Role Play Hero

For every genre that exists in gaming, there’s one that’s always held a special place in my giant fluffy heart. Yes, I’ve flirted with other genres and I’ve even enjoyed the company of modern hybrids. But for me, it’s always been about the RPG.

No other type of game has ever come close to eliciting the responses that I’ve felt in the RPG and I can only live in hope that, someday, the rest of the gaming genres might just catch up to it. I’ve laughed, I’ve been made angry, I’ve beamed a smile so wide you could park cars on it and yes, I may have shed one or two small (tiny, really really tiny, yet manly) tears.

For large portions of the last console generation and the early stages of our current one, I found myself worried that the RPG would never break out from its PC corner or ever live to see the “J” added to JRPG. Never would I have thought that I’d ever enjoy the comfort of my own sofa and the simplicity of the Gamepad whilst playing through an epic adventure such as we can today. Thankfully, developers have been able to smash clean through those anti-PC barriers and, despite the criticism that console RPG’s receive from the PC Purists, we’re all now enjoying the highest quality of games that we could ever have hoped for. It’s not been a smooth road, there have been experiments with casualties (I have to go to the gym and eat whilst playing San Andreas? This is GTA not the damned Sims!) and with triumphs (Borderlands <3) but we’re here now. And It’s good.

I worry about the people who like Fallout 3, but these guys? Yeah, they're out there on their own...

Let’s take the current RPG rock star, Bethesda’s regeneration of the post-apocalyptic dystopian Fallout series. Here’s a title that has really pulled in a lot of love for role play games. It’s huge, dripping with content, rich in lore and looking pretty whilst doing it – the Bacon sandwich of RPG’s. Fallout really has helped wipe away the prejudice for the genre and has helped to introduce a whole new audience to the RPG on the consoles. I can gladly heap praise onto Fallout 3 (and Bacon sandwiches) until I run out of dynamic adjectives only I won’t, because as many of you have come to know of me: I think Fallout 3 is pretty shit.

Perhaps shit is a bit too harsh, but I certainly didn’t enjoy the game. For me, the Role Play Game is supposed to be about 3 things:

Role: The story of the game, who you are and what it is that you’re supposed to do.

Play: How you can play, who you are and how well the world allows you to do what it is you need to do.

Game: Is the game good enough to chest-paddle your imagination into doing any of it and is it technically able to let you do any of this.

If an RPG wants my vote, it has to have those three basic things and, for me, Fallout flat-out fails on two of those. I must give Bethesda credit where it is, of course, due – they pretty much nailed ‘Game’. For everything that I may not have enjoyed in Fallout 3, I can’t fault the technical aspects of their masterpiece. It runs smooth, there’s nothing tucked away in the mechanics that can break the game and at no point are you going to ever question having paid the RRP. This is one solidly made title and Fallout deserves every one of its hundreds of awards (I tried counting them, there are just too many) based solely on its technical proficiency.

The Pip-Boy 3000 is going down as an all time favourite of mine in my big book of two thumbs up UI's

The atmosphere that the game creates is pitch perfect. Three Dog’s radio broadcasts, the basic styling of the user interface and the absolute feeling of isolation you get whilst out wandering in the Capital Wasteland (particularly at night) all help to wrap you up and pull you inside the games miserable world. Even though I don’t like that miserable world, again I can’t fault Bethesda in it’s creation. It’s exactly what you would expect of a game for it’s setting; the only problem is, it’s exactly what I don’t want in a game with it’s setting. Playing Fallout 3, I can’t help but get the feeling that Brian Cohen died whistling on the cross for nothing in this world.

To examine the other two cruxes of my guide for an enjoyable RPG perhaps highlights how it is that I reached my defecated synonym. Both ‘Role’ and ‘Play’ are, for me, the most important parts in the genre. Perhaps that goes without saying otherwise there would be no need for the acronymic title but I fear that these two things are something that we, the gamers (and consequently, the developers) are beginning to lose sight of. I have played some truly masterful games, where the game itself has been a flawed, bug-riddled piece of crap, but that role you play in the games world and story, blinds you so majestically with its brilliance it allows you to see straight through its lazily decorated icing sugar topping and enjoy its delicious jam and buttercream spongy middle bits. Lately it feels more like the developers are only giving us the Victoria sponge and then leaving us to find the rest of the cakey goodness in their ‘bigger than the last games’ sandbox world.

Not going to far back into the annals of gaming history and Bioware (RPG heroes that they are) have long been showing us how you can overlook the finely polished technical bits of a game (that they’ve since gone on to master in their most recent releases) having spent so long working to produce a 91 on Metacritic by going at it from the other side of things. The release of Neverwinter Nights, and all of the awards it went on to win, perhaps shows best the point I’m trying to make here. Its epic five chapter story sees you graduate from Hero school, make some friends, crack some skulls, suffer a betrayal, take revenge, save the world and hit ‘Create New Character’ to do it all over again. It’s a very contained, just above linear, story that conjures the illusion of a vast gaming world yet still allows you to create your own character and to craft your own tale. Neverwinter certainly succeeded in giving you the feeling of a role and the game allows you to play that out wonderfully, giving you oodles of conversation options to respond with and leaving much of the decision making to you. Only when you examine the recipe for all this goodness do you start to question how it is that Bioware managed to pull it off.

Ok, Your target number is Eighty-Thousand and Eighty Five. Start the Clock

Being so central to the Dungeons & Dragons universe, the game is governed by its own set of laws – the sort that are only known to that group of odd looking people who sit in the dark corner of pubs and barely touch their pints.  What you’re essentially getting with Neverwinter Nights is an automatic, visual, pen and paper adventure. The right half of the game’s chat window is dedicated entirely to displaying the roles and mathematical calculations for attack, spot and difficulty checks which, in the case of Joe Gamer, 2d6 is what happens when you mash a phone on text message with your thumb. Trying to decipher which weapon would be better to stab things with requires a calculator, some paper, a pen and the 3.5 Rulebook (or you can just do what I did and just wing it). Even then, you’re probably going to want to run it all by Carol Vorderman just to make sure you have your electrical damage in the right place. Obviously, the game isn’t quite up to the same visual standards of Fallout 3 and certainly lacks its Hollywood shine. When first released back in 2002, Neverwinter really was a sight to behold with its 3D engine, dynamic lighting and 5.1 Dolby Surround sound, but all of this came at quite a price. Firstly, you needed to have a PC and that PC needed to have a TNT2-class 16MB video card to render the prettiness, a Pentium II 450 MHz to calculate the calculations and 1.2 GB of Hard Disk space to install it all on to. Provided you had all of that, you weren’t at any stage then guaranteed a smooth ride with the frame rate dropping into the single digits in the busier parts of the game as well as the surprising, and entirely unwelcome, random crashes to desktop. If you  had the more pricey Recommended Specification, you could look forward to a more stable experience but even if you didn’t and you were running it by the Minimum Specification, those technical hurdles and the massively unfriendly learning curve still had you wanting to keep playing and to push yourself on into the next chapter, explore one more cave or maybe just to stand around in the hope that Deekin would burst into Bardic song one more time.

A timeless PC RPG and the natural successor to the Baldurs Gate series

With Fallout, I never really had that same drive to keep chipping away at it. The game starts, clearly with the intention of making you feel like you really are a vault dweller. You’re supposed to feel trapped, you’re supposed to feel curious about a life outside of the Vault and you’re supposed to like your Dad. He doesn’t really come across as much of a parent though, he’s always far too busy with work. Sure, maybe he is trying to cure the planet and all that  noble selfless pursuit crap but still, how about a kick around Dad? (The whole pop-gun thing was totally irresponsible and blatantly Uncle Jonas’ idea – who’s probably your Dad anyway). I don’t know, maybe it was just too expensive to have Liam Neeson say a little more than ‘Hai’ and ‘Bai’ but when you eventually break free from Vault 101, surely it was Bethesda’s intention to have you wanting to actually, y’know, find Dad? Sorry Bethesda, but Dad’s actually a bit of a prick. I’m off down the radioactive duck pond to feed the radioactive ducks.

So when you finally do break free of the Vault, in that iconic part of Fallout where the Wanderer’s eyes come in to focus on the immense landscape ahead of you, having being blinded by first light, everyone I’ve ever spoken too seems to share the same response:

Ok, which one of you ruined Star Wars?

‘Wow! This is huge! Where am I supposed to start!’

Whereas my reaction was something more along the lines of:

‘Ack! Sunlight, Hisssssss. Huh, pretty big…. Hmmm, so where am I supposed to start? I wasn’t really paying attention…’

Open Worlds are great but, as I hinted earlier, I feel that they need to be treated with more respect by developers and us gamers alike. Sure, it’s nice to have the freedom of the Capital Wasteland and it’s always refreshing to not have someone shepherding you along from mission to mission but, seeing as my role in this world is pre-determined with no room for ending,the game any differently than Bethesda have designed, you would think that the developers should have tried to program in a few big flashing neon signs reading: ‘Game: This Way!’.

Bethesda’s previous open world RPG was arguably guilty of the same. In Oblivion, you eventually break out from your prison cell and the subsequent sewer system under the Imperial City with the only thing on your to do list being to go and see Boromir under the orders of the, now dead, Captain Picard. Maybe this is just me or perhaps it’s something to do with my dislike of a certain other franchise in which Neeson was involved with (It’s been 18 months, Daisy. And it still hurts) but when Patrick Stewart dies in my arms and makes his dying wish to me, I felt more inclined to see it through than to go chasing after Qui Gon and his responsibility ignoring role of saving the world that gets dropped on you in Fallout. So when I found myself this time hissing at the Cyrodiil sunlight, I still didn’t really have any signposts directing me to Sean Bean’s house and it was again, somewhat overwhelming in scale to have this land stretching out ahead of me, knowing that I can go anywhere that I can see. But I found myself so in awe of the world, I was too afraid to stick my nose anywhere off the road in case I got lost, too immersed in other things, and let Jean-Luc down. I felt a sense of purpose and I’d be damned if I was going to fail in my task. With Fallout, there was no compelling curiosity to explore the Wasteland (it was a wasteland, what could I possibly have looked forward to finding) and I sure as hell wasn’t captivated by what little story had been told to me so far.

I'm going to need a Montage to get up that Mountain am I not?

Arguably, the character creation and prelude to both games are identical. Fallout certainly focused more on dialogue and setting whilst Oblivion just went for the traditional combat and tutorial introduction, so neither game was really doing anything different as the character was still yours to create and experiment with. The role you play out in both games is also laid out to you at these stages and, whilst you don’t yet realise the implications of your actions-to-be in either one, you’re at least still given an inkling of what it is that’s going on. The difference is that in Fallout, you’re expected to do these things, step out from your fathers shadow and eventually become the Hero. With Oblivion, you have no direct ties with the King, the King in waiting, the rest of the Royal family, the palace staff, the demon lord, none of it. No matter what you do, you’re only going to walk away from this with the loot in your pockets with the trail of corpses behind you with no pressure, praise or blame. None of it. You are, for all intents and purposes, just this guy (y’know) and the adventurer you create is yours alone with you beholden to no-one except for yourself. The role is yours to make and with the freedom of the land and the freedom of choice, I’m ironically free to choose to get on with the King’s last request.

As much as we may like the individuality in an RPG, sometimes the generic can shine through

But it’s not that RPGs require that level of freedom in order to be successful. Fast forward the Bioware clock I introduced you to earlier and we finally get our paws on Mass Effect 2. Like with Neverwinter Nights and the bridging release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, here is a linear game thats made even more linear than most RPGs by restricting you to having to play as Shepard. Yes the character creation allows for some stamps of individuality and even goes a step further than most games by adding the ability to play as both genders, with each gifting a new dimension to the experience by having certain characters react differently based upon that single element, but all of this is really just a distraction. The voice actor for Shepard remains constant regardless of if you created a puny looking ginger to save the galaxy as or a full on Mr. T. baddass to smoke through the game with. Your conversation responses are limited to ‘Nice Guy’ and ‘Complete Ass-hat’ with the game sometimes providing the same response during the dialogue no matter which you chose and leaving it for the gamer to apply their own interpretation. Bioware never give you any more control than they want you to have. At no stage will you ever start pondering how you can better solve a problem because you know from the outset that problems are going to be solved simply by talking it through, getting fed up and then shooting them anyway. This is not the story of your Shepard (at least not untill we’ve had Mass Effect 3 and can compare notes), this is simply Shepard’s story. If Fallout and the open world moulding of RPGs allows you to write your own tale surely, with all the extra doors you can go through and hundreds more characters you can interact with, this style of RPG must generate a better game?

Well, no. Commander Shepard may not be an extension of your psyche in the same way that Oblivion’s Traveller or Fallout’s Wanderer may have been, but this is a character you can simply enjoy spending some time with. He’s a damned Hero! He’s Riggs to Fallout’s Murdoch, the renegade and no-nonsense freedom fighter that does what needs to be done rather than what there is to do. Isn’t that what we all want from our games? Do you honestly enjoy sifting around in the mud for some delusional old bat’s Nuka Cola Quantums? She doesn’t appreciate it and even if she does, she sure as hell won’t be telling anyone else. If I’m saving the world, I want my pat on the head, I want high-fives in the street and I want a few bars, hotels and brothels named after me. If I can’t have that, then I want absolute terror at the sound of my coming, I want people to run from me in the streets and I want the bravest of the brave to stand up to me and call me a dick (just so I can shoot them in the face to set an example).


With Fallout, the only people you encounter that ever give you anything close to that experience live in Megaton and they’re all just a bunch of plebs – it would be impressive to these clowns if I could tie their shoe laces. I’m out saving the damned world, wiping out the mutant population for crying out loud, I think that deserves a little more credit than the odd stranger walking up to me and giving me some loose change like a homeless guy in the subway. And that’s providing, of course, that I didn’t blow up Megaton in the first place, which I usually do. It’s a level of barbarism that should have weighed a little more heavily on my conscience perhaps but when deciding for the first time what to do when presented with the opportunity to go nuclear – the only quandary I faced was trying to come to terms with the prospect of missing out on a few quests and losing a safe house to store some crap in. Once I had detonated the nuke (well of course I did), I would have at least hoped for a little bit more of a reaction from people, a little bit of ‘I’m very disappointed in you, Son’ from Dad or perhaps a little bit of ‘WTF’ from Three Dog. Instead, all I got was ignorance and indifference with people still lining up to ask me to go and free the kids from the Slaver’s camp (who stupidly assumed that I wasn’t of course going to make a better deal with the Slavers or just kill all the kids for fun anyway) or to escort faceless man A to point B (who, understandably, took three steps out of his front door, caught a baseball bat in the back of the head and then was promptly robbed of all his earthly possessions including everything in his house we just left).

Yes, that all sounds cool and I have to admire the game’s ability to respect the decisions I make but this is when the game stops being an RPG and just becomes a Sandbox. If Fallout wanted to go down the latter route, then the game should react better to my decisions, instead it struggles to justify what it is I’m doing  while trying to push me in the direction of the plot that I just don’t give a crap about.  Surely it’s supposed to be a fun experience that the game delivers rather than me creating one for myself? Sure, it gave me the tools to have some fun with but I really don’t think that at any point could I say that the game was providing it for me – it tended to just be more of me being a cock that gave me any satisfaction. Some recognition of my actions may have gone a little further to help generate some of those feelings I missed out on or surely the notoriety gained from playing as a villain may have urged me to walk a different path. But it’s just not there, I play nobody in a land of nothing which amounts to not a whole lot of anything at all.

In Oblivion, you still may not have the recognition that I’m discussing but what little acknowledgement you do get is at least presented better. With Fallout, it’s Three Dog and the radio broadcasts that tell you what it is you are doing hasn’t gone without notice. The only problem with this method is that it always feels like you’re the only one listening to it. Perhaps a phone in would have been a little bit of an unreasonable way for Bethesda to show that the Wasteland was listening but if the population were perhaps to discuss what it was they heard on the Radio every now and again, then perhaps I’d feel a little more involved in the world. Maybe Bethesda learned their lesson in Oblivion as the way they kept you involved in the world relied too heavily on randomly generated, un-scripted passing conversation -something that is incredibly painful to listen to. Anyone that has played the game can recall their own experiences but allow me to give you a taste for those that may have missed out on this one:

Man A: Hello

Yeah, yeah, yeah, just hurry up and give me the quest already

Man B: Morning!

Man A: What do you want Breton trash?

Man B: What’s going on with you?

Man A: Sounds like the Empire has given up on stopping the Skooma trade in Elswick and I hear the Tribal chiefs are supporting the Vvadrie Crim.

Man B: The Skooma Trade is bad business and the Vvadrie Crim are just a bunch of thugs.

Man A: Enough Talk!

Not many other games have tried this form of random generated conversation, especially with voice acting and with the problems that Oblivion shown in this method, it’s not had to see why they’re one of the only ones to try it. Sometimes it works brilliantly and you’re really made to feel part of the world with characters referencing how you closed a nearby Oblivion gate or triumphs in the Arena. Admittedly most of the time, it’s just innate drivel that you can sometimes pick out a point of interest from or a quest that perhaps needs doing in the local area but for the most part, it’s like listening to the conversations between footballers and their hairdressers.

Ummm...Yeah. Can I get back to you on that one?

So what remedy is there for the RPG to help with this? How can you ever truly be made to enjoy a world that barely acknowledges that you’re even there. Perhaps the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Games are the worst for it, with every man and their dog lining up behind everyone else (and their dog) to hand in a quest just to receive their virtual pat on the head. But, on the other hand, they’ve always managed to create their own brand of Hero and give you a role outside of the game’s structure. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since the game was released and, whilst I’ve finally got it at arm’s length and allowed my other gaming habits back into my life, I’ve been witness to some truly role breaking moments. Back when the competitive Player vs. Player side of the game was restricted to the players on each server (where your character was based) I could happily list off dozens of names of players who had always stood out as individuals from the crowd who always brought something different to the game. There were great leaders, brave and headstrong that would stop at nothing to try for the win and would always put themselves on the front lines to get it. There would be the Joker that, no matter how bad it was, was always on hand to lighten the mood by changing into a wedding dress and wailing on the opposing team with a boquet of flowers and a fish and, of course, there would always be the list of players on the opposing team that you’d never have spoken to, could never speak to, and would only do so to insult them if you could. These were my favourite in an MMO as they could always get my back up and have me absolutely focused on my game if it meant I could get one over on them, yet other than the whole trying to kill me thing, they’d never really done anything wrong to warrant such a reaction.

I was never any of those people and I’m limiting my example here to the games PvP content from years ago – there are countless other examples from WoW I could give. But what I’m trying to show is that in a world where your role was restricted to a specific class, with a set function and your story was absolutely identical to the thousands of others around you, it was still entirely possible to have created a defining role and by consequence, your own story. The first Level 60 on the server, the first to attain Grand Marshal, the first to lead their Guild to victory in the hardest game content available and that guy with that Legendary Sword. It was never me and I never challenged myself to get that far, but it was always an amazing experience to share in others glory within an RPG.

Capture the Flag? Theres a Flag!?

Those Heroes had tales of their own and tales that they had worked hard to create their own legacy with, in this land that wasn’t exactly designed to encourage it. Everything that was made on my server didn’t always happen on any other and the whole experience was always limited within its own community. For an MMO, that really is something unique to its genre but with the standard RPG, when you’re No. 1 of 1, surely that feeling of being the supreme one should be something you should expect to be able to enjoy as well? If I’m the only one saving the world, well why is it that I don’t enjoy the benefits? Why for me must it all get harder and culminate in an epic struggle only for it all to end and leave me to return to the start where no one remembers my name?  RPG’s are selfless games for the selfish gamer. I’m all for saving the world, so long as someone says thank you for doing it. Maybe that’s why I just didn’t click with Fallout. This was never anything to do with the game stepping away from the hack and slash nature of RPG’s and switching to guns and lasers. Mass Effect 2 went for the bullets and rockets and it works fantastic. I found the combat in Fallout to be pretty slow (especially with VATS) but it was faultlessly solid, I just got fed up of waiting for things to die. Borderlands, the RPGFPS (with pseudo elements of the MMO and phat lewt 2 bewt) had me dying to get home every day to carry on with the game. It relied on the same basic mechanics of Fallout with different weapons doing different damage and each monster having strong points and weak spots to aim for, but never did I feel when I came up against a foe on Pandora that I was entering into an active battle that was going to last twenty rounds of combat. I was simply going to pull the trigger and things were going to die.

Fallout just never had me. It didn’t ever want give me a cuddle and tell me things were going to be OK. I’d pop it in, load it up and all I had was a list of things to do and no reason to do any of them. In Mass Effect I still had that list of things to do and it was as long as my arm but I wanted to do them because I was being made to feel pretty damned cool whilst I was ticking them off. Oblivion let me off the lead and gave me a whole park full of trees to go sniffing at, but I always came straight back to carry on with the story when I knew it was time to go, safe in the knowledge that they would still be there next time. My relationship with Fallout was full of far less joy. The door was opened for me and I was free to go off as I pleased, but whenever I did, I found that I had no reason to ever go back home to the main quest and neither did I have any reason to make my own home out in the sidequest filled sandbox world. I was simply standing in the middle of a shithole with nothing to do, no one to enjoy it with and no fucker to appreciate the little I was actually doing anyway. Yes I’m bitter, I expected better from Bethesda. They gave me something wonderful in Oblivion, was it really too much to ask for them to do it again?

All your RPG are belong to me!

New Vegas is on the horizon and I know it’s going to be huge with the the new legion of console RPGers. I also know in my heart that it’s not going to be any better than Fallout 3 and I’m still going to be left wandering around some crap heap, playing as some faceless nobody, searching around in the dirt looking for junk I couldn’t care less about. Fable III on the other hand is just begging for my attention, promising me that I’m going to rule all of Albion and have people fearing and worshipping me like they bloody well should be. Note to developers: I’m the gamer. You’re the Game. I play you! You don’t play me!

Think about all of this the next time you sit down to play an RPG. Whether you play simply as an extension of yourself or a departure from reality, I want you to ask yourself this question:

All about the XP or all about the Exp?

I just want to clarify in conclusion of this article that Fallout 3 is shit.

Last five articles by Adam



  1. Lee says:

    you must have been playing it wrong

  2. Ste says:

    I really enjoyed this read. I too am struggling abit with Fallout. I brought a second hand GOTY edition on the cheap somewhere but I just cant get into it. I only really brought it because everyone seems to bum off it so much, I thought I was missing out on something. I sort of wandered around Megaton for abit not really knowing what to do then got bored and decided to shoot the bar owner in his bar and then proceeded to get killed by everyone. I decided to reload my save (pre-shooting) and got a quest off somebody but I just couldnt be arsed. Its been months since I played it now, and I really will sit down with it one day and give it a go, but in the mean time there are other things I’d rather be playing.

    I’m just happy that there is someone else out there that doesnt think Fallout is all that great.

    Now, back to work!

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    Interesting piece and much to comment on. First off, you are a shallow, glory hunter Adam. There. Your GamingLives statue will have a Hitler ‘tache drawn on it. Probably by Lee.

    How people perceive the success of an RPG is always interesting. You seem to almost resent the ‘open world’ where you can choose how you approach everything, preferring a more developer defined role…whereas others hate the restrictions of a nailed down character and sequence of events.

    You talk about the need to have a role…in the open world games such as Oblivion or Fallout, it is up to you to define it…is that really so wrong? There are enough games which have the player as a puppet in a linear, driven piece which dictate your role and which offer no breathing room for expansion or exploration beyond what the game wants to offer. Now we have more choice and people say it is too much, that it dilutes the experience somehow…I pity the developers who must feel this see-saw effect.

    Open world games give you the world and let you make the choices, arguably giving you a bigger ‘role’ in your destiny and in shaping who you are. That is the thing…YOU decide who you are and ‘how’ you are, you aren’t told. Personally I like it. I don’t want my hand held. Yes, at the end of the day, ultimate control of your destiny may just be as much of an illusion as is present in other games which pretend to be open but are less so, but even with a set ending or cluster of endings it is the journey which matters and who you can be on the way.

    Oblivion was more set than Fallout…more of a defined quest. I agree, it was good to know where I was supposed to be, but if I wanted to bugger off and kick back in the Skooma dens of Leyawiin, chasing the dragon while Kvatch burned, I could. (Just say ‘no’, kids). Fallout 3, I will also agree…I thought ‘what the hell do I do now?’ I was lost until I discovered the shithole of Megaton, but in an odd way it suited that world.

    Large dialogue trees and character stats, to me, don’t necessarily make a great RPG…you aren’t really making decisions that really shape the world around you or that change much..after all, if the game is linear, then how can it…it is all illusion. Clever illusion to comfort the player who is just tinkering with a few numbers in a diddy playpen, but illusion nonetheless. Dialogue trees may affect how much a character likes or loathes you, perhaps rewarding you with a nifty alternate ending, but arguably nowhere close to the level of ‘role’ presented by other games, leading me to question which is really the rightful claimant to the RPG crown, if anything.

    Games which were closely descended from pen and paper RPGing will always lack a certain something because they don’t have that one crucial component…the DM. Without this human touch – the elements of both chaos and order, the game is restricted to whatever story is nailed in place and the rolls of an electronic die to enable the player to progress.

    A true pen and paper RPG allows for freedom, both in character and action to shape the world being created…it allows for the game to grow in an organic way that its computery replicants which you cite could never hope to emulate. As people throw in wild or wacky ideas or the DM gets annoyed at everyone rubbing the paint off the lead figurines and throws a fucking great Orc into the works to fuck up a celebratory party, the game grows. People start to shape who they are and how they respond. I would argue that Fallout 3 and Oblivion are far closer to the traditional pen and paper model in that respect in that they allow you to develop and grow.

    I guess I’m not needy enough to need a pat on the head for saving the world…if you bring it back to reality a moment, true heroes are rarely ever acknowledged…arguably, many probably are never even known. I’d find it rather sickening if there was a ticker tape parade to my awesomeness every time I save the day (they’d run out of tape). The statue to my name in Fable 2…shove it love, I’m saving my pooch or pocketing the cash. If the game is good enough, I shouldn’t need globs of adulation, just a smirk of pride as I head off into town to buy the entire red-light district. :D Okay, so you can’t do that, but what a mod that would be… Yes, it is nice to get some recognition, but the little comments in Oblivion were a more subtle, mature touch than some overblown, Star Wars-esque medal ceremony.

    The MMORPG examples that you cite, the role breaking moments that you crave, seem to come from other humans and not the actual game itself…these glory moments come from ‘people moments’, with the game’s efforts a distant second. From what you have said, these moments of pride and victory come only as measured against others…without them, there would be no basis for comparison, no being first or better.

    Is it perhaps that real people can give your glory hunting soul the credit that you crave when a game never realistically could? Perhaps then, multiplayer or MMORPGs are more for you….real people to measure success by and to give the fuzzy feeling of a job well done when you get envying messages of respect (or abuse). :)

    As for Borderlands, I think it has done a great PR job, but is no closer to being an RPG than my tattered Munch Bunch books are. Borderlands is a shooter flirting with RPG from behind a pretty masque. It may have an extensive inventory and skill trees but to call it an RPG is to both stretch the imagination and buy into the hybrid hype with which they intend to straddle the line between genres and prise open purses.

    Anyway, great inspiration for debate here with some worthy ideas and reasoning, even though I think you are mad :D

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I have to concur on that Borderlands statement… never have I played an RPG that was SO far removed from everything that defines an RPG. You don’t play a role in the sense of having a developing character with decisions to make and consequences to live with… that annoying cowardly woman tells you what to do, where to go, but never why… and takes all the credit with the proverbial “we” responses. She does piss all, she brings nothing to the game, there’s no reason to have her in it at all and, as much as I love playing Borderlands, there is no story. You’re told to seek out a vault, but not told why… and when you get there, it’s just Jabba’s fatter purple cousin and you get a shedload of cash but piss all else. It’s boring as hell as an RPG and completely soul destroying, but as a shooter… which is what it really is… it’s a lot of fun and I’m still playing it even though I’ve finished.

    Fallout 3 is, as I said in a previous article, a fantastic RPG for those of us who read between the lines and open our minds to all that is before us… we make our own histories, forge our own alliances and have consequence because the game is made more difficult if we side with one faction over another. Games like Oblivion and Fallout 3 really check all the boxes for me because it allows me to do what I love most… take my time, bask in my surroundings, seek out nuggets of greatness that aren’t apparent until you delve deeper… and, most of all, go wherever you want to go, whenever you want. I played Mass Effect until the stupid bint wouldn’t leave me alone and kept on telling me to hurry up as we had things to do… sorry missus, but I paid £40 for this game and I was told that it was an RPG in space which was likened to “Oblivion with lasers” so I expect to be able to explore the world on my own and take whatever path I feel. Get off my case woman. I’ve never played Mass Effect again… it’s far too linear, akin to that golden trail that dragged you around Albion like some seven year old mouth breather unable to make a decision for yourself. I loved playing Fable II, but it was just an action adventure… it wasn’t an RPG and, but for the fact you get to make decisions with consequences, has no kinship with the genre as there are no stats or levelling up – just special skills. I’ve never felt so condescended to by a game as I did when playing Fable II – it was beautiful, SO damn beautiful, it handled well (apart from the god awful menu system) but it seemed to assume you were a twat faced mong with the inability to think for yourself. Most annoying.

    BUT… each to their own and, while we all have our own likes and dislikes in gaming or any other of the arts, I can never bring myself to call anything shit. As a life long creative, I still have to give kudos to the people who toiled over their work to bring it to that final stage. I hated Mass Effect, but if anyone asked me if it was shit I’d not be able to do it. It was shit for me, but that’s based on me rather than the game. I have to go now, I hear Fred crying upstairs :D

  5. Lee says:

    @lorna you should of stuck some pictures in that and posted it up tomorrow :-P

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sonic Alpha, Lee Williams. Lee Williams said: Read @PartWelsh's already contraversial article over on @gaminglives [...]

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Dood that’s so funny :D :D

  8. Richie Richie says:

    Interesting (and properly good) piece. I too didn’t get on with Fallout 3 (although I’ll literally suck men for a new Elder Scrolls). I’ve never been a D&D kind of chap and I don’t want too many stats getting in the way of things either. Dungeon Siege is about my level, accesible and looty. Although, like all RPGs, eventually you have too much money and there’s nothing good in the shops anymore.

    Fable 2 was my last RPG and it was glorious because of its simplicity. I’m thinking it wasn’t really an RPG after all.

  9. Adam Adam says:

    I’ll confess to a lot of this being stick poking to encourage debate and have us all join in as we are and I thank you all for doing so.

    I’ll keep it going *ahem*


    Dear Ms,

    As the Rt. Hon. Lady has pointed out, my love with the Open World is a limited affair. It works very well in places and extremely bad in others. Burnout Paradise for example managed to do the unthinkable and create an open world racer that didn’t feel like a gimmick. It certainly removed things from the series such as Crash Junction, adding Stunt Mode and Showtimes as compensation which perhaps didn’t love up to the chaos of Crash Junction, but still kept the game fun. Fallout 3 creates a huge open world with lots to do and fascinating things to find, theres no denying it but my problem was with how the game treated it. If you were perhaps to leave the fault, learn about this guy thats trying to save the planet and be able to help him do so, eventually requiring you to take over his work, great. What actually happens is you find out quite early on what Dad’s up to and expected to carry it through.

    The role you play is then torn between this hero of the game and the hero of the land with the game needing you to be one whilst you may want to be the other. Lee often says that I favour Oblivion over Fallout because I played Oblivion first and had nothing left to be impressed with in Fallout. Really though, I just found that I was slave to two masters. Oblivion’s main quest is far more compelling to see through and so allows you to just burn through it without feeling too bad about missing out on all the fun but at the same time you always feel like a volunteer in the quest and as such, you don’t mind dropping out to experience other things. Just running around closing Oblivion Gates gives you enough satisfaction to know you’re helping out still, despite not being involved.

    Fallout, for me, was a great technical game but for the part of it that defines it as a gaming experience, it seemed all to clear to me that the main quest was something that was just thumb tacked on almost in the same appauling manner that the Mercenaries story was. Merc’s was a lovely game with fun to be had and a great world to enjoy, but scores on the doors for the game itself and the role you were supposed to fill out? It’s a low number Jim. If a game wants you to create your own story and enjoy what they have slaved over for years creating, I should be able to call the role mine rather than being a slave to the story, If it wants to give me a story, I think it’s only fair that I’m made to feel more welcome in it :D

    The ‘Puppet’ Game is a lesser experience in that sense. It’s not always enjoyable to have you kicked along the corridors and out the Fire Exit that is the games ending. But there are games that very successfuly give you that feeling that you are more involved in the plot then you actually are in games such as Mass Effect which I discussed, Fable which I hinted at, Neverwinter which I praised and Half-Life 2 which I decided might be a stretch to far for most people.

    There is absolutely no way to play Half-Life 2 other than how it was intended but playing as Freeman is so different to playing as any other hero of an FPS. As Master Chief, you’re always reminded that you’re someone else with him talking to Cortana and other characters and the games need to show off the wonderfully rendered Spartan armour as he does something cool. Other than the box art and a few pictures lying around in the darkest recesses of the game, you never are shown what Freeman looks like and because of that, you can enjoy playing as him and completely lose yourself in Valves carefully created and scripted world. My point of relevance here is that where Oblivion succeeded in allowing you to be your own character and enjoy the world as you see fit, Fallout chose not to replicate that and I think it damages an aspect of the game.

    As I said, Open Worlds are great but they’re not being treated with the same respect anymore. Gamers are using them as wonderful playgrounds to dig deeper into the backplot that used to only be found in the players manual whilst Developers are using them to distract from the point that they spent that long and that much money creating it, they forgot what it was that they were actually going to do with it and the result makes me sad :(

    I confess to omitting a few lines from the post, explaining how I understand why Fallout couldn’t give me a pat on the head for saving the world. A setting such as the Capital Wasteland was never going to be the right place for people giving worship when its such a dangerous land and the need to survive completely outweighs all of that. It’s a wonderfully authentic setting that really helps create the games atmosphere. My problem is that the atmosphere is depressing and unwanted. I love adventure, dare and risk and if I’m going to go around taking out Brumaks, then I want a damned victory cake! I loved how Oblvion addressed that with the passing conversation aspect, it always kept such an air of mystery around you that you really could eavesdrop in on it and walk away smirking like Clark Kent on his way to work. It was a brilliant idea that rarely worked, but when it did it was fantastic. It helped to create your role as the traveller, where as the wanderer wasn’t afforded the same luxury. It was never hinted that the people were grateful for what it was you were trying to do in this world by cleaning up the mean streets (can anyone see where I’m about to go with this one?), life was generally just accepted as being shit and as such people didn’t want for it to change. Fallout’s Wanderer is the Bruce Wayne and Batman to Oblivion’s Clark Kent and Superman in the Traveller. Fallout is the rich boys playground who can just tool around and make problems dissappear where as Oblivion was so much more to me by having you play a real Hero in a land that needed one.

    MMO’s don’t have that but still the players created one and all of a sudden, everyone that wasn’t the hero became a virtual NPC. That must be an amazing experience for the heroes of an MMO and I really do believe that its something that RPG developers should be trying to replicate in a land they have full control over.

    There should be a ticker tape parade! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! The game should be annoying the hell out of you everytime you save the land and just tempting you to turn to the dark side. It’s how I’ve been playing RPG’s since Morrowind when I made a few bad choices, ended up rolling with the wrong crowd and deciding that it was a lot more fun! Of course all of this would be immature and both Fallout and Oblivion deal with it more respectfully of it’s setting (There are so many more travellers and heroes of the land wandering around Cyrodiil so it’s hardly impressive to everyone else whose been used to it for hundreds of years // Fallout is just too accurately selfish a land to deal with it any differently than it does), but man am I looking forward to Fable 3 and being the Number #1 guy of the land and having people place demands on me. I look forward to being able to chop their heads off for assuming I care for anyone but myself :D

  10. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I really want to write a long, detailed rebuttal to this article. But I can’t… because Lorna beat me to it, and pretty much has said what I was thinking. And then Mark came in and expanded on why Borderlands isn’t an RPG, too, and it isn’t; I felt distinctly disappointed and let down by Borderlands because it is just a glorified shooter with delusions of grandeur, and only any fun at all when I play online with Mark or Pete. I’m not much into repetition though, so I feel a little bit cheated out of a chance to write me a long rambling reply, heh.

    The one thing I can say that I don’t think anyone else has mentioned yet is that I’m going to guess that you probably don’t have much of an imagination Adam. Now, that might sound somewhat insulting, but I don’t intend it that way, bear with me a moment. Games like Fallout and Oblivion where the character development isn’t linear, and depends on how you play the game and a lot of how you see your role in the world presented, rather than being told that you’re the hero or the villain or whatever, require you to have some of that sense of play that children have, where you see it in your head, and it’s a kind of wish fulfilment. I actually don’t much like those games where you do a mission or save a world or something, and then from that point on everyone no matter where you go knows of you as some all-conquering hero. I loved Mass Effect, for example, my love is well known here, but the one thing that niggled at me was that everyone knew who Shepard was, and why. Well… me and my team were the only survivors of that mission, which I completed not 5 minutes ago, and now some dude tending a shop on the next planet is telling me all about it as if he was there. HOW DOES HE FUCKING KNOW ABOUT IT? Shepard is meant to be a special ops agent, for fuck’s sake. There must be vast security leaks in the Spectres, more regularly than Labour ministers used to leave sensitive CDs on trains.

    Besides, Mass Effect isn’t as linear as you suggest. There are equally as many side-quests and other things to get on with in the game as there are in Fallout or Oblivion, if you choose to do them. There are dozens of whole planets to land on and tool around, chasing monkey-alien-things for artefacts. I’ve played Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 several times each, and you can either finish the game just following the story, in about 15 to 20 hours, or you can explore and find things to do outside of the story and wind up with a game that lasts 50 or 60 hours.

    In Fallout I liked that the world has gone to shit, and that you have to root around in the rubble to find the hidden treasures and stories. I like that most people are apathetic towards me in that world. Because it’s bloody realistic. I could easily see it happening. Who cares about you saving a world that’s in that state anyway. Does it make life easier for most people? Probably not. Even when you fix the purifier, not everyone has access to the purified water, because it immediately gets franchised and controlled distribution, which is also realistic. It makes the story more personal to you, if anything, because you know what you’ve done, and who cares who else knows about it.

    I tend to look upon all of life as a kind of observation. I spend all of my time slightly separated from people and the world, and I often feel as if I’m watching my own life, from a distance. My biggest passion is learning. I spend most of my time reading, or sitting back and watching others rather than taking part, offering comment, but keeping a lot of what I see to myself, and generally laughing or crying in despair at what I see. Because life is both the biggest joke of all and the biggest tragedy. When a game can capture that, as Fallout does, and allows you to observe it at your own pace, and from your own perspective, and leaves things unsaid, I think that’s much more valuable than a bunch of pixels giving you a metaphorical handjob for saving some world that never existed, in a way that isn’t down to any particular skill or talent of your own but is simply how you are lead to do it by the game designers and the constraints of the story progression. When I completed Fallout I felt like I’d achieved something unique, that was my own, and I did it my way. It wasn’t necessarily the right way, but it felt like the right thing at the time. In Mass Effect I was awed by the drama and the cinematic presentation, but it didn’t really feel like me doing it, it had always been Shepard. The same way I love Star Trek and feel very close to that world, but it was only ever Captain Kirk saving the universe whilst I went along for the ride.

    If you think about it, all games are role-playing games anyway. Racing games put you in the role of a racing driver. Flight sims make you the pilot. Football management games place you in the role of a football manager. It’s all just semantics in the end, and how you choose to look at it for yourself.

    I enjoyed reading this, it’s elevated my opinion of you considerably, and I wish we had this kind of thing on the site more often. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling a little like you’ve missed the point… but hey, if we all agreed, the world would be a dull place.

  11. Adam Adam says:

    It would indeed be a dull place and I’m excited to have finally moved out of the Fritzl basement where you had previously kept me in opinion land :D haha

    Again, something that I didn’t want to put out there was the psuedo linearity of Mass Effect with it having an abudance to do outside of the story nor did I really want to ephasise the point of Mass Effect 3 being where the game will truly show to be a vastly diverse RPG with people ending up with potentially very different games, when you consider how Mass Effect 1 decisions may have outstanding effects on Mass Effect 3.

    By the same token, my problems with Fallout stem from the psuedo RPG nature of the game with it having a fantastic sandbox to play around in which you can let your imagination loose and then a pretty poor story to hold the whole experience together which very much encoraches on everything else you do.

    I still played a lot of Fallout 3 and I only stopped playing it because I’d reached the end of the game and wasn’t ready to finish it and not be allowed to continue on in the same fashion Oblivion allows you too. By this point I’d really stopped caring for the sidequests that weren’t much fun and really brought all of this to my attention.

    I haven’t missed the point, I’ve just used it to stab the game to death with :D

  12. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I actually found the article offensive initially in that it said, unequivocally, that Fallout 3 was “shit”. Not that Adam found it shit for him specifically, or that it didn’t measure up to his gaming preferences, but that it was just “shit”, which implies that I was stupid and braindead to pour 200+ hours into a shit game that had no meaning, no story and nothing worthwhile about it. It was insulting to those of us who do actually have a measured intelligence and enjoyed the game because we saw it for what it was and looked beyond the need for a glossy facade. I’m actually surprised that you didn’t respond to my own comments and just Lorna’s and Preacher’s, especially when I pointed out that Borderlands had literally no story or purpose, yet you held it in such high esteem – if debate was what you were after, you’ve sidestepped it pretty well and just continued to drive home the same points. Coming back to it now after you’ve commented yourself, and reading that you were intentionally stick poking to generate debate, just seems quite antagonistic to me so I won’t make any further comments.

  13. Adam Adam says:

    “only I won’t, because as many of you have come to know of me: I think Fallout 3 is pretty shit.”

    It’s only in the articles closing do I not use ‘I’ when I say that of Fallout, I make it very clear otherwise that this is related to my own experience with the game and the emphasis of the entire acticle is supposed to be on the Role and what what you can Play out in the Game.

    I’m approaching Fallout from a very different perspective and arguing that the glossy facade is the something different to how everyone else approaches the game and to explain how I reached that conlcusion. Phew! It is a good thing this one went up today :D

    My only references to Borderlands are tied to the combat system in an effort to show how I’m very open to RPG’s stepping away from Swords and Sheilds and adopting new combat stylings. Borderlands RPG elements are very weak indeed with a talent tree ripped right out Warcraft and the game forcing you to choose between 4 pre-set characters, none of which ever give you any sense of character whatsoever in the game. It’s clear that when Gearbox created these 4 characters, they were only doing so for marketing purposes so that they had characters suitable to the art style of the game to advertise (possibly tapping into the Team Fortress 2 crowd too).

    With regards to only responding to Preach and L, they were the only ones to invite me to debate with them by addressing where they disagree with me and so I’ve entertained that. I won’t pick fault with other peoples opinions where they’ve offered them freely as you had done earlier.

    Hugz? :D

  14. Lee says:

    start on mass effect… i dare you.

    people died adam!

  15. Adam Adam says:

    We all miss Crewman Chambers Lee, We all miss Crewman Chambers

  16. Lee Lee says:


  17. Kat says:

    :O Bonehead! You’re a maverick!

    I haven’t played Fallout 3 and won’t do as it’s not “my type of game”. I’ve heard so much good stuff about it but no game is liked by everyone 100% so it’s interesting seeing the other side of the coin. There’s also a hinted-at underlying debate regarding bacon sandwiches. Perhaps your next piece could be about the tomato/brown sauce divide? ^_^

  18. Adam Adam says:

    It’s always Brown Sauce when Egg is involved (Eggs should be Peppered) and then Tomato Sauce takes presidence when Hash Browns get in on the act.

    Fallouts worth playing, Oblivion in my eyes is worth a lot more of anyones time as its a kinder game to the player, giving you the option to go off a-wandering and find other things to do or just stick to the main quest. Both are just as much fun where as I always felt with Fallout, the main quest is far too short (with completion resulting in Total Game Over) and the lets go -a wandering aspect was fairly aimless.

    You should probably give Oblivion a go just because it has Horsies, Girls like Horsies right?

  19. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I feel compelled to point out that completing Fallout 3′s main story is NOT ‘Total Game Over’ if you have the Game of the Year Edition, or download the Broken Steel DLC.

  20. Kat says:

    I started Oblivion but got bored :/ I don’t do well with being patient and talking to people or travelling lots. I need violence and action STAT ^_^

    Oh, and ketchup always. Brown sauce? Blurgh ;)

  21. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I hate brown sauce, some idiot in a cafe automatically stuck it on a “roll and sausage” (can’t remember how best to describe that to Englanders… a roll, with sausage on it) and the first bite was vile… like someone had bathed it in vinegar. Why they never asked me IF I wanted it, I’ll never know. They got it back, along with the chewed up mouthful which I spat back out on top of the roll. Also, in Edinburgh they ask “salt and sauce” in the chippy rather than “salt and vinegar”. Freaks.

  22. Kat says:

    Salty sauce on chips? I’ll pass ^_^

  23. MrCuddleswick says:

    I’ve read everything, and I don’t understand why you think Fallout 3 is shit. Can it be summed up in a sentence or two? I’m a bit lost on it, and not the good kind of Lost with Kate and Sawyer.

    Also, it’s ketchup all the way on eggs for
    me……although……I like the yolk a bit runny so fried eggs come with their own sauce for me. I discovered the joy of cured streaky bacon this weekend, so it’s all on my mind.

  24. Adam Adam says:

    To stick with the cookery theme, my reasoning for not enjoying Fallout was despite the brilliant collection of great ingredients, they used to much of some things and not enough of others giving me an end result I didn’t enjoy. It does very well in some areas but the whole experience to me just felt shallow, the content of the game I was supposed to play was weak and loose and the rest of it was vast but I never saw the point in playing it, just felt disjointed.


    Yep theirs some expansion or other that allows that, I did read that donkeys ago but it’s one of those things that isn’t their as vanilla and I have to treat that as being how it is I’m supposed to have played it as that was how they designed it


    Brown Sauce is for extreme breakfasters, it’s the hardcore start to a day.



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