Falling Out with the Ever-Ending Story

A good story in a game can contribute greatly towards the immersion factor; the importance of a game’s story was explored some time ago on Ready Up. But what happens when the story comes to an end? Does that mean you’re no longer really involved or interested in it? Well, in my case, yes.

I recently picked up Fallout 3 (yes, late again…). It’s not the first time I picked it up; that was some time late last year after the Game of The Year Edition came out and gave me the license to laugh at those who had paid more for all of the downloadable content. I started off on the wrong foot with the game, dying like a sucker in the wasteland but a long time later I picked it up again after finishing Mass Effect 2.

Where the HELL have you BEEN?!?!

The problem came though when the main storyline was finished. The game immediately lost its post-apocalyptic shine and has been relegated to the ‘pick up later’ pile. Even though there are four other downloadable content packs to play through – not even just single missions since each ‘pack’ has multiple quests and can add up to five hours of gameplay if you drag them out – I’ve just lost interest. I got halfway through Broken Steel, which picks up immediately after the main storyline. It’s full of new missions and the ongoing fight against the bad guy and the battle to purify the wasteland. Exciting, yes? Not really. Just tedious. Probably because it feels tacked on, and it doesn’t feel like a ‘lone wanderer’ thing, suddenly joining a small army. But that’s another thing altogether.

Games like Fallout 3 give you the freedom to go and do what you like inbetween story missions, which is great because you don’t feel pressured into too linear a path. It gives an element of freedom, even though you know that you will eventually follow the storyline. But the point is you don’t have to, not yet… not if you don’t want to. It’s like knowing that you should probably tidy your room, but it’s cool, you’ll get round to it eventually… Maybe…

Taking the dog for a very long walk.

When a game’s story is finished, there are the people who will say that there’s still lots to do. Side quests to finish, heart containers to collect and so on. But there’s nothing to bind you to that game beyond a completionist motive. If you don’t have that, if you genuinely can’t be bothered to 100% things, then that’s it. Move on to another game, or start this one again. The story is over, there’s almost no point.

For me, continuing the side missions after the main story has ended is like watching a movie that’s gone on a bit too long. After the hero has done something, it’s watching them get stuck in traffic on the drive home, showering and then eating cereal while watching late night television because they can’t sleep. It’s watching them eventually going to bed, only to get straight up again once their alarm goes off because they have to go back into work to do the paperwork for the arrest of all the criminals they helped catch the night before. It’s watching them decide what to get for lunch and then settling for the usual sandwich and cup of coffee, choosing to eat at their desk while sneakily going on Facebook to see that their status update “Saved the city :-)” has no comments after a good six hours.

If a story is the key part of the involvement in a game, then when that story is over it follows that your relationship with the game will change. Side quests are fine when they are done as they are supposed to be done – on the side. It’s like side dishes – you eat them on the side, not after your main course, and once you’ve finished the main course that’s pretty much it barring the optional dessert. In Fallout 3’s case, I’m too full to have anything extra. I should feel sad – after all there’s a lot that I’m missing out on, but it’s difficult to be properly engaged once you know that the plot is over and there’s not really anything to be added to it. Maybe one day I’ll go back and finish things off… but more likely I won’t.

Roll on New Vegas!







One response to “Falling Out with the Ever-Ending Story”

  1. Paul avatar

    I agree with Susan’s points, that once you have completed the plot of the central game it then takes a lot to get interested in playing the game again.

    I found with Fallout 3 that I never completed the game during the first play of the game and then got rid of it (as I found the controls frustrating at times).
    I have subsequently bought another copy and played the game again from the start and this time got immersed in the game. I accidentally completed the game while trying to complete the missions as I didn’t think that the mission was the final part of the game.
    But, that said I have continued to play the game and am still enjoying the gameplay.

    I think that sometimes the gameplay can help to “win over” the people that are all about the plot of a game.
    Only the most hardened gamers will normally continue to play a game after they have completed it, which is sad I think. As developers spend hundreds or thousands of hours making a game for us to complete it and trade it in.
    Thinking back to when I was younger (a fair few years ago now sadly 🙂 ), I used to play and replay games dozens of times. Which doesn’t happen nowadays. In part I hold the gaming companies accountable, as most games now are all about the graphics and not the gameplay.

    Sometimes the simplest of concepts for a game will keep you engrosed for hours (good example Angry Birds on the iPhone..). Maybe it’s time for gaming companies to go “back to basics” with some titles and not focus on making a polished (looks wise) game.

    Bring back games that have replay value! 🙂

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