You become a bit startled going outside for the first time
Fallout 3…oh, Fallout 3. After spending 50 hours in the game according to my save files (thus more since I reloaded sometimes) spread over 5 months (from January to this week), I must say it was quite an adventure. Before I get to some spoilers, let me say the journey is pretty good most of the time, but there were bumps in the road, and like anything else, ups and downs. This is my mini-overview/review/journey 🙂
If you want a screenshot travelogue of the entire game, which man is a lot of screenshots, check here! I’m not going to annotate them like my Deus Ex ones, since there are over 400 of them. 400! This was kind of an attempt to do some kind of log in picture form though, since I didn’t take any other notes.
The Post-apocalypse Never Was So Fun To Explore!
The in-game world is pretty huge
Right off the bat I highly recommend Fallout 3 to those who enjoy exploring. There are amazing things to find, setup by the level designers, artists, writers or programmers. Little gems in the sea of brown that basically is Fallout 3’s main colour pallet. Among these are the contrasting forest Harold area, the classic 50’s black and white inspired and entirely too spooky Tranquility Lane, as well as very interestingly recreated Washington areas. The radio is well used, although could have used more songs, and perfectly fits exploring the world 😀
The start of the game also is a nice sandbox – for learning about the world, sorting your character in a rather nice in-character way, and doing some nice exploration of a small areas. Jumping through your life’s early major events is perfectly suited to vault life too.
I did enjoy many quests, although they were all pretty basic and morality was either “kill or save” all the time. The exploration was pushed on by far-reaching quests set over a massive area, although fast travel helped enormously. You can find some nice unique items by exploring, some which are nice to just come across.
The combat was amazingly over the top. Lasers, chainsaws, limbs flying everywhere, slow motion galore. Even on hard, I never really found it difficult (although I did set my companions to “never totally die” so I didn’t have to micromanage quicksaves). I should have used more of my big guns I guess, I rarely used the mini-nuke launcher, which is a pretty fun weapon. Tying the combat in with some okay, but not brilliant, lockpicking and hacking exercises gives fits and bursts of action on top of slower exploration. VAT’s was, I think, a good thing overall – but a better real time combat system for the obvious amount of time you run out of VAT’s points would have been good. I felt that just having the fastest weapon (my laser rifle or pistol or combat shotgun) was necessary for ever finishing a fight.
A Tragedy of Many Errors
All characters still look pretty…dead
There were some worse off parts about the game however. The actual RPG dialogues and choices are mind-numbingly bad – not necessarily in voice acting (which is much improved since Oblivions horrendous 6 voice actors situation), but the actual dialogue the player gets to choose from, and the few choices they get are usually “Good”, “Evil” and “Kill Everything Totally Evil”. There were a few quests which did warrant somewhat more careful choices – the android quest (finding an android who wiped it’s own memory for a foreigner – you can capture him/kill him, or get the foreigner to go away or kill the foreigner) I recall, had a good few ways to do the various outcomes (although doing it the most straightforward good way was a net loss for rewards when I rechecked the Fallout 3 wiki, sigh).
None of these were ever dilemmas though, something I thought would come more to the fore. In fact, one quest I didn’t bother to play through, partially because I knew the ending and wasn’t interested in the quest anyway, was the Tenpenny Tower Ghouls. This was where a set of ghouls wanted into a nicely defended, human-only tower. The quest had three options: ignore it (my choice), let the ghouls in, or kill the ghouls. Letting them in had the ghouls eventually just kill all the humans, and killing the human-like talking ghouls wiped them out. It was not a morale dilemma, just a rather silly point of “The ghouls were actually evil”, since no one in the tower particularly was evil. The only way this part of the game could have made sense is if there were other morale dilemmas and dodgy choices available in the game – where people were not clear-cut good and evil. There are only rare cases of this however. No, the Megaton wasn’t one of these, that was an entirely comical choice at best, and warrants no real discussion 🙁
So, the choice is there, but not exactly very inspiring sets of choices. Luckily most of the fun is not in the deep dialogue and plot paths, but in the exploration.
My choice of companion: the only woman, Star Paladin Cross
Companions and AI also, sadly, were not a strong point. Companions were basically gun-holders. Dogmeat was cool, but a dog is a dog, and he didn’t really do much. The various different AI enemies were pretty bland, beelining for you or finding cover (sometimes) – at least they fought pretty competently when they weren’t trying to shoot their guns through terrain, and did explode nicely when needed. I wish the companions did more then just repeat the same canned lines (which get boring fast), and have their own quest lines, but never mind. A missed opportunity to be sure!
Tranquility Lane, good random plot mission
Finally, the plot itself – started reasonably okay (and had interesting points), if terribly fridge-logic based (why did your Father leave without you? why kill himself? urg…), however never really bonds the player to the tasks they are assigned at all – especially after your already distant father kills himself. With no real option to do anything but follow the plot markers around, well, apart from some interesting missions inserted into the general plot for no real reason, it’s a letdown (although much, much more of an improvement over the ghastly short and very boring Oblivion plot). The one bit which annoyed me, and I never got told this, but Eden being a computer – this really was very underused. A real shame, I thought he was quite funny even if the actual ways you could convince him he was wrong in his very short conversation with you were bizarre and rather silly. The Enclave never really had a good “enemy” to relate to, the Colonel you never really saw much of, or knew much about sadly.
A Horrible End to a Otherwise Fun Journey
The “Boss” who we barely know…
The “choice” and ending laid bare…
We die, hooray! 🙁
Fallout 3, well, as I’ve seen complaints elsewhere, let me agree – the ending is a tad on the letdown side. There is nothing near the quality of Storm of Zehir‘s ending (which was fully narrated, included every major sidequest outcome and even allowed you to re-pick what happened to get every ending!), but instead, once you do a ridiculously easy fight you push a few buttons and die. Yep, die. No choice in the matter, even if you’re a 10-intelligence, maxed-out-science prodigy genius like myself. Nope, I have to shoot then sacrifice myself. How fun.
Woo, way to stop the game in it’s tracks, especially if you have lots of unfinished business. Luckily I had been told, and read about this, so while I didn’t know the specifics of the plot, I knew I had to do sidequests before starting the last quest. The designers even realised their error and brought out downloadable content to “fix” this – by saying the player was merely knocked out and woke up 2 weeks later. A shame the actual ending just wasn’t up to the rest of the game, like I said, so disappointing overall, to me an absolutely horrible ending. You never knew what actually happened to those places you saved, helped, burned to the ground or blew up.
To Sum Up…
First view outside the vault, come on, you know you want to go looking…
There was a reason I put off the ending for 3 months (since I ended most of my quests in March and played the last bit recently), and it is obvious I disliked it. I ran out of general quests to do really, and once you reach level 20, killing more things just gets “in your way” – the combat, after 50 hours of it, can’t get much more repetitive of course!
However, the mix of item-finding, exploration of large areas and all the little touches in design, history, backstory and world feel, this is worth playing. You can always avoid quests that are boring, and work on doing other things. The non-combat choices might be limited, however I still had fun finding new things, and certainly exploring the mythology of the world pre- and post-apocalypse. It’s a crazy Science! world, and all the more fun for it.