Now It's Personal

We've entered an interesting era in video games, and it's one that's strongly influencing my playing habits. I've always been more interested in a game's story than in the mechanics. Even when I was playing first-person shooters, I gravitated to the ones with the best characters, which is why you'll hear me gushing over No One Lives Forever, while ignoring the entire Halo series.

Fortunately for me, story is becoming more and more important in the gaming world. Traditional games are spending more time in developing character relationships, and a whole new genre of game is evolving, where story is essentially 90% of the gameplay. I just wrapped up one game in each of these categories, and both of them did some great work in developing an immersive experience in one way or another.

Fallout 4 was the more traditional game. The only other game in the series I've tackled is Fallout: New Vegas, and while I liked that one, it had some frustrating structural issues. Fallout 4 solves a lot of them; travel is much less annoying, the leveling and quest systems are a lot clearer, and as I alluded to in the opening paragraphs, it's much better-written. In post-apocalyptic Boston, four separate factions are vying for control, and all of them would like you to carry their banner.

Will you lead the populist Minutemen, or the militaristic, isolationist Brotherhood of Steel? Will you develop a technological society at the behest of the Institute, or usher the oppressed synth citizens to freedom under the auspices of the Railroad? Each of these factions makes an actually compelling argument for why you should support them, making it difficult for me to come to a final decision. Each of them also contributes a companion to fight at your side, and it made the choices that much harder. Who wants to disappoint Deacon?

A lot of the criticisms of Fallout 4 I've read accuse it of being a lot of go-here-shoot-this quests, but what these arguments fail to take into consideration is the player's preferred style. Taken as a traditional open-world apocalypse story, it may have its disappointments, but if you look at it as almost a mini-Civilization, in which you must develop a home base and the friendships/rivalries that exist within it, it can be a lot of fun.

Despite the improvements over its predecessor, Fallout 4 is still a pretty traditional game. Know what isn't? Her Story. It only takes a couple hours to play, but it's the most engaging gaming experience I've had since Gone Home.

See if you can follow me on this. You, the player, are interested in following up on a police case that involves a disappearance and possible foul play that took place in the '90s. You've been given access to the police interview videos with the main person of interest, but in a technological quirk, you can only see the woman's responses to the questions, not the questions themselves. That is to say, the entire game is a single actress responding to questions you never hear.

Weird, right? So what do you do as the player? You type in words and phrases, and any video containing those terms will be returned. So, if she says something like "I don't know where he went that day, but I was at the hospital," you could search for hospital, which could lead to other story threads, and so on and so forth. It's up to you to put together the story of what truly occurred, and as the pieces start falling into place one by one, it almost feels like you're actually solving a case or writing the story yourself.

As in real life, the case is messy, and not everything will tied up in a neat little bow for you by the end. But Her Story is an incredibly fascinating way to tell a story, and I definitely recommend it.

Fallout 4: B+
Her Story: A-


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