June 03, 2014

Let's Talk About Fallout 3

Brotherhood of Steel happened, it's true, and I can't change that. The game did irreparable damage to the franchise. Hell, it very nearly DESTROYED the franchise. Interplay sold Fallout to Bethesda and closed Black Isle's doors. Van Buren, the game that was meant to be Fallout 3, never saw the light of day; It was 75 percent complete if reports are to be believed. Fortunately for all of us, Bethesda wasted no time setting to work on a brand new one. And thus I present our topic of discussion this time: Fallout 3.

The first thing I'd like to mention is that the game is not really a sequel to the Fallout stories currently in progress. In fact, Fallout 3 really feels like another Fallout spin-off to me. It's in a completely new location, a lot of features from previous games are gone, and the overall package feels slightly off. Now before you start sending me a bunch of angry e-mails, I want to make one thing really clear: Fallout 3 is really good, even great. I enjoy the hell outta this game, and I'll even break it open and play it to this day, some 6 years later. And I'm not the only who thinks so. Fallout 3 completely revitalized the Fallout community, and it seemed to have the effect Brotherhood of Steel might have had if it, you know, wasn't utter shit; It brought console gamers into the Fallout world. But just because I love the game does not mean I can tear it some new holes, which I totally intend to do. So here we go.

The game swaps out the traditional isometric turn-based style with that of third-person shooting and exploration. There was exploring in the originals, to be sure, but it felt rather impersonal. all movement between locations was done by a map screen, where you controlled a little red X. Here, you see everything, and it certainly makes the world feel more real. The world itself has been painstakingly crafted to look like the world of Fallout, with very similar architecture and retro-futuristic trappings. The Capital Wasteland is a really big place, and while it's mostly desolate, there is still plenty of interesting locations to just come across and promptly explore. It's that sort of organic feeling that Bethesda is really good at cultivating, that makes you want to just wander into the wastes looking for shit. Throw in some awesome ambient tracks, and even a radio that plays retro tunes (Including The Ink Spots "Maybe", which kicked off the first game.), and you've got a very Fallout-feeling adventure that will promptly obliterate about 10 hours of your life. Problem is, there is only a handful of actual useful locations. It is highly doubtful you will ever go out to the fringes of the world looking for things because there are roughly 3 locations that provide all your basic needs and quests.

I personally believe you are a sadist if you collected all these. 
The inventory is roughly the same, though they've given it some fine tuning. Finally, you can loot corpses for every single thing they have on them, including the clothes on their backs and the pencils in their pockets. You need to do this for your main gear too, since weapons and armor now have degrading values, and must be constantly repaired and maintained. The clutter, while useless (Unless you get a very particular weapon crafted), adds to the feeling of scrounging for every last bit of stuff you can use. Or it would if the game were difficult. The game has arbitrary difficulty by making enemies that aren't tougher, but just have more health. This kind of thing drives me up a wall, and I'd like the game much less if it weren't for one simple thing: VATS. Oh yes, VATS. The Vault Assisted Targeting System emulates the aiming system from the originals, allowing you to pick out specific body parts on an enemy and shoot those in particular. It doesn't work in melee or unarmed like it used to, but you can still make incredible use of your guns against enemies who otherwise are a total pain. Deathclaws too fast for you? Break their legs! Mirelurks too tough? Shoot them in their uncovered faces! Super Mutants doing too much damage with their miniguns? Blast 'em right out of their hands! This system, combined with the game's plentiful gore, makes combat way more fun than it has the right to be.

Moving on from praise into more hate, Fallout 3 royally fucked up on one of the franchise's most prominent and important aspects: Karma and Reputation. Karma basically dictated how you would be perceived, as either a good, bad, or neutral individual. In the originals, all it did was affect how NPCs and towns initial reacted to you. In this one however, there's a bunch of crap that's dictated by Karma. Certain companions are unattainable, hit squads will hunt you down if you dip too far in either direction, and ultimately the game's ending is changed. This is fucking dumb, and I will now explain everything I hate about this. First, how do people in the Wasteland know everything you do? The only form of communication over large areas is caravans, and word of mouth isn't that reliable, not to mention there are several instances where no one could POSSIBLY know what you did (Saving Butch's mom in the Vault, for example.), but you get Karma for it anyway. Second, why the fuck are there hit squads for if you are a good guy? Like seriously, some jackass put a hit out on you for being incredibly helpful. What the hell! Lastly, Karma is far too easy to manipulate. I can literally detonate a nuclear warhead, and kill an entire town, full of innocent people, but I can just unload 40 bottles of water on some guy asking for them and ALL IS FORGIVEN. But the worst sin Fallout 3 has committed is there is no Reputation system. Factions are just sorta there, and you can never really join them. It makes it feel like there's no real stake in anything you do, since the only way to piss off NPCs is shooting them or TELLING them you are going to shoot them first, ya know, to be polite.

But on a positive note, what other game lets you nuke a town?! 
Lastly, the leveling in the game is wonky. Percentages have been replaced by solid numbers, meaning you can no longer level your skills past 100. Whatever, no big deal. But now you get a perk every level. While this sounds awesome, it's not, because initially there are barely any actual perks, just small stat increases. To make things lamer still, there are certain skills that you absolutely HAVE to level, unlike previous games where you could do pretty much whatever you wanted. Repair and Medicine are pretty much required if you want to have a good time, since Repair is necessary to maintain your gear, and Medicine...somehow magically dictates how effective drugs are...Because...They removed self healing from the game.

I'm not done yet, but we'll have to wait until next time to discuss more. Next time, I delve into Fallout 3's story, the quests, the controversial ending, and the DLC's. Do you disagree with what I think? Think I'm being too harsh? Go ahead and speak your mind, and thanks for reading!

Let's Talk About Fallout 3 - PAGE 2

More Let's Talk About:

Fallout 1, 2 Tactics, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4