Red Metal and I have been going round and round these comment sections, complaining about when the plot turns sour at the end of video games for a long, long time. And with good reason. Dropping the ball on the plot like that is pretty much like giving the player a nice, delicious dessert, only hiding a big ‘ol rock in the middle of it. You’re going along, enjoying yourself, and then bam!, all your teeth are shattered and you hate everyone who delivered that to you.
But, you know, plot is not the only way a game can fall apart at the end. I don’t know if it’s even the most common way a game can fall apart. Plenty of games fall apart gameplay-wise, as well. In fact, thinking back, it’s hard to remember the last time I played a game that didn’t somehow just drop in gameplay quality at the end.
Fact of the matter is that most of the people who start your game aren’t going to get to the end. As it turns out, not everybody can muster up the commitment that I do so magnificently all the time. So, it makes sense that they’d put most of the quality up front. That’s where the reviewers are going to focus, that’s where your first impression is developed, and really, that’s where you know most people are going to be playing. From a pure dollar/value standpoint, of course that’s where you’re going to get the most impact for your operational inputs.
Of course, it may not be a conscious decision to focus on the start to the detriment of the end of the game either. Oftentimes, if you’re making the end of the game at the end of the development process, you’re just running out. Running out of funds, running out of energy, running out of creativity, it’s kind of natural you just wouldn’t be able to bring it the same way you were earlier. Compounding this, one of the ugly truths of the video game industry is that crunch time is a standard practice. When your game is getting close to being ready, your life will quickly become hell. And you’re still supposed to squeeze out the magic there. It just can’t happen. So if crunch time is overlapping with you capping off the game, of course the quality’s going to suffer.
Just like a plot going down the tubes at the end can derail the whole experience, so to can the drop in gameplay. I was actually enjoying Fallout 4. I know not everyone enjoyed Fallout 4, but I did. Until the end. Which hit a really weird moment. That was the point at which the plot was reaching its most tension, with all the factions I had been moving along having their irreconcilable differences finally coming to fruition, and with that pushing things forward, it really should have been at the game’s height. The gameplay just wasn’t matching it, though. The game completely ran out of anything new or different to deliver, leaving me fighting the same old goons without anything really special to it, glitches started popping up a lot more, and balance all went out the window. The quests had the highest amount of emotional release in the game, but aside from the Brotherhood trying to get its troops at me through a toothpaste tube, which was kind of cool, the gameplay was all same old, where it wasn’t lacking. It kind of made the experience feel a bit hollow. Part of me was into it, part of me wasn’t, and I ended up suffering through the bad parts and not enjoying the good as much as I would have otherwise.
Don’t have much of a point here, just a bit of a rant. But, while it’s easy to complain about a bad plot twist spoiling a game for you, and while a disappointing last level may not ruin the experience as much as a failed ending, it really amounts to a bit of lost potential. I finished Fallout 4, and haven’t cared to go back, but a game that sticks the landing can have me coming back again and again.