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Battle of Bethesda: Oblivion vs. Fallout

In 2006 Bethesda Softworks released Oblivion, the much anticipated fourth game in the massive RPG series The Elder Scrolls. Two years later, they came out with the third game in the FPS roleplaying Fallout series, which was also raved about even before its release. The two newest games in these role playing series have a lot of things in common, but which one has better stats overall?

Story: Oblivion

No spoilers here, but Oblivion’s many quest lines are much more involving and lead to much nicer perks than Fallout, especially compared to its somewhat disappointing final cutscene. Fallout’s story is not without intrigue though; quests often involve more options based on your character’s ethics, such as the quest chain involving Megaton and its unexploded atomic bomb.

Character: Fallout

The ethical system in Oblivion, based on Fame and Infamy points, has been improved with Fallout’s  spectrum of Good vs. Evil. With dialogue, rather than having to play a simple Speech mini-game, Fallout’s options are based on a character’s morality and also stats, and, and there are often many hilarious exchanges possible with the survivors, which include children and zombies.

Environment: Tie

A detailed landscape filled with creepy zombies, abandoned ruins, and strange creatures: this could describe either game, and both pull it off in different ways. Walking into a Necromancer’s lair in an Ayleid ruin can be as breathtaking as standing at the top of a mountain and watching the sunrise in Oblivion. Fallout’s post-apocalyptic ruins of the Washington, D.C. area are highly realistic, and at the same time the retro-futuristic 1950’s-inspired style gives us an interesting and highly detailed take on life after nuclear war.

Combat: Oblivion

As an FPS, Fallout’s combat options revolve around gunplay and, to a lesser extent, melee fighting. The V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System) is a nice way to make every shot count, with the option of turning battles into somewhat more turn based affairs, kind of like bullet-time. Oblivion’s options are based on stealth, magic, and melee combat. Though the V.A.T.S. system makes battle a bit easier, combat in Oblivion offers more options to combine specialties without forcing any choices.

Overall: Oblivion

Although Bethesda has definitely tweaked some of the engaging elements that made their games great, there are still some features of Oblivion that have yet to be topped. But whether or not you prefer fantasy and fireballs to zombies and Vault Boy, you’re still going to get sucked into a highly realized world where you have all the power.

Weighted Companion Cube: it weighs down our hearts with love

This was inspired by my senior thesis, “Narrative in Video Games,” and contains some Portal spoilers.

Every video game has to have a cutesy mascot, from World of Warcraft’s Murlocs to the Chocobos from Final Fantasy. Portal is no exception; its Weighted Companion Cube has been featured on posters, mousepads, and has even been cosplayed. Gamers feel the need to express their love of a game, and what better way than buying a plush with one of their favorite characters?

But can you argue that a Cube is a real character? Wikipedia says a character is “any person, persona, identity, or entity that exists in a work of art.” So in order to say that the WCC is a character, that would mean games are works of art.

Since Wiki is our resident expert on pretty much everything, let’s consult it again. “Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.” Well, a team of designers arranges a bunch of codes in order to create a product that will appeal enough to an audience that they will buy it. Video games appeal to the senses with their visual, tactile, and audio elements, and they often produce emotional responses, such as in multiplayer FPS games (anger: OMG u noob don’t asplode ur team!1!!) or in RPGs with engaging stories (sadness: No, don’t kill the last Ancient!).

So technically the Cube is a character. But GLaDOS is a character, with way more dialogue and direct characterization. But then why aren’t there official GLaDOS plushies to cuddle and squeeze? We don’t care about GLaDOS the way we care about the Cube because of our conditioning, or the conditioning from the game. GLaDOS tells Chell not to care about the Cube, but that’s not what happens. She tells us that the Cube will accompany us through the level, and we should take care of it. It won’t ever threaten to stab us, and in fact, cannot speak. But then… after all your hard work lugging WCC through the level… journeying together past the buttons and platforms… and seeing the WCC shrine… we’re forced to euthanize our faithful companion. And, according to the sign at the incinerator, our hearts are broken as well. But don’t worry, the Cube probably doesn’t feel pain.

What do you do when someone tells you not think of a pink elephant? You think of a pink elephant. What do you do when GLaDOS tells you not to care about the Cube? You care about the Cube. And others have loved the Cube before you; why else would former test subjects dedicate poetry to it and personify the Cube in countless photographs? It feels so good to avenge your weighted friend later when you chuck GLaDOS’s parts in the same kind of incinerator, only this time your heart won’t break for GLaDOS, who made you part with your beloved Cube.

The Cube is characterized in all these ways and more, intentionally so that the players do care about its death. It is a character as real as GLaDOS, as real as Frodo, Gatsby, and Oedipus. Even though the Cube can’t speak out loud, it certainly speaks to our hearts.

~~~In loving memory of the Weighted Companion Cube~~~

The incinerator, the last resting place of the faithful Cube.

The incinerator, the last resting place of the faithful Cube.