Late to the party, my initial thoughts on Fallout 3.

I’ve finally gotten around to playing Fallout 3, and my god is the game amazing. It just does so many things right, and while it has some flaws, it overall feels just so complete. It’s smart, keeps you guessing, and has a great sense of exploration and wonder.

I mostly avoided Fallout hype pre-launch, in part because of my ultimate disappointment with Oblivion (great setup and concept, but the world leveling with you, and it’s too open-endedness, just killed the game for me) and because I’m not a huge fan of shooters. The idea of a great RPG franchise being placed into a shooter game really turned me off. Having only a vague concept of what the game was all about, and not having any hype about what the game SHOULD be like, really set me up to be pleasantly surprised and awed. One would think this would teach me to avoid future hype about games, but that’s not how gamers really operate…

As mentioned, my major concern with Fallout was the FPS gameplay. I did not want to be frustrated in an RPG by the fact that my twitch skills were not up to par, yet somehow Fallout is not affected by this. Combat is certainly difficult, and near-impossible if you stumble into the wrong area at the wrong time, but never feels ‘cheap’ like some FPS do. You don’t face that impossible to hit, always hitting you NPC that is clearly set to overpowered. Some situations will be difficult due to the setup, like facing 5+ enemies who are heavily fortified and packing serious heat, while others will be difficult due to the nature of the enemy, like mutant bears that run at you fast, and strike you incredibly hard. Luckily saving is super quick, as is reloading, and the range of weapons you posses generally means you can bring out the big stuff and deal with a problem if needed.

Another aspect of the combat I really enjoy is the variety of weapons and the tactics related to them. From simple stuff like melee weapons and pistols, to assault rifles and shotguns, to the big stuff like miniguns and missile launchers, each weapon brings something different. The hunting rifle, for example, packs a good punch with each shot, but the need to reload after each shot, and a longer reload after five, means it’s less than ideal for close combat, but great for long range sniping. In direct contrast, the sub-machine gun is a close combat beast, with a large ammo clip and quick reload. Its accuracy however is very poor at long range, limiting its use to indoor areas or specific situations. Luckily switching weapons and armor is very quick in Fallout, allowing you to adopt as a situation progresses. As I said before, I’m not huge into the FPS genre, yet the combat in Fallout has been really enjoyable, and does a great job keeping you alert and always watching your back as well as listening for enemy movement.

The story, be it the main quest chain or a side quest, is always great. You very quickly learn that everything in Fallout has two sides, and very rarely is anything black and white. The challenge is having that information before you make a decision, and that usually requires some creative exploring and searching. For example, (incoming spoiler, skip to the next paragraph if you have yet to play) one quest starts in a small town under attack by a group called “The Family”, and it seems the attacks have recently gotten worse, with one family being murdered and their son taken. The leader of the town asks you to find the gangs base and bring back the boy. Once you find the gangs hideout, you learn that they are basically vampires, yet the leader is trying to teach them to control it and not kill humans. You also learn that the boy you are rescuing is the one who killed his family. You only learn this information if you hack a computer terminal, and without it you might be less tolerant towards the vampire leader. You have the option of either getting the boy out using force, or making a deal with the leader, one that could actually be beneficial to the town. That’s just one example, but most situations in Fallout follow a similar setup of choices and consequences.

Finally I wanted to mention the setting, because despite the generic setup (post nuclear), it feels incredibly rich and real in Fallout. You can actually imaging what the world looked like before the nuclear bombs fell, and how people lived. You also get a great sense of how the world is coping with the disaster now, with everyone having a different set of problems and methods of dealing with them. The world does not give off that ‘just a game’ feel, with weapons being placed in odd situations and such. Everything really feels natural and works.

I’m a good 20 hours into the game, trying to follow the good karma path. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I finish the main quest, and replay the game as a more evil character. So far though, it’s tough to stop playing, which is as good a compliment as you can give for a game.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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12 Responses to Late to the party, my initial thoughts on Fallout 3.

  1. Mikejl says:

    I here ya! I am loving Fallout 3. When you mention the quest around “The Family” and rescuing the kid. After the leader told me “no you cannot talk to him.” I put a bullet into him (well a few). Then, expecting to be a hero, the kids tell me he killed his family and felt he belonged their. I was like .. woooo what just happened. I went from kid rescuing hero to assassin? And I loved the fact the game did that. I’m not good or bad I just chose a side and live with the consequences.

  2. syncaine says:

    Did you hack the computer in the Family base? It really explains what Vincent (the leader) was trying to do, which is basically to set rules so eventually his people would be accepted by society. Hard to kill all of them once you know that, and Vincent himself does have a way with words.

  3. Talyn says:

    I just rented it on the 360 and it seems ok; I’ll probably get it in a few months but in the meantime I have plenty of other PC and 360 games to occupy my time. I tend to not do so well with single-player RPG’s because they’re so slow-paced at which point I start getting bored and wishing I had someone to chat and/or group with and I run back to my MMORPG.

    I never played, or even saw, either of the previous Fallout games but I like the overall feel of what I’ve seen so far during my rental period. Unfortunately it didn’t come with a manual so I’m a bit in the dark as to what some of the controls are actually doing. But it does seem like I would enjoy playing through the story once.

    I also never played Oblivion but “the world leveling with you” sounds right up my alley. The type of “hard levels” as we see in MMORPG’s is a broken and obsolete mechanic. Even back in tabletop RPG’s where I was GM I always kept the “low level” monsters appropriately leveled with my players’ characters so they always presented a challenge. But I tend to think more in terms of story, after all even the lowliest goblin was not a “grey mob” who didn’t even recognize that Gandalf was standing next to it. I’m playing Mass Effect right now (slowly) and every level I achieve seems to only mean that I get a couple points to put into various skills rather than “ding! I gained a level and am now uber!” which is just retarded. Then again I can’t necessarily tell if I’m able to go back to “old” or “low level” content and fight things because being a single player RPG, once something is dead, it stays dead. If Fallout 3 uses the “grey mob” and “hard levels” mechanics that could be a deal-breaker in terms of story, worldy-ness and any pseudo-realism/immersion factor but I’ll have to see it in action first.

  4. syncaine says:

    In Oblivion, whenever you gained a level, the world did as well. So if you visit a cave at level 1, it has level 1 appropriate enemies. If you visit that same cave at level 10, everything is bumped up to level 10. It sounds good in theory, but totally kills any motivation to advance your character, to the point that if you don’t spend your points ‘correctly’, the game gets TOO hard. It just really killed any motivation to advance for me, and that’s fairly key to an RPG.

    In Fallout, as far as I can tell, everything stays the same regardless of your power. Fighting a super mutant is the same whether you are level 1 or 20. I’m not sure what you mean by hard levels, but Fallout has tougher areas the farther you go from your starting point, and certain encounters are more difficult than others. You are never forced to do anything at a specific time, so if something is too tough, you can always do something else and get stronger before you come back.

  5. Talyn says:

    Did Oblivion show you the mob levels? It sounds like Fallout 3 is doing the exact same thing of “leveling the world” if, as you say, “fighting a super mutant is the same whether you are level 1 or 20.” And, to me anyway, that’s how it should be instead of one shotting a level 1 mob that doesn’t even recognize we’re there because we’re so many levels higher. I guess my extremely limited Fallout 3 time and zero Oblivion time, I’m not understanding the difference between the two. Does Oblivion even have a story to advance, or is it MMO-ish in that you just grind through the game for levels and loot to “advance” your character?

  6. syncaine says:

    Yea I’m explaining this wrong.

    When I said in Fallout the mutant is the same, I mean his power is the same. So he is really tough for a level 1, and very easy for a level 20. In Oblivion, at level one the mutant would be a ‘baby mutant’, and at 20 he would be ‘god-like mutant’, with different models and everything. So no levels for mobs in either game, but in Oblivion the game changed the mobs to whatever the right difficulty was (so small goblin, reg goblin, big goblin, goblin king)

    Here is why in Oblivion the system sucks. Say you level up 5 times, but instead of focusing on combat skills, you put points into crafting or NPC interaction. Well now you go to progress a quest, and everything is 5 levels higher, yet you have basically the same combat powers as before, just 5 more levels of crafting or whatever. Reverse the situation, and say you min/max your character, now everything is super easy, beyond that of regular min/maxing.

    The system would actually make the game impossible if you did not make a ‘correct’ character, but you can adjust the difficulty at will with a slider. Set it to easy, and everything does less damage and has less health. It makes it possible, but also (imo of course) very lame. What’s the point of getting better gear and levels if I have to either min/max, or dumb the game down with a slider. The system also removes any sense of progress or power. The goblin cave right next to the starting area will be the same challenge at level 1 and at 20, and magically different goblins move in when you enter each time. The system is so odd that the most popular mod for the game is one that removes the system and sets everything to a static difficulty. I’ve never tried the game with the mod, but might after Fallout.

  7. Talyn says:

    So it sounds almost like Oblivion gives a (semi-) static amount of points to play with, thereby giving you the opportunity to gimp yourself? It seems like you’d need to “respec” for full-on combat when you’re adventuring then again for speaking with NPCs in town, etc. Single player RPG’s already run a high risk of boring me; if Oblivion adds “major high-maintenance pain in the ass” on top of that, it sounds like I made the right decision to skip playing it.

  8. syncaine says:

    Right every level up you get X number of skill points (like in Fallout), where you place them is up to you. Actually Oblivion has another mechanic as well, that rewards you less points per level if you level fast. Not going to describe it (since I suck at that today), but it can further gimp you. You can also choose when you level up. It’s an odd setup…

    That said, you should still try it, if only because it does a lot of things right, and even today looks gorgeous. The leveling gimpness really does not kick in till much later, and you will likely be bored by then :)

  9. Trislan says:

    The Oblivion world-levelling was a major reason why I didn’t buy the game originally, but now I plan to try it with the static difficulty modification. (I presume Syncaine is refering to Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul modification here.) One advantage of starting late with a highly modifiable game is that you can take advantage of community improvements. I figure I’ll wait another year to see what the community does with Fallout 3.

    Another game that I have heard excellent things about is the new Enhanced Edition of The Witcher. In this case, the developers fixed many of the glaring problems of the first release.

  10. Modran says:

    if it is the same as Morrowind, I can describe Oblivion’s system :).

    Basically, you have 5 “Major” skills, 5 “Minor” skills and the rest are “diverse” skills (all of this depends on the character creation), plus a host of attributes (strength, agility, etc). To gain a level, you need to have gained 10 points of “Major” skills, 20 of “minor”, or any combination of the two. Diverse skills do not count towards the “level upping”.

    Each skill has a corresponding attribute. Each time you upgrade a skill through usage, it impacts the corresponding attribute, which, when you level up, will be easier to upgrade compared to the others. So, if you only upgrade your major skills, your attributes won’t have been impacted enough. And in the end, your character will be “underpowered” compared to a character who constantly upgraded his diverse skills too.

    Is it clear?

  11. syncaine says:

    Yea I think Oblivion works the same way… been a while since I played Morrowind or Oblivion. I just remember one of the keys to not making a gimp character is picking a primary skill that you can control (like say lockpick), so you can control when you level up. If you pick running (or whatever it’s called) as a primary, you level WAY too fast and gimp yourself.

    Just a silly system in an otherwise great game. Only reason I would go back to Oblivion is to see how it plays with static content, I’m guessing it will completely change the game for me.

  12. Jason says:

    If you thought the Yogi Bears were tough, wait until you hit the Deathclaws… (shudder). Gone through as good, going through now as evil. It’s true what they say, the evil has more fun.

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