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Skyrim One Year On: Why Fallout New Vegas Is Better

Bethesda Softworks control two of the most revered series' in modern gaming. Creators of the Elder Scrolls games and acquirers of the Fallout franchise - Bethesda own the Sandbox RPG genre.

Before we go on - New Vegas IS better than Fallout 3...(appropriate pause for the hissing and booing of avid Fallout fanatics in utter disagreement)... Fallout 3 is a masterpiece - back in 2008 it delivered a rich, innovative and engrossing experience and brought something we had never seen before to the current generation of gaming. Two years later, Fallout: New Vegas took all of what its predecessor had achieved and made it better. So if Fallout 3 is a masterpiece then New Vegas is, well, whatever one better than a masterpiece is. Skyrim - the first worthwhile Elder Scrolls of the current generation- became a similar success; a hero’s tale framed within a beautiful fantasy realm complete with dragons, giants, mammoths and not just advanced AI, but a fully functioning civilization. If you had a social life, it was put firmly on hold after embarking on the Dragonborn's journey.

Ok, so now it has been just over a year since The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim graced our screens. And now that the dust has settled, the hysteria has calmed and the enchantment spell has worn off, it's time to lay the facts bare- Fallout: New Vegas is better than Skyrim (man, this article has the potential to piss a lot of people off!).

Let's talk why:

mojave wasteland

Setting, Believability and Intrigue of Gameplay: The Mojave desert, New Vegas and the end of the world scenario VRS the realm of Skyrim and a mythical doomsday.

I can hear the complaints already. Ok, ok, Skyrim is beautifully rendered. There are dragonflies and butterflies and rolling hills, and blah, and blah, and blah. I’m all for expansive maps and massive playgrounds which push hardware to its limits, but a fair whack of Skyrim is just plain boring. If I’ve trotted past a keep, cavern, burrow or cave once, I’ve trotted past one a million times. Anyone who claims they didn’t ‘fast travel’ from at least halfway through the main story is a liar. Size matters, but quality beats quantity every time. And where is the challenge? Skyrim’s random encounters pose almost no threat from the get-go. Bandits are felled with a single strike and trolls are picked off from long range with ease. Even the almighty dragon showdowns are either repetitive button mashing affairs or simply a case of outrunning said beast, making haste in the opposite direction. Sure, it is all more than aesthetically pleasing; but it’s just too easy.

New Vegas is quite the opposite. Thrown in at the deep end, battles regularly demand well executed strategy, timing and finesse. Be it battling a nest of Radscorpions, an army of fire ants, or a swarm of vehement Cazodors, you never feel safe. Utilizing Fallout’s VATs combat system efficiently only serves to force a tactical approach. And that’s without mentioning the most deadly of all videogame enemies - Deathclaws. As for New Vegas itself, its sparseness only adds to its grandeur. The sun-scorched plains and abandoned towns have you searching that little bit further for friendly life. Never has a game presented so many ‘I wonder what that is over there in the distance’ moments of exploration. Traveling is a joy - not a chore.

The basis of Skyrim’s story - for all purposely fantastical - just isn’t all that interesting. A bunch of dragons died years ago...now they’re back and plan to take over the world [insert overly-complicated reason why]... oh, by the way - you’re the ‘chosen one’, the only one who can stop them [insert almost non-existent reason why]... get to work.

Compare this with Fallout’s very real threat of nuclear war and the devastating effect it would have on the planet. As a mere courier, you are instantly aware of just how expendable you are in New Vegas. The Mojave Wasteland is almost the perfect setting, as it drives home a desperate scenario of desolation. The reinvented New Vegas; overrun with gangs and thugs battling for both power and survival is almost certainly how our fickle human race would act if placed in similar circumstances. Battling your way to the top in order to save New Vegas from itself and being forced to decide who you can trust; kill or let live, all makes for gripping storytelling.

Granted, 30 feet tall, mythical dragons destroying the planet isn’t exactly a comforting thought; but the idea of a post-apocalyptic world, the dangers it would present mankind, and the ensuing struggle for power between rogue factions is genuinely terrifying.


Gangs/Institutions: The NCR, Caesar’s Legion, House VRS The Imperial Legion, The Stormcloaks, The Blades

New Vegas commands some serious factions.  The New California Republic (NCR)  - a paragon of the old world, where democracy and government reined supreme, Caesar’s Legion - a neo-fascist, anti-democratic army of hyper-reactionists, and Robert House and Yes Man - paradigms of technological evolution and the threat they pose to society, to name but a few. Each, along with a series of recognised ‘families’ and gangs, go up against each other amid the New Vegas power struggle. You must discern and decide who is fighting for a cause, or for themselves; who is worth fighting alongside, and who is likely to betray you. You can feel part of a family, like when eventually welcomed by the Boomers, or realise you are being used as a tool, as with Caesar’s Legion.

Similarly, Skyrim has the Imperial Legion - a loyalist faction representing conservatism, up against The Stormcloaks - the would-be socialists of the realm. To be quite honest, the all-conquering, anti-religious attitudes of the Imperials whilst castigating ancient god, Talos, pale in insignificance when compared with the inherently bigoted and out-rightly racist behaviour of Stormcloak leader Ulfric Stormcloak. Freedom fighter? Che Guevara would turn in his grave. You never truly feel aligned with anyone - even the characters you’re forced to get along with.

New Vegas’s faction reputation system allows you to manipulate each gang and play one off another, creating depth and several possible play-throughs and endings. Conversely, Skyrim’s less significant factions’ missions are too linear to ever create enough interest (The Blades quests - yawn).



Companions: Veronica Santangelo VRS J'zargo

Buddies, pals, followers, friends. There’s something special about teaming up with a mate and retrying that taxing boss battle or horde of bandits that keep bettering you on your lonesome. The great thing about both Skyrim and New Vegas, is that they utilize some very intelligent NPCs. Both games have a score of acquaintances willing to fight for your cause; however the New Vegas cast trump their Skyrim counterparts across the board. Better personalities, better skill-sets, and most importantly better in combat. I’m going to cherry pick here, but the team mates mentioned above perfectly illustrate the stark contrast in NPC quality across the two games.

Veronica Santangelo, scribe of the Brotherhood of Steel and Mojave traveller, is one of the best followers in any game, ever. A complicated individual, she has remained true to her beliefs, her morals and her sexuality - at times facing adversity as a result. She is adept with power weaponry and is unsurpassed in hand-to-hand combat. Her strength, defence and damned determined spirit makes her indispensable in battle. I wouldn’t have made it out of New Vegas alive, had it not been for her services.

Now Skyrim. J’zargo is a Khajit mage, an apprentice at the College of Winterhold and (unfortunately) a potential follower. Where do I start with this clown? For starters, he talks like a used car salesman. I don’t trust used car salesmen - particularly in a land without cars. He’s an arrogant sod, who has the pain threshold of a Skeever and, to quote Jay Z, “couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.” Not to mention the bastard nearly had me killed whilst testing out his Flame Cloak spells! He is near useless and recruiting him as a follower is pointless. As pointless as a McDonalds salad, or a hug in a brothel. When I played Skyrim, I didn’t have 99 problems. I had one. It was J’zargo.

plasma gun

Weapons: Guns VRS no guns

[Edit - the scale of this section has been edited in light and respect of the utterly devastating events at Sandy Hook school earlier this month.]

I actually really enjoyed my journey in becoming the Archmage of Winterhold of Skyrim. And I thoroughly enjoyed all of the spells, incantations and summons I learned as a result. But I much more enjoyed taking down Caesar’s Legion whilst utilizing firearms in New Vegas.

Sure bows, arrows, long swords, broad swords, Daedric staffs - they’re all OK, but they’re not, well, they’re not guns. Considering Skyrim is so farcical anyway, I was shocked at the games lack of guns; particularly when you consider the advanced technology certain facets of the realm boast. This is all in order to fall in line with a made up chronology that is loosely based on a mythology! Dragons? Sure! Giants and Mammoths? Of course! Guns? Don’t be silly - they weren’t invented yet! How silly of me...

The variety of weaponry in New Vegas is great. A myriad of conventional weapons, super-charged futuristic weapons, and over-the-top (yet unbelievably satisfying) melee weaponry ensure constant, exciting battles. Not that Skyrim completely fails on this front, but when the only long-range action available comes in the form of bows and arrows or magic, there is certainly scope for battles to get boring, quickly.


The Ending

Climactic republican war, on-going civil war VRS slain dragon, peace on Earth(?)

Last but not least, the grand finale.  Skyrim’s ending has the potential to be epic. What we get though, is thoroughly disappointing. The Dragonborn’s quest leads us to Sovngarde, the Nord underworld, where it is understood main antagonist dragon Alduin has fled, feeding on the souls of the dead. Immersed in the chillingly beautiful surroundings of this alternative dimension, Dragonborn and co. must defeat this mighty beast once and for all. That’s right; once and for all...except, it’s the same battle which occurred 20 minutes earlier, only differences being you’re in a different location and Alduin doesn’t bounce back this time round. The world is saved, sure, but it wasn’t much of a challenge was it? Also, there is no explanation or guarantee that Alduin won’t return- like he has in past- suggesting that all our efforts may in fact be in vein. Very disappointing indeed.

New Vegas on the other hand throws a variety of endings at you, and depending on the path you choose throughout the main storyline, depends on the outcome of the final battle. The most enjoyable - in my opinion, having played through several times - is siding with Yes Man, opposing the NCR, however holding ‘Infamy’ with Caesar’s Legion. You blast your way through battle-scarred Hoover Dam, until reaching Legate’s Camp - home of Legate Lanius, the Monster of the East. What ensues is a showdown of epic proportions, as the courier is encompassed by Lanius’s blood-thirsty troops. Once disengaged, the courier must take on and take down Lanius himself. Of course, this encounter is pre-scripted to ramp up the difficulty - Lanius is able to heal himself and his limbs and it is impossible for him to be disarmed to name a few of his attributes. Without a companion, this battle is extremely tough. Either way, I have struggled to find a more rewarding game ending in recent years. In true Fallout style, you are then treated to a narrated epilogue tying up all the stories and loose ends of the Mojave dwellers, hinting that no matter what happens, there will always be conflict in a post-apocalyptic America.

So... that’s why New Vegas is better than Skyrim. I have drawn these conclusions after several play-throughs of both games and New Vegas comes out on top. This said, Skyrim’s soundtrack whips New Vegas’s ass!

As I mentioned before, Bethesda have this genre in the palm of their hand...Fallout 4 is gona be awesome!

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  • Guest - thomas


    I completly agree with all of your statements except for guns. I don't really expect guns to be in elder scrolls but I do agree that it not being in there makes ranged combat boring quick. Imo skyrim got boring very very quick. I played it for a month and just didn't like the story, lack of skills compared to earlier ES games, constant fetch quests, horrible companions, every npc having the same voice, the very boring way of leveling skills (repeatedly do the same thing over and over then you level up, that is just boring) unlikeable factions, unclimatic ending, and how horrible the AI for dragons were. It was soo fun battling my first dragon then it became extremely annoying as they would constantly fly away and just run away from me in the middle of battle and not come back. There was a lot of things they took out in skyrim that were in past games just like something little like being able to wear clothes under your armor and that's just the beggining of it. The only thing I liked more about skyrim from past ES games were the graphics and presentaion but id rather have better gameplay options, quests and etc than just graphics. In the end it took me 6 months to come back to skyrim and finally have the urge to beat it and in those 6 months I was replaying New Vegas making new character doing different endings and what not. Skyrim lacked different ending and an interesting environment. It looked pretty but after going through 10 caves I became bored and almost every effin quest has at least 1 objective to fetch something from a cave which made me dislike it even more. After saying all that I think skyrim was overhyped but still a good game. I would give it a 7.5 and give New Vegas a 9.5. And just so everyone knows bethesda didn't develop New Vegas obsidian did and bethesda published it and in all honesty I think obsidian created a way way better sanbox rpg than bethesda did for skyrim or even fallout 3 which was effing awsome and would give a 9.0 but all in all Fallout New Vegas is the superior game compared to skyrim and bethesda needs to step their developing up and stop trying to charge outragoues amount of money for dlc. Each New Vegas dlc cost 10 bucks and added a whole new area and storyling along with weapons armor etc while Skyrims dlcs are 20 bucks (except for hearthfire which is the worst dlc I've ever purchased as there are mods better than it) for dawnguard which doesn't add a new land to explore for 20 effing bucks! Now I did enjoy dragonborn but it shoulndt of been 20 bucks! They're just overpricing the dlc because skyrim has been over hyped by so many that they know people will buy it regarldless if its really worth that value and in my mind that's just downright criminal! Obsidian needs to make another RPG and not bethesda because their games they develop are going downhill

  • Guest - Otaku


    You just sound like some FPS fanboy to me, sorry buts its true, its like me saying Me head shooting every one in Fallout NV is boring... really dude? Then use smart tactics like using a bow to take down a troll? then what about using a Sniper Rifle taking down a deathclaw? killing Bandits in 1 hit with swords? while in Fallout NV you can use a grenade launcher to take out more Raiders with a good place shot, Followers have no back story in Skyrim? odd am pritty sure most of The Companions followers have some backstory to them, o lets not forget some of the Collage of winterhold, some of the thief's guild members have some, and lets not forget the Dark Brotherhood, then only ones are Hired followers, and ones you get when you are a thaine of the town/city so this so called "article" is a biased piece of crap

  • Guest - John


    Hmm, I have to say, you appear to have an unfair bias towards guns, if you like guns so much, you really aren't going to rate any sort of fantasy/medieval combat too highly. Considering Fallout etc. is just Oblivion w/guns.

  • Guest - Herp


    Completely agree with everything in the article, except for J'zargo. You do not insult J'zargo.

  • Guest - Jake


    I agree. Obsidian did a great job with New Vegas.

  • Guest - Nathan


    The problem first off with this list is the fact that it complains about realism where both games are fantastical in their own rights. One is a retro sci-fi, radiation exxagerating, post-apocalyptic game with supermutants and a Roman revivalist state where as the other game is a fantasy focused upon two plots; one plot being about the dragons' return and the other being about the political dynamics of a country where there are arguements for both sides in a Civil War. While New Vegas is morally ambigous at times the Legion are clear cut villains where as the Stormcloaks and Imperials are both good in intentions and bad in methods and struture.

  • Hard to take someone seriously who thinks "VRS" is how you abbreviate "versus" -- the standard is "Vs." or maybe even "VS" (since you seem to insist on writing it in all caps).

  • Guest - Jon


    Fallout New Vegas is...well, just alright. Don't know where to start with this, but it boils down to the idea that Americans are in love with the gun, and are confused by games which don't include headshots.
    I have invested 50 hours in Fallout New Vegas, more in its predecessor. Endless roaming over identical brown hills, shooting mutant insects and talking to soldiers who all resemble each other. Everything looks exactly the fecking same. I held out, expecting some big reveal, or graphical change. It didnt happen. In no way does this cash-in (although highly professional) feel varied, convincing, or as real or original as any given Elder Scrolls game..it's just more Fallout 3.How you can, with a straight face, criticise Skyrim for dullness and not Fallout is utterly, utterly incredible, even willfully ignorant.

  • Guest - Steven wholesale


    If you think skyrim is too easy try it from the beginning on either master or expert. I tried it on one of my play throughs and it was almost impossible, but really fun and challenging.

  • Guest - Anonymous


    This person is biased, especially in the followers section. He compared one of the best followers in fallout new vegas to one of the worst followers in skyrim, J'zargo! J'ZARGO! You might as well be comparing Cicero to an undead wolf. On top of that, he said fallout is better because guns. If that is not bias, I don't know what is!

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