Best of 2015: My Gap Year: Borderlands and Fallout – The Aftermath

First Published: Feb 20, 2015
Voted For By: Chris, Ric, Ed, Lorna
Reason(s) For Vote:
“I always enjoy gamers coming out of their respective shells to try new things. I find it fascinating and I challenged myself to play different things a couple of years back, with mixed results. Mark was spoiled for choice here though – so many ‘high’ quality games to choose from. His experiences over the last year made this a fun read.” ~ Chris

“A whirlwind tour of 2014 in games that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of breaking out of your comfort zone and seeing new things. Plus it’s helpful for remembering when games actually came out, since I’ve lost all concept of time.” ~ Ric

“When Markuz told everyone he was going to stay off Borderlands and Fallout for a year… we believed him. If he sets his mind to it, he’ll achieve it, no matter what. What makes this article so good isn’t seeing a man complete his objective, but the journey that he takes through a world that most gamers take for granted.” ~ Ed

“I found this fascinating, as personal goals and tales of the journey to achieve them are things I often find really absorbing. While I build my own gaming paths and memories, reading about those of others, and the things/reasons behind them are fun, and that’s what this was. Great self-set task to read about and I loved the gaming journey. It inspired me to set some goals of my own this year.” ~ Lorna

You may recall that, last January, I wrote an article which told of how my lack of experience as a ‘modern gamer’ comes down solely to my inability to stop playing Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, or Borderlands. I have always been full of good intentions though, and every year for my birthday and Christmas I’m given the typical games that most people would want, or hope for, at that time of year. The problem is that they never end up being touched, and most remain sealed. It probably seems a little (or a lot) disrespectful to those who went out of their way to specifically pick out something that they knew I would like, and yet have it gather dust on a shelf for years while I waste time going over the same old ground in the Capital Wasteland or Arid Badlands, but it was never about thumbing my nose to them; it’s just always been tough to immerse myself in something new when I have so much love for games whose environments have already become a second home to me.

With that in mind, I decided last January to set aside my love for the three aforementioned games and focus all my energy on titles that I’d never before played. Not necessarily brand new releases, but certainly avoiding anything that I’d played before so that, after an entire year, I’d be able to look back and see exactly what I’d been missing out on up until that point… bearing in mind that I’m forty-two years old, have been gaming for over thirty years, and I’ve still never played any of the BioShock games, nor any of the Assassin’s Creed titles, never been on a GTA killing spree, and not even taken a single step in Mario’s shoes. My goal was to introduce myself to at least one new game every month or two so that by the end of the year I’d hopefully have added somewhere in the region of eight or ten notches to my gaming belt. I should point out that I don’t actually own a ‘gaming belt’. I’ll have a look on Amazon later.

In January I played LittleBigPlanet for the first time and, to my utter shame, had never had any inkling as to how inspired it was up until that point. I had no idea that Stephen Fry had the role of narrator, and had never watched any in-game footage so knew very little about what it actually was. In my defense, I was never a PlayStation gamer until the PS4 came out, so any Sony-exclusive titles were never going to get very far on my radar, yet I was captivated. As my first fresh game of the year, everything was off to a great start. In fact, by the time February was over I’d also played through Age of Zombies, Doki Doki Universe, and Creatures & Castles in their entirety, and had spent some time wandering around the resource-sapping and monumentally dull Adventure Park.

In March, I did something that I wouldn’t normally do, and decided I’d actually buy one of those LEGO games that all the kids are talking about these days. I’ve watched Lorna play them many times, and LEGO Star Wars was actually the first game I ever played on my Xbox 360 – albeit very briefly as I got bored and moved on to Oblivion – but I was never quite intrigued enough to give them another shot, that is until I was looking for something to play one evening and stumbled across The LEGO Movie Videogame on the Vita store. I will admit to not actually wanting to like it, but it was just so colourful and inoffensive that it ended up being a great way to spend time, and perhaps the most fun I’d had on the Vita up until that point. Mainly because you can’t get porn on the Vita. Sadly, March very quickly turned to shit when I dug my way into the cavernous stinkpile that is Dungeon Keeper Mobile. Quite why EA had to take such a great franchise and piss all over it is beyond me, but at least they did it with great gusto and didn’t hold back in their shitness.

Had it not been for the utterly amazing Shardlands coming across my radar in April, I would likely have given up on mobile games entirely. Shardlands was, however, spectacular from beginning to end. It wasn’t fast paced, in fact it couldn’t have been any less frenetic, and there were no points where I was at the edge of my seat, but what it did it did beautifully. My faith in mobile developers had been restored and I recommended Shardlands to as many people as I possibly could, although I knew that none of them would bother giving it a shot… which is one of the sad things about becoming so enthusiastic over an obscure indie game. Almost immediately after completing Shardlands, I was given review code for Steve Jackson’s Sorcery which, admittedly, I didn’t even know existed. I loved the Fighting Fantasy books as a kid, and had no idea that they were being translated to mobile devices, and Sorcery kicked ass. The last line of my review summed it up perfectly: “If Jackson and Livingstone were to come up with the idea of the choose-your-own-adventure now, I’m sure this is exactly what they’d do.”

Coming a little later to the party than I’d liked, my first experience with inFamous: Second Son was also in April, and it was perhaps the first game in a couple of years to pull me in to that point where all day at work I’d be longing for it to end so I could dive back into the game world. It was also the first time I’d touched the inFamous franchise, but I enjoyed it enough to make it my first Platinum trophy on the PS4 and complete the collection by buying the first two releases, so immediately after completing Second Son I went on to play as Cole McGrath in the first of the series but I’ve yet to finish that one. So far, April was the month that knocked it out of the park, apart from the seriously disappointing Trials Fusion.

Okay, so I may need to do a little explaining here… because the next game I played was Borderlands 2 on the PS Vita, in May. Yes, yes, the whole point of this exercise was to avoid Borderlands so I could focus on other games but there was also an unwritten agreement with those around me that I would still embark on any reviews or previews if need be, and that was the case with Borderlands 2 on the Vita. Problem is, I got bored very quickly and before I’d done much beyond reaching Sanctuary, I stepped down from reviewing it and Ste took it on instead. There was nothing wrong with the game at all, but I’d already played it through a half dozen times on Xbox 360 and PC, and really couldn’t be arsed doing it all over again knowing that it was the same game, only with a smaller screen.

Then we have Wolfenstein: The New Order. Ugh.. I hate shooters. Nobody else put themselves forward to review this, and I’d previously played Wolfenstein 3D on the Amiga so, even though I really don’t like shooters much, I sucked it up and figured I’d give it a go. Holy fucksticks, am I glad that I did. The ability to stealth through most of it, or snipe from afar, was the icing on this Kuchen. Even when I had to fall into the run-and-gun mode, it was still one hell of a ride and I finished it with a sense of relief… not that I managed to get through a shooter all the way to the end… but because had I not stepped up to the plate, I would have missed out on one hell of a great game.

It had humour, poignancy, action, a couple of antagonists who you really wanted to kill in the worst way possible, and a decent enough story where there was a compulsion to bring it to a conclusion. Not that Second Son didn’t tick all of the same boxes, but the antagonist was a bit meh so I didn’t care whether I killed her or not. This ticked that last box beautifully and was the perfect way to lead into the gaming behemoth that is E3.

As is always the case, June and July are something of a drought for those of us who visit E3 as evenings and weekends are generally spent writing up content rather than getting to actually play and last year was no exception. While I’d managed thus far to cram thirteen new games into the first six months, I only managed to get to one game in a single two-month period. It was Sniper Elite III and, as has been the case for almost every game until that point, it was the first time I’d ever touched the Sniper Elite series. I watched someone playing it at E3 and immediately put it at the top of my to-play list as it was everything that I wanted from a gun-based game – distance, precision, stealth, strategy, and more headshots than you can shake a reticule at. I loved it enough to buy all the DLC packs, and even bought weapon packs… yeah, I was that guy.

August was a total wash out, to be honest. It started off with Metro: Redux, which had been recommended to me several times… well not Redux specifically, but the Metro series itself. When it hit PS4, I figured this would be the best time to immerse myself into this dark and grimy universe. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t like it, but it just didn’t gel with me at all. The graphics, mechanics, and even character animations were decent enough so it was nothing to do with the aesthetics, but I just felt that it was taking too long to get anywhere… and for a guy who loves Fallout to say that, it’s almost hypocritical to say that I was just bored by it. Then we had Risen 3: Titan Lords – a game which I’d been looking forward to since it was announced, but which fell short of all expectations almost immediately. I loved Risen (on the PC – the Xbox 360 version sucked), and I loved Risen 2 until I got bored somewhere around 120 hours in and realised I wasn’t even close to finishing it (I probably explored too much. I do that), but Risen 3 was a joke. I hated it.

I needed perking up, and the only new game on my radar in September was Destiny. I don’t really do open-session multiplayer or co-op, but the visuals of Destiny pulled me in to the point where after considerable mental back-and-forths with myself over whether I should or shouldn’t pick it up, it turned out that I should. It was quite a rush, and I probably sank more time into it than I expected to, mainly because I was stat-whoring and wanted to pick up more powerful weapons than I already had, but I loved the hell out of the combat. I’d look forward to playing it every evening, yet I’d simultaneously ask myself what it was that I liked about it and couldn’t honestly put my finger on it. Someone on my Facebook friends list asked me whether they should get it, and the only response I could come up with that summed everything up perfectly was “Destiny is the most fun you’ll ever have whilst simultaneously being bored out of your fucking skull“. After I posted that, I stopped playing it and haven’t been near it since.

Styx: Master of Shadows was the first thing to grace my PC in October, and it was a breath of fresh air. It was another stealth title, and it was even possible to complete the entire game without ever having to kill anyone (unless a specific assassination was required by the storyline), but I wasn’t quite stealthy enough for that so it was a well-balanced mix of stealth and close-quarters killing for me. The story was a little surreal in places, and I had to ask one of the devs at the end whether I was right about what went on (I was), but it was still a little odd. The momentum was then broken when I moved on to The Evil Within, which annoyed me so much with its stupidity that I ended up handing it over to Richie to review instead… I mean the protagonist is a cop, so why he’d throw away a knife or not explore drawers and cupboards for weapons is just ridiculous. Anyway… with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel being my only other outing in October – a game which I played through to completion but haven’t yet felt compelled to return to – it was looking as though I’d end the year with some pretty decent gaming experience under my belt.

Then I made the stupid mistake of buying Tales From The Borderlands, expecting it to be an actual game rather than a movie where I got to touch the screen every now and again. My original intention was to buy it for review purposes, but I hated every single aspect of it and knew that if I were to review it I’d be doing so with more vitriol and skewed opinions than would be necessary for an objective piece. I still played it to the end of the first episode, always hoping that it would somehow involve me more than it had until that point, but it never did. It’s not a game. As I said in my post-completion rant article, Dragon’s Lair did the same thing decades ago and could get away with it because it was riding on the coat tails of brand-new technology (laserdisc video games) but there was no new tech to support this one, so it should have tried harder to be a game.

My year rounded off when my birthday came and I was given Grand Theft Auto V for PS4. I’d asked for it, purely because I’d watched my friend’s videos and found it beyond compelling. The skyboxes were incredible (he filmed a time-lapse of twenty-four-hours in seven different locations) and, even though I’d never played a GTA game before and tend to shy away from shooters if I can, I genuinely wanted to play this more than I had any other game that year. I could, and likely will, write an entire article about how much fucking fun I’ve had flitting between story mode and GTA Online and even now, more than two months later, I still spend my evenings arsing around Los Santos with my co-op buddy doing stupid things until stupid o’clock. I can’t imagine that’ll end any time soon as our levels have only just reached the 50s whereas Rook and Tony are well into the 200s so there’s clearly plenty to do.

Sadly, with the amount of time I’ve put into GTA V, I’ve not yet got near any of the other games I picked up for my birthday or Christmas… but that will change soon. When I started this little experiment, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. It would either go one of three ways – I’d either find nothing else to play and spend an entire year with no games under my belt, or I’d force myself to play stuff that I’d never considered until that point and be utterly disappointed… and thumb my nose at those who told me to move on and play other titles rather than stick the ones I loved… or I’d have a pretty decent mix of good and bad, and still long to get back to those games I call home. What I didn’t expect, however, was for the good to massively outweigh the bad and introduce me to new franchises, and yet that’s exactly what happened – inFamous, LittleBigPlanet, Sniper Elite, and Grand Theft Auto were always just classed as ‘games that other people play‘, but my gap year has shown me that there’s more to life than Pandora and the Capital Wasteland.

Now hurry the fuck up with Fallout 4, Bethesda. Jesus.

Last five articles by Mark R


There are no comments, yet.

Why don’t you be the first? Come on, you know you want to!

Leave a Comment