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Weariness At The End Of The World

Upon revisiting Fallout 4 (with plenty of mods) I was a little surprised to notice that this two-and-a-half year old game is significantly more gorgeous than Conan Exiles.
The mods Enhanced Lights and FX and Vivid Fallout probably have something to do with the gorgeousness on display.  Even so, this must have been a great base game to work on if it has endured that well!

The content is nothing to sneeze at, either!  The world is large and you would be hard pressed to find one of this size with a greater density of content.  I have played for 219 hours, but this is over several new games, so I have only really extensively explored the upper left corner of the map where you start.  I rarely ever wandered south of Diamond City or east of The Castle, nor played ANY of the DLC content: Far Harbor, Nuka-World, nor the campaign segments of Automatron.  So there is still a lot for me to see!

Why have I not managed to do that?  Maybe because 2015 was a really bad year for me, thanks to personal tragedies.  But, to a larger extent, I think it's because the game gets damn boring.  After all, I am a very experienced gamer who played Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Skyrim, and Fallout: New Vegas before I even started playing Fallout 4.  In that vein, Fallout 4 might be the most technically advanced incarnation, but it has the same core game experience.
I have fond memories of my first attempt at building Oberland Station.
Given the monotony of that same old thing, I found myself more interested in the main thing Fallout 4 does new: settlements.  Forget the story of the Lone Survivor, lets play an RPG city builder!  (I actually look forward to Fallout 76 for this reason: rumor has it that this is the main focus of the game.)

Thus, every time I started a new game of Fallout 4, it basically went like this:
  1. Get an idea for a character to play.  Note that there is no level cap, my character can eventually do anything, so this is a choice of what I will primarily be doing before the game reverts to its blandish endgame stage.  (My latest character is leaning Infiltrator.)
  2. Complete the Vault 111 tutorial and head out into Sanctuary Hills.  Meet Codsworth, who promptly sends me south to meet the Minutemen.  One meaty introductory segment later, I crawl out of my newly-acquired power armor and Sturges sets me on the path of building my first settlement.
  3. Head out to the nearby areas of the settlement I am rebuilding.  Kill everything, pick up every single piece of junk I can find and, when I hit my inventory storage limit, lug it all back to the nearest settlement.
  4. Meanwhile, Preston Garvey is constantly spouting radiant quests to liberate other settlements.  Lacking anything better to do, I do that.  Now I have another settlement to set up a supply line to and begin rebuilding.
  5. Go to 3.  
  6. After liberating a few settlements, there is an interlude to liberate The Castle for the Minutemen, and it is kind of awful because it's a great big boring fort that is yet another settlement to grow.  Go to 3.
  7. Eventually my constant junk conversation crushes the soul of the game.  I burnout hard from Fallout 4, and gratefully move on to playing something - anything! - else.
Such is how my history repeats itself with Fallout 4.

I know what you're thinking, "If you hate settlement building so much, why do you keep coming back to it?"  If I did not mind missing a lot of early game loot, I could just blow off Codsworth's advice, never visit Concord, never revive the Minutemen, and avoid the quest line that points me straight at settlement rebuilding.

Go back to what I was saying about settlements a breaking the monotony of playing yet another Bethesda RPG and you have your answer: the trouble is not that I became ensnared in settlement building.  In fact, that's the primary reason I'm playing.  The trouble is that there's just so much of it!  There are up to thirty-seven separate settlements to claim and build up!  Each settlement is a big undertaking.  Even something you really enjoy can get monotonous in excess.
Enter Sim Settlements, a mod which attempts address the problem by doing the building for you.

In practice, I am somewhat bittersweet about it.  To some extent, I wanted to do the building, because once you take that out, what do you have left to do in Fallout 4?  Complete quests, kill stuff, loot, gain levels; very standard RPG trappings I can do virtually anywhere else.

However, it is not like the mod prevents me from building; Sim Settlements actually provides a great deal of options as to how much is handled automatically.  More importantly, if I ever expect to see the end of the campaign or the expansions, it might be the only thing to stop me from getting caught in the usual cycle.
Finding the teddy bear Easter eggs might be the best part of the game.
About three days of play in, I am not sure I want to return to Fallout 4, even with Sim Settlements' help.

Even with the settlements building themselves, the core game still the cycle 3-5 above: heading out to points on the map, killing everything, looting everything that isn't nailed down, and then dragging it back to the nearest allied settlement.  I should be doing quests and completing lore, but in my mind, all the glorious attention to the content in Fallout 4 just melts together as irrelevant: to me, the Commonwealth is just a big junk pile to haul, and all the enemies and plot are just speed bumps that get in the way.

In the long run, maybe it does not matter whether I played for the story or played for the settlement building: the end game is just not there.  Your character gets more powerful, your enemies more bullet spongy, your settlements get more able, but your routine remains the same.  If this is all there is to life in Fallout 4, the Sole Survivor should have stayed in his cryopod.
This guy goes on and on for an hour and a half, but he's mostly right, and many of his complaints were actually addressed in Fallout 4 (released before this video was published).

So what to do instead of playing Fallout 4

I have been driven off from Conan Exiles by a number of issues, such as broken purges and server latency causing me to fall through the floors of my pyramid.  It seems about as meaningful as these open world sandboxes get, but it's hard to put my finger on how building a base here is more meaningful than Fallout 4.  Perhaps it helps that you can finish it and it is more focused on just being a survival sandbox?  I might give it another try if we get some serious patches for it.

Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset was released on consoles today.  Though I will be playing the PC version, I was tempted to give Elder Scrolls Online another spin.  As I mentioned a few times before, the gameplay is very, very thin; Elder Scrolls Online lacks the gameplay depth of many of its better competitors.
But its treatment of lore is extremely good, and the content is still being expanded upon. I might just muddle through that content knowing full well that there is nothing as deep as settlement building to be distracted with.  I could join the Psijic Order, a pretty exciting prospect for those who completed the Mage Guild quest in Skyrim!

The question remains, "Would I really be any better off swapping the constant clearing and junk collection of Fallout 4 with the constant light MMO progression of Elder Scrolls Online?"  My gut says, "Of course not."  If I went with my gut, I am wasting my time even talking about it.
It's a lousy enough batch of alternative choices that there's not a lot of reason to stop playing Fallout 4, for now.  Once again, I should just go make my own, as there's a problem on the table that needs to be solved: can anything prevent eventual burnout in an open world computer RPG?  I have put a lot of work into trying to solve that problem, and frankly it has driven me to despair and escapism.


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