Play harder

Fallout 3

ScreenShot100Bethesda took a hard row to hoe by trying to revive a legendary series, the Fallout saga of Black Isle. Ancient Fallout fans of the gamer population – who got into this post-apocalyptic, radio active world in 1997 and 1998, Anno Domini – were making grimaces on the first pictures and videos. Most of them were seeing just a post-apocalyptic Oblivion behind the trailers, and this scared off a lot of players even at the beginning. Somewhere I can understand it because the IV. episode of the legendary Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion was dividing RPG fans seriously. After Morrowind, a classic CRPG, Oblivion from the Spring of 2006 was an action-adventure game full of RPG elements. It was disappointing for a lot, so they had the right to be afraid of an “Oblivion with guns!” – quoted from Todd Howard, leading producer of Bethesda. Todd felt like this, but what we got in the end was much more than a new Oblivion with firearms in a nuclear setting!

ScreenShot65The story and setting of the Fallout series is based on America in the 50s. This was an era of nuclear arms race, silly songs, cold war producing the antagonistic America Dream, exemplary life in a carefree consumer society which raises and feeds perfectly sterile plastic emotions. However, the creator of the Fallout setting, Tim Cain was dare to go further and changed history. The world of Fallout is like a future imagined in the 50s. The main characteristics are the wanton use of nuclear energy, the advancement of technology to a point where robots are serving a softened puppet society and cars are fueled by fusion power, and finally, the frenzied nuclear arms race. Cold war lasted longer than in real, till in 2077 the fear of a world in flames came true. As a requiem of the long war against China, the whole planet was sprinkled with atom bombs. Of course, the American Dream must have not to dissipate, and a chosen lot escaped to underground shelters built by Vault-Tec. Years passed, generations grew up before the huge airlocks opened again, and people could start a new life on the wasted surface of Earth, on the land of no one, where radioactive contamination and death, mutants, famine and actions of despair are everyday issues.

“Let’s go sunning It’s so good for you
Let’s go sunning Beneath the sky of blue
Greet the sun, every morn
Feel as free and happy as the day you’re born”

fallout_03The new Fallout story – and so, character creation – begins two hundred years after the catastrophe in Vault 101, which was closed all this time, so no one went out or came in. You can shape your hero from the very beginnings, because the first things you see are the lamps in the labor room and the face of your father who helps the birth as a doctor. Here you can setup the face of your character, and then you live the sterile and idyllic life of the Vault for 16 years. During this there are moments in life when you partly establish and form your abilities and personality. There are three types of characteristics: “Statistics” like strength, charisma, perception, etc, then “Skills” like sneaking, medicine, repair, using firearms, etc. The third type is the “Perks”, from which you can get one on every second level, and they have a more or less direct effect on your environment, people and items.

fallout_04Everything seems nice and fair: On your tenth birthday you get your Pip Boy 3000 and a BB gun. Then you are feeling well enough as a teenager until a day your father decides to escape from the shelter, and so he starts the main story line of the game. The first bigger scene is surely the one when you step out of the Vault. When your eyes hurt in the dazzling light, and the burnt out wasteland of Washington reveals itself. You realize you are alone, shift for yourself and the wasteland without knowing neither its laws nor dangers. After all, the unbound adventuring has a cause: You are investigating after your father. The huge map covers the post-apocalyptic Washington DC and offers numerous adventures on spots you have to explore, just as in other Bethesda games like Morrowind or Oblivion. The Pip Boy 3000 will be your best friend and greatest help during the adventures, because it isn’t just checking your life signs and playing radio stations but have built in inventory management, radiation monitor, map and compass too.

“Oh, I’m a mighty man, I’m young and I’m in my prime
Yes, a mighty, mighty man, I’m young and I’m in my prime”

ScreenShot5Of course, what does a huge map worth without quests? Nothing: It would be no more than brainless wandering and shooting. I have to admit: After some hours of playing I remarked bitterly that Bethesda was avaricious with the side quests, but I was mistaken. There is the option of fast travel between already explored places – as if teleporting to spots on the map, just like in Oblivion –, and I “slicked the painter” too often with the help of my Pip Boy. This way I left many places unexplored and many highly enjoyable quests unknown. Besides the main story line you can find numerous side quests, some of them are multistaged with well detailed characters and places. Even besides the side quests there are lesser things to do which don’t appear in your journal, but completion may have an effect on your character. And they are all diverse, because there are head hunting and item grabbing as well as tasks like helping lovers or consoling the child you hurt before and escorting her back to her mother. And of course, most of the quests can be completed by more than one ways. For example, sometimes you can avoid fighting by stealing things or talking smart, but you can choose the brutal direct approach anytime. According to your actions you get good and bad karma, which affects on how the inhabitants of the wasteland are seeing you. You also can be informed about yourself from the one and only free radio of the Capital Wasteland, because the DJ of Galaxy News Radio, Three Dog tells everything what happens around. Between, of course, some of the greatest hits from the 50s.

ScreenShot12Unfortunately, I was more rightly bitter about the main story, because it is not just short, but also have lots of illogical and inconsistent elements. Not to mention the things from the previous parts of the series. In spite of its errors it can hold you spellbound and you have to pay attention not to complete it. And this is another big problem: Todd Howard and his crew may want you to turn the computer off after you complete the main story, because the game doesn’t allow you to play further, independently of your decision at the end. Of course, this is true only in the basic game. The first released DLC, Operation: Anchorage increased the annoyingly low level cap and removed the ending of the main story. It’s a good thing that Bethesda admitted this failure so quickly – of course, gamer forums were loud of it, so the patching was calculable.

“He’s hackin’ and wackin’ and smackin’
He just hacks, wacks, choppin’ that meat”

ScreenShot14Of course, I cannot leave the great combat system of Fallout 3 unmentioned. In the previous parts of the series there was turn based combat. However, Bethesda didn’t replanted this into the new, basically almost FPS-style game but found out a hybrid system. Here you can run and shoot without extras, like in a standard FPS, but at the same time you can use the V.A.T.S. system by your Pip Boy 3000. It is not just spectacular, but often it also can help you out of hard situations. Just choose a target, and the game stops till you decide where to shoot. This decision is helped by V.A.T.S. counting hit chances out on every body part of your target by adding up the ability and skill of your character, the condition and type of your gun, cover, environment, who knows what. You choose where to aim and in case of a hit there are some options. Maybe the damage is simply subtracted from the Hit Points of your opponent, but you can shoot the gun out of the enemy’s hand as well as cripple his/her legs or place a precise headshot. V.A.T.S. is used by Action Points, and from more points you can shoot more, so it is like planning the fight in advance for ScreenShot7some seconds. After hitting OK you get a sightly scene in which the slow camera is following your bullet, or you see yourself and the painful grimace of your enemy, or body parts, hands and heads and any other limb being torn off the body or splashed apart. This is the point where the game got a 18+ rating, and Australia wanted to ban it.

Real time fighting has its fair side too. Using scope and sniper is recommended in real time, because it does not just give a feeling of realism but you have much higher hit chance if you don’t let the Pip Boy aim instead of you (by numbers, long range is greatly decreasing your chance to hit). Using a sniper is entertaining, because you can eliminate a whole raider camp by hiding and shooting. But if you feel nostalgic toward the musketeers, you can fight by swords too.

“The roads are the dustiest, The winds are the gustiest
The gates are the rustiest, The pies are the crustiest,
The songs the lustiest, The friends the trustiest
Way back home”

ScreenShot9In former Bethesda works game experience was highly reduced by the terrible direction of voices. At last, they stepped over it and in Fallout 3 they enlisted more voice actors than in Oblivion. Unfortunately, Sean Bean or Patrick Stewart is not here, but the voice of your father is acted by Liam Neeson. Thanks to the bigger crew I didn’t feel like I was talking to clones. The music is mostly perfect for the mood, but there was nothing to be afraid of, because they charged Inon Zur with the job, who previously worked on games like Crysis, Company of Heroes and Everquest II.

ScreenShot90Fallout 3 is not the game that you throw into the computer for one or two hours a week, stare at it and go to bed. Fallout 3 needs time, the cutting atmosphere created by designers and programmers of Bethesda Softworks can suck the player in. Let it does its work, and you will not be disappointed. The post-apocalyptic despair, the mood of the 50s, the acting and personality of the non-player characters, the whole Fallout-feeling is so perfect, that the atmosphere surely will grab and hold you. As you explore the land, get to know places and people, get friends here and there, you will feel playing more and more like being in a virtual home. I never understood how Bethesda reaches this with most of its games. What’s sure: Fallout 3 gives a determining game experience – let’s emphasize it: EXPERIENCE – to every player, even if sometimes it’s hard to find something in the underground tunnels, where the compass shows only linear direction.


fallout3coverTitle: Fallout 3
Developer: Bethesda Softworks

Publisher: Zenimax
Style: Role-playing game

What I liked:
fantastic, unique, inimitable atmosphere

smart sidequests without linearity
never boring

What I didn’t like:
short and illogical main story

it’s sometimes frustrating to find directions in the tunnels


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