Update: If you’re interested in the newest Fallout game, I have a detailed (two-part) review here, Fallout 4. Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better (Overview) and Fallout 4. Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better (Story). Note: Here’s another FNV related article, a detailed look at the Honest Hearts DLC and its By the Waters of Babylon theme. Thanks for checking them out!
Having played Skyrim so much, and liking it (for the most part), I finally ventured to play some other Bethesda games. I played Fallout 3 for a while, then started Fallout New Vegas. I was initially not going to get the game at all, simply because of its name. I have no desire to go to Las Vegas, and deplore the “please sin in our city and enjoy committing adultery” TV ads put out from that place. I was concerned that the game might glorify sin, although I was a bit confident that Bethesda as a company – while trying to appeal to the widest possible audience for its games – was still not into the glorification of bad behavior.
I like role playing games (RPGs), which Skyrim and the Fallout series are (my son plays Borderlands and tells me it’s an RPG, but it seems to have less freedom about it and simply more shooting – I just don’t think of it as an RPG). Skyrim is more free however (and beautiful), it seems to me, with more rewards for exploration, than the Fallout games I’ve played so far. These games let you fulfill your desires for adventure, for completing difficult tasks, and for mystery-solving. So while these games are gory, crude (some sections of the games, and some game add-ons, have very crude language), and even sexual to a more or less degree, their verbal and moral choices contents are not much different than the real world. The gore in the Fallout series is pretty nasty though, and there’s no way to turn it down.
And if you didn’t know, the Fallout series takes place in the somewhat distant future, after a major nuclear war. The look is not futuristic, but more like retro 1950s (apparently evoking the falsehood of post-WWII optimism).
If you’re wondering if your teens should be allowed to play Fallout 3 or New Vegas, I think I would be criticized by many for saying “it depends.” Fallout 3 does not have the sexual content that New Vegas does, that I’m aware of (Fallout New Vegas has at least two females that you can “sleep” with, and they aren’t spouses), though it does have some pretty crude language in parts. The reason why I may seem wishy-washy about this is that, while I homeschool my son now, he had been to a small Baptist private school for two years, and what he heard and learned while there was nothing at all different than what is in the Fallout games. What kids are exposed to these days is horrible, not just that they learn bad words or sexual things, but that so many kids are very selfish and promote actions that hurt others a great deal (and these often involve sex). Truly, we live in a fallen world.
But to be more specific, Fallout New Vegas is not a game for older teens unless they’re very mature and have experienced the crudities of real life already (or read books with similar content). One can play Fallout New Vegas for the adventure and play a good character. Since it is an RPG, one can make all the best choices and do a lot of good in this fallen and war-torn part of the world, and basically ignore people and quests that are unethical. That’s part of what a role playing game is, after all. Whether you choose to let your older teen play it may depend, too, on your weighing of the game choices available for older teens. Do you choose games that are simply all shooting constantly, like Black Ops II, or Borderlands II–which is inbetween an RPG and first person shooter, in my view–, or games that are non-violent . . . well, you might be wishing for too much there . . . though there is Minecraft (which both my husband and son like to play) and sports games (which they don’t). And, of course, it would depend on your teen’s attitude – does s/he simply want to play a challenging game that is basically realistic, or are they out to experience a sinful fantasy? If the latter, then no matter the person’s age, there’s a problem there if one calls themselves a Christian.
Basically, these games are like living in a fantasy book, where you make the moral choices while battling for your life. And while dealing with gore. If the gore takes too much effort to deal with, don’t play the Fallout series. Skyrim has very little gore compared to these.
Some other comments. If you buy the Ultimate Edition of Fallout New Vegas, it comes with all the additional content. “Old World Blues” is good to play as early as possible since it has your own home in it with all the work stations, and talking appliances. It has quirky juvenile humor. “Dead Money” is very unpleasant and there isn’t much reason to play it, except for additional game play time (it is very gory and my husband even thought it was just stupid and low of Bethesda).
“Honest Hearts” is pretty, well, the scenery is quite a bit prettier than the main game’s map; it is in Mormon territory and this added content astonishingly quotes the Bible. This is pretty cool, actually, but the buzz I got from that dissipated upon hearing the outcome of the quest’s story. Main quests in the games have a visual story that plays when you complete them, showing different outcomes based on the decisions you made in the game. Because I helped the tribes defend themselves against the violent, slave-taking invaders, Bethesda chose to say that the tribes became militarized instead of just going back to their way of life. Wow, Bethesda, no on can defend themselves without becoming militarized . . . (pretty bizarre attitude for a violent video developer).
Another religious aspect of the game, though subtle and apparently confusing, is the inclusion of the Followers of the Apocalypse. This group has a very nice cross as its symbol and this is not hidden. They reside outside of the Vegas Strip in an old Mormon fort, while giving medical and educational aid to the area residents. If you visit the wiki site and read up on The Followers, you will read that they are a “secular humanist” organization. I’d like to know what secular humanist organization will use a cross as their symbol? Part of their reasoning comes from something the founder of the group said in an earlier game, about not worshiping so much as helping people. So, at least to a degree, one can’t blame atheists or anyone else for being confused about them.
What I don’t like about this aspect of the game is that while these people appear to be Christians, with their traditional cross flag and their type of aid that is traditionally Christian, they are in a Mormon fort. An uninformed player could easily get the impression that “Christian” and “Mormon” are the same, though they are not at all the same. Of course, Mormons have been pushing the Christian claim hard for some time now, but any real look into their main doctrines will show that many are diametrically opposed to basic Christian belief.
If you want an overall rating of the game, I’d say it’s OK. There are problems with it, like the multiple quest-arrow system that you can’t adjust or turn off, it not having a compelling enough main quest storyline, and – this is a biggy – when the main quest is completed the game is over. That is, you can’t play anymore unless you go back to a previous save. It’s very odd. Originally, I had finished the main quest before doing all the added content. I was shocked to find that the whole thing ended, so went back (the game does give you this choice before it shuts down). Frankly, I have no desire to play the game again, though the thought came to mind because of the additional “Old World Blues” content. It’s upsetting that it wasn’t a part of the original game; it doesn’t do anyone any good to get a fantastic and helpful home when the game is just about over . . .