NOTE: Sorry this is so long. I got a bit carried away while writing!
I'm a huge Fallout fan and I have been since about 2003 or so when my uncle let me play the original Fallout (My parents were ready to kill him when they saw what I was given!). As a result, it has earned a place in my heart as one of the best RPG series of all time. The series had everything I could want: an interesting setting, engaging gameplay, interesting stories, and memorable characters. Fallout: New Vegas, in particular, shows many of the best qualities in the series.
At the same time, I am/was a huge Mass Effect fan. Prior to the ending controversy, I felt that it was the best thing to happen to the video game industry in a long time. Like Fallout, it had engaging stories, memorable characters, and a setting that I consider to be one of the best in a video game.
Now obviously my opinion on the Mass Effect series has dimmed somewhat due to the ending crisis. But it has also opened my eyes to other flaws in the games. Many of these flaws can be fixed, and I think that Fallout: New Vegas actually shows a way that Bioware could do this properly. Please let me explain:
Lets start with the obvious flaw: the endings. I think the ending controversy needs no introduction (Why would you be here if you were not aware of it?). Obviously people were unhappy with the endings they were given, and rightfully so. With Bioware looking to improve upon the endings, I feel that a good place to look for inspiration would be Fallout: New Vegas.
Lets examine the ending to that game shall we. *SPOILERS* The ending to Fallout: New Vegas takes place on Hoover Dam. Prior to this point, you have been travelling around the wasteland and working to get your faction ready for the conquest of New Vegas and the surronding wastes. The fate of the region will depend on who wins the upcoming battle. Will it be the overextended and corrupt NCR? Perhaps the cruel and backwords Caesar's Legion? Maybe the mysterious Mr. House? Or perhaps someone else altogether? No matter your choice, the ending battle is impacted by the choices you have made throughout the game. The obvious one is which faction you are fighting for. But there are other choices that have a direct impact as well. For example, a group known as the Boomers will send a bomber to assist you in the battle if you do a series of quests for them. That's just one of many choices that can have an impact on your battle.
This is what many players expected for Priority: Earth. Those of us who saved the Rachni Queen twice, for example, expected to see Rachni Soldiers fighting alongside us on Earth. We cured the Genophage, so we wanted to see hordes of Krogan destroying a group of Banshees. My point is simple: We did the work to get these people to help us, and we expected to see our hard work pay off. Maybe it could have a direct impact, like in Fallout, or perhaps just a cutscene showing our allies fighting. I don't think it matters. We expected for our choices to have a visible impact on the ending.
But what of the epilogues? Fallout: New Vegas had a series of slides which showed what happened to the various factions and people we met throughout our journey (Both in the main game and the DLC as well!). It wasn't anything complex, but it gave me the closure I wanted. I knew what happened to the Brotherhood of Steel after the game was over. It may not have been a cutscene, but it worked.
So why wasn't there anything like this in Mass Effect 3? We've spent three games with some of these characters, so I think it is reasonable for us to want to know what happened to the people we've grown to love after the war is over. Now, in the case of characters such as Garrus and Tali, I admit that a simple slide will probably not be enough for most people. It worked for Fallout because I never really grew attached to any of the characters, but it would not work in Mass Effect because I genuinely loved many of these characters. But the point remains, there should have been some sort of epilogue that shows what happens to both the major characters, and the galaxy as a whole after the war. Otherwise you will get more extreme theories such as the famous one where the Turian and Quarian fleets starve to death in the Solar System. Is that what you wanted for us to believe Bioware?
But outside of the ending, there are a few other points that Bioware could learn from Fallout.
Lets take the quest system as an example. For the most part, I had no problem with the quests in Mass Effect 3. But I did notice that there were a large number of quests that basically boil down to: "Go to this place, scan this planet, return." A few quests like this are ok. But there are quite bluntly, too many for my tastes.
Now, I admit that one of the reasons for Fallout not having these sorts of quests is that the gameplay does not support that sort of thing. But even still, look at how they did one fetch quest you have to do for the Brotherhood of Steel: You have to travel around the wasteland, getting a series of holotapes from dead Brotherhood scouts. Sounds like a fetch and grab quest right? Well, you are right, but unlike in Mass Effect 3, you have to work to get these tapes. One of the three tapes is in a building that will be filled with hostile robots if you cannot figure out a way to trick the system. Another can only be obtained after surviving a deadly artillery barrage. The third is in a giant pit filled with mutated "things."
You see? It is a fetch and grab quest, but I had to WORK to do it. At no point do I approach a quest location only to have a popup message saying "After a long fight with killer robots, you manage to get the holotape for the elder." Sure there is the reaper threat that you will occasionally have to deal with, but there are many ways to avoid it.
Now before I get carried away, let me bring up one final issue: The infamous Autodiologue.
Yes, in Mass Effect 3, we lost much of our ability to control how our Shepard reacts to a situation. Hell, there were even certain points where we were essentially forced to choose between accepting what someone says politely, or accepting what someone says in a somewhat less polite way. Before I continue, yes, I realize that Mass Effect has to work differently in terms of diologue from Fallout. But hopefully you will agree that things could be improved in a way that is similar to how Fallout presents it.
In Fallout, virtually every single quest gives me the option to politely accept, rudely accept, politely decline, or rudely decline. If I ran into a person that I didn't like, I could tell them to shove off. Lets look at a famous Mass Effect 3 example where I think most of us wish we had this freedom: The Kid. No matter how my Shepard acted before ME3, he is still traumatized by this kids death. Prior to ME3, my Shepard wouldn't have given a damn about one kid. Now all of a sudden he is FORCED to have dreams about him. Guess what? In Fallout, I could watch a person that the game attempts to make you like die, and then give the killer a pat on the back. At the end of the day the story was not impacted.
What I am trying to say is that I feel that a game about choice should give me choices in areas that won't impact the story in any way. I'm not saying that Shepard should have the choice to refuse to fight the reapers (unless perhaps that gives you an instant game over), nor should Shepard be allowed to walk onto the citadel and start shooting everyone he sees. But he should be allowed to feel no sympathy for a random kid that he has never met.
So that is my long rant/blog. I hope you can see why I feel that the developers should start looking at this game in particular for ways to improve the overall quality of Mass Effect 3. You've taken enough from Deus Ex, so start looking at other games to be influenced by Bioware.
Again, sorry for this very long post. I just wanted to give my opinion on the matter.
Fallout: New Vegas: How Bioware can learn from it.
Blog entry posted by Warrior256, Jun 7, 2012.