Much thanks for his generous review on No Mutant Allowed forums.
Posted by TheUnbeholden on Feb 26th, 2012
Bravo to Lich on his V13 mod, a soundly entertaining game which is at the same time thoroughly innovative in the exercise of modcraft and continues to build upon the author's experiments such as those found in Black Steel et al. Clearly the game is satire, and should be judged in its attempt to be what it is rather than for what it is not. In this respect, I think the mod is one of the most charming games I've played in some time (Fallout-related or not)-- reminiscent of the zaniness of Zak McKraken, the jocularity of Jessica Plunkerstein and the Dusseldorf Conspiracy, and similar such traditional adventure gems. I recommend everyone give V13 a play (or two, or three).
The fun begins at once and doesn't relent. Travis, the mechanic at Vault 13, offers the Chosen One an interpretation of the game's "main quest" that includes obtaining ten cold beers, a Cat's Paw magazine, and a hammer. While the vital need for the first two is of course self-evident, Travis needs the hammer to coax cooperation from the vault's idiosyncratic computer control system.** In a quagmire of typical bureacratic insipidness in all times and places, other "leaders" at the Vault of course have their own wholly incongruous opinions regarding what the player-character should aim to accomplish. We also have herein a recurring subplot about a wildly popular broadcast program, "Wastelands Got Talent," good for quite a few ongoing laughs.
Play is fast-paced and engaging. With only a handful of relevant exceptions, random encounters on the world map are disabled to a number of efficacious ends. The game is generally well-focused on presenting its intended experience with no distraction into extraneous matters. In other words, this approach complements the strengths of the Fallout engine whilst minimizing its defects. Fallout and Fallout 2 were transitional (if penultimate) products, merging the traditional crpg (e.g. Ultima, Final Fantasy 1, and so forth) with what at the time were newer approaches to interactivity and graphics made possible by advances in processor power. Hence though nearly all rpgs ought offer some form of fighting hordes of anonymous enemies in order to both satisfy their internal model of linear character development as well as maintain the attention of many players, the classic crpg-- including Fallout 2-- isn't a tactical combat game; attempting to make the game such only highlights its shortcomings in that department. What the Fallout 2 engine does very well is facilitate the multimedia telling of tales set on a stage populated by richly detailed and well-developed characters. As Lich's work seems focused on embracing such, he effectively demonstrates that many possibilities remain to be explored with artistic medium of the Fallout 2 engine. Furthermore in V13, the diminution of random encounters allows the player-character to zip around the wasteland, with the player enjoying the next gag while still smiling from the previous one. Lich's idea of "Bartertown," also seen in Black Steel, further develops and complements all the aforementioned general themes. Once again, tedious rpg mechanics (scouring zillions of containers for obscure items) are minimized so the player may fully enjoy interacting with the story and characters the author presents rather than focusing on trivia.
Of her husband Fred, Wilma says: wrote:
Though the couple's two nearby tots aren't named Pebbles and Bam-Bam, perhaps that would have been overkill.
Though there are a few truly trivial bugs here and there (the spore plants at Vault One, the thugs at the tv studio, etc), the mod is technically quite sound. The author's attention to detail extends even to small bits like changing the character trait descriptions and standard item descriptions. I also liked the way the author (I felt) pilloried the insane loot-level of standard Fallout 2 by placing all manner of fairly useless junk in all the maps, which the player may be tempted to have his character haul around "just in case." On a serious note, however, I did have to eventually resort to looking at maps in the mapper to find the sunglasses and the lighter, though the obscurity of these items may be yet another level of parody on the subject of "Easter Eggs."
The mod offers at least five or six completely different endings, depending upon the player's actions. Both the design and implementation is therefore quite well-done. Some others have noted the English-version dialogues perhaps merit a better translation; while this is true, Lich's considerable wit clearly shines even with the text currently offered. While much of the mod's humor is enhanced by a knowledge of Fallout and post-apocalyptic lore, I think the comedy stands out on its own even to those unfamiliar with our subculture.
The mod also offers so much room for further expansion-- the gang/gas refinery arc, "Mist" town, a "story-based" way to resolve scoring a certain tattoo (mutant serum testing, anyone?), and much more. This is a mark of considerable talent in the author-- his work leaves one to ponder even more enjoyment than is directly packaged in the game itself. Enough ideas are seeded in this mod to make a full-on satirical romp perhaps even more substantial than Fallout 2.
The supplementary comics are a hoot as well, and quite clever. "Somebody stole our car! Only this mysterious spatial script remains!" Well done.****
I don't know whether this mod is still undergoing development, or whether the author has moved on to other projects. In any case, I'll be eagerly awaiting any further episodes of Lich's work.
** Off-topic in the "Truth is Stranger than Fiction" category, an established acquaintance once assured me in all seriousness (and I believe him, for he was a fellow with absolutely no sense of humor, who never told jokes or embellished any tale) that the "bang it all over with a big hammer until it starts working again" technique is in fact an Officially Approved Method of servicing the nuclear reactors on US Navy submarines.
**** Off-topic in the "Crimes against Humanity" category, what a shame that last time I checked no legal DVD sets of the classic Dynamic Duo from the 1960s are available-- because undoubtedly some lowlife selfish scumbag is holding out for a few pennies on a royalties deal. Such a person should be tried at the Hague for depriving us all of this cultural heritage.