After feeling a bit burnt out on Destiny 2, I decided to do another Fallout 4 playthough. This one was going to be a “pure” Minutemen run, where’d I’d ignore as much of the (lousy) main plot as possible and instead concentrate on organizing the scattered settlements of the post-war Commonwealth into something resembling an actual state.
I spent the last couple of weeks forging alliances, clearing out threats, rebuilding infrastructure, and providing security for my virtual citizens. As of last evening, I had fifteen settlements under my benevolent rule, all connected by specially equipped supply caravans. It had been quite a grind, but one I’d enjoyed undertaking…
…right up until the minute I decided to delete my save files and make a fresh go at it.
It’s an odd quirk of mine that goes at least as far back as the first Baldur’s Gate game, and maybe all the way to the Sega Genesis Shadowrun RPG. Hell, I could’ve been born with it, but it never had the opportunity to manifest until open-world sandbox games became a thing. Whatever the case may be, when it comes to these types of games, I prefer beginnings to endings or even “late-middlings.”
I love the process of guiding an in-game avatar from a fragile neophyte to the edges of being genuinely powerful. It’s a sweet spot where every loot drop or level gained is genuinely significant, and every encounter fraught with extreme peril. Improvised loadouts are the order of the day and cosmetic options are hard-won prizes. It’s also the part of the game when the possibilities truly feel limitless in terms of where and how to proceed.
Once the character transcends the upper boundary of that threshold, I start to get itchy. The narrative begins to assert itself in specific directions, I’ve settled on my character’s preferred look and set of gear, and the eagerness to wander gives way to “just get to the end, already.” Of the roughly hundred times I’ve started a new Baldur’s Gate II game, ninety have stopped at the asylum. The parts of the game leading up to that point were more entertaining than anything which followed them. That’s the most extreme example, but I’ve mirrored it scores of times in nearly every other Bioware and Bethesda offering, as well as Diablo III, No Man’s Sky Alpha Protocol, DC Universe Online, and the multiplayer free roam in Rockstar sandbox offerings.
Destiny and its sequel are only games of that type where I haven’t done it, mostly because there’s so little in the way of narrative variance and missed opportunities. It’s also a mark of pride that my main character dates back to the vanilla version of the first game. (And the limited facial customization means that I can’t really use “his nose looks off” as a pretext for deleting and starting fresh.)
I don’t think it’s a problem with my attention span, as much as a lack of interest in dominating content. It’s fun to seek out minor exploits or efficiencies when they actually matter, but I’d rather have a close call with some random raider sporting a pipe pistol than casually mow down a dozen super mutants with a legendary plasma rifle. For me, the real “endgame challenge” doesn’t involve difficulty but sustaining a sense of meaningfulness when your character has a meta-build solution for everything.