I think the reason that Mass Effect 3 remained my favourite game of the year is also the reason it caught some flak: it was the end of a huge story that we were all seriously invested in. For me, that gave the whole 20-hour adventure an almost electric energy, the tingly feeling that everything had been leading up to this. For some, that meant the not entirely satisfying ending felt like a slap in the face.
I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t like the actual end scene much, but it was a few minutes of nonsense among twenty hours of the best Mass Effect has ever been. That was my ending: the full scale invasion of the Reapers, the desperate street battles, the tragic deaths of old friends, the final moments of camaraderie with the ones left alive. I’d already had most of the closure I needed before the... weird bit.
The history we all have with these characters, and the attachments we’ve formed with them, gave Mass Effect 3 an unfair advantage over everything else that came out this year. But it didn’t take that for granted. Despite the praise we’d all heaped on the previous two games, BioWare worked hard to do better.
For me, the most important part of that was the story. It’s BioWare’s strength, of course, but after Mass Effect 2’s unconvincing Cerberus angle I wasn’t sure they’d close it out decisively. I needn’t have worried. The climactic nature of the Reaper invasion gives Mass Effect 3’s story drive and urgency, and the premise of racing around the galaxy to drum up allies gave you a string of critical decisions to make. It felt like being in charge again.
The RPG elements finally clicked, too: it’s the first Mass Effect game where I wanted to continue with each class I tried. As well as being powerful and distinct, they were customisable in a much more significant way: it was up to you how heavily armed your class should be, and how rapidly their powers would recharge. Heavier weapons meant slower powers, and finding your preferred balance was the first time in the series that I got really excited about character builds.
Mass Effect 2 made combat satisfying, but it still dragged after the umpteenth arena scuffle with the same enemy classes and the same low walls. Mass Effect 3’s contribution was a massive overhaul in enemy design. Every faction is completely different to fight against, and you’re fighting a lot of them. Within each army, there are intricate relationships between the enemy types that you need to disrupt before they buff, heal, or armour-plate each other. Figuring out how to combine your squad’s powers to deal with that was a shifting challenge.
But maybe the most remarkable thing about Mass Effect 3 was that we were able to have any personal investment in it at all. This is a series that had been giving us hugely consequential decisions for 40 hours already: the state of the universe and most of its key players were radically different for each of us. From its first scenes to its massive conclusion, Mass Effect 3 could make no assumptions about which of your 13 companions might be alive or dead. Under the hood, it’s a nightmarishly complex web of dependencies and replacement story branches. And yet to us, the whole thing was seamlessly consistent. Everything I’d done was reflected in the ongoing situation, everyone I’d lost was gone – and the story adapted. It’s the most impressive trick I’ve ever seen a sequel pull, and it’s a big part of what made Mass Effect 3 so special.
Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true... for better or worse. Today, new friends mean new opportunities, but at what cost? The answer: Pants.
Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Zombies sighted. Crush them like they're the democratic spirit that made this country what it was, before we made it a nuclear wasteland with our ancestors' now legendary douchebaggery.
Enemies neutralised harder than that family at the start of Fallout 2, sir. Permission to put on the special power armour with a spacious enough codpiece to handle serious murder erection, sir?
Oh, this couldn't feel more wrong.
Cass, if it's wrong to use an evil paramilitary army as your personal security service to seize control of a casino from its proper owner, turn it into a fortress, and profit from a zombie apocalypse you accident'ly started, I don't want to be right.
Kinda getting that feeling, yeah, Comic Sans. Pretty sure even most folks who'd make deals with the devil would take one look at the Enclave offering to just follow orders and go "Jesus, no! Are you insane!? No! Just... just no! "
Ah, come on-
Last I heard, Satan refused to sign a deal with those guys, saying they were too ruthless. And they're just following your orders? You know there'll be some catch.
Sir! No catch! You have the Command Radio sir! While you have that, you can just phone us and we obey your every whim for reasons that make such obvious sense they hardly need explaining, sir!
Yeah. Like it's that simple. One whim to rule them all, one whim to realign them; one whim to bring them here, and in the weirdness, oh, nuke Black Mountain.
COMMENCING ORBITAL STRIKE!
What? No, wai-
Well, there goes my soul. Right then. Just happened. Burned right away to a sulphurous crisp. Text message from the devil, sayin' "Rose of Sharon Cassidy, be seeing you soon." Thanks for that, boys. Way to go.
Eh, don't go beating yourself up over it. Last I checked, beating up a few of Caesar's Legion-
Huh. Right then. Or beating up Powder Gangers and other evil sorts can wipe that clean off the ol' karmic slate. Come on. We got a casino to start running.
Yeah, about that, Trajan Pro. Not sure just putting on these fancy business suits is enough to run Mr. House's casino. For starters, pretty sure he's got an army of Securitrons who don't like us much.
Army of Securitrons who don't like you very much destroyed, sir! I shot that cowboy one who looked like he was going to do something really interesting but ended up not!
Right, okay, but it's not like we can just stand about and just act all proprietorial, like we're just role-playing casino ownership while these guys shoot zombies.
No need. Look what I found in the back.
See? Course, I don't reckon even us and our friends here will be able to to run the whole place ourselves. Enclave's good for shooting zombies, not so much at dealing blackjack. First gambler to say 'hit me'...
No shit. You got a back-up plan then?
Mr. House's old robot pets? You sure that's a good idea? They're not even working.
Least if we use these malfunctioning pets, we know they're-
No. Don't even think about it!
*pant* You meant 'Caesar'.
Right. So, we're all up and running, more or less, assuming 'not having the money to open any tables or buy any booze' counts as 'less', and I'm thinking it probably does. Any ideas for raising quick money in a zombie apocalypse?
Figured a good starting point would be heading to Freeside, finding all the scrap we can get, then crafting it together into more worthwhile stuff and selling it to the gun runners for starting investment capital.
That actually... sounds quite sensible.
Then I figured, screw that, let's do this.
Of all the things I've ever woken up without my pants to find, I like this one the best. 'Course, technically, we just appeared here with all our stuff still on, like something went wrong. Not sure why you had us take it off anyway.
Seemed the thing to do, I guess. Fair being fair and all that. Think we should get dressed and head back before anyone notices?
Wouldn't do much for our reps to be seen in the least stylish underwear this side of Dragon Age, though I'm pretty sure we could go to church like this and no-one'd care. Come on. We've got a casino to run and the Enclave'll be getting lonely.
Cass, when we started this casino, two long hours ago, you ever think it'd be as successful as this? Caps and chems flowing, the Lucky 38 restored to its old glory, the zombie apocalypse almost never spilling in from outside?
I don't care if the chems are better at Gomorrah. Sod'em! You tell those gamblers that only the Lucky 38 is protected by the Enclave, and- yeah, sure boss. Wonder what Mr. House thinks of how we're running his beloved casino?
Aw, I reckon he's happy to see the old girl full of life again.
My... piss tube... is filled... with impotent rage....
So what's wrong? You look like someone put Bonzi Buddy on your PIPBoy.
I dunno, Cass. Just don't feel right, is all, being in here and not out there like in the old hours.
Even with the zombie apocalypse going on out there?
I guess just sitting around in one place just 'aint for me whatever's out there. I need to feel the sand... the snow, I guess, underfoot. Taste the air, then be sick 'cause it's full of radioactive poison. You know? The open trail, that's the life for me.
And also a million or so zombies.
Point. Still, y'know.
Way I see it, we've got everything anyone could want, right here. At least until the Enclave get back to their old tricks. Come on, let's head to the VIP lounge. Just got in a new shipment of alcohol in need of popping open.
Tell you what, how 'bout you start the popping without me. Just going to go swap the guards outside, okay? Swap the guards, do a few other quick things. Business things. Like a business guy. Be there 'fore you know it.
He's not coming back, is he, ma'am?
Depends. Would you and your soldiers likely return to your evil ways and go on a genocidal killing spree if the guy with the Command Radio suddenly vanished, leaving an obvious power vacuum for your insane masters to exploit?
In that case, yes.
And so the Courier, who had first seen the Christmas snow in Goodsprings, continued to see Christmas, in a Mojave Wasteland forever changed by strange weather, the hordes of the undead, and some seriously dodgy shit to look up on your own time.
Rose of Sharon Cassidy continued running the Lucky 38, which turned out to be surprisingly boring after a while. Eventually, tired of waiting for the Enclave to turn evil, she packed up her caps and went west. Life was peaceful there.
Unleashed, the Enclave revelled in their ability to conquer the Mojave, before remembering that they were too stupid to do anything without orders, and that the Courier had kept the Radio. Their leader was heard to comment "Arse."
FISTO WROTE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, "CLOSED FIST, OPEN HEART!" IT SOLD SURPRISINGLY WELL!
Still brainwashed, Edward Sallow - better known as Caesar and 'Caesar' - found himself travelling with the Doctor, though was too nerve stapled to appreciate the honour. Sometimes, the Doctor used him as a coat rack.
Xenite continued demanding "Uhmmm... is this supposed to be humorous?" until being randomly flattened by a falling bison on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday.
Trudy, owner of the Prospector Saloon, reverse-engineered the weapons found in her bar, raised an army, and declared herself Boudica, Queen of the Wastes. Anyone describing her horde as "Caes-HERs Legion" was crucified, for funsies.
Mr. House's constant complaining led to the coining of the phrase "The House Always Whines". Proving the point, he spent several years bitching about this to himself until his life support system finally committed suicide.
And so the Courier's holiday season came to an end... for now. In the new world of the Mojave Wasteland, fighting continued, blood was spilled, and many lived and died - just as they had in the old world, and original game. Because Christmas... Christmas never changes.
Today's Mods: Frozen World, Zombie Mod, Enclave Commander, Zombie Apocalypse, Run The Lucky 38, More Perks
Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true… for better or worse. Today, when was the last time the Doctor arrived to find nothing going horribly wrong? Just saying...
Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Trespassers, hello! How strange! Better tell me your name. It's tougher to be a trespasser when everyone knows your name, and I'd know. Of course, that's me, and you're probably not me, because I think we'd have met.
They call me The Man With No Name.
How fascinating! They call me the Doctor. Some people, anyway; the smart people. Others, The Oncoming Storm, The Destroyer Of Worlds, The Lady of Pai- no, wait, that's a secret. Anyway, mustn't stop. Unless!
What? What's with all these questions? Have a Jelly Baby. Didn't think I liked them any more. Turns out I do, as you can see from my face. Not a red one! The red ones are my favourites. I bite the little toe off first. Going for the head is barbaric.
What is this place? Some kind of spaceship?
Ah! Half-right! Mostly right. Time and space, you see. It's my TARDIS, and it can take you anywhere and anywhen and anywha. You'll discover that. Well, usually. Right now, it's stuck to this wasteland, and changing time of day.
Does that mean you could teach me how to fly it?
A human? Please. Now, if you had a Time Lord brain perhaps, yes, but there is no way a regular person could handle this, except for any of the ones who can or if it starts flying itself. You though? Sorry, I just don't-
Well, I'll be. If that isn't the most wonderful, amazing contrivance I've seen in... oooh, five minutes. Be my guest then! Turns out it's actually as easy as picking a destination and pulling a lever. No problem at all.
Alright then, pardner. Reckon I'll set the co-ordinates for my suite at the Lucky 38. Cass, stand by. I'm pulling the lever. And... nothing happened. "Unable to land at these co-ordinates" it says. Doctor?
Well, you know TARDISes. Always buggier on the inside.
You do remember that we can teleport at will?
Sssh there, New Amy. Pond 2.0. Anothermy Pond. No. No, I won't be saying that again, definitely not. Try another destination if you like, or don't.
I know where. Something I been meaning to do, but for all them new Legion patrols in the Mojave. Someone I owe a debt to, and I just figured out how to best repay.
NANOPROBES INSERTED! INITIALISING NEURAL TAKEOVER SUBROUTINE! I AM YOURS TO COMMAND!
Yeah, reckon that's more like it. You're coming with me.
FISTO ONLY WENT OUT FOR FIVE MINUTES. NOW FISTO ALONE.
You did what?
Made Caesar our new pack mule. Thought your back'd be happy.
That's not Caesar. Met Caesar once. Not as good with salads as you'd expect.
Okay, I can't take this any more. Let's say goodbye to our new friend here before things really start getting strange?
Leaving so soon? Did I mention you can explore the bowels of the TARDIS if you're in the mood for what I hear you people call 'adventure' times?
Thanking you kindly, sir, but I don't think we'll be poking round your bowels. What's say you drop us off in Freeside so we can continue our patrol?
Well, this all seems reassuringly quiet. So what's the plan, chief? Check in with the Kings? Go take a look at the Strip?
In a bit, Cass. First things first, want to see if there's any more of them magic books lying around. Got a bit of a taste for the old sparkly stuff, and you never know. Here. Like this one. This looks promising.
Necronomicon? Almost positive you shouldn't read that one, Caslon Antique. Let's just go hit the Atomic Wrangler, maybe check the blackjack tables. Bet someone's put naked ladies or something on the back of the cards.
Eh, what's the worst could happen?
THE ANSWER WAS ZOMBIES!
A LOT OF GODDAMN ZOMBIES!
Okay, so in retrospect, this may not've been my best idea. Probably not even in the top five or so, if I'm honest. Ideas?
NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!
And in terms've ideas that might help right now?
We can't hold them back! There's no way House has enough Securitrons without dealing with the Platinum Chip thing, and somehow I don't see we've got time now. Doubt we'll get NCR or what's left of the Legion helping so much either.
Not seeing what choice we got, not 'less you want me to call the Enclave on this radio and beg them for help. Know you'd never want me doing that.
Are you kidding? Call them!
Ahem. Excuse me. Is that... is that the evil remnant of the US government? We seem to have us a bit of a zombie problem. In New Vegas. Look, this is awkward, but you know how you guys are the baddies and so have the best toys?
I dunno. Maybe 1/5 mutant, on my mother's side? Yeah, I know, but... look, it's you guys spent years taking order from a computer. And you heard your music? Who's the real freaks? Yeah, okay. Nightkin. Point taken. So anyway... hello?
Well? What did they say?
Why, I I believe we said "What the hell, it's Christmas."
Today's Mods: Frozen World, Female Caesar's Legion, Increased Legion Presence, Increased Wasteland Spawns, Cortex Scrambler, The TARDIS In The Wasteland, Electro-City, Zombie Mod, Enclave Commander,
Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true... for better or worse. Today, the wasteland beckons, but not quite as the Courier and his partner Cassidy expect.
Previously: Part 1, Part 2
Morning there, Myriad Pro. Hand on fire? Guessing that means you found some new toys around town, or really need to put a few skill points into cooking, stat.
Was that a...
Pun not intended. What's up with that anyway?
Book of magic spells in Doc Mitchell's old place - "Vol 1: Hellfire". Gotta say, suddenly I find myself more ambivalent 'bout setting the world on fire. Not the only new toy I found either. Look at this here fellow from Trudy's place.
And that's the story of how we got chased right out of Goodsprings...
SHUT UP AND KEEP RUNNING I THINK THEY HAVE PITCHFORKS!
Think we can prob'ly take a breather now, don't you think? Hey, Nipton. You remember this place? Legion raided it way back when, stuck all the people up on crosses, burned it to the ground for sins committed. Ah, nostalgia.
Yeah. Think... think things might have changed a bit since, Arial Black.
Shiny new caravans? Pretty houses? A welcome banner over the town hall and not a single crucified townsperson? Tssk. Some places have no respect for tradition.
Don't worry, I won't have you forcibly sold cookies or made to attend a PTA meeting. It's useful that you happened by. I want you to witness the fate of the town of Nipton, to memorize every detail. And then, when you move on-
What do you mean, the fate of Nipton? Place looks Stepford new to me.
Indeed, Courier. This was a town drowning in moral sickness, cowardice, decay... but overnight, look! A wretched hive, stripped of all decadence, of all filth; rendered pure as the mysterious white snow all around. It is become... perfection.
The Legion's gone into the decorating biz now? Caesar's Legion?
Was this our direct doing? No, but it is as I dreamed. Clean. Orderly. Quiet. A true civilisation of the wastelands, away from guns and fiends. There will be book clubs, Courier, and amateur dramatics every weekend. There will be salsa.
The hell, boss? I WAS STANDING RIGHT HERE!
Still are, so quit your yapping. Had to be done, and you know it, for the thin end of the wedge and all good folks who don't need subjecting to the first all ghoul version of King Lear. C'mon, I reckon things may be worse'n we thought.
Don't know about worse there, Marker Felt, but definitely pornier and with a hell of a lot more guns and people wandering around to use those guns. Not one person out there wished for world peace or somesuch?
Extra lighting from those Electro-City folks is handy, mind, what with the nights suddenly actually being dark and everything. And at least we're not going to fall for that Door business again.
We agreed never to speak of The Door again!
Hey, look. A door in the middle of nowhere. Think we should open it?
Can't think of a reason not to.
Weirdest thing, portal to Hell ending up spitting us out over at a place called "The Bison Steve Hotel". Funny old world, 'aint it? Anyhoo, let's find us some good old walking music on this here PIPBoy radio, shall we?
Second thoughts, let's chat some more about The Door. Just saying, if I ever have to listen to Big Iron again I'm going to have to smash the nearest person with a PIPBoy's head in with a golfclub - then mine.
No, look, Cass. My radio's picking up all kinds of stations now. J-Pop, Christian Rock, old propaganda. Classic Christmas songs!
Suddenly Big Iron isn't sounding so bad. Hey, what's that? Is that an Enclave logo on that radio in your pack? Tell me you just picked that up off a corpse somewhere, or us two are going to have some serious Words.
Don't be silly, Cass, you know I'd have nothing to do with those incredibly powerful, genocidal zealots, most likely.
This is exactly why people hate travelling with amnesiacs. I catch you dosing my food with FEV or anything and you'll be singing Old World Blues from here to wherever I finally finish kicking your ass.
Never rightly said I had amnesia as I recall. Just don't talk much about the old days. Anyway, don't be worried. You'll never catch me doing that, pardner.
Well, good. That's... wait a minute, when you say 'never catch you', you mean-
What in the seven hells is this thing supposed to be?
No idea. Door's open though...
Today's Mods: Frozen World, Female Caesar's Legion, Increased Legion Presence, Increased Wasteland Spawns, Cortex Scrambler, The TARDIS In The Wasteland, Wacky Weapons, The 8 Books, Electro-City, Nipton Rebuilt, The Door, CONELRAD, Radio Free Wasteland
One question above all others has dominated PC gaming this year. What in the name of smooth Jazz happened in Dunwall last night? It must have been astonishing, because every single guard in Dunwall is probably getting his own squad.
Did the entire guard populate undergo a singular, simultaneous act of cellular mitosis, splitting like dapper single cell organisms into identical duplicates in need of sudden leadership? Did the rat king emerge into the moonlight to be slain by the collective heroics of the entire city watch - an act of bravery so impressive that none of those involved could fail to be promoted? Or did Arkane, when setting the frequency of each bark, accidentally switch this one from "occasional" to "all the damn time forever."
Dishonored certainly isn't the only contender in this category. Over the course of 2012 soundbites have lodged themselves in the folds of our brains like audio shrapnel, playing on a loop and disrupting everyday conversation. Here's a conversation made up of a few of those quotes. if two NPCs from 2012 were to have a witter, it might go something like this. Can you guess the game each phrase came from?
NPC 1: Think you'll get your own squad after what happened last night? NPC 2: Should've used a rubber. NPC 1: Indeed, I believe so. Should we gather for whiskey and cigars tonight? NPC 2: Oh fuck, a leopard! NPC 1: Probably just rats. NPC 2: AAAAOOOAAAOOOUUUUAAARRRGH!! NPC 1: Shake it off! NPC 2: We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!XX
Answers here, highlight to reveal: Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Dishonored, Chivalry, Guild Wars 2, XCOM
Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true... for better or worse. Today, the wasteland wakes up to an unusually snowy world - at least except the Jacobstown mutants, but it's not as if anyone was heading over there with a bottle of wine and seasonal good cheer anyway.
Previously: Part 1
Cassidy! Get yourself up, something amazing's gone and happened! There's snow everywhere and it's like Santa's been and everyone's woken up with something they most wished for last night. You'd better come out and-
What? Quit gawpin' already. Not like you've never seen me with bed hair before.
Aaah. Cass, you didn't... didn't go to bed last night wishin' for a better childhood or anything, right? No like, secret desire for a lost youth or nothing?
Yeah, those long days of not being able to drink are top of my nostalgia list. You been shot in the head again there, Haettenschweiler?
In that case, little lady, you better go find a non-broken mirror somewhere pretty soon. I'll be... you'll find me over here, by the tree. Behind the tree, most likely.
Jeez. Don't know what's up with him today, but...
Listen up, perverts. I am not some Lydia to play dress-up with. Lydia wouldn't start lopping off balls with broken whiskey bottles, and believe me, I have a lot of whiskey bottles going spare. This was your doing, you better pray it reverses right now or-
Aw, you looked so cute.
That never happened, you got it? Never happened. Now what the hell's going on? Where did the snow come from? Why's there dancing strippers outside? Where's my hangover? Why is no-one else looking like they want to scream?
It's a Christmas miracle, Cass! Everyone got what they wanted.
And you're saying that like it's a good thing? Your semi-amnesia stretched to where we live, Segoe UI? Don't see most folks round here asking for pre-war books or anything. We'd all better pray whatever happened didn't get as far as Caesar...
Whatever. Our scouts have verified the reports. The entire south-east of the Mojave is filled with Legionaries, none there yesterday, many in more accurate Roman armour. It's like we're an actual army instead of a small town Ren-Faire in skirts.
As a wise man named Aristotle once said, “Be not arrogant when fortune smiles, or dejected when she frowns.” If fortune is smiling, it behooves us to accept gracefully, wouldn't you say, Praetorian?
Great Caesar is forever wise.
Yes. Yes, indeed. That... ah... that rather reminds me. Some of your Frumentarii... not me of course, I would never presume to question such as yourself... have been wondering about the... uh... rather sudden change of staff around here?
The what, Lucius?
The... uh... the way your Praetorian guard rather seem to have been... replaced overnight with rather more... distaff counterparts. Modestly hot redhead ones, to be exact. It seems a little... out of... out of character for a misogynistic despot?
I like my new 'Vale' girls. Tell anyone who complains that we all have our crosses to bear in this life, and they shall find themselves bearing theirs all the way to a radioactive Golgotha if they do not remember their place.
Sir? You appear to have... a delivery waiting outside from a man named Boone. Note attached says "Happy Saturnalia from me and my dead wife, you fascist piece of-" and then it's all just crossed out. Shall I have it sent away?
Nonense! It must be tribute from an admirer of my attempts to civilise this wasteland. Bring it before me! Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's!
FISTO THE LOVE-BOT IS HERE! PREPARE FOR NUMBNESS!
Praetorians! Defend me! Destroy this abomination!
FISTO IS INDESTRUCTIBLE!
Reckon you just might got a point there, at that. Going to be a lot of slavers and rapists and such getting their presents too, and while I'm guessin' we won't be seeing those for various reasons of good taste...
EVEN FISTO IS DISTURBED BY GOOGLING 'SEXOUT'
...stands to reason some folks might need defending from their neighbours' ideas of how the world outta be. What you say, Cass? Should we go see what's new out there? I reckon there may just be unfinished work for us yet.
Sure beats hanging around here waiting for aliens to attack or whatever. Say, if everyone out there got what they wanted, how's about you? What was your gift?
Aw, you know me, Cass. I'm just an old-style cowboy at heart. Always said, with the sun kept from my eyes, big iron on my hip and the horizon callin' me forwards, I got all any pilgrim could ask for in this life.
That's surprisingly mature.
Yeah, so I was surprised as hell to wake up owning some toy called a "Cortex Scrambler" that nerve-staples folks to be my slaves. Like this guy.
Wait, wha- NANOPROBES INSERTED! INITIALISING NEURAL TAKEOVER SUBROUTINE! I AM YOURS TO COMMAND!
You are so losing karma points for that.
Suggest we spend some time looking round to see what else might be lying round town for us to use, then tomorrow, hit the dusty trail to go check out the big bad wasteland. You with me one last time, Cassidy?
Snowy trail. And at least you're still acting like I got a choice, even with you holding that thing, so I figure that's cause to stick around for a bit.
Aw, shucks, Cass, like I'd ever do a thing like that. I reckon we've been through enough for you to know your business as well as me.
Thanks, I guess. Means... means a lot.
Just make sure's you keep your distance, only use your ranged weapons, and open up that inventory - I got a whole heap of crap I been meanin' to unload.
Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true... for better or worse. This silent night though, a woman called Cassidy just stares into another empty glass, killing time in Goodsprings' Prospector Saloon and waiting for a certain someone to finish walking a Lonesome Road.
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all over the Mojave Not a... um... larvae? Harvey? Sod it, never mind...
So there I was, pretending to be in the middle of an anecdote, when this stranger walked into my bar. Did me a solid or two. Didn't even try to sell me to cannibals that one time. Can't say fairer, so we've been partners ever since.
Sorry, was you talkin' to me there?
Then he just runs off, for the fourth time. Sorry, Cass, he says, you wait here, some guy called Ulysses wants to see me alone-like, and it'd be rude to bring company. Some Christmas, right, sitting drinking alone like I got nothing better to do.
Girl, enough. This here's my saloon, not your Bar Humbug.
Only Christmas sprit I'm looking for this year goes in a glass, Trudy. Pint glass for preference. Keep it coming 'til I could strum myself off to a photo of Caesar.
Oh, if it isn't the man with the lobotomy scars coverin' up the bullet marks behind his brain. Can't say as I noticed you gone, save for no-one tellin' me what to do with my stimpacks or leaning in close for a while.
Who's this guy?
Pardner, I reckon you can just call me The Man With No Name.
Oh, that's not what I've been calling you these last few drinks, Courier. Trudy, pour him two fingers of whatever you've got left back there. Figure I about bought this saloon tonight already, may as well go for the furniture and all.
Much obliged there, little lady.
Be glad I'm drunk enough not to know which of you I can punch without a sore ass from hitting the floor. So anyways, find your mysterious fella rocking the epic hate-on? What did he end up wanting anyway?
I dunno. About five hundred corks to plug up the bulletholes, I'm guessin. That varmint had himself skin like his daddy was a deathclaw and his momma a radscorpion. Still, I reckon we both got what we was looking for.
Courier, have you heard that old world saying, 'do not shoot the messenger?'
I HAVE NOT!
Actually, now's I think, he probably expected more out of it, or he wasted himself a heck of a lot of time setting up his plans. And me, I just realised I had no real reason to play his game from the start. New stuff I got from it looks dumb too.
Well, great. I'm good too, since you're asking. So, where next, now you're all done with that business? We going to go deal with that House guy? Maybe give the Legion what for, or go questing for the NCR's spine in some cave?
Later, Cass. Reckon we take the Christmas off, enjoy some time with our loved ones, enjoy the holiday and all that. Saving the world can wait a few days.
Loved ones. Yeah, right. Never knew my Dad, Mom was a tribal, died when I was a kid, and last I checked you're not exactly Mr. Social, Mr. One Friend At A Time. Think a thousand turkeys out of my ass will be enough?
What the shit?!
Rose of Sharon Cassidy! I have been sent to help you learn the true meaning of Christmas! You will be visited by three ghouls of past, present and future, who will humorously show you the error of your cynical ways and-
Do we know you? You look as familiar as this sounds.
Oh, I do apologise. My name is Marley. You may have heard of me.
He's my cousin. I'm from Nipton. Or was, before... you know.
Oh. Seems like a missed opportunity, that.
Yeah, well, what are you going to do?
For starters, this.
Great. More mess to clean up.
Oh, stow it. You've had two hundred years and still not done anything about the broken mirror in the bathroom. Don't pretend to be Little Miss Houseproud now.
The heightened perception of this very nice hat on my head suggests you're upset about something. Was it something this guy said?
I just don't like Christmas, okay? If there was ever a Santa giving people what they wanted, he got nuked or stopped checking the mail centuries ago. Tomorrow's just another radioactive day like any other, and that's all there is to it.
You never know. Maybe this year will be different...
Please, there's only one impossible delivery boy round here, and he don't wear red. Gah. Calling it a night already. Anyone needs me, I'll be on a floor somewhere between here and Victor's place, or giving Easy Pete a run for his title.
Merry Christmas anyways, Cass. Santa asks, some of them sherries and mince pies was from you. Old soda and a squirrel on a stick anyway. Reckon we're okay swapping traditions up some, now everything's bout gone to poop.
"Merry Christmas, Cass," indeed. Not enough moonshine in the wastes.
Guess though... guess it wouldn't be so bad, that lobotomised optimism there being true. Like, just for a bit, the world waking up and there being snow everywhere, and presents under trees, and everyone just...
Yeah, right, Cassidy. As if.
Today's Mods: Frozen World, Placeable Christmas Trees
I became lost in the sprawling city of Dunwall a total of 14 times after receiving the teleporting Blink ability. The culprit wasn’t entangling level design or oblique objectives. It was curiosity – a hunger for the unknown rivalling Corvo Attano’s desire for revenge in its intensity.
From the moment salty ferryman Samuel Beechworth deposited me on the silty, moonlit shoreline of Dunwall’s outskirts, I sensed it: the compelling need to uncover the beating pulse of this once-mighty industrial city.
The best thing about Dishonored isn’t its kinetically scrumptious combat, which has certainly reaped its fair share of praise. It’s the simple existence of an immersive story churning independently from Corvo’s own narrative. Abandoned apartments, garish brothels, rusted whaling factories – each locale offers another slice of Dunwall’s identity for ravenous absorption. The ubiquity of snippets of lore captured in tattered books and note scraps peppered along Corvo’s path only fuels my hunger for more.
Corvo’s accomplices and detractors leave equally unforgettable marks exacerbated by the cryptic whispers of the cogwork Heart. It’s like a remote control of truth and gossip. It lays bare the innermost secrets of the pallid, downcast faces encountered in slum and suburb alike. Samuel’s life at sea, for example, was a response to the numbing loss of a hopeless love. He also can’t sleep in a normal bed. (Presumably due to their very non-wavy construction.)
Dunwall is a grim and grisly place filled with horror and despair, but Arkane’s creation also brims with possibility. Sure, Corvo seeks closure, but I relished the opportunities to tell my own brand of story at every turn. Dunwall’s presence made me feel the density of my rain-slick pea coat as I perched on high. It underscored the angular juxtaposition of technology with old-world architecture. Brushed tableaus of history leapt forth from Sergey Kolesov’s fantastically detailed paintings. An impromptu eavesdrop revealed an aristocratic couple reduced to squabbling amid the ruins of their lives in a plague-infested district.
Dishonored doesn’t force your nose up against everything it offers, but its revelatory depiction of a believable world tearing itself apart springboards the need to explore and travel beyond Dunwall’s cobblestone streets. Such a distinction exists in but a few predecessor titles considered staples of PC gaming, and Dishonored wholeheartedly deserves its seat beside such exploratory games as Deus Ex, Thief and Unreal.
I could go on. In a genre that defines variety mostly by the amount of ammo left in a gun, Dishonored’s richness both solidifies its legacy as a keystone stealth game and etches memories that linger far beyond the last credit line.
Read More: Our Dishonored review and Dishonored video diary.
It’s a busy and varied field this year: exquisitely picked soundtracks tussle for our affection with gorgeous bespoke scores, covering every genre from bustling chiptune beats to orchestral epics. Dishonored's sparse but potent use of the sea-shanty was fittingly iconic, while Jesper Kyd’s Darksiders 2 score swept from Celtic pipes to Mongolian throat singing, and Spec Ops: The Line’s astutely selected records patched both Deep Purple and Verdi into its eclectic, psychedelic ambience.
A hat tip is certainly due to Jessica Curry for her intensely unsettling Dear Esther score, managing to create a bleak, lonesome space for your neuroses to fill, without ever overtly forcing emotion upon the player. At the other end of the scale, Far Cry 3’s weapons-grade dubstep was hardly subtle, but a delirious, irresistible indulgence nonetheless.
However, the final battle here is to be fought by just two contenders - Hotline Miami and Super Hexagon, both offering a line in pounding electronica. Super Hexagon’s is chirpy, hypnotic and deployed with the level of craft witnessed in every area of the game: the way failure skips the track to another section avoids grating repetition without ever shattering the game’s sense of pace. But it’s Hotline Miami that triumphs, if not for the skill with which the tracks are woven into the game, then for the air of illness, caustic unease and pitiless violence that they collectively conjure. I can think of few games, or few anything, which have been able to sonically construct such a powerful sense of psychosis. An achievement, albeit a dark one.
Ever wonder what the PC games of 2012 would be like if they were text adventures? Of course not, no one in their right mind would ever wonder that. In related news: I wondered that! So, rip out your GeForce GTX 680, plug in your dusty 10" CRT monitor, and stuff your programmable eight-button mouse in a stocking, because this week we're going to imagine five of this year's games the way all PC games used to be: as text adventures.
This year, Dishonored invited us to sneak, stab, and slide-kick our way through the grimy, rat-infested Victorian-punk streets of Dunwall. The architecture and atmosphere were unforgettable, so let's forget about them while we take a look at Dishonored: The Text Adventure!