So I haven't had the opportunity to check out Fallout 76, Bethesda's new multiplayer extravaganza, but from what I've heard the open beta hasn’t exactly gone off without a hitch. It’s a sad state of affairs, though truthfully I feel the game was doomed from the minute it was announced it was an online, multiplayer experience.
Thankfully if you're still itching to get back in Fallout’s glorious hellworld the good folks at Radian-Helix Media have you covered with Fallout: New California.
New California is a conversion mod for Fallout: New Vegas that seeks to bridge the narrative gap between Fallout 2 and the aforementioned New Vegas. As with so many Fallout games, the mod opens in a vault, specifically vault eighteen whereupon the player is given two potential paths for their character to take.
Players may choose the path of the warrior for the sporty jock types or the path of the scientist for those of us whose hobbies include pretending to be clever and feeling sad. Being the emasculated soyboy I am, I naturally picked the scientist path. From there comes one of two prologues after which things invariably go to shit and you’re thrown into a world full of factions vying for control.
Being the emasculated soyboy I am, I naturally picked the scientist path.
The effort the creators put into New California is obvious right from the start. Though a bit barren, the world design is worthy of a full game, with a wide variety of diverse and finely crafted environments. The writing is (for the most part) engaging and even funny (I particularly enjoyed making my character scream “SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE” at the weird incel kid in the prologue) and the voice acting, whilst not quite on the same level as the main games is still very professional.
Unfortunately New California is far from perfect. Being a mod (and a mod for New Vegas for that matter) the installation process isn’t exactly graceful and there are a number of technical imperfections like framerate slowdowns and infuriating crashes to contend with.
I also take issue with Kira Mann, one of the main characters and potential player companion. As one of the singular most venomous and dislikeable characters in any medium I’ve ever come across, Mann is the vehicle for one of the worst depictions of an autistic character I’ve seen. Also without wishing to give anything away, the way the mod tries to reconcile the main character's backstory with the other games through its endings is pretty weak.
The voice acting, whilst not quite on the same level as the main games is still very professional.
Still for all these problems I think New California is worthy of discussion. It’s not that it’s an expertly crafted fan project (which, flaws aside, it most certainly is), but moreover, I think New California stands as testament to the power of modding. Video games are unique amongst artistic mediums in that they are inherently interactive, but modding takes that one step further.
By allowing the creation of new forms of art within a video game itself, the meaning of a game can be subverted, enhanced or, as with New California, be something new altogether. New California is flawed, glitchy and doesn’t come close in quality to the main games. But it’s still very much worth a look, if only for curiosity’s sake.