One of the reasons that I’ve gotten so into Fallen Earth is that it’s tapped into a longstanding fascination of mine: post-apocalyptic settings. I dig movies like Doomsday, Mad Max and (naturally) Solarbabies, watch TV shows like Jericho, and I’m an avid reader of “quiet Earth” books like The Road, The Stand, The Dark Tower. Zombies, plagues, weather abnormalities or whatever — just give me a contemporary setting where 99% of the population has gone bye-bye and the remainder are carving out a new life in the wasteland, and I’m hooked.
Setting makes a HUGE difference for me in gameplay. For instance, while I enjoy fantasy titles, I have never really fantasized about being in those worlds. There’s no part of WoW or LOTRO or Guild Wars that has made me feel as if I was finally living out my favorite dream. On the other hand, when it comes to science fiction or superheroes or post-apocalyptic madness, well, those have a long-standing contract with my imagination.
I’ve often made fun of people who can’t think past generic fantasy names like Drizz’t or Legolas or Gandalf for their character, but I understand why they do it. For them, they’re finally able to live out what they’ve always imagined, and that’s the experience they want. It might be what everyone else is doing, but it makes them happy — so be it.
My journeys across the wasteland of Arizona are enriched by my imagination and fond memories of the genre. At times, I look at the crumbling buildings, the rusted cars, and the downtrodden inhabitants and feel a tinge of despair, for a world that has gone away and left behind nightmares, hard work and uncertainty. Last night I finished up a series of quests in Odenville and was about to leave for good, when the quest giver told me that I was actually talented at commerce and should stick around, make a home in the town. For some reason, that connected with me — that I was going to have to say “no” and resume a nomadic trek across the desert, whereas if I was actually in that character’s shoes, I might feel the pull to really set up shop and carve out a comfortable existence.
The thing that does keep me going is that I really want to help these NPCs. I want to make this fallen earth a better place, even if it’s subject to MMO conventions where my actions make no difference whatsoever when the quest is done. When I came across a small camp of people who had been run out of their town by mutants, I went in with guns blazing just to recover a wedding ring of a woman whose husband died protecting her. I am the vengeance of the apocalypse, the savior of petty wrongs, and a force to be reckoned with.
Also, I just like killing mutants. Who doesn’t?