Fallout 3 Game Review

Okay, finally finished Fallout 3. Yeah, I know it took me a year but while working at BioWare I was too busy to actually finish games… I could only try them out. So retirement has been nice in that I can actually enjoy games again. And I did enjoy this one.

Beware… there are spoilers ahead. If you don’t know what a spoiler is, continue reading and you’ll understand.

Overall I really enjoyed the game and if the ending hadn’t messed up everything I’d still be playing it (instead of moving onto BioShock, another game I have yet to finish). What do you mean the ending messed up?

Basically if you don’t know Fallout 3 is an open-world where you can (once you get past the opening, linear adventure) explore pretty much anywhere. I had a lot of fun doing that and I was also engaged in the story. I liked the combat system, including the pause-mode targeting thingy. It was a blast. I was decorating the house I owned and collecting knick knacks from all over post apocalyptic Washington. Lotsa fun.

Anyways at the end of the game, the culmination of the ‘father storyline’ I expected a couple things:
1. That I would be able to continue playing the game afterwards. I could not. (and even if I could the way the end plot worked out you were basically a big sissy if you didn’t sacrifice yourself… guilt trip’o’rama)
2. That the end fight would be awesome. It was not. Obviously in a shooter it is much harder to make a cool end fight than it is in a turn-based (the original Fallout games by Black Isle) or speed-based RPG (Dragon Age by BioWare). But still… a single head shot and I killed the main boss… that’s just silly. And even if I wasn’t forced to sacrifice myself in a radiation chamber (despite having a radiation immune sidekick who suddenly goes all philosophical and refuses to help me) the gun I picked off the main boss was ridiculous. It could do so much damage that finishing exploring the rest of the world would have been pointless– it would have been a cake walk. I almost wonder if it was an accident that the gun dropped.

Anyways with the way the end game closed off I don’t have any real compelling motivation to go back to an earlier savegame and play the game… in my mind this character has finished the game. End of story. And I seldom replay games with new characters.

So, that’s it. What about the rest of the game though?

I thought the dialog a lot better than Oblivion though obvious line re-use between characters still happens and its annoying. The main story was okay. The subquests were generally amusing but many ruined the world immersion for me. This is always something that bugs me about Bethesda games. One example was a plot where a stranger in a small town wants me to blow the small town up (he has his reasons). So I say ‘okay’. But I’m not skilled enough to manipulate the bomb. So he has me take drugs that improve my skills so I can do trigger the bomb. And my question right then and there is — if anyone can take drugs to be good enough to manipulate the bomb why the heck do you need me to do it? Do it yourself! You’re going to waste time and money (he’s been sitting around forever waiting for someone skilled enough to come along and do it) when you could just do the damn thing yourself?

The world become less realistic at that point.

Another example. Later in the game you gain a mutant in your group… the same kind of mutant that you and everyone else has been killing repeatedly throughout the game. Yet even if you bring him back to the base of the mercenary group that is basically the mortal enemies of the mutants not even a single person mentions it. Now, in this kind of game I would’ve been pissed if the entire town turned on me because I walked in with a mutant but there should of at least been a confrontational dialog or ambient ‘holy shit what is that thing doing here’ voice over. Or something.

Overall it is disappointing that the characters only serve the plot, there’s no consistency when it comes at the expense of advancing the game. This makes the characters flat and unrealistic — the moment you pull back their layers you realize that they are just puppets… the illusion of reality with them is really weak (and I know this happens in all games, but some games do hide it better than this… a lot better). These weak illusions are mostly due to the lack of dialog covering all the various scenarios that can come up in play but also because it was easier for the designers to just have the characters do whatever they wanted them to do to push plot forward, even if that behavior was inconsistent with the initial characterization. Disappointing.

All said Fallout 3 is a good game and I’d probably buy a sequel, if there is one made. And it made money… nitpicking about my points above probably would not have made a difference in sales or game ranking (it has a 96% rating at GameRankings!) but would have cost more time and money to finish.

– Brent Knowles