Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fallout 3 review


"War...war never changes."

    With the news Fallout 3 is going to be included with Fallout 4, it seemed the perfect time to review this grimdark post-apocalyptic science-fiction classic.I should note, before I get into this review, it's interesting how the public's perception of games can shift on a dime. While Fallout 3 is still well-regarded, generally the fandom's opinion is that its spin-off, Fallout: New Vegas, is much-better. Frankly, I can't help but think people forget a lot of the pathos from Fallout 3 which is largely absent from other entries in the series. Fallout 3 is a very affecting game and while not to the darkness level of, say, Metro 2033, it's still a work which I strongly support for introducing me to the joys of post-apocalypse gaming.

    So, this is going to be a love-fest review.

    Fair warning.

The Capital Wasteland is beautiful and horrifying at once.
    I'll include some general mentions of what is flawed about the game, don't worry, but if you want the short of the review then it's, "this is one of the best games I have ever played. You should play it if you haven't already." The objections I have to the game are fairly minor and the game still holds up pretty well years later, which is something I rarely get to say about video games. I think Knights of the Old Republic and Symphony of the Night are the only other games which will never fail to be awesome.

    The premise is, in an alternate universe where the Cold War never ended and a jingoistic fascist United States became embroiled in a nuclear war with communist China, most of humanity has been wiped out. The majority of survivors either chip out an existence in bizarre Mad Max-esque communities or live in isolationist Vaults that, more often than not, have driven its residents mad.

    The protagonist, eventually known as the Lone Wanderer, is one of the survivors who had the good fortune to grow up safe in one of the nicer Vaults under a loving father (voiced by Liam Neeson). Unfortunately, said father abruptly abandons his child upon adulthood and flees into the Wasteland for reasons unknown. Believed to be colluding in some form of treason, the Overseer of your Vault chases you out and the Lone Wanderer must now survive in the bandit, radiation, as well as mutant-filled Capital Wasteland.

Liam Neeson plays one of the last bastions of sanity and goodness in a lunatic world.
    There's more plot, including tracking down your father and becoming involved in a conflict between the remnant of the United States government as well a funky power-armored version of King Arthur's court (Fallout is a weird game series man), but the real heart of the game is just wandering around the ruins of Washington D.C. as well as the surrounding former Virginian countryside. There's not many NPCs in the game, which may annoy players who expect an RPG to be primarily about interaction, but the game is masterful in its use of subtle storytelling.

    I recall when I played through the first time I went into one of the random ruined houses spread throughout the game. There, I found a pair of skeletons holding each other in a bed, a bunch of Med-X (painkillers) beside them, with a nearby bedroom where an empty crib lays. There was a note in their post-office box that they'd been rejected for participation in the Vault system as well as signs of radiation damage. You don't need anyone to explain the events which transpired.

    Similarly, I encountered things like signs begging to be let in around the front of a Vault, letters to loved ones, and affecting moments like discovering a teddy bear in a one-person Fallout shelter with an adult's skeleton outside it. A father or mother sacrificing their life to save his child but, bluntly, there never being any rescue of those within said shelters.

    Deep-deep stuff.

To this day, I still consider Paradise Falls terrifying.
    Except, this is also a game which contains the Republic of Dave (which consists of Dave and his family), a bunch of literal tree-worshipers who don't realize their god is a snarky ghoul trapped in the world's worst case of head fungus, and a radio station DJ who keeps trying to pretend he's an edgy outlaw when there's not been a "Man" to fight in centuries. There is some bizarre frickin' stuff in this game and that's part of why it's so awesome.

    The humor actually serves in the literal definition of comic relief in that it gives the player time to process the immense bleakness of the world. Humanity is barely scraping by in this place and the majority of the survivors are now raiders who have no interest in anything but killing each other for meager scraps of food as well as pure water. It's easy to draw a conclusion the Capital Wasteland might have been more inhabited once but the bandits have killed almost all of the inhabitants, to the point only two major communities remain. Three if you count the Brotherhood of Steel and they're on their last legs as well due to an ill-advised war with the local Super Mutants.

    The game also has a lot of subtle themes at play which make use of the iconic imagery of Washington D.C.'s many monuments. Quests relate to retrieving things like the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and other documents which have been forgotten to modern man. Another includes helping a bunch of refugees and escaped slaves flee their overseers to seek refuge in Abraham Lincoln's memorial. Anvilicious? Yes. Powerful? I think so. Admittedly, the game also gives you the option of dressing up as Abraham Lincoln with his antique rifle to go hunting slavers.

    Which everyone should do, at least once.

The Emancipator of the Wasteland.
    The fact is, a lot of the game is about the United States and it paints an interesting nuanced view of the nation as well as its complicated history. The United States is presented as having amazing ideas and concepts but things like the Enclave exist in-game as well as the slavers of Paradise Falls--groups which represent the worst of the nation's history. When you come across a luxury hotel where the owner, literally, shoots the poor people outside from his penthouse with a sniper rifle, there's no way it's not commentary but it helps show even in immense poverty there will always be people who exploit having more.

    The gameplay is immensely fun, similar to the Elder Scrolls series but incorporating the SPECIAL stats from previous Fallout games. The game pretty much leans to you mastering Guns, Science, Repair, and Speech with a maxed Intelligence but that's not exactly bad either. The majority of the game is just killing the hundreds of bandits and monsters wandering around but the sheer joy of exploration never gets old. This is a game where you can randomly chance upon a community of cannibals in denial the Fifties ever ended or people who are, kinda-sorta, vampires.

    Oh and the Necronomicon.

    Yes, wha?

My "canon" Lone Wanderer was a saintly messianic hero--who also had a Pimp Pad.

    Fans of the previous Fallout games will perhaps be troubled by the shift in both gameplay, location, and style. The original Fallout games involved a century-long timeskip but involved a great deal of progress with functioning cities as well as new civilizations emerging from the Wasteland. The Capital Wasteland remains completely unchanged from what might as well be fifty years after the nuclear destruction of the Earth versus two hundred.

    While you can hand wave it and say the heavy radiation in the region prevents rebuilding, that just creates more questions. Others will object to the shift from a straight roleplaying game with multiple avenues of dealing with problems (generally combat, stealth, or talking) to a more combat focused narrative. Overall, my opinion of Fallout 3 is it's more of a re-imagining of the original two games and a reboot of the series than a straight continuation. Calling it Fallout: Aftermath or Fallout: Atomic Punk might have gone over better.

Fans of the previous Fallout games will perhaps be troubled by the shift in both gameplay, location, and style. The original Fallout games involved a century-long timeskip but involved a great deal of progress with functioning cities as well as new civilizations emerging from the Wasteland. The Capital Wasteland remains completely unchanged from what might as well be fifty years after the nuclear destruction of the Earth versus two hundred.

While you can hand wave it and say the heavy radiation in the region prevents rebuilding, that just creates more questions. Others will object to the shift from a straight roleplaying game with multiple avenues of dealing with problems (generally combat, stealth, or talking) to a more combat focused narrative. Overall, my opinion of Fallout 3 is it's more of a re-imagining of the original two games and a reboot of the series than a straight continuation. Calling it Fallout: Aftermath or Fallout: Atomic Punk might have gone over better.

Fans of the previous Fallout games will perhaps be troubled by the shift in both gameplay, location, and style. The original Fallout games involved a century-long timeskip but involved a great deal of progress with functioning cities as well as new civilizations emerging from the Wasteland. The Capital Wasteland remains completely unchanged from what might as well be fifty years after the nuclear destruction of the Earth versus two hundred.

While you can hand wave it and say the heavy radiation in the region prevents rebuilding, that just creates more questions. Others will object to the shift from a straight roleplaying game with multiple avenues of dealing with problems (generally combat, stealth, or talking) to a more combat focused narrative. Overall, my opinion of Fallout 3 is it's more of a re-imagining of the original two games and a reboot of the series than a straight continuation. Calling it Fallout: Aftermath or Fallout: Atomic Punk might have gone over better.

Megaton is an amazingly fun but simple concept: scrapyard town.
    There's a few flaws in the game. The grimdark atmosphere is somewhat hurt by the fact you can, and indeed are encouraged to, play Wasteland Gun Jesus. The Brotherhood of Steel is good, the Enclave is evil, the slavers of Paradise Falls are really evil, and there's no reason to be wicked yourself unless you're in the mood to be a comical bastard. The expansion, The Pitt, manages to fix this but I think they could have added more options at the start. The game's ending was also infamously bad, the original Mass Effect 3, but was corrected if you had the Broken Steel expansion. Some brief thoughts about the game's five expansions:

Broken Steel

    Broken Steel is, in my personal opinion, an absolutely essential expansion to the game. This provides an alternative ending to the game as well as numerous new levels. It also provides a campaign against the Enclave's remnants which is epic, action-packed, and has more explosions than a Michael Bay movie. Plus, it gives more Liberty Prime, a giant robot who spouts anti-communist phrases.

Operation: Anchorage


    My least favorite of the games, Operation: Anchorage takes the unique premise of having the player uploaded into a VR simulation of the Alaskan campaign against China only to squander it. There's just not much here other than the somewhat dubious appeal of fighting in snow after countless hours of fighting in a radioactive wasteland. I did appreciate the benefit of being able to interact more with the Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts, though.

The Pitt


    The best of the expansions is the most grimdark. In the hellish industrial nightmare of Pittsburgh's remnants, the game presents a serious argument for the evil overlord and his slavery. With the last steel mill in the world and a place with the potential to rebuild some semblance of civilization, ex-Brotherhood of Steel paladin Ashur has made use of kidnapping and forced labor. Compared to him is the evil Werner, who has raised a slave-revolution against him which has the potential to destroy all of this potential.

    What will save or damn the revolution? A baby girl who is immune to the chemical toxins which permeate the city.
   
    Really, really good grimdark.

The Pitt is a nightmare of steel, fire, smoke, and slavery. It is also perhaps one of the last, best hopes for humanity.
Point Lookout

    Point Lookout is a fun little excursion to a swampy abandoned amusement park in New England. There's not much story to the place with the most memorable section being an extended dream-sequence after joining a group of lobotomy-practicing tribals (which requires a bit of kookiness to get you to perform but is worth it). The enemies are extremely tough, well beyond the fact they should be far-far less difficult to kill than the Enclave soldiers and Super Mutants you've already faced, but suspension of disbelief is a wonderful thing.

Mothership Zeta

    Mothership Zeta is a silly-silly bit of fun with the Lone Wanderer being kidnapped by a bunch of Gray aliens. Armed with alien technology, he proceeds to wipe out his captors as well as rescue a host of cryogenically preserved humans who don't know the world has been devastated by nuclear war. There's not much to say about this particular expansion other than it's a little TOO over-the-top, even for Fallout but is still very fun and not as bland as Operation: Anchorage.

    The music in this game is well chosen with numerous classics from the 1950s which almost never get old. "I don't want to set the world on fire", "Butcher Pete", and "Crazy" are memorable tracks which exist in-universe as music the Lone Wanderer can listen to. The option to turn it off while exploring the devastation so there's only haunting silence also works well. The game also updates you with regular newsfeeds about your actions and while these get repetitive, they were initially one of my favorite parts of the game.

    In conclusion, Fallout 3 is awesome. One of the most awesome games ever. It's grimdark the way I like it: a light in the dark. It may burn a little TOO brightly but that's a small price for such a well-designed game.

10/10

11 comments:

  1. Everyone in our house has decided to replay Fallout 3 in anticipation of 4, which is great except we're all fighting over the Xbox. :) it's also given us an opportunity to rehash our favourite moments - mine was trying to sneak up on slavers whilst wearing power armour, with my radio on, followed by Fawkes. I failed stealth. :) I can't think of many other games that have inspired so many anecdotes...

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    1. The chance to play Xbox One Fallout 3 is really exciting to me. Perhaps more so than Fallout 4. :) But yes, I totally know that feeling.

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  2. How can it not burn too brightly? It has a plethora of things that make this game shine. How did you know Fall Out 3 was including Fall Out 4?
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    Ogreatgames

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    1. It's right here. Fallout 3 is getting a general release for Xbox One as part of Microsoft's efforts to get more backwards compatibility but Fallout 4 gamers get their own free copy. It's only for pre-orders, though.

      http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Fallout-3-Coming-Xbox-One-72810.html

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  3. this was the game that got me into Fallout series. I never played the first two when I was a kid and when I tried to a few years back. I just couldn't get into the turned based style of it.

    Fallout 3 is a great open world game, with exploring lots of a ruined dc being one of those experiences in a game that is up there in my favourite's of exploring a world.

    I also happened to like fallout 3 for it's idealism of how the world can heal and get better. Which Chris avellone didn't take kindly to when he did New Vegas, which showed greatly with the Ulysses character for that game.

    As much as I love his writing and the company he worked for. His cynicalism sometimes grates me and sadly affects his great writing.

    Thankfully Josh Sawyers kept him in check mostly for the rest of vegas, Vegas had well defined factions and some briallint dlc to go with it. So I can see why some prefer it, but the bugs my god were awful when it first came out. I remember everytime having to restart my 360 after 2 hours.

    Even now on pc with unofficial patches it still crashes.

    Thankfully Fallout 3 was mostly stable and has some brilliant mods for it on the pc. Some add some great quests, improved weapon features, graphics.

    The standout for me is mothership zeta crew, which lets you set up your own faction after playing through Mothership Zeta. All done by one guy who sadly has gone through some real hard times, but is currently preparing to wrap up the fallout 3 arc and set up for fallout 4.

    I would strongly recommend the mod for a great experience and add on to fallout 3.

    Great review overall Charles.

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    1. Chris Avellone is a bit depressing isn't he? I read the description for his Torment game which starts, "And you find out all the gods are evil and frauds." Oh well, Fallout 3 is deliciously grimdark and I like how it GETS BETTER due to your efforts. That's a cool idea, though, and I'll check it out. Sadly, I'm a console man so it'd only for curiosity's sake.

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    2. Depressing is the word to describe Chris Avellone yes, if Kreia form Sith Lords is anything to go by. Steam recently had a massive update for that game.

      There are some youtube videos I believe of the mod, the voce acting is as expected not the greatest and suffers from the fact English isn't their first language.

      Plus some of the text is misspelt etc, but the mod is quite fun and there is some good storytelling I think in it, again the immensive of being the leader of your own faction is what carries a lot of the mod's value.

      Hopefully it will come via mod support for the consoles for the fallout 4 version but who knows.

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  4. So when are you going to play the Metro series?

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    1. I purchased it Metro Redux today.

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    2. Just a warning. Metro 2033 is a very hard game even on the normal setting.

      Also the Duplet is the most powerful gun in the game when you fire both barrels at close range. Great for killing mutants.

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    3. Yea shotgun is the best weapon of the game. Redux is a bit easier if you pick Spartan mode, loved the game a lot. Does grimdark very well and is quite the challenge which is nice. not to mention some clever bits of storytelling in places that require paying attention in places.

      I played it with the Russian dub to immensive the experience but the english dub is okay to go through as well.

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