Alright, I wanna talk about Fallout 4 but I should probably establish context for my thoughts and feelings first. Which means I could mention the previous installments and what influenced my expectations for the series… or I could do full reviews of Fallout 3 and New Vegas! If you want to kick it old school and see what Fallout was like in 2D check out my Fallout 1 review. (And don’t worry, sometime I will get to the golden gem that is Fallout 2)
Fallout 3 takes place on the East coast of the US this time around. Time to go to Washington DC itself, the heart of the country and the highest on the Geiger Counter — it’s the nation’s capital, you can bet the Chinese nuked the hell out of it. You play as the child of Vault 101’s Doctor (In case you didn’t know, Vaults are shelters designed to endure the nuclear pummeling the surface took). Trapped beneath the Earth your father longed to go to the Wasteland above, something about a Project Purity. But all interaction with the surface is expressly forbidden by order of the Vault’s Overseer. Your father, not a man who likes to be told what to do, escaped despite this. You, desperate for answers, follow and escape as well.
The wastes are not what you expected or were prepared for. Mutants, bandits, dangerous creatures, technologically advanced agents, and strange goings on await you outside the Vault Door. And as always these loose factions are embroiled in a bitter war for survival and dominance.
At this point in Fallout’s development history things were in rough shape. The combat heavy but story starved Fallout Tactics sold well but was considered non-canon and not as compelling as the originals. Interplay then developed and published Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, a game very much like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance — and just as disappointing– which sold just as well its fantasy counterpart.
Black Isle Studio was developing Fallout 3 under the code-name Van Buren but in the face of their parent company, Interplay, filing for bankruptcy were forced to cancel. With the rights to Fallout and no way to keep the franchise going to life Interplay sold the Fallout IP to Bethesda for 1.17 million dollars. Long time members of the Fallout development team were saddened about not being able to continue the story.
Bethesda wasted no time using the Gamebryo engine and employing the same team that created The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion to create Fallout 3. Development started slowly but once all of Oblivion’s DLC and add-ons were completed development started on Fallout 3 in earnest. It would continue the legacy of the original games by sharing its focuses on non-linear gameplay, violence, and dark comedy.
Fallout 3 was released on October 28th, 2008. It’s competition was Fable II (XBox 360), LittleBigPlanet (PS3), and Command and Conquer: Red Alert III (PC).
Fallout 3 is exceptional at building a mood and atmosphere. It’s filled with vast empty spaces and where there are people desperate for the necessities of life. It’s totally possible to wander 10 minute stretches without running into anything, dangerous or otherwise. There are picnic areas populated by nothing but skeletons, abandoned caves, and all sorts of locations with a little loot and perhaps the remnants of a sad tale.
Yet where there are people, even in the stable places, they’re generally in trouble or need. Between Underworld’s dwindling supply of scrap metal and Ashur’s daughter’s fascination with teddy bears, everyone needs something. And they generally don’t have the manpower to get it — and most self respecting mercs won’t got hunting for stuffed toys.
But the point is that you can feel it. In the mutants, raiders, and townsfolk they’re all one bad season away from getting wiped out. The mood strikes the player and entices greed or charity. It forces the question ‘Do I give them what I have or keep it because I deserve it more?’
Fallout 3 is a first person RPG shooter. You walk around chat with the locals and if anyone gives you flack, gets in your way, or refuses to listen to reason — whatever excuse you prefer — you can perforate them or bludgeon them to death with your implement of choice. Alternatively, if you don’t trust your ability to click things — or just want some slick camera angles put on your killing — you can use the Vault Assisted Targeting System or VATS for short. VATS stops time and presents the ability to target specific enemy limbs.
The SPECIAL system returns strong and presents numerical representations of a characters Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. Which then determine a characters derived skills — which now has a much smaller list than the previous 2D games… goodbye gambling. Every level the character gains bestows skill points and perks! Perks give the character more specialized advantages such as earning more skill points per level or doing more damage to mutated creatures. Sadly, traits no longer exist and were scrapped for this title.
You’ll wander the wastes and find lots of people who need help. These are great opportunities to influence the wasteland for fun or profit, good or ill. Find a town beset by mutants? You can help ’em out for free and get some warm fuzzies, get a fair wage out of it, or gauge them for cash — you deserve it more anyway right? And besides, who else is gonna risk their neck?
These choices and actions determine how other people treat you by altering your karma. Karma comes in the good and bad varieties and has a subtle effect on how people treat you. It can even determine which companions will join you on your quest — ‘cept Dogmeat, he don’t give a damn who you kill or why you’re doing it.
This game has so many goddam locations and almost all of them have something interesting going on. From the Rebublic of Dave’s current election woes to the mysteries of the Dunwich Building if you pick a direction and start walking you’ll eventually find something cool.
Speaking of places, I really like the settlements of the DC Wasteland. From Megaton to Rivet City I find it really interesting how the people of the wasteland try to eke out a living. They’re also all really well designed physically and efficiently.
Two words, Three Dog. The player’s armbound computer has a radio and one of the stations on the air is Galaxy News Radio. GNR’s DJ brought the world of Fallout 3 to life for me, commenting on my accomplishments and failings. Three Dog also functions as a miniature tutorial, telling the player simple things about the game. And an opportunity to have some tone setting tunes from the 50s. He also gives the player hints about where to find quests. If Three Dog mentions a mysterious grove of trees out there, you can go find it!
The DLC in this game is really solid. The Pitt and Point Lookout present new environments for the player to explore and Broken Steel continues the game beyond its original finale. Mothership Zeta is… well disappointing but I’ll get to that. Overall it’s definitely worth the purchase — but maybe not at five dollars a pop.
Why did the Mothership Zeta DLC get created? We could have gotten anything else besides aliens. Aliens were in Fallout 2 and those aliens seemed like they had some sort of mysterious agenda. It was really better left unspoken. But now we’ve got that aliens have no goddam agenda. I see what they’re doing but cannot make sense of it. Whatever, kill them and get some sweet laser guns.
I really don’t like how the finale punishes the player for being intelligent. Spoiler free, there’s a thing that’ll kill the player if they do it. Alternatively, the player can ask a companion who’s not susceptible to the danger danger to take care of it instead. The final cutscene then mocks the player for being unwilling to die an unnecessary death at the ripe age of 21. I guess it doesn’t pay to think creatively for this choice in the game.
Uhhhhh, yeah, this game is awesome. My greatest wish for this game is that I could wipe my memory of it and explore it all again. Now that I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what to expect there’s nothing left for me. That being said, this was only accomplished after hours of exploration, searching every nook. The game of the year edition is frequently on sale, full price it’s still only $20, and I highly recommend getting it with the DLC. Playing it again, it’s hard to believe that this game is 8 years old because it still looks fine, plays smooth, and is incredibly fun.
Next Week: Fallout: New Vegas