essay, video games

For We Are Many

I’ve come to think about my times with game saves as alternative realities. Each time I enter into a saved state, I enter into a world where the actions that had happened in a previous save state no longer matter. Each time, with the previous changes and actions saved but ignored, become mirrored tabula rasa for me to imbue and change the future starting from that moment and forgetting anything else that happened to my character. In the latest of those journeys, I decided I would kill off The Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout: New Vegas.

I know I had talked up the fact that I was saving them in the last two posts. They had helped me in Fallout 3 and in Fallout: New Vegas I wanted to repay that kindness with avoiding the option to kill them for any other faction. They had deserved to live out their often stupid ideas of xenophobia. Well, they deserved to live until I wanted to explore some extremes.

I’ve been thinking about what some of the more interesting extremes of the end-game states of Fallout: New Vegas might be. That is, what are the total set of game ending I could achieve from the state I mentioned earlier. Could I truly side totally side with one faction over another given just one single save point? I went about trying to test that idea. The first extreme was total Legion rule.

I mentioned before in my first and second posts on Fallout: New Vegas that within the Jayne persona I had run some quests for the Legion before. From that starting point, I turned in those quests and got the next ones in line to build toward legion victory. Before I could do that however, Caesar had a seizure.

Caesar’s medical condition is interesting on a couple of different fronts. One, there is a line of thought that said that Caesar himself — the original Roman — might have had seizures as well. (The HBO show Rome followed this theory with their own character having attacks as well.) For the writers of Fallout: New Vegas to give this Caesar this condition as well is an interesting reflection. Two, it actually makes him more human. For all the trouble and tortures that the Legion have been said to cause across the landscape, for their leader to have sudden blackouts and seizures makes him, despite all the bad, actually likable in a way. He has pain he must deal with and is not, as all his soldiers believe, infallible. Given those two things, when I was given the quest to heal him — “Et Tumor, Brute?” Get it? — I jumped at the chance. (I was already jumping for an entirely different reason.)

After a couple of hours and two different fetch quests, I was ready for the game ending battle. Well, more like series of battles. Having played from the NCR/Mr. House angle, it was cool to see the battle flow from a different direction. Instead of trying to get in the Legate’s Fort — the front line of Caesar’s army — I was fighting from right outside it and edging toward General Oliver, the person in charge for the NCR.

We fought through the NCR lines and into the fort. Since I knew I would not be able to keep playing the game once I had finished it, I began to use up my inventory. Every bullet, grenade or disposable item I had, I used it up. All the food I had with me, I used as healing. If I had to wait on the other side of a pillar while that slower healing took place, I would. Finally, all I had left was drugs.

I find it interesting that both games, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, decided to model addiction. In both games, taking certain drugs and pills can and will give you an addiction status while you will need to keep taking them in order that you do not suffer negative effects. And, of course, both games flash and distort the screen in a way to show that you have taken something as the character that would impair their ability to see and act clearly. So, it was with a certain about of humor that, having taken all the drugs I had left all at the same time, that entered the room I had searched for and confronted General Oliver.

I actually hadn’t meant to do that. The drugs, I mean. I was looking for General Oliver. I wanted to end the conflict and had taken some of the drugs to refill my health and allow me to taken on more damage than normal. I was prepared for anything. Prepared that is for a fight. What I got instead was a a series of speech challenges and an extended conversation.

It was mentioned before that I had a speech statistic that was at 100, the maximum, and I passed every check with little problem. Having entered in the room with General Oliver, the game took over and, while the screen was distorted and my character was basically having a drug trip, I confronted the General.

I talked him out of fighting. As far as final battles go, it was about the same as the one I had against the Legate himself in that alternative reality. I talked my way through the fight and he gave up. Both the Legate the time before and now General Oliver this time. However, this time was far stranger with the screen distorted and the General looking like some sort of monster. The high was still in effect as the Legate approached me and told me the battle was over. We’d won. Well, me and the Legion had won. Separately but under the same banner. The Legion had the Mojave.

All I’d had to do to get to that point, to see that ending state was to assassinate a NCR president — with a rocket launcher — and get rid of The Brotherhood of Steel. For The Brotherhood, I had to key their self-destruction computer. To do that, I ended up killing everyone on the second floor, taking the keycards from their corpses and then blowing up the entire bunker. For the assassination, I just launched a missile and killed a bunch of soldiers on a stage while the president was there. Oh, and Veronica left me for killing her people.

Still, I’m not too bummed that the Legion won and, as it turns out from the scroll at the end, killed most of the other Mojave factions as a result. There are other alternatives, other realities. They need not win in all of them. My character exists across many dimensions. We are the true legion, as we are many. And we always win in the end.