Good News Children! In just a few months Fallout 4 will be released and I couldn’t be more excited. So excited in fact that I didn’t want to wait until November to explore the wasteland once more, and as i’ve already reviewed New Vegas, I decided to take another look at Fallout 3. As it was met with near universal praise upon release and won more that a few Game of the Year awards, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Fallout 3 is a Modern Classic. But does it hold up? Is the game still as good as it was seven years ago, or is it time to leave the Capital Wastland in hopes for Greener Pastures? Lets find out.
The game starts with you’re birth and upbringing in Vault 101, an underground structure made to save people from the threat of Nuclear War. For 19 years you live a pretty peaceful life inside the vault, until one day you’re awoken by a friend telling you that your father has left the vault, throwing it into chaos. The vaults Overseer is looking for you, thinking you may have something to do with all of this, and now you too must leave the only home you’ve ever known. After fighting off some of the vaults security you soon find your self in a battered and war torn D.C. With only one goal: find dad and figure out just what the hell is going on.
While that may be the main story, I wouldn’t say that’s the “real” story. Like it was in Skyrim, the real story here is the one you make. What makes this games story so much better that Skyrim or even New Vegas is how it more naturally allows for this kind of “create your own narrative” type of experience. In Skyrim you know the Dragons are going to destroy the world, so most of the side quests you do tend to feel like the kind of things that could wait for a bit. Here however, your main goal is “find dad”. You don’t know what he’s working on and you are seeing the real world for the first time. This simple characterization along with withholding the grander scope of the games story makes the idea that your character would abandon their main quest and explore the world while doing quest to gain needed survival items feel more natural. It also helps that the side quests feel like real request people in this environment would ask. Because of this, the actually role play (and even the arbitrary moral choice system) feels more real than in other games. When a runaway slave comes up to you and you have just enough caps (the games currency) to give her so that she can buy a gun to protect herself, but then you can’t buy more ammo or repair your weapons, you gain a much better insight into who you are than you do when asked to kill or brainwash an entire race as you did in Mass Effect 2 (still a great game though).
The story isn’t perfect though. Nearly all the big attempts at being emotional fall flat and there is some pretty obvious padding, but that alone wouldn’t have bothered me too much. The real issue is the fact that you can’t continue after beating the game, nor is there a new game plus mode. This means once you beat the game the only way to play more is from a previous save point or to restart. And when you add one the ridiculously low level cap of 20. It will take a while to reach the level cap, but once you do there is no real reward for anything you do any more, so the only real scene of progress comes from doing the story missions. With all of this combined it makes the game feel like it’s trying to limit how much of the game you see per play through, and that sucks a bit of fun out of the game. I know the PC version of the game had some patches to fix these issues, but playing on a PS3 meant I still had to deal with them.
In the end, between the three big Bethesda-style RPG’s that I played from the last generation (Fallout 3, New Vegas, Skyrim) I enjoyed the story from this game the most. It’s the only game of the three where the story both makes the main quest makes since while also justifying the open world tomfoolery you’ll inevitability get into. The Courier from New Vegas had no real reason to go after his assailant and the Dragonborn had no reason to go off and finding peoples lost treasures while dragons threatened to tear the world apart. But the vault dweller, they both had a reason to look for their father and a reason to put off doing so.
If you haven’t played a Bethesda game before there is one thing you need to understand: this is neither an FPS nor an action game. If you go in expecting to play Halo or Gears of War you’re going to be unimpressed. As this is an RPG the combat is more dictated on your characters stats more than anything. You are noticeably stiffer and less agile than in more traditional action games. When you tie into this the stat based accuracy rather that the hit/miss ratio being determined purely by player skill the combat can feel slow and unwieldy at first. To counter this is the new (for the time) V.A.T.S. System. This allowed you to pause the action and target a specific body part on your enemy. The amount of shots you can take while in this mode depends on your AP, so it’s not an instant win but it’s presence has a huge impact on the game play. In fact I’d go so far as to say that with out this feature the game wouldn’t have stood up as well as it has over the years.
But what about the game play outside of combat? Luckily for you weaklings and pacifist types there’s a few different skills you can put points into upon leveling up that can offer alternatives to combat in interesting ways. With enough speech and charisma you can talk your way through an incredible amount of the tasks you’ll undertake. Or you can can pick locks and hack computers to find hidden paths and items and even have robots or turrets do your fighting for you. Most of the skills you can level up have their benefit, which encourage replays as you’ll want to level up different ability’s to see how the game differs. The only one I found to be not worth the investment was “sneak”, as the only way stealth seemed to be a viable option was when I had a stealth boy (a devise that turns you invisible) equipped, and the sneak skill didn’t seem to effect that at all. What’s great about all of this is that anything you do gains you experience, so however you chose to play is totally valid. So choosing to shoot, talk or sneak your way through a mission will still gain you the rewards the others would.
And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for. As much as I love the game, it is a Bethesda game, and that means one thing: glitches. Glitches everywhere! For the most part these are in the realm of “tolerable”, but every so often something happens that angered me to no end. Enemies clipped through walls to where I couldn’t fallow them and finish them; I’d get stuck on world geometry, forcing me to reload a save so I could movie; and once or twice the game just froze forcing me to restart the system all together. I understand that with a game of this size these things are bound to happen, and to be fare, they weren’t a regular enough part of the game as to say it’s broken, but hen it comes to some of the bigger issues it’s hard not to ask why Bethesda didn’t just take some more time and iron these out a bit more.
The game isn’t perfect. It’s fun and worth playing, but it’s a flawed masterpiece through and through. There is no aspect of the game that is untouched by bugs, but non of these bugs ever made me want to stop playing. The best complement I can give the game is this: since I started this review blog I haven’t gone back to many games. I play them, review them and turn them in for new ones to review. This is one of only 2 games in the last two years I plan on keeping for a while (the other being Dark Souls). I wish the game was better, I wish it was more polished and I wish I didn’t have to admit that. But at the same time, I wish I could go back and see this again for the first time, and I wish I didn’t have to leave the Capital Wastland.
Game Play: 3/5
Music and Sound:
With the exception of Erik Dellums as Three Dog, most of the main voice cast in serviceable but entirely flat. Yes, this includes Liam Neeson as the Father. There wern’t any characters I heated, but other than 3 Dog there weren’t any that really stood out either. Dellums seemed to have been the only one putting some emotion into his character, where as every one else seems to have exactly one emotion regardless of what they were talking about. The music on the other hand is great, but there are way to few songs. I loved hearing “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” and “Anything Goes”, but when i’ve heard those same two songs at lest once every hour, I get kind of bored. And then there are the audio glitches. The two most common was the sound cutting out or 3 Dog endlessly repeating his intros to news or music without playing either. These were by far the most common issues through out my play time. If these happened at the same rate as the game play glitches I wouldn’t have cared all that much, but they happened at lest once per play season, and that really began to great on my nerves.
Music and Sound: 3/5
Overall score: 3.16/5
Who is this game for:
People counting down the days until November, who can’t wait to go back to the Wastland, and have the patience to deal with the games glitches. This is also a great game for RPG fans tired of Tolken-esk fantasy.