I came to a weird revelation the other day. When it comes to Bethesda, I have always considered myself a Fallout fan. I prefer the franchise and universe to the fantasy world of Elder Scrolls. However, if I was asked to line up the latest Elder Scrolls, the much-loved Skyrim, and put it in a selection with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, I would have to admit that Skyrim is the better game of the three. Why? Well, although I am terrible at the game (which I can’t criticise Skyrim for – it’s not its fault I am terrible at games), I have to appreciate it from an artistic point of view. Its size and scale is incredible and it’s an achievement gaming wise.
However, again I prefer Fallout as a series and today I am going to look into why I find myself liking Fallout more. It’s clearly lesser when it comes to scale, popularity and innovation. I have found three points, which, for me, make Fallout more enjoyable an experience.
3 – IT IS MORE CHARACTER DRIVEN
I am going to come across incredibly nerdy right now, but I quite like role-playing when I start a new Fallout game. I know that it is a role-playing game, so that is a given, but I quite like making a conscious decision on the kind of character I think suits the mood best and I will mould my gaming decisions around that role. Maybe it’s just the actor in me. For example, Fallout: New Vegas is basically a revenge game, like a typical Jason Statham movie, but with a Western theme. Therefore, I threw some age on my character and went through the game with a Clint Eastwood persona. I actually went all feminist for Fallout 3. It struck me that the daughter figure worked better than the son figure here. I really enjoyed how my character evolved throughout the game. At first, she was a little dependent on this father figure, but eventually she surpassed him in skill and the father figure began relying on her.
Skyrim doesn’t have that. In many ways, there is too blank a portrait on your character. He is accidentally convicted and lucks out with an escape from his execution. I had no idea how I was meant to play the hero and in doing so, I just wandered from place to place, being stereotypically heroic. It was as exciting an experience for me. I imagine some people like this blank slate to work with, but it means that as a story, Skyrim suffers from a vague character to relate to.
2 – THE ADVENTURES FEEL MORE PERSONALISED
In many ways, Skyrim boasts this idea of a personalised adventure. While Fallout’s story is fairly linear with various ways to complete the main mission, Skyrim has you take on multiple factions. Are you a member of the Dark Brotherhood or are you going to be a member of the brave Companions? You can join any group you want, leading your personality. However, other than few branches of story, Skyrim plays out very straight forward. Sure, you will come up with your own ending, but Fallout feels more personal. On the road, in between goals, skirmishes are more randomised. Battles feel original every time. Fallout: New Vegas even has an option to take this to another extreme, as it throws more random scenarios at you. I feel I have more personal stories about Fallout than I do with Skyrim.
Take my last play-through for instance. I was carrying out a bonus mission where I had a small time frame to save some of the Legion’s hostages. I took a mountain pass to the objective, so I could get the high ground, seeing as there is a high chance of Giant Ants storming you. On the pass, I ended up being attacked by some bandits. Sure, this is a fixed event, but I had fought them before and the battle feels different every time. This time around, I caught one of them patrolling. Sensing the opportunity to take one of them out safely, I crept forward and planted two bullets in the back of his head. Then disaster struck. I stepped on a mine they had laid out (I have no memory of mines being there before). Three of them ran out at me, hailing me with bullets. My health bar was massacred. I was going to die. That’s when one of them stepped on their own mine. All three of them were obliterated by their own trap. I stood there, weak yet alive, amazed at my lucky escape. I told my friends about this story, laughing at my luck. I do this often with Fallout, yet with Skyrim I have found that the ‘random’ events have all been covered before.
1 – THE UNIVERSE IS MUCH BETTER CONCEIVED
OK, so how can I go from saying that Skyrim has a vast and, quite frankly, more beautiful universe and then say that I prefer the Fallout one? Yes, on the surface, the Elder Scrolls is a beautiful game. There are breath-taking views, interesting monsters and a wide range of villages to find. But this is all on the surface. Fallout is much more interesting as a universe, because there is so much hiding beneath the surface.
There are so many factions to focus on. The Brotherhood, the NCR. Those little towns that go their own way not trusting of any form of political power. When it comes to villains we have endless opponents to choose from. We have the terrifying Enclave, the deadly Super-Mutants and the violently brutal, Legion. There are so many interesting characters with their own backstories that are really interesting to throw yourself into. There will always be more Fallout games, because even if we stopped throwing original ideas into the mix, there are already so many directions on the table that the games will never get old.
The Elder Scrolls isn’t so original. While the game model is amazing, it is pretty much a collage of Fantasy trademarks. Werewolves are just werewolves, witches are just hags and even the factions are pretty self-explanatory. There is nothing wrong with this, because the game lays its cards on the table and we are already familiar with the mechanics. What backstory could you possibly give a giant spider after all? But it’s all skin deep. You throw yourself into Skyrim for the beauty and Fallout for the story. And I think that is the main reason I will always choose Fallout over Elder Scrolls, even if Skyrim is the more impressive gaming achievement.