I may be behind the times but last night rather than sitting down with a brush in hand I fired up the PC to play through the final parts of the main campaign of Fallout 3. I bought this ages ago and only now have bothered to spend some time playing it through to conclusion and the main story arc does seem rather short. At a guesstimate I’d say it has taken me around 10 hours to complete it.
To save your eyes I will not be posting any story spoilers just in case it is sitting in your “to be played” collection. So, let’s get down to my impressions of the game. The story starts off very slowly, I won’t give details but you know what you need to do when you get out of the tutorial zone and off you go. The whole game (for those who don’t know) is set around a post-apocalyptic wasteland around Washington DC and it does actually look quite good. You are under no falsehood as to what has happened the first time that you gaze out across the Capitol Wasteland. As well as the main questline as you go about your travels there are various other side quests that you can do, some of these have vast effects on the story and the landscape. There are a lot of places that you can visit and find, when I finished the game I had barely explored about a third of the total map. Some areas are only accessible via small instanced areas (the underground network provides access underneath certain barriers) and I got a little bored of not having direct routes to everything and always having to go through labyrinthine tunnels to get places gets old fast.
When you get to what I would describe as the half-way point of the story that is when things start to get a lot more interesting, extra players (NPCs not actual people) come in and you get to understand some of the subtle clues that were left at the start of the game. If there is one thing I can praise this game on, it’s that you really do get the idea that you are in a wasteland. Scattered pockets of humanity facing all kinds of problems and the city itself infested with all kinds of mutant monstrosities. Out there in the wastes though there really is a whole lot of nothing and while you get the option to fast travel to anywhere you’ve already visited, trudging on foot between places, some often on the other side of the map can bore you considering there isn’t necessarily much to do on the way other than kill the occasional Raider or Mole Rat or follow the HUD to places you haven’t discovered yet (not all of which have anything to do in them).
Once you get to the good part of the main story though you really do just want to play it through and see what happens. What I like is that there are a number of options that are presented to you which will affect the final outcome. I have created a second character already to go through these different options and the way I am playing now has already had some pretty amazing results. There are a couple of quests from my previous game that I want to re-do as well but I am pretty much trying to hold myself to the main arc rather than wondering around and exploring stuff.
My biggest problem with the game that it is effectively Oblivion with a sci-fi skin on it. I never got to play the original two Fallout games so I have no idea how faithful this is to the mythos and Lore set out in the previous games. I loved Oblivion and spent a lot of time going and doing all the side quests for the guilds and I loved the quests for the Dark Brotherhood. However, the things I loved about Oblivion seem to be condensed in Fallout. There are loads of places to go see and dungeons to explore in Oblivion but all you get in Fallout are markers to places you haven’t discovered and it all seems a little samey. Whether that is down to how much time I played Oblivion for or not, I do not know. Either way I don’t feel that Fallout has the same depth as Oblivion even though it isn’t a bad game overall. While in Oblivion you got a horse to speed up movement and you have instant fast travel to some places the lack of that in Fallout stands out as you are constantly walking over the same barren land. If they really wanted to portray a bleak and unappealing place, well, they nailed that one straight out the gate.
I suppose the fact that the main questline is short is a counter for the fact you’re starring at the same kind of landscape permanently. There are some nice touches you don’t expect too, a town based in a derelict aircraft carrier for instance, but once you get the gist of the main story you do kind of know how it’s going to pan out.
After finishing the game it doesn’t let you go off and explore like Oblivion did either, I can understand why though due to the story, however, it would have been nice to be able to go and take a look around a bit. My new character has already been to places I’d never even seen in the first play through so there is some replayability here. However, looking at the size of the map I’m not sure if anyone really would have fun going round and looking for all the places of interest on the map.
Overall I give Fallout 3 a 7 out of 10. It’s far from perfect but is an entertaining diversion if you’ve got a few hours to spare, but there are much better RPGs out there, if you don’t like the fantasy setting of Oblivion you may like this, but really, Oblivion is much better than this, at least, that’s my opinion.