"Itís well past midnight and I cannot sleep. My conscience weighs heavily on me for what I have done. I have tried to prevent bloodshed, but in the end I have killed so many. I have tried to stand up to injustice, but in the end I have buckled under the weight of the corrupt and powerful. I have let down friends so I could avoid making enemies. "
Itís well past midnight and I cannot sleep. My conscience weighs heavily on me for what I have done. I have tried to prevent bloodshed, but in the end I have killed so many. I have tried to stand up to injustice, but in the end I have buckled under the weight of the corrupt and powerful. I have let down friends so I could avoid making enemies.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning.
Every choice has a consequence. At the start of Fallout: New Vegas, you are shot and left for dead simply for an item you were meant to deliver. This post apocalyptic future is brutal, and it is only going to get worse. As you learn who shot you and why, you find yourself drawn into a massive power play by many different factions, all hinging around one final massive confrontation for domination of New Vegas. Your exploits in the wastelands attract the notice of all the major factions, and all will try to get you on their side. The NCR, an army trying to stabilise the land and bring it under government control; Mr. House, a business man who wishes to keep the peace with his army of security robots, and Caesarís Legion, a bloodthirsty band of slavers who style themselves after the ancient Romans.
This war has been brewing for some time, and youíre the wildcard that can tip the scales one way or another. You can try to balance the scales for a while, completing missions for all of the factions to gain their trust, but eventually you will have to choose. As the stakes become higher, successfully completing one mission will cause you to fail another. New Vegas forces you to pick a side, as this is a tale of war. It teaches you this important lesson very early in the game, though on a smaller scale.
The village that is responsible for nursing you back to good health is confronted by a gang. They simply want someone who is hiding out in the town. You have several options: you can hand the man over to the gang to be killed, you can raise a militia in the town to fight back against the gang, or you can side with the gang and kill the townspeople. Each side has its own justifications, and none is completely right Ė all will end in blood. If you fight the gang, they will hate you. They will attack you if you encounter them in the wasteland, and will be a thorn in your side. In the beginning, itís easy to do the right thing. This gang isnít that tough, and you can deal with them quite easily. But if you side with them, you will lose the respect of the town, but that doesnít really matter, because you donít have to go back there.
Sometimes the choice boils down to who you donít want to make enemies out of. Itís later in the game where it becomes a little harder to choose who to side with. My own experiences in New Vegas have left me a lot to think on.
I wandered into a family run weapons emporium and requested work. The Van Graafs were the types of thugs who would kill me if I displeased them, but I was happy enough to work for them as I needed the money and access to their special energy weapons, capable of turning my enemies to ash. I was given some simple jobs, such as guarding their front door, turning away riff-raff and letting the rich and affluent in. And then they wanted me to find someone. A loose end, they called her. Though the thug didnít say it, I knew he wanted to kill her, some woman named Cassidy. I agreed to find her and bring her in. I asked for some help in finding her. After all, the wastes of New Vegas are vast. He gave me a contact I could ask, the leader of a trading company, who as it turned out, was interested in purchasing Cassidyís own caravan to add to her vast empire.
I found Cassidy in a bar, drowning her sorrows with a bottle. I struck up a conversation, since I now had two objectives in mind. It didnít take her long to open up to me. Her caravan had been reduced to ash some time ago, but sheíd been unable to see for herself what had happened. Her livelihood was gone. All she had left was her name, which I craftily persuaded her to sell. I felt a little bad about it, but she did seem relieved to get rid of it. After all, she had just made some money selling a company which no longer existed.
For my second objective, I asked her to travel with me. She agreed, wanting to be out of that dump of a bar. As we began the long journey back, we started talking. Now that she was on the road, Cass wanted to see for herself what had become of her caravan. I decided that we could do that on the way. We eventually found the destroyed caravan. The merchant had been reduced to ash... It didnít take me long to piece together the whole thing Ė the Van Graafs had already hit her caravan but she was not there at the time, making her the loose end.
She said that sheíd heard of some other caravans being hit, and we checked out another two. At the third, we found a dead guard wearing a Van Graaf uniform. We found clues that suggested the Van Graffs had been contracted to destroy Cass and her company by the very lady who had wanted to buy her caravan. Cass was enraged. She asked me to help her take down the Van Graaf family and the woman, as they had taken everything from her. I took her back to the Van Graafs. As we walked in, I realised the gravity of the situation. If I helped Cass with her vengeance, I would make a lot of enemies. I would become vilified by two factions, and their resources would be closed to me, and they would probably attack me on sight. Cass was just one person.
And so I stood back and watched as Cassidy was reduced to a pile of ash before my eyes. I completed my job as promised. I had avoided making any enemies by sacrificing one woman who had everything taken away from her before being killed due to greed. I was angry, but mostly at myself for my own selfishness. The consequences soon reached beyond the game for me. I genuinely felt bad for Cass. In that short time we had talked, I realised I actually liked her. She was just one of many well written characters in Fallout: New Vegas. Iíd had emotional connections to video game experiences before, but this was on a completely different level. I felt guilt and remorse, and it was my fault.
Something broke inside me that day, and my character simply became a tool of the powerful and corrupt to achieve their ends. I was later tasked by my main employer, one of the leading factions in New Vegas, to destroy a bunker full of people who would probably cause him troubles in the coming final battle. I didnít bat an eye when I earned the trust of these secluded and secretive people. I did good things for them, forced a change in leadership which ended their lockdown and meant they could go outside again. One young initiate there said how grateful she was to me, and how excited she was to see her first real battle, innocently wondering what it would be against. In my head, I said ďMe.Ē Iíd already scoped the place out, and I knew how I would destroy them all. I hacked into a security terminal and reprogrammed the security turrets to fire on these people, and then I went to work picking off the stragglers.
And the image I saw as I went down the stairs to the main hall will stay with me for some time. Bodies covered the floor and leaning against the wall Ė maybe a dozen of them. I calmly walked through and looted their corpses for valuables and ammo, looking for any who had escaped the deadly turret fire. I felt like Darth Vader in the Jedi Temple. I eventually ran into that young initiate and killed her in two quick shots, watching her body crumple and fall to the ground.
That is why I cannot sleep. That whole scenario keeps replaying in my mind. I didnít have to do what I did, but that didnít stop me. And I remember laughing at the time, relishing in this unrestrained massacre. In any other action game, you could kill countless enemies and not care. But Fallout: New Vegas is different for one important reason Ė choice. You can choose to do these things, and you can accept the consequences. I never expected to feel guilty over my actions in a video game, but here I am. The branching scenarios are so well planned, and the world is so well crafted, the characters so believable that it just drew me in. It will draw you in. I have played many games where Iíve been forced to make choices, but never have I stopped to look at my options so carefully and weigh them in my mind, trying to find a balance between morality and consequence.
Fallout 3 offered some choices, but it was ultimately the same storyline whether you blew up Megaton or not. New Vegas plays the same and looks nearly identical, except weíre in the harsh desert of Vegas, rather than the crumbling city of Washington. But the entire second half of the game will change depending on who you side with, giving you a different experience if you decide to go back and do things differently. Unlike its predecessor, Fallout: New Vegas truly is a war game and the story is much better suited to the setting this time around.
A good story will often shed light on some aspect of the human condition. One of the strengths of video games, which is not always realised and taken advantage of, is that it can hold up a mirror and show you your own conditions. The fictional setting can exaggerate and amplify the stakes and consequences of a situation to make it easier to see, since our own moral choices in real life tend to be smaller. Have you ever let down a friend to risk earning the ire of someone who has the potential to make things difficult for you? I probably have. But in the real world, the stakes have been smaller and it was harder to recognise my choices for what they are. No one died because of my bad choices in the real world.
I doubt this confession will help me sleep. I need to go back and play New Vegas again, and do things differently. Iím sorry, Cass. I will do better this time, I promise. And if I canít, then I will leave you in that bar so you can drink in peace.
Featured community review by jerec (January 16, 2011)
On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.
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