best before 15.08.2018

by Hartigan Malchop

Taking the Long Way Round

I tell you folks, this summer has got so sweltering, that sometimes I get to thinking that if I stay outdoors in the sun too long, there ain’t going to be much left of your pal Harty. Yessir, where we Malchops live, the temperature has been ticking steadily on up these last few weeks. It’s a funny thing, and I don’t know what it’s like for your good selves, but when the summer sun comes back around, it’s always sorta surpris’n for this little Malchop. You’d think I’d be used to it, havin’ lived in this neck of the woods for the better part of my times on this fine ole earth.

That ain’t the only surprise I get when the seasons swing about. The summer sun here lights up the whole land like something you never saw before – every little thing sharp and new. And that sun is puttin’ in the work, let me tell you. In all this heat, your pal Harty is often inclined to want to lie on a nice cold stone floor in the shade, panting with his tongue out like a poor thirsty hound-dog, waitin’ until the sun slides away.

As you good folks know, I’m one fella who is just fine and dandy to do not much of anything, and do it good and proper, so devoting myself to nothin’ but keeping cool ain’t no hardship for me. But I’ve also gone and started doing something new this summer. In the late afternoon, when the sun has already given its best and is making plans for leaving the office, I like to work up an appetite for a nice slow supper by getting my hat on my head and going for a wander about the woods just here in my back yard. Folks, there’s light and noise in them woods that I hardly ever noticed before. The swell thing about roaming under the trees at that time of afternoon is that you get enough sun to keep you bright and tanned, but you’ve also got the sweet covering shadow of the foliage high up there above you. And I tell you folks, the local birds and critters seem to have much the same idea about what a fine place this is to be in the late summer air, because they’re squabbling and cawing and rustling and singing, and generally going about their own noisy business and little stories, while paying this passing Malchop no mind.

Always dress to impress when hitting the casino floors.

Now, you might reckon that the bright depths of the summer ain’t no time to be playing video games, but sometimes it gets so hot out there that you can’t do nothing but slump inside in the dark with the fan going, a glass of ice-cold club soda next to you and your controller in your hands. I was browsin’ through my pile of Xbox 360 games, and came across the case for Fallout: New Vegas. The Fall Out games, near as I could tell from picking up little bits and pieces over the years, are some kind of post-apocalypse adventure games. I don’t rightly recall where I got this game in the first place, but since I ain’t never played a Fallout game, and they keep releasing the dang things on newer systems, I thought I’d have a little look-see to find out what all the fuss is about. Y’all know your pal Harty believes that it ain’t never too late to have a shot at something.

Right at the moment, certain times of day feel like you can actually hear the sun crackling away at its work outside, so I figgered a game where you go on wanderin’ round deserts and blasted landscapes might go together with that kind of weather just right. Turned out that the heat made my melon work even slower than usual, and to begin with I couldn’t find my way into enjoying Fallout: New Vegas no how. F’r’instance, the menu was so big and complicated, I didn’t have the first dang idea of how the thing was supposed to work. I guess that’s how Gramma Malchop feels if you try and show her somethin’ on a cellphone. I didn’t get a lot of the combat, neither, and I was walking frustrated all over the deserts and busted roads of New Vegas, trying to work out where the heck I was supposed to be for the next mission. I was so mixed up that I was constantly using the fast-travel option to save having to trek back somewhere I’d been before, zippin’ back in confusion to try and find whatever the heck was the part of the mission I’d missed. The game looked like nothing but frustrated fumbling and fast-travel loading screens, all disjointed and cut up so bad it weren’t no wonder I couldn’t appreciate it.

I’m just a humble caption writer, and as such, I am forced to admit that I don’t understand anything in this menu.

It took me a while, folks, because ain’t nobody claimed that this Malchop is the big brains of the family, but after a while I worked out that I was doing Fall Out all wrong. Y’see, I discovered a funny thing about how I was playing – if I stopped using fast-travel, all of a sudden Fall Out: New Vegas weren’t no choppy confusing mess – it was a whole wide world to wander through, where you would never go too long before stumbling across some little thing to inspect, or a bunch of mutants would ambush you, or you’d come across a little bit of story to investigate that didn’t have the slightest little thing to do with the main story-line of the game. This wasn’t a game where I was supposed to charge in one direction, all worked up and furious as an angry bull. Naw, this was a place where I was supposed to explore, get lost, and stumble across things. Once I stopped rushing about the place, I even started to appreciate all them menu options which pop up on your Pip-Boy display. That there green-flickering menu is designed to look like long-lasting retro technology, and it kinda reminds me of that venerable XT Computer I had back in the day and may have mentioned before to you folks. Fiddling about in the retro glowing monochrome menus to repair weapons and try new things you’d picked up, deciding what stuff to keep and what to dump, even all that was part of the dilly-dallying charm of the game.

Just because civilisation has collapsed doesn’t mean that we can’t do a bit of sight-seeing.

I ain’t never been a huge fan of the open-world games, seeing as how a lot of these sorts of games feel big, but just plain empty. But there was something different about being aimless on the New Vegas map. When I decided to stop fast-travel and just let my feet take me where they wanted, even this little Malchop started to notice how Fallout New Vegas is designed with a lot of things to do scattered all about, so you ain’t never bored for long. Any way you mosey along, you’re bound to find something at least mildly interesting, There’s one fine strand of side story, f’r’instance, buried in a hidden underground Vault, where you puzzle out what happened to the people who once lived there by collecting all sorts of clues and messages and computer files. If you didn’t come across this story by roaming about, the game sure as heck weren’t about to tell you about it, no sir. I’ve always kind of been tickled by games that go to all the trouble of making whole hidden areas that they know a lot of players may never even see, like, f’r’instance the Great Hollow in Dark Souls, which I had no notion was even there the first time I played on through. You got to take your hat off to that amount of dedication to the depth of the world of a game, where you work to fill it on up with these sights and treasures that some folks might never find. And when you do stumble on one of these random side adventures, why, it feels a whole lot better than the game flashing and shouting about what you oughta do next. It feels like ain’t nobody else been here before you, like this here discovery and adventure is all yours, and that’s a darn fine feeling to have.

GET ORF MY LAND.

Besides the map of New Vegas never feeling too empty, I reckon the other key thing that made it such a fine game to play at walking speed was the music. Fall Out: New Vegas has a small, but real good collection of tunes. You pick up a few radio stations from that complicated computer menu, and the music that follows you about the land is music of heartache and loss, music of the sands of the desert and dust blowing slowly across New Vegas. That sort of soundtrack is just right for a lone wanderer, and it didn’t hurt none that one of the songs your radio station keeps on playing was ‘Johnny Guitar’, a long-time favorite in the Malchop household.

Raul knows that sassiness is essential for good radio work.

Sure, maybe, I’m rambling a little here, folks, because it sure is too hot hereabouts to be up to much thinking, but that’s just a summer way of being, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve written you all before about how your pal Harty can kinda be a thick-head ox when it comes to appreciating a pretty landscape, but what I like so well about these summer wanderings is that it don’t feel like I have to do any one thing, or any perticular thing at all. When I’m outside, if I want to watch some bugs under a rock for a spell, that’s fine, or if I decide to get into a whistling contest with some of the local feathered singers, that’s fine too. Heck, if I want to find a comfortable looking tree and lean myself up against that trunk and just watch the sunlight move back and forward through the leaves like water, and have a little half-doze, well then I can just go on right ahead. It’s a good way to travel about, and for the right sort of video-game, it can be a good way to play, too. In future I’m going to have to keep in mind that sometimes the best way to get into a game is to take your time.

Keep well, pals, and when you go out a’wandering, don’t forget your hat and trusty water bottle, and I’ll see you around.


You can email us at bestbefore@subsidingsun.uk


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