There’s a lot to be said about the Fallout series, and almost all of it has long-since been said. However there’s one aspect of the series, particularly its first 2 entries, that has been playing on my mind.
War….war never changes.
Far from a cool slogan, this phrase, though oft-misunderstood, helps to frame a larger discussion of games from a critic and developer perspective.
Throughout the personal computer revolution, the landscape was awash with architectures. Z80. 68000. PowerPC. SPARC. MIPS. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie, and innovation looked radically different across the board. By the turn of the century, however, the market had collectively settled on Intel’s x86. At a stretch, one may buy an Intel machine distinguished by, one: having a picture of a fruit on it, and two: the ability to run an operating system with a picture of a fruit on it.
It was inevitable that game consoles would meet the same fate.
Well, here we are again. There’s been a lot of talk lately about parasocial relationships, the type that we unilaterally form with artists, social media figures, writers, but I like to think that isn’t how you feel about me as a writer. I think that in the reading of this deconstruction there’s an unspoken overlap on some level going on, a trade of understanding. But we’ll get to that, for now let’s take that proverbial last strike of the hammer into Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy.
Well, here we are again, I’m crossing my fingers that most of you made it this far, and I’m glad for each and every one of you who did. I have a lot left to say, and I hope you have a lot left to read, so without too much delay, let’s get right to the second section of our deep dive into Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.
Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy is a game by the titular Bennett Foddy that was released in the far-gone year of 2017 to much contemporary critical acclaim and analysis. Why then revisit an already well-explored game years after its release? Personally I find it almost poignant to talk about the game as a memory, as an experience that has stuck with you that you find yourself reflecting on years down the road, much as one reflects on tough times, challenges overcome, or mistakes that they’ve made. We engage in this all the time in our lives, and what is art, if not something that seeks in an ephemeral but present way to be part of our life experience?
Now, this article is going to be a long one, it’s not titled Volume I without reason. This isn’t our normal fare, it’s dense and a slow burn, after all this game has a lot to say and I’ll be touching on far less than half of it, but I hope you’ll find it meaningful. So go get some water and settle in, I won’t judge if you can’t finish this in one sitting so don’t feel pressured to, if you need to take a break this article will still be here, and you can pick up right where you left off.
Monolith is a classic developer that you may or may not have heard of, whose library includes more well-known titles like FEAR and Condemned. They’re also very well known for one of the most expansive list of titles available on the PC to date, having produced a ridiculous amount of memorable titles often powered by their in-house engine. LithTech was powerful and gorgeous, often rivaling at times games like Quake with their visually impressive graphics and implementation of cutting edge animation technology. Today we’ll take a glimpse into an era when engines like Unity didn’t even exist, and Unreal wasn’t quite so ubiquitous or dominant.
Contemporary games in the survival genre suffer from a severe, almost ubiquitous, design failure, that of Hunger & Thirst systems. It’s a necessary mechanic in the eyes of developers, and that view isn’t necessarily wrong, but almost every implementation of hunger and thirst I’ve ever seen lacks the finesse necessary to sell it as anything but a source of frustration.
Unfairly considered a disasterpiece upon release, Arkane Studios’s Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic was actually the result of a contract negotiation gone wrong that cost the studio their chance at making a follow up to their cult classic, Arx Fatalis.
In retrospect, Arkane isn’t given enough credit for managing to lure Ubisoft into publishing an incredibly innovative Immersive Fantasy Sim with an emphasis on melee. Dark Messiah had an extremely intuitive combat system with finely tuned camera inertia which instilled a strong sense of positional awareness and visceral momentum behind every cut and thrust of the sword. It’s hard to pidgeonhole Dark Messiah into the same genre as its stealthier slow-paced peers, feeling much more akin to a swashbuckling simulator.
Standardized key bindings are something typically taken for granted as a universal constant since the release of DOOM in 1993, but historically this wasn’t always the case even as late as 2003.
The exhaustively extensive keymaps found in the simulator manuals of yore had a tendency to spill over into everything, particularly for games like Bethesda’s Daggerfall or System Shock 2, frequently upsetting the immediate gamefeel for those expecting a more intuitive control scheme. The lack of consistency through the decade was significant enough that titles such as Thief offered presets following the patterns of adjacent games.
Jogging towards the objective with your team, you instinctively break off to cover the flank when, suddenly, the artificial sun goes down and rain starts to pour. High-voltage flashbulbs go off simulating lightning, their flashes providing sporadic glimpses of the battlefield as your adrenaline spikes.
Illumination from your helmet display starts to get in the way of your night vision in the near-total darkness; you decide to lift up your water-streaked visor for a better view. You’re taking up position near the objective, knee deep in a patch of swamp water infested with stinging nettles. Only the sound of droplets hitting carbon fiber is audible while you scan the dim horizon.
Soon after you hear distant gunfire, your team begins to engage the enemy, kicking off a dangerous game of search-and-destroy in the shadows.