Straining Towards Fun

No Man's Sky has already fallen off my priority list of games to play, and it didn't even have the indecency to suck, it's just kind of bland.  Bland textures rendering a universe that, if the procedural generation gods so smile, might produce something to briefly transcend its blandness.
I am not even bothered by the blandness so much as the overwhelming lack of challenge.  Everything you get in No Man's Sky is pretty much handed to you.
  • Resources?  Shoot a rock, any rock.  
  • Technology blueprints?  Look in a random direction and there's usually a tech dispenser of some sort.  
  • Upgrades to your multi-tool, ship, and exosuit?  Literally a matter of just lucking out and finding another, sometimes with some resource grinding and selling required to afford it.
Why does this bother me?  Because games are most satisfying when I have to strive to achieve a goal.  In No Man's Sky, the goalposts come to you.  Is this even a game, or a procedural generated universe walking simulator?

I really hope future patches address my concerns.  I had such high hopes for this game.

What now? Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is almost finished downloading.  I plan to try to play it through without resorting to quicksave scumming.  Aside from that, I really don't know what to play next.

Elite: Dangerous is what I'd like to play, a game whose very core experience is a treat.  It is so immersive that it provides unparalleled escapism: you are a pilot in the Elite universe.  It would seem even moreso if I upgraded to full VR!
Once I get properly invested in Elite:Dangerous, I soon encounter the problem that defining a goal is hard for me to do.

At the start of the game, it seemed as though the goal is simply to accrue money so I could buy better ships.  Later on, there seems to be precious little credit earning advantage to get a better ship (with the obvious exception of cargo hauling with more cargo space).  Compounding the problem, better ships have a higher cost to own and operate, so I feel punished engaging in ship progression.  Since the credit:potency benefit drops off so sharply, perhaps I could say the point of earning credits is to unlock access to the experience of flying the different ships, as they certainly feel different to fly.  If that's so, maybe my goal should be to just buy and outfit them all?

For an alternative purpose, I could try to sway the political system of Elite: Dangerous.  The Power Play mechanic was a way to do this, albeit the chosen method of doing so is a repetitive grind.   The new mission bulletin board presents a different political respective to each solar system.  However, outside of Power Play, it seems like there is little or no gameplay ramifications to empowering different controlling factions.

I avoid the open play mode, the quasi-MMORPG multiplayer.  Some people would call a playerbase that cannibalizes itself to be an ultimate expression of open world freedom.  I reject that interpretation; all I see in open play is people ganking eachother for lack of anything better to do.

I am similarly trying to figure out if there might be a reason to get back into Fallout 4, especially with the upcoming release of Nuka World which I already paid for by getting the season pass not too long ago.

Maybe I would feel more invested in Fallout 4 if I could establish a sense of identity.  This is challenging because the skill system is little too dumbed down and diluted.  The Sole Survivor you control might initially have a build that defines them as a gunslinger or a sniper or such but, if you play the same character for long enough, you will accrue enough perk points to take all the perks that might matter to you, resulting in a very generic, do-anything hero.
The combat-centric nature of Fallout 4 may be its second greatest undoing.  The charm of VATS combat has completely worn off, and non-VATS combat is just an utterly shallow alternative.  Skyrim had better combat, even if it was an unbalanced mess at higher levels.  Fallout 4 keeps the unbalanced mess, but wasn't all that good to begin with.

The first greatest undoing of Fallout 4 is the constant inventory management.  Everything I loot must be managed carefully or my pockets will be full of junk in no time.  But junk is needed, so I feel compelled to loot everything.  Making settlements is the most interesting long-term goal and nearly everything you find can be recycled to these ends.  

Play long enough, and all the faults of the game come crashing down.  My generic, do-anything-hero is forced to overcome boring combat so he can be less the Sole Survivor and more the Sole Janitor, perpetually moving the junk of the wasteland through his inventory in a neverending quest to cobble together shantytowns.

In this way, both Elite: Dangerous and Fallout 4 make me wonder if I can figure out some way to play them that might find the fun I am missing.  With games of this size and depth, it is possible that the developers just accidentally engineered the games to appeal incorrectly to my sense of min:maxing, resulting in a path of least resistance to a lackluster experience.

But then I wonder if I really ought to be trying this hard to find a way to enjoy the games and should instead just look elsewhere... or actually make good on that aspiring indie game developer talk of mine.


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