Emotional Gaming: Fallout 4 vs. Ori and the Blind Forest

I spent almost 100 hours playing through Fallout 4, and easily spent an additional 20 watching a friend play. With an emotionally gripping intro, huge open world, fun (light) city-building, crafting mechanics, and a prolific RPG skills/feats tree Fallout 4 has all the elements of a gaming masterpiece. I paid 60$ for Fallout 4.

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I spent about 9 hours playing Ori and the Blind Forest. It also contains an emotionally gripping intro, but keeps it’s world tight in a Metroidvania style open world above ground / under ground map. There are no city building mechanics, only very light RPG/collectible elements, and some punishingly hard platforming sections. I paid 10$ for Ori and the Blind Forest.

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If you asked me one hour into each game, which would have the more lasting impact, certainly I would have said Fallout. The intro was absolutely gut-wrenching, and masterfully done. The promise of a huge open world with an unlimited number of levels and nigh unlimited quests? Tantalizing! One hour into Ori, I knew what I was in for. A gorgeous, emotional Metroidvania that I could beat in a weekend. And yet…

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If you asked me one mission from the end of each game, which would have a more lasting impact, certainly I would have said Fallout. I had poured a hundred real world hours into crafting an ultimate suit of Power Armor, the best weapons, thirty colonies with hundreds of citizens spread throughout the commonwealth. One mission from the end of Ori, I hadn’t even maxed my weapons skills tree. And yet…

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The ending of Ori left me nearly in tears. It was a tough, beautiful experience that left you questioning your actions and the actors’ motivations. It was also scripted, with zero player choice influencing the ending. Conversely, the ending of Fallout 4 was overly violent, didn’t play to the game’s strengths, and was generic, no matter which of the 4 choices you ultimately make at the end you’ll see roughly the same cut scene and be left in roughly the same open world.

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One of the hallmarks of an interactive experience that stands the test of time is the emotional resonance you have with the characters. Ori and the Blind Forest absolutely nails this. Fallout 4 starts out very strong, and is quite engaging (I can count the games on one hand that held me for 100+), but Fallout 4 flops at the end. For all the excellent design choices they made, I’d wager that this one will be ret-conned just like Fallout 3’s unpopular ending was. At the end of the day, they’re both excellent, yet flawed games. Fallout 4 is massive, and fun, with a lackluster payoff at the end. Ori is tight, and gorgeous, with a few platforming sections that are ridiculously difficult. I rate Fallout 4 a 90/100 (with an option to re-consider after the DLC is released), and Ori a 92/100.

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