A Child Is Born…

… twice, in this case.

Today I got Assassin’s Creed II and Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, and I played a bit of both. The former is entirely new to me, the latter I played through on PS3, but I’m now heading back to it on 360, with all the DLC chapters included in the GOTY version.

Anyway, while very different games, they do have one thing in common – you have an extended tutorial where you live through your character’s birth, and get to control them as a baby. Which is an odd thing to do in a game at all, but twice, back-to-back, on Christmas?

While Assassin’s Creed II just gets you to waggle the baby’s limbs as he fights for life and breath, then skips forward to you (well, Ezio de Whateverzi) as a young man jumping the rooftops (though not yet an armed assassin) but dulls the impact by having to work around all the near-future material with Desmond McGuffin, even if it kind of justifies such an extended time in Ezio’s youth with all the ‘bleeding effect’ malarkey.

Fallout 3 spends longer on your childhood, spreading your tutorial phase through babyhood (where you learn to move around, and pressing the talk button causes a burst of babyish burbling), to your tenth birthday party where you get a PIPboy and learn to shoot, then exams at sixteen before you reach age nineteen and the plot shunts you out into a larger adventure.

What’s fun with Fallout 3 is that, as well as letting you learn the interface ropes before you’re under serious threat, through various questions, items and tasks you shape your character’s attributes as they grow. It’s actually a rather droll summary of how games compact real life into simple decision trees, two decades of nature and nurture boiled down into half an hour of conversation trees and simple yes/no, on/off, interactions. I’m not sure it’s intentionally funny, though.

Although asking a gamer to work through their character’s childhood may seem like a big ask, it’s an interesting tactic for deepening the narrative and providing some novelty to what could be dry tutorials for what are, in both cases, atypical control schemes beyond the demands of your average FPS or platformer. It’s certainly more interesting than a straight tutorial or another run around Croft Manor, anyway.

Merry Christmas!



December 25, 2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

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