Fallout 3 Reader Review
Would you like this game or not? This'll be answered easily if you've played Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
If you liked Oblivion, you'll like Fallout 3. If you didn't like Oblivion, you probably won't like Fallout 3 either.
Fallout 3 uses a lot of the underlying technology used in Oblivion. Not only that, but it uses the same game design philosophies too, (not to mention a lot of the same voice acting etc). The whole game is basically Oblivion 2.0. The differences, are that instead of running around in pretty grass and flowers, you are running around in a barren post nuclear wasteland. Although it's not as pretty (obviously), it still manages to look good. The graphics engine is a bit dated now, and looks very 2005. There are very few improvements over Oblivion graphically, but it still looks nice.
To me, Oblivion started off as the perfect game. But after a few days of great enjoyment, it all fell apart for me. There were two main problems with it for me. One was that the combat system was crap, which I won't go in to. And the other, is that the main quest was so ridiculously short. Happily, the combat system in Fallout 3 is one of the things that has changed since Oblivion, and it's so good, it's probably one of the best aspects of the game. It is basically a FPS as good as any other FPS, but it has the added depth of an inventory, a wide selection of weapons and ammo and grenades etc, and then it is also an RPG underneath which gives it much more depth than a usual FPS. Also like an RPG, are the usual elements of character interaction, exploration, and a decent story.
Unfortunately, the second big problem I had with Oblivion, still remains in Fallout 3, and it's a huge one for me. The way it works is that they have basically decided that it's a good idea to have lots of "side quests" but a very short "main quest". To me, this is a HUGE mistake, and it's so significant, it destroys the entire game for me, and throws everything off balance. I can't emphasise this enough. If you look back at the almost universally worshipped "Baldur's Gate" games, or even Morrowind (which came before Oblivion), the quests were the other way around. A huge main quest, with a small number of side quests. To me this worked perfectly. The way it works now, I ended up completing the main quest in just two nights. And in Fallout 3, I ended the game with an inventory absolutely packed with amazing weapons that I hadn't even fired once.. I also had a huge pile of cash I had been hoarding over the course of those two days, and because it ended so soon and so abruptly, all of this was a complete waste. If you mention this to fans of Oblivion (and probably now Fallout 3), they will tell you that it's your own fault for the game ending so soon, because you were meant to amuse yourself for countless hours doing the side quests. The problem is, these side quests are little more than chores, like the ones you might have seen in an MMORPG. They involve you going from A to B with a letter. Or going from A to B and then killing some guy, and then going back to A again. Or going from A to B and rescuing someone, and then going back to A again. Etc..etc.. They are virtual chores, and for some people (especially me), they get very boring very fast. In Oblivion I think I did about 5 and then I started getting really tired of them. The problem is, they have no baring on the story at all, and they don't really change the world (or at all). All they really do is make you a bit of cash or some loot, but crucially, when the main quest can be walked through in a just a couple of nights without even using any of your high end weapons, there is absolutely no point building your character up in the first place. Unless you are in to Barbie-esque gameplay.
In most RPG's with a big main quest, these side quests work much better. Firstly they are a nice little break from the huge main quest. But also because they make you XP or loot which you gladly welcome because you know you will need it on your huge "main quest" journey. To me, that's where Oblivion and Fallout 3 falls on it's face. The main quest is so pathetic and insignificant, the side quests become worthless because they aren't fun enough for me to do them for sake of it, and I don't need to do them for their rewards either. So what you are left with, is a game with a story so short you will finish it in no time, and unless you are content to "make your own fun" by exploring the rest of the world and gathering virtual loots that you won't ever need to use, then the entire thing is a huge let down.
Something that further compounds this problem, is that there is very little challenge in the game either. I played it on the "normal" difficulty, which was a huge mistake. Every encounter I could win in a matter of seconds by just charging head on at my enemy, using the V.A.T.S system to pause the game and then I select the enemy's head, and I just unload my assault rifle at the head and blow it to bloody pieces. The enemies also only ever come at you in ones or twos, so you can breeze through the world without having to pay much attention. The only few real challenges, are provided by the very short main quest, so again... once that is over, there is nothing left for me in the world. For example, I had a rocket launcher which with one rocket, could cause a huge explosion and potentially kill an entire room full of enemies. I saved it and saved it and saved it, hoping that eventually I would get a chance to make good use of it. I never did, and as the end credits rolled, I wondered if I should find an old save game to hunt down some more side quests in case there was one that might provide enough enemies to justify it's use. But thinking back at the side quests I did, there was nothing really like that. Even the main quest didn't have much like that. So I obsessively hoarded cash and weapons for two days straight, and then the game ended without me ever even firing my flame thrower, minigun, rocket launcher, gattling lazer, and a bunch of plasma mines and grenades. I also had over 100 stimpaks (like med kits) which I never had to use.
I could go on and on trying to justify this point, but really I can't be bothered. There are people that agree with me wholeheartedly, and people who see it the opposite way. I don't think there is really any point me trying to convince people to see the light. I just know that personally, I hate this design decision. They did it in Oblivion, and they did it in Fallout 3, and it makes the entire game worthless to me. I will never buy a game which uses this "philosophy". Luckily, both of these games I played at my friend's house so I never had to actually buy them. Games with a real story and some longevity however, I happily buy. I feel especially bitter about it too, because it is just ONE element I dislike, in an otherwise incredibly amazing game. I love the FPS, I love the RPG elements under the surface, I love the large world to explore, I love being able to meet characters and interact with them in various ways, I love having a real story to follow, I love the V.A.T.S system, I love having plenty of gear to use as I please, I even liked the graphics. But it's painful to see all that become worthless by having this "main quest" which ends in no time. As someone who grew up playing MMORPG's and then got extremely tired of them, I will not spend my time doing these virtual chores like a virtual errand boy. I have no doubt that some of them are pretty good and have nice stories about rescuing children etc, but it's low-fi gameplay which I needn't settle for when there are other things I could be playing or doing. Life is too damn short for me to be running around looking for a virtual pet dog.
If anything, I can see some value in doing this in games MMORPG's like World of Warcraft, because at least in those games, your character advancement is a long term goal. The little virtual achievements people make are actually something they will enjoy for months to come, and it serves them well, well in to the future. Then an expansion comes along with bigger and harder challenges, and they are glad they spent their time getting that Sword of Ass Kicking +1. But in a game like Fallout 3, it just seems like a pointless endeavour to me. Such a great shame.
I said it with Oblivion, and I say it even more whole heartedly this time in Fallout 3... they have an amazing game that is ruined by this stupid design decision. If in the future they can make games this good, but reduce the hundreds of side quests and put them in the main quest instead, I would be writing a completely different review, and I would be giving them a 9/10. If they can put some of the side quests in to making the main quest about 4 or 5 times longer, it would change the whole experience. With the main quest, each objective I complete, it keeps pushing the story along and revealing more of the story, more characters to meet and new locations to go to. So everything seems worthwhile. Side quests however, are not worthwhile. I hope some day they will go reverse this trend and make their future games more like Morrowind than Oblivion. Give me a huge main quest that is so big and so challenging, that I actually WANT to do the side quests because I know I will relish their rewards, because I'll need all the help I can get in the future on my big main quest.
(If you loved Oblivion, then this would be a 9.9/10)
4 / 10