Fallout 3: A Review.

I am currently playing Fallout 3. This is a game coming from the design studios of Bethesda, who are responsible for the Elder Scrolls games, most noticeably Oblivion which was released in 2006. Fallout 3 was released in 2008, and uses a more recent updated version of the Oblivion engine. It is a Role Playing Game, with action elements and I know usually we have FPS games with RPG elements, such as Bioshock, but this time Fallout 3 is an action RPG. It is a continuation of the Fallout series of games released during the late nineties by Interplay; these were based around a post-apocalyptic future, set in America after a nuclear attack sometime in the second half of the twenty-first century. People retreated to what are known as ‘Vaults’; underground bunkers which protected them from radiation and the wandering people who never managed to find safety and hence have become radiated, mutated and all living in a wasteland where lawlessness abounds. Imagine a sort of Mad Max world, with various settlements dispersed across the South-eastern US and Washington DC, otherwise known in game as the ‘Capitol Wasteland’, because it is such a ruin two-hundred years post apocalypse, and you would get an impression of the game world. Both Fallout and Fallout 2 were very popular PC RPG games and back during those times the advent of the 3D Graphic cards which we are so accustomed to today never existed; instead, the first two games were coded in a 2D isometric display, utilising a turn based combat system. They were also quite non-linear, with many sub-plots to do which allowed you to develop your character, gain experience and level-up. Fallout 2 is seen now as a classic game, although it is quite hard to play today because of the graphics and the combat system. However the storyline is still seen as holding one of the best for an RPG of that time, probably only equalled using a similar system by the Baldurs Gate games.

Fallout 3 utilises state of the art graphics with a first person perspective compared to the top-down isometric view of the old games. Modern PC’s and console systems bring this original idea a new lease of life and interest, and you don’t have to have played the first two games to understand it as this game is not a direct sequel to the previous titles. Like Morrowind and Oblivion, the world is free-form (however lacking the beautiful greenery of Cyrodiil – instead it’s a very dark, grey waste), which means you can travel anywhere that is on the game map; it is a large world and there are many places to visit and explore, sub-quests to do and Raiders, Slavers and Super-Mutants to combat who patrol the wasteland. Finding safe havens and small communities to trade and stock up are your primary focus, all the while developing your character as you level up and grow in experience. Again, as in Oblivion, progressing the main plot when and how is entirely up to you, as the game is very non-linear and dynamic to an extent. The story behind the game is that you grew up in a vault, protected from the wasteland outside, your Mother and Father being Scientists who were working on a water purifying system. You Mother died at childbirth, and almost twenty years later your Father disappears from the Vault and you go looking for him. Enter your life into the post-nuclear world.

“Just walking the Dog”.

As in the first two games in the series, your actions in the game world are based around gaining or loosing ‘Karma’. Good choices, playing the role of a do-gooder, a saint if you like will gain points for your Karma, whilst doing evil-deeds, killing needlessly, doing questionable things will loose points and create your infamy. And this is quite a neat way of encouraging players to role play their character they create; the game is free-form as I mentioned, so, quite basically, you can do almost anything in Fallout 3. Doing the sub-quests really help to flesh out what type of character you develop; you could be someone who wants to help everyone, protect people, play the role of a paladin fighting for truth and justice, or you could become its arch-rival; the choice is yours – you are the role-player. Your Karma status also influences your dialogue options when you speak to other Non Player Characters (NPCs) in the wasteland and what followers you can pick up along the way. Also, there are various radio stations broadcasting which you can pick up, and one of these – Galaxy News Radio – follows your exploits in the game world, commending or scolding as you complete quests. It’s a nice touch and adds a sense of immersion in the game world, along with its period 1950s music because even though the game is set in 2277, the world never evolved post 2077 when the bombs fell. Also, worth noting is that the setting, the décor, the cars etc have this retro 1950s feel; it is a future still stuck in 1950s mentality but had technologically evolved very quickly post WW2 – an alternate history, an atompunk reality. Voice acting is pretty impressive too – another gripe from Oblivion which became too similar and repetitive. We have Liam Neeson, Ron Perlman and Malcom McDowell amongst others; big names for sure.

Technically the game improves over Oblivion, with much nicer graphics (which are actually astounding with some views looking over Washington) and a few of the gripes I had about Oblivion have gone, such as the levelling up method; Fallout 3 appears to be more balanced when you reach higher levels which is good because in Oblivion things became very challenging when you reached a high level as everything levelled the same time. As in Oblivion, it is still a dynamic world with all the NPC interactions and trading going on; this I believe is its most defining feature. Combat is a very bloody affair however, with its emphasis on exploding body parts which are played in slow motion when you use the VATS, an almost turn based system which heralds back and acknowledges the previous Fallout games turn based combat. It is a neat original touch to the game, but after a while it does become repetitive.

“If it wasn’t so depressing it would almost be good”.

In summery, Fallout 3 is a technically good and interesting game. The setting, the post-apocalyptic wasteland is quite depressing, however if you always wanted to feel what it would be like to live in a Mad Max world, then this would be up your street. It is interesting how Bethesda have brought new life into the Fallout franchise, and in all effect they have probably made it more popular than it ever was on the PC during the late 90’s. There is also downloadable content – expansions that add new quests, new sub plots and increase the games replayability allowing you to increase your level further, so I guess this proves that it sold well and still is supported. If you buy the Game of the Year Edition then all the DLC is included which saves money. Be warned however that this game carries an 18 rating because of its unsettling theme and the language and violence in the game. It also is a long game, especially if you take your time to complete the side quests. Interesting.

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