I was late to the Fallout party. In fact, I only briefly played the first two long after they looked like dinosaurs. Fallout 3 was heralded by many as one of the best open-world RPGs out there, but I just can’t see it.
Fallout 3 is certainly a competent game. Bethesda was the right choice for it, and I look forward to seeing what is in store for the franchise. I enjoyed much of FO3, but I have to stop a bit short of calling it revolutionary.
I played it shortly after release and enjoyed bits and pieces of it, but I never passed the halfway point. A few weeks ago I decided to give it another try. Keep in mind I played the original, from-the-box version with no extra content.
As usual, Bethesda integrates your character choice with gameplay, so instead of simply choosing your attributes, they’re interwoven in the opening sequences. I usually like this kind of thing, but the G.O.A.T. sequence felt unnecessary. I understand the idea of asking ethical questions to guide players in their skill allocations (that’s been done in past RPGs) but the process is so transparent that its purpose is dampend.
Regardless of the question, it’s usually pretty obvious which way the multiple choices are directing you. I think it would have been better to have actual quests instead of written questions determine that. Since players don’t really know how skills will be integrated into the actual gameplay, it’s tough to pick them.
For example, I thought I might try sneaking and lockpicking a bit, but by the midway point I really wished I had gone with small guns and medicine. There was simply no way for me to understand the practical application of the skills without reading a FAQ beforehand or browsing message boards perhaps.
The same goes with perks. There are some fairly useless ones. Take Ladykiller for example. I think I had the option to use it once. Maybe twice. I don’t remember it ever being relevant to a quest or anything worthwhile.
Still, I enjoyed the opening a good bit. Once I hit the wasteland, things began to go downhill. For one thing, the first city you come across is Megaton. It’s a nightmare to navigate at first. The stories and quests were fine. Don’t get me wrong. But it took me quite a while to really get the layout down.
Two issues crept up for me once I started questing. First, the repair system sucked. Second, the closed economy was frustrating.
To repair an item you have to have a duplicate item of less quality in most cases. Most items you find are in poor condition at first. They’re also damaged to a small extent whenever you fire them. This means you’re limited on the kinds of weapons you’ll be using.
Remember how I said I wish I had selected small guns? That’s because most of the weapons you find will be small guns. That means you can keep those items repaired, plus they weigh less so you can haul backups with you.
If you’re into big guns, you’re going to have a hard time hauling around (or even finding) a few miniguns to keep you in top shape.
NPCs can repair items, but only to around half. So you’re still going to find yourself relying on other weapons if you can’t find a duplicate of one you like to use.
The most common weapons I found were the hunting rifle and assault rifle. At the very end, laser rifles and pistols became somewhat common.
Bethesda also ticked me off to no end with the colonel’s gun. Basically at the very end of the game, an NPC will drop the best gun in the game. Of course, there’s no one to kill when you get it, unless you decide NOT to finish the game and head back out through the door leaving everyone waiting. I really hate crap like that.
The other thing I mentioned was the closed economy. Shopkeepers have a limited number of caps. That means you leave a lot of treasure behind. It’s never a good sign if players have to leave treasure behind.
The treasure you leave behind here is other weapons. For example, super mutants love to carry hunting and assault rifles early on. If you’re like me, you keep picking them up and repairing them until you have a few in perfect condition. The problem is no one has any money to buy all those extra guns.
That brings up another question, if caps are so valuable, why are there so many just lying around? It’s not like the apocalypse JUST happened. If caps are the currency, everything would be picked clean. You definitely wouldn’t find vending machines with bottles in them. Given the scarcity of resources, desperate souls would have ransacked every building in the area.
Probably the most disappointing thing about Fallout 3 is the core gameplay. Most of the RPG elements are fine. But it feels like RPG geeks who tried to make a shooter. FO3 may be a good RPG, but it’s a mediocre FPS.
Consider the enemy clusters. A FPS usually has multiple enemies with environmental obstructions which give you the chance to use tactics and cover to assault or defend areas. In FO3 you usually find one enemy (maybe two) down a hallway. Since they’re farther away than you like, you use VATS mode to target.
Movement matters, sure. Cover will stop the bullets from hitting you. But you run sooooo slow, especially if you’re crouched like I usually was. Since it’s part RPG, you also aren’t as accurate with your weapon at a lower skill. That’s something I hate about the FPS/RPG hybrid. Aiming is accomplished by the player with the mouse. They shouldn’t be further penalized by an arbitrary skill number.
I could keep going down the negativity spiral if I wanted to do it, but the truth is FO3 is a decent game. I don’t think it’s on the same level that other reviewers wanted to put it, but it’s an interesting diversion for a while. It has a lot of room for improvement.