or the remains  of people huddled together in abandoned houses. I thought I'd had my fill of it, but this place will probably never not feel like home.

     Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are both available on Steam for cheap (and probably cheaper come the Winter Sale in late December).

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