The Divide: Fallout – New Vegas
I have previously written about the Fallout games, specifically Fallout New Vegas, about the interesting choices it forces players to make, and about how players can become more self-aware about certain aspects of their personalities through play. The ending of the expansion titled The Divide had the potential of providing another such moment of introspection, but it dropped the ball at the end.
At the end of The Divide, after either killing Ulysses or convincing him to stand down, the player will be forced to make a choice. Standing inside a missile launch facility with the missiles already activated and the countdown sequence already engaged, players will be forced to either attempt to stop the missile launch, launch the missiles at the NCR, launch the missiles at Caesar’s Legion, or launching the missiles at both the NCR and Caesar’s Legion. To stop the missile launch, however, the player has to sacrifice ED-E, a robot AI companion that accompanies the player throughout the entire Divide. This choice is meant to make the player decide between the lives of the innocent residents of the NCR, the slaves captured by Caesar’s Legion, and one of the player’s companions. Although this had the potential of being a gripping moment where the player would wrestle with his consciousness in a moment of introspection, weighing the lives of thousands of innocent people versus the life of one friend, because of the way the game is designed and the programmed outcomes, players are inclined to simply send the missiles to both the NCR camp and Caesar’s Legion.
When the player chooses to sacrifice ED-E, a robot, they spare the lives of thousands of people. Because the companion to be sacrificed is a robot, however, and because the robot does not follow the player outside of The Divide, players might be initially inclined to sacrifice ED-E and spare the NCR and the Legion. On the other hand, keeping ED-E alive and launching the missiles to the NCR and Legion camps opens up new areas for players to explore. In each of these areas players will find unique equipment. The pragmatic lure of this new equipment is what will make players send missiles to both spaces regardless of narrative inclinations.
Ludonarrative dissonance and all that.
To make this moment more meaningful, Bethesda could have opened up the Long 15 (NCR area outside of the Mojave) and Dry Wells (Legion area outside of the Mojave) to players regardless of their choice, and the spaces could have been different both aesthetically and engagement-wise. If the player decides to not launch missiles at one of the two areas, for example, or if the player decides to stop the launch, they could go to the new places and purchase some equipment rather than keep players locked out. As far as ED-E, it would be more of a choice if instead of an AI robot that players can’t take back to the Mojave, players would have to sacrifice a companion from the Mojave. Players would go into The Divide with their standard companion, then be faced with the choice of sacrificing them or not. This would make the choice more meaningful: (1) sacrifice the companion, stop the launch, save lives, get new companions and buy powerful weapons and armor in the new areas, or (2) keep the companion and go to the new irradiated areas to scavenge for powerful weapons and armor. This, I think, would make the choice more meaningful than “open up two new play areas” vs “don’t open up new play areas”.
Posted on August 11, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged choice, choices, Fallout: New Vegas, game design, Ludonarrative Dissonance, meaningful choice, New Vegas, The Divide. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.