fallout 3 was a good game!!
it was, insofar as it was my first fallout game and my introduction to the franchise. I spent many hours on that game falling in love with it, the story, the characters, the karma system. this game gave me the things i didn’t have, i.e. a father. However…
- the beginning is just terrible. why. Why. Why why why. I think someone has said this before, but the beginning to fallout 3 is like the joke answer to “how should we start a video game?” It’s cliche, and the biggest fans of fallout 3 are also the ones who modded out the beginning. I get you’re supposed to feel like you’re really making your character (roleplay or whatever), but the beginning affects 0 of the things you do in the rest of the game, 0 of the relationships you have, 0 quests. it serves to integrate you into the fallout universe, but you know what accomplishes that? the intro sequence and “war. war never changes.” i remember replaying fallout 3 once or twice and being mad that nothing you do matters in the beginning. i was cheated. my time felt wasted. it has you take a standardized test. whose idea was this? who was the guy, Bethesda? who was the guy that said “hmm. what will players like? oh i know. a standardized test that actually doesn’t matter what you answer. you think you’re doing something important? NAh. the game takes the first hour or so to make your character (btw, i know this was the first fps for fallout, but no matter what my did my character looked like the same gummy mannequin) and makes them do things that will never matter. The beginning makes me so mad because it basically tells you how the game will be. Your decisions won’t truly matter, or they won’t truly be ‘your’ decisions. The rest of the game feels like this, like everything is out of your control, and there’s nothing you can really do. In fact, when you first escape Vault 101, you’re forced to kill the police officers you grew up with. Just like that, the game sets you up to care about something like your vault security cops, but you don’t get the chance to reason with them and ask them not to kill you, or not kill them. You’re forced to commit grave moral killing. you don’t really feel in control.
- the karma system. “it’s complex,” says the gamer journalists. “you gain a reputation based off what you do. that’s immersive.” OK, well, here’s the thing. My idea of complex grayscale morals is not “blow up a town or don’t blow up a town” within the first minute of actual freeplay you get in the game. that’s not complex. That’s not a hard moral choice. That’s not like Blind Betrayal in Fallout 4, where (spoiler) if you’re part of the Brotherhood whose mission is to eradicate nonhuman entities, you’re ordered to kill your mentor and friend because he is a synth. THAT is complex because it forces you to recognize the problem with the brotherhood’s ideology, or your own prejudice if you really do believe synths aren’t people. it explores how gen 3 synths really do feel and have all the elements of a person. it shows maxson’s idealism, but his cold-bloodedness. it shows things, and because it’s a video game, you experience them. no one needs to tell you “the brotherhood has problems.” you experience them yourself in a heart wrenching scene. Now i actually got mad at this part, because you can cop out and leave Danse alive and still be in the brotherhood (which is lame damn storytelling, Todd), so that sucked, but do you see my point? That’s complex karma. the Youtuber oxhorn makes daily videos on the morals and ethics found in fallout 4 and the dilemmas and problems the players face in the wartorn country. I’m sorry, but a lot of the choices fallout 3 gives you are like…option A) virtuous Jesus, Savior of Mankind or option B) actually Hitler. That’s not complex. In fact, this is revealed in the end too, when no matter what, you die. i know they realized they fucked up and made a whole dlc to extend the game (again, dying at the end–the joke answer to “how should we end the game?”) because, no matter what choice you make, whether you put the bad stuff in the purifier or not, no matter what choice you make, it doesn’t matter and there aren’t consequences. that’s just, such a shame, and I’m so glad the karma system was not included in fallout 4.
- the entire focus on water and the water purifier is…well, a lame plot point. here’s my thing. in a good story, you don’t just tell people what problems are. you add environmental elements that show the story. let me use my favorite example right now, that is, the new Wonder Woman movie. the movie doesn’t tell you “Diana is an idealist, a strong warrior, a special type, and she will fight for what is right.” no, they show you. they show her as a child eager to learn to be a warrior, they show her trying desperately to win, they show her sneaking out with Steve Trevor to fight in The War because she thinks there are people who need her help. On the way to the front she is stubborn, and she sees men affected by PTSD and horrible injuries, dismal grayscale scenes that show the gravity of the situation. they show their effect on her and how she pushes past everybody to save people. but Fallout 3 doesn’t take it’s main plot point–dad and water purifier–and show you why they are important. “water is important!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” says your dad, when you’re 3 or whatever. “Your mom loved water. water is so good.” but the first settlement you see, Megaton…well, they don’t have any plants. they have water pipes with purified water, but they literally aren’t using them for anything but like, the toilets i guess? What i’m saying is, fallout 3 wants you to take something seriously, but the game doesn’t show you it’s serious. In the next major settlement I found, Arefu, the problem is with some vampire cult, but not water. rivet city and the citadel don’t have farms either. like, no one has a real farm. Except for like maybe one or two homeless guys going “i need water,” no one in the wasteland needs water. It therefore isn’t important to me that the water purifier is a thing. they tell me it’s important and therefore I think it is, but that’s vastly different from showing a player through the environment and conversations that something is needed, that people are desperate, that water is vital and people are dying in the wasteland. you know what else? your domestic robot purifies water for you. he literally is a water purifier. it’s not the whole Potomac, but why the hell doesn’t my dad just construct mr handy’s to purify water to give to people? doesn’t megaton have a water purifier that just converts, like, the sand or sewage or something into clean water? because then why the hell do i need a mutant-filled super science water purifier that kills me?
- new vegas and the previous fallouts were deserty because they were in deserts. fallout 3 is in washington DC and 200 years is enough time to pass for things to grow over. That being said, 200 years is enough time for a lot of shit. There shouldnt be still food boxes and prewar consumables hanging around in supermarkets 200 years from the apocalypse. Further, look at 200 years ago in the 1817. People were really freaking different. They dressed and talked differently. In fallout 3, 200 years does bumf*ck to the styles or culture, except that everyone is really dirty. THAT IS ANOTHER THING TOO–everything is so DIRTY and brown and dark green and gray and swampy. The houses aren’t swept and people just casually live in wreckage as though normal people don’t clean up their shit. 200 years is a long ass time.
- i’m gonna say it again. your choices don’t really matter. they really don’t matter because you die in the end anyway (which, by the way, you can have fawkes your supermutant friend go in there and dial the number or whatever, but ohohohohononono Fawkes develops a sense of destiny or whatever the heck so that you can go in, so the creators can make you die. It’s not like it literally would save my life, you ugly green pos, but i don’t blame you. i blame bethesda for their stupid ending.) But like, speech choices? they don’t let you explore dialogue by what you actually think. Rather, they give you easy peasy ways to cop out of a hard decision or quest with something like [Intelligence] I’m smart! Give me money!. It’s just really unimmersive in my opinion to not have real conversation, which is a problem with fallout 4 too. like, the freaking evil guy? the computer President Eden? You can convince him to die and blow up everything in like, 2.68 seconds, merely because of a perk you got. Or i think you can gamble in a speech check. speech check you say? yes, i mean, saving right before a conversation and repeatedly gambling based on some number to get something you want.
- another plot point is, so what if the enclave got the purifier? so what? will they….use it for evil? will they purify water evilly? will the Potomac be clean but in an evil way? Like, imagine a button that will stop the world from blowing up. Will you really be so mad if it’s a nazi pushing it rather than Gandhi? Again, bethesda failed to make the water purifier truly matter to me. dad dies because he didn’t want apocalyptic nazis repair the water purifier.
- also you know what? you can blow up megaton and literally all your dad says is “i’m disappointed” as if his kid isn’t a genocidal fuckin’ maniac. complex moral decisions and consequences my ass.
Dad built a water purifier that didn’t work, for people that didn’t need it, and then made it release radiation it shouldn’t have, to prevent it from falling into the hands of people trying to fix it. This killed the man who had no reason to sabotage it and didn’t kill Colonel Autumn, who had no means to survive. This put the Enclave – an army with no reason to attack – in charge of the purifier, which was of no value to them. Then the player entered vault 87 to recover a GECK, a magical matter-arranger that they shouldn’t need and that would be better put to use in virtually any possible manner besides fixing the purifier. Colonel Autumn, who shouldn’t be alive, captured the player with a flash grenade that shouldn’t have worked that was thrown by soldiers who had no way to get there. The final battle was a war between the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel, to see which one would get to commit suicide trying to turn on the purifier that neither of them needed. This resulted in more sabotage that threatened to explode a device that shouldn’t be explode-able, ending with the death of the player character, who had the means to survive but didn’t, and who was never given a good reason for doing any of this.
anyway, i loved fallout 3 but it wasn’t a carefully crafted or articulated mind-bending morally-crunching story that really engaged me. fallout 4 had a lot of these problems too, but it had a lot of strengths that to this day keep me playing.
come on, Todd.